Stock Tips: Week 8
By David Seigerman
They are not the No. 1 team in the land, not in the eyes of the initial BCS standings. They're No. 2.
They do not have the best pass defense in the country; it's second-best. Nor do they have the best scoring defense (No. 3) or the best total defense (No. 6).
Everything about the Florida State defense may be top of mind this week after its destruction of Clemson -- a top-5 conference rival, on the road, with two of the college game's most explosive offensive players.
But when you look at the draft prospects of the Seminoles' loaded defense, there's a question of whether there's even a first-round pick in the bunch.
FSU is likely to see five defensive players drafted in 2014, down from the seven it sent to the 2013 draft (the Noles had 11 players drafted -- more than Florida and Miami combined). Two defenders went in the first round (Bjoern Werner, 24th; Xavier Rhodes, 25th) and another in the second (Tank Carradine, 40th). And that's roughly when the crop of next year's prospects are likely to start coming off the board.
Let's start with the guy with the biggest upside, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan. And let's begin with this benign observation: No one this big should be named Timmy. That's a kid's name, and Jernigan is a monster (the "Tim-minator?").
Especially against the run. Jernigan led all FSU defensive tackles last year -- a unit that included Werner and Carradine -- despite starting only two games. At 6-foot-2, 296, he wins battles in the trenches with his quickness, and his first step enables him to shoot gaps as effectively as he does. At this point, he looks to lack the power that some NFL teams look for in a defensive tackle, even 4-3 teams. He's not going to bull rush an NFL guard back into the quarterback's face. If he's able to add some bulk after the season without compromising his speed (a la Will Sutton), Jernigan might have the best shot of landing in the late first round. Otherwise, someone will take him in the early second round and make a 3 technique tackle out of him.
The other most likely first rounder is Christian Jones, Florida State's Everywhere Man. At this point in his senior season, Jones doesn't seem to be exceptional at anything. His appeal, rather, is that he can do everything. Jones has started at every linebacker position during his time in Tallahassee; this season, he started the first two games as the middle linebacker, the last two as the strong side backer, and is listed again as the starting Mike for the NC State game. His versatility is a huge plus, though his development at any one spot has been delayed by his moving all over the place. Each role has different responsibilities, and he's not had time to devote to any of them. At 6-4, 235, he projects as either a Mike or Will backer, and the snaps he's seeing this season at defensive end will help him develop pass rush skills he'll need if someone drafts him to play on the weak side.
The guy everyone's talking about this week is Lamarcus Joyner, the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week after a once-in-a-lifetime game against Clemson (eight tackles, two forced fumbles, one sack, one interception). Joyner should be given a commemorative Clemson helmet for all the time he spent in the face of Tigers players on Saturday. With an impressive motor, an aggressive approach to the playing defense and great instincts for getting to the ballcarrier, there isn't question whether Joyner can be an impact player at the next level. Rather, it's where would he play. At 5-8, 190, he'll fail the eye test for a lot of scouts married to measurables. He's better against the run and as a blitzer than he is in coverage, so he's likely not to be considered a boundary corner, and he may even be too short to play free safety. Most likely, he's a slot corner -- which is essentially a starter's role, since most defenses play Nickel more than half the time. That's a luxury pick for a team already solid at corner, so he could fall to a good team in the late second round.
Telvin Smith is another terrific college defender whose size will limit him at the next level. Smith has no problem playing the Will spot for Florida State, but at 6-3, 218, he's probably 20 pounds under where an NFL team would like him to be. Like Jernigan, he could add bulk during the postseason evaluation circuit -- but would it diminish his speed and ability to make plays in space, which is his strength? He's tops on the Noles in tackles (43) and TFL (5), and he thrives when able to pursue the ball untouched. Whether he could disengage from an NFL blocker consistently -- even a big back or a tight end -- remains to be seen.
Then there's Terrence Brooks, who might turn out to be the steal of the Seminoles draft class. He has shown an ability to play either safety spot, starting five games at free safety then starting at strong safety against Clemson. He can play half the field or the deep middle, can make plays in coverage (Brooks has four passes defended this year), and is a willing defender against the run. Brooks' size (5-11, 200) won't set up any caution flags, though he may be too light to be primarily a box safety. Brooks projects as a free safety, a more natural fit there than Joyner would be, probably to be taken around the fourth round.