Sorry for the length. This may warrant it's own thread. I feel like most of the people on this board understand how what to look for in a 3-4 End. I don't mean to condescend at all, I just think it could be instructive to take a look at some of the premier 3-4 Ends in the current NFL in terms of their combine measurables and current measurables. Obviously, not all 3-4 ends are built the same, but if you look at some of the best 3-4 ends, there is a pattern in terms of their height and weight.
Starting with the elite 3-4 ends
(pardon the inclusion of Richard Seymour and Aaron Smith, they used to be standard bearers not so long ago)
Combine - 6' 4" 267 lbs / Current - 6' 4" 285 lbs. Pick 4 of draft
Combine - 6' 5" 290 lbs / Current - 6' 5" 295 lbs. Pick 11 of draft
Combine - 6' 6" 299 lbs / Current (now playing 4-3 DT) - 6' 4" 317 lbs. Pick 6 of draft
Combine - 6' 5" 279 lbs / Current 6' 5" 298 lbs. Pick 109 of draft
Combine - 6' 4" 279 lbs / Current 6' 4" 290 lbs. Pick 97 of draft
Combine - 6' 8" 282 lbs / Current - 6' 8" 300 lbs. Pick 50 of draft
Combine - 6' 4" 297 lbs / Current - 6' 4" 290 lbs. Pick 64 of draft
And for one more example, a player from last year's draft I feel played the 3-4 end capably this season with the potential to be great in future seasons,
Combine - 6' 4" 299lbs / Current - 6'4" 300 lbs. Pick 49 of draft
Clearly there are other good 3-4 DEs I've left out - Randy Starks, Muhammed Wilkerson, Glen Dorsey (arguably) - though these three players also fit into the general body type displayed by the 3-4 DEs listed above. Also, it's not necessarily beneficial to pigeonhole prospects into "height - weight - speed" categories, though it can be at times (Chris Culliver may be a good example of a mid-round pick spent on a h-w-s prospect). Either way, the best 3-4 DEs in the NFL all fall into a weight class which bottoms out at 285 with Justin (though that listed weight seems a tad low to me) and tops out at about 300 lbs (315 if you include Wilkerson and assume Seymour's current playing weight is what he carried with the Pats). All these guys are also in the 6' 3" - 6' 6" range with good length, Calais Campbell being the exception.
Justin Smith and Aaron Smith, both being older players, clearly had a lot of bulking up to do when they came out of college. Justin Smith now compared to Justin Smith version 2001 is laughable. He looks skinny as a twig coming out of Mizzou. College players now are bigger, faster and stronger than ever - we hear this all the time. They understand the importance of the weight room unlike guys coming out 10-15 years ago. Ray McDonald had a couple years in an NFL weight training program before he grew into his frame and became a legit starting 3-4 end.
And actually, that paragraph above is one of the reasons I'm slightly
wary of Datone Jones as a 5 tech prospect. Look at his weigh in photo from the Senior Bowl (http://photos.al.com/mobile-press-register/2013/01/senior_bowl_2013_weigh-in_153.html
). He is jacked. That weigh-in is part of the excitement he's created on this forum and around scouting circles. Can he add another 10 lbs to his frame, or has he maxed out? Is he country boy strong like Cowboy where adding another 5 should suffice? In my mind, Jones is best suited as LE in a 4-3 defense, though I'm not ruling out at all that he could bulk up another 10 lbs more in the NFL which would allow him to be a solid 3-4 end. I just don't have the same sense of optimism on Jones as Phoenix. Certainly would not label him as the top 3-4 end available.
On the same note, I also don't feel Jesse Williams is a great fit as a 5-tech. I understand the argument that as an end he would essentially set the edge and make life easier for the LBs, but given the fact we play Nickel nearly 50% of the snaps, I think whoever we draft along the D-Line, especially in the early rounds, must display the ability to provide an impact in the interior pass rush (as Justin and Ray do now). I don't think Williams provides that. He could be a NT, but I still don't think he fits in with what the Niners want to do on defense.
Also, if you look at the top three 3-4 ends in recent memory (Justin, Watt and Seymour) they are all top picks. These guys were/are elite talents. It is highly doubtful we can grab a guy who can make an impact like those three at the end of the first round. This speaks to nickbradley's point; the best 3-4 DE will not be available at pick 32. However, we do have the picks to move up for an elite talent, and there will be plenty of potential starters and impact players at pick 32 and beyond.
My list of favorites for 3-4 DEs available in this draft:
1) Sheldon Richardson
(top 15) - Would need work on containment and setting the edge. Not worried though. Tomsula cures all ills. Outstanding interior presence.
2) Sharrif Floyd
(top 20) - From a technique standpoint he is probably superior to Richardson, having played end in college and understanding run containment. Not quite as high on his pure talent however.
3) Datone Jones
(top 50) - Needs to add weight as addressed above. Would like to see him destroy the bench press at the combine.
4) Margus Hunt
(rd. 2-3) - Calais Campbell alone gives me hope that a player at 6' 8" can be an effective 5 tech. I think Tomsula could make this work.
5) William Gholston
(rd. 3-5) - at 6' 6" and 278 Golston is underweight now, but adding 15 pounds to his long frame would not be out of the question. Very talented and a guy I think could develop into a monster under Tomsula and behind Justin. However, he had some issues in college (punched Taylor Lewan) and was suspended, and did not live up to expectations this year. A red flag for sure, which is the reason for his fall.