Margus Hunt DT SMU #92
Size/Athleticism: Incredible blend of size and athleticism. He’s build like a defensive tackle, but has enough athleticism to play end and even drops into coverage at times. Height is rare and makes him an elite special teams player. Blocked 17 kicks during his career.
Run Defense: His height works against him at the point of attack. He struggles to stay low and offensive linemen who are able to getting better leverage on him can drive him off his spot. Does a decent job in pursuit. Sheds blocks well and has the speed to make some plays in pursuit. Can make plays from behind, but struggles in space. He’s just too big and awkward to trap a running back or even most quarterbacks running in space.
Pass Rush: A tough assignment in one-on-one situations. He’s strong enough to bull rush but also quick enough to take advantage of some slow-footed tackles. Really inconsistent, however. He was stopped by linemen who had no business controlling him throughout the course of an entire game. Needs to do a much better job getting his hands up into passing lanes. He can be a game-changing force, but he so rarely pressured the quarterback by altering passing lanes.
Versatility: Primarily played end in 3-4 sets and also lined up inside in 4-3 sets. Dropped into coverage more often than the typical down lineman and looks fairly fluid when doing so. Could potentially play some linebacker in 3-4 sets.
Intangibles: Should have been more dominant against his level of competition. Few Conference USA linemen could match his physical tools, but he was ineffective a shockingly high percentage of the time.
Durability: No known issues.
Comments: Hunt’s physical tools are so intriguing, but his level of production is disturbing. While his height can create problems for the offense at times, but it creates just as many issues for Hunt. He struggles to stay low and much smaller offensive linemen can stonewall him by using good leverage. He also struggles to make some plays on the ball carrier – just imagine a 6’8″ Hunt trying to corral Maurice Jones-Drew in space. He may not be a three-down lineman, but in certain situations he can definitely be a difference maker. I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking him in the first round because I probably would only want to use him as part of a rotation. But a team could definitely justify spending a second round pick on him if they have the right talent around him.
Corey Lemonier DE Auburn #55
Size/Athleticism: Has the athleticism of an explosive edge rusher. Impressive change of direction ability for a lineman. Can use the speed rusher to the outside, but quickly shift inside if the lineman is able to kick outside with him.
Run Defense: Has quick feet and can weave through traffic to get to the ball carrier. Struggles at the point of attack. Lacks the lower body strength to hold his ground and can be directed fairly easily by stronger offensive linemen.
Pass Rush: Athletic enough to take advantage of slow-footed tackles. Made a few really nice double moves against Alabama left tackle Barrett Jones in 2011 to demonstrate his ability to maneuver against the technically sound, but athletically challenged linemen. Shows a nice array of pass-rush moves.
Versatility: Primarily played with his hand on the ground at Auburn, but could definitely transition to a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. Some experience dropping into coverage.
Intangibles: Criticized for his play at the end of the 2012 season. When the team struggled, he seemed to go in the tank. Teams will need to ask him about his play during interviews to make a determination about his effort level.
Durability: No known issues. Made 24 starts and played in 34 games in three years.
Comments: Lemonier is an explosive pass-rusher who may be best suited to shift to linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He flew under the radar at Auburn due to their miserable 2012 season, but he is among the best pure pass-rushers in this class and could make an immediate impact in the right system. He will be criticized for his struggles at the point of attack, but you have to accept that with some undersized pass-rushers. He’ll make up for it by making some impressive plays in pursuit when the play goes the opposite direction.
Alex Okafor DE Texas #80
Size/Athleticism: Definitely looks the part. He’s tall and well built, but lacks the elite athleticism to put him at the top of this draft class. His straight-line speed is adequate in short burst (much better than his 40 time indicates) but he isn’t quick. Easily slowed down by traffic and struggles to work his way around offensive linemen even when he isn’t engaged.
Run Defense: Does an adequate job holding up at the point of attack. He struggles to shed blocks at times, but he holds his ground. Doesn’t make a ton of plays in pursuit unless he has a free path to the ballcarrier. He isn’t very quick in tight spaces, and struggles to maneuver through traffic. Even when he’s not engaged, just working his way through the bodies on the field slows him down considerablly.
Pass Rush: Sort of a ‘tweener in terms of his pass-rush skill set. He’s not explosive enough to be a speed edge-rusher, but he’s not strong or physical enough to excel as a bull rusher. He gets the job done with a combination of both, but he’ll need to refine his technique in order to excel in the NFL.
Versatility: Played a nice mix of linebacker/end depending on the defensive formation. Should have no problem playing in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Some experience dropping in coverage, but he gets lost easily. Struggles to move fluidly while keeping track of receivers in his zone and his eyes on the quarterback.
Intangibles: Voted 2012 team captain.
Durability: Slowed by an ankle injury in 2012. Didn’t work out at combine due to a hip injury suffered at Senior Bowl.
Comments: Okafor isn’t an elite pass-rusher, but he has the skill set to develop into a well-rounded lineman. How good he becomes will depend on how dedicated he is to refining his technique, because he lacks the elite raw tools to guarantee him a starting job at the next level. I wouldn’t count him out as a potential future Pro Bowler, but it will take some time to develop him. He reminds me a little bit of Justin Tuck, and could become that type of player with work.
Shamarko Thomas SS Syracuse #21
Size/Athleticism: Thomas is much shorter than the average NFL safety, which will hurt him in certain situations. However, don’t question his toughness. He is extremely physical, especially considering his size. His blend of speed and strength gives him the tools to help make up for his lack of height.
Coverage: Has the quickness and speed of a cornerback. His footwork is inconsistent in man coverage, but he makes up for mistakes with his speed. If he could limit his false steps, he could legitimately be viewed as a potential cornerback prospect. Demonstrated his skills in man coverage by lining up one-on-one against Robert Woods multiple times as a senior against USC.
Ball skills: Height limits his ability to fight for jump balls, but his leaping ability makes up for it to an extent.
Run support: Does not back down from mixing it up at the line of scrimmage. He’ll dive right into the linemen and try to use his lack of size to his advantage to slip through unnoticed. Willing to take on much bigger ball carriers head-on, and capable of delivering some big hits. His lack of size actually works to his advantage in certain situations, because he can launch himself at the ball carrier and deliver all of his force on a small area, increasing the likelihood of jarring the ball loose. Athleticism makes him extremely valuable in the open field. He can match many receivers and running backs in quickness and doesn’t get juked often. Even without support, he can make an open field tackle.
Intangibles: Elite leadership skills and work ethic. You’ll be hard pressed to find a player who pushes himself hard off the field than Thomas.
Durability: Missed 2 games with an undisclosed injury as a junior.
Comments: Thomas’ lack of size definitely causes doubters to question his ability to excel at the next level. And while I’m not certain how he’ll make the most impact at the next level, I guarantee he will find a way to make himself valuable. He’s an impressive player on and off the field and he will do whatever it takes to carve out a role for himself in the NFL.
D.J. Swearinger FS South Carolina #36
Size/Athleticism: Strong overall build with nice blend of size and athleticism. His well-rounded skill set makes him an extremely versatile safety.
Coverage: Experienced in zone and man coverage. Does a nice job playing the center field role. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback while remaining aware of the receivers in his zone. He’s very patient in zone, and doesn’t over-commit in any direction and rarely incorrectly guesses in an attempt to jump a route. Played some cornerback early in his career.
Ball skills: Impressive leaping ability. He’s physical and can battle for jump balls. Doesn’t have great hands, but he’ll come down with an occasional interception.
Run support: Does a great job stepping up and plugging holes at the line of scrimmage. Can deliver the big hit, but he’s also a very reliable wrap-up tackler. Consistently takes correct angles in pursuit. Does a really nice job corralling the receiver in open space, especially on screens or quick passes in the flat. Impressive closing speed. He isn’t exceptionally fast, but he has a quick first step and has a great burst in short distances.
Intangibles: Suspended by NCAA for one game for an illegal hit.
Durability: Slowed by a foot injury in 2011 and missed spring practices due to the injury.
Comments: Swearinger in an incredibly physical and versatile safety. He can play either safety position and will fit perfectly into a scheme that likes to use interchangeable parts in the secondary. There are some concerns about his foot injury which has lingered over the past two seasons, but he battled through the injury and has otherwise been durable throughout his career.