There are some solid defensive players in the 2013 draft, both seniors and underclassmen. Upgrading the defensive talent is a real need for the New Orleans Saints. Here are some of the first round calibur performers who could be on the board in next April's draft.
A real star at defensive tackle is senior Star Lotulelei from Utah. Pronounced lot-tu-lay-lay. I watched him in the USC game and he was hard to block early so the Torjans has to double team him later. At 6-4 325 pounds, Lotulelei is super quick for one so large. He can stuff the run and is quick enough to penetrate and cause problems in the opponents backfield. An All-Pac 12 performer, he is an athletic big man who is versatile, can play on the nose or even outside as a 3-technque. He is a mature prospect, married with a child. Should be a solid tackle in a 4-3 defense at the pro level.
Inside linebacker Manti Te'o (6-2, 256) is a star at Notre Dame. Manti, who went to high school in Hawaii, has outstanding physical ability and is off to a fast start in the 2012 season which has Notre Dame playing dominant football on defense. A nice blend of size and speed, he can be an every down linebacker at the pro level, athletic enough to drop into pass coverage. He also has pass rush skills, effective on the blitz with a burst to the quarterback. Instinctive and versatile, Te'o should be effective in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme.
Defensive end Michael Buchanan (6-6, 240) of Illinois is a tall prospect who will need to add more bulk for the NFL but has the frame to do so. He has excellent lateral movement but needs to get stronger at the point of attack. He has long arms which he uses well to shed blockers. An aggressive prospect who gives fine effort, Buchanan has unfortunately had some off-the-field problems; he was suspended for two games for a DUI arrest.
USC safety T.J. McDonald (6-2, 205) has been effective this season. The versatile defensive back can line up at both free and strong safety. He is coached by former NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in an NFL zone scheme. McDonald has been a starter since his sophomore year and has fine instincts to add to the experience. He is a hard hitter and can play center field as a free safety. Physical and strong, T.J. closes on the ball quickly, and has good hands for the interception. A nice combination of size and speed, McDonald covers like a cornerback and hits like a linebacker.
Cornerback Johnthan Banks (6-1, 185) at Mississippi State is a solid All-SEC performer with good speed and leaping ability. He has fine ball skills and reliable hands for the interception. He will also come up and support the run. Smooth in his backpedal and fluid in pass coverage, Banks has fine ball skills but does need to get stronger to go against more physical receivers. Bears wideout Alshon Jeffery, a South Carolina product, gave him problems last season. Banks can also return punts.
LSU has two underclassmen pass rushing defensive ends who will be top 10 picks if they decide to come out early. Sam Montgomery has bulked up some. At 6-foot-4 and 260 pounds, he comes hard off the edge and can be disruptive. He led his team in sacks in 2011, has an explosive first step and outstanding speed in the 4.6 range (has been timed faster than that at under 4.5). Sam has a non-stop motor and is relentless in pursuit. He still could use more bulk to get stronger at the point of attack. A hard worker who loves the game and has become a leader for LSU this season, Montgomery has great upside.
Barkevious Mingo (6-5, 240) is a freak of an athlete who has vines for arms and looks more like an NBA basketball player. He is super quick off the ball and has strong hands to shed blockers. He must add more bulk to stay at the defensive end spot in the pro game or could be a rush linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. He has trouble at the point of attack at his present weight. He has even greater potential since he has the frame to get bigger and stronger without losing quickness.
Jarvis Jones, outside linebacker at Georgia, led the SEC in sacks in 2011 with 13.5. He transferred to Georgia from USC. At 6-foot-2 and 245 pound, Jopnes has a quick first step, a burst to the quarterback and sheds blockers quickly. He changes direction well and can play any linebacker spot. A real competitor, Jones plays with an attitude. Instinctive with a nose for the football, he is a hard hitter who plays physical. Despite his good size, NFL personnel people think he needs to add bulk and strength for the next level. A good character person, Jones has leadership ability.
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