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Chris Steuber

All Crystal Baller Defensive Team

By Chris Steuber | Twitter: @ChrisSteuber
Player Personnel Director & Senior NFL Draft Analyst
Updated: 02/17/2013 9:00AM ET
So, what is a Crystal Baller? A Crystal Baller is an under-the radar or undervalued player, who will likely be a mid-to-late round draft pick and is forecasted to make an impact on an NFL team in three years.

With most of the focus surrounding the top-tier draft-eligible prospects, I decided to put together the All Crystal Baller Defensive Team consisting of 11 players. Find out who made the squad and what round they are projected to be selected.
DE: Devin Taylor, South Carolina
Despite coming off of a disappointing senior campaign where he only amassed 40 tackles and three sacks, the 6-foot-7, 275- pound Taylor is an imposing figure who possesses the frame and developing bulk that many NFL teams will take a hard look at in the mid-rounds. Early in his career at South Carolina, Taylor showcased first-round talent, but hasn't emerged the way many hoped he would. It's never been an issue of effort with Taylor; he plays with a high motor, but it's all about revamping his technique and being consistent with it. Taylor is raw and a bit of a project, but with the proper coaching and patience he has a chance to be a solid contributor.

Draft Projection: 4th - 5th Round

DT: *Akeem Spence, Illinois
One of the most underrated interior defenders in the draft is the 6-foot-1, 305-pound Spence, who declared for the draft after he recorded 72 tackles and a sack as a junior at Illinois. Although undersized, Spence is scheme diverse and is a physical, consistent force in the trenches. Spence is not as explosive as former Illini star and current San Diego Chargers defensive lineman Corey Liuget, but he offers a similar skill set and versatility.

Draft Projection: 3rd - 4th Round

DT: *Kwame Geathers, Georgia
On size alone the 6-foot-6, 355-pound Geathers will generate interest from NFL teams, especially with more and more teams converting to a 3-4 scheme. But, the biggest concerns about Geathers are his conditioning, technique and the fact that he only started eight of the 34 games he played in while at Georgia. Geathers is a work in progress, but there will be defensive coaches that will be intrigued with his upside and be up for the challenge. He has great value as a mid-round selection.

Draft Projection: 5th Round

DE: Michael Buchanan, Illinois
The 6-foot-6, 250-pound Buchanan, although a bit of an enigma, has everything you want in a pass rushing threat; he's long, athletic, explosive and uses his hands extremely well off the edge. But, he's undersized and can be knocked off his path easily by the opposition. Buchanan had a down senior campaign and only managed to collect 57 tackles and 4.5 sacks, but played well in space and displayed good coverage skills. It's unlikely that Buchanan will play with his hand in the ground at the next level, but he has all of the tools you want in a 3-4 outside linebacker. If he's able to add more bulk and strength to his frame, Buchanan has a chance to be one of the biggest steals on draft day.

Draft Projection: 4th - 5th Round

OLB: Gerald Hodges, Penn State
As a former high school quarterback and safety recruit for Penn State, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound Hodges is still developing physically and has made great strides as a linebacker prospect. Hodges is a very good athlete, and being a former safety, he has excellent cover skills and works well in space. But, he has trouble getting off blocks and can be overwhelmed at times. Hodges will draw some comparisons to Navarro Bowman, another former Penn State linebacker, but while Bowman has starred in a 3-4 defense with the 49ers, Hodges is best suited for a 4-3 scheme.

Draft Projection: 4th Round

ILB: Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Reddick is not the most athletic linebacker and plays undisciplined at times, but he is one of the most experienced and physical linebackers in the draft. For the most part, he is steady in the middle, has versatility to his game and is always around the ball. Reddick, who recorded 85 tackles, 18.5 for a loss and 6.5 sacks this past season, could elevate his status from a mid-round prospect to a solid second or third-round selection as the draft process continues, but it all comes down to the team and scheme fit. In the right situation, Reddick could grow into a quality starter in the NFL.

Draft Projection: 3rd - 4th Round

OLB: Travis Long, Washington State
Although undersized, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Long is an athletic, rangy and versatile pass rusher, who has a lot of promise as a 3-4 rush linebacker at the next level. Benefitting from Washington State moving to a 3-4 defense this past season, Long had a breakout senior campaign and amassed 61 tackles, 13 for a loss, 9.5 sacks and an interception. Long possesses great instincts and toughness, but at this time he's not an every down player and tends to wear down as games progress. With added strength and proper coaching, Long has a bright future.

Draft Projection: 5th - 6th Round

CB: *Tharold Simon, LSU
A tremendously gifted junior entrant, the 6-foot-2, 193-pound Simon is a dynamic athlete, who possesses the size and playmaking ability to ascend up draft boards. Simon, who started all 13 games this past season recorded 45 tackles and four interceptions, has to get stronger and work on his technique, but he's extremely fluid for a corner with his size and quickly locates the ball in the air. It's possible that the team that selects Simon could convert him into a free safety, where his awareness and ball skills could be best utilized, but his length and skill set could set him apart on the perimeter in the NFL.

Draft Projection: 4th Round

CB: Marc Anthony, California
The 6-foot, 200-pound Anthony is not a flashy or dynamic defender, but he's a consistent presence, who enjoys the physical aspects of the game and has the ability to lockdown receivers with his technique. Anthony, who registered 52 tackles, 7.5 for a loss and two interceptions, is more quick than fast, and it's important for Anthony to impress teams with his timed speed during the draft process. The talent is there and Anthony should emerge as a starting corner sooner rather than later.

Draft Projection: 4th - 5th Round

FS: Zeke Motta, Notre Dame
The physical approach that the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Motta brings to the field will attract many NFL teams. Motta is not a great athlete and doesn't bring the playmaking ability many teams covet in the secondary, but his intelligence, leadership qualities and team-first attitude is contagious and will benefit any situation. Even though he doesn't post high impact stats (interceptions, sacks, etc), his presence will be felt in the secondary and on special teams at the next level.

Draft Projection: 5th Round

SS: Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
One of the more under appreciated prospects in the draft - mainly due to his stature - is the 5-foot-9, 205-pound Thomas. Although he lacks an ideal frame, Thomas, who collected 72 tackles, three for a loss, a sack and two interceptions this past season, has a compact build, brings a violent mentality to the field and possesses the coverage skills to excel at the next level. Thomas, who compares favorably to former Indianapolis Colts 2004 second-round pick Bob Sanders, is truly a player that is affected by his height, and if he were a few inches taller, he would likely be a second or third round pick.

Draft Projection: 4th - 5th Round
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