The next player in our countdown is someone who wasn't necessarily on the radar in the preseason, but put together a stellar 2013 campaign in which he earned several honors.
No. 8: Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
2013 summary: Sam was a unanimous first-team All-American after a stellar season. He finished the year with 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, two pass breakups, nine quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. That led to a long list of honors, including SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and he was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy and the Lombardi Award.
Most recent ranking: Not ranked in the 2013 preseason countdown.
Making the case for Sam: Throughout the season, Sam was a relentless pass rusher who was tough to block. At the end of a magnificent turnaround season for Missouri, he was voted as the Tigers' most valuable player for the 2013 season. He had a five-game stretch when he was nearly unstoppable, racking up 10 of his sacks. He made an impact in the AT&T Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. After being kept quiet for most of the night, he made the sack and forced the fumble that led to a 73-yard touchdown return by Shane Ray to secure the victory late in the game. He also tied Aldon Smith's single-season record for sacks at Mizzou.