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Posted: Thursday September 2, 2010 4:57PM ; Updated: Thursday September 2, 2010 5:31PM

Defensive prospects (cont.)

By Tony Pauline, Special to SI.com, TFYDraft.com

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Linebacker

akeem-ayers.jpg
UCLA junior linebacker Akeem Ayers is a fast-rising draft prospect.
Getty Images

Bruce Carter/North Carolina: Carter is the quintessential weakside linebacker prospect. A three-down defender, he's fast, fluid and covers a lot of area on the field. Carter offers starting potential in a traditional 4-3 alignment.

Von Miller/Texas A&M: He's the top rush linebacker in the nation. He plays with great balance, athleticism and awareness.

Akeem Ayers*/UCLA: The UCLA junior has as much upside as any other linebacker in the nation. He has the potential to be a dominant strongside linebacker in the NFL.

Mark Herzlich/Boston College: Herzlich's story has been well-documented and his football skills are on a par with any defender in college football. Can his cancer-free body hold up over the course of the season? That is the question NFL scouts need answered.

Kelvin Sheppard/LSU: This hard-working inside linebacker has a terrific nose for the ball. He moves well sideline-to-sideline and displays skill defending the pass.

UNDERRATED -- K.J. Wright/Mississippi State: Wright has the size, speed and instincts to be a three-down defender. He's effective stuffing the run and covering the pass.

OVERRATED -- Quan Sturdivant/North Carolina: He's considered a possible first-round talent in many quarters. On film he's presents himself as a two-down defender who struggles making plays outside the box and in pass coverage.

Defensive Backs

Prince Amukamara/CB/Nebraska: Amukamara has a terrific game. He's physical, possesses solid football speed and top ball skills. A good senior campaign followed by top workouts before the draft could push him into the top 10 next April.

Patrick Peterson*/CB/LSU: The argument can be made that Peterson possesses better physical skills than Prince Amukamara and has a larger upside. And though the arrow is pointing north for Peterson, he needs a lot of work.

Ras-I Dowling/CB/Virginia: Dowling is a talented corner with an improving game. He possesses better ball skills than former Cavalier Chris Cook, the 34th pick in April's draft.

Kendric Burney/CB/North Carolina: Burney is an opportunistic cornerback who took his game to another level last season. He offers good size and NFL ball skills.

Charles Brown/CB/North Carolina: The Tar Heels' other cornerback is also a legitimate NFL prospect. If there's one negative, it's that he occasionally takes unnecessary chances, which results in big receptions for the opposition.

Chykie Brown/CB/Texas: Brown is a nice-sized corner who beats down opponents to defend the pass. He offers a large degree of athleticism yet needs to improve his instincts.

Mark Barron*/S/Alabama: Barron was a key member of Alabama's talented secondary last season. He's a forceful centerfielder with a knack for making plays.

Marcus Gilchrist/DB/Clemson: Gilchrist does not get the hype many of his teammates do, yet he's a complete defensive back who displays toughness against the run and good ball skills in pass coverage.

UNDERRATED -- Richard Sherman/CB/Stanford: The former Stanford wideout moved to cornerback last season and showed a variety of skills. He's a nice combination of size, speed and toughness. Sherman also impacts the game returning punts.

OVERRATED -- DeAndre McDaniel/S/Clemson: Despite his eight interceptions last season, McDaniel is a straight-line safety who struggles making plays outside the numbers.

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