Tar Heels among top defensive prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft
NCAA investigations could affect prospects Marcell Dareus and Marvin Austin
Boston College LB Mark Herzlich returns after bout with cancer
Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara has potential to be top 10 pick
With college football kicking off this weekend, here's a look at the top defensive prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft. For a look at the top offensive prospects, click here. (*denotes underclassman)
Robert Quinn*/DE/North Carolina: Quinn's athleticism, playing style and ability to take over games is reminiscent of former Tar Heel Julius Peppers. He's an exciting defender who makes plays all over the field. Quinn will be a very early pick once he enters the draft.
Marcell Dareus*/DL/Alabama: His status for the season is up in the air due to the ongoing NCAA investigation but scouts already know Dareus has talent. He offers potential at defensive tackle and as a two-gap end and comes with a large upside.
Aldon Smith*/DE/Missouri: Smith was the dominant force for the Tigers last season. He's an undersized yet explosive pass rusher.
Greg Romeus/DE/Pittsburgh: Romeus caught the eye of scouts as a redshirt freshman and his game has only gotten better.
Allen Bailey/DL/Miami-Fla: Bailey is another versatile prospect who can impact a game from several defensive line positions. He constantly defeats double team blocks to make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Adrian Clayborn/DE/Iowa: Clayborn is a tremendous pass rusher. He's fast up the field but struggles defending the run. His inability to handle blocks will limit the number of schemes he will be effective in at the next level.
Stephen Paea/DT/Oregon State: The Beavers top defensive lineman is drawing comparisons to former USC first-round pick Sedrick Ellis. Paea is slightly undersized yet explosive, intense and a potential starter in the NFL.
Jerrell Powe/NT/Mississippi: Powe moves towards the 2011 draft as the top nose tackle in the nation. He commands double and often triple team blocks.
Cameron Heyward/DL/Ohio State: Heyward bypassed NFL riches in April to return for his senior season with a first-round grade. Like many others on this list, Heyward is being considered at defensive tackle and as a two-gap end.
Pernell McPhee/DE/Mississippi State: McPhee took the SEC by storm last season after transferring from junior college. He's a terrific pass rusher who also holds his own defending the run.
UNDERRATED -- Christian Ballard/DL/Iowa: Ballard takes a backseat to his headlining teammate Adrian Clayborn yet is just as athletic and explosive. He plays the tackle position with tremendous quickness and also offers the skills to be used at defensive end in a 3-4 alignment.
OVERRATED -- Marvin Austin/DT/North Carolina: Presently under the glare of an NCAA investigation, Austin is an incredibly gifted lineman. However, he does not play hard on every down and is close to being labeled an underachiever by scouts.