Monday, July 30, 2012
Top Defensive NFC NFL Rookie Prospects for 2012
1. Morris Claiborne, Cowboys CB
It's always nice to acquire a guaranteed starter with a draft pick, and that's exactly what Dallas did when they moved up to draft Morris Claiborne. With Claiborne, the Cowboys have added a cornerback who's already NFL-ready without any concerns about taking time to develop. He's polished and doesn't lack the stone hands that many rookie defensive backs have. Making this acquisition even more lethal is the fact that Claiborne isn't coming into a weak defense. The Cowboys gave up a lot of passing yards last season, but in terms of touchdowns allowed they were in the middle of the pack. With the addition of Claiborne, the Cowboys might have a top ten defense at the end of the season.
2. Mark Barron, Bucs S
Right on the heels of the Morris Claiborne selection was Mark Barron, a player who many analysts felt was actually the best defensive player in the draft. Barron is a hard-hitting physical safety in the vein of Ed Reed, only he has more size. This makes him the perfect player to defend against the tight ends of the league, something that is becoming increasingly important as guys like Rob Grownkowski proliferate. He can sit back and play the pass or move up and put pressure on the running game. Overall, he has the tools to step into a very average Tampa Bay defense and make it dangerous for the rest of the league.
3. Luke Kuechly, Panthers LB
The only thing that managed to stifle the excellence of Cam Newton's rookie campaign was Carolina's terrible defense. For every amazing touchdown that Newton ran for or threw to Steve Smith, it seemed like the opposing team's offense would just jog back onto the field and score another touchdown at will. Heading into the offseason, this had to be a primary concern for the Panthers management. With the ninth overall pick, they seem to have resolved this need by drafting Luke Kuechly. Kuechly is an excellent prospect for his field vision. He frequently sees plays as they're developing and knows where to be at on the field. It starts before the play, as he seems to always set up in the right spot. He'll bolster Carolina's run defense from the start. His speed is somewhat of a concern, but that's something that he'll be able to improve on during training camps and as his career progresses. For now, he'll be able to contribute immediately as long as the Panthers keep him on the inside. He's a terrific prospect and will be a valuable player for Carolina to have on their roster.
The full potential of players when they are drafted can sometimes take years to be noticed. That isn't likely to be the case with these prospects. In the case of both Claiborne and Kuechly, they are joining teams with strong offenses that just need more consistency on the defensive end of the ball. There's no chance that solid efforts on their end will be overshadowed by poor play on offense. If these rookies pay off like the GMs who drafted them are hoping, then any of the prospects on this list should be able to compete for a Defensive Rookie of the Year award.
Take a look last week's posts on the top AFC and NFC offensive rookie prospects.
Posted by Don Phan at 12:31 PM