The 2014 NFL Draft was only wrapped up one month ago, but if you’re like me, it’s never too early to start looking at prospects who could hear their name called early during the 2015 draft. ESPN’s Mel Kiper released his top defensive end prospects this week and to no one’s surprise a handful of edge-rushers hail from the SEC.
A year after failing to have a single player drafted in the draft, the Texas Longhorns will get back in the draft party with 6-6 senior Cedric Reed who is coming off a 10-sack season with 16.5 tackles for loss. Reed is the top senior end on Kiper’s board heading into the 2014 season.
Following Reed on Kiper’s list of top senior defensive ends are a quartet of SEC players. Markus Golden of Missouri, Trey Flowers of Arkansas, Alvin Dupree of Kentucky and Ray Drew Drew of Georgia round of Kiper’s top five.
We will have to watch how these players fare their senior season and how many will earn a first round grade, but the real star power is from the juniors.
Nebraska’s Randy Gregory could be one of the first five players taken in the draft as a versatile player who can also line up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. The 6-6, 245-pound athlete recorded 10.5 sacks last year while also being stout against the run. He’s a special player who should dominate the Big Ten this fall.
Rounding out the top five are Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida, Shilique Calhoun from Michigan State, DeVonte Fields from TCU and Mario Edwards from Florida State. All of these players could be first round picks if they declare for the draft and it wouldn’t be surprising to see three or four of these players taken in the top 15-18 picks.
As he did with the seniors, Kiper has some spillover and listed more than five players because he had them ranked very close and has Shane Ray from Missouri, Shawn Oakman from Baylor and Sheldon Day from Notre Dame as players who rank among the nation’s elite in their class at defensive end.
Who do you think is the best defensive end in the nation?