Kiper's Top 5 by position: Defense

More Kiper: Offense | Juniors

Defensive ends
1. Brian Orakpo, Texas
2. *Aaron Maybin, Penn State
3. Robert Ayers, Tennessee
4. Tyson Jackson, LSU
5. *Everette Brown, Florida State

As many as seven defensive linemen could be picked in Round 1, and both positions provide enough depth that teams could select a few quality players in the middle rounds. I view Orakpo as a 4-3 defensive end who also could play on his feet in a 3-4 as an attacking outside linebacker. He's super athletic and incredibly strong. The only concern with Orakpo is durability.

Maybin is another combo type who is explosive out of the blocks and relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback. Brown is next in line. He's not at the level of Orakpo and Maybin but should draw mid-first-round consideration. Jackson would be ideal in a 3-4 scheme and could shift inside to defensive tackle in passing situations. He's another mid-first-round type. Ayers enjoyed a solid season in the SEC and stood out at the Senior Bowl practices. I thought he'd run about a 4.6-second time in the 40 at the combine workout, but he clocked only a 4.80. If during individual testing he can push that number down closer to what I expected, he'll come off the board between picks No. 20 and No. 32.

Players on the rise at defensive end include Cincinnati's Connor Barwin, USC's Kyle Moore, Connecticut's Cody Brown, Hawaii's David Veikune and San Jose State's Jarron Gilbert. Brown could end up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, while Gilbert has prior experience at defensive tackle.

The enigma at defensive end is Georgia Tech's Michael Johnson. He's blessed with a ton of ability and pass-rush potential but didn't come through with anything close to the dominating senior season I expected of him. As you noticed if you followed the big board every week all season, he slid down gradually the entire way until he was no longer in the top 25 at all. If he steps up his intensity and plays a more physical brand of football, you could be looking at one heck of a player in the NFL. He's a roll of the dice, though, because he could be a major disappointment.

The rest of Mel's rankings are for ESPN Insiders.Insider