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Lots of DL prospects


The following is the seventh of 10 installments previewing the 2003 NFL draft class. Today, we feature defensive linemen.

An impressive crop of defensive ends should interest the Jaguars in the early rounds of this year's draft, but the crop of defensive tackles is clearly the strength of this year's class of defensive linemen.

Defensive tackles Jimmy Kennedy, Dewayne Robertson, Kevin Williams and William Joseph are certain first-rounders, and Terrell Suggs leads a group of defensive ends whose depth will reach into the second and third rounds.

Suggs, 6-3, 262, has been mentioned with the first overall pick. The Arizona State pass-rusher led the nation with 24 sacks last season. He's a difference-maker in the mold of Julius Peppers, who transformed the Carolina defense into the league's second-ranked unit last season.

But Suggs isn't without negatives. He's undersized and focuses all of his attention on one phase of the game: rushing the passer. He's also a mere 20 years old and he's leaving college after just his junior year.

Kennedy, 6-4, 322, is considered to be the best bet among defensive linemen. The Penn State star is big and quick, has sound instincts and is high character off the field. He's a certain top-five pick.

Robertson's stock has shot up in recent weeks. At 6-1, 317, Robertson is a Warren Sapp look-alike. The Kentucky defensive tackle is low to the ground, powerful and active; he moves with sudden quickness. Robertson is a certain top-10 pick.

Oklahoma State's Williams, 6-5, 304, is best-suited for defensive tackle but can also play end. He's big and fast and has long arms. He plays hard and is clearly a player on the rise. He has also been projected to go in the top 10 picks.

Miami's Jerome McDougle is the next-highest-rated defensive end after Suggs. McDougle, 6-2, 264, is undersized but super-quick. He's been compared to Jaguars defensive end Hugh Douglas. McDougle figures to be drafted near the middle of the first round.

Then it's back to defensive tackle, where Miami's Joseph should be next to go. Joseph, 6-5, 308, has a Marcus Stroud-type physique. Along those lines, keeping his pads down is the difference between dominating and disappearing for Joseph, who has exceptional size and quickness. He's expected to be drafted in the final 10 picks of the first round.

The second wave of defensive ends begins with two productive pass-rushers who need to increase their size and strength.

Nebraska's Chris Kelsay, 6-4, 273, has 4.7 speed and outstanding pass-rush technique, but Kelsay may not have the upside of Penn State's Michael Haynes, a late-bloomer who made a big impression at the Senior Bowl.

Haynes, 6-3, 281, will tempt teams with his 15 sacks and seven forced fumbles last season. His instincts are better than his physical skills, but time in the weight room should make him an even more formidable force. He makes plays, which is certain to take him off the board in the first round.

Other first-day defensive ends include: Ohio State's Kenny Peterson, Colorado's Tyler Brayton, Louisville's Dewayne White, Cincinnati's Antwan Peek, Texas' Cory Redding, South Florida's Shurron Pierson, Alabama's Kindal Moorehead, Florida's Clint Mitchell, Florida State's Alonzo Jackson and Cal's Tully Banta-Cain. If you're looking for a defensive end sleeper, consider Wake Forest's Calvin Pace. It's almost certain the Jaguars will reach into the above group at least once.

And it's likely the Jaguars will look over the defensive tackle crop, too. Even though the Jaguars have spent their last two first-round picks on defensive tackles, the team needs to develop depth at the position.

Georgia's Jonathan Sullivan is a first-round prospect, then the crop turns to a handsome collection of first-day guys, including: Rien Long of Washington State, Ty Warren of Texas A&M, Nick Eason of Clemson, Kenny King of Alabama and Ian Scott of Florida. If you're looking for a defensive tackle sleeper, try Penn State's Anthony Adams, a squat (6-0, 299) over-achiever who plays bigger than his size and flashes quickness, hustle and athletic ability in an unimpressive physique.

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