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The top 10 to 15 picks in the NFL draft must be able to play right away. The team is typically coming off a disappointing season and looking to get back on track ASAP.
Naturally, prospects that are able to step in and produce from the get-go are going to be more coveted than a raw talent that needs to be coached up.
With that in mind, here are the three prospects on defense that are potential rookie of the year candidates due to their ability to make an immediate impact just like Von Miller did in 2011, yet they may not end up as the best three players in the entire class.
Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
At 6’0’’, 175 pounds, he is the ideal height and only needs to add around 10 pounds of bulk to be a dominant force in the NFL.
Claiborne’s top-end speed is second to none in this draft, and his coverage skills are outstanding. Claiborne does a terrific job of baiting the QB into thinking the receiver is open only to make up the difference in a flash.
He is SEC-tested and ready to start right away the way his old teammate Patrick Peterson was a year ago. With his previous experience as a receiver and a return man, Claiborne is going to have a huge impact on whichever team he lands with right off the bat.
Luke Kuehly, LB, Boston College
Nobody had more tackles in 2011 than Kuehly. He is extremely intelligent when it comes to angles and his ability to avoid offensive blockers. When asked to evaluate one of the top linebackers in the class, former NFL player and current linebacker coach at IMG’s Madden Football Academy Howard Tippett believes his athletic ability will stand out:
He’s just a natural athlete. When I first looked at him out here ... I told (IMG’s director of speed and movement) Loren (Seagrave) the kid looks like a decathlon guy. He really does. He’s built, he’s really built solid. He’s got good feet, change directions.
He went on to call the Butkus Award winner a three-down linebacker
Tippett has been working with Kuehly for the last month and has been one of the few to get an up-close look recently.
At 6’3’’, 247 pounds Kuehly may not have the off the charts athleticism of others, but he will likely be a starter from the first day of training camp.
Devon Still, DT, Penn State
Still is an incredibly large load to move at 6’5’’, 310 pounds. He is big enough to clog the holes up the gut, but light enough to stay on the field for all three downs.
The problem with some of the other DTs in the draft is their lack of conditioning and ability to give a consistent effort. Still has the same issue, but makes up for it with terrific lateral movement and a collegiate career that progressed every season. He has shown the urgency in wanting to get better.
His bull rush approach doesn’t always translate to the next level, but that’s how strong Still is. He can physically dominate from Day 1.
Still won’t be a top-10 pick, but he will have a top-10 impact.