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Adams best of the DL crop

5908.jpg previews the 2007 NFL draft in an eight-part series. Part V features the defensive linemen.

No fewer than five defensive ends will be selected in the first round of next month's NFL draft. Is this the year of the defensive end?

"There's a lot of depth at defensive end; a lot of pass-rushers. Most of them are undersized guys. A lot of speedy pass-rushers are going to struggle against the run. Is it the year of the defensive end or the year of the pass-rusher?" Tony Pauline asked. Pauline is the president of and serves as's draft analyst.

Pauline ranks Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams (pictured), 6-4, 258, as the top defensive line prospect in this year's draft. Adams is likely to be selected in the first six picks.

"He makes supreme athletic plays rushing or dropping into coverage," said Pauline, who considers Adams a prospect at defensive end in a 4-3 defense or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

Adams is best at making plays up the field. He's a sensational athlete who also impacts the game as a punt-blocker. Adams chases down plays from behind and ran a 4.7 at the combine. The knock on him is that he's average against the run and has a tendency to take plays off.

Defensive end Jamaal Anderson, 6-5, 288, of Arkansas is the second-ranked defensive lineman. Anderson is a top athlete who re-directs plays and makes a lot of plays in the opposition's backfield. He rushes the passer and makes plays from all angles. Anderson was essentially a one-year starter at Arkansas and enters the draft as a junior who needs experience and is likely to be a situational player as a rookie. He also needs to add strength but has the frame to do it. Anderson ran a 4.78 and is a likely top 10 pick.

Amobi Okoye, 6-2, 302, of Louisville will become the youngest player ever drafted. Okoye is a 19-year-old senior who entered college at 16. He'll turn 20 this July. Obviously, Okoye is very intelligent, but he's also a top football talent. He's an explosive one-gap defensive tackle who plays hard and makes plays; very athletic and stands out on film. Okoye ran a 5.06 at the combine but pulled up with a hamstring and will run again at his pro day. He's a top 12 pick who could fit as a 4-3 tackle or as a 3-4 end. Miami and St. Louis could be landing spots.

Nebraska's Adam Carriker, 6-6, 295, has the size, speed and athletic ability to play end or tackle; most project him to be an end. "Great combination of athleticism, size, growth potential and football intelligence," Pauline said. Carriker is not a great pass-rusher but he's outstanding against the run and has the frame to add 30 pounds and become a dominant tackle. He runs a 4.9 and is a top 15 pick.

Alan Branch, 6-5, 325, of Michigan is this year's risk/reward choice. He's a big, strong and athletic defensive tackle who eats space and shows flashes of dominance. The rap on Branch is that he plays tall and disappears for long stretches; not a hard-worker. He was out of shape at the combine and at his pro day and, as a result, his draft stock has fallen from a top-six pick to the middle-third of round one. He's drawn comparisons to Gerrard Warren.

Defensive end Jarvis Moss, 6-6, 250, of Florida is a fantastic athlete and a terrific pass-rusher who only needs to add size and strength to become an every-downs player. He ran a 4.8 and is likely to fit where the Jaguars will pick, at about pick 17.

Purdue defensive end Anthony Spencer, 6-3, 261, offers potential as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage and his game took off as a senior. He can re-direct the action and changes direction effortlessly; works to defend the run. Spencer ran a 4.77 but plays faster. He's a late-first round prospect.

Tennessee defensive tackle Justin Harrell, 6-4, 305, is tough and athletic. He rushes the passer and stops the run. Harrell is a team guy who plays hurt and has been productive for a long time. He'll go late in round one or early in round two.

Defensive end Charles Johnson, 6-2, 270, of Georgia is a very productive pass-rusher who makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage. He's small but adequate against the run and forces the action. Johnson plays faster than his 4.9 speed and figures to be a second-round pick.

California defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, 6-1, 309, is a run-stuffer who can rush the passer. He moves well laterally and will go in the middle of round two.

Other defensive ends include Ikaika Alama-Francis of Hawaii, Quentin Moses of Georgia and Victor Abiamiri of Notre Dame. Tackle Ray McDonald of Florida is a hard-nosed player whose stock is falling due to knee surgeries. Tank Tyler of North Carolina State and Baraka Atkins of Miami are two other highly-regarded defensive tackles.

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