Carolina Panthers select LB AJ Klein.
Paired with outside linebacker Jake Knott, Klein made up half of arguably the top linebacker tandem in the nation over the past couple of seasons. Klein's terrific play didn't end in Ames, however. A solid performance at the East-West Shrine Game might have teams wondering if the highly instinctive playmaker can enjoy similar production in the NFL.
Klein was a three-star recruit out of Wisconsin, but didn't receive an offer from the Badgers and accepted a scholarship from the Cyclones.
After limited playing time as a freshman in 2009, he became a starter in 2010 and was quickly a standout, registering 111 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and three interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), earning All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors. He followed that up two more remarkably statistically-similar campaigns, averaging 116.5 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and another interception, each of which he returned for a score. Characterized by many throughout his career as lacking athleticism, Klein leaves Iowa State having tied the FBS record with four touchdowns scored off of interception returns.
Named a consensus All-Big 12 player in 2012 and the co-Defensive Player of the Year out of the conference (along with Oklahoma defensive end Frank Alexander) in 2011, Klein has proved himself to be among the more consistent and dependable linebackers in the country. While he may not possess the ideal timed speed or change of direction of his peers, he's fast on the field due to terrific instincts and effort.
As such, don't be among those "surprised" when his success continues in the NFL, even if he winds up being drafted later than his production would seem to warrant.