Now that the BCS Championship has been played, and the NFL Playoffs are underway, the 2011 NFL Draft is on the mind of every sports fan, and the superstars of college are now beginning to become more familiar among fans of the NFL, due to the possibility of a potential supreme talent joining their favorite team.
In the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, the defensive side of the ball is likely to be selected quicker than the offensive studs entering this year, such as A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, and Jake Locker.
Nick Fairley, Patrick Peterson, Da'Quan Bowers, Prince Amukamara and Akeem Ayers are the defensive beasts that are all likely to be within the top 10 picks, with the exception of Ayers who is more of a top 15 selection, after each player has shown excellent professional potential in their collegiate careers.
At first Da'Quan Bowers was the heavy favorite to be the first player on defense off of the board, but with Nick Fairley's recent performances, including in the BCS National Championship win over Oregon, he has quickly risen himself to a top three projection.
Take a look at a power ranking of Nick Fairley and the top 10 defensive players entering the 2011 NFL Draft.
Season Stats: 45 total tackles (20 solo, 25 assisted), six sacks
Stephen Paea has shown superb quickness for his size and has a seemingly non-stop motor. Paea also has a unique passion and knowledge for the game, and may eventually move to DE depending on the team that selects him.
Season Stats: 48 total tackles (25 solo, 23 assisted), four sacks and one interception
Throughout four seasons played for Ohio State, Heyward recorded a total of 156 tackles, 14 sacks, one interception and one safety. Cameron Heyward was selected to the 2010 All-Big Ten Conference Football First Team (coaches).
Season Stats: 68 total tackles (38 solo, 30 assisted), 11 sacks, and one interception
Bowl Game Performance: AT&T Cotton Bowl v. LSU Tigers(Lost 41-24) Nine total tackles(four solo, five assisted), one sack
Todd McShay described Miller as having "a freakish combination of size, speed and athletic ability." Miller has shown he can continuously get after the quarterback and has improved his ability to drop and cover, which will be a valuable asset to the team that selects him.
2009 Season Stats: 52 total tackles (35 solo tackles, 17 assisted), 11 sacks, and two forced fumbles
Robert Quinn was unable to play this season for violating NCAA policies by accepting thousands of dollars in jewelry from an agent, but his 2010 season should speak for itself. In one season Robert Quinn recorded 11 sacks and two forced fumbles. He's a talented athlete who has been awarded the 2008 Brian Piccolo Award, named to the 2009 Second-Team All-America(CBSsports.com), and the 2009 First-Team All-ACC.
Quinn was also named the Naagurski, Lombardi, Hendricks and Lott trophy award candidates, along with being selected for the 2010 Preseason First-Team All-America, before becoming permanently ineligible in the NCAA.
Season Stats: 68 total tackles (45 solo, 23 assisted), four sacks, and two interceptions
Akeem Ayers was on the watch list for the Nagurski Trophy, awarded to the nation's top defensive player, as well as the Rotary Lombardi Award, which is presented to the nation's top lineman. Ayers has proven he can be consistent, earning very similar numbers over the past two seasons.
Throughout three seasons with the UCLA Bruins, Ayers has recorded a total of 177 tackles, two fumbles forced, 11 sacks, six interceptions and two touchdowns.
Season Stats: 33 total tackles (20 solo, 13 assisted), five sacks
Bowl Game Performance: Capital One Bowl v. Michigan State (Won 49-7); three tackles (two solo, one assisted) and one sack
Marcell Dareus has shown the consistent capability to penetrate against the pass defense, as well as anchor effectively versus the run.
Season Stats: 59 total tackles (36 solo, 23 assisted), one sack
Bowl Game Performance: Holiday Bowl v. Washington Huskies(Loss 19-7)—One tackle
After a tremendous Junior season, opposing quarterbacks began to limit their throws to receivers being covered by Prince Amukamara. He has the potential to be a highly effective shutdown corner in the NFL, after exhibiting tremendous abilities at Nebraska.
Season Stats: 56 total tackles (32 solo, 24 assisted), 12 sacks, and one interception
Bowl Game Performance: BCS National Championship v. Auburn(won 22-19)—Five total tackles(three for a loss), one sack, and one forced fumble.
While at Auburn, Nick Fairley has exhibited an explosive first step and proven that he can be a highly effective pass rusher. Mel Kiper Jr. has Fairley as a Top-10 lock and believes that he "epitomizes the ideal penetrating 4-3 tackle."
Season Stats: 36 tackles (24 solo, 12 assisted), and four interceptions
Bowl Game Performance: Cotton Bowl v. No. 18 Texas A&M(Won 41-24)—six total tackles (five solo, one assisted)
As one of the best cornerbacks in the 2011 NFL draft, Patrick Peterson is likely to be selected within the top ten picks. Heading into the 2010 season, ESPN listed Peterson as the best defender and fourth-best overall player in college football. Throughout his three seasons with LSU, Peterson has exhibited rare athleticism and superb instincts.
College football analysts and experts all over have been raving about this kid and the potential he possesses. Peterson is expected to develop into one of the premiere cornerbacks in the National Football League.
Season Stats: 67 total tackles (41 solo, 26 assisted), 16 sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception
Bowl Game Performance: Meineke Car Care Bowl v. USF (Lost 31-26); Six total tackles (three solo, three assisted)
Da'Quan Bowers has proven to be a natural pass rusher who led the FBS in sacks this season, with 15.5.
College football analyst Todd McShay has said that "Bowers is a stud, can fit any defensive scheme and is blessed with a rare combination of size and athleticism." Bowers was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Bednarik Award and the Nagurski Award in 2010.
While at Clemson, Bowers recorded the most sacks in a season by any lineman in the school's history. Bowers is one of the most NFL-ready defensive lineman in the entire draft.
15. CB Brandon Harris, Miami Hurricanes: 5'11'', 193lbs
14. DE Allen Bailey, Miami Hurricanes: 6'3'', 287lbs
13. DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue Boilmakers: 6'4'', 259lbs
12. DE Cameron Jordan, California Golden Bears: 6'4'', 280lbs
11. DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa Hawkeyes: 6'3'', 285lbs