Thursday, May 31, 2012
The All-Big 12 NFL Team: Defense
By ESPN.com staff
Yesterday, we tackled the Big 12's best offensive players in the NFL, but today, it's time for the other side of the ball.
- Players must be active
- Players are judged by their current skills
- The 2012 draft class is not eligible
- Only players from the 2011 configuration of the Big 12 (No Nebraska, Colorado. Mizzou, Texas A&M are included.) are eligible
Let's get to it.
DE: Justin Smith, San Francisco 49ers (Missouri)
Smith has made Pro Bowls in each of the past three seasons and emerged as one of the NFL's premier pass rushers, nearly winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2011. He's forced 14 career fumbles and had 72.5 career sacks.
DT: Phil Taylor, Cleveland Browns (Baylor)
Taylor snuck into the first round of the 2011 draft and started every game for the Browns in 2011, making 59 tackles and four sacks, as well as forcing a fumble.
DT: Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh Steelers (Texas)
Hampton's career has peaked, but the 2001 first-rounder is still effective. He's won two Super Bowls and made five Pro Bowls, the last coming in 2009. He has 350 career tackles with nine sacks and four forced fumbles.
DE: Antonio Smith, Houston Texans (Oklahoma State)
Smith earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season, even though it was as an alternate. He has 29.5 career sacks and seven forced fumbles.
LB: Aldon Smith, San Francisco 49ers (Missouri)
Smith was one of the NFL's best pass rushers as a rookie in 2011. He didn't start a single game, yet came within a half sack of Jevon Kearse's rookie record for sacks, with 14 sacks. That broke the team record, and the Pro Football Writers of America named him the Defensive Rookie of the Year.
LB: Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins (Texas)
Orakpo edges out Derrick Johnson for this spot, though Johnson was better in 2011. Orakpo was an alternate on this year's Pro Bowl team, but made the squad as a rookie in 2009 and in 2010.
LB: Von Miller, Denver Broncos (Texas A&M)
Miller earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors and a trip to the Pro Bowl after notching 11.5 sacks and making 64 tackles. He forced a fumble on the first snap of his career, too.
CB: Terence Newman, Cincinnati Bengals (Kansas State)
Newman's taken his fair share of knocks as a Cowboy before being released, but he made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009 and has 32 career interceptions. The Wildcats' former Thorpe Award winner is moving on to the next phase in his career after an up and down career in Dallas.
CB: Aaron Ross, Jacksonville Jaguars (Texas)
Ross won two Super Bowls as a New York Giant, but he's moving on to warmer climates this offseason. He's made 200 career tackles and intercepted 10 passes in five seasons as a Giant before the former Thorpe Award winner signed a new deal with the Jags.
S: Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans (Texas)
Griffin was a first-round pick in 2007 and made Pro Bowls in 2008 and 2010. He earned an All-Pro selection in 2010 and has 17 career interceptions and seven forced fumbles with his 389 tackles.
S: Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks (Texas)
Thomas gives the Longhorns a third member of the All-Big 12 NFL secondary after a Pro Bowl season in his second year, 2011. Thomas was arguably the Seahawks' top defender and has seven career interceptions.