2013 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top Non-QB Prospects
Everyone knows that the presumed first overall pick next year will be Matt Barkley and that the second pick will probably be whichever other quarterback distinguishes himself more: Tyler Bray, Tyler Wilson or Landry Jones.
However, there are a wealth of great prospects available at other positions. Next year's safety class and tackle class looks much stronger than the 2012 versions, for instance. Here are my top 10 prospects in next year's class.
1. David Amerson, CB, NC State
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David Amerson was just one more interception away from tying the all-time record. In 2011, he reeled in 13 passes and broke up five more. Production like that is rare.
He's also very tall for a corner, listed as 6'3" tall, which is enough to make general managers across the league salivate.
If there is a knock against him, it's that he isn't the most physical corner out there. He registered 59 tackles, only 1.5 for a loss, but the turnovers he forces make him a real force to be reckoned with.
He'll be tested immediately in 2012, as NC State's first game is against Tennessee, who might have the best group of receivers in the country going into next year. If he can shut down the likes of Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rodgers, he could be the first player off the board that isn't a quarterback.
2. Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State
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Robert Woods is on most people's big boards as the No. 1 receiver prospect, but I think they're overlooking Marquess Wilson.
Where Woods has Matt Barkley throwing to him, Wilson has had to deal with the quarterbacks at Washington State. Even so, he's had nothing but 1,000-yard seasons. In 2011, Wilson caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards and 12 touchdowns. He did that as a sophomore.
Next year, he may do even better. To make things even better for him, he's got great height too, listed as 6'4" tall. With his great production and height, as long as he doesn't get a serious injury, he'll be a great player.
3. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
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Jarvis Jones is like David Amerson in that his stats are unbelievable. Jones racked up 13.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also had 70 total tackles, a couple of broken-up passes and a couple of forced fumbles.
However, as great as those numbers are, those aren't his most impressive numbers. Jones also had 26 quarterback hurries. That's right, 26. That's how often he gets into the backfield.
Right now, Jones is somewhere between the size of a defensive end and an outside linebacker, so he's a perfect fit for a 3-4 defense. If he adds some weight, he could work for a 4-3 defense as well.
With his talent, he won't stay on the board for long, whether he ends up in a 3-4 scheme or a 4-3 scheme, he'll be a top selection.
4. & 5. Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU
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Barkevious Mingo looks more like a true defensive end than Jarvis Jones, and he puts almost as much pressure on the quarterback.
Last season, the 6'5" end had 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two passes broken up, a forced fumble and 11 quarterback hurries.
He had to split some of those sacks with the equally ferocious Sam Montgomery, who had 13.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks.
Montgomery, like Jones, looks like more of a fit for a 3-4 defense, but since he's only an inch shorter and five pounds lighter than Mingo, he could fit in a 4-3 defense just as well.
It's hard to tell which of the two is more talented, as good as both were last season. Maybe 2013 will let one separate from the other.
6. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Next year's tackle class is fantastic. D.J. Fluker likely would've been a first-round pick last year, had he declared, and next year boasts Virginia's Oday Aboushi, Florida's Xavier Nixon and Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner. However, I think the best of the bunch will be Jake Matthews.
Jake is the son of Bruce Matthews, the Hall of Fame lineman and current offensive line coach of the Tennessee Titans. His cousins are Clay and Casey Matthews, and his brother, Kevin Matthews, is a center for the Titans.
Not bad, as far as bloodlines go. He's also been a great tackle for A&M since he started as a freshman. He's a superb pass blocker and has been getting better every year. Don't be shocked if he lives up to his name and becomes the first tackle drafted next year.
7. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
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Marcus Lattimore looked better last year than Trent Richardson did as a sophomore, so I'm excited to see what the 2012 season holds for him. Unfortunately, he ended 2011 with a serious injury, so it's hard to say if he'll play the same way.
Even so, he's the obvious choice for the No. 1 running back prospect of next year. In 2011, he rushed for 818 yards and 10 touchdowns in only seven games. At that rate, had he played the entire year, he would've rushed for right at 1,500 and 20 touchdowns.
His freshman year was just about that good. In 2010, Lattimore ran for 1,127 yards and 17 touchdowns, with a couple of receiving touchdowns to boot.
Next year, with the quarterback controversy in South Carolina over, Lattimore ought to do very well for himself.
8. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
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Purdue's defense was terrible last season, but you wouldn't know it to look at Kawann Short, the best defensive tackle prospect in next year's class.
Short had 54 total tackles last season despite having to go up against Big Ten linemen every snap. He also had 17.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, a couple of broken-up passes and a forced fumble, so he's far from one-dimensional.
He also has prototypical size, standing 6'3" and weighing 310 lbs. If he can keep up the good work next season, he could be next year's Fletcher Cox, or maybe even better.
9. Manti Te'o, MLB, Notre Dame
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If Manti Te'o had come out this year, he would've been picked somewhere between Luke Kuechly and Dont'a Hightower, so putting him on the list is a no-brainer.
In 2011, the All American had 128 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and even five sacks. Furthermore, he was consistent, and a leader on a very good Notre Dame defense. That's what you look for in a middle linebacker.
Of course, he plays with enough speed to work out as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 as well, and his return to school despite knowing he'd be a first-rounder shows character.
Pretty much, if you want it in a middle linebacker, you get it from Manti Te'o.
10. Tyrann Mathieu, CB/KR, LSU
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Tyrann Mathieu is one of those guys that, on paper, shouldn't be good, but he is.
Mathieu is famous as a dynamic punt returner. Last season, he returned 27 punts for 421 yards and two touchdowns. Even better, those two touchdowns came at times when the LSU offense needed a big push.
What people forget is that Mathieu is also a really good corner. As undersized as he is (5'9" and 175 lbs), he is as tenacious as...well...a honey badger. He makes plays in all kinds of ways all over the field, and plays like he's 20 lbs heavier than he is.
In 2011, Mathieu had 76 total tackles (59 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, three quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles and two interceptions. By the way, he recovered four of those forced fumbles, and returned two of them for a touchdown.
Between Mathieu, Mingo and Montgomery, LSU's defense ought to still be very good next year, even without Morris Claiborne and Michael Brockers.