Here are the top five edge rushers — outside linebackers or defensive ends — prospects (with projected round):
1. Dante Fowler Jr., 6-foot-3, 261 pounds, Florida (first): When he was the defensive coordinator at Florida, Falcons coach Dan Quinn helped recruit Fowler. He turned in a strong junior season before declaring for the draft. He had 60 tackles, including 15 for losses and 8.5 sacks. He was named to the all-SEC team by the league’s coaches. He had three sacks in the Gators’ 28-20 victory over East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl.
2. Vic Beasley, 6-3, 246, Clemson (first): He had 37 tackles, a team-high 21.5 tackles for loss, a team-high 12 sacks, nine quarterback pressures, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles, one recovered fumble and a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown in 557 snaps over 13 games (12 starts). He ranks first in school history in sacks, fourth in tackles for loss and tied for seventh in forced fumbles.
3. Shane Ray, 6-3, 245, Missouri (first): He was the SEC defensive player of the year and led the conference in sacks (14.5) and had 22.5 tackles for a loss. Ray was a consensus All-American.
4. Randy Gregory, 6-5, 235, Nebraska (first): Started his career at Arizona Western, a junior college, because of grades. He landed at Nebraska and in 2013. He had 66 tackles, including 19 for losses and 10.5 sacks, which led the Big Ten. He was slowed by knee, head and ankle injures in 2014, but managed 50 tackles, including 10 tackles for losses and seven sacks, along with two blocked kicks.
5. Bud Dupree, 6-4, 269, Kentucky (first): He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, which ranked tied for third among linebackers at the combine. He ranked first among linebackers with a broad jump of 11 feet, 6 inches. “Does Bud Dupree elevate into the top 10?” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “I have not been willing to put him up there myself, but I hear more and more people putting him up there. He is a big, strong, physical guy and a heck of a player.”
Teams in need: Jacksonville, Chicago, Oakland, Atlanta, Cleveland, Houston and San Diego.
Need area for Falcons? Yes. This position is their No. 1 priority. The pass rush has been anemic since they released John Abraham a year too soon. Their 22 sacks in 2014 tied for 30th in the league. Only Cincinnati (20) had fewer.
Top five seniors for 2016 draft: 1. Jordan Jenkins, 6-2, 252, Georgia. 2. Eric Striker, 6-0, 221, Oklahoma. 3. Joshua Perry, 6-4, 250, Ohio State. 4. DeForest Buckner, 6-6, 286, Oregon. 5. Shawn Oakman, 6-8, 278, Baylor.
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