- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - Notable defensive and special teams players in the NFL draft, grouped by projected NFL positions:

DEFENSIVE ENDS

Position outlook: One of the NFL positions where raw ability can best be shaped, this spot frequently sees some head-scratching picks on draft day, when players with great measurables or workout performances are taken early.

_Brian Orakpo, 6-foot-3, 263 pounds, Texas: A strong all-around prospect who is still learning to apply his considerable athleticism on the football field. Great at reading plays, and equally adept versus either pass or rush.

_Larry English, 6-2, 274, Northern Illinois: Another elite, balanced prospect at the DE spot who teams might pick as an OLB. His coverage abilities remain unproven, unlike his talent for finding QBs.

_Everette Brown, 6-2, 256, junior, Florida State: Elite pass rusher who could play OLB in 3-4 and will be coveted by teams hungry for sacks and less concerned with running game. Not that his burst and pursuit speed are anything but an asset there.

_Robert Ayers, 6-3, 272, Tennessee: Sharp player who’s more of an all-arounder than just a pass rusher. Could also see a move to OLB.

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DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Position outlook: Teams tend to draft this position based on scheme, so one team’s must-have player could be way down another team’s board.

_B.J. Raji, 6-2, 337, Boston College: A boulder in the middle of a defensive front _ just the thing most teams are looking for at the position. More run-stopper than anything else, he’s a mountain of trouble for teams with shaky QBs _ or OLs.

_Fili Moala, 6-4, 305, Southern California: Sharp eye for diagnosing plays and power to shrug off blockers makes him a force. Tenacious. Incredibly, could stand to add bulk.

_Peria Jerry, 6-2, 299, Mississippi: A bit of an injury risk that plenty of teams are likely to find worth taking, Jerry’s initial quickness and acceleration help disrupt both run and pass plays, making him an all-around threat.

_Evander Hood, 6-3, 300, Missouri: Sudden, violent player who can be inconsistent and occasionally will be stood up by centers who can get leverage on him.

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LINEBACKERS

Position outlook: Modern NFL linebackers need to do it all. They’re graded on play versus the run, pass coverage and blitzing ability. LBs that are versatile are a great commodity for scarce roster spaces, and highly valued.

Inside Linebackers

_James Laurinaitis, 6-2, 244, Ohio State: Athletic prospect who excels in pass coverage as well as open-field tackling. Not much of a blitz threat, but why get picky? Father was a professional wrestler, “The Animal.”

_Clint Sintim, 6-3, 256, Virginia: Strong player with good pass-rush skills who needs to improve on pass coverage. Could be fearsome in a 3-4.

_Rey Maualuga, 6-2, 249, Southern California: Fast and violent. Sure tackler who can be found overpursuing and relying on hard hits too much at times. A polished prospect nevertheless.

_Darry Beckwith, 6-1, 234, LSU: Athletic and graceful; adding some size will serve him well. Some injury concerns.

Outside Linebackers

_Brian Cushing, 6-3, 243, Southern California: Athletic, physical player who signed as a safety, then played MLB, DE and OLB for the Trojans. Projects to an OLB in the NFL, one who can take on blockers and get to ball carriers, or close off his zone in pass coverage.

_Aaron Curry, 6-2, 254, Wake Forest: Very hard to block, he’s a strong bet to snuff out a running game. Although he’s fundamentally solid all around, Curry isn’t the smoothest in pass coverage.

_Marcus Freeman, 6-0, 239, Ohio State: Savvy, gritty player who existed in Laurinaitis’ shadow in Columbus, Freeman could make a name for himself in the pros. Versatile and fundamentally sound.

_Clay Matthews, 6-3, 240, Southern California: Athletic skills to spare _ his father, Clay, had long career as Browns LB; uncle Bruce was a Hall of Fame lineman for Oilers. Raw, though, and looks to be a project _ though one that could pay off for a patient team.

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DEFENSIVE BACKS

Position outlook: With NFL coaches and rules all tilting the game toward the pass, teams can’t have enough cornerback and safety prospects.

Cornerbacks

_Malcolm Jenkins, 6-0, 204, Ohio State: Fast and physical, should be the first of a flood of cornerbacks off the board. Nice, soft hands and a good leap should bring him plenty of interceptions in the NFL. Can also play free safety.

_Alphonso Smith, 5-9, 193, Wake Forest: Possible interception machine with excellent ball skills. Lack of height can’t be completely overcome, despite gumption and confidence against bigger players and in the run game.

_Vontae Davis, 5-11, 203, junior, Illinois: Inconsistent performer with plenty of unrealized athleticism and talent, coaching will be key to his future success. Brother is 49ers TE Vernon Davis.

Safety

_Derek Pegues, 5-10, 199, Mississippi State: All-SEC at safety and CB. Sharp, instinctive player whose mind helps make up for lack of natural gifts. He could be a touch faster and a touch bigger, but he’s usually in the right place at the right time.

_Louis Delmas, 5-11, 202, Western Michigan: Hard-hitting playmaker with plenty of athleticism and awareness to get interceptions and tackles. Lack of bulk will be a concern.

_Patrick Chung, 5-11, 212, Oregon: Hard-hitting, sure-tackling prospect who can blitz or play center field. Speed and size are drawbacks. Could be strong on special teams.

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SPECIALISTS

KICKER

_Graham Gano, 6-0, 194, Florida State: Accurate inside 50, can handle kicks from either hashmark. As a punter, shows good accuracy, especially when pinning teams deep. Slow release on punts.

_Louie Sakoda, 5-9, 176, Utah: Super cool on pressure kicks, he’s got a good, strong boot on FGs and shown impressive range. Not great on kickoffs, may not project as a punter, either.

PUNTER

_Kevin Huber, 6-1, 220, Cincinnati: Has enough going for him by having a strong leg and capable hands to overcome his slow release and occasional line-drive tendencies. Left-footed, which most returners hate.

END PROFILES

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