It is a well-rounded group, with a strong class of pass-rushers off the edge, interior penetrators and run-stuffing nose tackles who will plug the middle of the line. USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams rates as the top player on some draft boards, and defensive ends Shane Ray, Randy Gregory and Bud Dupree should be top-20 picks.
The Dallas Cowboys’ biggest off-season move came in the signing of defensive end Greg Hardy. Dallas had only 28 sacks last season, with Jeremy Mincey leading the team with six. DeMarcus Lawrence, who missed nine games with a broken foot, will get first nod at earning a starting job on the other side. Mincey, Ben Gardner, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve, and Jack Crawford will compete for playing time in the team’s rotation. The Cowboys moved Tyrone Crawford from defensive end to the three-technique last season and were happy with the results. He had three sacks and was solid. Nick Hayden re-signed to play the nose, though the Cowboys have hopes Josh Brent got the rust off with two games last season after missing the 2013 season. Terrell McClain also should see playing time in the defensive tackle rotation. The Cowboys might pass on a defensive tackle, but they will take a defensive end or two.
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Top three DEs
Shane Ray, Missouri, 6-3, 249, 4.64: As Kony Ealy’s replacement at RDE, he set school records for tackles for loss (22.5) and sacks (14.5).
Randy Gregory, Nebraska, 6-5, 235, 4.64: He made 20 career starts with 120 tackles, 17.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss.
Bud Dupree, Kentucky, 6-4, 269, 4.56: He made 36 career starts, with 23.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss.
Top three DTs
Leonard Williams, USC, 6-5, 302, 4.97: In 35 starts, he made 218 tackles, 36.5 tackles for loss and 21 sacks.
Malcom Brown, Texas, 6-2, 319, 5.05: He made 26 starts, with 165 tackles, 29 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
Danny Shelton, Washington, 6-2, 339, 5.64: He made 40 starts, with 208 tackles, 24 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
Lynden Trail, DE, Norfolk State, 6-7, 269, 4.91: Trail originally signed with Florida but never played in two years there. In 27 starts over three years at Norfolk State, he made 19.5 sacks.
Top Texas ties
Danielle Hunter, DE, LSU, 6-5, 252, 4.57: The Katy Morton Ranch product, projected as a second- or third-rounder, made 23 career starts with 142 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Mario Edwards Jr., DE, Florida State, 6-3, 279, 4.84: The Denton Ryan product, projected as a third-rounder, is the son of former Cowboys cornerback Mario Edwards.
Christian Covington, DT, Rice, 6-2, 289, 4.91; Covington, projected as a third- or fourth-rounder, made 31 starts, with 122 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
Cedric Reed, DE, Texas, 6-5, 269, NA: Reed, projected as a fifth- or sixth-rounder, is rehabbing from a torn meniscus that required surgery.
Joey Mbu, DT, Houston, 6-3, 313, 5.54: Mbu, projected as a fifth- or sixth-rounder, made 34 starts, with 92 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks.
Martin Ifedi, DE, Memphis, 6-3, 275, 4.88: The Houston Westside product, projected as a late-round pick, made 31 career starts with 22.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss.
Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue, 6-4, 269, 4.75: The Carrollton Creekview product, projected as a late-round pick, made 47 career starts with 10 sacks and 25 tackles for loss.
Heights, weights and 40 times compiled from CBS Sportsline.
April 30-May 2, Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, Chicago
Round 1: 7 p.m. April 30. Rounds 2-3: 6 p.m. May 1. Rounds 4-7: 11 a.m. May 2.
TV: NFL Network, ESPN
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2. Tennessee Titans
3. Jacksonville Jaguars
4. Oakland Raiders
5. Washington Redskins
6. New York Jets
7. Chicago Bears
8. Atlanta Falcons
9. New York Giants
10. St. Louis Rams
11. Minnesota Vikings
12. Cleveland Browns
13. New Orleans Saints
14. Miami Dolphins
15. San Francisco 49ers
16. Houston Texans
17. San Diego Chargers
18. Kansas City Chiefs
19. Cleveland Browns*
20. Philadelphia Eagles
21. Cincinnati Bengals
22. Pittsburgh Steelers
23. Detroit Lions
24. Arizona Cardinals
25. Carolina Panthers
26. Baltimore Ravens
27. Dallas Cowboys
28. Denver Broncos
29. Indianapolis Colts
30. Green Bay Packers
31. New Orleans Saints**
32. New England Patriots