The Latest 2013 NFL Draft Big Board
My first 2013 NFL Draft Big Board will look completely different by next April, but expect to see Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas to remain close to the top of the board. As a warning, I'm early in the evaluation process and this board will change week to week. However, I feel very confident with the top several players on the board.
With it being so early in the process, I ask that you don't explode if a player is missing from the board. Again, things will change and we haven't even started the 2013 season. However, these are players you definitely want to keep an eye on.
No. 1 Matt Barkley, Quarteback, USC
USC's Matt Barkley will head into the 2013 season atop most evaluators' big board. However, there's a strong possibility that he drops as the season progresses. If Barkley happens to slide it will be because of the emergence of another player, not because of his own poor play.
Barkley utilized his time at USC to gain experience, refine his technique and develop his leadership abilities. Evaluators won't be wowed by Barkley's athleticism or arm strength, but he makes up for it with his anticipation and feel for the game. His ceiling might not be as high as the other prospects in this draft, but he has significantly less bust potential.
Barkley's stock will be hurt because of all the film available for evalutors to review.
No. 2 Logan Thomas, Quarterback, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas has one of the best chances to unseat Matt Barkley from the top spot on my ranking. He's a terrific athlete who possesses good size and a strong throwing arm. However, I was more impressed with this technically-sound throwing motion.
Thomas keeps good balance in the pocket and consistently squares his body towards the target. His commitment to stepping into his throws allows him to generate great velocity on the ball. This is a prospect who can make all the throws, and do so with zip.
There's still some visible holes in Thomas' game. He needs to improve his accuracy, as there's instances where he fires the ball low and in the grass. Thomas also needs to work on his ability to read a defense and decipher information.
However, there might not be a player available in this draft class who possesses more upside than Thomas. At this point in his career, he's a more polished passer than recent draft picks like Ryan Tannehill and Jake Locker.
No. 3 Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
USC's Robert Woods has an excellent chance to come of the board very early in the 2013 draft. His time at USC shows that he's capable of making plays all over the field. Woods uses his athleticism and fluidity to work his way open. He's a versatile player who's capable of both attacking the deep part of the field and working the underneath routes.
However, Woods will find success in the NFL because of his exceptional hands and route running ability. He always attacks the ball with his hands and plucks it out of the air. His quick-twitch ability helps him create separation after breaking off his route. Woods will make big plays each and every week.
Because of the various ways he attacks the defense, Woods reminds me of Roddy White.
No. 4 Star Lotulelei, Defensive Line, Utah
Utah's Star Lotulelei possesses the potential to be the next great NFL defensive lineman. He's an extremely explosive athlete who also boasts great size. Lotulelei brings a lot of versatility and can play either nose tackle, 3-technique or 5-technique.
His combination of strength and quickness allows Lotulelei to dominate the line of scrimmage. He fires off the ball and attacks the offense live, while always gaining inside hand placement. Lotulelei's skill set would be wasted if a team asked him to occupy space. He's too disruptive to be saddled in such a limited role.
Don't be shocked if you hear Lotulelei compared to Ndamukong Suh, as he has that type of potential. He's a player who'll make a major impact on Sundays.
No. 5 Jarvis Jones, Linebacker, Georgia
Georgia's Jarvis Jones is being pegged as the next great pass-rushing prospect. His experience in Georgia's 3-4 pro-style defense allows him to show his rush skills. However, Jones isn't just a pass rusher as he also does a good job versus the run and in coverage.
It would be incorrect to categorize Jones as a speed edge rusher. He's much more effective when he employs his bull rush or steps inside a block. Actually, there's plenty of times when Jones' speed rush isn't overly effective.
Of all the players in my top five, Jones might be at the most risk to see his stock drop. He'll face plenty of double teams this year, which could limit his production. He'll need to show that he can overcome the extra attention and make an impact.
No. 6 David Amerson, Cornerback, NC State
Registering 13 interceptions in a season will quickly gain the attention of NFL scouts. NC State's David Amerson showed last season that he has a nose for the football. His ability to read the quarterback routinely puts him in position to make a play on the ball.
However, it's Amerson's ball skills that allowed him to tally such an impressive interception total. He consistently attacks the ball at it's highest point and uses hands to pluck it out of the air. His aggressiveness and tenacity also plays a major role in his success. Amerson isn't content with just breaking up a pass, he wants to create the turnover.
His value increases because he isn't just a major risk taker. He can provide good coverage and doesn't make too many mistakes in coverage.
No. 7 Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Linebacker, Oregon
Oregon's Dion Jordan landing a spot in my top 10 might be surprising, but don't sleep on this talented prospect. Jordan possesses elite explosiveness that allows him to get consistent pressure on the quarterback. He combines that quickness with a non-stop motor and good snap awareness.
He has quick and violent hands that help keep him clean as he works his way to the quarterback. His overall athleticism and fluidity makes him a great candidate to play linebacker in the NFL. He's an ideal fit for a rush linebacker in a 3-4 system.
Jordan is still raw and needs some development, but there might not be a defensive player with more potential. He's a player whose capable of surpassing the double digit sack mark on a consistent basis.
No. 8 Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
I had Notre Dame's Manti Te'o rated as a mid-first round prospect in the 2012 draft, but he decided to return to school for his Senior season. Te'o possesses the size, athleticism and instincts needed to be a major playmaker in the NFL.
He does a good job attacking the line of scrimmage in support of the run. His lower-half thickness and strength allows him to hold at the point of attack. Te'o makes plays all over the field, covering sideline to sideline. He's a hard worker and will instantly become one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball.
At this point, it's easy to see Te'o coming off the board before the 10th pick.
No. 9 Alex Okafor, Defensive End/Linebacker, Texas
Texas' Alex Okafor will be locked in a heated battle with Dion Jordan, Jarvis Jones and Barkevious Mingo to be the first pass rusher selected. Okafor is an explosive athlete who possesses the ability to create pressure off the edge. He's the type of prospect who can play either defensive end or linebacker in the NFL.
Okafor is a high-motor player who's always in attack mode. His commitment to using his hands ensures he can employ a wide-range of pass-rush moves. He can either drive a blocker with a bull rush or attack the edge with speed.
Bulk/strength is the main concern surrounding Okafor's game. He's thin through the hips which limits his ability to hold up against the run. However, he's long enough to add weigh to his frame. Okafor is also committed to playing the run with integrity.
No. 10 D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
At 6-6 335 pounds, Alabama's D.J. Fluker is an intimidating force along the offense line. However, he also boasts excellent agility for his size. Fluker's rare combination of size and athleticism has put him on everyone's draft radar.
The key to Fluker's draft stock is his ability to play with more consistency. He's got all the physical tools and just needs to put it all together. The high value put on offensive tackles means that Fluker will continue to receive plenty of attention.
He'll have plenty of opportunities to prove himself against SEC competition. This is a prospect who could see major fluidity in his draft stock.
No. 11 Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Texas A&M's Jake Matthews' balance and sound technique is what makes him such a good NFL prospect. He keeps a wide base and takes balanced steps in both the running and passing game. That balance comes in handy when Matthews needs to react to a pass rushers' counter moves.
Matthews use of angles is what helps him protect the edge against speed rushers. Texas A&M has used him on the right side, but he's more than capable playing left tackle in the NFL. He's been taught by his Hall-of-Fame dad Bruce Matthews. It isn't a shock that he's a technically sound player.
He's not a road-grater type, but his heavy hands and balance allow him to control the defender. He locks on, drives the defender and turns him from the play. Matthews also does a good job reaching the second level at the appropriate time.
No. 12 Marcus Lattimore, Running Back, South Carolina
South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore needs to show he's completely healthy from a recent knee injury, but if he can get back to full strength he's a top-level prospect. Lattimore is a stoutly-build runner who runs both with power and quickness. He reminds me of a young Emmitt Smith, and has that type of long-term potential.
Lattimore's balance allows him to seamlessly change direction and finish off runs with power. He's rarely brought down by first contact. The ability to break tackles is one of the most important factors in a running back's success.
The main issue surrounding Lattimore's game is his long speed. He's not a homerun hitter, and is better as a move-the-chain type of runner.
No. 13 Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Arkansas
Arkansas' Tyler Wilson has some developing to do, but he possesses all the physical tools needed to be an effective NFL quarterback. Wilson's excellent arm strength will allow him to make all the necessary throws. He gets nice zip on his passes over the middle and to the sideline.
Wilson is a very good athlete and is able to keep plays alive with his feet. However, the pressure really impacts his focus. He's really impatient in the pocket, and has a tendency to make poor decisions when faced with pressure. For Wilson to move up the draft board, he'll need to improve his poise.
Work also needs to be done to improve Wilson's footwork and accuracy. Again, he has a tendency to lose focus when face with pressure. Wilson must remain committed to proper footwork even when he's in tough situations.
Overall, Wilson has the upside NFL teams look for in a quarterback. However, he must use this season to show improvements.
No. 14 Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
The long frame and explosiveness of Cal's Keenan Allen has put him in the 2013 NFL Draft spotlight. Allen is a quick-twitch athlete who explodes off the line and quickly gets into his routes. Once he reaches full speed, his long strides allow him to out pace defenders. Allen proved last season that he can both make big plays down the field and work the underneath routes.
He does a good job finding the open zone in the defense and giving his quarterback a big target. However, he has some issues catching the football. Too often, Allen lets the ball get into his body and it results in drops. He needs to pluck the ball out of the air more consistently.
Allen might be a little raw, but he has a ton of upside. He's more than capable of working his way into the top-10 discussion.
No. 15 Barkevious Mingo, Linebacker/Defensive End, LSU
LSU's Barkevious Mingo is only scratching the surface of his ability, but is still a very dangerous playmaker. He's an explosive athlete who can consistently win one-on-one edge matchups. However, Mingo isn't only a speed rusher. He also does a good job using leverage and inside hands to employ a bull rush.
Mingo's tenacity also helps him generate pressure on the quarterback. He'll need time to develop as a run defender, but his effort allows him to make plays versus the run. Mingo showed a better than expected anchor, but must improve his shed abilities.
As it stands, Mingo's future position appears to be as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system. He's still a bit raw, but is a more refined prospect than most realize.
No. 16 Jonathan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Mississippi State's Jonathan Banks is a all-around excellent football player. He plays the game with tenacity and high football IQ. His quickness and short-area burst helps him click and close on the football. However, it's his ability to read the quarterback and aggressiveness that allows him to consistently breakup passes.
Banks loves to come up and support the run. He reads his run keys and explodes at the line of scrimmage. Mississippi State recognizes his toughness and uses him on a lot of corner blitzes. This is a player that will impact all phases of the game.
NFL teams are going to love Banks' ability to create turnovers. His combination of good instincts, athleticism and ball skills allows Banks to pull down a large amount of interceptions. He also has a knack for stripping the ball from the ball carrier.
The only concern I have with Banks is his size and limited bulk. He needs to show that he can remain healthy and hold up to the grind of the NFL.
No. 17 Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
There's not enough people talking about Florida State's Bjoern Werner as a first-round prospect. He has the quickness and technique needed to develop into a top-notch pass rusher in the NFL. His hand usage is what makes him so effective. Werner quickly gets his hands up and inside the body of the offensive lineman. His initial jolt is powerful and helps him create space.
Werner's hands are also very quick and violent which allows him to keep clean as he works his way to the quarterback. Technique isn't the only way Werner is able to generate pressure on the quarterback. He has excellent snap awareness and quickness. His wide-array of pass rush moves keeps blockers guessing and uncomfortable.
Adding some weight and strength is the only area Werner needs improvement. This is a prospect who'll continue to rise throughout the season.
No. 18 Sam Montgomery, Defensive End/Linebacker, LSU
LSU's Sam Montgomery is an athletic defensive end/linebacker prospect who has upside as a pass rusher. He has an explosive first step and plays with good leverage. However, I just didn't see enough impact plays to elevate Montgomery on this list.
His poor snap awareness limits his ability to get the edge. He doesn't have a wide-array of pass-rush moves, and almost no push with his bull-rush attempts. Too often, Montgomery was stoned at the line and unable to disengage from the blocker.
In the run game, Montgomery struggles to anchor and shed blocks. His limited bulk and strength are what might limit his potential at defensive end, he seems to be heading towards a future as a linebacker.
No. 19 Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue
Purdue's Kawann Short is an extremely powerful and strong football player. His thick frame and strong lower half allows him to hold at the point of attack. Blockers have a very difficult time controlling the line of scrimmage with Short in the lineup. He's an excellent fit as a nose tackle in a 4-3 system.
Short doesn't have the explosiveness to consistently make plays in the backfield. His strength is his ability to occupy blockers and eat up space. He's an elite run defender because of his ability to control the line and quickly disengage. Short does a good job shedding and making plays away from his frame.
I have concerns about his stamina and effort. At times, he raises his pad level and is taken out of the play. Also, his lack of a pass rush will limit Short's amount of game-changing plays.
No. 20 Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel is a finesse tackle who excels at protecting the passer. He quickly goes from stance to set with his hands up in proper position. His quickness and balance allow him to mirror pass rushers. That balance also helps him react to counter moves. Joeckel does a good job resetting after contact and stoning bull-rush attempts.
In the running game, Joeckel struggles to get a good push off the line. He needs to get stronger in order to develop into a well-rounded player. However, his effort will make him a serviceable run blocker at the next level.
Joeckel and teammate Jake Matthews are similar prospects, but Matthews gets the edge because of his ability to get a push off the line.
No. 21 Ricky Wagner, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
In recent years, Wisconsin has seen several offensive lineman come off the board in the first round, but Ricky Wagner could develop into the best of the bunch. His size, athleticism and technique allows him to protect the edge and open running lanes. For his size, Wagner has quick feet and fluid movements.
Improving his physicalness in the running game is the one area of Wagner's game that needs improvement. He gets good inside hand placement and is in the proper position, but he lacks the explosiveness off the line and strength. At this point in time, he might be a better fit in a zone blocking scheme.
However, Wagner's balance and quick shuffle allows him to protect the edge while reacting to counter moves. He's more than capable of handling the top pass rushers at the next level.
No. 22 Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Line, Missouri
Missouri's Sheldon Richardson is one of the top under-the-radar prospects for the 2013 draft. Richardson is a disruptive force who's always in the offensive backfield. His quickness and non-stop motor are what allows him to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He's able to make his presence felt in both the run and passing game.
Richardson is a versatile player showing the ability to lineup at the three-technique or 5-technique position. He creates pressure on the quarterback with a combination of speed and power moves. His commitment to keeping his pads low help him hold up against the run and use an effective bull rush.
I have concerns about his arm length and stocky build. However, he's too explosive and hard working not to make an impact at the next level.
No.23 Sean Porter, Linebacker, Texas A&M
Everybody is looking for the next great NFL pass rusher, but those players are hard to find. Texas A&M's Sean Porter has the potential to develop into a pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL. However, he hasn't shown enough to be labeled as an elite prospect.
Porter creates pressure because of his quickness, short-area burst and suddenness. He has a good burst off the line, and does a good job using proper angles. His balance allows him to employ an inside counter move and step inside the blocker. However, he doesn't do a good job keeping his pad level low. This limits his ability to use anything but a speed rush.
I was concerned to see Porter handled one on one by a running back. Elite pass rushers don't allow running backs to stop them from reaching the quarterback. Porter might not develop into a great pass rusher, but he has value in other areas.
His ability to stack against the run and hold up in coverage makes him a four-down player. Porter's future might be as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 system.
No. 24 Knile Davis, Running Back, Arkansas
Arkansas' Knile Davis is coming off a serious injury that cost him the entire 2012 season. However, he still has a lot of potential as an NFL prospect. Davis is a quick back with the quick-twitch ability needed to press the hole. He's a north and south runner that quickly locates the open hole and accelerates.
Davis needs to show more power and the ability to consistently break tackles. Too often, he is brought down by first contact. However, his speed and big-play ability makes a very intriguing prospect.
I wanted to keep him out of my top 25 until he showed he was 100 percent, but he's too talented of a player to keep off the list.
No. 25 Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert is in the mold of what NFL teams are currently looking for in the tight end position. He's a dynamic pass catcher who creates a ton of mismatches for the defense. His size makes it difficult for defensive backs to handle him one on one, and he's too quick for linebackers.
Eifert needs to make major improvements as a run blocker. He doesn't have the tenacity or effort to create space in the running game. Any team adding Eifert must use him as a move tight end and let him make plays in the passing game.
His size and leaping ability come in handy in the red zone. This ability to put points on the board only increases his value.