The following are all based on tape viewing. I haven't reached the point of background checks, stat gathering, analysis of size and speed metrics, all that jazz. I'm just going off what I saw of these players on tape in 2011.
1. DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Comment: Underrated, probably because of German heritage and newness to the sport, which gives him a reputation for being "raw". I don't care what his back story is, watch him play football and he's a man amongst boys. He combines the kind of consistent gap control ability I saw out of Ryan Kerrigan with J.J. Watt type ball skills (tipped balls, even an interception) and the ability to explode off the line, get under a tackle's pads, and bend the arc. He had the only sack underrated Oklahoma tackle Donald Stephenson allowed in all of 2011. Long arms, great frame, powerful, fast, you name it, he has it. Fluid hands for neutralizing the hands of offensive tackles. There's definitely some rawness there but he's only a sophomore and from what I have seen the sky is the limit. He'll need to develop a little more endurance.
2. DE/OLB James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Comment: I never, ever, ever make this comparison. I can't even recall the last time I made it. However, this guy's style, not necessarily skill level, reminds me of Jason Taylor. I don't know his exact measurements, nor what his athletic measurements will end up, nor even his stats. This is all based on tape. He has great take-off ability, good counters, a deadly inside move, the ability to bend the arc, speed, and perhaps most importantly the ability to achieve all of this, including his take-off, either from an up or down position. Another guy with long arms that really avail him in pass rush. His consistent initial jump off the snap reminds me of what drew me so strongly to Jabaal Sheard a few years before he was drafted.
3a. OLB/DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Comment: By the time all is said and done, he may be the guy that rises to the top of the Draft at this position, but that doesn't mean he'll be the best in the NFL. I still rank the other two above him just because they strike me as better than him right now. His power and strength just really are not going to impress you at all, unlike some of the other guys on this list. However, what is going to get you consistently, is the fact that he moves like he's controlled by a joystick. There are some pretty good players on that defensive line and his movement skills put them to shame. He consistently gets off the snap quickest. He's not weak, he's actually pretty feisty and physical, and does a good job keeping his feet churning through contact. You don't see him losing a lot of strength matches. But you don't see him pushing through as much as you'd like when it comes to strength. Still, the potential is massive.
3b. OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Comment: There's a part of me that actually wants to rate Jarvis above Barkevious Mingo because he's more fluid in his combination of hand and feet movements, a little more violent with his hands and quicker to get into dangerous counters which leave blockers grasping at air. However, there's something to be said for the dirty 'p' word, potential. Jones is a lot smaller than Mingo and so Mingo's ceiling is probably higher. That doesn't keep Jarvis from ending up a damn good player, though. He's also not quite as quick off the ball as Mingo and one reason I wouldn't have him above Gayle is because I think Gayle is a more dangerous pass rusher from an up position, gets off the ball and into his speed rush better.
5. DE/OLB Alex Okafor, Texas
Comment: Okafor is clearly the better pass rusher on his defense compared with Jackson Jeffcoat. It is not even close. He does not rate as high as the guys above him because I don't think he moves quite as quickly off the ball as the guys above. However, he does consistently show the ability to bend the arc and get underneath the blocker to come back to the quarterback, and he's also more polished than some of these guys and has a full array of moves. I like him.
6. DE William Gholston, Michigan State
Comment: I have seen suggestions that Gholston is overrated. I would like to see another year before I come to that conclusion because what I see of him is an extremely well built, brutishly strong player with explosive qualities. When he gets to the ball, he swallows it and he's a mean S.O.B. He is not a guy that consistently bends the outside, which is why I don't have him higher right now, but he can get to the quarterback through an array of moves and he's always a pain in the butt for whoever tries to block him.
7. DE/OLB Cory Lemonier, Auburn
Comment: Lemonier is built like a Ferrari. Great length and frame, really good take-off from the snap, hands connect well and shed, strong player that can get off blocks and make plays. The reason he's not rated better is he consistently paddle steps around the edge and can't really bend and get under a blocker to execute a proper edge rush. It could be something that develops.
8. DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
Comment: There are times you're watching Sam Montgomery and he is showing you the things that Barkevious Mingo is missing, and then there are times you're watching Barkevious Mingo and seeing the things Sam Montgomery is missing. He doesn't rate higher because he's consistently slow off the snap before he gets into his rush. He explodes in bursts, but he takes a while to gather himself before he explodes into his second and third bursts. He does not have great balance and I didn't see him consistently bend the arc. There are elite qualities to his game, the dangerous 'p' word, however he's in MUCH more danger of ending up "just a guy" than a Barkevious Mingo, who will always possess that god-given Cam Wake type joystick movement and explosiveness.
9. DE/OLB Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
Comment: Jenkins has pretty good take-off ability and his 2nd and 3rd steps don't let him down, so he has the ability to pass rush around the edge. He is not consistently strong and flexible bending the arc when challenged heavily, however. His natural athleticism helps him make hustle plays, but then you don't really see him hustling so it's kind of one step forward, one step back. His speed might be overrated. Hand use is definitely very inconsistent. Shows timely play recognition and gives good strong effort when blocked for the run game. He just doesn't hustle to the ball as well as you'd hope when the play goes by and he's not blocked any more. Good spin move.
10. DE/DT Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist
Comment: Margus is an incredible athlete with ridiculous size, speed, strength and explosiveness elements. The problem is, what do you do with him? He's blocked more kicks than I've ever even heard of but on the field you're wondering if he's sort of a poor man's Jared Odrick. He's not nearly flexible enough in my opinion to pass rush from the edge of the formation when you need pass rush. You will have to reduce him inside to rush the passer over a guard. That leaves you putting him at end on first and second down primarily as a run stopper, where he's not all that instinctive or impactful. It's like trying to put together a puzzle with a missing piece.
11. DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Comment: I'm given the impression from some of my fellow draftniks that I'm supposed to actually like Jackson Jeffcoat, but I'm really not sure why. I don't know his stats but I am sure he has collected some sacks off the good work that Alex Okafor and some others on the Texas defensive line (including our own Kheeston Randall) did for him. He reminds me a little bit of a cross between this year's Boise State defensive end Tyrone Crawford, and the old Arizona pass rusher Ricky Elmore. Actually scratch the Crawford comparison, he mainly reminds me of Elmore, which isn't a good thing. He has some athletic ability and some take-off from the line, but he doesn't put together the full package and was in my opinion conisistenty shown up by his teammate Okafor.
12. DE Michael Buchanan, Illinois
Comment: I am also given the impression that I am supposed to like Whitney Mercilus' linemate, Michael Buchanan. Maybe it's the scheme because I did not like Mercilus and I sure do not like Buchanan. He has some movement ability and he is built nicely, however I found that he doesn't really earn anything he does. He's just too easily blocked. Not enough speed, not enough explosion, not enough physicality, not enough flexibility. The reality is I probably would not even have him ranked in the top 12 by draft day, however I am given the impression he is supposed to be a top prospect, and so I felt I should address him.