There are a few key positions that make an NFL draft prospect standout in today's pass-heavy evolution.
Aside from a quarterback to thwart defenses and a reliable blindside tackle for pass protection, a beastly pass-rusher to disrupt an offense's game-plan is required.
Bruce Irvin, now of the Seattle Seahawks, is the most emphatic of examples from 2012. Despite only recording 61 tackles between 2010 and 2011 for West Virginia, Irvin also racked up 22.5 sacks and forced five fumbles.
In turn, Pete Carroll and Co. selected him at No. 15 overall in Round 1. The decision to draft Irvin immediately paid dividends next fall, because he recorded eight sacks in a confined role for Seattle. As a result, the Seahawks fielded an excellent defense last year and Irvin played a significant part.
As for the following raw pass-rushers, regardless of whether they get selected or not, their natural ability to apply quarterback pressure will earn them a look from pro football.
Quanterus Smith: DE, Western Kentucky
Quanterus Smith never collected more than 47 tackles in a season for Western Kentucky. Nevertheless, his impact as a rusher was quite evident.
Combined between 2010 and 2012, Smith logged 24 sacks, forced five fumbles and had 40 tackles for loss. Simply put, the guy knows how to create turbulence in the backfield.
Without question he must improve strength and lateral quickness to become a complete defender. But Smith's fast jump at the snap and body control makes him more appealing than at first glance.
Trevardo Williams: LB/DE, Connecticut
Next we have Connecticut's Trevardo Williams, a hybrid edge defender who racked up 24 sacks and 28.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons.
Possessing a good first step at the snap, Williams brings the continued acceleration and strength to bull rush and collapse the pocket. At the same time he plays with sound assignment discipline to control his gap and the outside.
What's needed for development is simply broadening his repertoire of moves. He has the athleticism to get pressure, but Williams' potential will only increase with a variety of finesse mixed with power.
Meshak Williams: DE, Kansas State
Meshak Williams played a crucial role for Kansas State's defense in 2012. Ultimately, his impact for coach Bill Snyder helped the Wildcats win the Big 12 and allow an average of just 22.2 points per game.
During the previous two campaigns, Williams amassed 17.5 sacks and 25.5 tackles for loss. In addition, he defended four passes and forced three fumbles in 2012.
As for development purposes, Williams brings the discipline, instincts and quick reactionary skills to every developing play. Although he plays a bit stiff at times, his strength and solid footwork keep him in playmaking position.
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