Defensive players including Morris Claiborne, Mark Barron and Luke Kuechly highlighted 17 defensive picks in the first round of last night's NFL draft, leaving several players on the defensive side of the football still waiting to hear their names on day two.
Players like Courtney Upshaw, Jerel Worthy, Devon Still and Janoris Jenkins, all arguable first-round picks, lead a group of defensive players still waiting to be selected at the start of the second round. While some teams might have missed out on a potential stalwart in Round 1, these players have tremendous potential to be the steals of the draft.
Courtney Upshaw (LB)
Many analysts projected Upshaw to be a first-round selection, but day one came and went and Upshaw remained undrafted.
The Alabama product has the ability to play linebacker in the NFL, and with continued growth and development, there's no reason he can't line up on the line of scrimmage too.
Boasting good speed and agility for a big man, Upshaw is known for his pass-rushing ability and his ability to read the play.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts (34th overall)
Jerel Worthy (DT)
With a draft heavy on talented defensive linemen, Worthy's stock fell after a relatively weak performance at the combine. However, scouts still projected him to be taken in the first round.
A good combination of pass-rushing and run-stopping ability, Worthy can fit in many NFL defenses and has the ability to play professionally sooner rather than later.
Prediction: Denver Broncos (36th overall)
Devon Still (DT)
Still wasn't really on the radar until earning Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011. The Penn State product has the ability to play in the NFL, but several key questions kept him off the draft board on day one.
Injuries hindered Still's play during his initial years with the Nittany Lions. However, if he can stay healthy and continue to develop, there's no reason to believe he won't be among the NFL's top defensive linemen in a few years.
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars (38th overall)
Janoris Jenkins (CB)
A premiere defensive back with lightning speed, good anticipation abilities and aggressiveness, the only thing preventing Jenkins from being a higher pick are the marijuana charges that got him booted out of the University of Florida.
The North Alabama product looks to put the past behind him and start anew in the NFL.
Jenkins, a 5'10", 193-pound hard-hitting corner, is a fierce competitor who rarely backs down from physical play.
In his tenure with the Gators, he consistently shut down top-end receivers and was likened to Philadelphia Eagles' All-Pro corner Asante Samuel.
If Jenkins has his head on straight and continues to develop into an NFL talent, he could be a big second-round steal for several teams.
While the disappointment of not being selected in Round 1 stings, the pressure of not having to live up to first-round expectations disappears, and an underdog mentality emerges. Look for these and several other players drafted in the subsequent rounds to make an impact on whichever team selects them.
Prediction: Detroit Lions (54th overall)
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