There is no getting around the fact that the 2014 NFL draft is absolutely loaded with talent, which means there are plenty of potential superstars still available beyond Round 1.
Some of those players will make their living on the defensive side of the ball, and while there may not be a Jadeveon Clowney still on the board, plenty of teams will immediately improve their defense Friday.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few potential defensive stars still available on Day 2.
DT Louis Nix, Notre Dame
In what may be a common theme in the second and even third rounds, Louis Nix has top-20 type talent.
He has an imposing physical makeup, but he is much more agile than his large size would typically indicate.
He is explosive with his first step and has the lateral quickness necessary to stuff multiple holes against the run. That explosiveness also allows him to split gaps in the middle of the line to put pressure on the quarterback.
Then there is his pure strength.
There were few offensive linemen at the college level that could stop Nix’s bull rush, and that should carry over to the NFL level. Nix has been compared to Vince Wilfork leading up to the draft and he discussed as much, via Nate Davis of USA Today:
He's a great player, but I can't compare myself to a Pro Bowler. Hopefully I can be just like him. I try to model myself after great players, and he's one of them…I do a good job stopping the run. I might not have sack numbers, but I get to the quarterback and I put pressure on them.
Whichever team takes Nix would be thrilled if he turned into the next Wilfork.
DT Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
As long as we're discussing physical specimens in the middle of the defensive line, Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman fits the bill to a tee.
Hageman has professional-level strength and consistently pushes offensive linemen into the backfield.
However, his true value comes in the fact that he swallows up multiple offensive linemen per play—opening up defensive ends and linebackers to rush from the edge.
Hageman is the ideal middle man in a 3-4 scheme. But thanks to his versatility, he can also fill in one of the defensive tackle spots in a 4-3. He needs to perform with a bit more consistency to be an impact player at the next level, but look for whichever coach drafts him to ensure that happens.
CB/S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
There are serious height concerns when it comes to Lamarcus Joyner, but his speed and versatility more than make up for it.
What’s more, he has an impressive vertical leap—which helps cancel out that height discrepancy, as Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network noted at the combine:
Despite his smaller stature, Joyner can play anywhere in the secondary due to his speed and closing ability with the ball in the air.
He hits like a battering ram both in run support and whenever a receiver dares to go over the middle against him. He also serves as a potential kick returner, which adds value to his status as a possible Day 2 selection.
Projecting ahead, Joyner would be best suited as a nickel corner or even safety in the NFL. He doesn’t have the height to handle some of the tall receivers on the outside at the professional level, but his speed will help counter some of the spread offenses that have taken the NFL by storm.
Joyner can blitz the quarterback and help out in run support from those positions, which are two of his primary strengths. He will be an impact player from the day he steps on the field at training camp.
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