2013 NFL Draft: 10 Names to Know and Watch This Season
Much like Cam Newton and his historic rise in 2010, Virginia Tech's own version of the former No. 1 pick—Logan Thomas—will become a household name this season.
The 6'6", 262-pound dual-threat quarterback possesses tremendous athletic upside and all the natural tools to succeed at the next level.
The former top high school tight end burst on the scene in his first year at the helm last season and looks poised to make a meteoric rise up draft boards in 2012.
While the Hokies' offensive leader will be under watchful eyes this year, let's take a look at some other prospects that you need to keep on your radar this season.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
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Turn on any Utah game and it's hard to miss Star Lotulelei.
Then again, it's hard to look past a 6'3", 325-pound giant.
Utah's best defender just happens to be the consensus top defensive tackle in the 2012 NFL draft and it's easy to see why.
The Tongan native boasts a similar build to Baltimore Ravens star Haloti Ngata and combines a quick first step with incredible strength and shedding ability.
While he's not a refined pass rusher, Lotulelei did finish with 12 tackles for loss in 2011, a testament to his ability to make plays in the backfield.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
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Although Southern California's Robert Woods is a familiar face for college football fans, Tennessee's Justin Hunter is the wide receiver to keep on your radar.
Prior to tearing his left ACL in September, the 6'4", 200-pounder was off to one of the hottest starts in the nation, recording 17 receptions for 314 yards and a pair of scores in just three games.
The true junior has always displayed a knack for making big plays, averaging an eye-popping 25.9 yards per catch as a freshman.
Playing with two standout junior classmates in quarterback Tyler Bray and fellow receiver Da'Rick Rodgers, Hunter should be part of one of the nation's more explosive offenses.
David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
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Sometimes interceptions can come easy, but with an ACC single-season record 13 picks in 2011, North Carolina State's David Amerson proved that he's no fluke.
The 6'3" corner emerged as the nation's premier ballhawk in his second season as a starter while chipping in 59 tackles.
After making the successful transition from high school to safety to college corner, Amerson looks to be the top corner available in the upcoming draft.
Keenan Allen, WR, California
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When he came to California, Keenan Allen just happened to be the top-rated safety of the 2010 recruiting class.
By the time the 2012 draft rolls around, he may just be one of the top receivers off the board.
Even though his receiving skills aren't polished, the 6'3", 206-pounder is about as elite as it gets when it comes to pure athletic ability.
In 24 games, the junior standout has posted 144 receptions for 1,833 yards and 11 touchdowns.
As a freshman, he even chipped in 18 rushes for 136 yards while averaging 22.6 yards on 18 kick returns.
Although Southern California's Robert Woods is a more refined receiver, Allen's combination of size, speed and athleticism make him an intriguing player to watch this season.
Bjoern Werner, DE, FSU
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Although teammate Brandon Jenkins might be more popular amongst fans and draft amateurs, it's Jenkins' German-born bookend who should be the topic of discussion.
Blessed with a tenacious attitude to complement his imposing 6'4", 272-pound frame, Bjoern Werner presents scouts with a more well-rounded NFL prospect than his more heralded teammate.
After playing just two years of high school football, Werner came to Florida State as a 4-star prospect.
All he's done in two years in Tallahassee is record 57 tackles, 10.5 sacks and nine passes defended from his left end spot.
With another strong season, Werner should hear his name called early on draft day.
Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
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Offensive guards can be an under-appreciated asset when compared to left tackles, but North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper is doing his best to make sure he's not forgotten.
The 6'3", 310-pound senior owns 35 starts and possesses both the athletic ability and mean streak to become the next first-round guard.
According to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net, Cooper and teammate Brennan Williams received potential first-round grades from league scouting services.
If Cooper has anything to say about it, he'll prove those projections correct.
Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
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As part of one of the nation's premier offensive lines, Alabama's Chance Warmack has often played in the shadow of more heralded teammates like James Carpenter, Barrett Jones and D.J. Fluker.
However, when you turn on the tape, it's No. 65 who consistently stands out.
A longtime stalwart at left guard, Warmack has helped pave the way for Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson while earning two national championships.
The imposing 6'3", 320-pounder has quietly strung together an impressive career and should be recognized as one of the best interior linemen in 2012.
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
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Blessed with an explosive first step and an ideal 6'4" frame, Louisiana State defensive end Sam Montgomery has the makeup to become the NFL's next great pass-rusher.
In just 16 starts, the junior has posted 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss despite sustaining a season-ending knee injury as a redshirt freshman.
According to Tony Pauline of Sports Illustrated and DraftInsider.net, "Montgomery is an explosive college defensive end also getting consideration at outside linebacker in the scouting community. He's fast up the field out of a three-point stance and immediately changes direction, pursuing the action with speed. Montgomery is a prospect who could be an early pick if he enters the draft."
Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
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In a story originally published on The News Star (via Football Scoop), LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis boldly stated, "I'm not one to brag on guys, but by the time he's done, Barkevious Mingo will be the premier pass rusher in the SEC—bar none."
After posting eight sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 2011, Mingo started to prove Chavis correct.
The blazingly fast 6'5" pass-rusher stands out for his ridiculous length and speed, but needs to add some weight to hold up against the run.
If he continues to refine his game and hit the weight room, Mingo might just meet his coach's lofty expectations.