2014 NFL Draft: Updated Defensive Positional Rankings

Curt Popejoy@@nfldraftboardContributor IOctober 15, 2013

2014 NFL Draft: Updated Defensive Positional Rankings

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    Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Who is the best defensive end in the 2014 NFL draft? Which cornerback does your team need to target in the first round? It may seem like the NFL draft is a lifetime away, but the reality is the college football season is in full swing, and so that means the time is now to study and break down the top prospects.

    This time we take a look specifically at some of the top defensive prospects who may be in the upcoming draft. Obviously, when you are talking about underclassmen, some of these players may opt to return to school, but for now, these are the best of the best.

    For this breakdown, we look at the top five players at each position, as well as giving you five guys to watch for the rest of the year. To clarify, these are not prospects 6-10. Some of these players might be in the top 10, and others aren't quite there yet.

Defensive Ends

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    Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

    All the press is about South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but this group goes well beyond the top player. 

    Top Five Defensive Ends

    1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
    2. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
    3. Vic Beasley, Clemson
    4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
    5. Trent Murphy, Stanford

    Five to Watch

    • Aaron Lynch, USF
    • Ben Gardner, Stanford
    • James Gayle, Virginia Tech
    • Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
    • Kony Ealy, Missouri

Defensive Tackles

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    This isn't a defensive tackle class that is drawing a lot of attention, but between now and April, that should change. This group offers a wide variety of players who can fit into multiple defensive schemes.

    Top Five Defensive Tackles

    1. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
    2. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
    3. Will Sutton, Arizona State
    4. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
    5. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

    Five to Watch

    • Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State
    • Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
    • Zach Kerr, Delaware
    • Danny Shelton, Washington
    • Caraun Reid, Princeton

Outside Linebackers

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    This is a great group of outside linebackers, and whether your team runs a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, they should be able to find some elite talent early in the draft.

    Top Five Outside Linebackers

    1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
    2. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
    3. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
    4. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
    5. Kyle Van Noy, BYU

    Five to Watch

    • Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
    • Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
    • Telvin Smith, Florida State
    • Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
    • Jordan Tripp, Montana

Inside Linebackers

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    Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

    Inside linebacker is an underrated position, and while this group isn't top heavy, it is a deep group with plenty of starter potential.

    Top Five Inside Linebackers

    1. Shayne Skov, Stanford
    2. Christian Jones, Florida State
    3. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
    4. Lamin Barrow, LSU
    5. Chris Borland, Wisconsin

    Five to Watch

    • Trey DePriest, Alabama
    • Ramik Wilson, Georgia
    • Yamir Smallwood, Uconn
    • Greg Blair, Cincinnati
    • Preston Brown, Louisville


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    Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

    This is an emerging cornerback group that could end up producing five or six first round prospects. Look out for Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy in particular to start to open eyes as the season goes on.

    Top Five Cornerbacks

    1. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
    2. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
    3. Jason Verrett, TCU
    4. Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
    5. Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

    Five to Watch

    • Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
    • Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
    • Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
    • Jaylen Watkins, Florida
    • Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State


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    Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

    The role of a safety in the NFL seems to expand every year. It's not just enough to be able to stuff the run or cover. This is a good group of safeties who can do a little of everything, however, I'm still waiting for an elite player to emerge.

    Top Five Safeties

    1. HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama
    2. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
    3. Craig Loston, LSU
    4. Deonne Bucannon, Washington State
    5. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State

    Five to Watch

    • Darwin Cook, West Virginia
    • Dion Bailey, USC
    • Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
    • Avery Patterson, Oregon
    • Jacques Washington, Iowa State