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Top 5 2014 NFL Draft prospects by position: Defensive ends

NFL coaches and executives place a premium on acquiring elite pass rushers to offset the brilliant quarterback play dominating the league today. Jadeveon Clowney has the tools to become a Hall of Fame-caliber playmaker off the edge, but questions about his work ethic and focus overshadow his immense talent and potential. Stephon Tuitt is a war daddy with the kind of skills to wreak havoc off the edge or on the interior. Kony Ealy is the enigma of the group. He has the talent to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but the lack of consistent production makes him a "boom-or-bust" candidate.

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

The most hyped prospect heading into the fall didn't play to his superhero status, but remains the top defender in the 2014 class. Clowney can single-handedly destroy game plans with his speed, quickness, athleticism and power off the edge. Although scouts question his motor and work ethic, it's hard to find 6-foot-7, 270-pound pass rushers with Clowney's natural ability and athleticism.

2. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

Talented defensive lineman with the versatility to play anywhere in a hybrid 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Comparisons to a young Richard Seymour are valid based on his size, strength and athleticism.

3. Kony Ealy, Missouri

The ultra-talented Ealy is still refining his game, but scouts love his athleticism and natural rush skills off the edge. He could see his name shoot up the charts as draft day approaches.

4. Dee Ford, Auburn

Not considered a classic defensive end due to his physical dimensions, Ford could be viewed as an outside linebacker on most draft boards. Regardless, the explosive edge rusher displayed the kind of speed, burst and snap-count anticipation to develop into a disruptive player at the next level.

5. Scott Crichton, Oregon State

A hardworking edge player with superb snap-count anticipation and first-step quickness. Crichton will not shine in the shorts and t-shirts portion of the draft evaluation process, but scouts looking for "football players" will appreciate his relentless motor, natural instincts and sack production.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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