All Sports Rumors & News >

Five NFL defenses that (potentially) improved over the offseason

San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews (24) fumbles the ball as he is hit by Houston Texans defenders Mario Williams (top), Eugene Wilson (R) and Bernard Pollard (31) during their NFL game in Houston November 7, 2010. The Texans recovered the fumble on the play. REUTERS/Richard Carson (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Seeing as how no teams have played a down yet, it makes it difficult to gauge which defenses will be improved in 2012. But based on the decisions they made in free agency and the draft, these five teams should be improved defensively next season.

Buffalo Bills
Think of the impact that Julius Peppers has had with the Bears the past two seasons – that’s exactly what Mario Williams could do for the Bills in 2012. Buffalo’s defense struggled last season mostly because the pass rush was non-existent. So GM Buddy Nix lured Williams to Buffalo this offseason and made sure he didn’t leave the city without first signing a contract. Nix also signed Mark Anderson, an experienced situational pass rusher that should benefit from playing opposite Williams in the Bills’ “new” 4-3. Adding cornerback Stephon Gillmore should also help Buffalo on the backend while Nigel Bradham and Tank Carder will add depth to the linebacker corps. We’ll have to see how the Dave Wannstedt hire pans out but for now, there’s no question the Bills have upgraded their pass rush in one offseason.

Dallas Cowboys
With the moves they made this offseason, the Cowboys’ defense could transform from a top 15 unit into a top 10. DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer and Sean Lee comprise a solid front seven but Dallas struggled on the back end in 2012. So Jerry Jones invested $50.1 million and a second round pick on his cornerback positions this offseason with the additions of free agent Brandon Carr (the best CB on the market) and first-round pick Morris Claiborne (the best CB in the draft). It’s never guaranteed that a big money free agent or a rookie will make an immediate impact but at least on paper, the Cowboys have definitely improved their secondary. The signing of Dan Connor was also somewhat underrated as well. He struggles at times in coverage and he’s not a pass rusher but he’ll be perfect for what Dallas signed him for: an insider ‘backer that can bolster the run defense.

Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons were productive this offseason in re-signing John Abraham (their best and sometimes only pass rusher last season), safety Thomas DeCoud (who is better than his reputation would suggest), and situational pass rusher Kroy Biermann (who appeared to be distracted last year, although marrying a reality TV star and parenting a newborn will do that to a man). But fans grew aggravated by GM Thomas Dimitroff’s inactivity in free agency and expressed disappointment that the team didn’t go after big money talent like Mario Williams. (Fans were also upset that the team didn’t re-sign MLB Curtis Lofton, who wound up landing with division rival New Orleans.) But the day before the draft Atlanta swung a deal that could only be considered as a steal. Acquiring a three-time Pro Bowler in Asante Samuel for a seventh round pick was a bargain for any team, especially one that struggled getting off the field last season on third downs. Furthermore, the hiring of defensive coordinator Mike Nolan was a huge coup for the Falcons, who should be more aggressive and better equipped to handle explosive offenses like New Orleans, Green Bay and New York. No, the Falcons weren’t very active in free agency this year. But the re-signing of Abraham, the acquisition of Samuel and the hiring of Nolan should be more than enough to make this an improved Falcons squad.

Philadelphia Eagles
After struggling early in the season, the Eagles wound up being a top 10 defensive unit in 2011. But here’s why they’ll be improved in 2012. Juan Castillo has a full year of experience under his belt and the pressure he faced last year being a first-time defensive coordinator should lessen. Andy Reid also hit a home run in this year’s draft. Fletcher Cox has top 10 talent and the Eagles landed him at No. 12 (after moving up). Mychal Kendricks is undersized for the position but he was extremely productive at Cal, he hits like a Mac truck and he plays at 110mph every down. Vinny Curry is raw but he has potential as a pass rush and the only reason Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin fell to the fourth round was because he broke his leg at the Senior Bowl and was limited in pre-draft workouts. Otherwise, he’s a second-round prospect. Re-signing Derek Landri was also good for depth purposes and acquiring DeMeco Ryans from Houston should help the run defense.

St. Louis Rams
The Rams are a bit of a wildcard but considering they ranked 22nd in yards allowed, 31st in run defense and 26th in points allowed, there’s really nowhere to go but up. There are five moves the Rams made this offseason that should prove to beneficial in 2012. The first was hiring defensive-minded Jeff Fisher as head coach, who brought assistants like Mike Waufle and Chuck Cecil with him to St. Louis. The Rams also added scrappy cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive tackle Kendall Langford, who is a freaking house. Drafting run-stuffing DT Michael Brockers to play alongside Langford was also big and former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins could prove to be worth the gamble that new GM Les Snead took in the second round. Keep an eye on William Hayes, too. He was limited last year because of a shoulder injury he suffered in Week 1 but he’s someone that could potentially see his playing time increase because he’s he can play the run and provide some pressure. The Rams screwed the pooch by not taking an outside linebacker in the second round, but all in all they had a productive offseason and should be improved next year.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

From our partners
Picture of the Day

Picture of the Day

Enjoy a daily photo from Bullz-Eye.com of one of their beautiful models.

Online Dating Guide

Improve your game today!

You've got to brush up on your game to get the girl! Find your hookups with this online dating guide.

Sexy Girls and Cars

Check out this slideshow of hot babes and cool cars.

2012 NFL Draft: Impressions from the second and third rounds

Street barricades surround the site of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on April 26, 2012. Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck is projected to be drafted as the #1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts. UPI /John Angelillo

- The story of the second day wasn’t Janoris Jenkins coming off the board or even Ruben Randle slipping to the bottom of the second round. No, the headliner was the Jaguars taking a freaking punter in the third round. Bryan Anger might wind up being the greatest punter in the history of the NFL but you don’t take a punter in the third round…ever. If I squint hard enough I can envision a team taking a highly skilled specialist in the fourth, but the first three rounds are where teams have to find starters on offense and defense. Much of the good press the Jaguars received for leapfrogging the Rams to land Justin Blackmon in the first round was erased the moment Anger’s name was announced in the third. (No offense, Bryan.)

- One of the more underrated storylines from Day 2 was the Bengals selection of Rutgers’ receiver Mohamed Sanu in the third round. Sanu was the victim of a cruel prank the night before, when someone acting like the Bengals called to tell him that he had been drafted by Cincinnati. Sanu had to wait until the third round, but the real Bengals finally did call to give him the great news. It was a nice ending to a screwed up story.

- Ruben Randle is a perfect fit for the Giants. Mario Manningham was excellent at pressuring defenses by running the seam in New York’s offense the past few seasons. I envision Randle fitting into a similar role as Manningham and thus, serving as Eli Manning’s new vertical threat in the slot. Hopefully falling all the way to the bottom of the second round will motivate the former Tiger to prove teams wrong for passing on him.

- The Packers are having an excellent draft but what else is new for Ted Thompson? Landing an explosive pass rusher like Nick Perry in the first was huge, but I liked Thompson’s strategy in the second round even more. He traded up for Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy, who was inconsistent in college but who also has first-round talent, and for Vanderbilt cornerback Casey Hayward, who was an instinctive, productive player in college. Teams have to find potential starters in the first three rounds and once again, Thompson has done that.

- The risk could be well worth the reward for the Rams when it comes to Janoris Jenkins. Everyone knows about his off-field issues so there’s no use going into them again. The bottom line is that if he flies right off the field, he could be a hell of a playmaker for a team that has been in desperate need for playmakers the past few years. I also liked the team’s selection of Brian Quick at No. 33 and Trumaine Johnson is another player with first-round talent that slipped. The questionable pick was running back Isaiah Pead in the second. The Rams had an opportunity to snag an outside linebacker at that slot and decided to draft Steven Jackson’s compliment instead. Nothing against Pead, but the running back position could have been addressed later in the draft.

- Ozzie Newsome once again did well on draft day. Trading back and still landing a first-round talent in Alabama outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw was excellent. Upshaw fits extremely well into Baltimore’s defensive system and he’ll look great playing alongside Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed in that defense.

- The Bills got great value in Georgia offensive lineman Cordy Glenn, who is projected as a guard at the next level but who also has experience as a tackle. Many thought Glenn would go in the first round so for him to slip all the way to No. 41 was surprising. Buffalo did well.

- He’s raw and it may take him a couple of years to develop but Amini Silatolu is an intriguing football player. He’ll kick inside to guard after playing tackle at Midwestern State and while he’s raw, he’s got the size and power to dominate at the next level. Well done, Ron Rivera.

- Brock Osweiler is a project but he wound up in a great situation. Who better to show him the ropes for a few years than Peyton Manning, who is also a tall, lengthy quarterback with a laser-rocket arm.

- The most questionable pick in the second round was Detroit’s selection of Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles. He tore his ACL late in the season at Oklahoma and projects as a slot player at the next level. So why the Lions felt the need to take him with the No. 54 overall pick is beyond me. Not only would Broyles likely be there in the third or even the fourth, the Lions could have found safer slot options, such as Arkansas’ Jarius Wright.

- At first glance I questioned why the Colts would go back-to-back tight ends in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen with their selections in the second and third rounds. But Fleener isn’t a very good blocker and you can definitely get both players on the field at the same time. Plus, the Colts are just looking for weapons at this point to give to Andrew Luck, so the selections make sense.

- The more I see of Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette the more I like. He’s got great size and quickness, has excellent pass-rushing tools and is a “high motor guy.” Bill Belichick continues to find gems.

- Count me among those that like Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill. The Jets will get him up to speed on their route tree – I’m not worried about the fact that he played in the Wishbone while in college. He has great size and speed, he can catch the ball and he can block. That’s all I need to know.

Final 2012 NFL Mock Draft

The National Football League logo is displayed near the stage during round one of the 2011 NFL Draft Pick at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City. UPI/Monika Graff

After putting the finishing touches on my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft, I sat back, looked it over and become extremely disappointed.

When does the NFL draft ever play out the way everyone expects? The answer is never. The NFL draft never goes as planned and yet my mock had zero trades, very few surprises and not enough risks. It was boring, which is the one thing the NFL draft isn’t.

The NFL draft is a study in failure, from the prospects that don’t pan out, to the teams that misjudged players’ talent, to clowns in the media who think we have it all figured out. And that’s exactly why I decided to scrap my mock and start over.

Mock drafts are supposed to be fun and creative and yet, everyone gets so caught up in trying not to look foolish that they don’t make bold predictions.

Lucky for you I don’t mind looking foolish so without further adu, here is my final mock for the 2012 NFL Draft.

1. Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford
The Colts will have an opportunity to rebuild the way all teams in their situation would want to: By drafting a franchise quarterback to usher in a new era. Luck certainly has some big shoes to fill but he has all the tools to become successful.

2. Washington Redskins: Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor
It’s great that the Redskins have found their franchise signal caller but they better protect their investment by building Griffin a quality offensive line and by continuing to add playmakers that will help shoulder the load. If they don’t, they’ll look awfully foolish for giving up so much to trade up to No. 2.

3. Minnesota Vikings: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU
GM Rick Spielman has been a godsend for Roger Goodell and the NFL because he’s brought intrigue to the top of a draft that will offer no conspiracy at No. 1 or No. 2. Seeing as how Charlie Johnson is penciled in at left tackle and the Vikings invested a first round pick in Christian Ponder last season, Matt Kalil makes the most sense at this pick. But considering nearly half of Minnesota’s schedule is against the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and Jay Cutler, watch Spielman surprise and take the best cornerback in the draft.

4. Cleveland Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama
There’s a chance that someone will jump ahead of the Browns and nab Richardson at No. 3 but which team has the resources to do that? The Bucs may pull a fast one but it’s doubtful – Richardson falls to the Browns as projected.

5. Buffalo Bills (Projected trade w/Tampa Bay): Matt Kalil, OT, USC
Rumors have started circulating that the Bills want to move up to No. 3 in order to secure Kalil. But if the Vikings want what the Rams got in exchange for the No. 2 overall pick, then the Bills will likely baulk. That said, with Claiborne off the board, there isn’t a clear choice for the Bucs at No. 5. Thus, they trade back with the Bills, who land the left tackle they so desperately need.

6. St. Louis Rams: Fletcher Cox, DT, Mississippi State
The Rams need a receiver that can make plays outside the numbers, which is why Justin Blackmon is the most logical fit at this spot. But Jeff Fisher is a defensive-minded coach and a throw back, so look for him to build from the inside out. In a division that features Frank Gore, Marshawn Lynch and Beanie Wells, the Rams beef up the interior of their defensive line with the best DT in the draft. Seeing as how deep the draft is at receiver, the Rams could always trade back into the first round for Michael Floyd or Kendall Wright by using one or some of the selections they acquired from the Redskins for the No. 2 pick.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina
The Jaguars could go a number of different routes with this pick, including selecting a receiver or trading out of this spot entirely. But Jeremy Mincey emerged as the Jaguars’ only legitimate pass rusher last season and you can’t win in the NFL if you can’t get after the quarterback.

8. Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Thirty-one teams may grade Tannehill as a second round prospect but it only takes one team to view him as a franchise quarterback in order for him to be selected in the first round. The moment the Dolphins hired Mike Sherman to be their offensive coordinator Tannehill was the most logical choice at this pick.

9. Carolina Panthers: Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State
Blackmon could come off the board at No. 6 to the Rams and if that happens, Fletcher Cox will likely fall into the Panthers’ laps at No. 9. But if team’s draft boards get dirty and Blackmon falls to the Panthers here, they take the best player available and give Cam Newton another weapon opposite Steve Smith.

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Projected trade w/Buffalo): Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
If Claiborne comes off the board at No. 3, the Bucs could do much worse than to trade back, acquire more picks and still wind up with one of the top cornerbacks in the draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs: David DeCastro, G, Stanford
Inside linebacker and defensive tackle are definite needs for the Chiefs, who may even surprise and trade up for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. But if I were a GM, DeCastro is a much better player than Luke Kuechly (the top inside linebacker) and Dontari Poe (who is arguably the best DT left on the board, although I think Michael Brockers is a better prospect). DeCastro played in a pro style system at Stanford and could start right away. Guards aren’t typically top 15 picks but DeCastro is a as close to a guarantee as you can get in my eyes.

12. San Diego Chargers (Projected Trade w/Seattle): Mark Barron, S, Alabama
The strong safety position has been a revolving door in San Diego since Rodney Harrison left in 2002. The Chargers could wait and hope that Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith falls to them in the second round but why? They might as well trade up ahead of Dallas (which could also use Barron) and land the best safety in the draft.

13. Arizona Cardinals: Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
I could see the Cardinals taking DeCastro or even Floyd if he were to fall this far. But given what’s available in this mock, Glenn is arguably the best fit. Most assume he’ll kick back inside to guard after playing one year at left tackle at Georgia (his senior season), but he had a strong showing as a tackle in the Senior Bowl and would upgrade Arizona’s situation at RT.

14. Dallas Cowboys: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
The Cowboys need help at safety and guard, but with Barron and DeCastro off the board they decide to take the best run-stuffing defensive tackle in the draft in Brockers.

15. Philadelphia Eagles: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
I was a little surprised that the Eagles didn’t pursue middle linebacker Curtis Lofton in free agency, but maybe they figured they could address their need at MLB without having to spend over $6 million a year on a veteran. Kuechly could go earlier than this but I doubt it. Teams just don’t put a premium on inside linebackers anymore, but he’s certainly a great fit for Philadelphia.

16. New York Jets: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Jets have been missing that outside pass-rushing threat since Rex Ryan arrived to New York in 2009. Upshaw is a fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker who has the ability to battle offensive linemen in run defense but also rush the passer when the situation calls for it.

17. Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
There’s a good chance that Floyd won’t fall this far but considering his issues with alcohol-related arrests, don’t rule out the possibility. No offense to Brandon Tate or Jordan Shipley but after A.J. Green the Bengals’ depth at receiver is thin. Getting younger at cornerback is also a priority for Cincinnati but receiver is arguably a much bigger need and if Floyd were to fall this far, he’d be a solid selection.

18. Seattle Seahawks (Projected trade w/San Diego): Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
Coples has top-10 talent but he’s a risk to fall because teams reportedly question is motor, which runs “hot and cold.” He would be a value at this spot, however, and would fill Seattle’s massive need for a pass rusher.

19. Chicago Bears: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
Reiff could be long off the board by the time the Bears are on the clock and if he is, then I fully expect Chicago to address its needs along the defensive line. But if Reiff does fall, look for the Bears to upgrade over left tackle J’Marcus Webb, who is constantly battling injury issues and inconsistent play.

20. Tennessee Titans: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
Stephon Gilmore will be an option at this pick if he falls but if he doesn’t, Kirkpatrick would be a nice consolation gift for a Tennessee team that was burned repeatedly through the air last season.

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
The Bengals could take a defensive end or a cornerback at this spot but Poe is arguably the best player on the board (albeit a very controversial player).

22. Cleveland Browns: Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
Offensive tackle is also a need for the Browns but Wright is a better much prospect than Mike Adams and Jonathan Martin, who are the two best OTs available. Wright had an underwhelming performance at this year’s combine but watch the film – the kid can play.

23. Detroit Lions: Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
Cornerback is the Lions’ top need but with Claiborne, Gilmore and Kirkpatrick all off the board, they’ll select a versatile Glenn and groom him as Jeff Backus’ replacement. They can address their need at corner and running back in the middle rounds.

24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
The Steelers could zero in on their offensive line and therefore move up for somebody like Mike Adams, David DeCastro, Cordy Glenn or Jonathan Martin. But Hightower has experience playing in the 3-4 and could help fill the void left by the release of James Farrior.

25. Denver Broncos: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
Once Brodrick Bunkley left via free agency the Broncos had an immediate need to fill at defensive tackle. Ty Warren is 31 and Justin Bannan is 33, so Worthy would inject much-needed youth along the interior of Denver’s defensive line. As a potential wildcard, don’t rule out the Broncos selecting running back Doug Martin.

26. Houston Texans: Ruben Randle, WR, LSU
Some may view Randle as a slight reach at this pick but the Texans need a No.2 receiver that can make plays outside the numbers. Randle is a legitimate vertical threat that would look great opposite Andre Johnson in Houston’s passing attack.

27. New England Patriots: Nick Perry, OLB, USC
The Patriots have a massive need for a pass rusher and Perry fits the bill. He’s a highly disruptive edge rusher that could flourish in Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme.

28. Green Bay Packers: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
The Packers’ pass rush regressed last season so adding a player in McClellin who racked up 19.5 sacks for Boise State last season makes sense. He could be a solid addition opposite Clay Matthews in Dom Capers’ 3-4 defense.

29. Baltimore Ravens: Amini Silatolu, G, Midwestern State
Silatolu is projected to go in the second round but the Ravens have a need at guard with the departure of Ben Grubbs in free agency. Silatolu might be a little raw coming out of a small school but he could turn out to be one of the gems of this year’s draft.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal both left via free agency, leaving the Niners thin at guard. Zeitler is a powerful run blocker who helped Wisconsin become the eighth best rushing team in the nation last season. He appears to be NFL-ready and could be a starter in his rookie year.

31. New England Patriots: Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
Jenkins could easily slip into the second round with the amount of baggage he carries into the draft, but Bill Belichick is rarely scared off by players with character concerns (see Randy Moss, Corey Dillon and Albert Hanyesworth). Maybe landing in New England and playing for Belichick will help Jenkins fly straight off the field.

32. New York Giants: Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
There’s a chance that Martin will slip into the second round but I’m basing this pick mostly on need. Like all teams picking at the bottom of the first round, the Giants could go in multiple directions with this selection.

Updated: 6:00PM ET.

2012 NFL Draft: Five prospects that the experts can’t seem to agree on

Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill looks to throw against LSU during the first half of the 75th AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic January 7, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX UPI/Ian Halperin

No matter which NFL draft analysts you follow, the consensus pretty much agrees on which prospects in this year’s class belong in the top 5.

But which players are the so-called experts having a hard time agreeing on?

Analysts unanimously concede that Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kalil, Morris Claiborne and Trent Richardson comprise the top 5 in this year’s draft. Some may rank the prospects in a different order, but those are the five names that you see listed atop the media’s version of a big board. (Justin Blackmon is generally listed as the sixth-best prospect for those scoring at home.)

But the names below are some of the prospects that, for one reason or another, the analysts just can’t seem to agree on.

1. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M
Depending on the analyst, Tannehill lies somewhere between Jay Cutler and whatever JaMarcus Russell ate this morning for breakfast. The overall consensus is that Tannehill is the third best quarterback prospect behind Luck and Griffin, but the majority of analysts can’t agree on whether or not he’s worthy of a top-10 selection. And seeing as how the Dolphins (who own the No. 8 pick) have been the team most linked to Tannehill, his situation has made for an interesting debate over the past few weeks. Dan Pompei of the National Football Post suggested that Tannehill isn’t ready to start at the NFL level because he only played 19 games at quarterback for A&M. NFL Network’s Charley Casserly also said in early April that most teams view Tannehill as a late first-round pick at best. But former Colts GM Bill Polian called Tannehill a “unique talent” who “merits a high pick,” and there have been others who claim he has the skill set to succeed at the next level. We’ll see.

2. Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
Poe is one of the more polarizing prospects in this year’s draft. Some analysts view him as a top 15 prospect while others don’t even rank him among their first 32 picks. In fact, SI.com’s Peter King recently reported that Poe is drawing the “widest disparity of opinion” among first-round prospects. He has drawn comparisons to both Haloti Ngata (good) and Ryan Sims (bad), with most of the positive comparisons coming after his dazzling combine workout. Analysts can agree that he’s extremely athletic, has excellent size and strength, and has plenty of upside. But he’s not a very good interior pass rusher, he wasn’t productive in college and he may be this year’s poster child for “workout warriors.” The media just can’t get an accurate gauge on where Poe will be selected and at this point, nobody should be surprised if he goes somewhere in the first 15 picks or drops into the second round.

3. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Hill was largely considered a second-round prospect when he announced that he would forgo his senior season at Georgia Tech back in January. But after he ran an average of 4.32 in the 40-yard dash at this year’s scouting combine, analysts started to suggest he would be taken in the first round. When you consider he’s 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and can run a 4.32 forty, it’s hard to argue with that line of thinking. The problem, of course, is that Hill played in the tripe option offense under Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech and thus, he’ll be behind when he enters the NFL because he’s limited as a route runner. Some believe that Hill isn’t NFL-ready and his rising draft stock is based on his combine workout alone. What’s interesting is that if a team selects Hill in the bottom of the first round, they may get scrutinized but if someone takes him in the second, they would likely be viewed as a team that found value. (Just one more example of why all the pre-draft talk is rather silly. Fun as hell, but silly.)

4. Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
There’s no question that Coples is a first-round prospect but where in the first round he’ll be selected is certainly up for debate. Many analysts view him as the best defensive end in the draft but there are questions about his motor. At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, people are enamored with his size but he isn’t viewed as an elite pass rusher so you almost have to buy the rumors that he’ll fall into the teens come Thursday night. But yet you look around and some analysts can’t help but put him in the top 10 of their mock drafts.

5. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama
In the case of Jenkins, the disagreements have been whether or not he’ll be too much of a risk to take in the first round – not whether or not he’s talented. From a talent standpoint, there’s no question that he’s a first-round prospect. But he was kicked off the team at Florida because of multiple drug arrests and an assault charge, and also has four children born to three different women. There was a report that came out a few weeks ago that stated Jenkins admitted at the scouting combine that he continued to smoke pot last year while playing at North Alabama. But he has since denied that claim so it’s hard to know what to believe at this point. What we do know is that it only takes one team to fall in love with Jenkins to make him a first round pick. But given his off-field transgressions, it’ll be interesting to see if some analysts are correct when they think he’ll drop into the second round.

Breaking down the cornerback class in the 2012 NFL Draft

LSU Tigers cornerback Morris Claiborne (17) runs past Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray (11) after the 45 yard interception from Murray in the second half of the SEC Football Championship between LSU and Georgia at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011. LSU won the game 42-10. UPI/David Tulis

Best in Class: Morris Claiborne, LSU
Despite reportedly scoring a 4 on the Wonderlic Test at this year’s scouting combine, Claiborne is a shoe-in to be selected in the top 10, if not the top 5. He was college football’s top cover corner coming out of LSU and won the Thorpe Award with a six-interception season in 2011. He also averaged 26.3 yards per kickoff return and is viewed as a better prospect than former No. 5 overall pick Patrick Peterson, who is also an LSU alum.

Next in Line: Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina; Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
Unlike Kirkpatrick, there’s no questioning Gilmore’s speed. He ran a 4.44 and a 4.47 at the scouting combine and has excellent size at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds. He’s gained a ton of media attention over these past few weeks and is now predicted to go somewhere in the top 15 picks thanks to his combination of size, speed and athleticism…At 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, Kirkpatrick is more known for his run support than his cover skills and Mike Mayock even said that the former ‘Bama defender may have to convert to safety “down the road.” But he ran in the 4.40s at the combine and may have put to rest the idea that he’s a 4.6 guy. He may fall into the 20s, but he will be selected at some point in the first round.

The Risk: Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
Jenkins might be the most polarizing figure in this year’s NFL draft. He has the talent and cover skills to be the second best cornerback prospect behind Claiborne, but he’s been arrested multiple times for drug use, was booted from the team at Florida, and has four children born to three different women. Obviously teams are justified for being a little skeptical that Jenkins can stay out of trouble once he signs his first contract. But if can fly straight off the field, then he could be a tremendous value for teams picking in the bottom of the first round (or at the top of the second if he falls that far). He played plenty of press man while at North Alabama and while he isn’t the best tackler, receivers will have a hard time separating from him in coverage thanks to his speed and change-of-direction skills. But again, nobody is questioning his talent – it’s his inability to stay out of trouble that is cause for concern.

The Potential Sleeper: Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt
Hayward would likely get exposed even he was asked to primarily play in man coverage at the next level. But considering most teams stick to Cover 2 or zone schemes, Hayward shouldn’t have any problems sticking on a NFL roster. His best attributes are that he’s instinctive, locates the ball well in coverage, and is a smart player overall. While at Vanderbilt he was also highly productive, racking up 15 interceptions in his four-year career, as well as 198 tackles and 31 pass breakups. Considering he may fall into the third round, he could be a solid value for a team that primarily plays Cover 2.

Related Posts