2013 NFL Mock Draft: Top 20 Defensive Prospects

Matt SchreiberAnalyst IIIJanuary 4, 2013

2013 NFL Mock Draft: Top 20 Defensive Prospects

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    There aren't too many offensive studs entering the 2013 NFL draft. On the flip side, there are plenty of defensive prospects with unlimited amounts of potential to do damage at the professional level.

    As we have seen in the past with teams like the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, defense wins championships.

    There are plenty of playmakers who can make immediate impacts in the NFL

    Let's take a look at the top-20 guys available on the defensive side of the ball in April's draft. I will also project some potential landing spots in the NFL for these players.

    All statistics and 40-yard dash times courtesy of ESPN.com.

20. David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State

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    After missing the 2012 season opener for NC State, David Amerson recorded an interception in each of his first three games of the year.

    It looked as if Amerson was going to repeat his 2011 campaign, when he recorded 13 interceptions as a sophomore. He led the nation in that category.

    Heading into 2012, I had this guy as my top-ranked cornerback. After only recording five interceptions and often blowing coverage, he has moved down on my board.

    Most analysts don't even have him in their top 32, but his exceptional size and speed can be lethal in the NFL with the right coaching.

    Amerson is 6'3" and is a straight-up ball hawk. He will make a quarterback pay for his mistakes, and takes advantage of his opportunities to make plays.

    He isn't bad against the run, either.

    A team like the Philadelphia Eagles could use his talents and potentially steal him at the beginning of the second round.

19. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas

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    Alex Okafor's stock certainly went up after he recorded 4.5 sacks against Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. He stands tall at 6'4" and weighs in at 265 pounds. He finished off 2012 with 12.5 sacks and 52 tackles. Note that 30 of those tackles came in the last four games of the season.

    Okafor has been getting much better in both phases on defense. He is exceptional as a pass rusher and recorded multiple tackles for losses against running backs.

    He is extremely versatile and can even drop back into a zone coverage.

    A team like the New York Jets could use Okafor's firepower coming off the edge.

18. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

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    Sharrif Floyd can do some major damage in the NFL. He's an excellent pass rusher who can fend off blockers and get to the quarterback. He has great speed and is able to swat balls at the line of scrimmage with his long reach.

    As expected, after Florida's loss to Louisville, Floyd stated he would forgo his senior season as a Gator and enter the NFL draft.

    I like him going to Denver at the end of the first round.

17. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

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    Johnthan Banks stands tall at nearly 6'3" and has a great build for an NFL cornerback.

    He displays terrific speed and can return punts. He has three career punt-return touchdowns at Mississippi State.

    He needs to improve his recognition skills, but displays great confidence and natural football instincts. 

    He is great working zone coverage and at keeping an eye on the quarterback. Just like Amerson, Banks can make you pay for a bad mistake.

    His most valuable asset is his help in run support. He is quick to fend off receivers and is an exceptional tackler.

    With all the misery going on in the New York Giants' secondary, Banks would immediately contribute and make things better for Big Blue.

16. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State

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    Any cornerback coming in at 6'2" already has a leap ahead on upside. Match the height with Xavier Rhodes' shut-down style of play, and Rhodes can be a legitimate NFL corner comparable to a guy like Johnathan Joseph.

    He won't rack up the interceptions as quarterbacks don't usually go his way. He has the potential to shut down the best receiver on the opposing team. According to ESPN.com, Rhodes ran a 4.54 in the 40-yard dash. He is quick to square up on receivers and can drop back into zone with an eye on the quarterback.

    Another guy I like for the Giants.

15. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

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    Jesse Williams can do a tremendous job strafing blockers and making bone-crushing tackles. He began his career at Western Arizona Community College before transferring to Alabama. ESPN.com has his 40-yard dash time at 4.99, which is tremendous for a 6'3", 320-pound defensive tackle.

    He could lose a little bit of weight in the upper body, which would increase his speed and ability to rush the passer. Pass-rushing isn't his forte. Getting to the running back quickly off of blocks is his specialty. He's great in run support.

    He would likely help a team like the Colts or New York Jets, who can't stop the run. 

14. Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU

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    Mingo will enter the draft with great height at 6'4" and can fit in on the 4-3 or 3-4 defense.

    According to NFLDraftScout.com, his low 40-yard dash time was 4.46. 

    He only recorded five sacks in 2012, but does a great job putting the quarterback under duress. His production numbers weren't too flashy this season, but with the right guy coaching him, he can make an impact at the professional level.

    He would fit in nicely to a Rex Ryan defense in New York.

13. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia

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    Alec Ogletree is probably one of the most talented defensive players entering the draft this year. He missed the first four games of 2012 after failing a drug test, but still managed to rack up 99 tackles in nine games.

    He recorded two sacks in 2012, but has the potential to really disrupt the quarterback. He is terrific against the run and can clog holes up the middle. He can drop back into coverage and fool the quarterback by bluffing blitzes.

    As long as he matures a bit, Ogletree can potentially be one of the top inside linebackers in the NFL. The off-field issues stand between him and the top-three spots on my board.

    He possesses top-end speed for an inside linebacker, running a 4.55 40-yard dash (ESPN). 

    Any team can use a guy like Ogletree, but I realistically see him going to a team like Buffalo, which doesn't display much talent at the linebacker position.

12. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia

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    Jenkins is another community college transfer who can wreak havoc off the defensive line. Academic issues are what prevented him from committing to a big-time school out of high school. 

    He is one of the top nose tackles in this year's draft. He is definitely top heavy, weighing 363 pounds, but is a big presence in run support and clogging the holes between the tackles. 

    Rushing the passer isn't one of his strengths, but like I said, you need his presence in run support. He is a massive defensive tackle whose snaps could be limited though, throughout the game.

    The Pittsburgh Steelers or even the Cleveland Browns could use a guy like Jenkins in their lineup. 

11. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State

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    Hankins can make life miserable for offensive linemen as he rushes the quarterback from the inside or outside.

    He is versatile and has the ability to play defensive tackle or defensive end. His large, wide frame and quickness to brush off blockers in the run game makes him a terrific run defender.

    He doesn't possess speed, as most guys over 300 pounds don't, but he plays the role of the guy to disrupt a quarterback enough to let another guy finish the play.

    Get this guy on the Dolphins, Eagles, or Steelers. 

10. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon

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    Dion Jordan is so quick to get off the edge at his position that I would be scared to be a quarterback playing against him. His speed and agility give him the advantage on getting past offensive tackles, and can make life miserable for opposing teams.

    He has exceptional height, standing at 6'6", and can bat down balls off the line of scrimmage.

    ESPN.com's scouts state that "coaches praise his work ethic and practice habits. Not a naturally instinctive player, but has enough mental capacity to learn scheme."

    I love Jordan to make his presence known immediately once he steps on the field in the NFL.

    Can you imagine him lining up with Jared Allen in Minnesota?

9. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

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    Sheldon Richardson is most valuable in the run game. He is extremely disruptive inside and can crack the ball-carrier with potential big play-making ability. Pass rushing is a weakness for Richardson, as he does not possess the speed to get to the quarterback.

    His first step off the line is extremely quick, and is almost impossible for a single blocker to defend. Richardson is a very confident player who comes to the line with energy that can spark up a whole team.

    You will certainly hear his name in the NFL very often in the future.

    Would be nice to see him suit up in a Buccaneers uniform in 2013. 

8. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

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    Some may argue that Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in the draft. After this slide you will see why I think otherwise. I am not downplaying his skill, though. He is an exceptional safety who is extremely quick and durable.

    He could get better by not biting on play-action fakes and making more out of his ball skills. He is terrific in coverage and has the ability to cover tight ends and slot guys.

    He is a hard hitter, but needs to get better in run support.

    Give him a few years and he will be making loud noises in the NFL.

    I like Vaccaro going to Baltimore to help rebuild the Ravens' aging defense.

7. Matt Elam, SS, Florida

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    You may think I am crazy for having Matt Elam ranked as the seventh-best defensive player, but that's why it's my opinion. I love this guy. Love his energy, leadership ability and speed. 

    He is probably the hardest-hitting safety coming out of the draft since LaRon Landry. He is extremely smart but doesn't possess the best height, standing at just 5'10". Don't let his height fool you, as he will make a play on your big tight end. 

    Elam can sit back in coverage and make a fool out of your slot receivers. He needs to learn how to hit below the head, or else he may have a fine or two from Roger Goodell in his future. 

    The Colts would be wise to snag him with their first-round pick, that is, if the Steelers don't take him first.

6. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

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    Dee Milliner played extremely well in the 2012 BCS National Championship Game, and has a chance to raise his stock a bit more by shutting down Notre Dame. He is extremely physical and knows how to disrupt receivers out of their routes. 

    He won't have a season where he records 10 interceptions in the NFL, but he will make sure his assigned receiver doesn't catch many balls in a game.

    Milliner is a lock-down guy with the potential to guard any guy that matches up with him. He is the best cornerback prospect available on my 2013 NFL draft board.

    As of now, I have him going at No. 13 to the Buccaneers, but a strong performance against the Irish on Jan. 7 could help boost his stock, and he could go to the Chargers at No. 11 or even Buffalo at No. 7. 

5. Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M

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    I have Damontre Moore as my No. 2 defensive end, where a lot of draft scouts would disagree and put him at No. 1. I love his upside. He is athletic, very flexible for a 6'4" guy, and is extremely durable. 

    He was arrested for drug possession in the summer of 2012, but seems to have learned his lesson. NFL teams could be weary. He is a big-time leader at Texas A&M and has exceptional pass-rushing skills coming off the edge.

    He is extremely versatile and has the ability to play both right-end and left-end. Moore could get better against the run, but is a quick learner and always can improve at the professional level.

    He is able to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme and play defensive end in a 4-3. 

    Moore is a potential top-five pick who could easily wind up in Jacksonville at No. 2.

4. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Manti Te'o has been the core of Notre Dame's success this season. He is a large part of why they are playing for the BCS National Championship against Alabama.

    Te'o has the complete package: leadership, skill, speed, strength and athleticism. He possesses average height at 6'1" and weighs 248 pounds.

    He has the ability to conduct jaw-dropping hits which can bring endless momentum to any sideline.

    He led all FBS linebackers with seven interceptions in 2012. 

    He's a reliable tackler who can cover the full width of the field. He's quick to recognize play-action fakes, screens, and draw plays. He can drop back into coverage and cover big tight ends.

    What has impressed me the most while watching him at Notre Dame is Te'o's ability to fend off blockers and get to the ball. He possesses these unique abilities which are difficult to find in a linebacker.

    The Lions will likely take him with the fifth pick if, you ask me.

3. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

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    You really can't go wrong with Jarvis Jones. He is Georgia's all-time leader in sacks and recorded 12.5 of them in 2012. He is a terrific outside linebacker with above-average speed.

    He possesses an amazing ability to quickly close the gap and bust through the ball-carrier. He steps up in the clutch and makes big plays on third down. He can also drop back into coverage and guard tight ends, although his coverage does need improvement.

    Jones can blitz from both sides and make life miserable for opposing teams. There is no doubt he causes some commotion in the NFL one day. He is a potential Hall of Fame-type of player. 

    I really think Jacksonville couldn't go wrong taking him with the second pick. Although, if he drops, the Lions or Browns could take him at five or six, respectively.

2. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

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    Star Lotulelei is the No. 1 guy overall on plenty of draft boards. He is a durable inside guy who can play both nose tackle and defensive tackle. He is quick to strafe off blockers and get to the running back and rush the passer. 

    I mean, can we be real here? Anyone named "Star" is destined to be one.

    His best asset is his ability to stop the run, which is needed in the pros. He can easily make an impact the second he steps on the field for an NFL team. 

    His pass rushing does need to improve, as he is not quick enough to chase around quarterbacks. Although, he can cause disruption in the middle to allow other defensive linemen to make plays.

    There is not a doubt in my mind he goes in the top five. He likely will go No. 3 to Oakland.

1. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

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    Without a doubt, in my opinion, Bjoern Werner is the best defensive player in the class of 2013. It boggles my mind that Scouts Inc. has him ranked No. 8 on their draft board. 

    He has extremely quick gut reactions to plays such as running-back screens. I watched him eat up screen plays on numerous occasions in 2012. Werner is a difference-maker and potentially the best player in the draft. He is extremely durable and has exceptional football instincts.

    Werner is from Germany, and has only been playing football for five years. He stands tall at 6'4"and possesses great speed for his height. He won't bluff on the snap count and has the ability to fight off double teams.

    He recorded 13 sacks in 2012 along with 40 tackles.

    It's tough telling what will happen in the draft, but after the combine, Werner could make his case for the top pick in the draft.