Top 5 2013 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense

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Top 5 Defensive 2013 NFL Draft Sleepers

Jerry Lal-USA TODAY Sports

Every year 32 NFL franchises hope to strike gold so to speak in the NFL draft. While every team understands what makes a great top tier prospect, and do their best to draft a real impact player in the first 2 rounds of the draft, the great teams are the ones who are able to work rounds 3-7 and get great value for their picks. Being able to not only find the best athletes on the board but those players that fit a team’s scheme is vital.

This time we are going to take a look at the top sleeper picks on defense for the 2013 NFL draft. Scouting defensive players, especially this year is especially challenging. It seems among the 32 NFL teams there are at least a dozen different defensive schemes and for each of those schemes there is a particular type of personnel they need at each position. For example the Seattle Seahawks drafted defensive end Bruce Irvin to play that “Wide 9” defensive end they employ in their scheme. For most fans they felt like taking Irvin in the first round was a reach, but he fit what the Seahawks wanted to do and so the pick made sense.

The same sort of logic applies to later round picks as well. If your franchise asks your cornerbacks to play a lot of press man, you can sometimes steal a corner late who struggles in zone and other teams pass up. Or you find a player who got overshadowed by more talented teammates and so they don’t have the stats to back up what appears to be excellent NFL caliber talent.

Here are my five guys that I think will slip in the draft but if they can land on the right teams will really be able to have an immediate impact in the league.

Curt covers the Pittsburgh Steelers, the NFL draft and college football for Rant Sports. Connect with Curt on Twitter @nfldraftboard.

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Cornelius Washington, defensive end Georgia

Daniel Shirley-USA TODAY Sports

Cornelius Washington

Defensive End

University of Georgia

Height 6-3 Weight 267lbs

Washington is a perfect example of a talented player who was both overshadowed by his teammates and played in a scheme that limited his opportunities. As a run stuff strong side end or even strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense, Washington has a lot of potential. His coverage skills aren't great, but he looks athletic enough to develop along with some pass rush moves, but he will slip because of his limited role in the Georgia defense. But as a strong side run stopper he would be an excellent get for a team in the 4th or 5th round.

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Quanterus Smith, defensive end/linebacker Wester Kentucky

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Quanterus Smith

Defensive end/linebacker

Western Kentucky

Height 6-5 Weight 250lbs

As a player, Smith is probably a 2nd round talent, but a late season ACL injury has put his draft stock in question. It's unlikely he's at 100 percent to start the season and that will drive his draft position down. But as either a 4-3 defensive end or as a 3-4 rush outside linebacker Smith appears to have great potential. He's very quick off the snap on pass plays and works with excellent balance. He's got very active hands that allow him to keep lineman off of him. He's not great in run support but really that's not why you draft him. The question becomes how early do you commit to a player coming off a knee injury like his?

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Tank Carradine, defensive end Florida State

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tank Carradine

Defensive end

Florida State

Height 6-5 Weight 255lbs

Carradine is another player who is going to slide some because of injury. He was the victim of a torn ACL in November and is working hard to get back to full strength for the 2013 NFL season. At full strength Carradine might be the best all-around defensive end in the entire draft. He's got the power and explosion and leverage of the top pass rushers in the draft and does a nice job against the run. One big plus for Carradine is he's got a nice variety of pass rush moves and doesn't rely on a single move like so many players. Some team is going to get a real bargain with Carradine a little later in the draft.

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Demontre Hurst, cornerback Oklahoma

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Demontre Hurst


University of Oklahoma

Height 5-9 Weight 185lbs

Hurst is likely a mid round pick primarily because he's short. He's listed at 5-9 but he plays much bigger than that. He's got tons of experience against high powered passing offenses and never backs down from a challenge. He's physical in coverage and isn't afraid to stick his nose in there in run support. He's also got excellent ball skills, and while he gets beat by taller and faster wide receivers, he's still going to be a nice value in the 4th or 5th round.

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Shawn Williams, safety Georgia

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Shawn Williams


University of Georgia

Height 6-0 Weight 215lbs

When talking about Williams as a sleeper, he's going to get pushed down for a couple of reasons. First off he's a pure strong safety prospect, and not great in coverage. He's also down because this is a very deep group of safeties. But what Williams is good at is as an intimidator. He hits like a hammer whether it's as a run defender or in that short zone coverage blasting wide outs over the middle. He's a good blitzer and plays with tremendous confidence. For a team with a strong free safety presence Williams will be a really great player.