1. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
When I scouted players leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft, no player was more dominant at the collegiate level than pass rusher Jarvis Jones. As a sophomore, Jones had 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 13.5 sacks. He followed that up with 85 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks as a junior, and because of a poor 40 yard dash, he fell to the Steelers at #17 overall. I think Jones is set to make a huge impact in the NFL, and I don’t think it’s but a matter of time before he overtakes Jason Worilds as the starting OLB opposite LaMarr Woodley. His poor 40 time doesn’t concern me. He is an instinctive football player who has proved year in and year out that he can rush the quarterback.
2. Manti Te’o, LB, San Diego Chargers
I feel like Manti Te’o got a really raw deal having the whole fake girlfriend scandal, but that feels like a lifetime ago for the former Notre Dame star and he’s set to have a big impact on the Chargers’ defense. I think even though he is not as gifted athletically, Te’o is just as instinctive as last year’s rookie of the year on defense–Carolina Panthers’ LB Luke Kuechly. Te’o should be near 120 tackles, and is always around the ball. I think he’s going to be a star for a long time in the league.
3. Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Miami Dolphins
Jordan was the first defensive player selected in 2013, and the Miami Dolphins made him a major priority, passing on offensive tackles in order to get the gifted pass rusher. Jordan didn’t put up big numbers at Oregon, but he is a freakish athlete who has drawn some comparisons to Jason Taylor. I think he has a chance to be a star with Cameron Wake on the other side, and it won’t be long before Jordan is in Pro Bowls. I feel like he has a similar skill set to that of Aldon Smith, though I believe his ceiling is higher coming out. Injuries are all that could prevent Jordan from making a splash in 2013.
4. Arthur Brown, LB, Baltimore Ravens
Arthur Brown is taking over a spot vacated by arguably the greatest defensive player to ever play the game. The shoes of Ray Lewis are impossible to fill, but the speedy and rangy linebacker out of Kansas State has a chance to be a high impact player in the NFL. He flies to the ball, and is playing in a defense where players constantly seem to succeed. I like his chances at a rookie of the year campaign in 2013.
5. Tyrann Mathieu, DB, Arizona Cardinals
I am a lot more enamored with Tyrann Mathieu than many scouts, but I believe he is one of the best playmakers in the entire draft, regardless of position, offense, defense, special teams, or whatever. Mathieu hasn’t played in over a year, but he is hungry and has cleaned up his life and image. When he’s out on the field, Mathieu is a beast and he simply finds ways to make plays on the ball. He was so productive in two years at LSU that I thought prior to his being dismissed from the LSU roster that he could have been a first round pick in 2013. I still feel like the Cardinals got a valuable weapon defensively as well as on special teams, and Mathieu should make his presence felt early on in his career.