The Super Bowl this year was a reminder that a great offense can win you a lot of games, but a great defense will win you a championship. Teams are looking to build the type of defense that can dominate in the postseason and this year’s draft is loaded with talent. The Seahawks have proven that you can find a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball outside the first round. The 2014 draft is loaded with playmaking defensive players, who if taken by the right team, could make a major impact during their rookie season. Here are the top 5 players for each position in a standard IDP league (DL, LB, DB).
Jadeveon Clowney (South Carolina) 4.53 40-yard dash: Clowney’s junior season was considered somewhat disappointing after he had a highlight filled sophomore season at South Carolina. He dealt with some injuries this past year and wasn’t able to put up the same type of stats as he did the previous season. He has all the physical tools to be a dominant pass rusher in the NFL. His size and speed combination is very similar to Mario Williams when he was drafted as the #1 overall pick by the Texans in 2006. The biggest knock on Clowney as a NFL prospect is his perceived lack of work ethic. Some people accused him of taking it easy last year so he wouldn’t get injured and ruin his draft stock. If he has the desire to be a dominant NFL player, he has the physical tools to be as good as he wants to be.
Bottom Line: If Clowney goes to a team that plays an aggressive defense and allows him to rush the quarterback, he could put up some solid IDP numbers as a rookie.
Timmy Jernigan (Florida State) 5.06 40-yard dash: In a pass dominant league, teams are always looking for dominant players on the defensive line. Jernigan was very impressive for the Seminoles in his only season as a starter. He was the anchor on their defense during the National Championship run last year. Not the most technically sound defensive lineman in the draft, but relied on his natural ability and physical tools to be a dominant force in college. He will only get better as he develops his craft as an NFL defensive tackle.
Bottom Line: Jernigan is another guy who won’t be relied upon as the run stuffing DT that just takes up blocks for everyone else. He will need to be in a defense that allows him to be a disruptive force along the defensive line.
Dee Ford (Auburn) 4.61 40-yard dash : Ford put his name on the map with a strong senior season that included 8.5 sacks. He doesn’t have the size to be an every down defensive end in the NFL. At 6-2 and weighing right around 250 pounds, he could be asked to play some outside linebacker. Ford is a speed rusher who will give offensive tackles in the NFL problems with his quickness. His size could prove to be a liability as run stopper, so he could be used as a situational pass rusher as a rookie.
Bottom Line: His IDP potential really depends on the team that drafts him. If he goes to a team that runs a 4-3 defense, he will probably be brought in on passing situations. If he is drafted by a 3-4 defensive team, he could earn more playing time as an oustide linebacker.
Aaron Donald (Pittsburg) 4.68 40-yard dash: Donald was dominant for the Panthers last year. He averaged more than one sack and two tackles for loss last year. He is considered undersized for an NFL defensive tackle, but he makes up for his lack of size with his above average strength. Donald did 35 reps of 225 at the combine and his other measurables showed his explosive power at the line of scrimmage. Teams are always looking for guys who can put pressure on the quarterback up the middle and Donald has the potential to be a elite pass rushing DT.
Bottom Line: He is not a run clogging defensive tackle. Donald will strive being used as a defensive tackle who isn’t relied upon to by the anchor on the line to stop the opponents running game. His IDP stock will rise if he is drafted by a team that runs a 4-3 defense.
Kony Ealy (Missouri) 4.92 40-yard dash: Ealy played all over the defensive line for the Tigers last year. His versatility will make him a valuable asset to the team that drafts him. He had 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 2013 helping him earn All-SEC honors. Ealy has great pass rushing moves from the outside and inside. He can also be disruptive to the passing game by getting deflections at the line of scrimmage.
Bottom-Line: He has ideal size for his position of DE, so his IDP value doesn’t change much based on the type of team that drafts him. If he goes to a creative defensive coach, Ealy will be put into situations where he can take advantage of a mismatch.
Khalil Mack (Buffalo) 4.65 40-yard dash: Mack didn’t play for a college football powerhouse, so he hasn’t been a household name. He had 10.5 sacks, three interceptions, and 100 tackles playing for Buffalo in 2013. Some question the competition he played against in the MAC, but he had his best game of the year against Ohio State. He has all the physical tools to be a dominant player in the NFL. Mack also showed the ability to play the pass, so he won’t be a liability in the pass happy teams. He makes a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage, although he can be undisciplined at times.
Bottom Line: Mack should come in and be a starter on day one regardless of what team drafts him. He will be a good source of tackles and sacks because he has the tools to be an every down player. He has the highest potential to put up solid IDP stats his rookie year.
Anthony Barr (UCLA) 4.66 40-yard dash: Imagine how good he could be if he was a linebacker his entire college career. Barr played running back for the Bruins his first two years in college. His stats last year are pretty impressive. He had 10 sacks, 20 tackles for a loss, and 5 forced fumbles. He has the physical tools to be an outstanding outside linebacker in the NFL. Barr has unbelievable quickness and closing speed that always keeps him in the play. The biggest issue with Barr is his lack of experience at the position. He was dominant in college because of his physical tools, but he will need to improve his fundamentals to be dominant at the pro level.
Bottom Line: While Barr will be a very productive NFL linebacker, he may not make a huge splash right away. He will probably be a two down player his first year in the league. Once he gains more experience with the position, the sky is the limit for him.
C.J. Mosley (Alabama) 4.67 40-yard dash: Mosley has the hardware to show that he was a productive college player. He was a two-time All-American selection and he was the 2013 Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker. He is a force in stopping the running game and excels in dropping back in coverage. Mosley has great lateral quickness and flows to the ball with explosive power. He is not a player who does much behind the line of scrimmage. He will be a very productive player in the NFL because he has great instincts for the game.
Bottom Line: Mosley will be an every down linebacker in the NFL. He should be targeted in IDP leagues as someone who will put up solid numbers because he will be on the field all the time. Just don’t expect many sacks.
Ryan Shazier (Ohio State) 4.38 40-yard dash: Shazier was a production machine for the Buckeyes last year. He earned First-team All-American honors and was a finalist for the Butkus Award. He posted great numbers at the combine. He doesn’t have elite size for an NFL linebacker, but he makes up for that with his athleticism. He plays a very disruptive style of football, but will need to improve shredding blocks at the pro level. He will not need to come off the field in passing situations, so he will have plenty of opportunities to make plays for the team that drafts him.
Bottom Line: Shazier was a productive player in college and he will be a productive player in the NFL. Since he will be an every down linebacker, he should be able to put up solid stats for his new team.
Kyle Van Noy (BYU) 4.71 40-yard dash: Van Noy was the FBS All-Independent Defensive Player of the Year. Lacks great coverage skills for a linebacker, but he can be very disruptive at the line of scrimmage. He won’t be used as an every down linebacker, but could be a force rushing from the outside on passing downs. He did a good job in college of deflecting passes at the line of scrimmage. He should be a solid NFL starter once he becomes a well-rounded linebacker.
Bottom Line- While Van Noy has the physical tools to be a solid NFL player, but it may take a few years for him to fully develop at the pro level. He has limited IDP value this year.
Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) 4.37 40-yard dash: Gilbert earned 2nd Team All-American honors in 2013. He had a big year with 7 interceptions, including 2 that were returned for touchdowns. Gilbert was also a standout on special teams where he had 6 career return touchdowns. At 6 feet tall, he possess excellent size for his position. He is the best cover corner in the draft and should be able to make a smooth transition to the pro game. He will need to work on his ability to help with run support to be a complete player.
Bottom Line: Gilbert has elite speed and size for his position. He should be a starter from the beginning of training camp. He will also make an impact in the return game.
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (Alabama) 4.58 40-yard dash: Dix did not have as productive of a season is 2013 as he did in 2012 (had 5 interceptions). He still showed the play making ability that will make him a valuable addition to any NFL team. He showed strong tackling skills while at Alabama and was also active against the pass. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but his has good instincts to cover up his lack of speed.
Bottom Line: Dix will turn into a solid NFL starter and could make an impact his rookie season. He has all the necessary tools to play free safety at the pro level and he has championship experience with Alabama.
Calvin Pryor (Louisville) 4.58 40-yard dash: Pryor was very productive for Louisville over the last 2 years as he compiled 175 total tackles. He also had 3 interceptions this year. Pryor is known for his physical play and punishing hits. He is a strong run stopper who can play in the box and drop back into coverage.
Bottom Line: Pryor is going to make an impact right out of the box. His style of play will translate well in the pros. His hits will be on a few highlights this year.
Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) 4.51 40-yard dash : Dennard was the most decorated defensive back in college football last year. He was an unanimous First Team All-American and the Jim Thorpe Award winner. In 2013, Dennard had a career high 4 interceptions. He has good height for an NFL corner and likes to play physical man coverage.
Bottom Line: He will need to show that he can be durable at the NFL level. he will also need to improve his
Jason Verrett (TCU) 4.38 40-yard dash: Verrett lacks ideal size for an NFL corner. He is 5’9″ and doesn’t have very long arms. He totaled 8 interceptions that last 2 years, despite missing time with various injuries. He has great speed and quickness that should allow him to be a solid slot corner as a rookie. He has very good instincts and reacts quickly to the ball in the air. Verrett is a tough player who always gets the most out of his ability.
Bottom Line: He will need to prove that he isn’t a injury waiting to happen in the NFL. He has the skill set to be a top level slot corner, and should be able to develop into a solid outside corner as he adjusts to the pro game.