Skip to main content

Path to the Draft: D-line


The Texans have made drafting defensive linemen a priority in the last four years, using first-round picks on Jason Babin, Travis Johnson, Mario Williams and Amobi Okoye.

It's a strategy that has paid off, considering Williams tied for third in the NFL last season with a Texans-record 14 sacks and Okoye appears primed for a dominant sophomore year.

It's a strategy the team could employ again this April with their 18th pick, selecting a pass rusher opposite of Williams who could relieve him of the double or triple teams he consistently saw last season.

"If there were an outstanding defensive end that fell down to us and we thought he was maybe a top-10 pick and we're picking at 18 and he's a much better athlete than the other positions, we still want to get some more pass rushing on the other side of Mario," Texans founder and CEO Bob McNair told the media in March.

"Mario had an outstanding year, but he gets double-teamed on every play. And if we could get a little more help on the other side with the pass rush, it would help take the pressure off of Mario and we will be even better with our front four."

{QUOTE}There are several top defensive linemen the Texans could have to choose from in this year's draft.

Top prospects

1. Chris Long, DE, Virginia (6-3, 267): Virginia's Long could hear his name called first overall on draft day. If he does, it would make him the second defensive end taken at No. 1 in the past three years, with the Texans choosing Williams in 2006. Long, like Williams, notched 14 sacks last season and is considered a freakish athlete.

He also draws an obvious comparison to NFL legend Howie Long, his father, who anchored the Oakland defense for 13 years and helped lead the team to a Super Bowl championship.

"My dad taught me to work hard and be the same guy every day," Long said at the scouting combine. "I don't think of myself as doing anything extraordinary. I think that's just the way football is supposed to be played, at a high speed. I'm not a guy who does things half-speed well."

He proved as much in Indianapolis, placing third in the vertical jump with a leap of 34 inches, fourth in the three-cone drill with a time of 7.02 seconds and in the top-10 in the 40-yard dash with a time of 4.75 seconds.

A first-team All-American and ACC Defensive Player of the Year, Long plays with an incredible motor and possesses one of the highest football IQs in the draft. His athleticism will allow him to fit into a 4-3 or a 3-4 scheme.

2. Glenn Dorsey, DT, LSU (6-2, 297): The most decorated defensive player in the history of LSU, Dorsey's resume includes: Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, two-time All American defensive tackle and 2007 winner of the Outland and Lombardi trophies.

Despite constant double- and triple-team coverage, along with late-season knee and back problems, Dorsey proved he could toss around blockers. He finished second on the team with seven sacks and 12.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. The senior also caused a fumble and deflected three passes.

Dorsey's injuries have led to questions about his durability, and missing the combine left his pro day to erase any lingering questions about the right knee he sprained last season and the stress fracture he developed his junior year in the lower part of the same leg.

Over 125 pro scouts watched Dorsey record a vertical jump of 25.5 inches, a 40-yard dash of 5.14 seconds and 27 reps on the bench press. Those solid measurables accompanied stellar performances in fast-paced defensive line drills that highlighted his explosiveness and tenacity.

3. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC (6-1, 309): In his four years at USC, Ellis started 36 contests and registered 144 tackles (74 solos), 17.5 sacks for minus 130 yards and 28.5 stops for losses of 158 yards.

After a senior campaign in which he was voted a unanimous All-America selection and the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, Ellis shot up the draft boards with a dominant showing at the Senior Bowl.

A disappointing combine caused Ellis' stock to drop. But that was until his pro day on April 2, where he notched 36 bench reps and ran the 40-yard dash in times of 5.01 and 5.05 seconds, shaving nearly three tenths of a second off of his combine times.

That performance could move this defensive tackle with a quick first step and non-stop motor back into the top 10.

4. Vernon Gholston, DE, Ohio State (6-3, 266): Gholston starred for a unit that led the nation in total defense, scoring defense and pass defense and finished third in rushing defense. The junior ranked tied for third in the nation with fourteen sacks for minus 111 yards, and his 15.5 stops for losses of 113 yards ranked eighth in the conference.

Gholston has been marketed as a tweener who can play outside linebacker or defensive end, and his skill set is perfect for a team looking for an athletic player who wreaks havoc in the backfield.

"I played them both in college," Gholston said at the scouting combine. "It's really wherever the team puts me. The biggest thing is I'm capable of playing both positions. Actually, I played linebacker in high school, so when I got to Ohio State the biggest adjustment was becoming a defensive end, playing with my hand on the ground.

"I love playing defensive end. I love getting after the quarterback and affecting the game that way."

In Indy, Gholston dominated the defensive lineman workouts, tying Jake Long for a combine-best in the bench press with 37 reps. He also placed fourth among defensive linemen in the 40 (4.67 seconds) and first in the vertical jump (35.5 inches).

"I know how big the defensive line is (for NFL teams)," Gholston said. "If you got a front four that can control the game, you're destined for championships."

5. Derrick Harvey, DE, Florida (6-5, 271): For the Gators last year, Harvey recorded 49 tackles (31 solos) and ranked tied for fifth in the SEC with 8.5 sacks for minus 63 yards.

The junior has been touted for his great instincts and field awareness. Harvey plays with an almost nasty demeanor, which makes him effective against the run. His weakness has been his strength and ability to shed massive offensive tackles.

Harvey did impress at the combine, recording a wingspan of 82 inches, 31 reps in the bench press and a time of 4.84 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

He is one of the elite pass rushers available this April and prototypical for a 4-3 defense.

Honorable mention: Clemson's Philip Merling (6-4, 276) is consistent and dependable defensive end who can get the job done on the next level. The problem is that he may not be able to work out for scouts at all because he is considering surgery for a sports hernia. USC's Lawrence Jackson (6-4, 271) came back after a disappointing junior year with the kind of season that both he and pro scouts were looking for, notching 17 tackles for loss, including 10.5 sacks. The four-year starter at defensive end had 30.5 career sacks

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content