Before we start, I should point out this was the hardest board to compile out of the four. The talent is pretty compact in the tiers. What separates some of these prospects is generally either "effort" or "big game production", both of which can change entirely when they put on an NFL uniform. I say can, of course, because prospects with the "inconsistent effort" tags can either become a workhorse or Alex Barron 2.0. That being the case, the combine is going to play a huge factor in both this board and how this board gets spread across the entire field. Enough caveats - board me!
* For any newcomers, the format is ranking - name (* denotes underclassmen), school (scouting reports from Mocking the Draft, ESPN, Walter Football or Draft Countdown if available). Also, I see Sergio Kindle (Texas) and Jerry Hughes (TCU) as NFL OLBs, so they're not here. Neither are Adrian Clayborne (Iowa) or Cameron Heyward (Ohio St.), since they have already stated they are returning to college football in 2010.
1 - Derrick Morgan*, Georgia Tech (WF)
Morgan's stock has slowly risen past the other ends on this board to the point you could say with some confidence he is the consensus top DE. That would have been nearly unthinkable at the beginning or even the midpoint of the college season. The two big differences are effort and progression. Morgan puts it on the field every play; he'll get the "high motor" tag that so many people hate to hear when Chris Long's name comes up. In the four Georgia Tech games I watched, what stood out to me was the timing and power behind his first step. He explodes into the offensive line before using a variety of moves and does so quickly. That disturbed the OTs he faced more often that most anything else - the fact that tackles had to be strong enough to deal with his 6'4", 268 lb. frame but also quick enough to adjust to whichever maneuver he brings. The biggest flaw in his game is dealing with the run. Part of that may be that he played so quick to get penetration that by the time he tries to move laterally to get out of a block, he's got to undo what most other DEs wouldn't have done at that point (if that makes sense).
Linguistic bungling aside, he's my top DE right now. Nine followers after the jump.
2 - Carlos Dunlap*, Florida (ESPN, WF)
Dunlap leads what I'm calling "The Trio of Lethargy", which includes Everson Griffen (USC) and Greg Hardy (Ole Miss). While Dunlap is, in a word, freakish when it comes to the tangibles, intangibly speaking he's freaky. He's been linked with terms such as "lazy", "immature" and "detached"; the latter two certainly apply to his DUI just four days before the most important game of his 2009 season. Still, when you look at the kinds of things he can do on the field in a 6'6", 290 lb. body, it's scary. It's going to take a talented coach and staff to turn his potential into production, but if that happens, you're looking at hands down the best DE in this draft.
3 - Brandon Graham, Michigan (ESPN, DC)
You won't find Graham on nearly any boards that combine underclassmen with seniors, and yet here he is, #3 on my board. Why? Because he pushes. He pushes harder than any DE I saw this year and with less to play for. He's smaller than most (6'1", 275 lbs.), but has a powerful lower body that anchors his movements. That means that his handwork, athleticism and agility are both well below most of the other guys on this board. If you're looking for a Dwight Freeney, this isn't the guy. Want a Jared Allen? Keep an eye on Graham.
4 - Greg Hardy, Ole Miss (ESPN, WF)
Lazy. Undisciplined. Fragile. Not a great trio of descriptors, so let me be fair and hit the other side of the coin. Ridiculously athletic and quick for being 6'4", 260 lbs. Very powerful. Great technique. Which Hardy are you drafting? The sad thing is probably both. A more polished but smaller and less powerful Carlos Dunlap with an injury history.
5 - Everson Griffen, USC (WF)
The last of the "The Trio of Lethargy", Griffen, like Dunlap, benefits from the "big school" effect. Unlike say a Ndamukong Suh who attracts double or even triple teams, offensive lines that play against USC or Florida have to account for everyone on their line - there's too much talent there to ignore. I bring this up because even with that bonus, Griffen has underperformed. Sure, he finished with a very respectable 7 sacks this season. He should have as well as his physical tools are good enough to make him a top of the 1st round DE. The issue is effort, consistency and technique, all areas where he comes off as a disappointing prospect. Again, he comes with the caveat of Dunlap and Hardy: if he goes to the right team with a coaching staff that can get inside him and motivate him to perform at his highest level 7 days a week for every snap, he could be incredibly productive. That's a huge if.
6 - George Selvie, S. Florida (ESPN, DC)
Selvie burst onto the scene immediately when he got to campus in 2006. His sophomore campaign was even better, and going into 2008, people were worried that the best player in football was a junior DE at a program that wouldn't get much hype from the BCS cartel. Two seasons later, many people are asking 'what happened to George Selvie'? The answer: coaches paid attention in 2007. By his junior season, Selvie was being double teamed on every single play with no exceptions. I remember watching him play against Pittsburgh in 2008 (mainly because I have my notes from that game with me); USF was 5-0 and the Pittsburgh game was a big chance for USF to verify the hype they were getting. You know where this is going - Pitt won and USF was written off as a nice story, but not the real deal. While that might have been the case, I was convinced Selvie was. He didn't play in the first quarter, but after coming on in the 2nd, he attracted every iota of attention from Pitt's O-line. It was similar in 2009; the difference was that this year, someone was there as a beneficiary - Jason Pierre-Paul. It's tough to pick between USF's two DE's, but I'll take Selvie. He was dealt more attention and still played well; JPP was left to work one-on-one with good results, but not near what Selvie showed in his first two years. Time will tell if either (or both) of these two work out in the NFL, but if I had to guess which one would, it would be Selvie.