Mel Kiper 2013 NFL Draft: Breaking Down ESPN Guru's 1st Big Board
That didn't take long.
Right now, it seems like it would be impossible to top the 2012 class in terms of hype, transcendent talent and playmaking abilities.
While next year's class doesn't have an Andrew Luck, it's absolutely loaded with supremely skilled prospects that will get their fair share of well-deserved publicity next spring.
A few highly touted quarterbacks made the cut, but freakishly athletic pass-rushers and disruptive interior defensive linemen dominate this list.
Let's give it a thorough breakdown.
Got to start with the signal-callers, right?
That's where Kiper begins, with USC's Matt Barkley—and right now, he's spot-on projecting the Trojans' quarterback as the top player in the 2013 class.
Barkley should be there for a lot of reasons.
He's got good size at 6'2'' and 225 pounds, plays in a pro-style system and is coming off a fantastic 2011 season in which he threw a ridiculous 39 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
His arm isn't tremendous, but it's good enough to make all the NFL throws. Furthermore, Barkley's got all of his weapons coming back for what should be a wildly successful 2012, setting the stage to raise his draft stock even higher.
Virginia Tech's field general comes in at No. 4, to the surprise of some.
Placing Thomas at No. 4 is clearly based more on speculation and hope that his ridiculous upside will translate into ridiculous production, but I understand Kiper's logic.
Thomas is 6'6'' and 260 pounds, with deceptive athletic ability that allows him to scramble when things break down in front of him.
He's only 20 years old and is really just scratching the surface as a pocket passer. He exhibited supreme arm strength last season and is a natural thrower; the Hokies' signal-caller had 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season.
Thomas has got Cam Newton potential and will ultimately start more games in college than the former Heisman Trophy winner did.
The Arkansas QB was slotted at No. 13, a fine spot for him. He plays the game with a southern, gunslinger mentality and has the rocket arm to back up any risk he's willing to take.
Playing in the Razorbacks' pro-style system will dramatically boost his draft stock as well.
If he builds on his 24 touchdown, six-interception 2011 campaign, there's a chance he'll be a Top 10 pick next April.
Right now, Kiper has him in the correct position.
Of the 25 prospects listed, 12 are defenders, including six in the top 10 and three in the top five.
That tells you the overall star power and immense depth of the 2013 class.
The LSU pass-rushing tandem of Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery will wreak havoc in the SEC, and both will be Top 10 picks next April.
They both exude athleticism and have demonstrated outstanding speed and power when getting after the quarterback.
Jarvis Jones, the defensive end/outside linebacker from Georgia, is coming off a 13.5 sack campaign in 2011, and if he improves against the run, he could be the first defensive player off the board in 2013.
He's the ideal 3-4 outside linebacker and belongs in Kiper's No. 2 spot.
At 6'4'' and 325 pounds, Utah's Star Lotulelei is the premier nose tackle in the class. He may not be a household name now, but he will be this fall. He had 43 tackles, including nine tackles for a loss last season.
Guys like Purdue's Kawann Short, Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins and Michigan State's William Gholston have already demonstrated amazing disruptive ability during their collegiate careers. A strong 2012 will lead to a high draft selection for all those players.
The physically imposing David Amerson of NC State, who stands 6'3'' and weighs 190 pounds, is the top-ranked defensive back, coming in at No. 8 on Kiper's board.
With 13 interceptions, he had a season for the ages in 2011 and plays the game with a major competitive edge.
Florida State's Xavier Rhodes is No. 20 on Kiper's board, but doesn't have the type of production you'd like to see out of the cover-corner position because teams are afraid to throw in his direction.
At 6'2'' and 209 pounds with premier speed and lateral movement, there's a reason quarterbacks keep the ball away from him.
Notre Dame's Manti Te'o is the only true inside-linebacker prospect in the top 25. He had 128 tackles and five sacks in 2011 and has the speed to be a three-down guy at the next level.
We all know the NFL is predicated on throwing the football, but unfortunately, the 2013 class doesn't have a supremely gifted wideout.
USC's Robert Woods comes in at No. 7 after a terrific 2011 season in which he had nearly 1,300 receiving yards to go along with 15 touchdowns, but I really like California's 6'3'' wideout, Keenan Allen.
Neither guy has blazing speed, but they have an innate ability to get open and have displayed strong hands early in their careers.
Allen projects as a bigger Justin Blackmon.
Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina is the premier back in the class, if he's healthy. He's coming of an ACL injury, but he should be fine by the start of the season. At 6'1'' and 230 pounds, Lattimore's a Steven Jackson-type runner that uses power and quick cuts to gain extra yardage.
Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is an absolute bulldozer at 6'2'' and 238 pounds. He's always falling forward and, as you can imagine, is a load to bring to the turf. He should have an expanded role in the Spartans' offense this season.
Kiper included nine SEC players in his first Big Board.
The Big Ten is represented extremely well, with seven prospects on the list.
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is the only tight end to make the list.
Four offensive tackles cracked the top 25, including three from the Big Ten and one from the SEC.
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