2013 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense

2013 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense
2012 NFL Draft Sleepers: Offense | 2012 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense
2012 NFL Draft Potential Busts: Offense | 2012 NFL Draft Potential Busts: Defense
2012 NFL Draft Boom or Bust Players

Published April 9, 2013
By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

There have been a lot of questions over the past few weeks about who are my sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft class. A sleeper prospect is basically a player who gets drafted after the first round and proves to be a steal.

In 2009, my favorite prospect was Ole Miss wide receiver Mike Wallace. He went late in the third round to the Steelers and now is one of the best receivers in the NFL. My sleeper prospect for 2010 to go after the first round was Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. He’s a good player for New England.

My favorite sleeper in the 2012 NFL Draft was Cincinnati defensive tackle/end Derek Wolfe. He had a solid debut for the Broncos after going in the second round.

Here is a breakdown of a sleeper prospect at each defensive position for the 2013 NFL Draft. All the players will be prospects who are going on the second or third day of the draft.

Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
I could be cheating here a little bit because Short could crack the top-32 picks and is on the bubble for Thursday night. In a deep class of defensive tackles, it sounds like he could fall to the second round. Short is underrated in my opinion because he was a consistent pass-rusher.

Short’s sack totals for the last three season were six, 6.5 and seven, respectively. He had a good showing at the Senior Bowl and consistently beat blockers in the pass-rushing one-on-ones. The 6-foot-3, 308-pounder is fast and strong. He is a natural three-technique pass-rusher who does an excellent job of shooting the gap to get penetration into the pocket. A 4-3 team that is looking for an interior pass-rusher would be extremely fortunate to land Short on the second day of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
Throughout the fall and into the Senior Bowl, Okafor was projected by many to be a first-round pick. One national scout from a team picking in the top half of Round 1 told WalterFootball.com that they felt that Okafor should be a first-rounder, but their team wouldn’t be taking him because of other more pressing needs.

Okafor broke out in 2011 as one of the top defensive ends in the Big XII. He was a First-Team All-Big XII selection. Okafor totaled 58 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three passes batted and two forced fumbles.

Okafor is going to be a nice value for somebody. The senior totaled 54 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, a blocked kick and a pass batted in 2012. An ankle injury basically stole two games from him, and while playing with the injury, he was in on a sack that he wasn’t given credit for.

Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson told WalterFootball.com that Okafor was the best pass-rusher he went against in college. Okafor recorded sacks off of a bull rush and speed rush. The 6-foot-4, 261-pounder has a nice repertoire of moves and would be best as a left defensive end in a 4-3 defense. Okafor could be a second-day pick who turns into a consistent pass-rusher in the NFL, which is an excellent value.

Another sleeper I like a lot is Clemson’s Malliciah Goodman. He has the speed to beat tackles off the edge but also has the size to potentially be an impact five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 defense. Goodman is a mid-rounder with big upside.

Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers
I’m kind of surprised that Greene hasn’t had a rise during this spring. He was an animal for Rutgers last fall with tons of production and splash plays. The senior amassed 136 tackles, six sacks, six forced fumbles, five passes batted, two interceptions and 12 tackles for a loss. Greene was tremendous at consistently producing impact plays and was the leader of his defense. He led the team with 141 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles as a junior in 2011.

Since the end of the season Greene has added some weight, so he could warrant consideration as an inside linebacker for a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. His best fit could come as a Will (weakside) linebacker in a 4-3. Greene had a disappointing showing at the Combine, but the 6-foot-1, 241-pounder is a pure football player with excellent instincts. He is a second-day pick who could provide a big payoff in the NFL.

Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU
Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o, Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown have gotten a lot more attention, but Minter is a very good middle linebacker prospect in his own right. Minter was phenomenal in 2012. The junior was the most consistent player on the Tigers’ defense, and that is saying something considering all the NFL talent LSU had on its stop unit. He totaled 130 tackles with 15 tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passes broken up, a forced fumble and an interception in 2012.

Minter is very physical and is able to get off blocks. The 6-foot, 246-pounder is fast and hits with authority. He also is quick to snuff out runs on the perimeter. Minter could use more work in pass coverage, but he has the ability to be a three-down linebacker in the NFL. Minter will probably go in the second round and I could see him becoming a DeMeco Ryans-type inside linebacker.

Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
Everybody knows that Mathieu is a great player, so he isn’t that big of a sleeper. However, I think Mathieu will clean up his act off the field to not blow his NFL career. From 2010-2011, he was one the most consistent producers of splash plays in college football.

Mathieu compiled 57 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, two interceptions, seven passes broken up and two interceptions as a freshman in 2010. The next year he was one of the best defensive players in college football.. Mathieu led the Tigers in tackles in 2011 with 76. The sophomore also had 7.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, two interceptions and nine passes broken up.

LSU lined Mathieu up as an outside corner, slot corner and safety. He was very dangerous in the slot. Additionally, the team had him returning punts, averaging 16 yards per return with two brought back for touchdowns.

What sets Mathieu apart from other defensive backs is utterly phenomenal instincts. It looks like the game of football just makes sense to him as he has innate ability to put himself in position to make impact plays. Mathieu has good speed, but is not elite burner. However, his instincts make him seem faster because he is a step ahead of everybody else. Mathieu could go in the third round, and I think he could be a pro cornerback in the mold of Ronde Barber.

Aside from Mathieu, other mid- to late-round sleeper cornerbacks who I like are Illinois’ Terry Hawthorne and Georgia Tech’s Rod Sweeting.

Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Three safeties I really like could sneak into the first round – Florida’s Matt Elam, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien and South Carolina’s D.J. Swearinger – so I’ll have to rule them out.

Like Mathieu, off-the-field issues diminish what was a great collegiate career from Rambo. He a force for the Bulldogs over the past three season. If you watched Georgia in 2010, it was hard not to notice the sophomore. Rambo always found his way to the ball and was a play-maker. The instinctive safety totaled 82 tackles with three interceptions, three passes broken up and three forced fumbles. Rambo was even better as a junior with eight interceptions, 52 tackles and seven passes broken up. He only played nine games in 2012, but recorded 76 tackles, three interceptions, one sack and three forced fumbles.

Rambo is very instinctive and that makes him a ballhawk on the back end. He isn’t the fastest or most fluid, but he reads offenses well to get in position to make plays. Rambo is always around the ball. The 6-foot, 218-pounder has some size and doesn’t shy away from getting physical. Rambo had a couple of suspensions and a positive drug test in college. If he stays out of trouble in the NFL, he could be an impact defender in the back end.

2012 NFL Draft Sleepers: Offense | 2012 NFL Draft Sleepers: Defense
2012 NFL Draft Potential Busts: Offense | 2012 NFL Draft Potential Busts: Defense
2012 NFL Draft Boom or Bust Players

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