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Repositioning top prospects at midway: Defense

by | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
Reuter: Offensive prospects

Now that the midpoint of the season has passed, it's time to see how the stock of 2010 senior NFL Draft prospects has shifted since the last update in September.

Each player has ups and downs and their draft stock might change accordingly throughout the season. As of today, however, here is how we rank the top five defensive senior prospects, by position:

Defensive end

Cameron Heyward makes a big impression without posting big sack numbers. (Getty Images)  
Cameron Heyward makes a big impression without posting big sack numbers. (Getty Images)  
1. Cameron Heyward (Ohio State) 6-5/285/4.92/1
Versatile defender may fit best as a 3-4 defensive end. He's only a moderate pass rusher with 7 sacks over the past two seasons combined.

2. Adrian Clayborn (Iowa) 6-3/286/4.79/1
Technically refined player whose disappointing senior campaign might be reinforcing concerns that he's a bit of a 'tweener.

3. Allen Bailey (Miami, Fla.) 6-4/288/4.79/1
Scouts love his physical tools, but marginal technique and instincts are hindering his production for the 'Canes and development as a prospect.

4. Cameron Jordan (California) 6-4/285/4.85/1-2
One of the more productive defensive ends in the FBS despite playing in the 3-4. He could sneak up draft boards a la former teammate Tyson Alualu.

5. Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) 6-4/263/4.82/1-2
Might lack the athletic upside of his peers, but is most productive and NFL-ready.

Defensive tackle

1. Stephen Paea (Oregon State) 6-2/310/4.98/1-2
Quite possibly the strongest player in the country, Paea's ability to hold up against double-team blocks makes him an intriguing candidate inside for the 4-3 and 3-4.

2. Drake Nevis (LSU) 6-1/285/5.04/1-2
Enjoying a breakout campaign that has catapulted his stock from the late rounds to a potential top 50 selection, Nevis has already earned SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week honors three times in 2010.

3. Marvin Austin (North Carolina) 6-3/310/4.96/2
Top 20 talent, but his yearlong suspension as part of an NCAA investigation into improper interaction with agents will raise character questions from scouts.

4. Jerrell Powe (Mississippi) 6-2/320/5.16/2
A microcosm of the entire Ole Miss program, Powe hasn't been a dominant force expected in 2010. His bulk keeps him among the best nose tackle prospects.

5. Kenrick Ellis (Hampton) 6-5/340/5.07/2-3
A South Carolina transfer after multiple rules violations, Ellis has not surprisingly dominated at the FCS level.

Inside linebacker

1. Greg Jones (Michigan State) 6-1/235/4.64/1-2
Tackling machine. Lack of size a concern to scouts despite the fact he's never missed a game in four years as a starter.

2. Quan Sturdivant (North Carolina) 6-2/235/4.63/2
A first-team All-ACC linebacker last year -- UNC's first since 1997 -- Sturdivant has played well in his fourth year as a starter when not hampered with a hamstring injury.

3. Kelvin Sheppard (LSU) 6-2/240/4.64/2-3
Versatile defender who lines up all over the field for the Tigers. Scouts' greatest concern is that he may be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type.

4. Nate Irving (North Carolina State) 6-1/235/4.68/3
Over the serious injuries sustained in the car accident that robbed him of the 2009 season, Irving is playing well and climbing the rankings.

5. Josh Bynes (Auburn) 6-2/235/4.78/4-5
Perhaps too slight for the middle, Bynes has shown the athleticism and improved ball skills for coverage this year, leading SEC linebackers with three INTs in 2010.

Outside linebacker

1. Bruce Carter (North Carolina) 6-3/230/4.57/1
Already recognized as a Butkus Award candidate, Carter's freakish athleticism will only help his stock as the draft approaches.

2. Jeremy Beal (Oklahoma) 6-3/260/4.74/1-2
An ideal rush 'backer for the 3-4, Beal has primarily been used as a defensive end for the Sooners, though he's shown the ability to drop into coverage and is instinctive enough that some actually view him as an inside linebacker.

3. Von Miller (Texas A&M) 6-2/232/4.56/1-2
Arguably the nation's most dynamic pass rusher when healthy (as he was in leading the FBS with 17 sacks last year), his marginal size and nagging hamstring injury this season are concerns for scouts.

4. Mark Herzlich (Boston College) 6-4/245/4.75/2
Inspirational comeback from cancer won't be truly over until NFL doctors clear him at the Combine, but he's shown flashes of his former dominant self.

5. Mason Foster (Washington) 6-2/240/4.73/2-3
Among FBS leaders in tackles, Foster could enjoy a late rise up draft boards like his former teammate Donald Butler (San Diego's third-round pick in 2010) did last year.


1. Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) 6-0/200/4.49/1
Entered the year as the top-rated senior prospect in the country by some scouts, his size and lockdown ability have only confirmed that grade so far.

2. Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) 6-2/200/4.54/1-2
A second-team All-ACC pick in 2008-09, Dowling's standing is precarious as he's been limited by hamstring and knee injuries and has been rusty in coverage this year.

3. Curtis Brown (Texas) 6-0/180/4.42/1-2
Still a better athlete than cornerback, but his upside could make him the fifth Texas defensive back drafted in top 50 since 2006.

4. Jimmy Smith (Colorado) 6-2/205/4.49/2
Pairing with Jalil Brown to give Buffs one of FBS' top corner tandems, Smith has reportedly already been invited to the Senior Bowl.

5. Davon House (New Mexico State) 6-0/190/4.46/2
Paired with Jets' first-round pick Kyle Wilson to earn first-team All-WAC last year, House's pedestrian numbers this year (31 tackles, 4 PBUs, 1 INT, 1 FF) are a result of quarterbacks avoiding his side of the field.

Strong safety

1. DeAndre McDaniel (Clemson) 6-0/215/4.54/1-2
An all-American who led the ACC with eight interceptions last year in his first season at safety, McDaniel has only strengthened his hold on the top spot in 2010.

2. Ahmad Black (Florida) 5-10/190/4.51/3
Lacks the size scouts prefer, but is an instinctive defender with a knack for making the big play in critical situations.

3. Shiloh Keo (Idaho) 5-11/216/4.62/4
A popular sleeper candidate, Keo helped his cause with a solid performance early in the season against Nebraska, when he recorded his third interception of the year. 4. Nate Williams (Washington) 6-0/218/4.59/5
A classic in-the-box safety better in run support and intimidating over the middle than in deep coverage.

5. Joe Lefeged (Rutgers) 6-0/205/4.58/5-6
Scouts liked the versatility of former Rutgers CB Devin McCourty, and Lefeged is showing similar talents. He was the first player in Big East history to earn Defensive and Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the same game (Florida International, Sept. 11)

Free safety

1. Quinton Carter (Oklahoma) 6-1/195/4.57/2-3
Instinctive, physical and versatile (he's played both strong and free safety), Carter appears capable of contributing to an NFL defense right away.

2. Jaiquawn Jarrett (Temple) 6-0/197/4.57/3
A big hitter who has toiled in relative anonymity with the Owls, Jarrett certainly is well known by scouts, who view him as a realistic candidate to leap to the top of the rankings at safety.

3. Deunta Williams (North Carolina) 6-1/210/4.53/3-4 Highly touted after earning All-ACC honors in 2009, Williams' off-field concerns and relative lack of physicality raise questions with scouts.

4. Jermale Hines (Ohio State) 6-2/215/4.59/4
Possesses an ideal combination of size and athleticism. Hines looks the part and has played well after petitioning the NFL last year for his draft grade.

5. Tejay Johnson (TCU) 6-0/208/4.56/5
An underrated component of TCU's success, Johnson is a reliable open-field tackler and has proven to be a turnover machine (two INTs, three FF) so far in 2010.


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