On Friday, we kicked off the Draft Buzz series with a look at some of the prospects on the offensive side of the ball. Let's take a look around the country with our panel of NFL Draft insiders and get the latest scoop on some of the top defensive prospects available in the 2013 NFL Draft ...
Defensive End: Michigan State's William Gholston
With the change in coaching staffs in Philadelphia comes a change in defensive philosophy, and it is widely believed the team will run a scheme that includes a wide variety of different fronts on the defensive line.
Well, a versatile scheme needs versatile players to fit a variety of roles, and one of the more appealing players on the defensive line who can fit into a number of positions is Michigan State's William Gholston. The cousin of former Top-10 pick Vernon Gholston, William Gholston has the size and athleticism to line up as a pass rusher off the edge and the strength to match up inside as an interior lineman. Where will his best fit be at the next level? We asked Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo ...
"Given his high-profile recruitment, plus size and perceived athleticism, it's easy to see why Gholston has had his name mentioned among top-round candidates for the 2013 draft. Unfortunately, his play doesn't always match the hype and I see Gholston as a third-day pick with potential upside.
"He played defensive end in a 4-3 with Michigan State lining him up almost exclusively on the boundary which often gave Gholston the 'open' side of the formation from which to rush. Still, he rarely showed the ability to challenge the edge as a pass rusher as the majority of his pressures came while attacking the inside shoulder of the offensive tackle and he was often used to open up holes on stunts and twists.
"Because of his size and inability to provide consistent pressure on the edge, I see Gholston as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme or possibly a two-down defensive end in a 4-3 scheme (5-technique, 6-technique, or early-down 7-technique). He has a chance to develop into a solid run defender who can alter passing lanes with his height, but he must improve as a pass rusher to achieve his potential. These question marks about his ability to affect the quarterback will drop Gholston into the middle rounds of the draft."
Defensive Tackle: Alabama's Jesse Williams
With the team parting ways with veterans Cullen Jenkins and Mike Patterson earlier this offseason, it was apparent that the defensive tackle position would be an area that would be addressed at some point through free agency or the draft. Even with the team adding Isaac Sopoaga on the first day of the new league year, there's still a distinct possibility that a relatively high pick could be used on the position.
One of the top prospects available at the defensive tackle spot this year is Alabama's Jesse Williams, a fire-plug of a nose guard who played the 5-technique for the Crimson Tide in 2011 and shifted inside last season. A quick, tough player who is still relatively new to the sport after growing up a rugby star in Australia, Williams is one of the more intriguing players at his position and a personal favorite. Where does Williams' stock seem to be at this point in the draft process? We asked Fan-Demonium columnist Tommy Lawlor from Igglesblitz.com ...
"Teams looking for a run-stuffer will have serious interest in the 6-3, 325-pound Williams. He can play nose tackle or 3-4 defensive end. Williams is able to anchor against the run and sheds blocks as well as any interior defender in the draft. He can push the pocket on pass plays, but lacks the agility to be a consistent pass rusher. I would expect that Williams probably hears his name called late in the first round or early in round two, likely in the 25 to 40 range."
Linebacker: Kansas State's Arthur Brown
Certainly one of the most dominant linebackers in college football the last two seasons, Kansas State's Arthur Brown will be one of the first linebackers selected in April's draft. Brown oozes natural athleticism and plays with the toughness and tenacity you want from the linebacker position.
Unfortunately for Brown, a nagging shoulder injury prohibited him from working out at the Senior Bowl as well as the Scouting Combine. He had a great showing at his Pro Day, however, reportedly running in the 4.58 range in the 40-yard dash and, perhaps more importantly, put up 21 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press which should alleviate some of the concerns regarding his shoulder. Where does Brown currently fit in this draft class? Is he a first-round pick at this stage? We asked Rotoworld contributor Eric Stoner to elaborate ...
"Last season, Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown exploded onto the NFL scene after taking over for an injured Lesean McCoy. While Bryce was getting his first meaningful snaps since 2009, his younger brother Arthur was earning a spot on All-American teams for his play at middle linebacker for Kansas State.
"Like Bryce, Arthur was also a Kansas State transfer. He began his career at the University of Miami, serving in a backup role for to seasons. Upon transferring back home to Kansas, his talents flourished. He immediately stepped into a starting job, winning the Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award. A 6-foot, 240-pound wrecking ball with sideline-to-sideline range, Brown is a great combination of athleticism and fundamentally sound technique.
"He showcases impressive stack-and-shed ability for his size and reads his keys so quickly that he's able to beat blockers to their spot. His lack of height will limit him in man coverage against bigger tight ends, but he consistently shows the ability to run with
slot receivers and athletic running backs in man coverage.
"He compares to a more athletic NaVorro Bowman, projecting to play either middle or weakside linebacker in a 4-3 or weak inside linebacker in a 3-4. Brown is arguably the top non-pass rushing linebacker in the class and has a chance to crack the top 15 selections. With so many teams needing young, athletic legs at linebacker, it's almost inconceivable that he makes it to the second round."
Cornerback: Alabama's Dee Milliner
One of the more popular selections for the Eagles with the fourth overall pick in Mock Drafts around the league, cornerback Dee Milliner appears to be the consensus top player at his position in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Milliner, who had a great season in his first year as a full-time starter in 2012, followed up his performance with an outstanding showing at February's Scouting Combine. Milliner, whose speed was questioned by some entering the event, ran an official 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, putting those questions to bed. Milliner had surgery on his shoulder following the Combine, and will not do any more physical workouts throughout the draft process, but will that hurt his stock? We asked GM Jr's Josh Liskiewitz about Milliner's draft prospects moving forward ...
"There is certainly a lot to like about Milliner. He's a big, physical corner who is extremely competitive with the ball in the air and, as he proved in the BCS National Championship Game, he's strong enough to match up against athletic tight ends.
"He isn't a quick-twitch athlete and consequently struggles to close on his man on time when in off and zone coverage. With this concern in mind, I'm not convinced Milliner is worth a top 10 selection, and feel Philadelphia's pick at No. 4 would be better served by addressing the offensive line or the defensive front seven.
"Lucky for the Eagles, this is a deep cornerback class, and they should be able to find an alternative with their second-round pick who will have value nearly equal to that of Milliner. One corner in particular who Philadelphia could target on day two is Boise State's Jamar Taylor. While Taylor is smaller than Milliner (he measured just under 5-11 at the Combine), he is a more fluid, explosive athlete who is just as competitive with the ball in the air and displays the ability to break and close effectively in all types of coverage. Taylor is just as 'NFL ready' as Milliner and would be a more economical upgrade at the position."
Safety: Miami's Ray-Ray Armstrong
There is a consensus among draft experts that the 2013 crop of safeties is one of the deeper, more talented groups we've seen at the position in the last few years. With a wide selection of talented prospects, there are bound to be more than a couple who slip through the cracks and are available on the last day of the draft at good value for the team selecting them.
That description could fit former Miami star Ray-Ray Armstrong, who made an immediate impact for the Hurricanes upon his arrival on campus and never looked back. After experiencing some eligibility issues at Miami and later at Faulkner, Armstrong missed his senior season and helped as an assistant coach on the sidelines. Could the physical player be a late-round gem? Or are there others who are more worthwhile to pursue on draft weekend? Draft Countdown's Shane Hallam offered his opinion on the subject ...
"Ray-Ray Armstrong is a very difficult player to peg. By the time the draft occurs, he will be 14 months out of football due to a permanent ban from the NCAA and trying to make a comeback on a professional level.
"Personally, he seems to be more of a name than an actual talent based off of his sophomore year at Miami where he did flash NFL athleticism and talent but was still heavily inconsistent. He is a borderline draftable prospect who may get a late look, similar to another highly touted high school product last year in Bryce Brown, so a team won't have to compete in undrafted free agency."
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