2009 Defensive End Analysis - Episode I


I don’t want to talk anymore about Week 16, so let’s move on to something that I want to talk about – Defensive Ends.

We have a decent crop of defensive ends coming out from the college ranks this year. Most of these guys, in fact, almost all, are slated to be 3-4 OLBs. That makes me worry a bit, but defensive end is a big need, so let’s talk about the top talent available. I’m going to do a fan post about a few defensive ends every couple of days, and after that, put up a vote for what to do next. Please leave recommendations for continual improvement. Without further ado, your 2009 DE's.

First, the man of the hour, the name that dominated CFB ranks this year, Brian Orakpo.


Brian Orapko,  Texas
Height 6’4”  Weight 260lbs Projected 40: 4.66

Orakpo has dominated this year as a senior. Strong and fast, he has manhandled offensive tackles game in and game out. Athletic and strong for his size, his ability to turn the corner on CFB tackles is superb.  He has 35 tackles, 15 TFL, 9 sacks, 23 QB pressures, and 3 forced fumbled in his senior campaign.  He has good instincts for the ball, and plays the run well when he can shed blocks.

Orakpo is not the same athlete as Michael Johnson, but he is still good. He is not as explosive and fast as other 250-260lbers, and he gets beat too much when trying to use his speed. This will become even more evident when it comes to pro-level tackles.  He will need to develop and work on his punch on the next level to create separation from the longer armed tackles. He also tends to rely too heavily on his strength and speed to get to the quarterback, and needs to polish his pass rush repertoire. Orakpo tends to get beat at the point of attack and doesn’t show the consistency to beat solid double teams. Orakpo has also had injury issues and gets nicked up and hurt a lot. His size also makes him a “tweener”, and could present a problem withstanding the wear and tear of a full time DE (which we need him to be).

Orakpo, in my opinion, is by far the most polished defensive end in this class. He should be able to step up and start somewhere.  He has the work ethic, leadership, and fire to succeed in the NFL, and is going to put up stupid all-around numbers at the combine. He is a high motor guy, and never accused of lack of effort. He should be able to put on a couple pounds in a professional training camp, and that should help his durability. His upside is fantastic and with some skill work and some weight room, he could be a fantastic DE for years to come.

If he can put on 10-15lbs he could play LE for the Houston Texans. I have heard from some here that no matter how he plays the run, if he can rush the passer, he has a spot on our team, and I can begin to agree. He can also play SLB, and I think his strengths would be maximized there, if he doesn't change his body type/size. He then would have to solely focus on his coverage ability, as that would be where he would be most vulnerable. However, Orakpo has the upside that he is coachable and I think he will become and asset to the pass rush and run defense for whatever team he plays for.

Michael Johnson,  Georgia Tech
Height 6’7” Weight 260 Projected 40: 4.63

Michael Johnson is the new flavor of the week – everyone loves freakish size and speed combos. Incredibly athletic, he has excellent burst of the edge. His change of direction ability is unmatched and closes incredibly quickly. He has an incredibly long wingspan to keep separation from tackles and bat balls down. He also has an excellent vertical jump to help block kicks, bat down balls, and get the occasional interception.

However, his lack of strength is very worrisome. His 6’7” frame is nowhere near filled out, and if a tackle gets past his long arms and onto his pads, he is done for. That makes him a huge liability against the rush, and because of that he would never be able to play in a read and react defense. His explosiveness also puts himself out of the play a lot, blowing up field creating a whole off tackle that has been exploited. His inability to hold a gap has teams running at him constantly, which is why he hasn’t been a regular start before 08. He would fit well at an OLB in a 3-4 where his ineffectiveness against the run will not be exploited as much. He’s been nicked up a lot as well, and missed time alot. Johnson has, until 2008, started 2 games. With all of that size, athleticism, and speed, he should have been dominating from the get go, but where was he?

Another thing that bothers me is that he seems to be putting it all together just in time to sign that big contract. Every season we see CFB and pro players see that huge contract looming, and crank up their game to unseen levels.  Fat Albert comes to mind. He also gives up on plays too much, and becomes absolutely invisible for long stretches. He has not had any off the field issues, but right now he is literally all potential. Hopefully he is a late bloomer, incredibly high motor, and gets to 285, and becomes a HoF super athletic end. I just hope the dollar signs don’t allow him to become complacent.

Johnson's success in any system, including ours, depends on what he wants to do with his career. If he wants to becoming an absolutely dominating 4-3 end, 3-4 OLB, or 4-3 SLB, he can do it. But he has to want to. He easily has the from to go to 280-290, and his current size would make him a freakishly awesome OLB in any system. He needs a good defensive coordinator to coach him up and mentors around him, so if Dick Smith is still here - please don't draft him.

George Selvie, South Florida
Height 6’4” Weight 250 Projected 40: 4.68

Let me throw out there, I love George Selvie. If I was a player, I would want him as my team mate. If I was a coach, I would want him to be in my locker room. He is high character, high effort, and a team leader.

He also produces.

As a freshman, 84 tackles, 15 TFL, 5.5 sacks.
As a sophomore, 59 tackles, 31.5 TFL (!), and 14.5 sacks.
As a junior, facing constant double teams, 43 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 5 batted passes, and a forced fumble.

His speed off the edge is ridiculous, and he can beat you with speed, bull rush, or moves. He is the highest motor kid available. He is just relentless. He will never give up on a play, and will run down anything, no matter where it is. He has fast hands and well developed pass rush moves. Even at his size, he is still an asset in the run game. His impressive punch and motor allow him to beat blockers and disrupt the run game.

The only downside I see to Selvie is his size. At 6’4”, 250, he is better sized to be a 3-4 OLB at this point. His weight will allow bigger NFL lineman to simply move him if they get hands on him. He has the frame to add some weight, but I think he may cap at 270, maybe less. He would need to eat like ravenous beast to maintain that weight.

I think Selvie will be an incredible NFL player because he has the heart for it. He has the skills, now it’s the time to see if NFL supplements, diet, and lifting, will give him the size to be a terror to NFL QB’s as a full time defensive end.

Selvie will be a player. He can play 3-4 OLB, or 4-3 SLB at his current size. He would be a great asset to the pass rush blitzing from the outside and stopping the run. Like with Orakpo, he would need to learn how to cover to excel at OLB, but I think he can do it. For Selvie to become the LE we all would want him to be, he would need to wonders of modern nutritional and sports science to help him put on weight so he doesn't get manhandled. I dont want to see exceptional talent be wasted in the trenches not due to lack of effort or skill, but because he simply cant move a 315lb tackle.

Alright guys and gals, there’s a brief analysis of three of the top DE’s available in the 2009 draft. Next post will be Greg Hardy, Everette Brown, and Tyson Jackson, with maybe a bonus unknown DE thrown in the mix. Hope you all enjoyed, and stay tuned!

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