Nickel Package: Five teams with DE needs


Given the depth of the 2013 defensive line class -- 14 of my top 32 prospects are defensive linemen -- and the many teams in the NFL that need help along the defensive interior, we've been examining where those prospects might fit at the next level.

We looked at the top defensive tackles a few weeks ago, and now it's time to turn our attention to defensive ends.

First, a breakdown of the eight defensive ends among the top 32:

It should be noted that Cornellius Carradine was one of the fastest-rising prospects in the nation over the course of the regular season, moving all the way into the top 15 before suffering a torn ACL in Florida State's regular-season finale against Florida. Until more is known about his surgery and recovery, his grade has been pushed to the fringe of the first round.

Teams in the DE market

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jags rank last in the NFL with 13 total sacks, which is directly affecting an overall pass defense that ranks 28th in the league (261 ypg). DT Tyson Alualu can provide occasional pressure up the middle and 2012 second-round pick DE Andre Branch can become a contributor, but Jacksonville desperately needs a premier edge rusher.

The Jaguars will be picking early and place an emphasis on character, effort and toughness, so Damontre Moore would be a good fit with his quickness, fluidity and ability to hold up against the run. Barkevious Mingo doesn't have ideal instincts, but there are no effort issues with him, though you have to wonder whether Jacksonville would take on a project player.

Finally, Bjoern Werner fits the Jaguars' mold perfectly in terms of character and complete skill set, but much of his production this season came against marginal competition. He's not the kind of explosive athlete the Jags need.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have only 14 sacks on the season, and they are unusually big at defensive end, with Lamarr Houston (300 pounds) and Matt Shaughnessy (285 pounds) holding down the starting spots. They are also in line to have a high first-round pick and plenty of 4-3 ends to choose from.

Oakland would surely like to see Moore fall into its lap, but Mingo would also be a good fit as a lighter, faster edge rusher. Dion Jordan, who has explosive upper-body power and holds up well in space, is another possibility. Werner might be in play, but once again he is not the best pure pass-rusher of the group.

New Orleans Saints

Starting DEs Cameron Jordan and Will Smith have 12 combined sacks, but the Saints need another quality pass-rusher to add to their rotation. To that end, Mingo has the skills -- elite first step, speed, closing burst -- to be a pass-rush specialist early in his career while developing the rest of his game. Jordan and Corey Lemonier could also fill that role.

The Saints are also in the market for a defensive tackle, and with no second-round pick as a result of bounty-related penalties, they will have to weigh those needs and the value of the players available against one another.

Tennessee Titans

A pass defense that ranks 26th in the league (258 ypg) has been hurt by a pass rush that has just 23 sacks on the season. DE Kamerion Wimbley leads the team with five, but he will be 30 next season. The Titans need a younger, better version of Wimbley to complement Derrick Morgan.

Tennessee will likely be in position for one of the top players in the class, and Moore would be an ideal fit.

Defensive tackle is a need area for the Titans too. They have drafted a defensive tackle within the first three rounds in each of the past three drafts, but they do not have an elite talent at that spot who can hold down the middle and provide interior pressure.

Atlanta Falcons

Veteran Falcons DE John Abraham has 10 sacks this season, but he will be 35 years old next season. The Falcons also released veteran Ray Edwards earlier this season.

Atlanta needs a fast, explosive athlete who can bring pressure off the edge on the Georgia Dome turf, and with a pick likely to be late in the first round, Lemonier could make sense. He has a great first step and relentless motor, and Abraham could serve as a good mentor. Ezekiel Ansah might also be on the board, and while he is a freakish athlete, he is more of a versatile 5-technique (3-4 DE) and is still very raw.

The Falcons also need a defensive tackle to bolster a run defense that ranks 30th in yards allowed per carry (4.8). They could use a big tackle to play the nose tackle in their base 4-3 and if they run more three-man fronts and could consider massive Georgia DT Johnathan Jenkins should he still be on the board.