2013 NFL Combine: Defensive players to watch

Jamie Squire

Ezekiel Ansah and Barkevious Mingo have both been talked about as possible first round selections for the Jaguars.

It's not hard to find positions on the Jaguars defense that could use upgrades. One year after finishing sixth in the NFL in yardage allowed, the Jaguars allowed the third most in 2012 and have needs at virtually every position.

There are plenty of defensive players to keep an eye on at the 2013 NFL Combine, but there are a few that could be especially notable:

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU - Ansah has been discussed on BCC often as a possible candidate to be selected with the No. 2 pick. While he didn't put up the statistics that most associate with an elite draft prospect, the 6-5, 274-pound Ghanian is still very new to football and is a very raw prospect. He is expected to display some elite physical abilities at the combine and is a player that could fit in many different schemes.

Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU - Along with Ansah, Mingo is also being heavily discussed on BCC as a possibility for the No. 2 pick. With only 4.5 sacks during his final season with LSU, Mingo is another player who is considered an elite prospect for his potential rather than his past accomplishments. A smaller defensive end, at just 230 pounds, Mingo told NFL AM earlier in the month that he has added weight and now measures in at about 245 pounds. If he weighs in at the combine at that mark and can still show the athleticism he did in 2012, Mingo could solidify himself as a top 10 prospect.

Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama - In January, Williams told Greg Davis of The Courier-Mail that he plans to break the record of 51 reps in the bench press and, if he manages to do so, he'll be one of the most talked about players of the weekend. However, the 6-3, 320-pound run stuffer can show even more if he proves that the knee injury suffered in the SEC Championship against Georgia is fully recovered and he shows lower-body strength to match his already-evident upper-body strength.

Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin - The road to the NFL has been a winding one for Hughes after he was dismissed from Tennessee in 2011 following a series of incidents. With questions about his maturity surely on the way in interviews and questions about a foot injury that sidelined him for some of Senior Bowl week, Hughes has a lot to prove and could be a big combine winner if he passes with flying colors.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame - Like it or not, all eyes are going to be on the Notre Dame linebacker during combine week after he's tried his best to stay out of the spotlight for the last month. Following a bizarre, Catfish situation, Te'o's interviews with teams will mean a lot to his draft stock. It isn't as if he has nothing to prove on the field either, though, as there are questions about his overall athleticism.

Zaviar Gooden, LB, Missouri - Gooden is expected by many to be the fastest linebacker at the combine and is likely to run in the 4.4's. During his time at the Senior Bowl, Gooden didn't stand out in particular; however, the combine is exactly the type of event that will make teams think twice about the Missouri linebacker, as he'll be able to show off his elite athletic abilities.

Robert Alford, CB, Southeast Louisiana - While he's a little undersized and from a small school, Alford was a dominant figure at the collegiate level and surprised many at the Senior Bowl. Very quick and speedy, Alford is a kick return threat as well who could show that he has the short-distance quickness to be a second-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State - With a recent clamor for lengthy cornerbacks, Banks has the opportunity to show that he is a first round pick and challenge a group of cornerbacks that really doesn't have a clear-cut top of the group, regardless of Dee Milliner's status in mock drafts. At 6-1, Banks has that length and showed ball-hawking ability with 16 interceptions, but could help his case more by showing off the straight-line speed that some of have questioned.

Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International - In his combine preview of the safety position, CBS Sports' Rob Rang said that Cyprien has the opportunity over the next couple months to supplant Kenny Vaccaro of Texas as the top safety in the class on many teams' boards. An active player that consistently puts himself in position to make plays and continued to do so during his week at the Senior Bowl, Cyprien could show the athleticism necessary to be an elite safety in the NFL at the combine.

Shamarko Thomas, S, Syracuse - At just 5-9, Thomas is unlikely to be drafted in the first two days of the 2013 NFL Draft, regardless of his combine numbers. However, he could end up being one of the most impressive athletically as he is estimated to have 4.3 speed. At 217 pounds, he's not a very small player either and has short-distance quickness to boot.

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