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2016 NFL Combine Live: Defensive Linemen, Linebackers Take The Field

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The Texans have traditionally drafted defensive players in early rounds since their inception in 2002. If that trend holds true yet again in 2016, one of the defensive linemen seen today could be the next member of the Bulls on Parade.

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The 2016 NFL draft class is relatively thin when it comes to marquee offensive playmakers, but boy is it stacked with big-time defenders. Whether a team needs edge rushers, 5-technique run-stuffers, gigantic nose tackles, or linebackers of all shapes and sizes, there are enough gifted prospects in this LB/DL group to dramatically shift the balance of power in the NFL. In fact, one could argue that this year’s crop of defenders rivals the insane collections of talent that entered the league in 2011 (J.J. Watt, Von Miller, Muhammad Wilkerson, etc.) and 2014 (Jadeveon Clowney, Khalil Mack, Aaron Donald, etc.). One can only hope they all end up being that good.

Right at the top of the food chain in this class are Oregon’s DeForest Buckner, UCLA’s Myles Jack, and Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, all of whom will likely be selected somewhere in the first six picks of the draft. After that very exclusive top tier is a bevy of versatile 5-technique/3-technique combo players that could all go in the first round, like A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Andrew Billings, Robert Nkemdiche, Jonathan Bullard, and Sheldon Rankins. When you throw in explosive speed rushers like Noah Spence and Kamalei Correa as well as big bodied nose tackles like Vernon Butler or Kenny Clark, this class has a hell of a lot to like for teams that need to get better in the front seven.

With defensive end Jared Crick possibly leaving in free agency and the looming retirement of Vince Wilfork within the next year or two, Houston could be looking to invest in the future of their defensive line early and often in this draft. If and when a quarterback is taken in the first round, don’t be shocked if the next couple of picks on Day Two are spent shoring up that already stingy front seven against any imminent personnel losses. Hell, it’s not like I’ll ever say no to having more pass rushers, after all.