|Kirby Lee / US Presswire|
|As the son of a 15-year NFL veteran, Texas defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat brings a solid pedigree to the game.|
Height: 6-5 Weight: 250
Some NFL fans will instantly recognize Jeffcoat's last name. His father, Jim, was a 15-year NFL defensive lineman, won two Super Bowls (XXVII, XXVIII) with the Dallas Cowboys and sacked Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann five times in one 1985 regular-season game. The elder Jeffcoat is now San Jose State's defensive line coach, and his genetics apparently worked magic in Jackson, who looks like an NFL-caliber pass rusher in the making.
The consensus high school All-American played in eight games as a true freshman, starting two games but then missing four with a high left ankle sprain. Jeffcoat was credited with 15 tackles (six for a loss) and 2.5 sacks that season (according to NCAA statistics). He came back fully healthy for his sophomore year, starting all 13 games and garnering second-team All-Big 12 honors from coaches (he had 16.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks). He finished the season with a five-tackle, two-sack performance in the team's 21-10 Holiday Bowl win over California. Jeffcoat had surgery after the 2011 season on a ruptured left pectoral muscle.
Strengths: Blends size, quickness and strength to be effective whether he's lined up outside the tackle with his hand down or standing up. Explodes from a three-point stance. Has the foot quickness to adjust to oncoming ball carriers and recover after biting on misdirection and ball fakes. With his length, he wraps up running backs and quarterbacks. He uses active hands to punch and rip past his man after initial contact, and flashes the arm extension needed to push tackles into the backfield. Recovers from cut blocks quickly and has the speed to get back into plays.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent getting off blocks from better tackles with pure upper-body strength. Anchor on the edge is questionable; he can be put on skates after giving up one step to his man. Not as quick off the snap when standing up as he is with his hand on the ground. Missed half of his first season with an ankle injury and had surgery on a pectoral muscle after his sophomore year.
NFL comparison: John Abraham
Bottom line: Jeffcoat's NFL-caliber length, explosive athleticism and still-growing frame give him the intriguing overall package scouts covet. He must continue to grow physically and mentally during his remaining time in Austin.
Height: 6-4 Weight: 245
Montgomery lost his brother, John Darrel Adams, before playing his first football game in high school; Adams was shot in 2007 while working as a bouncer at a Columbia, S.C. bar. Montgomery, who still uses memories of playing "Sonic the Hedgehog" with Adams as a motivating factor on the field, plays with a motor that never stops.
He played well enough in those two seasons of high school ball to rank as one of the top defensive ends in the country, and he made a quick impact on the Tigers, starting his first game as a redshirt freshman in 2010. Unfortunately, he could not finish the year on a high note because he was sidelined by a right knee injury in the fifth game of the season. SEC coaches still put Montgomery on their freshman all-conference squad, however, as he was credited with 18 tackles (six for a loss) and two sacks in those four-plus contests. He stayed healthy in 2011, starting 11 of 14 games and accumulating 13.5 tackles for a loss and nine sacks, garnering first-team All-SEC honors.
Strengths: He's a tall, long, weak-side end with the growth potential to be a three-down player. Flashes quickness on the edge and some bend to turn the corner. Gets secondary rushes by pure hustle, comes off blocks if his man lets up after initial contact and closes quickly to the ball. Has displayed very good effort to get to ball carriers on the sideline, whether lined up inside or outside. Holds his ground well in the run game and gets leverage to force plays inside. A competitive player who doesn't back down from challenges, he will bull his way into bigger tackles to collapse the pocket.
Weaknesses: He's late off the snap too often whether standing up or playing with his hand down. He doesn't turn the corner consistently and gets pushed around the pocket. Better tackles can stone him on his first move; he lacks a consistent counter move to get free. Does not run through tight ends when he has the size advantage.
NFL comparison: Andre Carter
Bottom line: This lean, All-SEC pick and Ted Hendricks Award finalist used very good quickness and a high motor to rack up nine sacks and chase down ball carriers all over the field in 2011. If Montgomery adds strength and consistency, he'll be a highly sought-after end/linebacker hybrid prospect.
College: Florida State
Height: 6-4 Weight: 272
As a sophomore high school exchange student from Germany, Werner wowed his Salisbury (Conn.) teammates and coaches by racking up 12 sacks in eight games. He missed his home country, however, so he moved back to Berlin -- but kept his mind on the game, playing for Berlin Adler in the German Football League. Colleges were very happy when he returned to Salisbury for his senior season; Florida State eventually won the battle to secure his services.
It didn't take the already-married Werner long to make an impact despite his unconventional path to the college football game. He played in all 14 games, notching six tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks, as a true freshman. He started all 13 games as a sophomore, earning honorable mention All-ACC recognition with 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks. Werner also scored a touchdown versus Clemson, catching a failed throw-away attempt by Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd that went straight up and landed in his arms.
Strengths: Projects as a strong-side 4-3 end who can play the run well and get pressure on the quarterback. Possesses very good quickness off the snap for his size and flashes enough shimmy to get the inside lane. Finds the ball well and uses active hands to rip past tackles after initial contact. Brings power to his punch; he can bull his man toward the quarterback with leverage. Swallows running backs after shedding his man in the run game and has the athleticism to make tackles in space. Times his jumps well to knock down passes if he's unable to get to the quarterback; he also looks comfortable making plays in coverage.
Weaknesses: Pops straight up out of his stance at times, losing strength at the point of attack, and is inconsistent turning the corner as a pass rusher. Usually looks for misdirection when unblocked, but loses containment when he gets caught up with pulling guards instead of keeping outside leverage.
NFL comparison: Kyle Vanden Bosch
Bottom line: The tall, strong-side defensive end has growth potential. He's shown an excellent combination of strength and agility on the edge as a pass rusher while doing his job against the run.
College: Michigan State
Height: 6-7 Weight: 275
As if his 6-foot-7, 275-pound frame wasn't attention-grabbing enough, Gholston's surname immediately raises eyebrows -- he's the cousin of 2008 New York Jets first-round pick Vernon Gholston. In most cases, sharing a name with a former first-round pick is a bonus. But the fact that Vernon did not get a sack in his short three-year stint with the Jets and could not secure a job during the 2011 season probably won't help William's stock.
Gholston had a rough childhood, bouncing from home to home until he was eventually taken in by his high school coach. He became the top prospect out of Michigan in 2010 (he had 27 sacks as a senior at Detroit Southeast), so it was no surprise that he got on the field as a true freshman. He had 13 tackles (0.5 sacks) in 10 games before tearing his left labrum (shoulder) against Minnesota. Gholston recovered from surgery well enough to start 12 games in 2011, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors with 70 tackles, 16 for a loss and five sacks. His five tackles for a loss and two sacks helped Michigan State beat Georgia, 33-30, in the Outback Bowl. However, he made his biggest headlines last year by drawing a one-game suspension for punching Michigan left tackle Taylor Lewan and twisting quarterback Denard Robinson's helmet during that always-chippy rivalry game.
Strengths: He looks the part of an NFL starter, with height, length and a strong overall build. Holds the line and edge well when on his game; uses strong hands and long arms to get leverage. Very agile for his size, he can move with tight ends and running backs in the flat and hurdle cut blockers. He flashes a spin move as a pass rusher.
Weaknesses: Rarely uses his hands to disengage. Only occasionally shows pop off the snap. He rarely beats better tackles off the edge and seldom displays the strength to push them back. Loses his balance trying to turn the corner. Gets controlled on the edge by smaller players because he doesn't get his hands inside. Needs to show more hustle and competitiveness.
NFL comparison: Carlos Dunlap
Bottom line: Gholston towers over many of his opponents and flashes the athleticism to be a top pass rusher. He doesn't play as strong as his frame would indicate, however, and he had problems controlling his temper last year. He'll need to use his hands more regularly and prove his motor to avoid unflattering comparisons to his cousin.
College: Texas A&M
Height: 6-4 Weight: 250
Ever since Moore appeared in College Station, he's shown great potential. In fact, even when Von Miller was making plays for the Aggies on his way to being selected number two overall by Denver in the 2011 draft, it was easy to see that "DaMonster," as his teammates call him, would help veteran linebacker Sean Porter pick up the slack when the Butkus Award winner moved on to the next level. His experience at both 3-4 rush linebacker and 4-3 defensive end (a move coming after Kevin Sumlin took over for the fired Mike Sherman in 2012) makes his combination of strength and athleticism even more enticing for teams looking to harass opposing quarterbacks.
Moore was an honorable mention all-state defensive end out of Rowlett, Texas as a high school senior. He stepped into the backup "joker" rush linebacker role behind Miller as a true freshman in 2010, racking up 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks, mostly early in the year against non-conference competition. Despite a June 2011 arrest for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana, Moore took over the starting role as a sophomore for 10 of 12 games played, this time increasing his production as the season progressed; 49 of 72 tackles, 12.5 of his 17.5 tackles for loss, and six of his 8.5 sacks came in the last five games of the year.
Strengths: Tall rush end/linebacker hybrid with nice length and a frame still not maxed out. Has played in a stand-up and hand-down role and threatens quarterbacks from either side of the line. Good snap anticipation and initial quickness to threaten the edge. Flashes the punch and arm extension to bull tackles backwards. Possesses the ability to flatten down the line as a pass rusher. Good second effort even when beaten with initial hand play, can close on quarterbacks and running backs coming to his side and he chases from the back side. Presents good bend for his size in a three-point stance. Length and increased upper-body strength helps him reach ballcarriers and pop/drag them down with authority. Quickness helps him win the B-gap even when lined up outside the tackle, also helps him get to the sideline to chase down ballcarriers. Tight ends have little chance of handling his rip move on the outside. Moves well when standing up, has the change of direction ability to contain on his side, handle himself against tight ends off the line and in short zone coverage as a 3-4 'backer. Breaks down and drops his drops to stone backs in the hole or catch them if they try to elude him. Anchors against linemen in the run game, holds the edge adeptly. Excellent upside.
Weaknesses: Hand usage should improve with time, will allow better tackles to get their punch inside at times to knock him back a bit. Can play high at times, failing to anchor and getting knocked aside or to the ground by stronger linemen, especially when moving laterally. Still learning to use his flexibility to turn the corner consistently, and needs to use his spin move (and keep his balance during it) to prevent getting taken outside the pocket too often.
NFL comparison: Kamerion Wimbley
Bottom line: The pass rusher his teammates call "DaMonster" looked like a potential star even while he backed up 2010 Butkus Award winner and number two overall pick in the 2011 draft, Von Miller. After one season as the Aggies' top rush linebacker (17.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks in 2011), he moved to defensive end for new head coach Kevin Sumlin. Given his strength, size, and athleticism, don't be surprised if he's considered one of the top two or three pass rushers in the country by the end of the 2012 season.
Height: 6-4 Weight: 246
It's no surprise that Lemonier has become one of the top pass rushers in the nation's top conference. He was a top ten high school defensive end recruit nationally as well as one of the top 10 players in the talent-rich state of Florida in 2009, earning phone calls from college coaches across the country. Lemonier has met expectations early in his career, and his strength, growing frame, and hustle gives him a chance to be a starter at the next level, whenever he chooses to leave The Plains.
The 2010 Under Armour High School All-American Game participant didn't need much time to make an impact with the Tigers, playing in all 14 games as a true freshman and starting once (against Tennessee-Chattanooga), making 17 tackles, five for loss, two sacks -- including three tackles, one for loss, against Oregon in the team's BCS Championship Game victory. SEC coaches named him first-team all-conference as a sophomore, a rare feat, due to his team-leading 13.5 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks.
Strengths: Strong and long end with a nice motor and a strong overall build with room to grow. Plays on both sides of the formation. Stands up at times, looks capable of rushing the passer and playing the run in that role. Also flashes agility to drop into a zone and attack ballcarriers coming into his area. Can threaten outside shoulders of average linemen, flattens out and brings power into his tackles on passers. Has strength and long arms to separate the ball from any ballcarrier. Works hard throughout each play, chasing plays to the sideline when needed and crashing inside for a secondary rush if stopped in his initial upfield move. Explosive on twists inside, closes hard and gets into passing lanes if unable to reach the quarterback. Has violent hands and a strong arm extension to knock back and shed linemen or tight ends in the run game. Good vision through traffic and hustle to reach the ball. Frame makes him susceptible to cut blocks, but he recovers quite well (also when losing the initial blow off the snap), gets back into the play to make a stop with pure effort.
Weaknesses: Might not have the consistent get-off and flexibility to be an elite initial rusher, though his strength and hustle will make him a factor the ball stays in the pocket too long. Has good change of direction ability and agility, but his high-cut frame might give him troubles staying with NFL receivers in coverage and breaking down to reach quicker ballcarriers. Better tackles get a push against him on drive-blocks due to that leggy build. Has a spin move as a rusher, but doesn't always separate from his man when using it.
NFL comparison: Aldon Smith
Bottom line: Lemonier was one of the top high school defensive ends in the country coming out of Florida in 2009, and has become the strong pass rush prospect everyone at Auburn expected. The 2011 first-team All-SEC pick already has 11.5 sacks in two seasons using his length, improving power, and extreme hustle. Following up his sophomore-season performance with an even better effort as a junior will have scouts wondering if he isn't one of the top two or three defensive ends potentially available in the 2013 draft.
College: Ohio State
Height: 6-4 Weight: 317
Hankins' former Detroit Southeastern High School teammate William Gholston went to Michigan State instead of following Hankins and cousin Vernon Gholston to Ohio State. Hankins' size, power and athleticism made him a two-time all-state pick at Southeastern, but his hustle is what gives him a chance to be an elite prospect, in the mold of former Buckeye Dan "Big Daddy" Wilkinson -- the last defensive tackle selected No. 1 overall (by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1994 NFL Draft).
Ohio State coaches liked what they saw from "Big Hank" as a true freshman in 2010 (he had 16 tackles, 1.5 for a loss). They played him in every game and named him the team's most outstanding first-year defender. As a sophomore, he was the Buckeyes' most outstanding defensive player and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors after making 68 stops, 11 for a loss, and notching three sacks. Hankins still decided to slim down a bit after the 2011 season to boost his stamina and quickness.
Strengths: He is a taller nose tackle prospect with a thick upper body and extra girth in the middle. Plays all over the line, often outside the tackle, because of his rare agility. Comes off the ball hard and quick for his size; he will win a gap and blow up plays in the backfield if linemen don't get to the reach block. Drives NFL-caliber guards into the backfield and holds up doubles; he does not give ground even against better players. He works down the line to get to ball carriers while engaged, and hustles downfield and to the sideline if needed. A three-down player, he's on the field for a lot of snaps, considering his bulk.
Weaknesses: Lacks the burst to be an elite pass rusher, though he can make quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket. Can play with high pads, giving better linemen a chance to stand him up. Relies on pure strength to get off blocks; he needs to use his hands consistently to shed against pro guards. Must keep his weight under control to maximize his athleticism, and he must make sure he doesn't lose his strength and hustle at the end of games.
NFL comparison: Kris Jenkins
Bottom line: Hankins is a huge interior presence possessing the strength and motor to dominate inside on an every-play basis. He often lines up outside for the Buckeyes, due to the exceptional athleticism that will make him an All-Big Ten pick in 2012 and a highly valued prospect.
Height: 6-3 Weight: 295
Floyd was a big-time high school recruit from Philadelphia, winning the 2009 Maxwell Football Club National High School Player of the Year award and excelling in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (notching two sacks). But like too many other young players, Floyd struggled with a rough childhood (bouncing between multiple homes) before settling in Gainesville. Floyd's school held a bake sale to help pay for the trip to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl; he also received additional funds from a third party to visit campuses during the recruiting process.
The NCAA investigated those "impermissible benefits" and docked Floyd the first two games of the 2011 season (reducing the suspension from four games due to "personal hardship"). He started the next 11 games in his sophomore year (notching 46 totals tackles, 6.5 for a loss), which culminated in a 1.5-sack performance in a 24-17 victory over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. Floyd had already shown promise as a member of the coaches' Freshman All-SEC squad in 2010, playing in all 13 games with one of his two starts coming against Penn State in the Gators' Outback Bowl win (he had two tackles).
Floyd's statistics are by no means elite (13 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in two years), but his ability to be a factor outside despite his size is a testament to his hustle and athleticism. If he continues to grow physically and in terms of his football acumen, and if he plays inside often enough in Florida's system to put up more significant numbers, Floyd will look like an impact defender.
Strengths: He is an athletic three/five-technique prospect with solid overall strength. Possesses a quick and long first step when in pass-rush mode, and can swim over his opponent or get his hands up into his man's jersey to push him into the backfield. Often lined up outside the tackle (even standing up) despite his size. He displayed quickness to rush the passer and quick feet to contain on the edge. Combines good effort and short-area agility for his size to chase plays across the field and get his long arms around ball carriers when closing in. A capable two-gapper, he keeps his eyes in the backfield and sheds to either direction to grab running backs coming in his direction. Also able to hold up double teams at the line without giving ground. Flashes violent hands to swipe away blockers on his way to the ball carrier.
Weaknesses: Has long legs and plays with high pad level, at times causing problems when trying to anchor or change directions quickly. Lacks the elite closing speed to make a lot of plays outside the box. Will stop after initial contact; he must prove he has the stamina to make an impact against NFL-caliber competition. Suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in high school.
NFL comparison: Travis Johnson
Bottom line: A rough childhood did not prevent Floyd from earning national accolades for his play in high school. And by the end of his sophomore year at Florida, he began showing scouts the athleticism, strength and motor required of top tackle prospects.
Height: 6-4 Weight: 295
Richardson could have gone anywhere to play major college football after his stint at the College of the Sequoias, as he was one of the top junior college prospects in the country even with missing all but two games of the 2010 season there because of a wrist injury. But the former star player at St. Louis' Gateway Tech High School decided to return home instead of going to Southern California, Miami (Fla.), or an SEC power.
He originally planned on signing with Missouri after being rated the top defensive lineman in the country by several recruiting services (he had 19 sacks as a senior, also eight touchdowns as a tight end), but did not qualify academically. There were some anxious moments before the 2011 season, as well, because Richardson needed to finish course work in August before the NCAA deemed he was eligible to play for the Tigers. He only started two games on the year, but made enough plays as a reserve (37 tackles, eight for loss, two sacks) to garner honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from league coaches.
Strengths: Scouts like the light feet Richardson shows for his size, as he is able to twist inside and chase plays to the sideline. That agility, combined with his length, makes him a strong tackler in close quarters. Richardson's first step off the snap, especially when lined up over the ball, is quite impressive; he gets into the backfield in a heartbeat, beating reach-blocks and will work his way through double-teams if he sees the ball in the quarterback's hands. He plays with leverage at the point of attack at times despite his height, holding his ground and wrestling with attitude.
Weaknesses: Richardson can struggle to break down and his upper-body strength is not elite, which means his high pad level and failure to use his hands to shed blocks can allow him to get turned from the hole and taken to the ground once off-balance. He had surgery in the off-season to repair a shoulder injury, so he must show his strength has improved. And now that he's one of the veterans on the line, Richardson will also have to show he possesses the stamina to stay on the field.
NFL comparison: Nick Fairley
Bottom line: Richardson was forced to go the junior college route, then missed most of his sophomore year due to injury before attending his home state school in Columbia; he wasn't a starter in 2011, but showed off the athleticism (eight tackles for loss, two sacks) to make scouts think 2012 could be a breakout year.
Height: 6-5 Weight: 240
Mingo's long and lean form sticks out to fans and scouts alike, much like his unusual name. His svelte build was one reason his mother (who combined her name, Barbara, with the name Kevious to form his unusual moniker) initially did not want him or his two brothers playing football. But his athleticism and height eventually got him on the gridiron as a high school junior -- and he proved too productive wherever he lined up to be taken off the field.
Though "KeKe" only started three of the 14 games he played in 2011 due to the team's depth at the position, the Louisiana native received second-team All-SEC honors from league media after racking up 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks. This breakout season was portended by flashes of brilliance during his redshirt freshman season (he 35 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, and 2.5 sacks), for which league coaches named him to their Freshman All-SEC team.
Strengths: He's a tall, long and explosive pass rusher with scheme versatility. Quick off the snap, he can turn the corner on the outside and shimmy inside against leaning tackles. Not a contact-shy player despite his slight build, he often lines up on the strong side. Willing to take tackles on man-up, he extends his arms to keep distance and can get off to grab backs trying to get through the hole. Takes tight ends backwards using his length and foot work. Works through blocks to get down the line and chase plays. His overall agility and length make him effective in coverage; he can stay with running backs out of the backfield and wrap up receivers in space. His excellent straight-line speed shows when he's chasing down plays from behind. Uses his length and jumping ability to knock down passes if unable to reach the quarterback.
Weaknesses: A very lean player, he might be too thin in the hips to grow into an every-down defensive end. Overall strength is a concern playing with his hand down; he gets turned out of the hole and washed out of plays by better linemen. Needs to shed more consistently to prevent plays from getting outside of him. Long legs get in his way at times when trying to quickly change directions.
NFL comparison: DeMarcus Ware
Bottom line: Mingo looks almost too lean to handle the physicality of NFL linemen, but has surprising strength to go along with the elite length and straight-line speed. He should be able to rack up double-digit sack numbers and track down ball carriers as a 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level.
Height: 6-3 Weight: 241
After earning many All-America honors as a high school star in Columbus, Ga., Jones initially took his game to USC to play for then-Trojans head coach Pete Carroll. Unfortunately, a neck injury suffered in his eighth game as a true freshman (13 tackles, 1.5 for a loss) sidelined him for the rest of the year. Then Carroll left for the NFL; new coach Lane Kiffin and his staff weren't sure Jones should suit up for them again. Doctors at the University of Georgia felt differently about Jones' neck than those at USC; they cleared him to play, and Jones eventually transferred back home -- much to the dismay of opposing offenses.
He redshirted the 2010 season in order to be fully healthy and prepared for SEC competition. That offseason work paid big dividends during his sophomore season, as he was a finalist for the Butkus Award and garnered consensus All-America and first-team All-SEC honors. The team captain started all 14 games, racking up 70 tackles, including 19.5 for a loss (which led the SEC) and 13.5 sacks (which led the SEC and tied for fifth in the country). His four sacks helped the team win its annual rivalry game with Florida and earned him many national Defensive Player of the Week awards. The fact that the Georgia coaches named Jones as the team's spring defensive co-MVP only points to greater things coming in 2012.
Strengths: He's a versatile linebacker with a chance to play inside or outside. Possesses a very good first step to pressure opposing tackles' upfield shoulder. Also has the closing speed to finish the deal and the short-area quickness to contain outside and crash down on inside runs. He's a strong tackler with excellent length and the upper-body strength to wrap up ball carriers. Gets under the pads of tackles and keeps his feet churning to maintain leverage, whether he's holding the edge or bulling his man backward. Brings heavy hands. He can rip off to get around the edge or cut inside to stop quarterbacks from stepping up in the pocket. Works through double teams if the quarterback hangs onto the ball. Holds his ground against pulling guards and fullbacks. Capable of locking up tight ends off the edge in coverage, also sorts out multiple routes in his direction to make a play on the correct one. Gets his hands up to affect passing lanes.
Weaknesses: He's a one-year starter. Inconsistent when using his hands to disengage from better blocks and to beat cut blocks from running backs. Will need to prove he can stay with NFL-caliber ball carriers in space when dropping into the flat. Not particularly smooth in deep drops. Doesn't have elite bend around the corner, and he could use a spin or other counter move to keep tackles guessing. Missed the last five games of the 2009 season with a neck injury and part of his senior year in high school with a broken thumb.
NFL comparison: Julian Peterson
Bottom line: The consensus All-American impressed scouts in 2011 with his ability to rush the passer, play the run and get the job done in coverage. He seems like a good fit for 3-4 teams looking for a strong edge pass rusher.
Follow Chad Reuter on Twitter @ChadReuter.