2013 NFL Draft: Power Ranking the Top 50 Players
Who sits atop the draft board as the top preseason player for the 2013 NFL draft? We're breaking down the top 50 players eligible for the 2013 lottery, giving you the details and scouting points for each player as we count down the best players in the country.
This year's draft figures to be loaded at quarterback, offensive tackle and pass-rusher—with five quarterbacks rated in the first round, seven tackles in our top 50 and 11 pass-rushers in that same grouping.
While the draft is loaded at these positions, there isn't great depth at cornerback, safety or running back to fill voids created by injury, attrition and age in the NFL.
Who sits on top of the first NFL draft big board? Find out inside.
50. Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
The Texas A&M Aggies boast two stud offensive tackles. First up, Luke Joeckel.
A 2011 All-Big 12 honorable mention tackle, Joeckel has the size and athletic ability to turn heads. He has the length needed to play left tackle, but is strong enough to anchor on the right side. How he does in the SEC this year will play a huge role in his draft stock.
Joeckel can handle pass-rushers, but how well he matches up against the LSUs and Alabamas of the SEC remains a big question mark.
49. E.J. Manuel, Quarterback, FSU
A run-pass threat who looks like Cam Newton on the field, E.J. Manuel has the talent to make a similar rise up draft boards this year.
But to do that he has to show much better consistency when throwing from the pocket. Manuel is talented when pressured and asked to move, but inside the pocket, he's often confused and rattled. His development in year two of this offense will be huge.
48. Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
The last two featured backs from Alabama were drafted in the first round—that's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. Lacy is next in line, and he has the skill set to explode this year.
Lacy has the pleasure of playing behind an offensive line that features three players in our top 50 draft prospects. He's also really good. His vision and patience in the hole are top-level, and he has shown the shiftiness to cut back and find daylight. With more carries this year, Lacy can jump into the top 32 without issue.
47. Marquess Wilson, Wide Receiver, Washington State
Washington State hasn't been an NFL draft powerhouse as of late, but keep an eye on wide receiver Marquess Wilson as the season gets underway. We will be.
Wazzu doesn't have a marquee quarterback prospect, but it does have a player with big potential at wide receiver.
Marquess Wilson has the size and speed to escape defensive backs, but as of now, the biggest concern is his lack of bulk. Beating a jam at the line of scrimmage isn't easy at 188 lbs. If Wilson can bulk up and play stronger, he could rise.
46. Khaled Holmes, Center, USC
USC is one of the few programs outside the SEC where there is must-watch talent at virtually every position. That all starts in the middle of the offensive line with stud center Khaled Holmes.
An accomplished and productive starter in a pro-style offense, Holmes enters his senior season as a close to sure-thing prospect at center. He's able to make line calls in a complex system, has the size to generate distance in the passing game and gets enough push to move the pile when facing a zero technique in the run game.
45. Tom Wort, Outside Linebacker, Oklahoma
Tom Wort may be the best Englishman to enter the NFL in a long time, if not ever. His play at Oklahoma has fans of both countries excited for his potential as an NFL 4-3 outside linebacker.
Now out of the shadow of Travis Lewis and Ronnell Lewis, Wort will be the man for the Sooners defense this fall. Wort isn't a great pass-rusher like a Von Miller, but he's an incredibly solid all-around linebacker. Where higher-ranked players may be great at one aspect of the game, Wort brings a more complex ability to attack offenses on any down.
44. Kawann Short, Defensive Tackle, Purdue
In a weak class of interior defensive linemen, Kawann Short has the talent to make a big move up the draft board if he can play up to his potential.
The top senior defensive tackle, Short has the power and low center of gravity to shoot gaps and penetrate, but he's too inconsistent when shedding blocks and will rely on his athleticism to win battles instead of using technique.
43. Arthur Brown, Inside Linebacker, Kansas State
An athletic inside linebacker with range to get to the edge, Arthur Brown is very similar to a Lavonte David-type player. He doesn't have ideal size, but his speed gives him an advantage against offensive linemen trying to get inside to block him.
Brown has room to move up the board, but his lack of size will always be a limitation, and it could keep him out of the first round.
42. Jelani Jenkins, Outside Linebacker, Florida
In a draft class loaded with talented pass-rushers, many are forgetting about Jelani Jenkins of Florida. Not here.
Jenkins is a great athlete with the burst to create mismatches off the edge and the closing speed to drill quarterbacks in the backfield. You won't see great play against the run from Jenkins, but he did show improvement in this area last year. There's room to grow both in terms of bulk and play on first and second down.
41. Michael Dyer, Running Back, Arkansas State
Michael Dyer's name should be familiar to college football fans. He spent time at Auburn before transferring to Arkansas State after getting suspended for violating a team rule. Before that, Dyer was one of the top-rated prep running backs in the country.
If Dyer can put together the amazing talent he has, he'll be no less than a second-round pick. The level of competition may hurt him, but Dyer's size and speed ratio will open eyes once scouts show up.
40. Chris Faulk, Offensive Tackle, LSU
A mammoth specimen who can play left or right tackle, Chris Faulk is the No. 1-rated left tackle on some early draft boards. Here, he's ranked a little lower until he can prove his first season starting on the left side wasn't a fluke.
Faulk has the size to play either side easily, but concerns about his agility could push him to the right side in the NFL. He's a very balanced blocker, but remains raw in his pass sets at times. Consistency will be the key in year two of starting at left tackle.
39. Keith Price, Quarterback, Washington
Keith Price has the talent and potential to be a much higher draft pick than ranked to open the preseason. Keep an eye on this one.
Price made waves with a seven-touchdown performance against Baylor in the 2011 Alamo Bowl—a game the Huskies lost despite Price's efforts. In the contest, he showed amazing poise, athleticism and an arm that was on par with Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.
The biggest question will be Price's height. He's listed at 6'1", which looks to be accurate, but is below the NFL's beloved 6'2" line for quarterbacks.
38. Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
The cornerback class features just two first-round prospects this year. Xavier Rhodes isn't one of them, but he's close.
Rhodes has great size (6'2", 209 lbs) for the position, which he combines with shifty feet and uncharacteristically loose hips for a big man. His ability to jam at the line and backpedal makes Rhodes an ideal candidate to be a boundary cornerback in a man-coverage scheme. With a big year, he could jump up much the same way Stephon Gilmore did in 2011.
37. Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
Another big cornerback makes the list, as Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks comes in at No. 37.
Banks is tall and lean at 6'1" and 187 lbs, but he has the length scouts love for the position. Banks uses his long arms to get between the receiver and the ball, something he does very well for a college cornerback.
Banks doesn't have great toughness at the line of scrimmage, mostly due to his weight and strength, but he's someone worth watching as a late first-rounder.
36. Landry Jones, Quarterback, Oklahoma
Landry Jones entered the 2011 college football season as a potential top-5 pick for the 2012 NFL draft. He started the season on par, but after losing wide receiver Ryan Broyles to injury, Jones' season derailed.
The issues facing Jones' stock are all correctable. He must stand in the pocket better under pressure. He must throw with follow-through and velocity when pressured. He must locate second and third targets.
If Jones can do this, he'll be back in the top 10 for the 2013 draft.
35. Nico Johnson, Outside Linebacker, Alabama
You probably didn't hear much about Nico Johnson on Alabama's 2011 defense, which featured studs Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Dre Kirkpatrick. You'll hear his name plenty this season.
There were times last year when I liked Johnson's play better than Hightower or Upshaw at linebacker. He's a much more athletic option and has the size/speed to play inside or outside in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. Johnson's more of an all-around player, and NFL scouts should take notice early this fall.
34. Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia
If I had to pick any one player who could shoot up draft boards before the 2013 NFL draft, Geno Smith would be my guy.
Smith is entering a senior season in which he could solidify his stock much in the same way Robert Griffin III did last season at Baylor. The talent around him at wide receiver is there, West Virginia plays a Big 12 schedule that will show off just how good Smith is, and he has that uncanny run-pass ability that made RG3 such a hot prospect.
Smith has limitations in what he's asked to do pre- and post-snap, but his raw talent is unavoidable.
33. Jake Matthews, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Texas A&M has a load of draft prospects, but on offense at least, there isn't a better Aggie than Jake Matthews.
The big offensive tackle has the size and strength to consider leaving school after his junior season and be a late first-rounder. Matthews' stock is really rising as more people take note of Luke Joeckel's play and then notice Matthews road-grading opposite him.
The biggest question will be how high to draft a purely right tackle like Matthews. If NFL teams feel he can move to the left side, he could go much higher.
32. Kenny Stills, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma
As Landry Jones goes, so goes Kenny Stills' draft prospects.
Stills stepped in admirably last year once Ryan Broyles went down and quickly established himself as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Sooners. Stills has the size to stretch the field that Broyles did not, and he's a better red-zone threat.
Stills has had all summer to develop more chemistry with Jones, and expectations are high for this athletic wide receiver. How NFL teams see Stills stock is up in the air. He's not big enough at 6'1" and 190 lbs to be a deep threat, but he could be a very nice possession receiver in a West Coast offense.
31. Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama
A player with major room to move up early in the season, Chance Warmack is one of the best interior offensive linemen in recent memory. But by nature of his position, he's unlikely to be drafted very high.
Warmack excels as a run-blocker. He's able to fire out of his stance and quickly engage defenders, and he's strong enough to drive block and clear paths at the first or second level. The question mark will be how good he is in pass protection. We should see more of the Alabama passing game this year, which will give time for a clean evaluation of Warmack's pass sets.
30. Kevin Reddick, Inside Linebacker, North Carolina
Each season a player from North Carolina's defense emerges as a top prospect. This year, that will be inside linebacker Kevin Reddick.
Reddick could have left after last season and been at least a second-round pick, but he chose to stick around Chapel Hill for one more season. As a senior leader on the UNC defense, Reddick should be able to showcase more of his ability and not be overshadowed by the play of guys like Quinton Coples and Donte Paige-Moss, who drew headlines on the defensive line.
Reddick is your classic MIKE 'backer. He's good between the tackles and is a strong wrap-up technician. There's nothing flashy here, but Reddick is a better all-around player than Luke Kuechly was last season.
29. Brandon Jenkins, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Florida State
It feels like Brandon Jenkins has been in college for a decade, but this is just his senior season at FSU. The defensive end/outside linebacker prospect was a first-rounder on last year's preseason list, but his play dropped off a tad throughout the year. Jenkins has a chance to redeem himself in his final run as a Seminole.
Jenkins can move around on defense to get the best matchup, and he's a great fit for a 3-4 defense because of this. Jenkins needs to flash more of the production he showed in 2010 and less of the play from 2011.
28. Tyler Bray, Quarterback, Tennessee
Tyler Bray currently sits in a position where he's not an elite prospect, but he's solid enough that a good season with marked improvement in key areas could push him up to the top of the list.
The first concern with Bray is his size. He's 6'6" and just 210 lbs. That won't cut it in the NFL. Bray needs to bulk up if he's going to leave Tennessee after his junior year.
As a pure thrower, Bray is very good. He's smooth in the pocket and has a clean release that makes the ball jump out of his hand. His accuracy is good enough that any improvement will put him into the elite category as a prospect.
27. Alex Hurst, Offensive Tackle, LSU
For LSU to make a run back to the national championship game, the Tigers will rely heavily on the play of their big, bad offensive lineman Alex Hurst.
LSU lost both quarterbacks, its best wide receiver and will face a season with uncertainty on offense, but it has the makings up front of a damn good unit. Hurst is the catalyst to that.
When looking for a huge left tackle, Hurst is the man. At 6'6" and 340 lbs, Hurst is able to block out power rushers, but he's quick enough to get to the edge against speed.
My question about Hurst, and the reason he's not ranked higher, is how well he can manage his weight and play with leverage. By season's end, he could be a top-10 prospect.
26. William Gholston, Defensive End, Michigan State
Scouting William Gholston is among the most frustrating things to do. He's huge, athletic and mean, but he's undisciplined, has no true position and hasn't flashed consistent production.
The best-case scenario for Gholston is as a left defensive end in a 4-3—or perhaps as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense like the New York Jets will use Quinton Coples this year. Gholston is a great athlete, but harnessing that athleticism and finding a way to use it in the NFL is an uphill battle.
Gholston is a freak, and that's both good and bad at times. If he can play controlled football and ramp up his production, Gholston could become a favorite for a team needing bulk on the defensive line.
25. Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas
If Mark Barron was good enough to be drafted in the top 10 of the 2012 NFL draft, there's a good chance that Kenny Vaccaro cracks the top 10 in 2013.
Vaccaro is a unique prospect in that he's physical in the box, but he's very smooth and fluid in coverage. Vaccaro is able to attack the ball and stop the run, but he also pulls down interceptions and can break up passes deep in coverage.
Vaccaro isn't perfect—he has to play assignment football better and not gamble so often—but with another big year, he will fly up this draft board.
24. Devin Taylor, Defensive End, South Carolina
Before the 2011 college football season, Devin Taylor was the more-hyped defender from South Carolina. And then Melvin Ingram went off and pushed himself into the first round of the 2012 draft. This year will be Taylor's time to shine.
You have to like Taylor's length and strength off the edge. He fits well as a classic defensive end in a four-man front, but with his size and speed, there is some thought that he could play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
No matter where Taylor is playing, he has playmaker potential.
23. Aaron Murray, Quarterback, Georgia
Get ready for the Drew Brees comparisons.
Aaron Murray is a silky-smooth quarterback with all the poise and moxie anyone could ever want from a signal-caller. Murray has accuracy over the middle, good enough arm strength to push the ball vertically and shows great intelligence on the field.
The downside is that Murray is listed at 6'1" and 209 lbs.
If Murray can overcome the questions about his stature, and if NFL teams will be willing to overlook the one inch he's lacking, Murray has the tools to be great.
22. C.J. Mosley, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
We've already talked about one Alabama linebacker today, and here's another. This one is better.
C.J. Mosley is a beast in the middle of the 'Bama defense. He's thick, strong and has the tools to shed blocks when patrolling the middle of the field. Like all recent Alabama linebackers, Mosley can also play outside linebacker if needed.
We're essentially talking about a stronger, healthier version of Dont'a Hightower here.
21. Barrett Jones, Guard/Center, Alabama
Guard. Tackle. Center. Superman.
Barrett Jones is lauded with a large amount of hype, but to be fair, he's really good no matter where on this offensive line the Crimson Tide line him up.
Jones will make the move to center this season, but in the past he's played well enough to be awarded the Outland Trophy, Jacobs Blocking Trophy and was an All-American. Jones may be good enough at guard to be a top-15 pick; at center, he could go even higher.
The sky is the limit for Jones, who is surrounded by amazing talent on the 'Bama offensive line.
20. Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame
As NFL teams search for their own version of Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham, the tight end position is experiencing a resurgence in the league.
Tyler Eifert will be the 2013 NFL draft prospect that an NFL team puts its hopes in to fill the need for a big, athletic pass-catcher in the middle of its offense.
Eifert is more Graham than Gronkowski, as he's not a great blocker at this point in time. Where Eifert excels now is as a route-runner and receiver.
With Michael Floyd gone from South Bend, the targets and production for Eifert should increase with his draft stock.
19. Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Surprise, surprise...another Alabama defender. Nick Saban knows what he's doing, folks.
Dee Milliner wasn't in the spotlight last season behind Dequan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick, but he should be this year as the No. 1 cornerback for the Crimson Tide.
Milliner isn't the overall athlete that Kirkpatrick is, but he's a better technician in coverage than the 2012 first-rounder. Where Kirkpatrick was smooth and lanky, Milliner is tough and physical.
He could also be drafted higher than Kirkpatrick.
18. Ricky Wagner, Offensive Tackle, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's run of great offensive linemen continues.
A line of players from Gabe Carimi to Kevin Zeitler now features Ricky Wagner, an All-America prospect at left tackle who just might be better than either of his predecessors on the Wisconsin offensive line.
Watching Wagner play, you see a striking athlete with the strength to punch and redirect defenders. But he's also very good at sinking his hips and rolling through a run block. Wagner has the talent to be the top-rated tackle in the game before season's end.
17. Knile Davis, Running Back, Arkansas
How healthy is Knile Davis?
That's the big question right now in Fayetteville. Davis was held out of spring practice as a precaution, but officials at Arkansas say he's ready to go. That has to be met with cheers.
After losing three receivers to the 2012 NFL draft, Arkansas will be expected to lean more on the run game, at least until Tyler Wilson develops chemistry with a receiver other than Cobi Hamilton. The Hogs should be just fine, as Davis has feature-back talent and can take over games with his blend of vision and speed.
An all-around back, Davis is more talented than 2012 first-rounders Doug Martin and David Wilson.
16. Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, LSU
The LSU defense is absolutely loaded on the line, even with the loss of first-rounder Michael Brockers to the NFL draft last year. The focus of fans, scouts and opposing coaches will be on the edge, where Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are wreaking havoc.
Mingo will move to more of a full-time role in 2012 after being mostly a pass-rusher in the past. How well he handles the pressure of stopping the run will determine his draft stock. If Mingo develops even a little, he's a top-10 pick for most teams.
A worst-case scenario sees Mingo drafted much like Bruce Irvin was as a pass-rusher who teams feel they can develop while he destroys quarterbacks on passing downs.
15. Manti Te'o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame
Hardcore football fans love Manti Te'o for his aggressive, throwback style of play at middle linebacker for Notre Dame. NFL scouts will too.
Te'o would have been a late first-round pick (at worst) had he entered the 2012 NFL draft. Given one more year to learn, develop and grow as a player, Te'o could be a top-10 pick if all goes according to plan.
With Te'o, you get a tough tackler, but he's also excellent in coverage. He'll be compared to (and against) Luke Kuechly, who was drafted No. 9 overall by the Carolina Panthers, and from what Te'o's film has shown to date, he's the better prospect.
14. Sean Porter, Outside Linebacker, Texas A&M
Sean Porter was expected to fill the void left when Von Miller graduated to the NFL. He's done a pretty good job of it.
Porter isn't the explosive athlete that Miller is, but he's among the more solid linebackers in college football. Where Miller was more one-dimensional, we're seeing Porter do things in coverage and against the run that Miller wasn't asked to do. That ability to stay in on first and second down could help Porter's cause greatly once the NFL draft rolls around.
It is unlikely Porter will be drafted as high as Miller was (No. 2 overall, 2011 draft), but he has the potential to have a equally great senior season at Texas A&M.
13. Alex Okafor, Defensive End, Texas
If you are looking for a tried-and-true 4-3 defensive end to follow this season, Alex Okafor is the man.
Okafor has the athleticism to play in various fronts and schemes, but at the end of the day, he's at his best lining up on the right edge of the defensive line and going after the football. Not a big producer as a pass-rusher (yet), Okafor is more of an all-around player, but NFL scouts will like that.
Okafor needs a breakout season, but that should come this year as the aggressive Texas defense relies more heavily on the pass rush from its bookend edge rushers.
12. Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, Cal
Keenan Allen is one of the most exciting football players in college football today, and watching him on Saturdays has become a treat for fans and evaluators.
Allen is an athlete unlike few in the game. He's a talented runner with the ball in his hands, whether he's coming from the backfield or running after the catch.
Allen is also big enough, and strong enough, to be an effective route-runner. He's not some undersized slot receiver outrunning defenders. He is a next-level athlete with major playmaking skills.
Once NFL scouts see Allen's ability to make plays from all over the field, he'll be a lock as a top-15 pick.
11. Matt Barkley, Quarterback, USC
Some may be surprised to see Matt Barkley this low. Others will wonder why he's so high.
That's the tale of the tape with Barkley's draft stock right now. Some evaluators see a can't-miss prospect coming out of a pro-style USC offense tailor-made for NFL success under Lane Kiffin. These are the people who see improved arm strength in the offseason as the first step to Barkley becoming a Heisman Trophy winner and eventual No. 1 overall pick.
On the other side, there are those who will point out that Barkley is too small at 6'1 1/2" for the NFL, or they'll point out the amount of talent around him at every offensive position. These are the folks who will say that USC is a system built for only college success and point out the play of Matt Leinart and Mark Sanchez to show that Barkley is overrated.
Both have the potential to be right, and for the time being, Barkley's stock is in limbo. He needs to show his arm is stronger. He needs to show he can hang in the pocket longer. And most importantly, he needs to win and win big to keep his stock high.
10. D.J. Fluker, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Smith turned his athleticism into a brilliant final year and went on to be a top-10 pick. Fluker can do the same if he makes a flawless transition from the right side over to the left tackle spot this fall.
All eyes will be on the reigning national champions, and if Fluker plays as well as I think he can, he'll be hearing his name called very early in the 2013 NFL draft.
9. Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
College football fans know just how good Jarvis Jones is. Soon NFL fans will get a taste.
The Georgia pass-rusher could have easily left Athens and been a first-rounder in the 2012 draft. But he decided to stick around for a chance to win the SEC and maybe a national title. If Georgia is to live up to expectations, Jones must lead this defense with big plays on every down.
His 2011 season was great, and as far as natural pass-rushers go, there are few who can match what Jones does from the outside linebacker position. If you want a Von Miller clone, this is it.
Jones has the look and feel of a top-10 pick for the 2013 draft.
8. Marcus Lattimore, Running Back, South Carolina
How much do I like Marcus Lattimore? I'm glad you asked.
.@TheProfessorSD Based on raw talent, Lattimore is the best back I've ever seen. Makes Richardson & AD look normal at times.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) July 17, 2012
The answer is "a lot," and for good reason.
Before going down with an injury in 2011, Lattimore had taken the college football world by storm in his 2010 campaign. Seeing a young back run with as much power as Lattimore did was unreal, and it put us all on notice.
Not only is he incredibly strong, Lattimore is as good of a receiver as any featured back coming out of college in the last decade. Soft hands, good arm extension—he has it all.
As long as his knee is fully healthy and he returns to his pre-injury form, Lattimore will be drafted close to where Trent Richardson was in 2012 as the No. 3 overall pick.
7. Robert Woods, Wide Receiver, USC
Scheme or talent? That's the question evaluators find themselves trying to answer when looking at USC wide receiver Robert Woods (and on a larger scale, the entire offense there).
Woods had a breakout season in 2011, showing the route-running and hands to be an elite wide receiver. But he has to show more of the same in 2012. There is no doubting that Woods can dominate in college, but USC receivers haven't exactly set the NFL on fire recently. Overcoming the knock of a "system player" is something Woods and his quarterback must do this season.
Woods has great hands and concentration, but he doesn't have jaw-dropping size or speed. He's much more of a possession receiver at this point, and we'll be watching to see how well he separates from coverage this year.
6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Defensive End, Texas
If the name sounds familiar, that is because Jackson Jeffcoat is the son of longtime NFL defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. Like his daddy, Jackson has amazing potential.
Those watching the junior defensive end will see an athletic player with uncanny quickness off the line of scrimmage. At 6'5" and 250 lbs, Jeffcoat looks more like an outside linebacker, but he's also strong enough to push and drive at the line of scrimmage.
The real test will be staying healthy—something Jeffcoat has struggled with in the past. If he can shed those questions, his athleticism, pedigree and talent will make him a very early draft pick in 2013 or 2014.
5. Sam Montgomery, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, LSU
If Sam Montgomery isn't on your shortlist of players who could be drafted No. 1 overall in 2013, tear up that list and start over.
The LSU pass-rusher is an every-down wrecking ball off the edge. His quickness is nearly unstoppable, even in the NFL-light SEC. Finding a way to stop Montgomery off the edge has likely given nightmares to every offensive coach in the conference this summer.
Hyperbole aside, Montgomery is very good. He has unreal quickness and the length to disengage from blockers and pull down ball-carriers. He's also showing great flexibility to get to the quarterback by bending the edge.
There aren't many tackles in college football, if any, who can stop Montgomery. NFL linemen will be worrying next.
4. David Amerson, Cornerback, North Carolina State
It is rare to place a cornerback so high on a preseason draft list, but the past two seasons, we've had Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne drafted early. David Amerson is next.
The North Carolina State prospect has the size that NFL scouts dream about for the position, but despite being 6'3" and 200 lbs, Amerson has the quick feet and loose hips that you often see in much smaller players.
A natural size advantage like Amerson has can't be overlooked, but it's the way he moves in and out of transitions in coverage that is really exciting. Well, that and his 13 interceptions during his college career. We'd be willing to bet quarterbacks stay away from Mr. Interception this year, but that doesn't mean Amerson shouldn't be a Thorpe Award finalist and very early pick in 2013.
3. Tyler Wilson, Quarterback, Arkansas
There are numerous questions surrounding Tyler Wilson's 2012 season, but if he can answer them all and put critics to bed, there's incredible potential here.
What are those questions?
– Can Wilson win without head coach Bobby Petrino?
– Was Wilson's first season as a starter real or a fluke?
– Can Wilson stay productive after losing his top three wide receivers?
– Can a quarterback barely over 6'2" with limited athleticism get drafted high?
From a throwing standpoint, there is a lot to like here. Wilson has a smooth, easy throwing motion and very good arm strength to all levels of the field. He's not Jay Cutler, but he's far ahead of Kellen Moore. In his second year as a starter, Wilson has to show he can work through progressions and do a better job managing the offense.
If Wilson can quiet doubters on these four points, he has a chance to be the first quarterback drafted after the season. But winning without Petrino and finding comfortable outlets at wide receiver will be the most important obstacles of the summer and early season for Wilson. However, if he can overcome these issues, NFL teams will be all the more impressed with his poise and maturity as a two-year starter.
2. Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Yes, you read that right. A defensive tackle from Utah is the No. 2 player on my preseason draft board. And for good reason.
Star Lotulelei is a man among boys at this point. No team he has faced was able to corral the defensive tackle, which explains why he won the 2011 Morris Trophy award for the Pac-12's best defensive lineman.
Lotulelei isn't your typical penetrator at tackle—at least not like most college players. He is fast enough to burst and swim a guard/center combo, but he's also strong enough and smart enough to take on double teams and eat blocks. Lotulelei plays assignment football, and he plays it well.
Finding a college tackle with this much discipline and such unreal athletic ability doesn't happen often. And that's why he's rated so high.
1. Logan Thomas, Quarterback, Virginia Tech
I'm sure the commenters will love this one, but hold on before you get too excited.
Logan Thomas is the ideal fit for what the NFL is becoming. He's big enough to break tackles in the backfield, quick enough to escape the pocket and has the arm strength and touch to complete passes both standing firm and on the move.
Thomas is a bit raw, and he needs to show he's a quarterback and not just an athlete making plays, but his ceiling as a prospect is tops among the available players. Thomas isn't Andrew Luck, or Robert Griffin III, but he has the talent to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL with big play-making ability.
Thomas is ranked No. 1 overall based on potential, not so much what he's done thus far in his college career. If what Thomas has shown to date continues to improve, though, he's a lock to be the first pick in the 2013 draft.