INDIANAPOLIS -- They are the wanted ones. As they come to meet with the media here at the NFL combine, they come with the knowledge that the skill they have is something each and every team craves and wants.
|Jamaal Anderson is closing in on being the first DE taken in the draft. (Getty Images)|
They are the pass rushers, the defensive ends who can change a game in an instant with a sack-fumble play or make a quarterback's eye level drop a tad as he tries to catch a glance at that blur coming at him, causing a pick to go the other way.
In an NFL that has moved to more spread formations on offense and more pass-first teams, countering with a pass rusher is imperative for a successful defense.
The Indianapolis Colts won a Super Bowl with two speed rushers on the edge, neither weighing more than 255 pounds. One, Dwight Freeney, is an elite rusher who can change the dynamics of a game.
Freeney is one of four defensive ends who were given franchise tags last week, proof of their value. Those players rarely hit the market, and when they do, they are scooped up as the free-agency period begins.
"I pay attention to that," University of Texas defensive end Tim Crowder said. "I definitely know the value there."
Crowder is one of this year's wanted ones, one of a deep class loaded with top-notch pass rushers.
"If you need a pass rusher, they are in this draft," said one NFC personnel director. "This is six or seven deep."
It starts with the Big Two. They are Jamaal Anderson of Arkansas and Gaines Adams of Clemson.
Anderson is bigger at almost 6-foot-6 and 278 pounds. Adams is just under 6-5 and weighed in at 258 pounds. Both have the speed to come off the corner.
Anderson is the player who has really moved up a lot of team's boards. He is a junior who still has not played his best football. Here's how athletic he is: In high school he played receiver and defensive end and was ranked as a top 50 receiver by one recruiting service.
"His natural ability is amazing," said the NFC personnel director. "He has a chance to be better than the guy who went No. 1 last year."