Florida State Football: Which 'Noles Could Be First-Rounders in 2013 NFL Draft?

Sanjay Kirpalani@@SanjayKirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystJune 11, 2012

Florida State Football: Which 'Noles Could Be First-Rounders in 2013 NFL Draft?

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    Jimbo Fisher has always been known as an ace recruiter—as evidenced by the Florida State Seminoles pulling in top-three recruiting classes in each of the last two seasons. 

    However, his best sell job could have been this offseason, when he convinced an elite group of draft-eligible upperclassmen to return to school and help the Seminoles end their lengthy ACC title drought. 

    The Seminoles bring back a loaded roster in 2012, including four players that have found their way into the first round of various mock drafts.

    For a team with a strong history of stocking the NFL with first-round talent, Florida State has only managed to have two players go in the first round in the last five years. However, the Seminoles appear to be a safe bet to at least match (or perhaps exceed) that number in the 2013 draft. 

    So which players have a chance to add to the Seminoles' long list of first-round selections? 

    Find out as CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Rob Rang helps me break down the next wave of Seminoles talent that could land in the NFL next season. 

E.J. Manuel

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    Manuel has been a perplexing figure during his career at Florida State, due to a number of factors ranging from his inability to stay healthy to inconsistent play in his first full season as a starter last season. 

    However, a closer look at his body of work reveals why NFL front office types are intrigued with his potential at the next level. 

    Manuel has a 13-4 record as a starter and has led the Seminoles to three consecutive bowl victories; and despite dealing with his own shoulder injury and a rash of injuries that hit the units around him last season, he managed to throw for 2,666 yards while completing more than 65 percent of his passes and account for 22 total touchdowns (18 passing, four rushing). 

    While most fans may not lump him the class of 2013’s elite quarterbacks such as USC’s Matt Barkley and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Manuel’s size (6’5”, 245 pounds), mobility and intangibles could be enough to help become Fisher’s second consecutive signal-caller to hear his name called in the first round. 

    Rang generated some controversy when he pegged Manuel as the second overall pick in his initial 2013 mock. 

    Rang’s take: 

    You are talking about a guy that is 6’5”, 245 pounds—so he has the size you are looking for at the quarterback position.  He has the arm strength and the mobility that will get him some comparisons, fairly or not, to Cam Newton because of their similar builds.  Once you get past USC’s Matt Barkley, this year’s quarterback class is wide open in terms of guys that could go high in the first round.  Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and Logan Thomas of Virginia Tech are a few of the guys who could catapult themselves into the first round and Manuel is in that group.

Bjoern Werner

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    The native of Germany became a full-time starter last season at defensive end and exploded onto the scene as more than just a bookend to the other Seminoles star pass-rusher, Brandon Jenkins (more on him later). 

    The 6’4”, 273-pound Werner recorded 37 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, seven sacks, one interception and recovered a fumble that he ran back for a touchdown last season. 

    The combination of his size and strength, plus his ability to be equally sound against the run or pass, is likely to make him an enticing prospect at the next level. 

    Rang has him No. 16 on his initial big board of the top 32 prospects eligible for the 2013 NFL draft. 

    Rang’s take:

    In my mind, he’s safely in the first-round based off what he did last season.  The physicality and the explosive power to move lineman off the line of scrimmage is something he’s shown the ability to do consistently.  He’s not an elite athlete, but I like the use of his hands as a pass-rusher and he has the size and strength to be a force as a defensive end against the run.  He’s a better pass-rusher than people give him credit for.

Xavier Rhodes

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    Rhodes has the size (6’1”, 215 pounds) that the NFL has began to gravitate towards when looking at corners as potential first-round picks. 

    The 2010 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year considered making the jump last season, but a knee injury suffered in the Seminoles' 18-14 victory over Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl put a dent in his stock. 

    The redshirt junior is still raw as a corner, but under the tutelage of noted secondary guru and Seminoles defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, he has produced solid numbers (100 tackles, five interceptions, 16 passes broken up and two sacks) in two years as a starter.

    Rang has Rhodes listed as the third-best corner prospect heading into the 2012 season, and has him coming off the board with the 28th pick in his initial 2013 mock draft.

    Rang’s take:

    I think he has a chance to be the first corner taken in next year’s draft.  He will be battling N.C. State’s David Amerson for that spot because both players have a big and physical build.  He has the size to play in a man-press scheme—which is what a lot of NFL teams are switching to—and that will benefit Rhodes to come in and play right off the bat.  His work against Michael Floyd in the bowl game is an example of why he has a bright future in the NFL.  I expect him to be a first-round pick when it is all said and done.

Brandon Jenkins

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    Jenkins was one player many thought would leave Tallahassee after a junior season that saw him rack up eight sacks and 12 tackles for loss. 

    However, the 6’3”, 260-pounder’s numbers decreased from his sophomore season (63 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 21.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles), but that may have been due to increased attention from opponents plus the emergence of Werner on the other end. 

    As for his game and how it relates to the next level, his pass-rushing ability will be his trump card that could land him in the first round, but questions about whether he’s a 3-4 outside linebacker or a traditional 4-3 defensive end will likely follow him until draft day. 

    Rang currently has Jenkins pegged as an outside linebacker and has him falling to the second round (although CBS colleague Dane Brugler has Jenkins as first-round pick landing at the 27th selection in his initial 2013 mock draft).

    Rang’s take:

    I think he’s a boom or bust player on every single snap.  There wasn’t a highly regarded pass-rusher this year that I scouted that I saw on the ground as much as I saw Jenkins on the ground.  At the same time, he has explosive speed off the snap and a nasty spin back to the inside as a complement to his speed.  His ability to rush off the edge makes him a very similar prospect to West Virginia’s Bruce Irvin from the last draft class—who went 15th overall.  Given what he is able to do well—which is rushing the passer—there is a chance that he will end up in the first round.

Best of the Rest

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    Another Seminoles defensive stalwart for the last three seasons, corner and return-man extraordinaire Greg Reid chose to put off the NFL for another year and return for his senior season. 

    While his career in Tallahassee has been filled with highs (2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl MVP) and lows (consecutive losses against Oklahoma, where he was beaten repeatedly in 2010 and gave up the game-clinching score in 2011), Reid has gradually improved in coverage and doubles as one of the nation’s top return men. 

    However, his size (5’8”, 186 pounds) is the biggest detriment to his draft stock; unless he can put together a season such as LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu was able to do last season, it’s highly unlikely that Reid can elevate himself into the first round. 

    There will be several other draft-eligible Seminoles (senior defensive end Tank Carradine and junior linebacker Christian Jones are a pair that come to mind) who will have chances to hear their names called—but at this stage, they are not considered to be candidates to be selected in the first round. 

    Sanjay Kirpalani is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.