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Scouting report: Defensive linemen

Ranking the defensive linemen in the NFL draft

Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox has elite size, strength, and speed.


Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox has elite size, strength, and speed.

The Boston Globe examines the top defensive linemen available in the 2012 NFL draft. Players are listed with position, school, height, weight, and 40-yard dash time. * denotes underclassman:

1. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State/6-4/298/4.79

Elite size, strength, and speed. Can play inside, or outside at end. Very quick first step. Equally adept at rushing or run-stuffing. Had 14 1/2 tackles for losses and five sacks last season. Long arms (34 1/2 inches). Has blocked field goal attempts. Little raw. Needs to work on technique.

Projected round: 1

2. Michael Brockers, LSU/6-5/322/5.36

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Mammoth player and surprisingly versatile athlete. Could play end or tackle. Long arms (35 inches) allow him to play two gaps. Can do more than bull-rush. Will need to be developed. Tools are there. Had 10 tackles for losses and two sacks last season.

Projected round: 1

3. Nick Perry, USC/6-3/271/4.64

Outstanding first step. Has the benefit of playing for former NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Stood up at times. Great production with 29 1/2 tackles for losses and 21 1/2 sacks the past two seasons. A straight-line player, not great instincts. Best-suited for 4-3 where he just rushes.

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Projected round: 1

4. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State/6-2/308/5.08

Well-built, penetrates well in a one-gap scheme when he keeps his pads low and legs moving. Can play sluggish at times. Reacts on the slow side. Doesn’t show a lot of fire. Right coach could pull it out of him. Had 10 1/2 tackles for losses and 3 1/2 sacks last season.

Projected round: 1-2

5. Quinton Coples, North Carolina/6-6/284/4.78

Similar to Richard Seymour in size and strength. When he wants to, there isn’t anything he can’t do. But does he want to? Big bust potential because he appears lazy at times. Had 15 tackles for losses and 7 1/2 sacks last season.

Projected round: 1-2

6. Dontari Poe, Memphis/6-3/346/4.98

Plays like he’s 50 pounds lighter. Rare strength (44 bench-press reps at 225 pounds) and speed. On potential alone, he’s worth a first-round pick. On film, however, he disappears. Some scouts think it was because of the system he played in. Bust potential. Could go mid-first or in the second round.

Projected round: 1-2

7. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois/6-3/261/4.68

Off-the-charts production with 22 1/2 tackles for losses and 16 sacks last season, but scouts think numbers are a product of the scheme. Likely a 4-3 end but has stood up (looks a bit stiff) and could be strictly a 3-4 rush outside linebacker. Doesn’t get off blocks well.

Projected round: 1-2

8. Kendall Reyes, UConn/6-4/299/4.95

Versatile two-time captain, smart, and hard-working. Can play inside or outside and will even stand up. Good first step to penetrate. Very strong. Had 13 1/2 tackles for losses and 4 1/2 sacks as a senior. Stood out at Senior Bowl.

Projected round: 1-2

9. Devon Still, Penn State/6-5/303/5.08

Great size and build. Has quickness and shows athletic ability. Can overpower one-on-one blockers with a bull rush. Goes through stretches where his pad level gets too high and he gets blocked. Had 27 tackles for losses and 8 1/2 sacks the past two seasons. NFL bloodlines, with cousins Art Still and Levon Kirkland. Two leg injuries early in college.

Projected round: 1-2

10. Chandler Jones, Syracuse/6-5/247/4.87

Long arms (35 1/2 inches), athletic player. Missed five games with knee injury and finished with seven tackles for losses and 4 1/2 sacks. Solid all-around player with good balance and power. Needs to get stronger to play on the edge in the NFL.

Projected round: 2

Best of the rest: Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall (6-3, 266, 4.98, 2); 12. Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska (6-4, 279, 4.99, 2); Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson (6-2, 314, 5.12, 2-3); Alameda Ta’amu, NT, Washington (6-3, 348, 5.37, 2-3); Mike Martin, DT, Michigan (6-1, 306, 4.88, 3-4); Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia (6-4, 268, 4.75, 3-4); Derek Wolfe, DT, Cincinnati (6-5, 295, 4.86, 3-4); Trevor Guyton, DE, California (6-3, 285, 4.92, 4-5); Kheeston Randall, DT, Texas (6-4, 293, 5.00, 4-5); Brett Roy, Nevada (6-3, 275, 5.07 4-5).

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