|Tim Heitman/US Presswire|
|North Carolina DE Quinton Coples had 7.5 sacks this season, after recording 10 as a junior.|
With the college football regular season wrapped up, NFL.com draft expert Bucky Brooks is rolling out his top 10 college players by position. The schedule is as follows:
1. Quinton Coples, North Carolina, DE (6-6, 285): From a production standpoint, Coples' final season was a disappointment, but his combination of size, athleticism and rush skill stands out on tape. Although he might be a better pro as a five-technique, his ability to be effective as a run or pass defender cements his status as the top defensive end in college football.
2. Melvin Ingram*, South Carolina, DE (6-2, 276): Ingram is the most athletic and versatile defender on this list. He is a former high school running back with exceptional quickness and rush skills. He can play multiple spots along the front, which makes him an ideal fit in a 3-4 scheme.
3. Andre Branch, Clemson, DE (6-4, 260): Branch has shot to the top of the charts after emerging as one of the most dominant pass rushers in college football. His impressive combination of speed and quickness makes him nearly impossible to block in isolated matchups in space. Productive pass rushers are always valued at a premium, which justifies Branch's surge up draft boards across the league.
4. Devon Still, Penn State, DT (6-4, 310): As a rugged interior defender with size and strength, Still has the tools to be an anchor in the middle of the line. Although he is a little upright in his play, his natural strength and power makes him difficult to move off his spot. Given the importance of having a big, physical "three-technique" in the middle of a four-man front, Still is a highly regarded prospect.
5. Fletcher Cox*, Mississippi State, DT (6-4, 295): Cox has unique athleticism and movement skills for an interior defender. His explosive, first-step quickness and closing burst could make him a disruptive force in a movement-based scheme, but questions about his ability to hold the point could limit him in the eyes of scouts.
6. Jerel Worthy*, Michigan State, DT (6-3, 310): As an active defensive tackle with explosive quickness and burst, Worthy is a problematic defender for opponents. He creates havoc with quick arm-overs or spin moves at the line of scrimmage and has a penchant for making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. His inconsistent motor is troublesome, but Worthy is a flash player with tremendous upside.
7. Mercilus Whitney*, Illinois, DE (6-4, 265): Whitney will garner the one-year wonder tag after surging from a single sack in 2010 to 14.5 sacks in 2011, but his raw talent and athleticism is hard to ignore. Scouts will have to decide if that production is sustainable.
8. Brandon Thompson, Clemson, DT (6-2, 310): Thompson is a classic run-stopper with the power and strength to control the point. He doesn't offer much as a pass rusher, but his ability to dominate on first and second downs makes him an ideal fit for teams searching for an immovable force in the middle.
9. Dontari Poe, Memphis, DT (6-3, 330): Poe is one of the strongest players in college football. He is immovable off the point and his ability to occupy multiple blockers without losing ground makes him an ideal "two-gap" player. With the proliferation of the 3-4 drastically increasing the value of nose tackles, Poe is certain to rise up charts around the league.
T-10. Cam Johnson, Virginia, DE (6-3, 270): Johnson is arguably the hardest-working edge player in college football. He wears down blockers with his fanatical effort and is also a skilled rusher capable of winning with speed or power. His ability to wreak havoc off the edges makes him an ideal right defensive end and he will certainly warrant serious consideration as an all-star-caliber playmaker by evaluators.
T-10. Billy Winn, Boise State, DE (6-3, 300): The talented defensive end is certainly a difference-maker, but his inconsistent effort forces scouts to question his passion and commitment. However, when he is focused and energized, Winn has the ability to take over games from his defensive end spot and scouts are willing to bet on those spectacular flashes.
Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks