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2010 NFL Draft: Pre-Combine Sleepers on Defense

Chris MaierCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 31:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Florida Gators is tackled hard by Rennie Curran #35 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium on October 31, 2009 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NFL Scouting Combine begins Feb. 24, with live coverage on NFL Network beginning Saturday, Feb. 26. 

The coverage will likely focus heavily on the exploits of Taylor Mays, Sergio Kindle, and any other big names who decide to showcase their wares.

But the weeks ahead are also about the players a little below the radar who have a chance to vastly improve their stocks with strong workouts and interviews. 

To help introduce some of the more unheralded invitees, NFL Draft 101 has developed a list of defensive sleepers to watch during the remainder of the draft process—one player per position.

Defensive Tackle

Linval Joseph, East Carolina : One of the draft's biggest sleepers, Joseph combines tremendous size with surprising athleticism.  Joseph is a high upside run-stuffer who can also push the pocket and get after the quarterback.  He projects as a nose tackle but can also play in a 4-3.  Conditioning was once an issue—he once tipped the scales at 370 pounds.  His weigh-in may be as important as his workout.

Defensive End

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Kevin Basped, Nevada : Basped is one of the best pass rushers in the country no one has heard about.  He had 19.5 sacks during the past two years while facing constant double teams.   He has a great burst off the snap with a nice combination of speed and strength.  Basped is a long, lean college defensive end whose stock could rise dramatically if he tests well, and—most importantly—shows he can make the conversion to rushing linebacker.

Outside Linebacker

Rennie Curran, Georgia:   The SEC's best hitter according to Sporting News , Curran is a tremendous tackler who has everything you look for in an outside linebacker—except size (5'11", 225 pounds).  His lack of height will cause him to fall on draft day, but he is a heck of a football player who desperately needs to find the right scheme. (Colts?)

Inside Linebacker

Boris Lee, Troy: An experienced, athletic linebacker who was a tackling machine at Troy, Lee can play inside or outside—and he comes out of a system at Troy known for producing NFL talent.   Coming off a strong week at the Texas vs. the Nation game, Lee needs to showcase speed, athleticism, and bulk—a dangerous combination—to boost his stock in workouts.

Cornerback

Joshua Moore, Kansas State: The least heralded of the underclassmen corners, Moore is undersized but has tremendous speed and underrated coverage ability and supports the run.  

Safety

Reshad Jones, Georgia : In a deep safety class, Jones is emerging as a fast riser.  Like Curran, he was overlooked trying to do a little bit of everything on a mediocre defense.  He has solid all-around skills and the versatility to play free or strong.  An underrated athlete for his size, Jones could move himself into the second round if he tests well and proves he has the ability to cover receivers in man coverage.

Be sure to visit nfldraft101.com for our second annual live chat during the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine.

Chris Maier is senior editor for nfldraft101.com.  He can be reached at cmaier@nfldraft101.com

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