Five up-and-coming defensive players

As older players begin to fade, youngsters must be ready to emerge. It's the circle of life in the NFL. With that in mind, we went looking for some young defensive players who seem poised to step up.

Thanks in large part to last year's impressive rookie class, a number of players could have made this list. But we settled on five guys on the cusp of becoming perennial Pro Bowl defenders.

One player who truly deserves a spot on this list for his play is Adam "Pacman" Jones. With the exception of Champ Bailey, who is in a class by himself, Jones is as good a cover corner as there is in the league, and is just scratching the surface of his abilities. He also plays the game with a nasty edge.

Jones is extremely fast and explosive out of his breaks. He is very fluid in transition and has exceptional ball skills. Once he gets his hands on the ball, few defensive players in the league can compete with his run-after-catch ability. He is a superb return man, but an even better cornerback. Given his tenuous status due to his off-field issues, we left him off this list. I wouldn't necessarily want Jones on my team, but I certainly wouldn't want to play against him, either.

Players such as Haloti Ngata, Kerry Rhodes and many others also could have made this list, but these five have distinguished themselves: