Matt Barkley and 10 2013 NFL Draft Prospects in the Driver's Seat

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIAugust 15, 2012

Matt Barkley and 10 2013 NFL Draft Prospects in the Driver's Seat

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    One of the greatest feelings for college football players has to be entering the year as a top NFL prospect. That player could be considered in the driver's seat for a high draft pick and a potentially long and prosperous NFL career.

    Of course, there are prospects every year that go from being in the driver's seat to riding a bike to the NFL draft. Just look at Vontaze Burfict, who was considered a top-10 player in college football before eventually becoming an undrafted free agent.

    Today, we're not so interested in those prospects who could slide, but rather those that are in the driver's seat with no plans of leaving. Here are those 10 NFL prospects.

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

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    Despite needing to improve greatly as a passer, there is a good chance that Logan Thomas ends up being the No. 1 overall pick next April. There is only one reason that this would happen: potential.

    Much like Cam Newton heading into the 2011 draft, Thomas is a unique athlete with all the physical tools to be an extremely good pro quarterback. He just needs to continue to learn to play the quarterback position the correct way.

    With that said, Thomas may be a little further in his development than Newton was at this point in their respective careers. Even if Thomas doesn't end up being the top overall pick next April, the only way that he won't be a top pick is if he shows no improvement at all this year.

    The chances of that happening, however, are extremely slim. All signs are pointing to Thomas cruising into the NFL as one of the top picks in the 2013 NFL draft.

Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

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    Star Lotulelei is mature beyond his years, and that makes him a phenomenal prospect. Most college players with his amount of skill, strength and stamina would simply be looking to make a huge play every down.

    However, that isn't the case with Lotulelei. Not only is he capable of rushing the QB or chasing down a running back, he also has a great understanding of defensive schemes and what he needs to do in particular plays and situations.

    You won't find a prospect as talented and as wise as this Ute this year, and those qualities will likely make Lotulelei one of the first defensive players drafted in 2013.

David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State

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    David Amerson will be the next cornerback drafted inside the top 10 of the first round. He may even be more talented than those who have preceded him in Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne.

    Amerson has two qualities that make him such a unique prospect: his size and his ball-hawking abilities.

    At 6'3" and 200 pounds, Amerson has the CB size that makes scouts drool. With wide receivers becoming larger and more athletic in recent years, his size will be an extremely valuable trait. The fact that he still has the ability to change directions in a flash makes him even more valuable.

    As for Amerson's ability to make plays on the ball, his 13 interceptions last year speak quite clearly to that. 

    He'll be one of the first defensive players drafted next year. If one of the top quarterbacks struggle, he could even end up being the first overall pick.

Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU

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    Sam Montgomery is one of the most impressive physical specimens in all of college football. After reportedly adding 30 pounds without losing any of his speed, he is now a 6’4”, 275-pound pass-rushing machine.

    He’ll likely make the transition from outside linebacker to 4-3 defensive end in the NFL; with his unique combination of size, speed and strength, Montgomery is already drawing some comparison to a young Julius Peppers.

    If he only lives up to half that comparison, he’ll be a lock as a top pick in the 2013 draft. However, if he lives up to every part of that comparison, we could hear his name called before any other name in said draft.

Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas

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    As long as Davis can stay healthy for the upcoming season, there is no reason he won’t find himself getting drafted in Round 1 when the time comes.

    He’s already more talented than either Doug Martin or David Wilson (both first-rounders) and has the potential to be one of the better all-around running backs in the NFL early in his career.

    What makes Davis such a great NFL prospect is his vision. While he isn’t the fastest running back in college ball, he has an unreal vision and feel for the game. This allows him to hit holes with good burst into the open field, where he is extremely difficult to take down.

    While Davis will have a hard time overtaking Marcus Lattimore, he will definitely be the second back taken, and it should be quite early.

D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

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    D.J. Fluker is transitioning from right tackle to left tackle this year, and as long as that goes smoothly, he should be the first offensive lineman drafted in 2013.

    Fluker is an ultra-athletic prospect with incredible size and strength. He’ll need to have the technical aspects of his game catch up to his athleticism, but if that happens, he’ll have the potential to be one of the best tackles at the next level in no time.

    It’s hard to see Fluker getting drafted higher than Matt Kalil in April (fourth overall), but there is simply no way he drops out of the top 10 if all goes well this year.

Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

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    If you want to compare Jarvis Jones to a past college football star, the only player that can really do him justice is Von Miller.

    In case you forgot, Miller was one of the best outside linebackers in Texas A&M history, went No. 2 in the 2011 NFL draft, and dominated the NFL from day one. Oh, and he won Defensive Rookie of the Year.

    Jones is already the best pass-rushing outside linebacker in college football. He has all the natural abilities to go along with a great understanding of how to play the position.

    As long as Jones can lead Georgia’s defense and show a knack for making big plays, there is no reason that he won’t be one of the first defensive players drafted in 2013.

Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame

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    Manti Te’o was locked in as a first-round pick had he decided to enter the 2012 NFL draft. However, Te’o decided to go back to school for another year, and the decision could pay off in a huge way.

    Te’o is already the best middle linebacker in college football, and with another year to learn and develop, there is no reason that he shouldn’t be a high draft pick when the time comes. He plays with extreme aggressiveness and excels against both the run and pass.

    If Luke Kuechly can get drafted ninth overall, there is no reason that Te’o can’t also end up in the top 10.

Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina

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    If you’re looking for the next great running back, look no further than Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina.

    Lattimore's game completely backs up the statement. His physical style of running combined with deceptively quick speed makes him extremely difficult to take down. Combine that with his great receiving skills and you have a potentially dominant NFL running back.

    The only question is if he can get back to full strength after a knee injury knocked him out of the 2011 season. If he is completely healthy, a top-five pick for Lattimore is almost guaranteed.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    While Barkley doesn’t quite have the potential of Logan Thomas, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson or Tennessee's Tyler Bray, what he does have is an already polished and NFL-ready game. He won’t need time to get familiar with an NFL offense because he has successfully run one for the past three seasons at USC.

    The big question surrounding Barkley is just how high his ceiling is. Can he become the next Aaron Rodgers, or will he follow in the footsteps of fellow USC alum like Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart?

    How he performs this year will go a long way to deciding whether or not he’ll be the first quarterback drafted. If Barkley shows improved arm strength and limits his mistakes, he could very well end up being the No. 1 overall pick.

    However, even if he doesn’t show great improvement in his game, Barkley is considered too safe of a prospect to not warrant a first-round selection.