2012 NFL Draft: Best Defensive Players
The 2012 NFL draft brings tremendous talent on both sides of the ball.
It was the year of the quarterback as ESPN would like to say, but at the end of the day, it was the old football logic of defense wins championships that proved right once again. Alabama proved in the national championship game why a dominant defense will always win in the end.
This year's draft will have plenty of firepower on the offense to talk about, but what most people don't know is that there's some seriously talented playmakers on defense as well.
History shows that the SEC is a powerhouse for developing players into future pros, and four out of the five players I would like to showcase are from teams in the SEC.
Here are the top five defensive players from the 2012 NFL draft.
5. Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
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Burfict is one of the best football players I have been able to see throughout college football this year. He has a non-stop motor, and he will hit you hard until the final play of the game.
When I watch Burfict play, I immediately think of Ray Lewis. He has a great amount of passion for the game and makes teammates around him want to play harder. He's excellent at reading run plays and has the speed to come up and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
He does have his flaws though.
Burfict is often in the middle of post whistle push around and has had a slew of personal foul penalties called against him in his days.
If he can improve on his attitude and be a more consistent wrap up tackler, I can see Burfict being one of the better linebackers in the NFL.
4. Dont'a Hightower, OLB, Alabama
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Here's the man in the middle of one of the best college football defenses in the past 20 years.
Dont'a Hightower is a 6'4'', 260-pound, athletic linebacker. He's without a doubt first-round talent when he's 100 percent healthy. A major advantage of his is he has been with the Crimson Tide for four years now and has gotten plenty of reps for head coach Nick Saban over that course of time.
Hightower is your classic downhill power linebacker and has a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He's best fit for an outside linebacker position in a 3-4 defense to completely maximize his pass-rushing talent.
You will see Hightower making big plays early and for a long time in his NFL career. With the upside he has, as long as he stays healthy, he can be a special player.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Dre Kirkpatrick is a top shutdown corner in college football today.
Standing in at 6'3'', 185 pounds, I see him progressing into an elite cornerback in the NFL.
His recent drug charges may drop him lower down in the first round, bumping him from a top 12 to a top 20 prospect, but that certainly doesn't take away his talent.
Kirkpatrick is one of the best zone-coverage corners in the draft. He has deceptive 4.4 40 speed and can close in on a ball in an instant.
As long as he stays out of trouble and committed to himself and his team, he will be a big steal come draft night.
2. Melvin Ingram, DE/OLB, South Carolina
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Melvin Ingram may be the best defensive athlete in the entire draft.
At 6'2'', 275 pounds, you couldn't tell if he's a running back or defensive end by the way he can run.
Ingram, aside from being a great athlete, was one of the premier pass-rushers in college football this year. From his unforgiving spin moves to his ability to split offensive linemen, Ingram seems to be the most promising pass-rushing defensive end in this year's draft. He has unbelievable closing speed and will deliver a big hit on several occasions throughout the course of a game.
When you think of Melvin Ingram, think of a bigger, faster, more athletic James Harrison. Hard to believe right? You can put him as a puss-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme, and he will absolutely wreck havoc on offensive lines.
Ingram is a serious talent and will be a force in the NFL for many years to come.
1. Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
The All-American Morris Claiborne was one of the most overlooked players on LSU's perfect regular season.
The media seemed to talk more about Tyrann Matheiu, but Morris Claiborne was without a doubt the best player on LSU's stellar defense.
I like to think of Claiborne as a defensive assassin. He's becoming a master of being silently dominant, as he was all year for the Tigers. With his 6'1'', 180-pound frame, he's one of the most physical cornerbacks at the line of scrimmage in the draft.
What also helps Claiborne become the top defensive player is his ability to play the run. This guy will always be in on tackles as he has excellent closing speed and the strength to make the tackles on big NFL backs.
Claiborne is the best defensive prospect in the 2012 NFL draft, but it will be his work ethic at the next level that will make him an all-time great.