The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins have had household names nationally on defense in relatively recent seasons in Darrelle Revis and Jason Taylor. Revis has been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the Jets attempt to rebuild and Taylor has retired, but Muhammad Wilkerson and Reshad Jones are two of the best young defensive players in the NFL that are on the cusp of breaking out.
Wilkerson is a member of the already famed 2011 NFL Draft class that included the likes of Von Miller, J.J. Watt and Aldon Smith, all of whom widely considered to be in the top-15 of all players in terms of immediate value despite just two seasons in the books.
Wilkerson, a defensive end, has steadily improved and had a combined 37 sacks, hurries and quarterback hits last season. Those numbers are on par with Haloti Ngata and Calais Campbell, who are the gold standards at the position.
Wilkerson wasn’t selected for the Pro Bowl, which was one of the biggest snubs of 2012. Wilkerson was ranked 14th overall in terms of total production by Pro Football Focus and was dominant as a 3-4 end could possibly be both against the pass and run.
Wilkerson will turn 24 in October and the hype momentum is beginning to swing in the opposite direction as it almost always does with even marginally talented players in New York, but the attention has been well-earned. Wilkerson will anchor a defense and franchise badly in need of remaking itself.
Jones was a fifth round pick in 2010 out of Georgia and is easily one of the steals of that year. Jones showed a lot of promise in his first two seasons while establishing himself as the Dolphins’ starting strong safety, but his production in 2012 was Pro Bowl worthy. Jones finished the season with four interceptions and 95 total tackles.
Jones was rated by Pro Football Focus as the third best safety in the NFL in 2012, behind Eric Weddle and Jairus Byrd, who also made our Be The GM 32 as representatives from the Chargers and Bills.
Jones makes a strong impact against both the pass and run, which led to a four-year, $30 million extension in the offseason.