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Top Five 2015 NFL Draft Prospects- Defensive End

Updated on January 30, 2015

These will look to become the future pass rushers of an NFL franchise. Today I rank the top five defensive end prospects in the upcoming NFL Draft.

1. Randy Gregory, Nebraska

Bio: After spending time in junior college, Randy Gregory committed to Nebraska. In two years as a Cornhusker he amassed 17.5 sacks and an interception.

Strengths: Extremely tall and a lean, sinewy build. Stronger than expected at point of attack. Able to lock out and stay square against big offensive tackles and can beat most tight ends. Able to unhinge and get arms on running backs bursting through gap. Secondary motor to stay in hunt downfield as tackler. Gets instant change of direction to attack quarterbacks in play action. Played standing up and with hand in ground. Has bend and hips to convert speed to power. Showed improved timing and understanding of how to set up inside pass rush move as season progressed. Explosive play traits to overwhelm technically deficient tackles. Willing to take on pulling guards with low pad level and aggressive tackling.

Weaknesses: Thin throughout his body causing balance issues. Needs to build more muscle in many key areas. Slow to get to his stance at snap. Technique and feel as pass rusher lacking at this point. Plays man in front of him rather than looking to quarterback. Gets punched with his shoulders still squared rather than on an angle which robs ability to turn edge. Doesn't process what he sees very quickly. Average play strength in pass rush and can be redirected.

Projected Round: 1

2. Shane Ray, Missouri

Bio: After backing up Michael Sam for a year, Shane Ray stepped up big as a starter. In 2014 he set a school record for sacks with 14.5 and was named the SEC defensive player of the year.

Strengths: Excellent athlete with impressive intangibles. Gets off the line with an explosive first step to beat tackles off the snap and can fly by and around them showing the flexibility and balance to scrape the corner and close. He complements the speed rush with a quick jab step back to the inside and a swim over the top to counter when opponents start leaning outside.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal length as an outside rusher. At times was engulfed and glued to the bigger tackles he faced. Can get too focused on hand fighting if he doesn't win with hands early in pass rush. Will occasionally stunt himself out of a play, opening up running lane. Relies on arm over inside and slap rip outside. Needs more variety to pass rush techniques.

Projected Round: 1

3. Alvin Dupree, Kentucky

Bio: In his four years at Kentucky, Alvin Dupree was the constant for the Wildcat defense. He recorded 24.5 sacks and over 200 tackles.

Strengths: Possesses long arms, a quick burst, the flexibility to turn the corner, and an explosive burst to close when the ballcarrier is near. Uses a variety of pass rushing techniques lulling opponents to sleep with one speed and surprising them with an occasional extra burst to generate big plays at critical moments.

Weaknesses: Tall but not long. Wins with athleticism over skill a majority of the time. Instincts are below average leading to hesitation. Will get caught taking bad angles to the ball. Needs to improve hand fighting. Still raw rushing the passer and doesn't possess a go to pass rush move. Appears to lack urgency throughout a game.

Projected Round: 1

4. Arik Armstead, Oregon

Bio: In three years at Oregon, Arik Armstead was a matchup nightmare for opposing offenses. He also played on Oregon's basketball team before quitting before his junior year to focus on football.

Strengths: Elite size with ability to add more bulk to his frame. Explodes up field into blockers with good pad level and hip snap while gaining instant leverage against the run and often jarring them into the backfield. Has good arm extension to control offensive linemen and pummels them with powerful hands. Can unlock quickly from blocks and has above average tackle radius due to his length and quickness.

Weaknesses: Power based pass rush with very little production to show for it. Plays tall as pass rusher and doesn't use his hands to gain consistent advantages. Has no reliable counter moves when rush stalls. Gets caught up in whipping man in front of him rather than making the ball carrier his focus. Will win against an offensive lineman, but doesn't put himself into position to finish.

Projected Round: 1-2

5. Danielle Hunter, LSU

Bio: After sitting behind Barkevious Mingo, Danielle Hunter became the starter in 2013.

Strengths: Possesses broad shoulders, very long arms, and plenty of room for additional muscle. Has excellent combination of length, balance, awareness, and agility helped him make plays against the run and pass. His quickness allows him to dip under would-be blockers, beating them inside rather than relying on his length and strength to string run plays out wide, as tackles expect. He's aggressive and physical, showing a willingness to sacrifice his body uncommon for edge players with his body type.

Weaknesses: His inconsistent get off. Too often he is the last of LSU's linemen off the ball. His length makes him susceptible to the run, though he does show surprising strength at the point of attack and is passionate in pursuit.

Projected Round: 2

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