The Hardest Hitters in the 2015 NFL Draft Class

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IApril 8, 2015

The Hardest Hitters in the 2015 NFL Draft Class

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Don't kid yourself—one of the best things about college football are the big hits, and big hitters get lots of attention around the NFL draft. Draft pundits love to break down the minutia of every prospect and quantify everything. But no matter how analytical you want to be, when you are watching film and a guy gets de-cleated, you notice.

    Every NFL franchise wants an enforcer on defense. Like a goon in hockey; this is the guy whom opponents are always watching for. Names like John Lynch and Ray Lewis are mentioned with such adulation, in part because of their abilities to bring punishing hits.

    So, are the next Lynch and Lewis in this draft? Perhaps not, but don't despair. There are some serious hitters in this group, and not all of them will cost you a high draft pick. This list is far from comprehensive, but here are five huge hitters in the upcoming draft who come from all over the place in terms of position and program.

Landon Collins, S, Alabama

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    If you poll the average NFL or college football fan on whom the biggest hitter is in this draft, don't be shocked if you hear about Alabama safety Landon Collins on multiple occasions. Collins has developed quite a reputation for cleaning the clocks of opposing offensive players, so to speak. NFL teams view Collins as a hammer at strong safety with surprising range. Collins is fearless and powerful.

    At 6'0" and 228 pounds, Collins is a thick athlete with a strong base who can get up to speed in a hurry. While Collins isn't a great form tackler (a trend on this list), he throws himself all over the field with reckless abandon. In the NFL, Collins is going to be a wonderful dual-threat safety, but when we talk about his reputation, it's the highlight-reel hits that get fans and teams excited.

Denzel Perryman, LB, Miami

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    This list doesn't include rankings, but if it did, Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman would need to be in serious consideration for the No. 1 spot. Perryman gets dinged in the NFL draft big picture because he's not an overly athletic guy and struggles in space. However, if you are over the age of 25 and can appreciate old-school football, Perryman is a fun watch.

    As you can see from the video, Perryman is textbook in his tackling form. His lower-body power allows him to break to the football, stop flat-footed and just piledrive offensive players coming at him full speed. Perryman takes good angles to the football, squares his shoulders and finishes every tackle. Young players could learn a lot about how to finish a play by watching Perryman highlights.

Dechane Durante, S, Northern Illinois

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    If you are looking for an unknown guy on this list, Northern Illinois safety Dechane Durante is your man. The talented free safety really grew on me as the season progressed, and for every play that he made in the passing game, he made another on which he dropped the hammer on some unsuspecting offensive player. Durante plays with absolute disregard for his own body and even less regard for his opponent.

    In terms of draft stock, Durante is a Day 3 selection, but make no mistake—he's got legit NFL skills. Every NFL team needs a special teams ace who sets the tone on punt and kick coverage. This is the type of role that Durante could start his career in while he transitions to a full-time spot as a hard-hitting strong safety.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

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    Is it really possible that a cornerback could make this list? No way, those guys are all flash but never physical, right? Wrong. Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one of the most physical cornerbacks I've seen in years in terms of sticking his nose in the run game and laying hits. Ekpre-Olomu is fearless and will take on any blocker or running back, even though he's only weighing in at a whopping 192 pounds.

    The secret to Ekpre-Olomu's game is his understanding of angles. The Oregon star is quick to diagnose a play, and he will come in low and fast in a hurry. The ability to play in coverage is what every team covets in a top-tier cornerback, but Ekpre-Olomu is much more than that. Too many plays in the NFL are given up on the edge because the cornerback can't beat his blocker or cannot take down the ball-carrier. With Ekpre-Olomu, no team has to worry about either of those issues.

Paul Dawson, LB, TCU

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    Did you seriously think that we could do a list of the big hitters and not include TCU linebacker Paul Dawson? Other than Perryman, there might not be anything closer to a heat-seeking missile on this list than Dawson. Rather than a clip, I give you a full highlight reel of Dawson, because the film does not lie. Critics always want to question his athleticism, but he just finds his way to the football and makes plays.

    Another similarity between Perryman and Dawson is in terms of draft stock. If Dawson ran a better 40-yard dash, he'd be a near-lock for the first round. Instead, he will go in the second round, and some team will be able to take advantage of those crushing blows that he delivers at a bargain price. Dawson is also one of the more sure tacklers in this group and keeps his head up, so as to diagnose the play effectively.


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