Players from the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers feature...
What would a team featuring only rookies look like at this point in the season? Here is the defense...
In a quarterback-driven league, finding players on defense that can prevent teams from scoring is vital, and high picks on pass rushers and cornerbacks are becoming more and more frequently seen - though three first round cornerbacks failed to make this team, beaten out by a 7th round pick...
DE Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit Lions
The first round pick from Ghana wasn't expected to have a big impact after being branded as a “raw” prospect, but Ansah has flashed ability with four sacks and 14 other pressures in 343 snaps. There is still a lot of work to do for the fifth overall pick, but Ansah has probably exceeded expectations so far.
DT Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets
The Jets defensive line is quickly becoming one of the best in the league, and thirteenth overall pick Richardson is a big reason for that. Dominant in run defense and also showing ability as a pass rusher, Richardson is living up to his billing as a first round pick, and is forming a frightening tandem with Muhammad Wilkerson.
DT Star Lotulelei, Carolina Panthers
Somehow dropped to 14th overall, Lotulelei has shown why he was so highly rated before the 2012 college season with some outstanding displays for the Panthers. He hasn't quite shown the same pass rushing ability that he demonstrated at Utah, but his play against the run has been fantastic.
DE Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns
Kind of in here by default as no other pass rusher has really impressed, but Mingo has four sacks on the season and another 14 pressures. Primarily used an outside linebacker in Ray Horton's 3-4 scheme, Mingo could also play as a wide defensive end and, for the sake of argument, that's his role here.
LB Sio Moore, Oakland Raiders
Another personal favourite out of Connecticut, Moore showed an ability to affect the game in a number of ways in college and has played exactly the same with the Raiders. Three sacks, seven pressures and seven stops have seen his snaps gradually increase, and Moore projects to become an important player for Oakland in the near future.
LB Kiko Alonso, Buffalo Bills
The second round pick from Oregon is tied with a handful of other players on four interceptions, and with 43 tackles and a forced fumble, Alonso has had an incredible start to the season. He can still stand to become a better tackler, but with eight quarterback pressures and a sack, Alonso is showing he can wreck a game in many ways.
LB Alec Ogletree, St. Louis Rams
Ogletree is another linebacker who still has trouble tackling properly, but he is already up to 50 tackles this season, good for 14th in the league. The 30th overall pick from Georgia is a converted safety, and his play in pass coverage is a testament to that, with five pass deflections and one interception so far this year.
CB Desmond Trufant, Atlanta Falcons
After a fairly rough preseason, 22nd overall pick Trufant has recovered to be mightily impressive in the Falcons secondary. A bright spot in an otherwise bleak season, Trufant now has eight pass breakups and one interception, so far proving that the decision to trade up in order to take him out of Washington was the correct one.
CB Marcus Cooper, Kansas City Chiefs
A lanky cornerback from Rutgers, Cooper was actually picked by the 49ers in the 7th round, but was subsequently cut in August. The Chiefs picked him up and he's been a revelation since, posting 14 pass breakups – tied for first in the league – and two interceptions, whilst his forced fumble against the Bills on Sunday swung the game in Kansas City's favour.
FS Tyrann Mathieu, Arizona Cardinals
'The Honey Badger' was much maligned prospect having been kicked out of LSU, but his knack for making plays has been shown again in the NFL. With a bunch of tackles, interceptions and pass deflections, the third round selection of Mathieu isn't looking like a risk anymore, now just a steal.
SS Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers
This was a pick I wasn't a fan of, as I didn't like Reid coming out of LSU and didn't think he was worthy of the 18th overall pick. Okay, I might have got this one wrong. Reid has been exceptional so far, hauling in three interceptions and making 49ers fans completely forget about the loss of Dashon Goldson to the Buccaneers in free agency.
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