The college football season is less than halfway over, but there have already been significant changes as to which players are projected to be the top prospects for the 2013 NFL draft.
Some players, like West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, have made quick rises up the draft board, while others, such as North Carolina State cornerback David Amerson and Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, have had their stocks slip early in the season.
While there will still be much change not only between now and the end of the college football season, but all the way through the actual draft at the end of April, this is a current look at who stacks up where among the top 100 prospects for the 2013 NFL draft, based on my evaluations thus far.
Note 1: As it remains early in the season, the majority of my evaluations for players are very incomplete. If there’s a player not on this list that you think should be, it may very well be because I have yet to scout them, but feel free to ask/critique in the comments!
Note 2: Players with remaining collegiate eligibility are denoted with an asterisk.
91. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
Brandon Jenkins was in the mix to be a potential first-round pick as one of college football’s best defensive ends coming into the 2012 college football season. Unfortunately, he suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury to his foot in the Seminoles’ season opener. He could choose to accept a medical redshirt and return to Florida State for his 2013 season; if he does not, he will likely fall to the fourth round of the draft coming off of injury.
92. Nico Johnson, ILB, Alabama
Nico Johnson is an athletic inside linebacker who is a solid playmaker, but he is often overshadowed on Alabama’s defense. He needs to become a bigger difference-maker to rise up the draft board.
93. Bennie Logan, DT, LSU*
Bennie Logan is slightly undersized for a defensive tackle, but with impressive quickness and interior penetration ability, he could become LSU’s 2013 version of Michael Brockers should he declare for the draft as an underclassman, and rise up the boards very quickly.
94. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama*
D.J. Fluker has a massive frame and high upside, but he does not appear to have the feet or pass-protection skills to be more than a right tackle at the next level.
95. Ricky Wagner, OT, Wisconsin
Ricky Wagner is a solid offensive lineman, but he lacks the footwork to play left tackle in the NFL. He has struggled early this season in a rough start to the year for the Wisconsin offensive line. He is a strong mauler, but will likely kick to right tackle or guard in the NFL.
96. Brodrick Brown, CB, Oklahoma State
Brodrick Brown is a small cornerback, but he has very good coverage instincts and ball skills, as evidenced by his 20 pass defenses in his junior season. Brown’s athleticism and playmaking ability make him an intriguing mid-round selection.
97. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State*
Joseph Randle is a dangerous runner in open field, with very good vision, an ability to make defenders miss, and can also bounce the ball between the tackles. He has been very productive at Oklahoma State with 534 yards through his first four games of the 2012 season.
98. Marcus Davis, WR, Virginia Tech
Marcus Davis has not had a lot of catches at Virginia Tech, but he has great all-around athletic ability paired with great length and size, making him a dynamic downfield playmaker when he is targeted in the passing game.
99. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Sylvester Williams is a quick, disruptive defensive tackle who has the potential to be North Carolina’s next highly-drafted defensive lineman if his play can become more consistent.
100. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech*
Da’Rick Rogers is a very talented receiver with great size along with route-running and catching-in-traffic abilities, but he was dismissed from Tennessee due to multiple substance-abuse violations. Rogers should be expected to enter the 2013 NFL draft after one season at Tennessee Tech, where his stock should have dropped from potential late first- or early second-round pick to late third- or early fourth-round pick.
81. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
A junior-college transfer, Quinton Patton was very productive in his first season at Louisiana Tech, and he is a very good route-runner with the speed and quickness to make plays in open field.
82. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
There is not necessarily one trait that stands out about Johnathan Franklin as a running back, but he is a solid all-around runner who has 697 rushing yards through the first five games of his senior season. He is effective both running in open space and between the tackles.
83. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
In his senior season, Terrance Williams has emerged in place of Kendall Wright as Baylor’s big downfield playmaker in the passing game. Williams is not quite the prospect Wright was, but he does have an intriguing combination of size, speed and ability to make big receiving plays.
84. Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
Michael Buchanan is a long, athletic pass rusher who can be a difference-maker on a defensive front, but given his lack of bulk and a need for strength at the point of attack, he may be restricted to a situational pass-rushing role.
85. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher has a tremendous frame for a left tackle at 6’7’’, and he has good bulk on that frame. He uses his length well, gets good leverage, and is both a solid pass protector and run blocker. Whether his feet are quick enough to play left tackle in the NFL, however, is questionable.
86. Denard Robinson, RB/WR, Michigan
Denard Robinson certainly does not have the passing skills to play quarterback in the NFL, but the dynamic rushing skills he has displayed at Michigan suggest that he could be a rotational playmaker at running back or wide receiver, from which he could also run a Wildcat package at the next level.
87. Lavar Edwards, DE, LSU
It is easy to overlook Lavar Edwards with all the talent on LSU’s defensive line, but Edwards has real NFL potential in his own right. Edwards has good size and quickness for the position, and he is another effective pass-rusher and run-stopper who comes off the Tigers’ bench.
88. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina
Jonathan Cooper has good size and quick feet for a left guard, and has the potential to emerge as a starter at that position at the next level.
89. Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
Brennan Williams has a long, 6’7’’ frame paired with quick feet, but he is still inconsistent even as a right tackle for the Tar Heels, making it questionable what potential he has as an NFL left tackle prospect.
90. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech*
Heading into the 2012 college football season, Logan Thomas was viewed by many as the top challenger to Matt Barkley’s status as the top quarterback for the 2013 NFL draft. Thomas has tremendous physical tools, including great size, a huge arm and good athleticism, but his play has been much too inconsistent this season, and he really should return to school for his senior season.
71. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
Cobi Hamilton is a dynamic downfield receiving playmaker who has always been a big-play threat in his time at Arkansas, and has the potential to be a game-changer, even at the next level. Through the first five games of his 2012 season, Hamilton ranks second nationally in average yards per catch among players with at least 30 receptions.
72. Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
Best-known for a tremendous one-handed catch he made against East Carolina in his junior season, Aaron Dobson is a big wideout with great hands and vertical athleticism.
73. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
Jesse Williams is a big, powerful nose tackle with impressive quickness off of the snap for a player of his size, and could be a difference-maker at the position in either a three- or four-man front at the next level.
74. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee*
Cordarrelle Patterson is only in his first season at Tennessee having transferred in from junior college, but he has made his impact felt immediately. Patterson is a big-play threat with great size and speed, and although he remains very unproven, he has huge upside.
75. Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
Oday Aboushi is a raw talent, but he has great measurables for a left tackle with his combination of size and quick feet. A strong, physical mauler, Aboushi could be a sleeper-starting left tackle to come out of this draft class.
76. Travis Frederick, G, Wisconsin*
Travis Frederick is a massive, 338-pound guard that fits the mold of powerful maulers that the Wisconsin offensive line has churned out in recent years. Athleticism could be a concern, but he has the potential to be a solid starting guard.
77. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU (formerly)*
Tyrann Mathieu is not playing football in 2012 due to drug problems, but recent comments by LSU coach Les Miles make it seem as though he could be back to his former team in 2013. If that is not the case, however, Mathieu would likely enter the draft. Mathieu is a natural playmaker who has a knack for making things happen in a game, but his size, coverage inconsistency and off-field trouble are all concerns.
78. Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State*
Few 285-pound tight ends have the athletic ability and receiving skills that Dion Sims has. Sims is actually Michigan State’s best playmaker in the passing game, and he is also a very solid blocker, making him a very intriguing tight end prospect.
79. Aaron Mellette, WR, Elon
A small-school stud, Aaron Mellette has great size and speed for a wideout. He also having terrific route-running skills, and he may be best suited to play as an inside slot receiver.
80. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma*
Kenny Stills is a long, athletic wideout who has been one of Landry Jones’ best playmakers since his freshman season, but he may not be anything more than a fourth receiver in the NFL.
61. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State*
Justin Gilbert has great speed, is smooth in coverage and has good size for an NFL cornerback. In addition to being a solid second or third cornerback for an NFL team, he can also double as a kickoff returner.
62. Johnny Adams, CB, Michigan State
Johnny Adams is an aggressive, physical cornerback who tackles well. Adams is not a tremendous athlete, but he does not often give up big plays in coverage.
63. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma
Landry Jones has the physical tools that once could have made him a very high draft pick, but his confidence and, subsequently, his play have seemed to be in regression since his sophomore year. Jones is a talented passer who still has the potential to be a future NFL starter, but no longer looks to be in the first-round quarterback discussion.
64. Jordan Reed, TE, Florida*
Jordan Reed is a dynamic receiving playmaker at tight end. He is very athletic for the position, and creates mismatches with his size, speed and route-running ability. A former quarterback, he has potential to run the Wildcat offense as well.
65. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford
Stepfan Taylor has been successful in continuing to perform well as a senior, now outside of the shadow of Andrew Luck at Stanford. Taylor is a well-rounded running back who does not stand out in any one area, but has a good combination of speed, quickness and power.
66. Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
Chase Thomas fits Stanford’s 3-4 defense well, and while he does not have tremendous speed or burst, he has good pass-rushing technique and he is very solid against the run. 3-4 defensive teams should continue to look at him for the NFL, even if only as a rotational player.
67. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Desmond Trufant is a big playmaker in the Washington secondary whose combination of size, athleticism and coverage ability give him the potential to be a future NFL starter at his position.
68. Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State*
Max Bullough is very instinctive and a sound tackler, and with those skills combined, he is always making plays around the football. Bullough is not a tremendous athlete, but he has more than adequate athletic ability, and he is a good fit to play inside in a 3-4 defensive scheme.
69. Bacarri Rambo, S, Georgia
Bacarri Rambo has had his share of off-field issues at Georgia, but when on the field, he is a dynamic safety playmaker. Rambo has great speed and athletic ability, and hits hard, but he needs to become more consistent in coverage.
70. Jelani Jenkins, OLB, Florida*
Jelani Jenkins is a rangy athlete who is very good at making tackles in space and dropping back into coverage for an outside linebacker. He could struggle at the point of attack at the next level due to a lack of size, but he should be an asset even if only a passing-downs player.
51. John Simon, DE, Ohio State
John Simon is a well-rounded defensive lineman whose motor and work ethic are well-noted, but with less than ideal height for a defensive lineman and not being an explosive pass-rusher by NFL standards, there may not be a natural positional fit for him at the next level.
52. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State*
Le’Veon Bell is a big, 244-pound running back, but he complements that size with very good athletic ability, including a well-displayed ability to hurdle defenders. He is a workhorse running back who can hold up through a heavy load of carries.
53. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame*
Tyler Eifert is the most complete tight end prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class. Eifert has basketball-player size and athletic ability, as is the growing norm for NFL tight ends. He pairs receiving skills with being a fairly strong blocker.
54. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Kawann Short is a very disruptive force in the middle of the Boilermakers’ defensive line. He has great size but pairs that with dynamic quickness to penetrate through the middle of opposing offensive lines. Short would be a great fit as part of a defensive tackle tandem in a 4-3 scheme.
55. Cornelius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State
The Florida State Seminoles have not missed a beat on their defensive line this season since “Tank” Carradine took over for Brandon Jenkins at defensive end. Carradine has a great combination of size and athleticism for a pass-rusher, and through five games, he ranks second nationally with seven sacks.
56. Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas*
After missing the entire 2011 season due to an ankle injury, Knile Davis has not looked like quite the same running back he once was for Arkansas’ offense. If he can return to form, however, he is a dynamic running back who can make defenders miss, but he also has the size to be a legitimate between-the-tackles, tackle-breaking runner.
57. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
John Jenkins is an absolutely massive nose tackle who has great strength and is hard for opponents to move out of the middle of a defense. He has big potential as the anchor of a three-man NFL defensive front.
58. C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama*
With the departures of Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw to the NFL after last season, C.J. Mosley has stepped up as Alabama’s biggest linebacker playmaker this season. Mosley is an athletic linebacker who rallies to the football, but would be a better fit to play strongside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme than he is in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 defense.
59. Nigel Malone, CB, Kansas State
Nigel Malone is one of the nation’s top playmaking cornerbacks, and may be the nation’s most overlooked cornerback. He does not have great size, but he is a fluid athlete in coverage and a playmaker with the potential to be a solid No. 2 or nickel corner at the next level.
60. Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma*
A former cornerback at Oklahoma, Tony Jefferson is a very good cover safety who can be a big playmaker in the back end of a secondary with his combination of ball skills, coverage ability and hard hitting.
41. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M*
Jake Matthews has great offensive line bloodlines as the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews, but his collegiate tape from Texas A&M also shows that he is a very good right tackle for the Aggies. He may be a right tackle only at the next level, but he has the length, strength, footwork and leverage to be excellent in that position.
42. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
As a very long defensive end with tremendous athletic attributes, Margus Hunt has huge upside, but he has not become a consistent presence on the defensive line at SMU. He could develop into a star, but he is still a project.
43. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson*
Sammy Watkins could be a top-5 prospect for the 2014 NFL draft, but fellow Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has shown that he could be a pro wide receiver in his own right this season. Hopkins is a big, athletic receiver who tracks the ball well and has great hands. He has stepped up this season with more than 100 receiving yards in each of Watkins’ three absences from the lineup this season.
44. Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
Devin Taylor is a big, athletic defensive end, but his draft stock has been going the wrong way since a fantastic sophomore season. That said, Taylor is a skilled defensive end whose measurables make him a tough matchup to block against, and he has potential to play the position in both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive schemes.
45. Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina
Kevin Reddick has not had a great start to his senior season, but he is an athletic linebacker with great instincts and tackling ability. Reddick may not be a three-down middle linebacker, but he has the potential to be a difference-maker in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme.
46. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson
Andre Ellington is a smaller running back, but he has dynamic speed and quickness to make defenders miss, and his career at Clemson has been productive. He is surprisingly effective at running through contact, and with his overall skill set, Ellington should be a very good addition to a running back-by-committee.
47. Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Shayne Skov is a quick inside linebacker with great instincts, sound tackling ability and is very solid in coverage. Skov is a good fit to continue playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme, as he does at Stanford.
48. Arthur Brown, ILB, Kansas State
Arthur Brown is undersized for an inside linebacker, but he is a very athletic playmaker. Brown makes up for his size by aggressively attacking the football, and he has good instincts and coverage skills. His lack of size, however, could present an issue against bigger, stronger blockers in the NFL.
49. Dallas Thomas, OG/OT, Tennessee
Dallas Thomas has excelled at both offensive tackle and guard at Tennessee, but his best position at the next level will likely be his current position of left guard. Thomas is a big lineman who is very good at going to his inside to make blocks. He has great feet for a guard, but would be heavy-footed for a starting NFL offensive tackle, especially for a left tackle.
50. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan is lanky, but he has great height and athletic ability, and is a very skilled pass-rusher. He will need to add size and become a better run-stopper to be more than a situational player at the next level, but he has high upside.
33. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida*
Sharrif Floyd is a big, athletic and disruptive defensive tackle who is really rising in his junior season. Floyd is a difference-maker with the potential to thrive as either an under tackle in a 4-3 defense or as a 5-technique defensive end in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL.
34. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Johnthan Banks is a long, athletic cornerback who has held his own against the SEC’s top wideouts over the years. Banks may never be a dominant shutdown cornerback, but he has potential to be a solid No. 2 cornerback in the NFL with his size and ability.
35. T.J. McDonald, S, USC
With a tremendous combination of size and athletic ability, T.J. McDonald is a fantastic physical specimen, and he also plays the free safety position well. McDonald is a hard-hitting safety, but he has the intelligence to know when he needs to drop back into coverage, and he is usually in position to make the necessary plays as a safety.
36. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan*
Taylor Lewan is somewhat stiff as a foot athlete, but he has great length and is a smooth technician as Michigan’s left tackle. He may not be a franchise left tackle in the NFL, but he should at least be a solid right tackle with the versatility to play on the left side.
37. Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers*
Logan Ryan has been continuing to break out as a star in Rutgers’ secondary as a junior. Ryan has a great combination of size and athletic ability for a cornerback, and he covers very well while having the ball skills, instincts and speed to make plays on the football and turn them into big plays.
38. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State*
Xavier Rhodes has great size for a cornerback, and he uses that to his advantage by playing with great physicality. Rhodes, however, is also a great athlete who can run with faster receivers, while using his size to play physically. He tackles well when he does give up a reception to an opponent.
39. Tyler Bray, QB, Tennessee*
Tyler Bray is a tall, cannon-armed quarterback with tremendous physical tools, but his inconsistent accuracy and decision-making continue to be problems. Currently, Bray looks like a boom-or-bust quarterback prospect, with the potential to be a star. Being a major project at this point, his best bet is to stay and wait until the 2014 NFL draft.
40. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia*
Aaron Murray does not have great size or astounding physical tools, but he does have a strong arm paired with very good downfield touch. He is an efficient quarterback who has made big strides from his sophomore season (68.2 completion percentage through five games in 2012, compared to 59.1 in 2011), and he is a solid second-round target to compete for a starting quarterback job.
The Washington State Cougars have gotten off to a disappointing start in their 2012 season—their inaugural year under new head coach Mike Leach—but wide receiver Marquess Wilson has continued to be productive. Even in a 25-point rout by Oregon in their most recent game, Wilson caught 12 passes for a total of 182 yards.
Wilson is a very skilled deep threat with great speed and acceleration and very good hands. He needs to add bulk so he can contribute as a blocker, and work on his route-running, but he can become an immediate weapon for an NFL passing offense.
Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore was starting to breakout in College Station as a sophomore, but as a junior, he has quickly emerged as a national star.
Moore does not have great size for a defensive end, but he is an athletically gifted and skilled pass-rusher who is also strong and sound against the run. This season, Moore has been a dominant force—he already has 10.5 tackles for loss in only four games played.
In what was already a very strong class of pass-rushing defensive ends for the 2013 draft class, Damontre Moore is continuing to close in on the top group.
Robert Lester does not quite have the athletic measurables or hard-hitting tackling that will garner the same attention that his former teammate, Mark Barron, did as the top safety and No. 7 overall draft pick in 2012. He is, however, an instinctive safety with very sound tackling skills, as well as being quite solid in coverage.
Lester is not a terrific athlete, but he has enough speed, hip flexibility and coverage intelligence to be a solid safety at either spot at the next level. His best assets will be his ability to play physically in pass coverage and make quick tackles.
At only 6’3’’ and 242 pounds, Auburn’s Corey Lemonier may be too small to play defensive end in the NFL, but he is a great athlete and natural pass-rusher who has high upside as a 3-4 outside linebacker or situational pass-rusher in any scheme.
Lemonier is an explosive player off the line of scrimmage, and he has both the knack and skill for getting after the quarterback. Auburn’s defense has been shaky since winning the national championship at the end of the 2010 season, but not because of Lemonier, who has been an SEC defensive standout and has big pass-rushing potential for the next level.
It’s becoming increasingly rare to find safeties out of college with great size, tackling ability, athleticism and above-average coverage skills all rolled into one package, but Kenny Vaccaro fits that mold.
Vaccaro is a hard-hitting safety who could excel at either safety spot in the NFL, as he tackles very well in the box but also does a good job of playing center field and not giving up big plays in the back of a secondary.
At only 5’8’’ and 168 pounds, Nickell Robey is a very undersized cornerback, but he uses the size he has well. Robey is a speedy, instinctive and fluid-hipped cornerback, and he plays with physicality, allowing him to more than hold his own against bigger wideouts.
With that being said, Robey may still be viewed as a reach as a first-round pick considering the size and verticality he will give up to most NFL receivers. With his strong tackling and lack of fear in his game, however, Robey plays bigger than he actually is, and even if he is held to a nickel role at the next level, his coverage and ball skills could enable him to excel.
Tyler Wilson came into the 2012 college football season as the top challenger to USC’s Matt Barkley to be the top quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft, but as Arkansas has regressed early this season, so has Wilson’s draft stock.
In four games so far this season, Wilson has only completed 54.5 percent of his passes, showing that accuracy continues to be a work in progress for him. Wilson has a very solid physical skill set and can make the tough throws that the NFL looks for, but inconsistent play is hurting his draft stock thus far while Arkansas is taking a nosedive to the bottom of the SEC standings.
In his first season at center as a junior, USC’s Khaled Holmes immediately emerged as a standout. As a senior, he has already battled an ankle injury, but when he is healthy and in the lineup, he is the best center in the nation.
Holmes is a leader on the offensive line who is a powerful run blocker, has great feet, is quick off of the snap and rarely misses a block. He also has the versatility to kick back to guard, but could be an immediate fill-in at center, where he has the most potential.
There is a lot to like about California’s Keenan Allen as a wide receiver prospect: he has great size, hands, athleticism and route-running ability, while he uses his size to well to make catches in traffic and run through contact.
What Allen may not have, however, is field-stretching speed and big-play ability at the next level. He can make defenders miss with his quickness, but is more of a possession receiver than a deep threat.
His upside is not tremendously high, but nonetheless, he should be a very solid possession receiver at the next level, and he has been very productive at California. Therefore, his current worth is a late first-round draft pick.
Sean Porter has been very much overshadowed by defensive end and teammate Damontre Moore through the first four games of his season, but over the years, he has built himself as up a player who should be a first-round talent.
Like Von Miller before him, Porter is a very athletic linebacker with great length and blitzing ability, and while he is already a defensive difference-maker, his upside is even higher.
Porter may not have the size or pass-rushing skills to fit in a 3-4 defensive scheme, but his athleticism and tackling ability make him a great candidate to play weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.
There is no other receiver in college football with the combination of measurables and receiving ability that Tennessee’s Justin Hunter possesses.
Hunter is a very natural talent with tremendous height for a wideout at 6’4’’, but also has track speed and great hands. Hunter’s game is still raw and inconsistent, and he needs to develop as a route-runner, but he has tremendous ability to make plays in one-on-one coverage, and is the best deep threat among draft-eligible wideouts.
Hunter has been putting up his best numbers yet of his career this season after bouncing back from a torn ACL in 2011, and his huge upside is hard to ignore.
Carrington Byndom does not get much national attention outside of Texas for his play, but he is one of the NCAA’s best cornerbacks.
Byndom has very good size and athleticism, and he is sound and fluid in coverage. Byndom can cover man-to-man against bigger receivers, and with his quick hips and speed, he can go toe-to-toe with any wideout.
Byndom’s game needs to become more consistent, especially his tackling, but his overall skill set lends itself to him becoming a very solid starting cornerback in the NFL.
Jackson Jeffcoat was a very highly-regarded high school recruit when he came to Texas, and he seems to get better each and every year for the Longhorns. Jeffcoat is a very athletic defensive end with great explosiveness, and he has great skill for getting off of the line and into the backfield to make plays.
Jeffcoat is a skilled pass-rusher and he can make big plays in the backfield on running plays, but he still needs to become stronger and better at the point of attack on run defense. Additionally, his best fit may be to drop back to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, as his speed but not great size and strength lend better to that position.
Nonetheless, Jeffcoat’s stock is on the rise in his junior season, and he could emerge much higher on this draft board should he declare for the 2013 NFL draft.
Alex Okafor isn’t the flashier of the two defensive end prospects from Texas that could be in the 2013 NFL draft class, but he is the better all-around player, and well worth a first-round pick come April.
Okafor has great size for the position at 6’5’’ and 265 pounds, and he pairs with very good strength at the point of attack, making him one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the country. He does not have an elite burst, but he is still a very athletic pass rusher whose pass-rush techniques, length and speed make him a tough player to contain on the edge.
Okafor is not a great fit to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he is a sound fit to start and be a three-down lineman as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He has been a consistent force at Texas, and should be a great player at the next level too.
David Amerson was in the top 5 of the draft rankings coming into the college football season, but he has had some struggles early in his junior season that are hurting his stock.
Amerson led the NCAA with 13 interceptions as a sophomore, and he already has three in his junior season, but while Amerson continues to make the big plays, he has also been exposed for a number of big plays against both Tennessee and Miami (Fla.)
Amerson has the size, athleticism and ball skills to be a superstar cornerback, but he also currently appears prone to being burned on deep balls, which is a big problem for a player who could be viewed as a No. 1 cornerback at the next level. If Amerson can refine and make his game more consistent, he can move back in the top 10 of the draft class, but if he continues to give up big plays, he could fall out of the first round altogether.
Marcus Lattimore hasn’t necessarily set the world on fire in his first five games back this season following an ACL injury that cut his season short in 2011. Nonetheless, Lattimore appears to have retained his combination of speed, quickness and physical running ability that make him a first-round draft prospect.
Lattimore stands out among draft-eligible running backs for 2013 with his combination of size, at 6’ and 232 pounds, with his speed. He has the ability to make defenders miss in the open field, but is also effective at running through contact and between the tackles.
If Lattimore’s game gets back to its pre-ACL form against top SEC defenses in the second half of the season, he has a good chance to end up in the top 10 of this board by the end of the season.
Among pure guards in the 2013 NFL draft, Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the cream of the crop. Warmack is a massive, physical and powerfully strong road-grader whose combination of strength and footwork should make him a dominant NFL guard.
Warmack’s strength is his run blocking, but he is a very consistent pass protector as well. He can be an immediate asset to the offensive line of any team in need of a guard upgrade.
While Chance Warmack may be the best pure guard prospect in the 2013 NFL draft class, the versatility of his teammate, Barrett Jones, makes Jones the best interior line prospect coming out of Alabama.
Jones has played all five positions on the offensive line during his career at Alabama, and that versatility will make him a very attractive option to NFL teams in the latter half of the first round. Jones has great strength and footwork, is quick off of the snap, is clearly a quick learner and has excelled at every position he has played for the Crimson Tide.
Jones’ best fit at the next level is as a guard, but he should be able to start for a team immediately at guard while being able to kick out to tackle or inside to center if he is needed at either position, which will make him a very valuable player for any team to have.
Among draft-eligible wide receivers for the 2013 NFL draft, Robert Woods is the most complete overall prospect.
Woods may not have ideal size or speed, but with fantastic hands and route-running ability, he is a reliable target who gets open with consistency. He has the quickness and enough speed to be a dangerous playmaker in the open field, but his reliability and maximization of his skills make him a strong candidate for a team whose passing game focuses on intermediate routes.
Not being an elite deep threat should keep Woods out of the top group of draft prospects, but he should end up being a valuable asset to whatever offense he joins, whether that be in 2013 or 2014.
With David Amerson’s early struggles this season, Alabama’s Dee Milliner has emerged as the top cornerback prospect for the 2013 NFL draft.
Milliner took over this season as the No. 1 cornerback in the Crimson Tide secondary following Dre Kirkpatrick’s departure to the NFL, and the Crimson Tide sure haven’t missed a beat. In two games already this season versus Michigan and Mississippi, Milliner has defended five passes, including one interception, in each game.
Milliner is a big, physical cornerback who uses his size well, but he is also a very smooth, fluid and fast athlete. Milliner is still raw, and only has one pass defense in Alabama’s other three games this year, but he is a star when he is at his best, and he has all the skills to develop into a top cornerback in the NFL.
Utah’s Star Loutulelei isn’t the top defensive tackle in these rankings, but he may be the best pure nose tackle. At 320 pounds, Lotulelei is a very strong and stout force in the middle of Utah’s defensive line, and he projects very well to holding down the middle of a three-man defensive line as an anchoring nose tackle.
Lotulelei is not a star interior pass-rusher, but he is a very disruptive interior lineman who draws double-teams often and is a real force in run-stopping. He is very strong at the point of attack, tackles well for a man of his size and has the quickness and athleticism to move away from the line and makes plays downfield.
Lotulelei has the rare measurables and skill set that could make him a star nose tackle in the right NFL defense.
For any team looking for a middle linebacker in the 2013 NFL draft, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o should be at the top of their list. Te’o is a well-rounded linebacker with both a tremendous physical skill set and great mental capacity and toughness.
Te’o has prototypical size for a middle linebacker at 6’2’’ and 255 pounds, and he is a very good athlete for his size. He has terrific instincts, reads and diagnoses plays well and is both a very good run stopper and sound in coverage.
Te’o has the versatility to excel as either a 4-3 middle linebacker or a 3-4 inside linebacker, and whichever team drafts Te’o should be getting an instant leader and playmaker in the middle of their defense.
The 2013 offensive tackle class looks fairly weak at this point, but the one solid first-round pick should be Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel.
Joeckel is an angular left tackle who did a very good job of protecting Ryan Tannehill’s backside last season, and is now playing that same role for new Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Joeckel sometimes struggles with speed rushers, but he is a good athlete himself, and a powerful run-blocker who uses his hands well. His game is still developing, but the junior looks like a strong bet to be the top offensive tackle taken should he declare for this draft.
LSU has a fantastic pair of defensive ends among the top 10 draft prospects for 2013. Among the two, the more conventional defensive end prospect is Sam Montgomery, who combines size and length with athleticism and technique that makes him one of the best overall defensive ends in college football.
Even on a defensive line that is deep with talent, Montgomery stands out. He is an explosive pass-rusher who gets very natural leverage and is also an effective run stopper.
Montgomery’s athletic ability also makes him a legitimate candidate to drop back to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but his game should translate very well to playing end in a four-man front, and that could make him a high draft pick if the premium on pass-rushers is high in April.
While Sam Montgomery is a great defensive end prospect, he is not even the best pass-rusher on his own defense. That honor goes to the defensive end who lines up across from him, Barkevious Mingo, who may be the most athletic pure pass-rusher in the draft class.
Mingo is thin and undersized for a defensive end, but he combines the length of a lineman with the athletic ability of a running back. Mingo is at his best, however, when he is able to stand up and focus on going after the quarterback, although he is no pushover in the run game either.
Although he still must make the transition from playing defensive end in college, Mingo appears to be an ideal candidate to make that conversion to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Mingo’s skill set as an edge rusher, combined with his fantastic athletic makeup, give him huge potential to excel in that position.
If the top underclassmen declare, the 2013 safety class will have much more talent and depth than the 2012 class did, but there is a clear-cut top prospect among them. That player is Eric Reid, who is a nearly complete all-around free safety prospect with the potential to be the star of an NFL secondary.
Safeties with pro-caliber coverage skills are increasingly becoming a rarity, but Reid has them. Reid is a ballhawk who can make plays on the football, but he is also a very sound tackler, whether he is coming up in the box to make plays, or simply making plays that come into his zone.
Should Reid declare for the 2013 NFL draft, he has the skills that can prompt a team to draft him to be the star of their secondary, which could make him the third consecutive LSU defensive back to be a top-10 NFL draft pick.
William Gholston has as much upside as any player in the 2013 NFL draft class. Gholston has the explosive burst and rangy athleticism of an outside linebacker, but at 6’7’’ and a well-built 278 pounds, he has the size and strength of a 5-technique defensive end.
Gholston has more to his game, however, than just measurables. He has the quickness and speed to rush around the edge, but is also very good at rushing inside between blockers, and is a very good run stopper. Gholston presents tremendous scheme versatility, as he could play anything from outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme to defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense.
Gholston’s best fit remains as a 4-3 defensive end, but he has the potential to excel in any defense. The biggest concern with Gholston, however, is whether he has the stamina to be a three-down lineman, as he does not play all snaps at Michigan State.
Gholston may not quite have the consistent play that a top-six NFL draft prospect should have, but his talent and upside are hard to ignore.
When Brandon Jenkins went down for the season with a Lisfranc injury to his foot in the season opener, an opportunity opened for Bjoern Werner to become the star defensive end at Florida State. Thus far, Werner has certainly ran with that opportunity.
Even with the emergence of Cornelius Carradine in Jenkins’ place, Werner has been the star up front for the Seminoles, with nine tackles for loss through five games. As a result, Werner has emerged as the top defensive end prospect in the 2013 draft class.
Werner is a tremendous athlete and a complete defensive end. He is very explosive off of the line and gets into the backfield very quickly, while he has a tremendous motor and is very good at tracking down run plays in space.
Werner is best suited to play up front in a 4-3 defensive scheme, but he has the athletic skills to convert well to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Regardless of scheme, an NFL defense should get a real difference-maker in Werner.
With the struggles of Arkansas and their quarterback Tyler Wilson early this season, the door was left wide open for another quarterback to make a big rise up the draft board and challenge Matt Barkley to be the top quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft class. West Virginia’s Geno Smith has done exactly that.
Smith has made big strides in his senior season from his junior season, which includes putting up some incredible numbers: Smith leads the nation with an 83.4 completion percentage, 20 touchdowns, zero interceptions, 432 passing yards per game and a 208.4 passer rating through his first four games of the season.
Smith, however, is more than just numbers. He has great size for the quarterback position, a strong arm, a tremendous release and is a very good athlete. Touch and accuracy on deep balls, which were issues for Smith in 2011, have not been a problem yet this season.
It is important to proceed through Smith’s numbers this season with caution, as he has yet to play any top defenses, and plays in a spread offense. However, if Smith can continue to play as well as he has through the first third of the season, he has a very legitimate chance of being the No. 1 overall pick in April.
With a shaky start to his senior season, the notion I had previously set forth that Matt Barkley was set above the field as the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick and top quarterback is no longer there. But while Barkley has come back to the field, I still believe that he will end up being the top quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft class.
Barkley’s numbers through the first half of his senior season are way off from where they were in his junior season, but still present are his fantastic physical skill set and ability to make any throw on the field. Coming out of a pro-style offense, Barkley still remains far ahead of the pack as the most NFL-ready quarterback prospect in the 2013 draft class.
Barkley will be scrutinized more than any other prospect in the leadup to April, but should he have a strong second half to his senior season, he remains the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 overall pick and top quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
Should he enter the 2013 NFL draft, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones will be the crown jewel for any team looking for a playmaker at outside linebacker.
Jones is a tremendously athletic linebacker who is a fantastic pass rusher, but is also very good against the run, both in taking on runners coming directly at him and in chasing runners down in space. Jones is also able to play effectively when asked to drop back into coverage.
Jones would be an ideal fit to line up as an edge-rushing linebacker in a 3-4 defense, but he is a similar prospect to Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Jones could line up in any defense and be an instant difference-maker, as he can make plays in any linebacker capacity, and will find ways to get into the backfield with his burst, speed and block-shedding ability.
It is rare to find a 330-pound defensive tackle with as much quickness, athletic ability and interior pass-rushing ability as Johnathan Hankins. Hankins’ athleticism makes him a very dynamic player who can play any interior defensive line position, while he is every bit the heavy run stuffer that most massive nose tackles are.
What makes Hankins special is unlike most defensive tackles of his size who are strictly nose tackles, he has the skill set to play as a quicker under tackle in a 4-3 defense, and could even line up as a defensive end in a 3-4 scheme. His best fit is as a combination tackle in a four-man front, but he could also be looked at as an anchor for a three-man front.
When it comes to top defensive tackle prospects, Hankins is not quite Ndamukong Suh, the Detroit Lions’ No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, but he’s not far off either.
Hankins’ skill set should enable him to be an ever better pro player than he is in college, and he is a dominant force at Ohio State. He compares well to two of the NFL’s elite defensive linemen, Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots and Haloti Ngata of the Baltimore Ravens.