One of the things that make the NFL Draft so interesting is that each draft is unique and will never occur again, and each year the Draft is strong in some areas and weak in others. This year it seems as if the draft eligible prospects point to one strength in particular, the 3-4 defense.
Sure, last year had Melvin Ingram and Quinton Coples who looked like they would be best fits in the 3-4 defense, but this year you could build an intimidating 3-4 defense out of the first round (if you had the resources). While each coach/GM/owner has his favorite style of player, this is my “Dream Team” defense that I would draft if I had 11 first round draft picks.
NT – Daniel McCullers, Tennessee 6’6” 377 lb.
Take a look at those measurements again, tipping the pounds at nearly 400 lb. Daniel McCullers is an underrated defender, and will be in the national spotlight against Alabama soon enough. With a wide-body and plenty of power, McCullers can go as far as his stamina will take him. Literally every snap I have seen him play, he has controlled both A gaps, and in passing downs he pushes the pocket as hard as anyone. If “Mount” McCullers as he is affectionately called declares for the draft, he is a potential top 50 pick.
DE – Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State 6’3” 317 lb.
The Buckeyes already use Hankins all over the field and he has the size and strength that I think would be a perfect fit at 3-4 DE. Not only is he excellent combination of size and athleticism, but is also a defensive sparkplug that will set your defense on fire.
DE – Star Lotulelei, Utah 6’4” 320 lb.
Star started off the season with a lot of attention, and frankly I don’t think he has lived up to his “elite” billing. Having said that, he is well proportioned and can command the line of scrimmage when he is on. He flashes elite qualities and has the potential to be one of the most dynamic 3-4 DEs to come out in recent memory.
MLB – Shane Skov, Stanford 6’3” 242 lb.
Like most Harbaugh-era Cardinals, Skov is a tough player that understands his assignments and does his job. Like Hankins, Skov will add an element of intensity to any defense, and even though he isn’t an especially dynamic athlete he can make those around him better.
MLB – Manti Te’o, Notre Dame 6’2” 255 lb.
Te’o has an impressive resume, and has been one of the physical and vocal leaders of the Irish defense over the last two years. Te’o has range and physicality that could make him a day one draft pick next year, and he if he is surrounded by elite talent (which never was the case at Notre Dame) then he could be a surprise impact player in the league.
OLB – Jarvis Jones, Georgia 6’3” 240 lb.
Jarvis Jones is THE defensive prospect this year. I understand the arguments for Mingo, Montgomery, or one of the defensive tackles, but Jones is in another level in my book. He has timing, football I.Q., and versatility added to a physical skillset that is almost impossible to match up with. Jones may be the number one overall pick in this draft, and the league should take notice quickly or he will make an offense pay.
OLB – Barkevious Mingo, LSU 6’5 240 lb.
Mingo is lankier than Jones, and may actually posses a quicker step and overall I am a huge fan of the way he plays on the edge. I do have some concerns about how well he can hold the edge against an NFL run game, but that is just me being nitpicky. Mingo could be the best pass rusher in the bunch and will add that dimension on defense wherever he goes.
CB – Johnthan Banks, Miss. St. 6’2” 185 lb.
While his stats may not jump off the page, Johnthan Banks has a ton of talent and he could be the top corner in the league. Quietly Banks has been shutting down receivers, and in his only SEC game this year he has 2 INTs and was a dominant force. Look for him to get more public attention down the road.
CB – Dee Milner, Alabama, 6’1” 199 lb.
I have a tough time with this one because the Alabama defense is so well coached, especially in the secondary, that it is hard to get a feel on whether he is just a great fit for the scheme he plays in or if he is really a dominant player, I tend to agree with the second choice. Milner is physical against the run and pass, and he already has nine pass defenses through just four games. If he proves himself against Tennessee’s crop of recievers then he may even earn my top corner spot.
SS – Eric Reid, LSU 6’2” 208 lb.
If you thought Tyrann Mathieu was the most aggressive defensive back the Tigers had last year then you are kidding yourself, that distinction belongs to Eric Reid. The thumper is a down hill player that can cover most receivers if he needs to, my only concern is that he may be too aggressive.
FS – Kenny Vaccaro, Texas 6’1” 218 lb.
Physical and well-balanced are the words to best describe Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro. He is a finisher in the run game, and he can stick with most recievers in man to man situations. Though he doesn’t have the physical strength of Eric Reid, he can still deliver a pop and is competing to be a top 20 draft choice.