Defensive Positional Rankings Updated

Branch saw a big jump in our newest rankings

In case you missed the Offensive Rankings Update from yesterday simply click here to see how over 400 players are ranked by position offensively. Today we release our Defensive Rankings so without further ado we present to you, 360 ranked players by position.

NOTE: We scout and rank based on projection, not prediction. Our rankings are based on what prospects we feel either will have or already have the best NFL skill set. We grade our rankings five years later not based on where a player gets picked at the end of this month.

To view each set of rankings simply click on the header of each set of notes.

Defensive End Rankings

Top Rated DE: Quinton Coples, UNC

Favorite Mid-Round DE: Malik Jackson, Tennessee

Favorite Small School DE: Josue Ortiz, Harvard

-We have been on this train for since about mid-season but it is without question that Quinton Coples is the top ranked DE in the NFL Draft. The concerns over his motor and effort are overblown, any team passing on Coples for those reasons will be sorry for making that mistake.

-Behind Coples is a rather large cluster of potential pass rushers that range from pure pass rushers like Vinny Curry and Whitney Mercilus to two way players like Nick Perry or Cam Johnson.

-In the third tier of this group you have a large contingent of small school pass rushers that includes Adrian Hamilton, Ryan Davis, Josue Ortiz, and Aston Whiteside.

-The depth of this DE class is rather impressive, there are a number of DE’s we would take from this class and that’s reflective in every one of the 60 players ranked.

Defensive Tackle Rankings

Top Rated DT: Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

Favorite Mid-Round DT: Akiem Hicks, Regina

Favorite Small School DT: Randy Colling, Gannon

-The top of this class is split between stable veterans who have produced over time in college (Still and Thompson) and high upside early entrants (Cox, and Brockers). Brockers and Cox represent the most upside of almost any prospect in this class while Still and Thompson may be two of the safest picks.

-Not a ton of potential in terms of 34 NT prospects that are proven this year. The top guy has to be Josh Chapman but with his injury it’s tough to project where exactly he may end up.

-Some interesting 34 DE possibilities in this class come from the DT ranks, guys like Mike Martin, Akiem Hicks, Jared Crick, and Kendall Reyes could all offer intriguing value in different schemes.

-Two small school names to watch for after the draft is Christo Bilukidi and Asa Chapman, both are big men in the middle who could interest teams who like to run hybrid schemes. Chapman is a mountain of a man who has been working to get in shape, while Bilukidi is a versatile 43 DT/34 DE who could provide good depth.

Outside Linebacker Rankings

Top Ranked OLB: Zach Brown, UNC

Favorite Mid-Round OLB: Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest

Favorite Small School OLB: Ryan Lewis, Bethune Cookman

-In all honesty we aren’t big fans of this OLB class, we feel like Zach Brown is a clear fit at OLB but after him you have two guys in Ingram and Irvin who are former DL who need to stand up but nobody is really sure how well they will translate.

-After those guy you have three LB’s who are fits almost exclusively for the 43 Cover 2 Scheme.

-The next tier is an interesting grouping of LB’s who are all very athletic and can run, you’ll notice we include Vontaze Burfict in that grouping we think moving him outside (ideally in a 34) would be the best thing for him early in his career.

-One sleeper to watch as a 34 OLB prospect is Sammy Brown from Houston, he was a big time pass rusher in the CUSA and really has a great first step.

-Along with Ryan Lewis as one of our favorite small school OLB we also really think LJ Fort and Nigel Carr have NFL potential. All three could use some bulk and more strength but all display the instincts and athleticism to make plays in the NFL.

Inside Linebacker Rankings

Top Ranked ILB: Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

Favorite Mid-Round ILB: Korey Williams, Southern Miss

Favorite Small School ILB: Brandon Harvey, Delaware State

-We think the ILB class is a bit cloudy at the top, we still see Courtney Upshaw as the top ILB in this draft and that’s because we worry that his size will prevent him from being a good OLB pass rusher. After him it’s clearly a two horse race with Hightower and Kuechly for the top ILB spot and we barely rank Hightower higher.

-We like both NC State LB’s in the middle, Cole has better instincts but we think Manning may end up being the better player with his athleticism.

-The depth at this position is pretty thin overall but don’t sleep on Noah Keller or Ronnie Sneed. We have them ranked a little lower but both guys could get FA invites and impress in camp.

-Brandon Harvey should get drafted, he is big, athletic, and can hit all day long. He reminds us a lot of Ray Lewis, whoever picks him up will have gotten a true steal.

Cornerback Rankings

Top Ranked CB: Morris Claiborne, LSU

Favorite Mid-Round CB: Brandon Boykin, UGA

Favorite Small School CB: Micah Pellerin, Hampton

-We might as just call this the class of Small School players as we have six CB’s in our top 25 from the FCS or below.

-Pellerin and Steed may be two of the best pure man coverage guys in this class while Johnson is a better zone guy.

-For us Jenkins ranks as the third CB because of his SEC pedigree and the fact that he went down to D2 dominated and then came back for the Senior Bowl and looked dominant. Speaking of Jenkins he’s take a lot of unfair criticism due to the off the field stuff and the misinformation that was spread about his recent agent change, this draft will be the start of his redemption.

-Three names that aren’t in our top tier but could perform just as well, if not better, are Josh Robinson, Jamell Fleming, and Brandon Boykin.

-We’ve seen the hyper for Stephon Gilmore but we worry that he’s too much of a gambler, he takes too many risks when making plays on the ball and is not disciplined enough against double moves to be ready early on in his career to see the field in big situations.

Safety Rankings:

Top Ranked SAF: Mark Barron, Alabama

Favorite Mid-Round SAF: Winston Guy, Kentucky

Favorite Small School SAF: Jerron McMillion, Maine

-This safety class is better than I initially gave it credit for it has some good top end talent in Barron and Iloka, and some nice depth in small schoolers like McMillion and Matt Daniels from Duke.

-We really don’t get the Harrison Smith hype, he’s a good ball player with very good tackling ability we felt like he got caught floating in coverage too much and could be looked off routes too easily. Also don’t see the recovery speed to warrant his high grade.

-We were tempted to rank Iloka ahead of Barron because of Barron’s injury history and Iloka’s freak athleticism but thought better of it. We did want to point out that while the gap between when they each get picked may be wide, their talent level is not.

-Like CB’s plenty of small school talent at SAF in Steve Peyton, Jerron McMillion, Janzen Jackson, Christian Thompson, and Corey White. All these guys know how to play the ball well and while Jackson may have the most talent watch out for McMillion and Peyton as well.

Tomorrow we will be releasing our Top 750 Big Board! Be sure to come back by and check that out!

Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, Positional Rankings

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