2011 NFL Draft: Defensive Sleepers By Position Who Will Open Eyes at the Combine
Next week's NFL Scouting Combine offers college football's biggest stars a chance to showcase their abilities before the 2011 NFL Draft.
It's the final opportunity to for some to showcase their abilities before this year's NFL Draft.
Everyone waits in anticipation to see the stars like Cam Newton run the 40-yard dash, but who are some of the guys nobody is talking about, that could help their stock with an impressive performance at the combine?
Here is a list of the top sleepers at each defensive position who will impress at the combine.
Defensive End: Greg Romeus (Pittsburgh)
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Greg Romeus decided to return to Pittsburgh for his senior season after just failing to reach a projected first-round grade in last year's NFL Draft.
The return was one later filled with regret.
Romeus suffered injuries to his lower back and ACL, causing him to miss the majority of the season. He also dealt with personal issues that kept him off the field for a game.
This has caused Romeus's stock to drop from the top of the second round to roughly the fourth round.
Romeus fits the build of a prototypical rush end in the NFL and his height and weight will be the first thing noticed by scouts.
Romeus is quick on his feet, and should be able to perform better in the 40-yard dash and cone drills than some of the higher-rated defensive ends like J.J. Watt, Ryan Kerrigan and Cameron Heyward.
His speed also contributes to his above-average ability to play coverage as a defensive end. This may catch some scouts off guard, opening up the possibility to play in a 3-4.
Romeus won't likely crack the first round, but with a good performance during the combine, he could move his way back up the charts quite a bit.
Defensive Tackle: Marvin Austin (North Carolina)
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The NCAA investigation at North Carolina hurt a lot of player's stock in this year's draft. Marvin Austin is one of those guys.
In 2006, Austin was rated as the top prospect in the nation at defensive tackle.
After last year's scandal at North Carolina, Austin found himself not only suspended, but also as the only player kicked off the team.
There are some obvious character issues here, but Austin may be one of the most athletic players at defensive tackle.
It doesn't necessarily translate to on-field success, but it will help him stand out after being out of the spotlight all season.
He has the strength to play the inside and hold up at the point of attack, and he also has the agility to get to the outside and make a play on athletic quarterbacks.
Austin will look good at the combine, and the once forgotten player could find himself close to the first round when everything is said and done.
Outside Linebacker: Dontay Moch (Nevada)
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Dontay Moch automatically takes a hit because of the team he played for. His production at Nevada will be undervalued due to the weakness of the Western Athletic Conference.
During his time with the Wolfpack, Moch racked up 29 sacks and 189 total tackles. This will likely be overlooked.
What teams can't overlook is his speed.
At 6'2" and 225 pounds, Moch has the ability to run a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. That's faster than most wide receivers and running backs.
Moch was a former track star and he will have the chance to showcase that at the combine.
He may struggle with some of the drills with agility and lateral movement since he doesn't completely have the technique down.
However, a 3-4 team may see this blazing speed and take a chance on Moch in the second round in hopes of finding an elite pass rusher.
Inside Linebacker: Martez Wilson (Illinois)
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Martez Wilson is already rated by some as the top inside linebacker. Despite this, he is also projected to go sometime in the second round of the NFL Draft.
Wilson is easily the quickest and most athletic inside linebacker in the draft. What he lacks in on field awareness, he makes up for with his athleticism.
He should have a performance at the combine that makes him stand out among the other inside linebackers.
It won't be the best performance in combine history, but it may seem that much better because of how much better it will be than most of his "opponents."
After all is said and done, Wilson will likely be at the top of his position in every drill except for the bench press. Even then, he will likely be toward the top.
The skewed results could force some teams to take a closer look at Wilson, and it could give him a chance to sneak into the first round in April.
Cornerback: Davon House (New Mexico State)
It's tough to stand out when you play for New Mexico State.
Davon House had some good company on the WAC All-Star team last year in first-round pick Kyle Wilson.
House is projected as a second-round pick, mixed in with talks of the two Texas cornerbacks, Aaron Williams and Curtis Brown.
The best of the three will likely go early in the second round. The worst will likely fall to the bottom of the round.
That's a pretty significant difference in paychecks.
I expect House to outperform both Brown and Williams at the combine. They all are almost identical in terms of speed and quickness.
What will stand out about House is the physicality he will bring to the table. Brown also has this ability, but often does not utilize it the way he should.
House will be aggressive, get his hands on the receiver and stick his nose in for a big hit. It's these attributes that will help him in the combine and could put him toward the top of the second round.
Safety: Robert Sands (West Virginia)
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At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Robert Sands is one of the biggest safeties in this year's draft class.
With this size, Sands still has the speed and agility to be a dangerous player in the NFL. The combination may actually be what helps him on draft day and during the combine.
Sands is likely going to stand out as the biggest and one of the most aggressive players at the combine.
He can make big plays and has ridiculous abilities as an athlete.
In his time at West Virginia, Sands had six interceptions, two forced fumbles, and 110 total tackles.
After showcasing his athleticism at the combine, I can't see any way that Sands drops to his projected spot in the fourth or fifth round.
In the third round, some teams may have to take a chance on him due to the athleticism alone. Technique and the position can be taught, talent can not.