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Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
Round 1, Pick 9
Kuechly is everything the Panthers hoped they were getting with the ninth overall pick. He not only leads the team in tackles with 138, but that total is the second best in the entire NFL. Kuechly is the perfect centerpiece for Carolina to build its defense around for whoever may be the one building it after this season.
Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks
Round 1, Pick 15
Back in April, Irvin was considered a bit of a reach as the 15th pick in the first round. He has shown, though, he can do exactly what Seattle needed him to do for their defense. With eight sacks, Irvin is a great pass rushing presence in what has been a dominant Seahawks defense.
Chandler Jones, New England Patriots
Round 1, Pick 21
Jones has been an important piece in New England's defense this season and has room to improve. He has crowded the line of scrimmage with six sacks and three passes defended. He also has showed the skill of forcing fumbles as he has already forced three this year.
Janoris Jenkins, St. Louis Rams
Round 2, Pick 39
Jenkins slipped to the second round because of character issues even though he was a first-round talent. The Rams are happy he did as he has been great on and off the field in St. Louis. Opposite Cortland Finnegan, Jenkins has been stellar in coverage with three interceptions. Once he gets the ball he is dangerous as he has returned those three interceptions for 109 total yards and two touchdowns.
Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 2, Pick 58
David has been all over for the Tampa Bay defense—in a good way. David is slightly behind Kuechly with 124 tackles, but that total is still good enough to be in the top ten in the league at seventh. David has been a great mixture of youth and production to a defense that has been slightly older in the past couple of seasons.
Vontaze Burfict, Cincinnati Bengals
Multiple red flags cause Burfict to go undrafted, but he has been perfect so far in the Cincinnati defense. He has shown the talent that once projected him to be a first-round pick. His 101 tackles is second on the team behind only Rey Maualuga. Burfict's presence on the field is a big reason the Bengals are currently in the playoff hunt.