Each year a unique set of prospects enters the professional ranks with a chance to make an immediate impact on the country's most powerful sport. The 2013 NFL Draft, held April 25-27, won’t be any different. Georgia's Jarvis Jones leads a fairly deep class of athletic defenders who should be capable of contributing on the next level.
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia (6-2, 245)
Final Stats: 155 tackles, 44.0 TFL, 28.0 sacks, 9 FF, 1 INT
The star Bulldog defender isn't a true outside linebacker in the 4-3 sense, but he is undoubtedly one of the most talented pass-rushers in the nation. He is a perfect fit in the 3-4 as a hybrid James Harrison-type of player. He is a tenacious (just pop in the tape of the Missouri or Florida games from 2012) blitz backer who can play in space if need be. He isn't as big as some other hybrids of recent memory, but he makes up for it with elite-level quickness and explosion. He can't really "grow" into a 4-3 defensive end and his strengths aren't suited for the traditional 4-3 OLB either, but his skill set is perfect for the outside 3-4 backer that is used off of the edge to make plays. If he can prove the health issues aren't reoccurring, he is a surefire starter in year one at the professional level. He posted back-to-back double-digit sack totals and led the nation in QB takedowns as a sophomore.
2. Chase Thomas, Stanford (6-3, 244)
Final Stats: 229 tackles, 50.5 TFL, 27.5 sacks, 9 FF, 2 INT
When star middle linebacker Shayne Skov was lost for the season in 2011, it was Thomas who stepped in and became the centerpiece of the Cardinal defense. He constantly plays behind the line of scrimmage and has a huge, powerful frame. He has excelled in the traditional 4-3 outside position in college, but his size and instincts give him Clay Matthews-type of skills. He is a fundamentally sound athlete who rarely is out of position and has little downside after an extremely productive college career. All of that on the most physical, stingiest defensive front West of the Mississippi — one that has won a ton of games.
3. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers (6-1, 241)
Final Stats: 387 tackles, 31.0 TFL, 11.5 sacks, 2 INT, 12 FF
Stable. Athletic. Fast. Dependable. And in the modern NFL world of speed and passing attacks, Greene's overall athleticism makes him an intriguing upside prospect. He played safety in his first two seasons and, after some adding some bulk, he shifted closer to the line of scrimmage to get his playmaking talents around the football. He played on the league's top defense and if Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano wasn't already loaded with young linebackers, he wouldn't pass on the tackler he recruited and coached at Rutgers.
4. Sean Porter, Texas A&M (6-1, 229)
Final Stats: 261 tackles, 34.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks, 1 INT
Von Miller Porter is not. But he did have an excellent junior season filling the pass-rushing void left by Miller's departure. However, the Aggies shifted to a 4-3 under a new coaching staff and Porter was shifted into a more traditional 4-3 outside role. He simply wasn't asked to rush the passer at all his last season in College Station. Scouts will have to decide if his position experience is a good thing (meaning versatility) or a bad thing (limited to one thing). He has plenty of talent, but only time will tell where he should be playing on the next level.
5. Zavier Gooden, Missouri (6-1, 234)
Final Stats: 256 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 5 INT
This prospect is a freaky athlete with an NFL-ready body. He was a converted safety and has the speed, quickness, burst and range to match. His rare physical talents have allowed him to grow into an elite outside linebacker prospect. With good coaching, Gooden is all but assured a starting role on the next level.
6. Gerald Hodges, Penn State (6-1, 243)
Final Stats: 249 tackles, 21.0 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 3 INT
Hodges is the definition of a traditional outside linebacker position in a traditional 4-3 defense. He has excellent athletic ability and was successful in all phases of the game in college — blitzing the passer, playing physical and displaying discipline against the run, and he also is fluid and quick in space against the pass. Some added bulk and strength would only help improve his stock and professional outlook.
7. Jamie Collins, Southern Miss (6-3, 250)
Final Stats: 314 sacks, 45.0 TFL, 21.0 sacks, 7 FF, 3 INT
The undersized defensive end was stellar in his time at Southern Miss to the point of being unblockable as a senior. He was incredibly disruptive and constantly is playing behind enemy lines in the backfield, including on special teams. He appears destined for the hybrid role on the outside of a 3-4 scheme as he will be learning to play standing up in the NFL all over again. He will have to overcome the level of competition criticism as Conference USA offensive tackles aren't exactly a proving ground of NFL talent. Does he have the athleticism to make the speed and position transition at the next level?
8. Sio Moore, UConn (6-1, 245)
Final Stats: 274 tackles, 44.0 TFL, 16.0 sacks, 4 FF, 3 INT
Moore is a well-coached, dedicated prospect who takes his work seriously. He is disciplined and rarely out of position, giving him the chance to make plays on a regular basis. He is a fundamentally sound tackler who is almost certain to out-perform his draft stock. He showed much better than expected at the Combine.
9. Jelani Jenkins, Florida (6-0, 243)
Final Stats: 182 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 3 INT
The Gators tackler is a superb athlete. He can run and cover from sideline-to-sideline and moves well in open space. He needs to learn to get tougher at the point of attack and is limited in his position versatility. If he can learn better technique and develop a nasty streak, he could be a steal come draft weekend.
10. Etienne Sabino, Ohio State (6-2, 247)
Final Stats: 120 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT
Sabino was a big-time recruit coming out of high school and his overall athletic ability and strength proved the scouts were right. He can play inside as well and likely lands on the strongside. He doesn't possess elite quickness or agility but he was rarely out of position during his Buckeyes career.
11. Keith Pough, Howard (6-2, 239)
12. Brandon McGee, Arizona State (5-11, 223)
13. Jake Knott, Iowa State (6-2, 243)
14. DeVonte Holloman, South Carolina (6-1, 243)
15. Cornelius Washington, Georgia (6-4, 265)
16. Mike Taylor, Wisconsin (6-1, 234)
17. Lerentee McCray, Florida (6-2, 25)
18. Sam Barrington, South Florida (6-1, 246)
19. Nick Moody, Florida State (6-1, 236)
2013 NFL Draft Positional Rankings:
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Running Backs
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Tight Ends
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Offensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Guards and Centers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Defensive Tackles
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Middle Linebackers
NFL Draft Rankings 2013: Outside Linebackers