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First look at DL for 2011 NFL draft

8/20/2010

Evaluating defensive linemen is never easy. Here's what we look for in defensive ends and defensive tackles as we finalize our initial 2011 draft board. (Draft-eligible underclassmen are denoted with an asterisk.)

Defensive ends

When evaluating defensive ends, it is important to consider all aspects of their games -- pass-rush skills, ability to play the run, versatility and instincts/motor. Here's how we rank the top defensive ends by skill set.

Pass-rush skills
A defensive end who reads the snap and explodes off the ball. He has good balance and power when bending back inside. He uses double moves to keep offensive linemen off balance, shows explosive upper body strength and has active hands. He shows above-average closing speed when he gets a clear path to the quarterback and can get under offensive tackles and drive them back into the quarterback's lap. There's a greater value on prospects who can win with both speed and power.