The NFL scouting combine starts Feb. 22. In advance of the annual meat market in Indianapolis, staff writer Matt Vensel will examine each position and give Ravens fans the 4-1-1. In this post he looks at defensive linemen.
The top prospects: There isn't a Ndamukong Suh or Marcell Dareus-type talent who will go in the first two or three picks, but LSU's Michael Brockers, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox and Penn State's Devon Still look like sure-fire first-rounders. Dontari Poe of Memphis is a massive space-eater at nose tackle. North Carolina's Quinton Coples and South Carolina's Melvin Ingram are two of the top defensive end prospects in this draft.
Other intriguing names: Chandler Jones, the younger brother of Ravens defensive tackle Arthur Jones and MMA superstar Jon "Bones" Jones, skipped his senior season at Syracuse to enter the draft and is on the rise. He was a defensive end for the Orange, but he might be athletic enough to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Will the Ravens be interested in teaming the Jones brothers together? Clemson's Andre Branch and Illinois' Whitney Mercilus are also defensive ends who could potentially fit in the Ravens' multiple fronts. Nebraska's Jared Crick was an impressive player in college who isn't getting much hype heading into the combine.
Grading the class: NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock said this week that this is a great draft for interior defensive linemen. He said that five to seven defensive tackles could be drafted in the first round. And there is plenty of pass-rushing talent to be found, too, a need the Ravens have acknowledged this offseason. B-plus.
Fitting the Ravens: The Ravens have a Pro Bowl defensive tackle in Haloti Ngata and promising young players along the defensive line in Terrence Cody, Arthur Jones and Pernell McPhee. But given the defensive line talent in this draft and that Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney are free agents, it wouldn't be surprising if the Ravens selected a defensive lineman, especially if it's one who can help collapse the pocket with Ngata in passing situations.