What a difference a couple of months can make. Two new prospects show up in my re-ranking of the defensive line to go along with a complete shake up at the top. You can see my rankings from January here.
*Keep in mind that these rankings do not include 4-3 defensive ends or defensive ends that could convert to linebacker. I ranked only the linemen that could line up in a 3-4 at either 5-technique end or 0-technique tackle.
1. Sharrif Floyd 6-3 297lbs - Florida Stock: Rising Projection: Top 10
2. Star Lotulelei 6-2 311lbs - Utah Stock: Rising Projection: Top 15
3. Sheldon Richardson 6-2 294lbs - Missouri Stock: Steady Projection: Top 15
4. Datone Jones 6-4 283lbs - UCLA Stock: Rising Projection: Late 1st/Early 2nd
5. Jesse Williams 6-3 323lbs - Alabama Stock: Falling Projection: Late 1st/Early 2nd
6. Johnathan Hankins 6-3 320lbs - Ohio State Stock: Steady Projection: Late 1st/Early 2nd
7. Kawann Short 6-3 299lbs - Purdue Stock: Steady Projection: Late 1st/early 2nd
8. Margus Hunt 6-8 277lbs - SMU Stock: Rising Projection: Late 1st/early 2nd
9. Sylvester Williams 6-3 313lbs - North Carolina Stock: Falling Projection: 2nd round
10A. Jonathan Jenkins 6-4 346lbs - Georgia Stock: Falling Projection: 2nd round
**Ziggy Ansah projects at either OLB or DE. If he were exclusively at DL I'd rank him No. 4 behind Sheldon Richardson.
In the new rankings for defensive line, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd jumps four spots to No.1. Floyd has been nothing short of impressive during workouts, drills and interviews over the last two months. Initial mock drafts slated Floyd as a mid to late first rounder.
Floyd, in my opinion, would be best suited as a 3-technique lineman in a base 4-3 defense. While he's perfectly capable of lining up as a 5-technique in a 3-4, I think with his ability to pressure the pocket his talents could be capitalized on more in a 4-3 system.
Lotulelei was once considered a consensus top five pick. However, a recently discovered heart condition caused his stock to fall in February. Recently, doctors cleared Lotulelei and it doesn't appear the condition will be much of an issue at all. Still, the damage may have been done. Lotulelei will still be a first round pick but he's no longer the lock he once was to go in the top 5-10.
Both Lotulelei and Richardson could fall anywhere within the top 5-15. The closer they fall to the middle of the round, you have to wonder how strong the 49ers front office considers moving up to take one of the two talented lineman in the first round.
Datone Jones is one of two prospects ranked that weren't listed in my previous rankings. Jones has climbed from second/third round pick to a near certain first rounder. Jones performed well at the combine, showing off a 4.8-second forty speed and impressive explosiveness with a 31.5" vertical jump and a 112" broad jump. Jones has the size of a 5-technique end but needs to prove he can anchor well enough to play a two-gap assignment in the base 3-4 defense.
Margus Hunt from SMU is the other prospect listed that wasn't ranked in my previous edition. Hunt has become quite the fan favorite on Niners Nation due to his overwhelming size and freak athleticism. His 4.6-second forty was faster than some wide receivers at the combine. He also posted an impressive 38 reps on the bench showing off his brute strength.
Hunt is still developing into a football player having only first played in 2009. The 25 year-old soon-to-be rookie will be one of the older players available in this year's draft. If not for his age and inexperience, Hunt would likely be a top 15 pick. Check out Hunt's prospect profile here.
Brandon Williams is a name I see many Niners fans tossing around as a potential second or third round pick. The small school product, and three-time All-American, is versatile enough, despite his size, to play several positions along the defensive line. He projects best as a 0-technique nose tackle but is explosive and quick enough play the 5 as well. Williams is incredibly strong (38 reps at the combine) and would be a solid replacement for Isaac Sopoaga and versatile enough to provide depth at end.