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The octuple-P draft system: Defensive ends and tackles

March 3, 2009

This edition of the fabled octuple-P draft system will focus on the big boys who anchor every defense in the NFL: the defensive line. In the last decade, it’s been proved many times that defenses win championships: the Bucs, Ravens, Steelers (x2) and Patriots (x3) all rode defensive prowess to the Big Dance and walked away with the goods, so plenty of d-linemen will be off the board in the early part of the draft to act as the foundations on which to build championship-calibre defenses.

DE class strength: B

Defensive ends are becoming increasingly high-priced and prized in the NFL, and busts at the position are usually costly (just ask the Redskins) so expect to see plenty go in the early rounds of the draft in 2009. The class gains a ‘B’ grade because there simply isn’t enough quality depth at the position, with probably 4 DEs going off the board in round one. Last year we saw Virginia’s Chris Long lead the pack, and this year there’s a tussle for top spot, but the first pure DE off the board is likely to be Florida State’s Everette Brown, given that Texas’ Brian Orakpo will probably become a linebacker at the NFL level and not a D-end as he was in college.

FSUs Everette Brown could one day terrify people as much as the Raiders #56.

Everette Brown could one day terrify people as much as the Raiders' Derrick Burgess.

Brown is a gifted pass-rusher with a boatload of speed. He may be slightly undersized (256lbs) for the position, but he’s got lots of upside and has the athletic tools to be a great player, and don’t forget that Florida State has a tendency to produce pass-rush studs like ex-Raven Peter Boulware and current Browns OLB Kamerion Wimbley. Brown is raw but gifted, and should go off the board to a team who wants speed coming off the edge. He’ll struggle early on, but as he gets smarter and stronger he has the tools to be a great pass-rushing threat.

Brown’s octuple-P rating: Derrick Burgess

Behind the speedy Brown, there are three first-round talents at the defensive end spot, in Tennessee’s Robert Ayers, LSU’s Tyson Jackson and the inconsistent yet physically freakish Michael Johnson from Georgia Tech (where they must put something in the water to produce specimens like Calvin and Michael Johnson). Behind these there’s a drop-off, but teams will inevitably reach for a defensive end if they need one because pressuring the QB has become priority #1 for a lot of teams.

DT class strength: B

Given that a DT is now the highest-paid defensive player ever (Dan Snyder is the new Al Davis: you heard it here first), there is an increasing premium on disruptive tackles. Add to this the increasing number of 3-4 defenses where a nose tackle is key, and tackles are becoming very sought-after and wealthy. This class has one surefire first rounder in Boston College’s B.J. Raji, and his presence alone makes this class ‘B’ grade quality.

Raji: keeping KFC in business

Raji: keeping KFC in business

Raji was called out at the Senior Bowl by NFL.com’s Mike Mayock, and responded by being absolutely dominant the rest of the week. With motivation, he’s an awesome force, but his main problem is keeping his weight down and motivation up. If he can do that, he’ll make a team very happy. Also, his ability to play both 3-4 nose and 4-3 tackle means he’s got added value as a versatile D-lineman, who are hard to find. When motivated he’s tremendous, but like his PPPPPPPP counterpart, he’s got to prove he can stay consistent and slim.

Raji octuple-P rating: Albert Haynesworth

Raji aside, there’s a good pool of talent at the DT position with Ole Miss’ Peria Jerry leading the trailing pack. He’ll be a late first rounder, and his great Senior Bowl and speed off the line will attract a number of suitors. After him come Evander ‘Ziggy’ Hood (Missouri), Ron Brace (also Boston College) and USC’s mammoth Fili Moala, whose inconsistency has sunk him from a top-10 player this time last year to a probable 2nd-rounder now. However, all of these defensive tackles should all be off the board on the first day.

Hit us back in a day or two for the final (sob!) edition of the Personal Player and Position-specific Playaction Post Prediction and Pick Planner where we’ll look at linebackers and safeties.

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