Offense, offense, offense. That's what sells tickets and scores points, but defense wins championships, right? Whether or not that old adage is 100 percent true is debatable, but there is no question that the NFL is always on the lookout for the next JJ Watt, Von Miller or Darrelle Revis who can disrupt the offense's gameplan.
According to NFLDraftScout.com's current rankings, 10 of the top-20 prospects in the country are on the defensive side of the ball. I checked in with three pro scouts to get their opinion on the Nation's top defensive prospects.
Scout A: (transcribed over the phone) I'm not on Twitter or Facebook or Instawhatever, so I don't know who the "hot" prospects are, but here are a few guys nationally I like based on what I've seen. (Jadeveon) Clowney is the best front-seven athlete I've seen at the college level, no exaggeration. Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix moves like a 280-pounder, not the 330 pounds or whatever he's up to now. Love the combination of power, quickness and vision to see what's going on all around him. It's scary good. These types are always in high demand, although I haven't talked to him yet and don't know what his off-field habits are – I've heard he's a likeable kid anyways. The UCLA pass rusher (Anthony Barr) still needs some technique work and I'm not convinced he knows what he's doing, but it works for him, he has a chance to be really, really good at our level.
Scout B: Everyone knows about Clowney, but give me Barr and I'll be happy – that kid is a shining star who is only getting brighter. Oh and Chris Borland. He's five-foot-nothing like Zach Thomas but he plays with a chip the size of Wisconsin. I'll take him on my squad.
Scout C: (transcribed over the phone) There are a lot of guys all over the country worth mentioning, but I'll keep it to only the kids in my area. A player who grew on me the more I saw him, (Jason) Verrett out of TCU has those uncanny ballskills to find the ball, go after it and finish plays. His body type or long-speed won't make you scream and holler, but he's got the route awareness to understand what the receiver wants to do and I came away pleased with his grounded personality – kid is resilient, has a good story. The (Jackson) Jeffcoat kid down in Austin is a nice player, has NFL bloodlines, just hope he can stay healthy. D.J. Yendrey is a name to file away in your brain, defensive tackle at (Texas) State, transfer from TCU.
My reaction: For those who follow me on Twitter, you know I'm a HUGE Verrett fan (and have been for quite some time) so I was pleased to see one scout mention the TCU senior cornerback. I'd also like to echo the fact that Verrett is a mature individual with a strong perspective on life. After coach Gary Patterson, the first person to shake Les Miles' hand after the LSU-TCU game Saturday night? Verrett.
Borland is going to be a very interesting pro prospect to evaluate because he has above average instincts and finds ways to be successful despite his below average size and length for the position. No surprise Barr was mentioned multiple times; if last year was his coming out party, I think we're all excited to see what he'll do for an encore in 2013 with a full season under his belt on defense. Also not a shock that Nix was mentioned as he has top-10 potential. Like the scout mentioned, prospects with his skill-set don't last long on draft day.
And then there's Clowney, the All-American pass rusher didn't have a remarkable 2013 debut last week against North Carolina, but the astonishing talent is obvious whenever he laces up his cleats.