Earlier this week, we reviewed that top risers on the offensive side of the ball led by darkhorse #1 Eric Fisher. However, the defensive side of the ball has the better group of prospects in 2013 and also the better group of combine performers. Here is a look at 8 outstanding players who made themselves a lot of money with strong showings in Indianapolis.
DT Sharrif Floyd, Florida– The massive defensive tackle has not always lived up to expectations at Florida, however, his performance at the Combine has high draft expectations at an all-time high. In fact, Floyd, who ran an impressive 4.92 forty in Indianapolis, is now being called the best defensive player in the draft. Particularly with the health concerns of Star Lotulelei, Floyd is probably now more likely to end up inside the top five than outside of it whereas just a week ago, many had him outside the top 20.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, BYU– At 6’6″, 273 pounds, Ansah possesses ideal size and also runs a blazing 4.63. In short, he is an athletic freak. Only three years into his football career, the Ghana native is still a raw prospect, but his stock is soaring after a dominant performance in the Senior Bowl and in Indianapolis. However, teams will have to question whether investing a top ten, or even top five pick, on a prospect who recorded only 4.5 sacks last year for the Cougars. On the flip side, they will have to question how they can afford to pass on an athlete with such limitless potential.
DE Margus Hunt, SMU– If there is anyone who can surpass Ansah in the “physical freak” category, it is the Estonian who has only been playing football since 2009. At 6’8″, 277 pounds, Hunt, who won gold as a track and field athlete in the 2006 World Junior Track and Field Championships(http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/02/26/smus-margus-hunt-impresses-scouts-at-combine/), ran a 4.6 forty and tied for the most bench press reps with 38. Like Ansah, Hunt’s performance on the field this year was not overwhelming, but his raw ability may get him into the first round.
OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon– After running a 4.6 forty, the athletic Oregon defender has solidified himself as a prospect who will be discussed in draft rooms as early as #2 with the Jaguars and will also get looked at by the Raiders, Eagles (now led by former coach Chip Kelly), Lions, and Browns who follow in succession. The former Duck is a hybrid player who could end up at outside linebacker or defensive end, and he will be a hot commodity come April.
OLB Jamie Collins, Southern Miss– Another raw prospect, Collins is a dynamic athlete who can be a force on the edge. At the combine, Collins showed off his incredible athleticism with a 4.64 forty yard dash, a combine-best 41.5″ vertical leap, and a combine-record 11’7″ broad jump. At 6’3″, 250pounds with great length, Collins could be a presence for on the outside for any team, and he is soaring up the draft boards. Unlike others, his production last year was strong, posting 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks for Southern Miss last season. While he could take time to fully develop, he should be able to make an impact as a pash rusher immediately.
OLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn– Inconsistency was a major problem for Lemonier at Auburn, however, he exhibited dominance at the SEC level during spurts in his career. After running an impressive 4.6 forty despite adding a much needed 10 pounds to his 6’3″ frame, Lemonier’s stock is on the rise again after falling off due to a lackluster season. Likely projecting as a 3-4 outside linebacker after playing defensive end in college, Lemonier is now unlikely to last past the second round.
CB Dee Milliner, Alabama– Going into the Combine, everyone knew that Milliner was the best corner in the draft, and it is hard to imagine a scenario that would have changed that. However, there were questions about exactly how high Milliner’s value was, and many wondered about his top end speed. He answered the critics with an incredible 4.37 forty. Coached by Nick Saban, possessing great size, and providing a good physical presence, Milliner is now a likely top five pick.
S Matt Elam, Florida– There is not a prospect in this draft that I am more baffled by his relatively low draft stock than Matt Elam. To me, he is the best safety in the draft and worthy of being selected in the top half of the first round. However, most have him pegged in the second round. Despite that consensus, Elam moved significantly closer to my projection with a strong showing in Indianapolis. Running a 4.46 forty and performing well in position drills, Elam outperformed the competition, and the team that lands this physical and talented safety will be getting an incredible bargain.