Florida State Football: Ranking FSU's Best Defensive Players by NFL Potential

Austyn HumphreyCorrespondent IIIJune 7, 2012

Florida State Football: Ranking FSU's Best Defensive Players by NFL Potential

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    This may sound crazy, but I think this metaphor will help you understand the inherent strengths of this year’s Florida State defense.

    Here’s the scenario:

    The United States has suddenly divided into four factions, or “superconferences.” In a world where college football players are now the police for a world in pieces, the Southeastern Sector will try to protect itself. Florida State, although not an SEC team, will have seven players heading the defense force.

    Yes, Florida State. Not Alabama. Not LSU. Not Georgia.

    The thing is—in real life—Florida State football is underappreciated. Florida State’s defense finished in the Top 5 nationally, but it couldn’t make up for the offense’s inefficiency. Because the defense struggled in a weak ACC, some people scoff of the Tribe’s defense. FSU fans have high expectations for their team, so an inconsistent offense does not excuse defeats. Embarrassing losses to Wake Forest and Virginia shouldn’t happen, especially since the Seminoles have the top caliber of defenders. Phil Steele, for example, has 18 Seminoles on his All-ACC team (nine of them play defensive positions).

    No matter what happens next season (although Phil Steele has the Seminoles ranked No. 1), the defensive backfield is loaded with talent. In our effort to analyze FSU’s best defensive members, we look at who is currently on the roster (talented incoming recruits have proved nothing—yet). If these guys can’t make it to the pros, nobody will.

Brandon Jenkins

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    An All-ACC first team selection, Brandon Jenkins is the head of the cornerback Dynamic Duo. Although his gridiron buddy Bjoern Werner gets more attention, Jenkins deserves the lion’s share of praise. It was this cornerback who led FSU in tackles for loss and sacks in 2010. To give you a national perspective, Brandon Jenkins’ 13.5 sacks made him the sixth-best “sacker” in America that year.

    It is in large debt to Jenkins that the ‘Noles are third out of 120 teams in sacks in 2010. The Tribe also finished in the 2010 Top 25 for tackles for loss, finishing 21st nationally.

    Last year, Jenkins made 41 total tackles. Even though he registered only eight sacks in 2011, he has proven to be a reliable player.

    Obviously, the stats tell you how Jenkins has a sixth sense for the ball carrier. Combine that with out-of-the-gate speed and his 6’3’’ and 265-pound frame. End result: You have a humiliated quarterback.

Xavier Rhodes

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    Like Jenkins, cornerback Xavier Rhodes is another All-ACC First Team player.

    Ah, so is the life of a Seminole fan.

    Rhodes did excellently in his first-time starting role. The Miami native comes in at 6'2'' and 215 pounds, making him an ideal weight to be a cornerback.

    No wonder he does so well. Forty-three total tackles (36 of them coming solo!), four deflected passes and an interception were the high points of his first campaign.

    Though Rhodes could use some more experience, I can proudly project him as a future NFL draft pick.

Lamarcus Joyner

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    Lamarcus Joyner made four picks last season.

    Expect more of the same from another All-ACC First Team pick. He peaked in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame, making seven solo tackles. Just as important, he returned an interception for 22 yards that kept the Seminoles in the game.

    He might go in the supplemental draft or be a free agent in the future, given his 5'8'' height.

    But now is now. This man holds the team's fate in his hands, and they are solid.

Bjoern Werner

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    Jenkins' companion in the cornerback tandem of doom, Bjoern Werner has a different style of play.

    While Jenkins focuses on speed to kill, all of Werner's 273 pounds crushes opponents.

    He's been relegated to Steele's second All-ACC team, but I'll base that on his novice sum of game time. Werner will be fun to watch in 2012; he or Jenkins will likely be finalists for the highest honor a cornerback can receive—the Jim Thorpe Award.

    An NFL team leaky on defense (see St. Louis Rams) would be wise to draft them together.

Everett Dawkins

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    Everett Dawkins, defensive tackle, is the epicenter of FSU's defensive earthquake.

    He has the veteran experience to lead the entire defense. He first played at FSU in 2008 under Coach Bowden, but did not get a prominent role until Jimbo Fisher took over as head coach.

    The results are non-negotiable. While he had a lean year (by his capabilities) in total tackles, FSU's rush defense limited opponents to 2.75 yards per game in 2011. By the way, that was tops in the nation.

    I can see Dawkins easily as (at least) a second-round pick given his many years of experience. His frame is extraordinary; he is 6'2'' and 325 pounds! What a tank!

    Phil Steele says he's second team All-ACC. Maybe it was because of his off-year, but Dawkins is one of the finest athletes you'll see.

Greg Reid

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    Greg Reid reminds me a lot of Deion Sanders. Phil Steele agrees—he's not only Third Team ACC for Cornerbacks, but is also the Third Team Kick Returner. Obviously, he was chosen as a First Team All-ACC for his incredible punt returning skills.

    He has the elite skill to make a long career in the pros.