NFL DRAFT: THE DEFENSIVE ENDS

In the seventh of a position-by-position series on the 2009 NFL Draft, Colts.com takes a look at defensive ends in the draft. Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo is generally expected to be the first player chosen at the position.

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Former Texas DE Brian Orakpo Could be First Defensive End Selected in 2009 NFL Draft
INDIANAPOLIS – To Brian Orakpo, the specifics aren't imant.

Orakpo, who played collegiately at the University of Texas, is widely projected as one of the 2009 NFL Draft's premier defensive players, a big-time player with star potential, pass-rushing ability and difference-making skill.

But there is a question about Orakpo:

Is he better suited to play defensive end in a four-lineman, three-linebacker scheme or is he better suited to play linebacker in a three-lineman, four-linebacker scheme?

End or linebacker?

Three-four or 4-3?

As Orakpo sees it, it doesn't much matter.

"The good thing about is I'm versatile," said Orakpo, who is generally projected by many analysts to be a Top 5 or Top 10 selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, which will be held April 25-26 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"So it really doesn't matter. I fit well in both schemes. I played this last season and I'm very effective in both, so we'll see."

Orakpo, who played end last season, showed his versatility at a recent Pro Day in Austin, Texas, where he reportedly weighed 262 pounds and broad jumped, 10-feet-10 inches in front of a group that included representatives from 23 NFL teams. He also worked out at the Combine at both positions, doing defensive-end and linebacker drills.

"He's got everything you want: size, speed, quickness and strength," Tennessee Titans scout C.O. Brocato told the Fort-Worth Star Telegram.

"He's just got to learn ... that he's got to be more consistent about doing it every play."

The level to which teams employ each defense has varied in recent decades, and Orakpo (6-feet-3, 263 pounds) said a recent resurgence in 3-4 teams has made his versatility "very important."

Two other defensive ends generally expected to be selected in the first round – Everette Brown of Florida State and Aaron Maybin of Penn State – also are considered by some analysts to be able to play linebacker and defensive end.

"A lot of teams are going to a 3-4 scheme and you still have the teams that are 4-3," Orakpo said. "A versatile guy is a guy who can be very versatile and can play any position."

Orakpo, a senior, registered 11 sacks this past season, finishing his career with 21.

"In a perfect world, I just want to rush the passer, first through fourth down if it was a perfect world," Orakpo said. "Any position where I can be effective doing what I naturally do best and that's getting after the passer and affecting him. It's not all about the sacks, it's all about pressure.

"The thrill is getting off the ball, beating that tackle and getting there. You have to put a lot of pressure on the guy."

Asked at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in late February his best position, Orakpo said, "Any position," and listed right end, left end, strong-side linebacker, weakside linebacker and middle linebacker as his best positions. He added later he was kidding about middle linebacker.

"That's the thing about being that athletic and as versatile as I am, you can put a guy in anything," he said, adding, "I'm just as effective at both, hand in the dirt or standing up. It really doesn't matter.

"And I've proved it on film and I can always get better.'

Orakpo said because his first passion is for pass rushing, he has studied the NFL's elite pass rushers, listing Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney and former Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor among the players he admires.

"One guy I really admire and watch is Osi Umenyiora with the Giants," he said. "He was a guy who inspired me to get back to the four-point stance that I used last year because he has the same type physique I have and I learned a lot from watching his film.

"Every player has weaknesses. If they're telling you you're perfect, they're lying. I can work on some things (and) don't use my speed and power as an advantage all the time, (and) don't get away from technique. Sometimes I catch myself on film getting away from technique because I'm trying to power and speed a guy a little too much. It's something I can work on.

"Keep in mind that my technique is what got me here."

Not that Orakpo said there wouldn't be an adjustment if he moved to linebacker in the NFL. There are different skills needed, and different details, he said he would need to hone.

"It depends primarily on working on drops instead of just rushing," he said. "You have to read a little more coverages, so we'll see."

As to whether that versatility and focus will enable him to be among those players selected in the Top 5 next Saturday, he said that's something he can't control.

"I think I can be," he said. "I think I have the potential, the athleticism and also the learning curve to be. It's not about the best player available. It's about the best player that's needed. So we'll see.'

BREAKING DOWN THE 2009 NFL DRAFT'S TOP DEFENSIVE ENDS

The 2009 NFL Draft class is considered a deep, talented group at the defensive end position, with many analysts believing Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo the likely choice to be the first player selected at the position. Florida State defensive end Everette Brown, who – like Orakpo – also could play outside linebacker also is projected as a Top 10-15 selection. Aaron Maybin of Penn State is another outside linebacker/end prospect and he has been projected as a possible selection in the middle of the first round. Other first-round possibilities include Robert Ayers of Tennessee and Tyson Jackson of Louisiana State.

ON THE COLTS' ROSTER

Dwight Freeney, eighth season, Syracuse; Robert Mathis, seventh season, Alabama A&M; Marcus Howard, second season, Georgia; Curtis Johnson, second season, Clark Atlanta.

THE LAST FIVE

The last five defensive ends drafted by the Colts . . .

2008: Marcus Howard, fifth round, Georgia.

2007: Keyunta Dawson, seventh round, Texas Tech.

2005: Jonathan Welsh, fifth round, Wisconsin.

2003: Robert Mathis, fifth round, Alabama A&M.

2002: Josh Mallard, seventh round, Georgia.

2002: Dwight Freeney, first round, Syracuse.

THIS YEAR'S DRAFT

An alphabetical list of 20 defensive ends to be selected in the 2009 NFL Draft . . .

Robert Ayers, Tennessee, 6-3, 270

Michael Bennett, Texas A&M, 6-3, 275

Everette Brown, Florida State, 6-1, 255

William Davis, Illinois, 6-2, 260

Rulon Davis, California, 6-5, 280

Pannel Egboh, Stanford, 6-6, 275

Maurice Evans, Penn State, 6-1, 275

Tyson Jackson, LSU, 6-4, 295

Tim Jamison, Michigan, 6-2, 255

Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech, 6-7, 265

Paul Kruger, Utah, 6-4, 265

Aaron Maybin, Penn State, 6-4, 250

Kyle Moore, USC, 6-5, 270

Brian Orakpo, Texas, 6-3, 265

Matt Shaughnessy, Wisconsin, 6-5, 265

Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond, 6-3, 265

Stryker Sulak, Missouri, 6-4, 250

David Veikune, Hawaii, 6-2, 255

Derek Walker, Illinois, 6-4, 270

Brandon Williams, Texas Tech, 6-2, 260

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