NFL: The Top 10 Up-and-Coming Elite Defensive Players to Watch in 2010
The NFL season is the next coming thing besides team training camps on the NFL schedule.
Free Agency is over, schedule releases are over, and the NFL Draft is over. So, it's time to take a look under-the radar players who will perform well in 2010 that had a good 2009 season.
If you look at the elite defensive veterans today, you look at Ray Lewis, Charles Woodson, Darren Sharper, Casey Hampton, etc.
But in the coming seasons those names will be replaced by younger names. There is already an elite group of young defensive players. like Patrick Willis, Darrelle Revis, etc, but today on this list we are going to look at the more underrated, young, and relatively unknown defensive players in the NFL.
10. Louis Delmas, Safety—Detroit Lions
The NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Award was won by Brian Cushing this past season, and not that many people had Louis Delmas as a candidate.
Delmas reminds me of Bob Sanders, and I think he has potential to get there. Delmas put up great numbers as a rookie—94 tackles, one sack, and two interceptions, which is pretty good for a first year player. If Delmas could work on his coverage skills a little more, I think he will be on his way to a few Pro Bowls.
9. Tamba Hali, Outside Linebacker—Kansas City Chiefs
If Tamba Hali just gets better at defending the run, he would be officially an elite player.
In 2009, Hali had 8.5 sacks in a season he had a lot of pressure on him, switching positions from a defensive end to outside linebacker. This was a switch no one thought he could make. Hali certainly proved all the haters wrong and destroyed All-Pro Broncos' left tackle Ryan Clady in two games, getting 4.0 total sacks against Clady.
Hali could have a season to remember this coming year.
8. Tully Banta-Cain, Outside Linebacker—New England Patriots
Despite being 29 years of age, Tully Banta-Cain finally had an effective season in 2009, sacking opposing quarterbacks 10 times.
Banta-Cain will likely become a starter in the 2010 season and have a full season to start after only starting 10 games in 2009. Banta-Cain should have a breakout season. He is at the right age in his career to make a giant splash in the 2010 season.
7. Melvin Bullitt, Safety—Indianapolis Colts
After the injury of Bob Sanders in the 2009 season, Colts' fans thought their pass defense was going to be torn to shreds, but that didn't happen.
Melvin Bullitt stepped right in and made a positive impact. Bullitt didn't have any interceptions in 2009, but he was a big hitter and leader for the Colts.
Bullitt was selected as one of the Colts' team captains in 2009, a role that could continue this season. Depending on the health of Bob Sanders, Bullitt could continue to be the Colts' starter.
6. Jonathan Babineaux, Defensive Tackle—Atlanta Falcons
If Jonathan Babineaux isn't already a elite player, he is definitely one of the most underrated players.
In my opinion Babineaux should have been a Pro-Bowler, getting a career high 6.0 sacks in 2009. If Babineaux keeps it up in 2010, I think he has potential to be an All-Pro.
5. Terrence Knighton, Defensive Tackle—Jacksonville Jaguars
Terrence Knighton had one of the more underrated rookie seasons in 2009.
Knighton proved he can be a giant plug in the middle, standing 6'3 and weighing 340 lbs.
He also put up some pretty good numbers, getting 45 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble. Knighton comes from a Jacksonville team that loves its defensive tackles, having past Pro-Bowlers Marcus Stroud and John Henderson.
With the release of John Henderson, Knighton will have a bigger role in the defense. He is a player you should watch in 2010.
4. Dashon Goldson, Safety—San Francisco 49ers
Dashon Goldson didn't do anything in his career before the 2009 season, not even getting his first interception until last season.
Goldson by far had one of the most underrated seasons statistically in 2009. He put up staggering numbers—94 tackles, 2.0 sacks, three forced fumbles, and four interceptions. Goldson definitely has great size and instincts to be an elite player; people just aren't saying anything.
Watch for a great safety tandem in Dashon Goldson and rookie Taylor Mays in 2010.
3. Derek Cox, Cornerback—Jacksonville Jaguars
Derek Cox had an outstanding rookie season last season, and I think he is ready to take it to the next level. Cox was arguably the best player on the Jaguars' defense in 2009. Cox is the future of the Jaguars' young and rebuilding defense. Cox had four interceptions in 2009 which is outstanding for a first-year player.
2. Curtis Lofton, Middle Linebacker—Atlanta Falcons
Curtis Lofton is a tackle machine.
That is all he is—he doesn't make big plays, he just makes tons and tons of tackles.
Lofton had 133 tackles in 2009, ranking sixth in the NFL in tackles. Lofton has a chance to be a star; he reminds me of a young London Fletcher.
Lofton should be a Pro-Bowler in the next few seasons. If he just would make more plays besides tackles, then he has a trip to Honolulu.
1. Brandon Flowers, Cornerback—Kansas City Chiefs
Brandon Flowers may be small, but he makes huge plays.
Flowers, in his second season with the Chiefs, grabbed five interceptions and two forced fumbles, along with 65 tackles in 2010.
Flowers could be the next Darelle Revis. He is already an extremely underrated player. The Chiefs could have one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL next season with two young talented corners entering their third year in Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr.
Highly-rated safety Eric Berry and nickel back Javier Arenas were picked up in the draft and should only make the Chiefs better.