clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2014 NFL Draft position rankings: Defense

New, comments
Streeter Lecka

Defensive End

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

Size: 6'6", 266 lbs

Has a rare combination of size, speed, strength and explosiveness. The most physically gifted prospect in the last five years. Ran a 4.53 40-Yd Dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. Has very long arms that help him bat down balls. Scouts are concerned with work ethic and lack of production in 2013.

2. Kony Ealy, Missouri

Size: 6'4", 273 lbs

Has very good length and size. Extremely athletic and turns the corner very quickly. Has a high ceiling because of his athletic talent. Had great production against tough competition in the SEC. Needs to develop better technique. Is not great at dropping back into coverage.

3. Dee Ford, Auburn

Size: 6'2", 252 lbs

Very fast as he ran a 4.54 40-Yd dash at Auburn's Pro Day. Is very quick off the edge and plays with great energy. Does not take plays off and shows good pursuit. Undersized and thin for a defensive end. Struggles to get rid of blockers because of his size and strength.

4. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

Size: 6'3", 244 lbs

Has good speed and quickness. Uses his athleticism to run around defenders. When he does create contact, he uses his hands effectively. Needs to gain weight to his frame. Only average balance and gets tripped up too often.

5. Scott Crichton, Oregon State

Size: 6'3", 273 lbs

A very hard worker that provides great leadership and locker room presence. Has good size with long arms and big hands. Has very good pursuit and does not give up easily. Plays to high and to stiff. Lack of elite athleticism lowers his ceiling. Won't be a star in the NFL but could develop into a solid starter.

Defensive Tackle

1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

Size: 6'1", 285 lbs

Was the star of the NFL Scouting Combine after running a ridiculous 4.68 40-Yd Dash. Has great speed and quickness making him very agile. Comes off the line like a rocket. Has great explosion and awareness. Very undersized and gets bullied by larger blockers.

2. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

Size: 6'2", 331 lbs

Has excellent size for a defensive tackle. Can fight of a double team and does an excellent job of plugging up holes. Excellent against the run game because of his big body. Does not provide much of a pass rush and is very slow (5.42 40-Yd Dash). Needs to improve his conditioning. Tore his meniscus in 2013.

3. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

Size: 6'2", 299 lbs

Plays bigger than his size indicates. Has excellent hands making him difficult to block. Shows good effort, especially in pursuit. Is often the last lineman off the ball and needs to improve his overall quickness. Does not change direction well. Had the slowest 20-yard shuttle time (4.84 seconds) of any defensive tackle.

4. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

Size: 6'6", 310 lbs

Has an impressive combination of size and strength (32 reps on bench press). At times, he looks like the best defensive tackle in the draft; but other games, he looks like a 5th round pick. Has the highest upside of any defensive tackle in this draft. Needs to improve leverage and lower his pads.

5. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

Size: 6'5", 305 lbs

Has great height that he uses to overpower smaller offensive lineman. Lacked the production in 2013 that he displayed the previous year. Missed the NFL Scouting Combine because of surgery to repair a hernia and a foot fracture. Played defensive end at Notre Dame but has the size to transition to defensive tackle.

Outside Linebacker

1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo

Size: 6'3", 251 lbs

One of the safest picks in the draft. Mack had elite production at Buffalo and holds the NCAA record in Career Forced Fumbles and Career Tackles for Loss. He has a great first-step making him an elite pass rusher. Very well rounded as he can rush the passer, defend the run and drop into coverage. The best outside linebacker right now.

1. Anthony Barr, UCLA

Size: 6'5", 255 lbs

An athletic freak that ran a 4.41 40-Yd Dash at UCLA's Pro Day. Only has two years of experience at outside linebacker. Next to Clowney, he is the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Extremely raw and needs to improve pass coverage. Has a much higher ceiling than Mack. In three years, Barr could be a top five linebacker in the NFL.

3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

Size: 6'1", 237 lbs

Ran an incredible 4.36 unofficial 40-Yd Dash at his Pro Day. Like Barr, Shazier is very athletic; but he does not have the frame that Barr has. A hard tackler that runs through opponents. Has a high upside because of his athleticism. If Shazier increased his bulk, he would be a top 15 pick.

4. Kyle Van Noy, BYU

Size: 6'3", 243 lbs

Very smart and shows great instincts. Has a quick reaction time and is able to track down defenders. Shows good effort along with heart. Not the greatest athlete. Lacked production in 2013, partially because the loss of Ziggy Ansah. Does not have a very high ceiling, but he will be a solid starter that can provide great leadership.

5. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

Size: 6'3", 252 lbs

Has great athleticism and long arms. Very raw but has great upside. Was impressive at his Pro Day as he ran a 4.58 40-Yd Dash. Attaochu does not have great strength and gets pushed around. He needs to increase his bulk and technique.

Inside Linebacker

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Size: 6'2", 234 lbs

A very safe selection that has Pro Bowl potential. Has great instincts and experience in Nick Saban's defense. An explosive tackler that wraps up. Adept at dropping back into coverage. Excellent attitude and effort. The only negative is that he is a bit undersized and needs to gain bulk and weight. A top 15 talent.

2. Chris Borland, Wisconsin

Size: 5'11", 248 lbs

An old school linebacker that plays tough and physical. Very intelligent and is quick to identify offensive schemes. Plays low to the ground giving him great leverage such as when he stuck Carlos Hyde. Knows the mental aspect of the game, but lacks the size to ever become elite. Has short arms and only average athleticism.

3. Shayne Skov, Stanford

Size: 6'2", 245 lbs

A vocal leader that has outstanding instincts and recognition. Was the middleman of a very stout Stanford defense. Only has marginal foot speed. Not the best athlete and needs to gain weight. Tore his ACL, MCL and broke his Tibia in 2011.

4. Christian Jones, Florida State

Size: 6'3", 240 lbs

A great athlete that can change direction quickly. Has fluid hips allowing him to cover effectively. Takes good pursuit angles. Needs to improve his instincts and awareness. Plays too tall and loses leverage as a result. If he can improve his instincts, Jones has the athleticism to become a solid starter.

5. Max Bullough, Michigan State

Size: 6'3", 249 lbs

Very strong as he posted the most reps (30) on bench of any linebacker at the NFL Scouting Combine. Terrific football intelligence as he makes his reads quickly. A throwback linebacker that is very physical at the point of attack and pursues hard. A vocal leader at Michigan State. While he has good size, he is not a great athlete and needs to improve his explosiveness.


1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Size: 6'0", 202 lbs

A ball of clay waiting to be molded into something special. Al Davis would have loved his athleticism (4.37 40-Yd Dash). Has great size and strength. Shows off very fluid hips and quick feet. Terrific acceleration and burst. A poor tackler that is afraid to get physical. Not the best cornerback right now, but has the highest upside.

2. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Size: 6'0", 190 lbs

Has great height and a strong frame. Average athleticism but has excellent awareness and anticipation. Is not afraid to tackle and provide run support. Needs to improve his man-to-man coverage but is great in zone-coverage. Only benched 12 reps at the NFL Scouting Combine.

3. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

Size: 5'11", 199 lbs

The closest thing to a lockdown corner in this draft. Excellent in man-coverage, but struggles in a zone. Plays very physical and will be prone to pass interference in the NFL. Provides excellent run support. Biggest concern is his stiff hips limiting his change of direction. Has a history of injuries.

4. Jason Verrett, TCU

Size: 5'9", 189 lbs

If he was two inches taller, he would be the number two cornerback in the draft. Has excellent intangibles, fluid hips and great awareness. Extremely effective in zone-coverage, but his size limits his ability to play man-to-man. Very twitchy with quick footwork. Very fast (4.38 40-Yd Dash) and has a great vertical (39 inches). The only negative is his size.

5. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Size: 5'11", 194 lbs

In 2011, Roby looked like the best cornerback in college football. But in 2013, Roby looked like a completely different player as his production slipped. He has prototypical size for an NFL cornerback. He is very physical and throws his body on the line. Has excellent speed (4.39 40-Yd Dash) and is very explosive (38.5-inch vertical). If he can return to his 2011 form, Roby could be the steal of the draft; but that is a big if.


1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Size: 5'11", 207 lbs

Reminds me of Bob Sanders because of his confidence and physicality. Is an excellent tackler that has the hitting power of a linebacker. Provides great run support. Only average in coverage. Takes to many risks and lacks discipline.

2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Size: 6'1", 208 lbs

Has great length but is not an elite athlete. Very good in coverage and shows great reactions. Has impressive awareness and leadership skills. A decent open field tackler, but does not have the power to produce a huge hit. Needs to improve aggressiveness and strength.

3. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

Size: 5'11", 193 lbs

A wiry strong safety that has great energy and plays with a swagger. Has great hands allowing him to intercept passes. Shows great burst and explosiveness (38-inch vertical). Lacks elite top-end speed. Needs to gain bulk as he only benched 225 pounds nine times at the NFL Scouting Combine. Maturity is a concern.

4. Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Size: 6'1", 211 lbs

Had elite production at Washington State and racked up a ridiculous 15 interceptions in four years. Has good length and strength, but is not a great athlete. A very physical tackler with an old-school mentality. Has stiff hips and does not have elite speed. Great in a zone, but has limitations in man-coverage.

5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

Size: 5'8", 184 lbs

Had great production while leading Florida State to a National Championship. Durable as he did not miss a game in four years. Very instinctive and makes accurate reads. A playmaker who's style resembles Tyrann Mathieu's. Only an average athlete and lacks foot speed. Size is a huge red flag because it will limit his ability to play man-coverage.

See the position rankings for the offense