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2013 NFL Combine: 20 Players to Watch on Defense

After a look on the offense, it's time to switch over to the defense.

Dion Jordan telling Derek Carr how familiar this position must be to the Carr family
Dion Jordan telling Derek Carr how familiar this position must be to the Carr family
Kevin Casey

There's a lot of depth at certain positions that will cull itself in the coming weeks. As we all know by now, the Titans could use some depth at key positions. Let's begin with the defensive line.


Ezekiel Ansah DE BYU Senior - He's a very good athlete playing end but is even more raw than Jason Pierre Paul coming out of college. Ansah had horrible Senior Bowl practices, often times getting pushed around but had a good game. The tools to be something are there but he's not worthy of a top 10 pick, much less a top 5 pick. He'll likely have a good combine that will wow some people but he might turn out be a workout wonder.

Cornelius Carradine DE FSU Senior - "Tank" stepped into a starting job when Brandon Jenkins was lost for the season early on and flourished opposite Bjoern Werner. He was having a great year elevating his stock from late rounds to the early rounds until he unfortunately tore his ACL in November.

Dion Jordan DE/OLB Oregon Senior - Jordan is a freakish athlete at 6'7 250. He has the frame to add more weight to move to a 4-3 DE or just stick at OLB. He was converted to DE from TE early on in his career. The pass rush totals weren't there for him this year as he was asked to drop back into coverage a lot by long time Ducks DC Nick Alioti.

Devin Taylor DE South Carolina Senior - The "other guy" on the South Carolina's defensive line is a pretty good prospect in his own right. Although Mr. Clowney was deserving of all the headlines, Taylor did the dirty work that opened him up to such praise. He might be a steal for somebody late.

Brandon Williams DT Missouri Southern State Senior - He turned a lot of heads at the Senior Bowl with a good week of practices. Williams could be a late round sleeper.


Kiko Alonso ILB Oregon Senior - Another tremendous athlete for the Ducks defense (you pretty much have to be one as much as the defense is out on the field thanks to the quick strike offense). Alonso is a tackling machine and leader of the defense along with Michael Clay. Alonso was Russell Wilson's worst nightmare in the 2012 Rose Bowl. He can play either inside or outside.

Gerald Hodges OLB Penn State Senior - A team leader after the Jerry Sandusky scandal and subsequent NCAA sanctions hammered the university and team. He's an underrated athlete that's learning the position after being converted from safety. Hodges led the Lions in tackles in 2012.

Zaviar Gooden OLB Missouri Senior - Another guy who stood out at the Senior Bowl practices after a quiet senior campaign. He's a good athlete much like Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon before him although not as physical. He can go sideline to sideline in an instant.

Kevin Reddick ILB UNC Senior - Like his Tar Heel teammates before him, he's a great athlete that Butch Davis recruited to Chapel Hill. Reddick did the dirty work inside and was less heralded than his teammates. He flashed some potential at the Senior Bowl, showing that UNC's struggles weren't solely on him.

Manti Te'o ILB Notre Dame Senior - The most controversial figure of the offseason. His press conference will likely be the most attended and watched at the Combine. Jokes aside, he really got exposed by Alabama as a slow inside backer that can be lost in the wash.


Robert Alford SE Louisiana Senior - Alford did some nice things in Mobile that improved his stock. He showed that he isn't afraid of the big boys and routinely went after them step for step. Alford has the NFL bloodlines as older brother Fred Booker played for the Saints in the early 2000s.

Tyrann Mathieu LSU* Junior - Honey Badger is talented, sure but his off field troubles will be heavily scrutinized during the interview process. It remains to be seen if he's genuinely sorry for his troubles or just an act of grandstanding to get in the good graces of teams. Another factor working against him is his lack of size.

Leon McFadden SDSU Senior - Like South teammate Robert Alford, McFadden wowed a lot of scouts in Mobile. He was very physical and pretty much locked onto his receiver. McFadden has good athletic genes from his father, Leon Sr as Senior was a MLB utility player for several seasons.

Greg Reid FSU/Valdosta State Senior - see Tyrann Mathieu above.

Darius Slay Miss. State Senior - An underrated corner thanks to much more heralded teammate Johnthan Banks. He did outplay Banks in 2012 at times, especially after Banks went down with injury in the bowl game against Northwestern.


John Cyprien FIU Senior - The fast rising safety showed well at the Senior Bowl going against the talented South WR corps. All time leading tackler at FIU. Cyprien is a fearless and sound tackler even when taking on bigger opponents.

Matt Elam Florida Junior - One of the best safeties in this class.

TJ McDonald Southern Cal Senior - A better more technically sound Taylor Mays if you will. He has great bloodlines as father Tim was a standout safety for the 49ers back in the day. Brother Tim plays safety for crosstown rival UCLA.

Phillip Thomas Fresno State and Duke Williams Nevada - Thomas is the better ball hawking safety and Williams might be better at run stopping. These two Mountain West buddies are close in terms of talent. If I had to choose one, I'd pick Thomas in a close race.