Somewhere, someone is making a 2018 NFL mock draft. Seriously. While I consider myself as enthusiastic as anybody—aside from that person—about the draft, I tend to take it one year, maybe two, at a time.
The reason: A lot can happen in a single season.
From injuries to abysmal performances to off-the-field issues, rarely is much set in stone until the days leading up to the draft. Remember the rise of RG3? Or, the fall of Vontaze Burfict?
Well, three weeks into this college football season and I can already guarantee this: The 2013 NFL draft will be loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball—defense too, but, for this article, we'll focus on the offense.
In particular, my list of the top 10 offensive prospects.
10. QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Thomas looks like a physical specimen created by salivating scouts. He's 6'5", 255 pounds, runs a 4.6 forty and has a cannon arm. In other words, he's a Cam Newton clone.
The Newton comparisons are fair, not far-fetched. Just watch Thomas play: He commands an offense, runs over defenders/breaks tackles, effortlessly flicks the ball 50 yards through the air, overthrows open receivers, wins games, even the ugly ones—especially the ugly ones.
Over the weekend, Thomas and the Hokies fell to Pitt 17-35. Thomas threw three picks and one touchdown, thus dropping him to the No. 10 spot.
9. TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
He's the only tight end on this list, the only draft-eligible tight end worthy of first-round consideration. A far from blue-chip recruit in high school, Eifert stepped onto campus at 215 pounds but has since gained 35 pounds and developed into a big target in the passing game.
Eifert is a natural route-runner with a knack for getting open—a safety blanket for any quarterback. He excels as a receiver but needs time to develop as a blocker.
8. QB Matt Barkley, Southern California
I include Barkley with hesitancy because, to be frank, I'm still not sold on him as an NFL quarterback—and Saturday's performance further validates those doubts. Barkley completed just 20 of his 41 attempts for 254 yards and two interceptions (zero touchdowns) in a 14-21 loss at Stanford.
The talent is there, don't get me wrong, but he has benefited from a solid supporting cast, including star receivers Woods and Marqise Lee—a projected top pick in 2014. He has improved his pocket awareness, is a natural leader and has above-average arm strength.
7. RB Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
How Lattimore bounces back from knee surgery will ultimately determine where he lands in the draft. When healthy, he is a one-man wrecking crew. At a compact 5'11", 200 pounds, the junior running back can pound it inside and has the burst and top-end speed to break through for big gains.
Then, there's the patience, the vision, the pass-protection, the hands—all the requisite tools of an every-down back at the next level.
6. G Barrett Jones, Alabama
Teams love linemen with versatility, and Jones has plenty to spare. The senior lineman can (and has) literally play anywhere on the line—center, guard, tackle, you name it, he's done it—at an All-American level, too.
Jones, the defending Outland Trophy and Jacobs Blocking Trophy award winner, has started 38 of the past 42 games and proven himself against tough SEC competition. He is a max-effort player with sound fundamentals who uses his hands and feet well to create lanes and mirror pass-rushers.
5. QB Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Enough with the "If Wilson played on Saturday..." arguments. The truth is if Wilson played, Arkansas would have only lost 14-52, instead of a 0-52 home loss to Alabama. Not to take anything away from Wilson, I actually rate him as the second-best quarterback in this draft, a safer pick than Barkley.
Wilson has prototypical size, stands tall in the pocket and puts enough zip on the ball. He also reads defenses well, makes smart decisions and has surprising mobility.
4. WR Robert Woods, Southern California
Woods is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands, able to outrun defenders and evade would-be tacklers. And, he makes it look easy.
In 2011, Woods put up gaudy numbers: 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is a productive receiver who is also a weapon on the fly sweep and return game. But bigger, more physical corners are able to jam and reroute him at the line. If he can add weight (good weight, of course) to his 185-pound frame, he may be able to surpass the No. 1 receiver on my board.
3. OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A
As the NFL evolves into a passing league, a premium is placed on pass-rush specialists—you know, the Aldon Smiths, DeMarcus Wares and Jason Pierre-Pauls—and the lineman who can block them, or somewhat slow them down at least. Defenses want to hit the quarterback, and offenses want to protect the quarterback. Thus enters Joeckel, an elite tackle in pass protection and efficient run blocker.
The 6'6", 310-pound Joeckel can step in as a rookie left tackle and start Week 1.
2. WR Keenan Allen, California
As of now, in my eyes at least, Allen is the cream of the crop in a deep receiver class. He possesses each of the Three S's in abundance—size, speed and strength—and runs the entire route tree.
As a freshman, he caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns. As a sophomore last season, he hauled in 98 receptions for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns—while constantly facing double-teams. Teams in need of a receiver, especially those in a West Coast-ish offense, will have a hard time passing Allen in the draft.
I'd be shocked to see him escape the top 10.
1. QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
He can make plays with his feet, but his ability to step up in the pocket and deliver accurate throws is what separates Smith from the crowd of dual-threat quarterbacks—all college quarterbacks, really. During an impressive junior season, he completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.
This season, he hasn't slowed down. In two games of action, Smith has thrown for 734 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions. Oh and he's only thrown nine total incompletions in 76 attempts.
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