As the offensive side has been taken care of, it's time to look at the top NFL Draft defensive prospects, back when they were high school recruits. As highlighted back in first edition of this two-part series, not every top NFL Draft prospect was the biggest-name player at the high school level. Once again, all scouting credit goes to the Rivals.com and ESPN.com scouting pages.
We all know A.J. Green will be one of the top picks this year, but back in high school, another projected top pick, receiver Julio Jones of Alabama, was actually rated ahead of him during their high school careers. Interesting to see, as that argument of Green vs Jones as the top wide receiver is one to argue for the NFL Draft as well.
With all that said, wait no more, here is a look at four of the top NFL Draft defensive prospects as high school recruits. We start with a player who was ranked fifteenth at his position, didn't go to the biggest football powerhouse, but now finds himself atop the boards for linebacker/defensive end.
Von Miller (DeSoto, Texas)
That's right, Miller was ranked fifteenth for a weak-side defensive end his senior season and ended up signing with Texas A&M. At 6'3" and 210-pounds, Miller was labeled by Rivals as a four-star recruit. Miller finished his senior season with 61 tackles and seven sacks, showing signs of things to come for Texas A&M.
Miller's biggest campaign for the pros was his junior season for the Aggies, in which he compiled 43 tackles and 17 sacks. His senior year followed nicely including 68 tackles and another eleven sacks to his pro resume.Mel Kiper Jr described Miller as a "front-seven player who can constantly bring pressure to the opposing quarterback." One thing's certain, Miller has evolved from high school to college, and is ready to make the jump to the pros.
Da'Quan Bowers (Bamberg-Ehrhardt: Bamberg, South Carolina)
No other player in this year's NFL Draft, seems more NFL-ready then Da'Quan Bowers, and that's something Bowers is quite familiar with. Part of the 2008 class, Bowers graduated early from high school and was ranked the No.1 overall defensive-end in the country. His senior season saw him put up 97 tackles, including 33 for a loss, fourteen sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Consistent, that would be the term best used to describe Bowers during his time at Clemson. In three seasons Bowers piled up 150 tackles, 20 sacks and one forced fumble. That performance has left many arguing Bowers to be selected as the No. 1 overall pick in this upcoming draft. At 6'4" and 280 pounds, he could be to the Carolina Panthers what Julius Peppers was to them once, if not bigger.
Marcel Dareus (Huffman: Birmingham, Alabama)
Many may wonder why Dareus was chosen and not Nick Fairley of Auburn. Dareus is the perfect example of someone who fought his way up the rankings, from high school to college. Now, due to his outstanding NFL Combine performance, some argue that Dareus has a case for the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
The high praise wasn't always there for Dareus, who did sign with Alabama, was a three-star recruit according to Rivals and as part of the 2008 high school class, was ranked 28th at the defensive tackle position coming off a senior season in high school that included 117 tackles and 20 sacks.
While Nick Fairley took stage during Auburn's national championship run, Dareus continued to use his frame of 6'4" and 306 pounds to wreak havoc for opposing offensive lineman. His combine performance put him over the top, and while Dareus may not go first overall, he does have the ability to be a difference maker in the pros.
Prince Amukamara (Apollo: Glendale, Arizona)
Seems as if Nebraska got a steal here. Recruited as part of the 2007 recruiting class, Amukamara certainly did it all. As a senior, Amukamara rushed, yes rushed, for over 2,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. Staying on the offensive side, Amukamara also caught 452 yards and six touchdowns. Showing he is a versatile player, on defense he compiled 95 tackles and two interceptions his senior season.
Playing corner-back for Nebraska, Amukamara was a play-maker. In his four seasons at Nebraska, he totaled up 155 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles. What is mostly not mentioned is that Amukamara did not play much as a freshman, so those numbers showed exactly what he can do in three-year's time.
Another player in a NFL Draft position battle, Amukamara is fighting LSU's Patrick Patterson as the top defensive back. One thing is clear, Amukamara can certainly make a difference due to his versatility, and should make an immediate impact at the next level.
As the NFL lockout isn't pretty, sometimes a flash back helps us enjoy our future stars. These highlighted superstars have been around the hype since they were high school recruits, and a lot of maturing and lesson-learning goes on throughout their time, not just football experience.