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Defensive Line Depth on Display


INDIANAPOLIS – The most loaded position group at the 2013 NFL Draft just might be the defensive linemen. Defensive ends and defensive tackles should expect to hear their names called early and often starting April 25.

It's perfect timing for the 49ers, too.

With nose tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Pierre Garçon scheduled for free agency, the 49ers have replacement opitons should either player move on from the team. In total, San Francisco has 11 draft picks and three more expected compensatory selections on the way.

But for now, it's all about the defensive linemen impressing NFL coaches and talent evaluators at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.

It's also important to differentiate from the group.

"In my eyes, I feel like I'm a leader and a dynamic player," said Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, a 6-foot-3, junior ranked No. 1 at his position according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

"I feel I can do everything they need from a defensive tackle for their team," Floyd added in his sales pitch to the media.

Mayock estimates six defensive tackles will be drafted in the first-round, a group most that could be led by Floyd.

Interestingly enough, Floyd wasn't a fan of NFL football until 2007 where he watched the Indianapolis Colts win the Super Bowl. Before then, Floyd mostly watched the Disney Channel.

Now, he's all about the pro game and hopes he can crack the top-10 come April, preferably to his hometown Philadelphia Eagles who hold the No. 4 overall selection.

Another player hoping to be drafted by the Eagles is Oregon defensive end Dion Jordan, Mayock's No. 1 rated outside linebacker. In college, Jordan played for Philadelphia's new head coach, Chip Kelly.

Jordan's athleticism and versatility just might set him apart from all other hybrid defensive ends. He came to Oregon as a wide receiver prospect and wound up playing all over the defensive front.

The position switch wasn't regretted by Jordan at all.

"Not at all," said the pass-rusher who recorded five sacks as a senior in a variety of roles for the Ducks. "I understand that was my best opportunity for me to get on the football field.

"I stuck with it and things worked out for the best."

Jordan, a 6-foot-6, 243-pound senior, will need shoulder surgery after the combine. But for now, he wants to show teams how versatile he can be. Jordan covered slot receivers, rushed off the edge and even put his hand in the dirt as a defensive end.

"I feel lining up all over the field shows my athleticism and that I know the game," he added.

Finding the right scheme is important for many of this year's draft eligble players, defensive tackles included.

Ohio State defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins believes he can fit a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme.

"It doesn't matter," said the 6-foot-3, 320-pound lineman.

More importantly than showing his ability to play defensive tackle or nose tackle, Hankins wants to showcase his motor and overall athleticism in his combine drills.

"It's amazing being here," Hankins said. "We've talked about being here since college."

In a similar vein, Georgia defensive tackle John Jenkins believes he has the size and ability to play in any kind of defense in the NFL.

Size isn't an issue in his mind.

Jenkins weighed 370 pounds in the SEC Championship loss to the eventual BCS champion Alabama Crimson Tide, but has now trimmed down to 346.

"It wasn't tough at all," Jenkins said of the weight loss. "It was all work ethic."

The defensive line class will have plenty of opportunities from now until April 25 to showcase their talents. Combine drills, in-person interviews with teams and strong pro day performances will all separate the group in time.

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