2014 NFL Draft: Best Team Fits For Top 5 Defensive Prospects
Best Fits For Top Defensive Prospects
Defense wins championships, meaning scouting defensive players is just as important as the top quarterback prospects, if not more. This year we have the pleasure of watching Jadeveon Clowney, a once in a generation athlete who happens to be a dominant defensive end.
Despite the work ethic concerns and the speeding tickets, you must remember Clowney is the most NFL-ready prospect in the draft and will be a force for years to come. Every team should be looking to draft him, but only one can and they will be better off because of it.
There are other intriguing prospects as well, but because none are as gifted as Clowney they are more scheme specific. They all have great upside with the potential to be perennial All-Pros, but as of now they would be best served to be on certain teams in certain defensive schemes.
This is one of the deepest drafts in years on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball, so while ranking the top five defensive prospects I decided to give it more range by including players at different positions with different skill sets. The first of which, is the man to the left of Clowney and is my top ranked defensive tackle.
No. 5 Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Although undersized at 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, Aaron Donald was an absolute force this past season as he racked up 28.5 tackles for a loss and 11 sacks. He did this despite getting game planned against in every game, and although concerns were still raised by scouts, he put those to rest at the Combine last week. Donald showed his strength by totaling 35 bench press reps, second most of all defensive linemen, and ran the fastest 40-yard dash time of down linemen with a time of 4.68. He should be a dominant 3-technique at the NFL level, with potential to be a 4-3 defensive end, making him a fit for almost any team.
No. 4 Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr is one of the more intriguing athletes as he displayed impressive quickness and speed on film, but was rather underwhelming at the scouting combine. Right now he’s primarily a 4-3 OLB who specializes as a pass rusher, making him a fit for just a handful of teams. One thing is for sure, though, he’s disruptive in the backfield, but he’s also far from a complete player and could slide come draft day.
No. 3 Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Justin Gilbert was once in the same class as Darqueze Dennard, but the combine changed that as Gilbert ran a 4.37 40-yard dash – fastest among cornerbacks – and is the better playmaker compared to Dennard as well. Gilbert will excel in zone coverage off the bat, and his versatility as a punt/kick returner makes it possible of being drafted within the top 10. The cornerback class is a deep one this year, so expect Gilbert’s stock to move over the next 64 days.
No. 2 Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Khalil Mack is one of my favorite defensive prospects because although many list him as a top five talent, I still think he’s a bit underrated. Many love to praise his skills as a pass rusher and how a change to defensive end is possible, but I like what I see with Mack in pass coverage and think he will be one of the best players to come out of this draft. He will dominate as an OLB in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, making him a potential target for every team in the top 10.
No. 1 Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Clowney is the most gifted athlete in this year’s draft, and if I ran the Houston Texans he would be an easy pick at No. 1. Five years down the road every team that passes on him will realize it was a mistake, and if he goes first overall him and J.J. Watt would combine to make the most feared defensive line in the NFL. Clowney could be effective in any scheme, but to utilize his talents as a pass rusher he would be best served to be inserted as a 4-3 defensive end.
Best Fits: Houston Texans, Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons