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May 7, 2014 @ 2:47 pm
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PewterReport.com's 2014 DL Draft Preview + Bucs' Best Bets

Written by Eric
Dellaratta
Eric Dellaratta

Eric
Dellaratta

Beat Writer E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
What do the Buccaneers need across the defensive line? What defensive ends or defensive tackles could help Tampa Bay? Find out who PewterReport.com ranks as the top 20 defensive linemen in the class and who are the Bucs' Best Bets. Get all the answers here.
Pewter Report continues its annual draft preview listing the top players at each position and also offers up two Bucs' Best Bets, one in the early rounds and one in the late rounds. See where Pewter Report ranks the players and who they think makes the most sense for the Buccaneers. Up next are the defensive linemen.

WHAT THE BUCS HAVE AT DEFENSIVE LINE
Adding an impact defensive end was a priority for the Buccaneers heading into the offseason, and they made a big splash by signing former Cincinnati defensive end Michael Johnson to a deal on the first day of free agency. Former Iowa Hawkeye defensive end Adrian Clayborn is currently Johnson’s bookend, but his starting spot isn’t guaranteed heading into 2014. Also on the roster is William Gholston, who flashed towards the end of last season as a rookie. He figures to be fighting for playing time across from Michael Johnson. Fourth-year defensive end Da’Quan Bowers has been a massive disappointment since being drafted by the team in 2011. Tampa Bay also has second-year pass-rushers Steven Means and Scott Solomon on the roster, who are viewed as developmental prospects.

At defensive tackle, The Buccaneers have the sensational Gerald McCoy, who racked up 9.5 sacks in his fourth season. He’s entrenched as the team’s staring under tackle. Tampa Bay added former Seattle Seahawk Clinton McDonald in free agency, who could start or be in a rotation at the nose tackle position. Also on the roster are Akeem Spence, Everett Dawkins, Matthew Masifilo, and David Hunter, who are young players with upside but Spence is the only player with a decent record of NFL performance.

WHAT THE BUCS NEED AT DEFENSIVE LINE
With Gerald McCoy locking down one of the three-technique spot, Tampa Bay could look for a sidekick for the Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Akeem Spence versus Clinton McDonald is the current battle for the open spot, but the Buccaneers could add another explosive interior rusher into the mix. Considering the Buccaneers have William Gholston and Adrian Clayborn, Tampa Bay has some talent capable of lining up across from Michael Johnson. However Gholston is still raw and Clayborn may lack explosion, so maybe the team will look for a smaller, quicker situational edge-rusher to complement their big men.

BUCS BEST BET EARLY (1-3) – PITTSBURGH DT AARON DONALD
Donald is a legitimate top 10 prospect that can step in and play right away for the Buccaneers next to Gerald McCoy. Showcasing excellent hand usage and constantly moving feet, Donald is arguably the most technically sound defensive lineman in this year’s class. He’s a great athlete and it shows on film, where he beats opponents with his first step and quickness consistently. His only true weakness is his size (6-0, 285), but smaller defensive tackles, like Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins have had success at the NFL level. If Donald is on the board when the Buccaneers pick, the Pitt Panther could be the next player in red and pewter.

BUCS BEST BET LATE (4-7) – BALL STATE DE JONATHAN NEWSOME
Speed is a trait that the Tampa Bay defensive ends lack, and it’s a trait that Newsome would bring to the table. Having a quick edge-rusher who can burst off the line and flatten would be a nice addition and change-of-pace to a Buccaneers team that features a lot of big, powerful defensive ends. The drawback with Newsome is he isn’t particularly strong in run-defense, and is sometimes overpowered and taken out of the play by offensive lineman. That being said, his athleticism and upside as a pass-rusher should warrant a late-round draft grade. In April, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Newsome had a pre-draft workout with the Buccaneers.

TOP TEN DEFENSIVE LINEMAN
1. DE Jadeveon Clowney – South Carolina – Junior – 6-6, 266 - 4.51
Clowney is an athletic freak that is gifted with and incredible combination of size and speed. He has excellent burst off the snap and wins with his excellent arm-over swim move consistently. The South Carolina product is a solid run-defender that pursues quickly from the backside of plays. After recording 13 sacks as a sophomore, he only managed to sack the quarterback three times in 2013. The concerns with Clowney lie in his drive and work-ethic, which have been questioned throughout the pre-draft process. If he proves his doubters wrong and works hard, Clowney could become one of the best defensive linemen in the league and fast. 

2. DT Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh – Senior – 6-0, 285 - 4.65   
Donald is an elite defensive tackle prospect with tremendous hands and feet. To go along with his terrific technique, Donald supplements his game with an excellent amount of athleticism, as he fires off the ball and is quick to engage. His only downside is his 6-0, 285 pound frame. He could be a top-10 pick when it’s all said and done.

3. DT Dominique Easley – Florida – Senior – 6-2, 288 – 512
Easley is an extremely disruptive, athletic defensive tackle prospect that would’ve gone much higher if he hadn’t injured his knee last season. The Florida product was one of the fastest linemen off the ball in the country, which allowed him to cause disruption consistently for the Gators. He uses his hands well and has a very strong punch. Easley recorded four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss as a junior. It’s likely that Easley is selected on Day 2 of the draft, but he can quickly return his value if he is healthy.

4. DT Timmy Jernigan – Florida State – Junior – 6-2, 299 – 4.97
Jernigan is a talented prospect with a lot of upside. The Florida State product uses his hands well and shows a nice repertoire of pass-rushing moves. With some more coaching and experience, Jernigan could become a dominant interior defensive lineman. The junior is very athletic, but his quickness doesn’t show up in his first step. His snap anticipation could also be improved. Jernigan recorded 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks as a junior in 2013.

5. DT Louis Nix – Notre Dame – Junior – 6-2, 331 – 5.39  
For a 6-foot-2, 331 pound nose tackle, Nix is a terrific athlete that can move side-to-side with great balance. He’s very quick off the snap and engages with offensive line with terrific speed. Nix is a consistent player that will fit multiple defenses as a nose tackle. Nix notched 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks as a sophomore.

6. DE Kony Ealy – Missouri – Junior – 6-4, 273 – 4.64   
Ealy is a raw prospect with great size and speed. The Missouri standout notched 9.5 sacks before declaring for the draft as a junior. Ealy broke out in 2013 as a junior, where he finished the year with 9.5 sacks. He’s more than capable of playing the edge, but he could also kick inside to defensive tackle on third downs and make an impact there. Ealy is a little rough around the edges, but he still projects as a first-round pick.
 
7. DT Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota – Senior – 6-6, 310 - 4.94
Hageman has tremendous potential due to his excellent combination of size and athleticism. He can dominate when the switch is flipped on and is too explosive and fast for sluggish interior offensive lineman. The problem is that he disappears during games and doesn’t play with tenacity or drive. Hageman recorded 38 tackles and 13 tackles for loss as a senior, and should be a late first or early second-round pick.

8. DT Will Sutton –Arizona State – Senior – 6-0, 295 – 5.34
Sutton is an explosive defensive tackle that is a consistent disruptor. His excellent hand usage keeps offensive lineman away from his frame. Combine that with his terrific first step and quickness off the snap and you have quite a dominant player. Sutton added weight in 2013 and it looked like it slowed him down on tape. Shedding some weight would allow him to regain some of that coveted quickness. Sutton was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year twice and has recorded 17 sacks over the last two seasons.

9. DT Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame – Junior – 6-5, 304 – 5.05
Tuitt is a big, athletic interior defensive lineman that was a major producer as a sophomore in 2012, where he notched 12 sacks. After a somewhat underwhelming junior season, he heads into the draft with a day two grade. Tuitt would fit best as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense.

10. DE Dee Ford – Auburn – Senior – 6-2, 252 – 4.58    
Ford is an explosive edge-rusher who beats the opposition with speed. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl, where he showed he could win against the top tackles in the country. Ford had a great senior season, where he recorded 14.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. At this point in his development, Ford is somewhat of a one-trick pony, as he doesn’t have any great counter moves to supplement his explosive edge rush. He’s also undersized, which hurts him in run defense.

BEST OF THE REST
11. DE Marcus Smith – Louisville – Senior – 6-3, 251 – 4.67 
Projected by most as a late second or early third-round pick, Smith is one of the more underrated pass-rushers in this draft. He’s a playmaker that wins the most with his speed rush off of the edge. He’s a bit undersized and might be better suited as a pass-rushing outside linebacker. Smith recorded 13.5 sacks as a senior.

12. DE Demarcus Lawrence – Boise State – Junior – 6-3, 251 – 4.77
Lawrence is a talented, underrated pass-rusher with good athleticism and pass-rushing technique. He’s a tweener that could fit with a 3-4 team, and that lack of size sometimes hurts in run defense at the point of attack. Lawrence has recorded 20 sacks over the last two seasons.

13. DE Scott Crichton – Oregon State – Junior – 6-3, 273 – 4.78
Crichton is an athletic defensive end prospect that brings a well-rounded game to the table. The Oregon State junior is big enough to line up as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, which is where he played in college. Crichton’s biggest drawback is that he has some trouble in run defense at times. He finished his senior season with 47 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks.

14. DE Kareem Martin – North Carolina – Senior – 6-6, 272 - 4.68
Martin has the prototypical size and athleticism for a 4-3 defensive end, and he’s been a productive player for the Tar Heels. Blessed with great athleticism, Martin is quick off the ball and can flatten around the arc. He gets lazy sometimes and plays to high on occasion, but both are correctable issues heading into the NFL. Martin was very productive as a senior, recording 82 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, and 11.5 sacks.

15. DE Jackson Jeffcoat – Texas – Senior – 6-3,247 – 4.62
Jeffcoat is a great pass-rusher that is being underrated heading the draft. He’s lethal off the edge and can flatten himself and dip under offensive tackles. Jeffcoat is great in pursuit and is very athletic, but his size hurts him in run defense. He could be a liability on early downs at the NFL level. Jeffcoat racked up 86 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks as a senior.

16. DE Taylor Hart – Oregon – Senior – 6-6, 285 – 4.86
Hart is a good athlete with a great motor and technique. He’s an underrated defensive lineman with great size and is player that can be molded and improved. Hart’s game isn’t flashy but he’s a consistent player that would fit great as a five-technique. The Oregon product finished 2013 with 75 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and 3.5 sacks.

17. DT Daniel McCullers – Tennessee – Senior – 6-6, 352 – 5.32
McCullers is a monstrous nose tackle that is impossible to move off a spot with just one defender. The Tennessee product never live up to expectations and isn’t a great athlete McCullers also shows some stiffness and a weak motor on tape. He only recorded 4.5 tackles for loss and a half sack as a senior.

18. DE Brent Urban – Virginia – Senior – 6-6, 295 – 4.95
It’s hard to not be intrigued by Urban’s incredible size. Standing just under 6-foot-7 and weighing close to 300 pounds, the Virginia product will provide whatever team that drafts him with a great canvas to work with. Urban recorded 40 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He’s a raw player, but his strength and athleticism should get him drafted on day two.

19. DT Ego Ferguson – LSU – Junior – 6-3, 315 – 5.14
Ferguson is a raw defensive tackle with great size and strength. He can be developed but he has some serious flaws to his game, including poor arm extension and hand usage. Ferguson wasn’t very productive and isn’t a great athlete, which is why he is projected to go in the fourth or fifth round. He only recorded one sack as a junior.

20. DE Adrian Hubbard – Alabama – Junior – 6-6, 257 – 4.67
Hubbard has the size and the athleticism to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme or outside linebacker in a 3-4 front. He was an underachiever at Alabama, but he brings great tools to the NFL. Hubbard finished his junior season with 33 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, and three sacks.

Last modified on Thursday, 08 May 2014 08:21
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  • avatar


    Scubog; we trade down to Clevland's pick and take Zach Martin, OG Notre Dame. I do believe if we do stay at spot 7 that we will draft DT Donald. That's a safe prediction.
  • avatar


    OK Horse, my official choice at # 7 is DT Aaron Donald. You need to give us the name of your official selection, not just throw out a position of great need. But we won't draft a guard in the first round unless we trade all the way down into the bottom 10 spots. Could draft one of the tackles at # 7 and move him inside. I'd like the excitement Johnny Manziel would bring to the fan base but I'm not sure any of the QB's are worthy of the # 7 pick. Plus I don't think the conservative Lovie Smith will take the risk. Yep, the safe pick is Aaron Donald.
  • avatar


    I think the Bucs do everything they can to trade out of the 7th pick. Lots of posters have a great point about not taking Donald with the first pick since he plays the same 3-technique as McCoy. However, Lovie plans to rotate hiS D-line to keep them fresh (don't know how that'll work against a hurry-up offense), so theoretically, Donald would play both DT positions alternately, giving McCoy a rest when he needs one. The 3-technique is the most important position in this defense, so (IMO) Lovie would like to stock it if he can. @EEB: You make great arguments for going offense in the draft, & I'm with you on that. I just don't think Lovie will be totally on board with that. Last year, our offense was last in passing offense, 22nd in rushing offense, 30th in scoring offense, had no OL, & 4-12 record. Somehow, some way, I hope we get some studs on the OL & WR in the draft.
  • avatar

    @horse...since we're making predictions...here's mine: we trade down in a bidding war between the Rams, Giants and Dolphins who all see Martin as the remaining top-tier OT after the Falcons take Lewan....one of those three teams (let's say the Dolphins) is willing to pay a ridiculous ransom for our pick and we can walk away with still having a top-20 pick in this draft, which we use on Cooks (and EEB jumps for joy in his living room at about midnight tonight).
  • avatar


    Donald would only be a backup his rookie season. After that he would be the starting NT. McCoy wouldn't be moving anywhere. Donald is pound for pound the strongest and fastest man in this draft. How is he not fit to play NT? Handling double teams is more about strength and leverage that weight when you have a penetrating focused defense like we do, assuming the player isn't too lazy to keep his pad level low. Donald has a motor that never stops and has a size/speed ratio that's higher than Clowney's. Donald had 11 sacks in two different seasons. He's the BPA so take him!
  • avatar


    Scubog, here is my prediction. We trade down and draft the best offensive guard in the draft. Okay what's your usual safe middle of the road guess?
  • avatar

    I can see why people like Donald, and Mosely - both look fine players to me...but I will rest my case with: WE HAVE THE WORST OFFENSE IN THE WHOLE LEAGUE (worse than Jax, worse than Oakland, worse than Cleveland)....starting Cousins is like starting a hole at OG, and starting Meredith isn't much better....our TE would probably be better playing OG and our backup TE would be better playing WR (not that either would excel in either role obviously)....our RB (who I like) showed hands of stone last year...and don't get me started on our QBs....I don't care how good our defense is or how many Donald's we can add, they better be prepared to play 40+ minutes and score 14+ points with the offense we currently have....draft us some help on offense please so we can have some hope for this season!
  • avatar


    No matter how great Donald is it seems like a waste. Yes I know that we will be in trouble if the 3 tech goes down but we do simply not have the roster to keep stars in backup roles. Donald is probably going to be a great 3-tech but that is one of the very few spots we have the best player in the league. Talking about moving McCoy to Nose is just plain ridiculous and Donald seems ill fitted for the nose position.
  • avatar


    I am so tired of PR pushing for Aaron Donald. If you guys were GMs you would not last a year. Top ten picks are suppose to be STARS not backups. You do not move the leagues premier 3 technique to nose tackle so you can take a flier on a rookie. The DT spots are fine as is. They can be improved but we have needs that have to be filled. Namely WR and G. If Lovie were to draft a defensive player, the one that makes sense is C J Mosely. Mosely would be a star at MLB and we could move Foster to SAM where he could be dominant. Look what Kuechly did for Carolina last year and imagine the effect Mosely could have on our defense. I am still hoping for a WR at 7 or a trade down, but Mosely makes some sense.
  • avatar


    My inside source says that the 1st pick of the draft is all on Coach Smith who has the final decision over the GM.
  • avatar


    Draft Donald instead of Carr with our 1st round pick. Also, if Kony Ealy is sitting there with our 2nd round pick, WR be damned we gotta take him.
  • avatar


    Donald just doesn't get off the ball as well as I would expect, great hands better than McCoy(who is fastest off the ball in the NFL) but seems very slow off the snap.Could this be why he excelled so much in the allstar games and especially practices? I know he is the best tackle in the draft but I am surprised at how slow he is off the ball.If bucs are trading up it is for Mack..........Bucs nation has an Ernie Sims on the roster ??? Ernie Sims would play middle better than Mason he just cant stay healthy because he hits like a truck at 220.Sims is best bargain in Football ask M Kiffen.......... Light will do everything he can to trade down unlike when the bucs were offered two firsts for the Charles McCrae pick.If you don't get more draft picks on this roster this team will have problems paying a super bowl talent type roster,cant be done!!
  • avatar

    If the Bucs draft Donald in the first, that would help keep the line fresh and keep pressure on QB's all game long. If they take CJ Mosley, they would be set at middle linebacker for the next decade. The Bucs could then put Mason Foster on the outside where he could excel. I would take Mosley over Donald if taking defense in the first round. I would rather the Bucs take WR, WR, OG, QB with their first four picks. No QB needed if they keep Glennon though.
  • avatar

    I want Aaron Donald...go 'Bucs !!!!
  • avatar


    IMHO I would trade Bowers as no one should come to camp out of shape two years in a row. We keep drafting DE with no success but maybe with our new regime we will have some luck. I think Gholston will push Claiborne to the bench mid season with a great year. With all the DE's on the team the only need is a backup for McCoy because if he goes down we have a major problem. Would not mind picking Donald at 7 but with all our other needs that is a long shot. Looks to be an exciting draft with a few trades thrown in.
  • avatar


    As to DEs we don't need any. If we want a speed rusher, we already have one that used to play with Mack at Buffalo, and has had a year to develop on our Practice Squad, and I look for our expert DL Coach to get the most out of him. Gholston is the ideal starter for the Left side and is a good run stuffer as well as a sacker with a relentless motor like Claiborne, who gives it his all and is good against the run, but has been mainly a bull rusher and will need to pick up more moves with our expert coaching this year. When Gholston got a chance to start he notched two sacks near the end of the year. If Stupid Schiano had started him all year, we would have already developed a double digit sacker even with such poor coaching. Yes, our Clemson underachiever has shown up out of shape once again, but look for Lovie and our DL Coach to build a fire under him and get him in shape on the field. He should be fine as a situational rusher and could develop into a good player this year. Johnson will be a double digit sacker this year in this system. I want to see how good this FSU DE is on our roster too. We are set on the DL if we just land Bromley who can play DE too if needed.
  • avatar


    I hope all the experts keep omitting Jay Bromley out of Syracuse, like you just did on your list and we can grab him with a fourth or fifth round draft choice. He is flexible because he has played inside and out, and is two inches taller than Donald and weighs 305 lbs. and is a lot more of a force against the run than Donald. Donald had 11 sacks last year and Bromley had 10 (so he is a double digit sacker from the inside). He also had 24 tackles for loss last year. He has a very explosive first step, a large variety of moves, and is a high character guy. We don't need him to start because we have McCoy and McDonald (M & M) to do that; but Bromley is a three technique and could do well for McCoy should he go down and could work in rotation. You saw him play well in the Shrine game in St. Pete! We would be very foolish to take Donald in the first round to make our expensive Free Agent, McDonald a backup, when we badly need that pick for a Franchise QB of the future.
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