Football

Rating the top outside linebackers in the NFL Draft

Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. sacked South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson on Oct. 20, 2012.
Florida’s Dante Fowler Jr. sacked South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson on Oct. 20, 2012. The Associated Press

1. Dante Fowler Jr., 6-3, 261, Florida

Bio: Two-year starter and team captain who had 60 tackles (15 for loss), 8.5 sacks, 17 hurries, one deflection in 12 games in 2014. Turns 21 years old this year. 33.75-inch arms. 9.5-inch hands. 4.60 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 32.5-inch vertical. 112-inch broad jump. 7.4 3-cone drill. 4.32 20-yard shuttle. 11.89 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Has a good frame — has long arms with a strong lower body and plus athleticism. Good acceleration off the edge. Can rush from a two-point and three-point stance. Plays hard, gets upfield quickly and has a solid closing burst to the quarterback. Good strength; can set the edge and hold his own against the run but can occasionally be overpowered. Can shed blockers and get to the football. Has a knack for stringing together pass-rush moves. Has a swim move in his arsenal. Has a transferable skill-set to the NFL. Can fit in any scheme. Safest pass rusher in the draft and potentially the most complete.

Grade: 7.3

2. Shane Ray, 6-3, 245, Missouri

Bio: First-year starter who had 65 tackles (22.5 for loss), 13 sacks, five hurries, one deflection in 14 games in 2014. Turns 22 this year. 33 1/8-inch arms. 9-inch hands. 4.64 40-yard dash. 21 bench reps. 33.5-inch vertical. 120-inch broad jump. 7.71 3-cone drill. 4.53 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Won SEC defensive player of the year in 2014, when he set a Mizzou single-season sack record with 14.5. Has been a bit hampered in workouts due a toe injury suffered in the bowl game. Will not be able to carry much more bulk. Possesses an elite first step — easily the best in the draft. Gets off the ball quickly and attacks. Consistently wins with his speed rush; few tackles have the foot quickness to match it. Emotional, competitive player who generally plays hard, though he will occasionally gear down some in pursuit. Has experience pass-rushing as a three-technique, and is good at it. Has an effective rip move in his arsenal. Can be fooled by play-action and occasionally overwhelmed at the point of attack against the run. Mainly played with his hand in the ground, but his pass-rushing ability should transfer to the NFL in a 3-4 scheme.

Grade: 7.0

3. Randy Gregory, 6-5, 235, Nebraska

Bio: Two-year starter who had 54 tackles (8.5 for loss), seven sacks, 10 hurries, three deflections in 11 games in 2014. Is 22 years old. 34-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.64 40-yard dash. 24 bench reps. 36.5-inch vertical. 125-inch broad jump. 6.79 3-cone drill.

Evaluation: Has admitted to failing multiple drug tests for marijuana, which could hurt his draft stock. Uses his long arms to keep offensive linemen off his body. Does not always fire quickly off the snap when in a 3-point stance and can be overpowered at the point of attack vs. the run. Has more juice going upfield out of a two-point stance — good acceleration off the snap. Is much more instinctive out of a two-point stance, as well. Has a strong inside swim move he uses to get after the quarterback. Flashes power with his bull rush. Is quick and long enough to set the edge, but needs to gain strength so he can anchor effectively. Is a chippy player. Has the athleticism to run plays down.

Grade: 7.0

4. Vic Beasley Jr., 6-3, 246, Clemson

Bio: Two-year starter who had 34 tackles (21.5 for loss), 12 sacks, six hurries, three deflections in 13 games in 2014. Is 22 years old. 32.5-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.53 40-yard dash. 35 bench reps. 41-inch vertical. 130-inch broad jump. 6.91 3-cone drill. 4.15 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Won 2014 ACC defensive player of the year. Senior tape revealed a small player who lacks bulk, even for a 3-4 outside linebacker, but has a natural feel in pass rush. Showed up much heavier at the combine, which helped his draft stock and crushed the testing portion, ranking in the top five at his position in all six drills. Has excellent burst off the edge — gets upfield quickly and can win with the speed rush. Has also flashed an awesome spin move, in addition to club-rip and bull rush moves, and displays good hand-eye coordination when hand-fighting. Understands how to fight his way to the quarterback and closes on them quickly. Lack of bulk hurts him; good tackles can ride him upfield and take him to the ground. Run-stopping ability on the NFL level is a concern; is on the ground too much and lacks the size to consistently set the edge and take on NFL offensive tackles. Might end up being a situational rusher only, but there’s a value for that in today’s NFL. Has enough athleticism to play in space and gives good effort.

Grade: 6.9

5. Alvin “Bud” Dupree, 6-4, 269, Kentucky

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who had 74 tackles (12.5 for loss), 7.5 sacks, five hurries, one deflection in 12 games in 2014. Turned 22 this year. 32 5/8-inch arms. 9.75-inch hands. 4.56 40-yard dash. Did not bench at the combine due to pec strain. 42-inch vertical. 138-inch broad jump. 7.49 3-cone drill. 4.47 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Has experience in a two-point and three-point stance. Generally hustles to the ball; gets some tackles in pursuit. Could do a better job of using his hands and being violent but he does have a nice little club-rip and swim move. Has the size and frame to set the edge just fine vs. the run. Is actually OK in space. Slightly above-average get off. Has decent power in his hands and a decent closing burst. Can be disruptive and has shown a knack for knocking the ball out. Plays with good effort and has some closing burst to the quarterback. Must continue to develop his instincts — is sometimes a beat late to diagnose.

Grade: 6.8

6. Nate Orchard, 6-3, 250, Utah

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who had 84 tackles (21 for loss), 18.5 sacks, two hurries, three deflections in 13 games in 2014. Is 22 years old. 33-inch arms. 10 1/8-inch hands. 4.80 40-yard dash. 31.5-inch vertical. 115-inch broad jump. 7.28 3-cone drill. 4.43 20-yard shuttle. 12.06 60-yard shuttle. Did not bench at the combine because of a shoulder injury.

Evaluation: Has a lean frame — lacks bulk and strength, despite weighing in at 250 pounds at the combine. Has good get off and quickness and plays hard. Uses his heavy hands to beat tackles with an inside swim and shows great burst in closing on the quarterback. Generates power out of the wide-nine technique, too; bull rush is solid. Spends most of the game with his hand in the ground. Gets moved at the point of attack vs. the run; really needs to get stronger but generally does a good job of finding the football and shedding vs. the run. Looks OK in space. Aware enough to get his hands up vs. the pass when possible. Is a willing, physical player. Occasionally a beat late off the snap. Is married with a daughter.

Grade: 6.7

7. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6-3, 267, UCLA

Bio: Team captain and first-year starter who had 61 tackles (11.5 for loss), six sacks in 13 games in 2014. Turned 23 this year. 33.75-inch arms. 11-inch hands. 4.62 40-yard dash. 25 bench reps. 39-inch vertical. 127-inch broad jump. 7.36 3-cone drill. 4.19 20-yard shuttle. 11.75 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Sat out the 2013 season due to hip surgery. Came back to have a solid 2014. Is a rocked-up dude with a great frame — has long arms and big hands — and athletic ability to match. Workout warrior who possesses very good play strength and good burst off the snap, though he’s sometimes a beat late when his hand on the ground. Is a solid run defender due to his overall power and strong hands. Has the ability to two gap as a five-tech and stack and shed. Also had the ability to set the edge as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Very quick when shooting gaps. Has a swim move and a good closing burst to the quarterback. Is still raw, however; will need more than his physical gifts to threaten the edge in the NFL. Needs to improve his awareness and improve his pass-rush repertoire.

Grade: 6.7

8. Markus Golden, 6-2, 260, Missouri

Bio: First-year starter who had 78 tackles (20 for loss), 10 sacks, 12 hurries, two deflections in 13 games in 2014. 31-inch arms. 10.75-inch hands. 4.74 40-yard dash. 17 bench reps. 28.5-inch vertical. 110-inch broad jump. 7.38 3-cone drill. 4.57 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: All-Juice Team member. Incredibly productive. Is relentless in pursuit; plays hard and gives outstanding effort — never takes a play off. Is always around the ball. Loves football. Will have to overcome his lack of length at the next level — has very short arms and didn’t fare well in the bench press but has big hands, which will help him control offensive linemen. Mainly operated out of a three-point stance at Mizzou. Is very aware and has good football intelligence — understands the concepts being run at him and adjusts accordingly. Tries to pry the football out and has a knack for making the big plays. Has a swim move and good play strength but is mainly a straight-ahead pass rusher. Effort guy who will do whatever it takes to help his team.

Grade: 6.6

Story: Mizzou’s Markus Golden hopes his competitiveness stands out at Senior Bowl

9. Trey Flowers, 6-2, 266, Arkansas

Bio: Three-year starter who had 68 tackles (15.5 for loss), six sacks, nine hurries, six deflections in 13 games in 2014. Is 21 years old. 33 7/8-inch arms. 9.5-inch hands. 4.93 40-yard dash. 28 bench reps. 36.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 7.34 3-cone drill. 4.4 20-yard shuttle. 12.03 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Mainly plays out of a three-point stance and has good quickness and get off. He understands how to use his hands in the pass rush — has a rip, swim and outside spin move he likes to go to. Has some pop in his hands. Gives inconsistent effort on runs in pursuit outside the tackle box but has powerful hands — can shed blockers when run at him. Good quicks out of a wide technique when rushing. Can win on the edge. Good strength — isn’t on ground much. Is a solid second-round pick for a 4-3 team — is probably not athletic enough to be a 3-4 outside linebacker but offers pass-rush upside for any scheme.

Grade: 6.6

10. Eli Harold, 6-3, 247, Virginia

Bio: Two-year starter who had 54 tackles (14.5 for loss), seven sacks, two pass deflections in 12 games in 2014. Junior who declared for the draft early. Turned 21 this year. 33-inch arms. 9 3/8-inch hands. 4.6 40-yard dash. 24 bench reps. 35-inch vertical. 123-inch broad jump. 7.07 3-cone drill. 4.16 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Has experience rushing from a two-point stance. Flashes good get off out of a two-point stance when he knows the pass is coming but overall, looks much more comfortable and quick rushing out of a three-point stance. Has a club rip he pairs with an interesting speed rush. Needs to do a better job of finishing at the quarterback; missed three sacks vs. UCLA. Shows good athleticism on stunts. Can get overpowered and driven to the ground on the pass rush. Can get engulfed by bigger linemen. Can get reached and lose contain. Underpowered and needs to develop an array of pass-rush moves. Shows promises as a blitzes on stunts. Effort is okay but could be better in pursuit. Has the talent to be a starter but will need development to reach his potential.

Grade: 6.5

11. Hau’oli Kikaha, 6-2, 253, Washington

Bio: Three-year starter and team captain who had 72 tackles (25 for loss), 19 sacks and two deflections in 14 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 32.5-inch arms. 9 5/8-inch hands. 4.9 40-yard dash. 20 bench reps. 34.5-inch vertical. 121-inch broad jump. 7.13 3-cone drill. 4.33 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Had torn the ACL in his left knee twice. Plays primarily out of a two-point stance and possesses average burst off the edge. Does not have a ton of power but really gets after it and plays with emotion and great effort. Outstanding production and very instinctive. Has a spin move and is a crafty pass rusher — not just a hustle-sack guy. Has short arms and can be moved in the running game. Has experience dropping into zone coverage. Has the look of a 3-4 outside linebacker who can, at the very least, help in passing situations.

Grade: 6.4

12. Danielle Hunter, 6-5, 252, Louisiana State

Bio: Two-year starter who had 73 tackles (13 for loss), 1.5 sacks and two hurries in 13 games in 2014. Turns 21 this year. 34.25-inch arms. 10.5-inch hands. 4.57 40-yard dash. 25 bench reps. 36.5-inch vertical. 130-inch broad jump. 6.95 3-cone drill. 4.47 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Is young for a prospect. Declared for the draft after his junior season. Has a projectable frame; is tall with long arms. Is an awesome athlete but his production does not match his gifts. Is consistently a beat late off the snap but flashes a good jolt and closing burst. Get off is OK. Need to continue to learn how to use his hands, both vs. the run and pass, and develop his football instincts — should be around the ball more. Plays with good effort. Can be a starter in this league if he ever puts it all together.

Grade: 6.3

13. Anthony Chickillo, 6-3, 267, Miami (Fla.)

Bio: Four-year starter who had 41 tackles (4.5 for loss), three sacks in 13 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 33.5-inch arms. 10 1/8-inch hands. 4.79 40-yard dash. 27 bench reps. 34.5-inch vertical. 114-inch broad jump. 7.17 3-cone drill. 4.25 20-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Was used a 3-4 5-tech at Miami who also played nose and three-tech at 282 pounds. Promptly shedded 15 pounds after the season in hopes of showing he should be an edge rusher and looked good at the East-West Shrine Game. Is an all-day sucker who gives great effort and covers some ground in pursuit. Flashes good power at the point of attack with a decent get off but occasionally gives up ground on the double team. Has some closing burst on the quarterback but his pass rush stalls out sometimes and does not have a plethora of pass-rush moves. Is an effort player who can, at worst, help in a defensive line rotation.

Grade: 6.3

14. Frank Clark, 6-3, 271, Michigan

Bio: Two-year starter who had 42 tackles (13.5 for loss), 4.5 sacks in 10 games in 2014. Turns 22 this year. 34 3/8-inch arms. 10 1/8-inch hands. 4.79 40-yard dash. 19 bench reps. 38.5-inch vertical. 118-inch broad jump. 7.08 3-cone drill. 4.05 20-yard shuttle. 11.22 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Was kicked off the team toward the end of season because of a domestic-violence incident. Was previously suspended from the team for felony second-degree home invasion. Has a big frame with long arms. Has some burst off the edge and knows how to use his hands in the pass rush — has a spin move in his repertoire. Mainly played with his hand on the ground. Has good athleticism and is nasty — plays with an attitude. Has some power at the point of attack and does a really nice job of getting his arms up in passing lanes. Has some jolt in his hands. Is a chippy, emotional player who plays hard and sets the edge vs. the run. Has low-end starter potential if he keeps his head on straight.

Grade: 6.3

15. Lorenzo Mauldin IV, 6-4, 259, Louisville

Bio: Three-year starter who had 51 tackles (13 for loss), 6.5 sacks, 11 hurries in 13 games in 2014. Turns 23 this year. 32 1/8-inch arms. 10-inch hands. 4.85 40-yard dash. 23 bench reps. 32-inch vertical. 119-inch broad jump. 7.47 3-cone drill. 4.58 20-yard shuttle. 12.62 60-yard shuttle.

Evaluation: Mainly rushes out of a two-point stance. Possesses only average get off and closing burst and is occasionally a beat late off the snap, but has good football intelligence and is an emotional player who generally gives okay effort in the tackle box. Needs to improve his strength vs. the run but has the ability to shed blockers with his okay hands. Occasionally works in zone coverage.

Grade: 6.3

To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to tpaylor@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TerezPaylor.

Grading scale

7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick

7.0: 11-20

6.9: 21-32

6.8: Top half of the second

6.7: Bottom half of the second

6.6: Top half of the third

6.5: Bottom half of the third

6.4: Fourth round pick

6.3: Fifth-round pick

6.2: Sixth-round pick

6.1: Seventh-round pick

6.0: Priority free agent

NOTE: All rankings are based on a combination of extensive personal film study, interviews conducted with draft analysts and information gleaned from NFL Network draft broadcasts. Evaluations are cross-checked with multiple draft resources. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to NFL.com. Grades are assigned based on where The Star believes the Chiefs should take each player, based on their needs and scheme fit.

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