We’ve seen this class of prospective NFL talent run through the college season. We’ve seen them go through all of the combine drills, and get set for pro day’s this coming month. And with the 2013 NFL Draft on its way in less than two months, these individual rankings will take on even more significance as players get set to make their final push up draft boards.
In this breakdown of defensive players available in the 2013 NFL Draft we take a look at the top five players at each position–in addition to a short list of players “on the bubble”, who could be considered top-five talent at the position.
Bjoern Werner, Florida State - 6’4″ 255 lbs: Arguably the best DE in the draft, Werner still has plenty of room for growth considering he only started playing football at age 15. His speed, strength and high motor will certainly translate as a 4-3 DE.
Ezekial Ansah, BYU – 6’5” 271 lbs: Ansah has garnered comparisons to Giants DE Jason
Pierre-Paul because of his freakish natural athletic ability and limited experience. Ansah’s versatility is hard to overlook, as he was used all over the BYU front-seven in 2012 and projects as a potential outside linebacker in the NFL. His enormous upside will almost certainly make him a Round 1 pick, and could see him taken in the draft’s top-10 picks.
Damontre Moore, Texas A&M - 6’4″248 lbs: The former Aggie defensive end is still considered one of the best defensive lineman available in the draft, despite an absolutely abysmal performance at the combine last week. While some project Moore as an outside linebacker in the NFL, the safer transition for him will be as a traditional 4-3 defensive end.
Datone Jones, UCLA – 6’4” 283 lbs: Jones is a versatile lineman who projects as a fit in both three and four-man defensive lines. He possesses surprising quickness and burst, in addition to solid tackling technique. One of the biggest concerns in his game is his ability to anchor, as Jones is at times easily knocked off balance and out of the play.
Margus Hunt, SMU – 6’8” 277 lbs: Hunt’s ascension during the pre-draft process isn’t much of
shock considering his extreme athleticism and enormous build. Like Ansah, Hunt is a former track and field star who despite being extremely raw on the football field, has blossomed into an impressive talent at SMU. His athleticism was on full display at the combine, which could help him become a Day 1 selection.
On The Bubble: Tank Carradine (FSU), Alex Okafor (Texas), Sam Montgomery (LSU)
Star Lotuleli, Utah – 6’4″ 325 lbs: Lotuleli is a big, strong, NFL-ready defender that boasts surprising speed and explosiveness despite his massive physique. Asked to play both the 3-technique and as a nose tackle in 3-4 fronts at Utah, Lotulei boasts impressive lateral movement
and enough power to drive offensive lineman backward. His heart condition might change his overall value, but until we know more it’s hard to consider him as anything but one of the best at the position.
Shariff Floyd, Florida – 6’3” 297 lbs: Floyd has been flying up draft boards thanks in large part to his obvious athleticism, quickness, and versatility at the position. While he may be best suited to play the 3-tech in a 4-3 scheme, the overwhelming belief is that he could also have a fit playing 5-tech in certain situations.
Sheldon Richardson, Missouri -6’4″295 lbs: While he lacks experience (only 13 starts), Richardson’s emergence on the defensive line in his junior season has fueled his rise up draft boards. Although issues surrounding his consistency and off-field behavior could hurt his stock, his ability to rush the passer and chase down ball carriers from behind makes him one of the best tackles in the draft from a pure talent perspective.
Kawann Short, Purdue – 6’3″ 325 lbs – Short is a very tough defender who can contribute
against both the run and the pass. His impressive technique and physicality allows him to gain separation from blockers and make an impact in the backfield. He projects best as a 3-4 nose tackle and appears up to the task of taking on double-teams at the next level.
Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia - 6’4″ 359 lbs – The former Georgia Bulldog has a wide frame and is capable of clogging up running lanes and taking on multiple blockers. Jenkins has impressive lateral quickness for a man of his size, while also possessing the raw power needed to push back blockers.
On The Bubble: Sylvester Williams (UNC), Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State), Brandon Williams (Missouri Southern State)
Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia - 6’3″ 237 lbs: Ogletree is a very fast and athletic linebacker, capable of making plays all over the field. A converted safety, the UGA ‘backer possesses a leaner than ideal frame and will need to improve his ability to shed blocks and become more consistent against the run. Ogletree could be a fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker, although he’s more likely to find a job inside in the NFL.
Kevin Minter, LSU – 6’0” 240 lbs: Minter wasn’t a starter at LSU until 2012 but he fully took advantage of the opportunity when it cam his way, finishing with 130 tackles and a team-high15 tackles for a loss. There are some concerns with his lateral speed, but his ability to impact the run defense and play in coverage will likely see him picked early Day 2.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame - 6’1″ 248 lbs: His off-field (or ‘online’) issues, coupled with his performance in the BCS Title Game and struggles at the combine have certainly hurt his draft stock the past few months. And with all of the concerns surrounding him, it’s becoming more and more likely that Te’o will out of the first round.
Kiko Alonso, Oregon – 6’3” 242 lbs –Right off the bat it’s hard to miss Alonso’s tenacity and nose
for the football as the inside linebacker regularly flashes on film. Alonso boasts an impressive combination of size and speed, and possesses the ability to help in coverage as well as against the run.
Jon Bostic, Florida – 6’1” 245 lbs: Bostic was the most consistent player on the Florida defense in 2012, showing the ability to shed blocks and impact the Gator run defense. His tremendous motor, abilities in coverage and experience in 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes makes him a very interesting ILB prospect.
On The Bubble: Kevin Reddick (UNC), Nico Johnson (Alabama)
Dion Jordan, Oregon – 6’7″ 243 lbs: Jordan possesses ideal speed, size and athleticism to
succeed as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. He’s a sure tackler, able to play in coverage, and very energetic. It’s important to note that he’s still raw and will need to add weight, which may be difficult to do considering his upcoming shoulder surgery.
Jarvis Jones, Georgia -6’3″ 241 lbs: This draft is loaded with OLB’s, and Jones is certainly one of the most desired of the group. The Georgia stud defender boasts good size, versatility and a relentless motor, projecting best as a 3-4 OLB in the NFL. His versatile skill set should not only make him a terrific pass rusher, but also keep him on the field in all situations. The biggest concern with Jones –aside from his spinal stenosis diagnosis –is his size, as it’s not likely that Jones will be able to add much mass.
Barkevious Mingo, LSU – 6’5″ 240 lbs: It’s my opinion that Mingo has the biggest boom or bust
potential at the position this year. He’s still very raw- he only started playing football as a junior in high school- and certainly lacks experience, but his frame, speed, and athleticism are so impressive that he’s hard to dismiss. A team will likely take a chance on him in the top 15 picks and develop him as an outside ‘backer.
Kasim Greene, Rutgers – 6’1” 241 lbs: He projects best as a 4-3 weak-side linebacker, as his speed and flexibility make him a threat both in coverage and pass rushing situations. Greene also has concerns with his size –he’s built more like a safety than an OLB –and his ability to get off blocks, but his athleticism and ability to make plays on the ball gets him on this list.
Arthur Brown, Kansas State – 6’1” 241 lbs: Brown has concerns regarding his size and long-term health, but his balance, athleticism, and ability to play in coverage make him a very interesting option outside. While he possesses impressive explosiveness and the ability to shed blocks, there aren’t many people who expect Brown to grow into an elite playmaker in the NFL.
On The Bubble: Sio Moore (Connecticut), Corey Lemonier (Auburn), Chase Thomas (Stanford), Jamie Collins (Southern Miss.)
Dee Milliner, Alabama -6’1″ 197 lbs: The best cornerback in the draft, Milliner leads a fairly weak
CB crop in 2013. The Alabama junior has great size and instincts, and isn’t shy to impose his physicality. While he sometimes gets caught out of position, his overall awareness and playmaking ability make him a great prospect at cornerback.
Xavier Rhodes, Florida State, 6’1″ 210 lbs – Rhodes is one of the more physically imposing
corners in this draft—and he certainly uses it to his advantage. He has smooth hips and excellent balance, which allows him to change direction well and make plays on the ball in the air. A lack of consistency is the biggest issue surrounding the big defensive back.
Desmond Trufant, Washington, 6’0″ 190 lbs - Trufant boasts above average top end speed, as well as a change of direction ability similar to Rhodes. Trufant also has solid play recognition skills, which allows him to diagnose plays quickly and make plays on the ball in run support. The truth is, Trufant could easily replace Rhodes as the No. 2 corner on this list.
Jordan Poyer, Oregon State, 6’0” 182 lbs: Poyer saw his stock rise following his impressive week at the Senior Bowl, and after performing well at the combine, he’s leapfrogged Banks as a potential low-first round/second round prospect. While there’s lots of negativity surrounding Poyer’s lack of ideal top speed, it’s his toughness at the line of scrimmage and closing speed that intrigue me. While he may not be able to run with every receiver, his presence and physicality inside five yards is certainly a strength and will help him tremendously in the NFL.
Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State, 6’ 2″ 185 lbs: Banks’ stock took a hit at the combine as concerns about his speed and agility were confirmed with his poor performance. While he was vying for a spot late in the first round, it’s likely that he’ll find himself going sometime early on Day 2 instead.
On The Bubble: Leon McFadden (San Diego State), Robert Alford (Southeast Louisiana), Blidi Wreh-Wilson (Connecticut), David Amerson (NC State)
Matt Elam, Florida, 5’10” 205 lbs: The former Florida safety gets lots of recognition for his ability to make plays, but the truth is he may be the most well-rounded safety in this class. It’s that versatile approach and stellar athletic ability that make him the best safety in this class and a potential pro-bowl player in the NFL.
Kenny Vaccaro, Texas - 6’1″ 218 lbs: Vaccaro is the No. 1 safety on many boards, but it’s his struggles at the line of scrimmage and his lack of playmaking instincts that worry me most. While his tackling technique is a concern, his ability to cover isn’t, as he was regularly asked to pick up the slot receiver at Texas and boasted an impressive backpedal and ability to turn and run.
Jon Cyprien, FIU – 6’0” 209 lbs: Playing at a non-BCS school can makes it difficult to get
recognized, but Cyprien’s athletic and aggressive approach finds him among the top defensive backs in the draft. While he was considered a “sleeper pick” a few months ago, his impressive performance at the Senior Bowl has basically ruined the surprise, as Cyprien is likely a Round 2 pick this April.
Eric Reid, LSU – 6’2” 212 lbs: There are plenty of concerns with Reid based off his 2012 tape, most notably the fact that he was consistently beat deep throughout the season. It’s certainly a concern as he heads into the draft, and while he may have been better suited heading back to LSU for his senior season, his 2011 success will likely help him get drafted sometime on Day 2.
Duke Williams, Nevada – 6’0″ 190 lbs: This might be considered high for Williams—who spent his career in the less than competitive Mountain West Conference—but his speed, athleticism and willingness to throw around his body are just too hard to ignore.
On The Bubble: Shamarko Thomas (Syracuse), J.J. Wilcox (Georgia Southern), Phillip Thomas (Fresno State), Josh Evans (Florida).