Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Draft Preview: Edge-Rushers

A look at this year's top pass-rushers.

A gallery of the top 25 ranked defensive end prospects for the 2015 NFL draft, as ranked by CBSSports.com

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Leading the pack: There is a fine line as to which prospects are classified as defensive ends and which prospects should be listed as linebackers, so we'll just call this group "edge-rushers", similar to how they're grouped in NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's rankings. The top player in this edge-rusher category, most analysts agree, is Florida's Dante Fowler Jr. Fowler is an outside linebacker who could be a top three pick, according to NFL.com's latest mock drafts. He picked up 8.5 sacks in 2014, but hasn't come close to reaching his potential, said an AFC East Director of College Scouting. "He's had to play at different weights and different spots on the field, and I think he's finally understanding how to use his athleticism to dominate a game," the college scout explained. "He will be way better in the pros than what he is now."


The second tier:** This year's draft is so abundant in edge-rushers that even the players considered in the "second-tier" could be first-round, or even top 10, picks. Clemson's Vic Beasley played the majority of his college career in a three-point stance, but analysts believe he'll be better suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Beasley recorded 25 sacks over the past two seasons. Other first-round prospects include Nebraska's Randy Gregory, Missouri's Shane Ray and Kentucky's Bud Dupree.

Mid-round picks: NFL Media's Charles Davis thinks very highly of Miami's Anthony Chickillo, selecting him for his "All-Underrated Team". "Chickillo was an absolute terror in the East-West Shrine Game," Davis wrote. "He's a tough kid who will surprise people." Chickillo could be a fourth, fifth or sixth-round pick. Also keep an eye on Norfolk State's Lynden Trail, Clemson's Corey Crawford and West Virginia's Shaquille Riddick.

Sleepers: Montana's Zach Wagenmann was a standout at the NFL Scouting Combine, finishing with the second-highest 10-yard cone drill time among defensive ends and No. 3 in the vertical jump. He's a speed-rusher who may be best-suited as an outside linebacker. Also keep an eye on Texas' Cedric Reed, Towson's Ryan Delaire and Marshall's James Rouse.

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