Draft preview: Defensive line

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
6:00
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This is the seventh installment in a position-by-position analysis of the Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Defensive line

Depth chart: Ends -- Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Claude Davis, Jacquies Smith; Tackles -- Kenrick Ellis, Antonio Garay, Damon Harrison, Junior Aumavae, Tevita Finau.

Departures: Mike DeVito (Chiefs), Sione Po'uha (released).

Total salary-cap charge (positional rank): $7.3 million (6th)

[+] EnlargeStar Lotulelei
Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY SportsUtah's Star Lotulelei
Scouting report: No position has undergone more change since Rex Ryan arrived than the defensive line. These are all his guys; no holdovers from the previous staff. They've invested heavily in the last two drafts, selecting Wilkerson (first round, 2011), Ellis (third, 2011) and Coples (first, 2012). So, yeah, there's plenty of upside here, with a lot riding on the development of Coples and Ellis. They're counting on Ellis to replace Po'uha at nose tackle, but that might be a leap of faith, considering he played only 22 percent of the defensive snaps last season. Coples (47 percent), whose practice habits improved toward the latter portion of the season, also needs to show he can handle a full-time role. Wilkerson, already on the cusp of the Pro Bowl, will be expected to assume more of a leadership role. Garay, nearing the end of his career, could be in the rotation if he can stay healthy -- a big if.

The last time: Coples was the 16th overall pick in last year's draft.

Potential targets: There are at least four linemen that could be drafted in the top 12 -- Star Lotulelei (Utah), Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), Sharrif Floyd (Florida) and Sheldon Richardson (Missouri). Could the Jets grab one with the ninth or 13th pick? Not likely. Floyd and Richardson are both one-gap penetrators, best suited for a 4-3 scheme. Lotulelei and Ansah have the versatility to play in a 4-3 or 3-4, but here's the issue: With all their needs, can the Jets afford to take another defensive linemen in the first round? Unless new coordinator Dennis Thurman is planning a switch to the 4-3, they should spread the wealth, although they could look for depth in the later rounds. They need a tackle/end hybrid who can step into a DeVito-like role. It'll get interesting if Ansah slips to nine. He's extremely raw, but he's such a physical freak that many believe he's destined for stardom. Problem is, he's a tweener at 6-foot-5, 271 pounds; a linebacker conversion would be risky because of his limited background.

Need rating (on a scale of 1 to 10): End -- 5; Tackle -- 7.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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