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This year’s crop of defensive linemen got reduced by its biggest potential asset when Jadeveon Clowney became a Texan in the 3-4 (three down linemen and four linebackers) system.  He will play an outside linebacker role, rushing from alawrence two point stance.  There are a few exciting defensive linemen that should provide good potential dynasty fantasy value.  For a short review, defensive linemen that play in a 4-3 (four down linemen and three linebackers) usually get more opportunities to tackle the ball carrier, sack the quarterback, and cause turnovers.  In a 3-4 system, the defensive line is more responsible for keeping the offensive line occupied to let the linebackers roam to make the play.

1. DE Demarcus Lawrence, Dallas

He is in the best situation to succeed this season and in the next three to five years.  Sure Lawrence is a little undersized to play defensive end in a 4-3 system, but he possesses good speed and size to bend the edge.  With his combination of power and quickness, Lawrence could become a top ten fantasy option at defensive end.  He might not ever be the best Dallas Demarcus ever, but he may come close.

2. DT Aaron Donald, Rams

Donald landed in the perfect spot for him!  He will play the free roaming defensive tackle in a 4-3, leaving him to flow to the ball and cause havoc.  Offensive schemes will not be able to key on him due to the other members of the impressive St. Louis front four.  Donald has a great blend of speed, quickness, and power with good vision that will cement him in the top five dynasty defensive tackles.

3. DE Kony Ealy, Panthers

The Kevin Hardy off-field situation is making this pick easier to understand.  Ealy uses swim moves, spins, and power strikes to rip thru offensive lines. He is significantly better at rushing the quarterback than playing the run at this time in his development.  It’s Ealy’s initial penetration and quickness off the snap that makes him very dangerous, especially with the talented defensive front seven in Carolina.

4. DE Scott Crichton, Vikings

The young defensive end might take a little time to make an impact with the veteran talent that is in front of him.  Crichton’s motor keeps on running non-stop and plays equally well against the pass as he does the run.  The defensive end disengages quickly leaving him to attack the signal caller or flow to the ball quickly.

5. DE Stephon Tuitt, Steelers

This isn’t the typical recommendation as Tuitt plays in a 3-4 system and he is not close athletically to JJ Watt.  Tuitt is a huge athletic man with tremendous quickness and power.  I expect him to anchor well against the run, but if he fully recovers from a hernia that he played thru in 2013 and a hair-line fracture in his foot, Tuitt could be special.

6. DT/DE RaShede Hageman, Falcons

When you take a look at this hulking man in person, like I did at the Senior Bowl, you will come away impressed.  It isn’t the physical tools that cause concern, it’s the effort.  The defensive lineman can play defensive tackle, nose tackle, and either defensive end spot.  Hageman is a very raw player, but shows quickness off the line, uses tremendous power, and finds the ball.

7. DE Chris Smith, Jaguars

He is best suited for the Leo role in the Jaguars defense if the young defensive end develops.  Smith is quick off the line, has good agility, and adjusts his pad level to dip or spin away from offensive linemen.  The defensive end loses track of the ball if he doesn’t get there right away.

8. DT Dominique Easley, Patriots

The multiple knee injuries are very concerning, but the Patriots best defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, is nearing the end.  Easley has quick feet and uses his hands to keep offensive linemen off his body.  If you need to start a DT in your league, this is a plug and play guy.

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