Monday, July 30, 2012
Top Defensive AFC NFL Rookie Prospects for 2012
1. Stephon Gilmore, Bills CB
The Bills started out very strong last season only to finish weak, and part of the reason was their defensive unit. The output of offensive studs like Fred Jackson just couldn't offset the holes in the defense. For that reason, the Bills looked to improve their defense through the draft. They appear to have found their man in Stephon Gilmore. Drafted out of USC with the 10th pick, Gilmore is considered NFL-ready in all aspects of the game. He's flexible enough to play in man-to-man coverage or zone defense, and he can play up on the line against his man or sag off for deep coverage. He still has some developing to do, but all the signs are there that he can turn into an elite cornerback. That's something the Bills need, and the team is optimistic that Gilmore can fill that need.
2. Quinton Coples, Jets DE
Coples is one of the most interesting rookies not just in the NFC but in the entire NFL. He had a weak 2011 outing, but prior to that he was considered one of the top defensive prospects in all of college football. He's drawn comparisons to Julius Peppers and can defend against nearly every type of offense. The Jets were mediocre in sacks last season, and part of the reason for that was the lack of pressure they could put on the QB. Coples, if developed properly, can fix that for the team. He just has to put the immaturity concerns to rest and come out ready to help the team win games.
3. Dre Kirkpatrick, Bengalas CB
With the acquisition of Dre Kirkpatrick at the 17th spot of the draft, the Bengals have added what fans hope will be a valuable piece to their secondary. During his tenure at Alabama, Kirkpatrick proved that he had the physical tools to succeed in the NFL. Overall, he has a tremendous amount of upside, but will likely take some time to fully develop into a role with the Bengals. Still, there's every chance that he will be listed as the number one defensive back on the depth chart one day, and that's exactly what teams hope for with a mid-first rounder.
No one is ever a lock, but these are the rookies with the biggest chances to make a difference on their teams this year. All three players match up well on paper with the defensive systems they've been drafted into. Once the NFL season kicks off in September, fans will find out for sure how well these players can do at the professional level.
Be sure to read my thoughts on the top AFC and NFC offensive rookie prospects.
Posted by Don Phan at 12:31 PM