1. Patrick Willis– He’s been compared to an all time great in Ray Lewis. Patrick Willis is the real deal when it comes to linebackers today. He was taken with the eleventh overall pick in the 2007 draft and it’s paid off. He won the defensive rookie of the year in 2007 and He was the only rookie in the NFL to make the AP All-Pro squad and the first defensive rookie from the 49ers to make the Pro Bowl since Ronnie Lott in 1981. Patrick is a excellent run stopper. He has a great first step which allows him to get past anyone who is trying to block him. Throughout his career, Patrick has averaged 100 tackles per season. He is the leader of a San Francisco defense that has been considered one of the best defensive units in football. The sky is the limit for Patrick Willis and we could be talking about him being an all time great when he decides to call it a career.
2. Clay Matthews– With a defense that’s struggled significantly over the last two seasons, the only consistent force on that Packers defense has been Clay Matthews. When the Packers have done something big on defense, Clay is usually a big reason behind that play. The thing that stands out to me about Clay is his ability to be moved around on the field. He can play both outside linebacker positions and gets to the quarterback with ease. Nobody has been better at rushing the passer better than Clay Matthews over the past few seasons. Clay has the ability to make the quarterback throw the football a lot quicker than he usually intends too. He’s also one of the best overall defensive players in the game today and I see a few defensive MVP’s coming his way soon. Clay recently received a contract extension from the Packers and it was well deserved.
3. Von Miller– It was only a matter of time before his name came up on this list. After being selected second overall by the Broncos in 2011, Von Miller became a pro bowler and received all pro honors as a rookie along with winning the defensive rookie of the year after recording 11.5 sacks. His second year in the league, he got off to a quick start registering 10 sacks in the first nine games of the season along with 30 quarterback hurries, that was more than he recorded during his regular season. The thing I admire about Von’s game is the toughness he brings to the position. He’s in on every tackle and he has a tremendous first step which makes it difficult to block or defend him. Von is versatile as well. He can get down in a three-point stance and play as a defensive end. This is my pick to win defensive MVP heading into the 2013 season.
4. Aldon Smith– When drafted by the 49ers in 2011, Aldon was simply a third down situational pass rusher. A year later, he became a full time starter and has really impressed many people with the way he plays. He put together a pretty impressive campaign in 2012 and was the force behind a dominant pass rush in San Francisco. What I like about his game is no matter where he is on the field whether it’s at his usual linebacker spot or on the line as a defensive end, he’s effective. Let’s talk about the stats from last year: He recorded 17.5 sacks last season and also had a 5.5 sack game on a Monday night against the Bears. The following week in New Orleans, he surpassed the great Reggie White by recording 31.5 sacks in his first two seasons. He’s the 49ers best defensive player and could be the very best defensive player in the league in years to come.
5. Terrell Suggs– After a stellar 2011 season, Sizzle had a down year. After tearing his Achilles during the off-season last year, he vowed that he’d be back and couldn’t afford to miss a season. He stuck to his promise and made his debut week 7. Terrell Suggs is the Ravens best defensive player when healthy. He displays great athleticism at his position. At 6’3 and 280 lbs, he has the speed of a running back. His quickness is what sets him apart from other linebackers. He can force fumbles, sack the quarterback, intercept passes and he hustles every single play. Sizzle can also line up as a defensive end and he immediately has the advantage over a slower and much bigger offensive lineman. When healthy, he’s normally a lot higher on this list and he will be the leader of a Ravens defense without Ray Lewis.