Notre Dame: Senior linebacker Manti Te’o
Brown is one of the best linebackers in the nation, but the best linebacker on an undefeated team in college football is Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o. Te’o is one of college football’s truly elite players, and one of the surest bets to be a top-10 pick in April.
Te’o is a complete package as a middle linebacker, and the surest bet of any 2013 NFL draft prospect to be a very good player at the next level. He has ideal size (6’2’’, 255 pounds), great athleticism, terrific instincts to read and diagnose plays and is a powerful tackler.
Te’o is a force in the middle of the defense as a run-stopping middle linebacker, and he is also very good when he drops back into coverage. Te’o is ideally suited to be a Brian Urlacher-type player in the center of a 4-3 defense, but has the versatility to excel as a 3-4 inside linebacker or as a strongside linebacker as well.
Whoever drafts Te’o will be adding a player who can make an immediate impact on their defense, so he won’t be on the draft board long.
Ohio State: Junior defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins
Since the Buckeyes’ season will end without a bowl game as a result of a one-year postseason ban, Ohio State has reason to expect that many of their underclassmen will return to pursue a national championship in 2013. One player who may be unable to resist the chance to declare early and be a very high draft pick, however, is defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
Hankins isn’t quite the dominant force that Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy were in recent years as collegiate defensive tackles, but he has potential to be that at the next level. Hankins has the size of a gap-filling nose tackle at 6’3’’ and 320 pounds, yet has the explosive athleticism of a top 5-technique defensive end.
Hankins has tremendous strength and is a terrific run-stuffer, but with great quickness and athletic ability, he is a very skilled interior pass-rusher and he can get out in space to make tackles. It is rare for a collegiate defensive tackle to have as much disruptive ability as Hankins does, and he is going to be able to be a three-down force at the next level.
Hankins is best suited to play inside in a four-man front, but his combined size, power and quickness gives him the ability to play any position in a three-man front as well. Either way, a team could be getting a potential star in Hankins, who is unlikely to make it out of the draft’s top five picks should he declare.
Louisville: Senior cornerback Adrian Bushell
Unlike the other five undefeated teams, it is highly unlikely the Louisville Cardinals will have a prospect selected on the first two days of the 2013 NFL draft. Sophomore quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be in the mix to be the 2014 draft’s top quarterback, while freshman linebacker Keith Brown is showing huge potential, but there are no upperclassmen who stand out as prospects.
The best senior prospect from Louisville is cornerback Adrian Bushell, who should be a mid-to-late round selection. Bushell has good length and decent size for a cornerback, is a well-rounded athlete and is very good in run support.
Bushell is not a major playmaker, but has enough skill and the measurables to be worth a Day 3 selection. In reality, he may not be much more than a special teams player at the next level.
Junior safety Hakeem Smith is another potential mid-round selection should he declare early, but it is unlikely he would make that decision as a player not expected to be selected in the first three rounds.