The All-Undrafted Team: The best draft-day snubs of the last 20 years, defensive edition

An annual homage to the best college players of the last 20 years who didn't make the cut on draft day. Previously: The All-Undrafted Offense. Part Two: The All-Undrafted Defense.

For college fans, the NFL Draft extravaganza unfolding over the next four days is often as fascinating for who doesn't come off the board as for who does, or when and where they happen to go. Every spring, dozens of All-Americans, record-breakers and campus legends are passed over by the scouts, sometimes for obvious limitations — too small, too slow, played in the wrong system, got hurt — and sometimes for no discernible rhyme or reason at all.

Not all of these former stars represent baffling oversights by the scouts, but they are the best college players at their respective positions to be left behind since Mel Kiper Jr. began his plot to take over all media in 1990.

Defensive Line: TIM COLSTON, Kansas State.
Colston was the best player on the nation's top-ranked statistical defense in 1995 and was voted Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year over the likes of fellow All-Americans and future draft picks Tony Brackens, Cedric Jones, Jared Tomich, Brandon Mitchell, Zach Thomas, Grant Wistrom, Mike Mickens and Nebraska's Peter Brothers, Christian and Jason. Colston's tenure corresponded with the "Mildcats" great breakthrough under coach Bill Snyder, from "America's Most Hapless Team" to a reliable 10-game winner for the better part of a decade, based mainly on the ferocious defenses Colston helped pioneer from 1993-95.

Defensive Line: MITCH KING, Iowa.
The slightly undersized tackle was a two-time All-Big Ten pick in 2007-08 and an All-American by several outlets as a senior, when he anchored the conference's best scoring defense — a unit blitz-averse coordinator Norm Parker built largely around King's ability to disrupt blocking schemes and keep linemen off of the linebackers. At 6-foot-1, 280 pounds, though, the measurables weren't there for draftniks. King a season on the Titans' practice squad in 2009 and bounced around among three different teams in 2010, eventually landing (tentatively) with the New Orleans Saints.

Defensive Line: CHRIS HUTCHINSON, Michigan.
Not to be confused with the Canadian poet, the big Texas native played in every game of his career and started every game for teams that won back-to-back Big Ten championships in 1991 and 1992. Hutchinson went out on an All-American campaign in '92 that tied the single-season school record with 11 sacks and left him second on the career sack list with twenty-four. On top of being voted team MVP that year, he was awarded a postgraduate scholarship to enroll in Michigan's medical school.

Linebacker: DARYL BUSH, Florida State.
An amateur poet, saxophone player and 4.0 finance student, Bush was never a star on the dominant FSU defenses that featured more than a dozen eventual draft picks from 1994-97. But he was a three-time All-ACC pick and remains among the best defenders of the Bowden era, about as high an endorsement as they come given the competition.{YSP:MORE}

Linebacker: PAT FITZGERALD, Northwestern.
Before he was one of the youngest (and brightest) head coaches in the country, Fitzgerald was one of the most decorated linebackers in Big Ten history, a two-time All-American and back-to-back winner of both the Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award as the nation's best defensive player in 1995 -96 — not coincidentally, the same years Northwestern broke its 25-year losing streak to capture its first and second Big Ten titles since 1936. Fitzgerald was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009, but only managed a year with the Dallas Cowboys before hitting the fast track as a coach.

Linebacker: VINCE HALL, Virginia Tech.
There were valid reasons for teams to avoid Hall in the 2008 Draft — he was too short (6-feet even), he was coming off major postseason knee surgery to repair a dumb injury he suffered on a jet ski before the '08 Orange Bowl (he still played) and he wasn't able to work out to put to rest lingering doubts about his speed. But there was no doubting his sheer production at Tech: A three-time All-ACC pick, Hall started from his second game onward as a true freshman, starring as the most active member (more than 400 career tackles) of defenses that finished in the top five nationally in total and scoring defense all four years he was on campus from 2004-07, with a pair of conference championships for their trouble. Longtime Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster called Hall the best player he's ever had, but the scouts have seen at least 30 others they apparently like more.

Linebacker: JARRETT IRONS, Michigan.
Along with Rob Swett, Sam Sword and Glen Steele, Irons was the most decorated of the gloriously-named front seven stars on the overwhelming Wolverine defenses of the mid-nineties, despite graduating a year too soon to enjoy its greatest glory, the 1997 national championship. Irons left Ann Arbor as an All-American and the owner of the school's career tackle record, but may be remembered most fondly for his prominent role as a freshman in a critical goal line stand to beat Penn State in 1993 (he's No. 37):

Before he was passed over, Irons apparently expected to go in the first three rounds of the '97 draft, and later contributed an interesting article to a website called "Scholar-Baller" about his decision to eschew the free-agent route for a graduate degree at Michigan after the shock of the snub began to wear off.

Safety: JIM LEONHARD, Wisconsin.
Leonhard set the interception standard for the last decade by picking off 11 passes in 2002, then added another 10 over the next two years to go with his reputation as the Big Ten's most productive punt returner. Leonhard earned exactly one All-America nod from a major selector as a sophomore (CNNSI), a junior (ESPN) and a senior (Pro Football Weekly) before becoming the poster child for "too small, too slow, too white" DBs everywhere by working his way into a regular gig with the New York Jets, for whom he now starts on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

Safety: J.T. THATCHER, Oklahoma.
Thatcher led the Big 12 in 2000 with eight interceptions and drew some All-America notice as one of the leaders of the outstanding Sooner D that shut out Florida State (led by Heisman winner Chris Weinke) to clinch a stunning national championship run in Bob Stoops' second season. But he's probably remembered just as fondly as one of the nation's best (and most frequently deployed, thanks to the defense) punt returners, an opportunity he exploited to maximum effect as OU's all-time leader in single-season and career return yards.

Safety: LAWRENCE WRIGHT, Florida.
If you don't remember Wright as the "enforcer" of the Gator secondary in the mid-nineties, well, neither does Joey Kent:

Florida owned Peyton Manning, and the rest of the SEC: The Gators won four straight conference championships in Wright's tenure (1993-96), and his regular de-cleatings impressed the Jim Thorpe Award committee enough to vote him as the nation's best defensive back in 1996. Pro scouts were a tougher sell: Wright spent three years on and off the Bengals' roster before leaving the league in 2000.

Cornerback: CARLTON McDONALD, Air Force.
McDonald made his name as a sophomore with a 40-yard interception return to clinch an upset over Ohio State in the 1990 Liberty Bowl, and left two years later as one of the most celebrated players in Academy history, a consensus All-American in 1992 by everyone who had a vote thanks to eight interceptions, tying the USAFA's single-season record.

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Earlier today: The All-Undrafted Offense.
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.