Richner: 2016 Top Defensive Ends

Last Updated: 5/1/2016 1:00 PM ET
This year's defensive end draft class is filled with a wide variety of different types of pass rushers. You have your usual outside speed rushers, and even a few power rushers sprinkled into the mix. While this year's draft class has one the top rated pass rushers to come out in a while (Joey Bosa), they rest of the class isn't as highly rated as previous years.

There are a total of twelve defensive ends who graded with either a first or second round grade. Some of these players will most likely drop into the later rounds. Teams that have other pressing needs, could wait until the late second round or early third round and find themselves a quality pass rusher.

One statistic that I incorporate is Impact Points. This is based on a formula that calculates a defensive end's point value based on total tackles, tackles-for-loss, sacks, forced fumbles, blocked kicks and their team's overall rush defense. Each player's career impact plays is then applied to the total number of games played so we can see the average number of impact plays per game. The highest average number of impact plays from the 2015 NFL Draft went to Randy Gregory (2.3) and Vic Beasley (2.1).

This year Joey Bosa has the highest impact play average amongst FBS level players with an average of 2.5 impact plays per game. James Cowser (Southern Utah) leads all defensive ends with an average of 3.7 impact plays per game.

Another statistical category is called the pass rushing index percent, this is used to calculate a players overall impact as a pass rusher. The pass rushing index percent takes, sacks, hits, throwaways, hurries, and batted down passes. The index takes a weighted value for each category and applies it to the total number of pass rushing opportunities each player had over the past two seasons. The player who had the highest pass rushing index is Carl Nassib, at 12.4 percent. For a point of reference, this formula was applied to last year's top NFL interior defensive lineman. Ezekiel Ansah (9.3), Olivier Vernon (8.7), Michael Bennett (7.6), and Jabaal Sheard (7.1) led the way.

Pass rushing index only applies to players who played in the FBS level. Complete data for FCS players in terms of snaps played, and other statistical categories could not be verified. These players are still included in our overall draft rankings and review.

After each category is a list of all the defensive end prospects, their draftable grade, total impact plays, average impact plays per game, and pass rusher index rating.

1. Joey Bosa (DE, Ohio State):

Bosa, the top ranked player on my Big Board and an All-American, was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year winner in 2014. The bar was maybe set unrealistically high for him this past season; most offenses were sending two or three blockers his way on every play. It was a rare moment in which he was put in a one-on-one situation to beat his man. Ohio State did a good job of moving him along the line and putting him in different positions to attack opposing quarterbacks.

At 6'5” and 269 pounds, Bosa is best suited to play the traditional 4-3 defensive end position and he displays a rare combination of speed and power for a player of his size. For his career, Bosa has recorded 126.5 tackles, 50.5 TFL, 26 sacks, nine pass breakups, five forced fumbles and one interception. He has recorded 100.5 impact plays, an average of 2.5 impact plays per game.

Showcasing elite speed and power coming off the edge, Bosa can dominate a game with the number of quarterback pressures and hits. Against Maryland this past season, Bosa was a consistent disruptor in the backfield with one sack, four quarterback hits, and five quarterback pressures. His lone sack of the game came when he missed the quarterback on his first try and the pocket collapsed, pushing the quarterback into Bosa's grasp. His snap-to-sack time was 3.68 seconds, not an earth shattering mark, but it was only one play. His speed and quickness show up on his quarterback hit times against Maryland. The four quarterback hits came on a snap-to-hit time of 2.62 seconds, the fastest registering in at 2.08 seconds. Maryland tried to block Bosa just using a tight end, which didn't work out too well in their favor.

When asked to slide inside and rush the passer from the defensive tackle position, Bosa was able to utilize his quickness to cross the face of the offensive guard and knife into the backfield. It's this versatility which makes Bosa a valuable prospect and a player capable of playing in almost any defensive system.

Bosa posted a pass rushing index rating of 8.5 percent, third highest amongst defensive ends in this draft class.

Though Bosa is quick to get out of his blocks, he looks to get an edge anyway possible. He was penalized ten times during the past two seasons for being offsides. When asked to slide inside, he can get shoved around by bigger, more physical guards.

Bosa is the top rated defensive prospect on my board. He is a rare dominant pass rusher who should have no problem making the jump to the NFL. The Titans or Browns should give extra consideration before passing on Bosa.

2. Emmanuel Ogbah (Oklahoma State, DE):

Oklahoma State finished the season ranked fifth in in the country in total sacks; they had 40 sacks on the season, an average of three sacks per game. Leading the pass rush movement for the Cowboys was Emmanuel Ogbah, one of the most disruptive and intimidating defensive ends in the country.

At 6'4” and 273 pounds, Ogbah plays a traditional 4-3 defensive end position. Ogbah has shown a significant improvement in his production throughout his career. In 39 games, Ogbah had a total of 114 tackles, 40 TFL, 26.5 sacks, nine pass breakups, and four forced fumbles. He amassed a total of 87.5 impact plays, an average of 2.2 impact plays per game.

A consistent producer during his time in Stillwater, Ogbah had a one year wonder index of 47.2 percent, showing a constant increase in production year over year.

Showcasing a few quality pass rusher moves, he is able to beat his man to the corner and use a swim move to get past opposing blockers. Against Texas in 2015, Ogbah finished the game with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, two TFL, and three quarterback pressures. His solo sack came on a snap-to-sack time of 3.02 seconds.

What was impressive about Ogbah's pass rushing technique is that he showed a number of power rush moves, such as a rip and stack and shed along with a spin move to get after the quarterback.

Ogbah has a pass rushing index rating of 7.2 percent. Athletically he graded out similar to Robert Quinn and Chandler Jones.

While he might not be as highly coveted as some of the other defensive ends in this draft class, Ogbah has been one of the most productive and consistent producers in college football. Look for Ogbah to be a possible second round selection.

3. Bronson Kaufusi (DE, BYU):

The son of BYU defensive line coach, Steve Kaufusi, Bronson has been training to be an NFL player since he first put on the shoulder pads. He quietly waited his turn, developing his technique and, most importantly, filling out his big frame. He finished the season tied for 13th place amongst FBS players this season with 10.5 sacks.

At 6'6” and 285 pounds, Kaufusi possess the size and strength to overpower tackles and excels as a power rusher. With 25.5 career sacks, Kaufusi currently ranks sixth on BYU all-time sack list, just a half-sack short of cracking the top five. The versatility to slide inside allows Kaufusi to utilize his speed against interior offensive linemen. He does an excellent job with his hands, swiping away an offensive tackle's punch and uses a swim move to break down opposing quarterback's pocket.

In addition to his 25.5 sacks, Kaufusi recorded 138.5 tackles, 43.5 TFL, 14 PB, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and five blocked kicks. His size and long arms allow to him to get into passing lanes and knock down opponent's passes.

Kaufusi's length and ability to disrupt a quarterback's timing and cloud a quarterback's vision in the passing lanes, makes him an excellent candidate to be a defensive end in a 3-4 defensive scheme in the NFL.

Kaufusi's size and athletic ability to get his large frame off the ground also makes him a playmaker on special teams. He led the country in blocked kicks with five this season; the next closest players have a total of three.

A measure of consistency throughout his career, Kaufusi had one of the lowest one year wonder index rating for defensive ends with a score of 39.2 percent. His scored an 8.4 percent on his pass rusher index rating.

To start the year, most NFL scouts pegged Kaufusi as a possible fifth round selection. With the way he played this past season and the versatility that he could provide for most NFL defenses, he has played his way into the conversation as a second round selection.

4. Noah Spence (DE, Eastern Kentucky):

Few player's stars shined as brightly as Noah's did during Senior Bowl week. He flat out dominated and destroyed just about anyone he went up against. Linemen couldn't block him and he showed a full arsenal of pass rushing moves and techniques that left most scouts just smiling and shaking their heads in amazement.

Those in the stands shouldn't have been surprised by Spence's performance as he did finish his career with 20 sacks in three seasons with 8.5 sacks coming when he played at Ohio State. He is a three down lineman capable of causing havoc against opposing quarterbacks.

When speaking with scouts, I got the feeling that most of them were impressed with Spence's ability to own up to the mistakes he made while at Ohio State. He was kicked out of school for failing multiple drug tests. At Eastern Kentucky, he asked the administration to drug test him weekly and anytime they wanted. Spence wanted to prove that he had matured and moved past his partying and wild days.

At 6'2” and 251 pounds, Spence might be a little light to play as a 4-3 defense end. In some schemes as a defensive end he will be asked to line up at the wide-nine technique. This would allow Spence to utilize his speed and quickness to blow past opposing linemen.

Spence has a hard time fighting through blocks, once a tackle is able to get his hands inside of him, Spence shuts down. He has difficulty shedding blockers, which can make him a liability in the run game.

In 35 career games, Spence recorded 93.5 tackles, 37.5 TFL, three pass breakups, and four forced fumbles. He amassed a total of 72.5 impact plays, an average of 2.1 impact plays per game.

He can get after opposing quarterbacks and that is why I believe that Spence will be a top-15 pick in this year's draft. Coming off the edge, few players in this draft class can be as big of a playmaker as Spence. A few teams will be scared away by his off-field issues, but his play on the field will make a few coaches pencil his name into the starting lineup.

5. Shaq Lawson (DE, Clemson):

The Clemson Tigers have been a regular powerhouse at putting a number of defensive ends and outside linebackers into the NFL. Since 2000, 15 linebackers or defensive ends have been drafted. In the 2015 NFL Draft, Vic Beasley was drafted eighth overall by the Atlanta Falcons. This year the next crop of Tigers to be drafted is up and Shaq Lawson looks to have his name called in the first round.

At 6'3” and 269 pounds, Lawson is suited to play the traditional defensive end position in a 4-3 scheme. Stepping into the starting role after the departure of Beasley, Lawson saw his production and impact on his team rise to new heights. One worry is that the Clemson system is designed to bring pressure, and Lawson could be a guy who shined because he played in the right system, not because he is the dominant pass rusher. His one year wonder index is 62.5 percent, which usually signals a red flag, most draft busts typically have a sixty percent or higher index rating.

What makes scouts drool over his potential is that Lawson is everything that teams look for in a 4-3 defensive end. He outmuscles and power rushes better than almost anyone in this draft, with the exception of Joey Bosa. He can handle double teams and will throw his man aside to get after the ball carrier.

I was surprised by the speed to power transfer that Lawson possesses coming off the edge. Against Miami this past season, he finished with three tackles, two tackles for loss, two sacks, two quarterback hits, and one quarterback pressure. His snap-to-sack time came in at an average of 2.64 seconds

Power and strength are Lawson's main physical attributes and they are what jump off the film when watching him play. I think he lacks the initial speed and quickness; Lawson routinely is one of the last guys off the line of scrimmage and he will rarely get the first step around the corner on an offensive tackle.

In 41 career games played, Lawson had 20 sacks, 47 TFL, one pass breakup, one forced fumble, and one blocked kicked. He amassed a total of 74 impact plays, an average of 1.8 impact plays per game. With the fifth best pass rushing index score of eight percent, Lawson has shown he can be disruptive coming off the edge.

Lawson's style of play and ability to set the edge can be a factor in shutting down an opponent's rushing attack. Those attritubes along with his statistical achievements make him similar to Chris Long.

3-4 Technique: Defensive Ends

1. DeForest Buckner (DE, Oregon):

The Oregon Ducks are starting to produce a specific style of defensive end and they have had two players already drafted in the first round who are made from that same mold. Former Ducks and teammates of Buckner, Dion Jordan stands at 6'6” and 248 pounds and Arik Armstead measured in at 6'8” and 292 pounds. Buckner, who stands 6'7” and 291 pounds, is the type of prospect whose versatility and ability to play inside and outside is what intrigues scouts.

Both Jordan and Armstead have been busts; Jordan was out of the league last year due to suspension and Armstead barely saw the field for the 49ers.

Buckner was a star for the Ducks last season, bringing home the Pac-12 Defense Player of the Year award. In 2015, he totaled 10.5 sacks and 17 TFL on the season.

Buckner's career is the tale of two stories. The first story spans from 2012 to 2014 which saw Buckner collect just seven career sacks. Despite playing over close to eighty percent of the defensive snaps in 2014, Buckner could only garner four sacks. His pass rusher index rating score was just 3.3 percent in 2014.

The second story of Buckner is the player we saw in 2015; a beast of a pass rusher who cast away opposing linemen as though they were rocks on a beach. He finished the season with a pass rusher index rating of 6.1 percent, almost double what he produced in 2014.

In 54 career games, he recorded 170.5 tackles, 18 sacks, 36 TFL, 10 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. He amassed a total of 70 impact plays, an average of 1.3 impact plays per game. He finished his career with a pass rushing index mark of 4.9 percent.

Teams will have to hope they get the new and improved Buckner and not another Oregon athlete who looks good walking off the bus but can't perform on the field.

Buckner has a habit of getting too tall, losing leverage and allowing offensive linemen to get into his pads. He will on occasion lose his ground when getting double teamed. He has a habit of going for the big hit versus wrapping up the ball carrier and had a number of missed tackles last season.

If Buckner is able to continue his development he will become a star in the NFL. He can play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme and can slide inside in certain sub or blitz packages. Defensive coordinators will have a field day drawing up ways to use Buckner as a pass rusher. He will most likely be a first round selection and after talking to a couple of NFL front office personnel, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Buckner a slide into the top ten.

2. Carl Nassib (DE, Penn State):

Nassib is a former walk-on and the younger brother of New York Giants backup quarterback, Ryan Nassib. Carl Nassib had a breakout year in 2015 and made a name for himself in college football and in the scouting community as one of the country's top defensive end prospects. Coming into the season Nassib had not registered a start in his career, college or high school.

With only two career sacks coming into last season, the odds that Nassib would lead the country in sacks (15.5) would be pretty long. At 6'7” and 277 pounds, Nassib has been a workhorse in the weight room, improving his speed and transforming his body into an NFL caliber defensive end.

In 35 career games played, Nassib recorded 55.5 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 25 TFL, three pass breakups, eight forced fumbles, and one interception. He recorded 72.5 impact plays, an average of 2.1 impact plays per game.

Nassib's pass rushing index score of 12.4 percent is the highest amongst defensive ends in this draft class. He is a one year wonder by any stretch of the definition. With a one year wonder index rating score of 88.6 percent, Nassib is statistically similar to current Houston Texan, Whitney Mercilus.

Nassib had a dominant performance each and every week throughout the 2015 season. Against Indiana, Nassib had four tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He utilized his long arms to get a hand on the quarterback as he collapsed the pocket. His first sack came on a snap-to-sack-time of 2.94 seconds. As he came around the corner, he was able to simultaneously knock the quarterback down and force a fumble. His second sack came in at 1.81 seconds; it was a zone-read and Nassib was able to take down the quarterback and running back causing a fumble.

Nassib has shown great awareness to close off the backside and anchor his edge forcing the action back into the middle of the field. This ability makes Nassib a player who can play in a 3-4 scheme or, if asked, to anchor the strong side in a 4-3 alignment.

For a player who has seen limited playing time, Nassib's ability to shed blockers, use his frame and arm length to disrupt throwing lanes and be a factor on both pass and running situation is very impressive. He went from being a likely afterthought in most draft rooms to a player who has certainly earned a spot as a second day draft selection.

3. Charles Tapper (DE, Oklahoma):

A power rusher, Tapper doesn't mess around with finesse and trying to slip past opposing blockers. He is a road grader of a pass rusher, looking to set a blocker on his back and then step over him as he attacks the quarterback.

At 6'3” and 271 pounds, Tapper has the long arms and body type capable of playing the traditional defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or sliding inside and playing the end position in a 3-4 alignment.

Usually bigger, stronger players like Tapper use their power and strength to muscle their opponents into submission. Tapper has untapped potential as a speed rusher. He posted one of the fastest forty-yard dash times for defensive ends at the NFL Combine, coming in with a time of 4.59 seconds.

One play that stands out from 2015 was against Baylor. On the second play from scrimmage, Baylor running back, Shock Linwood, had a 34 yard run and Tapper chased him down from behind to make the tackle. You don't see many defensive ends chase down a Baylor skill position player and Tapper showed he won't quit and that he has the speed to track down a quick-footed tailback.

Scouts and defensive line coaches around the league want to see Tapper unleash more speed rush into his pass rush moves. He excels at getting his hands inside and bull rushing the offensive tackle. If he can learn how to bend around the edge, he could transform into an elite pass rusher capable of causing chaos in an opponent's backfield

In 44 career games, Tapper recorded 103 tackles, 15.5 sacks, 26.5 TFL, six pass breakups, and five forced fumbles. He amassed a total of 63 impact plays, an average of 1.4 impact plays per game. His pass rusher index rating score was just 3.1 percent.

Tapper is a quality player who might not have as high a ceiling as other prospects, but he is a quality player who does a lot of the dirty work which allows his team to be successful. He is most likely a day two selection, possible early third round pick.

Ranking Player School Draftable Round Impact Plays Avg. Impact Plays/Game Pass Rush Index
1 Joey Bosa Ohio State 1 100.5 2.5 8.5%
2 Emmanuel Ogbah Oklahoma State 1 87.5 2.2 7.2%
3 Bronson Kaufusi BYU 1-2 119 2.4 8.4%
4 Noah Spence Eastern Kentucky 1-2 72.5 2.1 NA
5 Shaq Lawson Clemson 1-2 74 1.8 8.0%
6 Shilique Calhoun Michigan State 2 96 1.8 7.7%
7 Kamalei Correa Boise State 2 70.5 1.8 8.9%
8 DeForest Buckner Oregon 2 70 1.3 4.9%
9 Carl Nassib Penn State 2 72.5 2.1 12.4%
10 Kevin Dodd Clemson 2 45 1.2 7.7%
11 James Cowser Southern Utah 3 178.5 3.7 NA
12 Yannick Ngakoue Maryland 3 68.5 1.8 6.2%
13 Matt Judon Grand Valley State 3 127.5 3.0 NA
14 Charles Tapper Oklahoma 3 63 1.4 3.1%
15 Ronald Blair Appalachian State 4 64.5 1.7 6.0%
16 Victor Ochi Stony Brook 4 95 2.1 NA
17 Alex McCalister Florida 4 38 1.4 7.5%
18 Dadi Nicolas Virginia Tech 5 77.5 1.6 6.6%
19 Romeo Okwara Notre Dame 5 46 0.9 6.3%
20 Mehdi Abdesmad Boston College 5 32 0.9 6.4%
20 Dean Lowry Northwestern 6 84 1.7 3.5%
21 Jason Fanaika Utah 6 52.5 1.1 5.1%
22 Jihad Ward Illinois 6 28.5 1.1 3.6%
23 Shawn Oakman Baylor 6 91 2.4 5.0%
24 Jimmy Bean Oklahoma State 7 50.5 1.4 5.6%
25 Lawrence Thomas Michigan State 7 21.5 0.5 3.1%
26 Ron Thompson Syracuse 7-FA 61 1.6 5.9%
27 Sterling Baily Georgia 7-FA 16.5 0.4 2.9%
28 Greg Townsend Jr. USC FA 17 0.5 3.6%
29 Branden Jackson Texas Tech FA 48 0.9 2.3%
30 D.J. Pettway Alabama FA 20 1.3 4.0%
31 Ufomba Kamalu Miami (FL) FA 24.5 0.7 2.6%
32 Giorgio Newberry Florida State FA 16 0.4 2.7%