Top 25 Defensive Prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
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The Kansas City Chiefs are officially on the clock with the first selection in the 2013 NFL draft, and there is not a sure-fire pick like the Indianapolis Colts had in quarterback Andrew Luck last year. As a matter of fact, the quarterback class of 2013 is projecting to be a weak group overall compared to years past.
The 2013 NFL draft will be defensively driven, with tons of talent on that side of the football, and NFL teams will be looking for the next J.J. Watt, Aldon Smith or Janoris Jenkins.
Here is a list of the top 25 defensive prospects for the 2013 NFL draft. Also included are some teams that each prospect would help in terms of scheme or need.
No. 25: SS Matt Elam, Florida
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One of the most athletic safeties in the draft, Matt Elam also plays with great vision and instincts. Elam is a solid tackler who can hold his own in the tackle box versus bigger blockers. He will tackle with force and has shown the ability to make solid open-field tackles.
As a pass defender, Elam takes very good angles and uses good anticipation to break on routes. He also has good speed, plays the football well in the air and will get his hands on a lot of passes.
Teams that would be a good fit for Elam: St. Louis Rams, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars
No. 24: FS Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
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A smart player, Tony Jefferson will climb draft boards after meeting with NFL personnel and coaches. He has a natural feel for the game, is heady in his alignments and assignments and makes a lot of plays by anticipation.
Jefferson has good hip flexion, is a quick reactor in short space, has good closing burst and will hit the ball-carrier with force.
Jefferson goes for the knockout hit too often, though, and needs to become a better pure tackler. However, Jefferson is tough and not afraid to play near the line of scrimmage.
Teams that would be a good fit for Jefferson: Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots
No. 23: CB David Amerson, North Carolina State
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With the NFL becoming a pass-happy league, the cornerback position has become a premier position for teams to draft early.
Big cornerbacks are at an even higher premium, and David Amerson has all the tools NFL teams look for at the position.
Amerson has great size and speed for a cornerback, and he is also very good as a press-cover cornerback who has fluid hips and can run the route with the receiver off the ball.
He does not play with a great short burst or true explosion, but Amerson is such a good athlete and is so long that he covers a lot of ground without looking as if he is putting forth any effort.
Amerson can adjust to double moves with his quick feet and good body control, and he has good hands and makes plays on the ball.
However, Amerson is an average tackler who could be more physical with this part of his game. But he does enough to get in the way and will leg tackle.
Teams that would be a good fit for Amerson: Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings
No. 22: LB Chase Thomas, Stanford
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Thomas is a smart, tough football player who is the leader of his defense. He is very productive and is around the ball most of the time. He also plays the game with passion and makes plays, because he is prepared and understands the intricacies of the defense.
He has good size for a linebacker, plays under control, and he is a force inside runs when he attacks with a low-pad level, sticks and sheds. However, sometimes he attacks too much with his shoulders, which causes him to get tied up and give up his leverage.
Thomas plays laterally well on outside runs, because he anticipates well and flows quickly, and though he lacks top-end speed, Thomas makes plays with his hustle and effort.
He is a solid zone-coverage linebacker, because he knows where to be and anticipates the routes well. As a man-coverage linebacker, Thomas is average, as he is too stiff in his hips to stay with the receiver for very long.
Thomas is a solid tackler, but he can be shaken in space. However, he does make drag-down tackles downfield. Thomas will get drafted due to his production, leadership, smarts and toughness.
Teams that would be a good fit for Thomas: New Orleans Saints, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins
No. 21: DT Kawann Short, Purdue
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Short plays with relentless effort, initial quickness and varied pass-rush moves. With very long arms, Short uses swim moves to get into the backfield.
Short has good closing speed for his size, and he plays with good leverage and can anchor with his powerful lower body.
Short is a tough guy who gets production with effort, good hand usage and is one of the toughest players in the class to move when double-teamed.
Short has very strong hands to shed blockers, gets good lean into the blocker and can control the offensive linemen.
He is not a pretty player, but rather more of a lunch-pail worker, and while Short may not get the national hype some of the other defensive tackles get, every NFL team covets a player like him.
Short will never be the flashiest or the best athlete, but he understands how to play the game and plays hard.
Teams that would be a good fit for Short: Pittsburgh Steelers, San Diego Chargers, Chicago Bears
No. 20: DE Alex Okafor, Texas
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Okafor looks the part and at times dominates games, but other times, he disappears and is held in check.
Okafor is very good in short areas, is extremely quick off the ball, has a very powerful first step, and if he can gain leverage off the snap, he will rock the offensive lineman and disrupt the play.
He also has strong hands, a powerful punch, quick-shed ability and is active with his hands versus the run inside.
Okafor has the lower-body power and strength to hold the point of attack versus the double-team, and he is quick enough with his lateral quickness to split the double-team block as well.
Okafor has good speed and will make plays down the line of scrimmage. As a pass-rusher, he is all speed, but he needs to develop more pass rush moves. Despite this, Okafor has all the tools to be a solid NFL starter in the right system and with the right coaching.
Teams that would be a good fit for Okafor: New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
No. 19: DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida
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Floyd is a powerful player who is a very good pass-rusher. He gets off the ball with a burst and covers a lot of ground with his first step. He is strong with his hands, and he works his arms and hands very well as a pass-rusher. Floyd also plays square to the line of scrimmage and plays off the cut block well.
When he plays with low-pad level, he is hard to move off the line, and he has a good up-and-under pass rush.
Floyd has good speed and explosiveness, good jumping ability and is able to use his long arms to get in the passing lanes to disrupt passes and make the quarterback adjust throws.
Floyd has good flexibility, plays well off the cut block and is a good quick twitch player who has the true quickness to make plays in short areas. Floyd also works hard, gives outstanding effort and makes plays with hustle. As a leader, Floyd plays with a passion and determination.
Teams that would be a good fit for Floyd: St. Louis Rams, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts
No. 18: CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
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Rhodes is a huge cornerback. He is an explosive player with a good short burst, has good closing speed and can stick his foot in the ground and get forward quickly in off coverage.
Rhodes also has good hips, but he is just average in his transition. However, Rhodes does have good foot quickness.
Rhodes tries to work the jam at the line of scrimmage and has the upper body strength to be effective, but he does not always play with sound technique and gets sloppy in his coverage responsibilities at the top of the route.
Rhodes is solid in his trail technique, though, and has good ball skills. In tight-man coverage, he can run the route with the wide receiver.
He is also in the right position most of the time but does not make as many plays as he should. In his favor, Rhodes is a solid tackler who uses his size to intimidate the ball-carrier, and most NFL coaches would love to work with Rhodes.
Teams that would be a good fit for Rhodes: Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs
No. 17: CB Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
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Poyer is a special cornerback who has outstanding speed and quickness. He is a good man-coverage player who wants to be physical at the line of scrimmage, plays with a competitive nature and does not back down from a challenge.
Poyer has decent instincts in coverage and good route awareness. He also has the foot quickness and hip flexibility to handle double moves and still stay in the receiver’s hip pocket.
However, Poyer does get lazy at times and plays off routes almost as if he is baiting the quarterback to throw to his man.
Poyer closes with a burst on short throws in front of him if he has a chance for a big hit or a pass break, and he has good ability to anticipate the throw and good ability at closing with a burst.
Poyer has average strength as a press cornerback to keep the receiver from getting a free release, but he is a short stepper in back pedal.
On the plus side, Poyer is quick to flip his hips and mirror the receiver and gives good hustle to make tackles from the backside.
Overall, Poyer has very good ball skills and is a playmaker when he is challenged.
Teams that would be a good fit for Poyer: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans
No. 16: LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
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Ogletree is a fast linebacker who has the skills to be a starter in any NFL defense. He is quick, fast, smart, and he is a tough, competitive player who makes plays all over the field.
Ogletree is productive enough to warrant a high draft grade and a long look from NFL personnel. He is smart as a read and react player and finds the ball quickly. Ogletree also plays under control and can redirect with ease.
Overall, he is a smooth athlete who covers a lot of ground in a hurry and gets to top speed in a flash.
He has decent play strength, but sometimes gets tied up by long-armed blockers inside. When he attacks, separates, sheds and gets to the ball, Ogletree is a beast. However, he is at his best flowing laterally and making plays sideline-to-sideline.
Ogletree is a powerful tackler who will explode on the ball-carrier, is quick in his pursuit and will make plays laterally through trash. When he pulls the trigger, he makes the play.
Ogletree has above-average ability as a pass-rusher and closes on the quarterback quickly. In coverage, he has the ability to cover receivers, but he gets lazy in coverage and loses his responsibility by trying to do too much.
Jarvis Jones gets a lot of the credit on the Georgia defense, but Ogletree is a darn good player in his own right.
Teams that would be a good fit for Ogletree: Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills
No. 15: FS Eric Reid, LSU
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Reid has outstanding size, speed, production, good tackling ability and can make the sure tackle in space. He plays straight ahead better than laterally and does have some stiffness in his hips, but he is very explosive and has a short burst to close on the ball.
Reid is an outstanding run-support player, takes good angles to the ball, plays with urgency and is explosive on the tackle.
Reid is a big hitter and stuns the runner on contact. In the passing game, he has good range. Reid has good man-coverage skills versus tight ends and running backs, but he lacks the flexibility to handle receivers from the slot.
In zone coverage, Reid lines up closer to line of scrimmage than deep, but he has the speed to make plays downfield. Reid is a productive, aggressive football player and will be a solid safety in the NFL for a long time.
Teams that would be a good fit for Reid: Detroit Lions, St. Louis Rams, New England Patriots
No. 14: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
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Richardson is a powerful and agile starting defensive tackle prospect. He is athletic enough to play five-technique in 4-3 schemes, is often the first player off the snap and will challenge the hand-and-foot quickness of guards inside.
When choosing to rush the ball, Richardson has the ability to get under the blockers' pads and churn his legs to push him backwards.
Richardson is a wrap-up tackler on the ball-carriers who come into his path, has quick feet, and he has short-area speed that helps spin off blocks inside.
Richardson flashes the arm-over move to penetrate into the backfield and takes some plays off, but when his motor is running hot, he is a tough blocking assignment for most interior offensive linemen.
Teams that would be a good fit for Richardson: Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings
No. 13: DT John Jenkins, Georgia
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Jenkins is a mountain of a man who commands a double-team block on every play. While Jenkins may not be a dominant pass-rusher, he has the power and leverage to disrupt the pocket.
Jenkins has long arms, and when he locks them out, he can control his blocker with ease. He plays with a powerful base and can hold the point of attack with just his size alone.
Jenkins would be best suited to play nose tackle in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but he will be a starter for any scheme and team who drafts him.
He is a very good wrap-up tackler who is agile on his feet for a man his size, and he plays with passion and wants to be great. If Jenkins can stay healthy, he could have a career like Casey Hampton of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Teams that would be a good fit for Jenkins: Pittsburgh Steelers, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons
No. 12: LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State
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Brown is a fast, productive player who is always around the football. He is above-average in his read and reaction ability, and once he sees the play unfold, Brown is quick to run and flows very well laterally.
Brown plays through traffic very well, but he runs around blocks more than he runs through them. Brown is aggressive taking on blocks, but he lacks the bulk and strength to shed and get free all the time. Once locked up, he can be ridden out of the play.
Brown rarely takes poor angles and makes a lot of plays by diagnosing the play quickly. He is a tough player who has the speed to make plays to the outside, but he has some stiffness in his movements and looks deliberate in his drops.
However, Brown has good lateral quickness and has good speed for the position. He also has a good closing burst and is competitive. He is very good in pursuit and is a strong tackler, even though he is a tad undersized. However, he has the ability to follow in the steps of Buccaneers rookie linebacker Lavonte David who has had an outstanding season.
Teams that would be a good fit for Brown: New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos
No. 11: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
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Hankins is a very good football player who can be dominant at times. He has the versatility to play defensive end or defensive tackle, and he is a very good pass-rusher from inside.
Hankins comes off the ball with explosiveness and uses his hands and arms very well as a pass-rusher, is relentless, and even when he is not getting the sack, he is constricting the pocket and allowing his teammates to make the play.
Hankins is above-average as a run defender. When he fires off the ball low and with level pads, he can rock the blocker and drive him into the backfield. But Hankins stands up off the ball and exposes his chest to the blocker.
However, he has the hand strength and lower-body power to hold the point of attack when he plays with leverage. Hankins is a big man who moves like he is about 250 pounds and has extremely quick feet and good play speed.
He also gives outstanding effort and is a tough player. Hankins has the ideal size to be a 4-3 defensive tackle in the NFL.
Teams that would be a good fit for Hankins: Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers
No. 10: FS Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
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Vaccaro is a versatile player who will make a very good NFL safety. He can play free or strong safety at the next level and is extremely physical as a player in both the run and passing game.
Vaccaro is able to battle bigger tight ends all over the field, as he is very strong and can hold up or reroute the receiver with his physicality.
Vaccaro has some stiffness in his hips and can lose the receiver out of his transition, but he has enough speed and talent to make up ground and get back in the hip pocket of the receiver.
Vaccaro is an explosive downhill player in zone who closes on the ball quickly and has good ball skills and reactions.
Vaccaro plays with urgency and a sense of purpose, and he has good range and makes plays all over the field.
Vaccaro is the type of player coaches and scouts fell in love with during his All-Star game week due to his competitiveness, toughness and versatility.
Teams that would be a good fit for Vaccaro: Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens
No. 9: LB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame
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Te’o is a smart, heady player who is very productive. He plays with good football intelligence and is very instinctive.
He reads and reacts very well and has a great understanding for how the game is played. He is a force inside the run, will attack the line of scrimmage, and he pursues quickly and works through traffic well. Te’o is also a willing hitter as a tackler, and he plays with good smarts and movement in zone coverage.
Te’o uses his hands effectively and will not allow blockers to stay with his body very long. But even though he plays with true strength, he needs to shed quicker.
Te’o is a solid athlete, but he will not impress as much with his long speed as he does his short-area quickness.
Te’o has good hands and makes a lot of plays with the football in the air, and if he plays with the same passion he displayed this season for the Fighting Irish, he will be a fixture in the NFL.
Teams that would be a good fit for Te’o: New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Baltimore Ravens
No. 8: DE Dion Jordan, Oregon
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Jordan is a freak of an athlete and will tear up the NFL. He is still raw in a couple areas of his game, but he has the potential to be one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.
Jordan has great length, speed, quickness and flexibility. He also has an innate ability to find gaps in the blocking scheme, and by using his flexibility and quickness, he penetrates those gaps to make plays.
Jordan has an extremely explosive first step, and when his only job is to pin his ears back and rush the quarterback, he is at his best.
He can dip his shoulder off the ball and barely gives the blocker and space to punch. Jordan has a great closing burst and works to knock the ball out on contact. He also plays with strong hands as a pass-rusher and in the run game.
Jordan needs to improve strength to hold the double-team run-blocking, but when he comes off the ball low, he can control the blocker, shed with force and make a tackle on the ball-carrier.
He is very good in space and covers a lot of ground in very little time. Jordan has good jumping ability and alters a lot of throws with his length. He plays with passion and makes a lot of big plays. The NFL covets pass-rushers, and Jordan should be an instant hit his rookie season.
Teams that would be a good fit for Jordan: San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings
No. 7: DT Jesse Williams, Alabama
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Williams is a very productive player in one of the top conferences in the country. He is tough, smart and understands angles.
Williams has extremely strong hands and works to keep the hands of the blocker off him, and he rarely stays blocked and does a very good job of playing through traffic and staying vertical.
Williams also has good lower-body strength and snap. With his strength, Williams can stun the blocker with his hand usage.
However, Williams has shorter arms, and this lack of length shows up quite a bit, especially as a pass-rusher.
When double-teamed, Williams becomes more of a space-eater, but as a tackler, he is powerful and violent. Williams may not make a lot of plays outside the tackle box, but with his strength, power and toughness, NFL teams will need him to play.
Teams that would be a good fit for Williams: Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins
No. 6: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
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Banks is a quick player with top-end speed and great ball skills. He has the natural tools of a solid cornerback: speed, foot quickness, fluid hips and explosive short-area burst.
His lack of weight is his only big concern. At times, Banks gets out-muscled off the ball and more often than not, gets his arms knocked away and left at the line of scrimmage. While he is competitive and plays tough, he still needs to get stronger.
Banks makes plays in zone coverage where he can sort out the routes and close on the ball going downhill. He also has the speed to stay with receivers deep and has good jumping ability.
Banks makes a lot of plays on the ball and is a ball hawk who is always looking for interceptions.
Banks is a solid tackler who will throw his body at the legs of the ball-carrier, and he has the skills to be a starter in the right spot in the NFL.
Teams that would be a good fit for Banks: New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions
No. 5: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
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Milliner is a smooth athlete who is fluid in his hips. He has good speed and quickness to play the position and can flip his hips and stay in tight coverage with no wasted movements.
Milliner is at his best when he can line up tight to the receiver off the line of scrimmage and play man-to-man.
He is difficult to reroute and has very good flexibility to bend and slide laterally to hold the receiver from getting a free release. He also plays with confidence and can run the route for the receiver.
At times, he gets greedy in zone coverage and will try to bait the quarterback only to lose his coverage responsibility, but Milliner does have good football instincts.
Milliner has a different gear with the ball in the air and has a natural feel of when to get his head around and make a play on the ball.
Milliner is a cover corner who plays with the attitude of victory. Milliner has a swagger to his game, and with his size and speed ratio, he is ranked as one of the best prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Teams that would be a good fit for Milliner: Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens
No. 4: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
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Moore is a very productive player in the SEC, and his NFL value is not in question due to his length, effort and toughness.
He is the epitome of a football player and does an exceptional job of anticipating the snap and timing up his start.
He jumps off the ball and has an explosive first step. Moore can dip his shoulder and close the gap to the quarterback in a hurry, and he has top-end speed and quickness. Moore also plays with good flexibility and balance.
Moore has excellent change-of-direction ability and is a player who can retrace his steps and make the play without losing speed, either forward or laterally.
Moore has good hips, is violent with his hands in the run and passing game, and he is quick to shed the blocker and close on the ball-carrier.
Moore is a good tackler who will work to strip the football, fits any defensive scheme in the NFL and will be a very high draft selection in 2013.
Teams that would be a good fit for Moore: Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders
No. 3: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
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Jones has football intangibles: He is an explosive athlete who makes plays all over the football field, is very tough, is productive and makes a lot of his plays off hustle and will.
Jones is also a natural pass-rusher and uses his hands exceptionally well. He is able to find the ball quickly and never stops moving his hands or feet, making plays on sheer effort.
He makes plays from the backside or down the line of scrimmage with pure hustle, and he is strong tackler. He uses leverage to his advantage and can control the blocker by simply playing lower than the man across from him.
Jones is simply a great football player.
Teams that would be a good fit for Jones: Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Arizona Cardinals
No. 2: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
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Lotulelei has the versatility to play nose tackle or defensive tackle. He is a very good pass-rusher from inside at defensive tackle, and he comes off the ball with explosiveness.
Lotulelei goes hard on every play and makes the players around him better. He is not the type of player to win with speed, but instead with power and quickness.
Lotulelei is very good as a run defender when he plays with leverage, and when he fires off the ball low and with level pads, he can stun the offensive linemen and drive them into the backfield.
Lotulelei gives NFL teams a ton of flexibility, as he can play in all phases of defense and can be a 50-60 snap-a-game player.
Lotulelei will end up being a Top Five selection in the 2013 NFL Draft and is the type of player a team would trade up to get.
Teams that would be a good fit for Lotulelei: Kansas City Chiefs, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
No. 1: DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
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Werner is the best defensive player in the 2013 NFL Draft. He has long arms, large hands and uses his length well to keep blockers away from his body.
For a player who just started playing football five years ago, Werner has a great knowledge of the game and has the uncanny ability to read blocks and quickly locate the ball. He shows solid football instincts and is able to locate the ball through trash.
Werner plays with very good leverage and keeps the blocker away from his body. As a pass-rusher, Werner does not have blazing speed, but he is slippery with his moves and sets up the blocker well.
Werner goes hard every play and never takes a snap off. He also plays with good lateral quickness, is light on his feet and has good change-of-direction skills.
Since his motor never stops, he is around the football quite a bit. Werner is a physical tackler who can bend, roll his hips and drive through the ball-carrier.
Werner will do enough at the NFL Combine to win a team over, and his draft stock will blow through the roof.
Teams that would be a good fit for Werner: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears