The NFL Combine is now complete and while outside of Jadeveon Clowney, the offensive side of the ball has gotten most of the attention, the defensive side of the ball has a plethora of talent. There is depth at each level which will include several players selected at the top of the draft.
Our high level overview:
Jadeveon Clowneyis an enigma of sorts. Yes, he oozes talent but his work ethic has been openly challenged. What will he be in the pros? You can forget the questions about his character and throw away the speeding tickets. Clowney will be a top five pick at worst and could be the first player off the board. The defensive ends selected after him will fall somewhat under the radar but Dee Ford will be a good situational pass rusher at worst. Kony Ealy is a quick end who in the right system could be a factor. Oregon State’s Scott Crichton and Stanford’s Trent Murphy will be drafted in the first two rounds. Overall this is a good group with Clowney being the clear cut leader.
Aaron Donald is our top rated defensive tackle. Critics will point out his height and his short arms, but the fact remains this kid can flat out play. His measurables and style of plan strike an uncanny resemblance to Geno Atkins who also received the same critiques. Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is a force in the middle, as is the heavy Louis Nix from Notre Dame. Nix’s teammate Stephon Tuitt and Minnesota’s RaShede Hageman could also crack the first round. There is plenty of depth at the position including the ultra talented Will Sutton who could be a big time force. As a sleepe, keep an eye on Tennessee’s Daniel McCullers, a 350+lb. behemoth.
It’s a two horse race for the top pick in the group. Anthony Barr was the consensus pick early in the game but Buffalo’s Khalil Mack has quickly put himself in contention. I believe both will be very good pros but Mack’s raw talent will be the difference. Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier is a very good athlete but somewhat undersized. BYU’s Kyle Van Noy should go in the second round along with Shazier. Keep an eye on Iowa’s Christian Kirksey as he could be a mid round steal.
Not a deep group by most accounts but there is some very good talent, starting with Alabama’s C.J. Mosley who will no doubt be a first round pick. He is big and mobile and has very good instincts. Stanford’s Shayne Skov will likely slide but this kid is an animal who plays with pure ferocity. The same could be said for Wisconsin’s Chris Borland.His measurables aren’t perfect but he is a heck of a football player. Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood could sneak into the second round but I would take Borland and Skov before him. As a sleeper, Michigan State’s Max Bullough is a football player, a good football player. Teams that pass on him will likely regret it.
Quite possibly the deepest position in the draft and ironically possibly only trumped by the wide receiver group, features at least four potential first round picks. The first likely to be taken is Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard. He is a tough, physical corner with very good coverage skills. Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert is equally impressive. He has great size and skills to boot. Jason Verrett is a very skilled corner but doesn’t have the size of his counterparts. There is a very good possibility that Ohio State’s Bradley Roby passes Verrett. Virginia Tech’s Kyler Fuller could up being as good as any in the class. He possesses outstanding size. Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste may fall into the late second round, but is my favorite of the group. He stands in at 6’3”, weighing 220 lbs.
The position has significantly changed due to several factors. First and foremost, Goodell’s rules have severely lessened the need for a big hitting enforcer. Furthermore, the demand for an in the box safety has dramatically decreased placing more emphasis on coverage abilities. With that said, the top player of the group is Alabama’s Hasean Clinton-Dix. He is a good athlete with size and coverage skills. He will likely be picked in the first round. The second safety off the board is up in the air - likely between Louisville’s Calvin Pryor and FSU’s Terrence Brooks as free safeties and strong safeties Jimmie Ward and my favorite, Washington State’s Deone Bucannon. Baylor’s Ahmad Dixon could slide into the bottom half of the draft and some team will greatly benefit. He is a thumper who will be a good pro.
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