After yesterday’s installment focusing on five offensive players that intrigue me and are worth monitoring prior to the 2013 draft, here are five defensive players.
Alex Okafor – DE/OLB – Texas – Texas’ 6’4″, 241 pound Alex Okafor does an exceptional job using his hands and is by far the best at it coming out of college. Part of this is because he once played defensive tackle, which forced him to quickly and wisely use his hands. Now at defensive end and outside linebacker, Okafor is not the most fluid of athletes, as he doesn’t turn the corner consistently. But he has one of the nastiest bulrushes of the pass-rushers in this draft because of his proper hand placement and overwhelming power. For those curious about his potential in a 3-4 defense, he has taken snaps in coverage as part of the Texas defense’s extensive use of fire-zone blitzes. He’s a little tall in his backpedal, but he moves well enough.
John Jenkins – NT – Georgia – Some have labeled John Jenkins a “boom or bust” pick because of his lack of conditioning and overall weight (359 pounds), but similar criticisms were said about Haloti Ngata and Terrence Cody when they came out of college. And as far as I know, they’re both in the NFL, and they’re pretty good. The real concern with Jenkins is why he isn’t anchoring well at his size and weight. He’s struggled to play with good pad level, footwork and flexibility. He has to improve in all three areas. What he has now is some jolt in his hands, which one will see when he administers a bulrush, and he’s surprising agile. He can make plays down the line of scrimmage. Regardless of the front he goes to, he must improve his ability to anchor.
Sean Porter – LB – Texas A&M – Porter measured in at 6’1″, 231 pounds, which probably makes him unlikely to play in a 3-4 defense. Coaches and general managers seek more sand in the pants of their players in the 3-4 scheme. However, he’s very intriguing as a 4-3 outside linebacker because he’s an improving run and pass defender, has an endless motor, and speed to go with it. Some will wonder whether he should be a strong-side linebacker or a weak-side one, and that’s a good question because his speed and athleticism are coveted on the weak-side. But if he continues to improve as a pass defender, a team will be interested in trying him out on the strong-side. All in all, it would be best if he plays on the weak-side, where he can seek and destroy ball-carriers and quarterbacks on blitzes.
Khaseem Greene – LB – Rutgers – Another athletic but light linebacker at 6’0″, 236 pounds, Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene has a chance to be one of the best playmakers in this draft. He can do a bit of everything, as he’s quick, athletic, rangy and instinctive. Many of these traits come from his background as a safety, which he first was before making the switch to linebacker. I’ve said in the past that he reminds me of the Atlanta Falcons’ Mike Peterson when he was a young player. Greene is one of my favorite players in this draft, and he could play any of the linebacker spots in a four man front.
Jordan Poyer – CB – Oregon State – Prior to the start of the college football season, I watched Poyer and stated on Twitter that he just might be the best cover corner of the 2013 prospects. He certainly has the skills to be. He has quick feet to play in the slot, the speed to play outside, and the ball skills and instincts to make plays on the football. He’s also a willing run defender, though he sometimes comes up short. Despite that, he’s very talented at 5’11″, 182 pounds and will appeal to many NFL teams. However, when they do draft him, they’re going to have to improve his technique and footwork. He gets too tall in his backpedal, which leads to difficulties changing directions.
Overall, all five of the prospects above could be mid-to-high draft selections this April. Each of them possesses impressive talent that will catch the eye of evaluators, who will try to find a way to fit them into their team’s scheme. Of the five, Jenkins is the biggest question mark because anchoring at the nose tackle position is a must and he simply lacks any kind of consistency while attempting to do it. If I had to pick one that could surprise of the five, it would be Porter because he has the talent, and he just needs to continue to develop.