Post-draft West ranks: Revisiting DLs

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
2:44
PM ET
Our post-draft amendments to pre-draft positional rankings continue with Matt Williamson, NFL scout for ESPN.com.

Up next: defensive linemen.

NFC West teams drafted four of them if we count the San Francisco 49ers' Corey Lemonier and the Arizona Cardinals' Alex Okafor as 3-4 outside linebackers, which we will do for the purposes of this exercise.

The four draftees: Tank Carradine (40th overall choice) and Quinton Dial (157th) to the 49ers; and Jordan Hill (87th) and Jesse Williams (137th) to the Seattle Seahawks.

Williamson moved up the 49ers from fourth to second in his defensive line rankings following the draft. Seattle remains No. 1. The St. Louis Rams and Cardinals each dropped one spot to accommodate the 49ers' rise.

Then as now, the rankings are close. There's no shame in having the fourth-best line in the NFC West. We pick up the conversation from there.

Williamson: I love Tank Carradine. Dial, the kid from Alabama, is a worthy addition. Carradine seemed like a really curious fit to me at first because I thought of him more as an outside linebacker, an edge player. But people were calling me out during our draft chat and saying he is going to be a defensive end for them.

Sando: Yeah, Carradine is in that 275-pound range. Justin Smith and Ray McDonald were in that range, and they projected to defensive end with the 49ers. All 3-4s are not the same and we know defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes an active defensive front.

Williamson: Smith and McDonald are not a whole lot different. The 49ers' defensive ends aren't like Aaron Smith was in Pittsburgh. Justin Smith was 4-3 end. I buy that, but I also think like we talked about before, it wouldn't blow me away if we saw more 4-3 from them.

Sando: Yeah, when they added Glenn Dorsey, the first thought was that he would be best suited in a 4-3 defense, not a 3-4. And I know the 49ers move around their guys up front. I know they play with a four-man line a decent percentage of the time.

Williamson: They don't have the pure nose on the team any more. We will see more multiple fronts, which gets more bodies involved. One problem with that defense is they played only 12 guys, 13 guys most of the time. That hurts them late in the season with too many people worn down.

Sando: That was the case late last season. It's why the 49ers addressed their front seven more than they addressed their cornerback situation. They think the corners can be fine if the front is healthy and deeper. Shifting gears, you left Seattle at No. 1 along the line. The Seahawks also added two defensive linemen in this draft.

Williamson: Jesse Williams can be a great player. If his knee had checked out better, I had him penciled in for the 49ers in the first round. Hill is a shorter guy, a leverage and quickness player. I'm not sure they really have anyone else like him. Brandon Mebane is bigger and stronger. Hill plays the Mebane position or is just an interior pass-rusher. I think Hill is an energy guy. Get him out there 20-30 snaps a game. He is like a curveball. You're used to playing against power with Mebane and then they change it up. Mebane would be much stouter.

Sando: Hill was drafted before Williams, but he's getting a lot less attention.

Williamson: Williams is the wild card of this draft. On tape, he is a later first-round player. Big, really strong, moves really well. There have to be legitimate concerns about his health, but we don't always find out the extent of those before the draft. Every year, guys fall two or three rounds further than they should. We sit there saying all these teams should take Jesse Williams, but then after a while, something must be wrong with Jesse Williams.

Sando: The Seahawks did not sound concerned, but teams don't really express concerns on draft day, either.

Williamson: Alabama plays a 3-4 and Williams was a defensive end for them when they had Josh Chapman. He can play all over the line. He played the nose, but he is not a Casey Hampton. He can be Red Bryant, but he could also be Alan Branch and maybe Mebane, too.

Sando: The Rams and Cardinals did not draft defensive linemen given that we're counting Okafor at linebacker for now. The Cardinals said they could add a defensive tackle in free agency. Some in the media have linked them to Sedrick Ellis.

Williamson: If they do sign Ellis, that is yet another indication we’ll see more 4-3 there as well. The guys they are adding are not true 3-4 guys. Calais Campbell can do both. Darnell Dockett is better in a 4-3. Frostee Rucker and Matt Shaughnessy don't really have 3-4 experience. They are better as 4-3 ends. Okafor can be as much 3-4 outside linebacker as 4-3 end if Campbell is your heavier 4-3 end, Dockett is your three-technique and then Dan Williams or Ellis would be your one-technique. Okafor would be your open-side guy.

Sando: The scheme uncertainties in Arizona could lead us to revisit the rankings as we learn more and get a better feel for how specific players fit.

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