Bruce Irvin, West Virginia - My early mancrush: his combination of raw speed and strength is incredible. If he adds 10-15 pounds this year, he should skyrocket up boards as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end. Here’s a video of Bruce in beast mode. Don’t make him angry.
Quinton Coples, UNC – Fits the Julius Peppers big DE mold and what do you know, he goes to North Carolina. Should be a top 5 pick based on last season alone.
Donte Paige-Moss, UNC - Much more of a hybrid, might be better suited as an OLB in a 3-4.
Brandon Jenkins, FSU - Had a ton of sacks/TFL last year but then again, who on the FSU defense didn’t? He has to prove to me that the defense is good because of him, not that he’s good because of the defense.
DE Class Grade: Needs improvement in an angry red pen. These 4 guys are the only ones worth mentioning and they’re each one year wonders thus far. It’s a group with tons of potential but not very strong all the way through aside from these 4.
Jared Crick, Nebraska - Was a nearly consensus 1st/2nd round pick in many mocks before deciding to return to school. Compared to Suh, every Nebraska linemen comes up short, but Crick is going to be one of the safest picks in the draft.
Jerel Worthy, Michigan State – Athletic big man who’s bound to breakout this year. Has all of the tools to be this year’s Nick Fairley or Ndamukong Suh.
John Simon, Ohio State – Highly-touted big man, quietly had a solid year but will be noticed more now that Cameron Heyward is gone.
DT Class Grade: B-. Crick and Worthy are the only ones worthy (har har) of being 1st rounders at this point. Still, DT’s for some reason don’t jump on the map until they’re draft eligible, so there will probably be a few new names making headlines when all is said and done.
(My FAVORITE position next year)
Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State - He makes Nick Fairley look like a clean player, but MAN I love his intensity. Transcendent talent who still hasn’t met his potential. This highlight video always makes me want to break things.
Luke Kuechly, Boston College - Like linebackers who tackle? Look no further. 10 tackles is a bad game for this guy. I seriously think he might be a robot.
Dont’a Hightower, Alabama - Massive yet athletic. Ideal 3-4 linebacker and team leader on one of the better defenses the past two years.
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame – The real reason why I will sometimes sneak a peak at a Notre Lame game. #1 recruit out of high school, would be interesting to see what would happen if he had 10 other defenders with him out there.
Shayne Skov, Stanford - Watch the Stanford vs Virginia Tech game. It was impossible to ignore this guy; his motor does not stop. He also wears eye black, which makes him cooler.
Also VERY much worth mentioning, but I’m running out of ways to describe linebackers:
Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick, UNC; Courtney Upshaw, Nico Johnson, Alabama; Chris Galippo, USC; Travis Lewis, OU; Nigel Bradham, FSU; Tank Carder, TCU (great game versus Wisconsin, plus he wears a neck roll!); Sean Spence, Miami; Emmanuel Acho, Texas; Lavonte David, Nebraska (undersized tackling machine)
LB Class Grade: Jackpot. One of the strongest classes in years. Even guys who I didn’t talk about such as Travis Lewis could end up being 1st rounders.