Hardest Hitting Rookies from the 2012 NFL Draft
While tackling in the NFL has gone the way of the Dodo bird, big hits that are meant to knock the ball loose are in full effect.
Big-hitting ability is not one of the more prominent attributes in a player, but one hit can change the momentum of a game.
Here is a ranking of the top hitters in the draft.
13. Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Detroit Lions
Whitehead is yet another undersized, small-school prospect that makes a lot of splash plays.
Whitehead forced four fumbles during his senior season at Temple, with seven in his career as a two-year starter.
Although he is a smaller player, he builds up speed that he uses to make big hits and separate the ball carrier from the football.
The Lions, who thrive on turnovers to feed their offense with extra possessions, are hoping that Tahir can continue to be the turnover machine he was at Temple.
12. Demario Davis, LB, New York Jets
Davis may have come from a smaller school, Arkansas State, but there is nothing small about his ability to hit, even for a smaller linebacker.
A natural leader, Davis sets the tone with this physicality. He is set to eventually replace Bart Scott as the vocal leader of the defense, but for now, he has everything you want in a core special team player and a coverage linebacker in sub packages.
Whenever you draw comparisons to Ray Lewis from the top defensive mind in football, you have a great chance to make it in the NFL.
11. Antonio Allen, S, New York Jets
The Jets may have found themselves a steal at the end of the draft, nabbing Antonio Allen in the seventh round.
Allen is a pure in-the-box safety who can separate the ball from receivers with big hits, evidenced by the four forced fumbles he had as a senior.
While he is not the kind of player you want covering Rob Gronkowski, he should contribute immediately on special teams and give the team insurance in case LaRon Landry cannot stay healthy.
10. Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver Broncos
Another undersized linebacker who has added weight in preparation for the NFL, Danny Trevathan knows how to filter through traffic and lay big hits when he gets the chance.
He routinely makes splash plays, evidenced by his five forced fumbles in his senior season. Danny is a bit of a sleeper and could wind up being a steal for the Denver Broncos.
9. Lavonte David, OLB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lavonte David is not going to put up big sack numbers. He makes up for it with his physicality and ability to lay the wood, despite the fact that he is a bit undersized.
Not only is David a big hitter on the ball carrier, but he is physical at the point of attack, taking on guards and fullbacks and setting the tone for the rest of the defense.
With the addition of Mark Barron and Lavonte David, it is clear that the Bucs are trying everything they can to change the culture in Tampa.
8. Tank Carder, LB, Buffalo Bills
Danger and recklessness is in Carder's blood—as a ten-year-old boy, Carder was a BMX world champion.
His thirst for intensity and adrenaline is evidenced by the way he plays the game. Not only is he a hard hitter, but he is a sure tackler and a smart player. He is the player who made the "Immaculate Deflection" in the 2011 Rose Bowl.
After all, if your name is "Tank," shouldn't you be a big hitter by default?
7. Markelle Martin, S, Tennessee Titans
The emotional leader of the Oklahoma defense, Martin sets the tone with his massive hits.
As a result, receivers tend to hear imaginary footsteps the next time they run a route.
Martin's aggressiveness tends to get the best of him at times, as he can be exploited in coverage. Nonetheless, Martin will bring another element of physicality to the Titans' defense.
6. Dont'a Hightower, LB, New England Patriots
Dont'a Hightower may not be the most agile and quick linebacker, but if he gets the opportunity, he is going to take the big hit.
If given enough room, Hightower will build up his speed and unleash it on ball carriers.
There is little doubt that the Patriots wanted to add an element of physicality to their defense when they traded up for Hightower in the first round.
5. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Cincinnati Bengals
Corners are typically not known for their big hits, but Dre Kirkpatrick bucks the trend.
At only 190 lbs, it is impressive enough that Kirkpatrick is able to level ball carriers that often outweigh him.
His physicality gives him the versatility to play in the slot and cover bigger tight ends as well as play on the outside. Sharing the same division as the Ravens and Steelers, the Bengals will welcome the physicality that Barron brings to the position.
4. Nigel Bradham, LB, Buffalo Bills
Bradham was not the most highly-touted linebacker in the draft, but there is no doubt that the man can lay the wood.
In the above video, Bradham was ejected for his seemingly-legal hit on LaRon Byrd.
A physical specimen, Bradham tends to struggle with his fundamentals. However, if Bradham can find a way to become a better all-around linebacker, he can turn out to be a steal for the Bills.
3. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Cincinnati Bengals
After listening to the media degrade him as a pro prospect, Vontaze has certainly had a rough spring.
However, for all of his faults, one thing draft scouts cannot take away from him is his ability to lay the wood when he gets the chance.
The emotional leader on his Arizona State team, he did tend to let his emotions get away from him, resulting in a number of personal foul penalties. But if he can learn how to control those emotions, Vontzae has a chance to make it in the NFL.
2. Mark Barron, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The top safety in the draft, Barron is known for shooting into the backfield like a torpedo and laying a huge hit on runners who dare try can turn the corner.
What is most impressive about Barron's hitting ability is how he is able lead with his shoulder and not whiff on ball carriers.
The Buccaneers drafted Barron not only because of his ability as a safety, but because his physicality can change the culture of the Buccaneers organization.
1. Ronnell Lewis, LB, Detroit Lions
There is a reason Lewis was nicknamed "The Hammer" by his teammates.
While he is a solid linebacker in his own right, it is when he is running down kicks on special teams that he leaves his mark.
While he has his own checkered past that left him unwelcome to return to Oklahoma, the Lions were obviously enamored with the amount of physicality he brings to the table.
In this entire draft class, you would be hard-pressed to find a player that hits harder than Lewis.