NFL Draft 2013: One Player Each Team Should Already Be Scouting
NFL scouts are hard at work these days making the rounds to college campuses. While the scouts are focusing on a handful of players at each stop, here are some guys each team should be focusing on for the 2013 NFL Draft.
Keep in mind, this isn't a mock draft. Some top prospects may be missing from the list. NFL teams have known about guys like Matt Barkley for four years and every team is familiar with their skills. The guys on this list are, primarily, players who still have a lot to prove over the final two months of the college football season.
Cleveland Browns: Keenan Allen, WR, California
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Greg Little leads the league in drops (again), Mohamed Massaquoi's development has stalled out in year four and Josh Cribbs has essentially be relegated to full-time special teams duty. This team desperately needs a playmaker to pair with their two rookie receivers, Travis Benjamin and Josh Gordon.
Allen has all but locked up a spot in the first round, but the Browns need to determine if he's worthy of a top 10 selection.
If Allen doesn't receive a top-10 grade, they may turn their attention to Justin Hunter or Terrance Williams.
Indianapolis Colts: Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
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Luke Joeckel seems to have separated himself from the pack as the top draft-eligible offensive lineman, but is he a top-10 talent?
The Colts are on pace for another early pick and they can't afford to miss on a golden opportunity to upgrade the talent around Andrew Luck.
Their scouting department should be keeping a close eye on Joeckel to see how he handles Texas A&M's move to the SEC. He'll be matched up with elite pass rushers on a near-weekly basis, giving the Colts and other teams a chance to get a feel for how he'll handle the next level.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
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The Jaguars rank 30th in the league in run defense through the first four weeks.
Adding an elite nose tackle like Hankins could help the speed up the rebuilding process. But the Jaguars scouting department will need to do their homework. Defensive tackles selected in the top 10 have a high bust rate.
Hankins, Star Lotulelei and John Jenkins all fit the nose tackle mold and the Jaguars should be scouting each one of them closely this season.
Oakland Raiders: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
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The Raiders are ranked 26th in the league in passing defense through the first four weeks and allowed over 700 yards through the air in their previous two games.
Dee Milliner looks like the next first-round cornerback to come from Alabama, but this is his first year as the Crimson Tide's shutdown corner. Teams like the Raiders should be scouting him closely to determine just how high he could go in the draft.
If he keeps playing at his current pace, the Raiders could make him a top-10 selection.
New Orleans Saints: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
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A quarterback for the Saints?
If this year had gone as planned, drafting Drew Brees' replacement would be the furthest thing from GM Mickey Loomis' mind. But, just like the Colts last year, sometimes an elite talent falls into your lap.
The 0-4 Saints are well on their way to earning a top-10 selection and if they have a chance to draft a franchise quarterback, that opportunity may be difficult to pass up. If the Saints believe that Smith (or Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, etc) is a future star, they just may have to bring him aboard.
The Saints could groom Smith behind Brees for a few years, allowing him to develop in much the same way the Packers did with Aaron Rodgers.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee
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Obviously Matt Barkley will be on the Chiefs' radar screen, but NFL scouts have been watching Barkley for four years now. This year is Bray's first chance to perform with a veteran offense and a healthy receiving corps and scouts should be watching closely.
Bray's draft stock is still very much in flux and teams like the Chiefs will be keeping an eye on him as he navigates his way through a brutal SEC schedule. If he lives up to expectations, he could be starting for the Chiefs in 2013.
Miami Dolphins: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
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Justin Hunter is the most physically gifted receiver eligible for the 2013 draft, but he's been shaky at times this season.
Teams like the Dolphins need to watch closely over the next few weeks to determine if Hunter's struggles are just rust from missing the majority of the 2011 season with a knee injury, or if there are legitimate concerns about his fundamentals.
If Hunter steps up his game in the second half of the season, the Dolphins could bring him aboard to become Ryan Tannehill's primary target.
Tennessee Titans: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
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Werner may be the most well-rounded defensive end in the 2013 draft class. But the Titans need to add a pass rusher, and Werner may not fit that mold.
He'll be the top-ranked end on many draft boards, but the Titans should scout him closely to determine if he's a good fit for defensive coordinator Jerry Gray's scheme.
If they determine Werner doesn't fit what they're looking for, their attention could turn to Jackson Jeffcoat or Sam Montgomery.
Carolina Panthers: Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
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Upgrading the supporting case around Cam Newton is priority number one for the Panthers this offseason.
There should be a number of receivers worthy of a first-round grade this year, but the Panthers need to study them all closely to determine which (if any) are worthy of the top 15 pick they're on pace to earn.
Terrance Williams is having a strong senior year and has elevated his stock considerably now that he's the go-to receiver in Baylor's offense. He clearly has the physical tools to be a No. 1 at the next level, but the Panthers need someone who can step into a significant role right away. They'll need to determine if Williams has the route-running skills to make an immediate impact.
New York Jets: Jackson Jeffcoat, DE/LB, Texas
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The Jets' offensive woes have been well documented, but their defense isn't exactly setting the world on fire, either. Through their first four games, Garrett McIntyre leads the team with two sacks.
Rex Ryan needs to find someone to pressure the quarterback and it's difficult to find impact pass rushers anywhere but the draft.
Jackson Jeffcoat, a top recruit out of high school, has developed into one of the premier pass rushers in the college game and has 10.5 sacks in his last 11 games. He has the athleticism to shift to linebacker in the Jets' 3-4 defense and finally give Ryan the threat his defense needs.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
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Carl Nicks was one of the best free agent acquisitions this offseason and Donald Penn remains solid at left tackle. But the rest of the Bucs offensive line continues to struggle and has slowed down the development of a promising running game anchored by Doug Martin.
Not many offensive guards go in the first round, but the Bucs should keep their eye on Chance Warmack. He has the size and strength to potentially be a dominant force in the run game and could help to open up holes for Martin in 2013.
Buffalo Bills: Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
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Ryan Fitzpatrick provides moments of hope, but he'll turn 30 in November and it's clear the Bills aren't going far with him at the helm.
Unfortunately, the Bills may be just good enough to miss out on the top talent at quarterback in this draft class, forcing them to reach for someone in the middle of the first round or wait until day two.
Logan Thomas' stock is in free fall, which could allow for him to slide to the Bills. In terms of his raw physical tools he clearly has the talent to play at an elite level. They simply need to determine if he's the right quarterback for Chan Gailey's system.
Detroit Lions: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
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If the Lions scouting department isn't already paying special attention to the top cornerback prospects, someone's not doing their job.
Johnthan Banks looks like a first-rounder, but there are some questions about his athleticism. The Lions' scouts should be focusing on him over the next few weeks to see how he handles his toughest assignments in the SEC—especially when he goes up against Tennessee's Justin Hunter on October 13.
St. Louis Rams: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
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Sam Bradford is making progress in year three, but the Rams have to provide him with more protection if he's going to rise to an elite level. Rodger Saffold has been an adequate left tackle, but Wayne Hunter remains the same revolving door that he was in New York.
Taylor Lewan is one of a number of offensive linemen with first-round potential, but still lacking first-round production. That said, blocking for a mobile quarterback such as Denard Robinson is no easy task.
While in Tennessee, Jeff Fisher's staff drafted Michael Roos, a similar prospect to Lewan, and developed him into one of the better left tackles in the game.
Washington Redskins: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
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Without a first-round pick, the Redskins shouldn't waste too much time focusing on the likes of Justin Hunter and Keenan Allen. Instead, the 'Skins should turn their attention to the second and third-round sleepers such as Cordarrelle Patterson.
While Hunter gets most of the media attention in Tennessee, Patterson is having a breakout junior year and looks like a future top 100 pick. At 6'3", he could be a nice complement to the smaller Pierre Garcon.
Seattle Seahawks: Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
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The Seahawks shifted former first-round pick James Carpenter inside to guard, opening up a gaping hole at right tackle. Breno Giacomini has been plugged in, but he's a short-term answer (if you can even call him that).
Jake Matthews may lack the athleticism to play left tackle, which limits his draft value to an extent. But he has excelled on the right side at Texas A&M and could make an immediate impact at the position in Seattle.
Pittsburg Steelers: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
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The Steelers love big bodies on their offensive line and at 6'6", 335 pounds, D.J. Fluker definitely fits their mold.
They've spend a number of draft picks on the offensive line in recent years so they may be hesitant to spend another high selection on the position, but Fluker may be too perfect to pass up. At the very least, they owe it to Ben Roethlisberger to give him a long, hard look.
Dallas Cowboys: Barrett Jones, G/C, Alabama
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The Cowboys desperately need to upgrade their offensive line in an effort to better protect Tony Romo.
Jones has looked like a potential first-round talent wherever Nick Saban and his staff have placed him on the offensive line. The Cowboys should focus on him at center this year and compare it to his performance at tackle in guard in years past to determine where he would fit best in their system.
Minnesota Vikings: John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
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The Vikings suddenly look like a playoff contender in the NFC, but there are still plenty of holes to fill.
They've been searching for a nose tackle to replace Pat Williams since he walked away in 2010. There could be as many as three nose tackles selected in the first round this year, but the Vikings may be playing their way out of contention for Star Lotulelei and Johnathan Hankins.
Jenkins is the next best nose tackle on the board and the Vikings should pay close attention to how he holds up against the heart of Georgia's SEC schedule this year.
Denver Broncos: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
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Peyton Manning loves utilizing his tight end, so much so that he's made Joel Dressen a significant part of the Broncos offense this year.
But Dreesen and Jacob Tamme aren't the long-term answers and the Broncos owe it to Manning to give Eifert a serious look. He has the potential to play the Dallas Clark role in their offense over the course of the next few seasons.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina
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BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been a nice addition, but the Bengals' offense just doesn't look as potent as it did when Cedric Benson was at the top of his game.
This isn't necessarily a position that must be addressed, but they should pay close attention to Lattimore in an effort to determine if he can be the final piece necessary to turn their offensive into an elite unit.
San Diego Chargers: Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
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The Chargers did very little to address their offensive line woes this past offseason and it should be a priority once the 2012 season comes to a close
Oday Aboushi is a fringe first-round prospect, but even if the Chargers view him as a second-day talent he could be worth paying close attention to this year. They may be looking for a new starter at right tackle and a guy like Aboushi could come in as a second-round pick and step right into a starting role.
New York Giants: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
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The Giants have so few holes to fill, maybe this is finally the year they spend a luxury pick on an offensive weapon such as Tavon Austin.
I've always wondered what Eli Manning could do if the Giants added another dimension to their offense and a playmaker like Austin could certainly change the way defenses prepare for them.
It's definitely not a position that needs to be addressed, but it's an option they should consider if a glaring hole doesn't open up prior to the draft.
Chicago Bears: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
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The Bears may not be in position to land one of the elite offensive line prospects, but it's a position that must be addressed this offseason. As a result, they should be paying close attention to the second tier of prospects, including Central Michigan's Eric Fisher.
Fisher excelled against Iowa earlier this season, elevating his stock to day-two status and could even be an option for some teams in the late first round.
Green Bay Packers: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
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The Packers' secondary continues to survive thanks to future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson, but they could definitely use another playmaker at cornerback.
Rhodes is an intriguing prospect due to his height (he's listed at 6'2") and would be a nice complement to Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, both of whom are under 6'0".
Philadelphia Eagles: Eric Reid, S, LSU
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There's a decent chance the Eagles would need to trade up for Eric Reid, but it may be a necessary move. The Eagles have relatively few holes to fill this offseason and may be willing to trade up to land the premier safety in this year's draft class.
They should be keeping a close eye on Reid to determine if he's a good fit for their defense. If they bring him aboard, he would be a nice upgrade over Kurt Coleman.
New England Patriots: Robert Woods, WR, USC
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No matter who the Patriots plug in at receiver, Tom Brady always gets the job done. But as his career winds down, his supporting cast may begin to matter more than in previous years.
The Robert Woods hype got a little out of control this offseason, but reality is starting to set in and his stock is falling. That said, he could still be a nice addition to an established offense like the Patriots.
There's still a lot to like about Woods, and the Patriots should keep an eye on him for the remainder of this year to determine if he's capable of making an immediate impact.
Arizona Cardinals: Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
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The Cardinals are a nice story, but how much longer can they survive in a passing league with limited talent on the secondary?
Carrington Byndom is slightly undersized, but if the Cardinals are picking in the late first round they'll miss out on the elite talent at the position. Given that fact that they already have Patrick Peterson, he may be an ideal fit as their No. 2 corner.
San Francisco 49ers: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
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Gore, who turns 30 next May, would benefit from having a younger version of Jacobs in the backfield with him in 2013. If the 49ers view Bell as a future starter, they could ease him into the league by allowing him to share the duties for a year or two, possibly extending Gore's career in the process.
Baltimore Ravens: Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
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The Ravens have to try to find Ray Lewis' replacement sooner or later.
Shayne Skov is one of a number of linebackers who may receive a late first-round grade. The Ravens should be scouting all of them this season in an effort to dig up the next Lewis.
Ideally they could bring in a guy like Skov while Lewis is still around to show him the ropes.
Houston Texans: Margus Hunt, DT, SMU
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Margus Hunt hasn't fully lived up to expectations this season, but he's an intriguing prospect who could blossom at the next level.
Wade Phillips is one of the best defensive minds in the game and has developed more than his fair share of raw prospects. Hunt could be a nice prospect for him to work with if the Texans think he fits well into Phillips' scheme.
Atlanta Falcons: Corey Lemonier, DE, Auburn
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The Falcons have two solid defensive ends, but you can never have too many pass rushers. For them to take their defense to the next level, they may need to spend a luxury pick on another guy who can get to the quarterback.
Lemonier is one of a number of defensive ends who could earn fringe first-round grades and the Falcons would be wise to scout each one of them closely. If they can dig up a diamond in the rough in the late first or second round, their defense could make the jump from solid to elite.