2013 NFL Draft: Predicting the Most Successful Players at Every Position
In the end, the NFL draft is all about predicting success. If a team doesn't think a player will be successful, it won't draft him, right?
The 2013 NFL draft is already within sight, and it's time to start evaluating each position. In 2012, the best player at some positions was already clear. We knew Andrew Luck was the top quarterback and Trent Richardson was the best running back.
This year, there is more uncertainty.
That, of course, makes the discussion all the more fun.
Quarterback: Geno Smith, West Virginia
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Though he hasn't yet received the hype of Robert Griffin III, Geno Smith is just as good of a prospect. Smith's physical ability and pocket presence make him a target for any quarterback-needy team.
The likely No. 1 overall pick, Smith can throw the ball to any part of the field. Smith is also quite mobile, but unlike many athletic quarterbacks, he doesn't panic under pressure and is comfortable in the pocket.
This isn't to say Smith is on Andrew Luck's level as a player. He is, however, a worthy top quarterback and could turn a franchise around.
Running Back: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
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Before tearing his ACL, Marcus Lattimore was widely considered a premier running back prospect. Since then, however, Lattimore hasn't looked quite the same.
The bruising running back still has plenty of power, but his burst and quickness aren't there. This could change with more time, but it's impossible to be certain.
For now, Lattimore is a legitimate first-round running back prospect. If he returns to prior form, however, he could be much more than that.
Wide Receiver: Justin Hunter, Tennessee
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An excellent athlete, Justin Hunter has legitimate upside at wide receiver. The 6'4", 200-pounder possesses superb catching ability and body control.
Before suffering an injury in 2011, Hunter looked more explosive and dynamic. Even now, he's a great playmaker, but he isn't the same as he was last year.
In time, Hunter could return to full strength. If he does, watch out, because he truly is an elite wide receiver prospect.
Tight End: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
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Tyler Eifert is the typical solid tight end. He can catch the ball, run routes and use his body to get open and make plays. He is reliable and consistent.
He is not, however, an overly dynamic player. None will mistake Eifert with Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. Eifert's quarterback will love him, but he won't be a huge matchup problem for defenses.
Though he lacks elite upside, Eifert is safe. He is athletic enough to get open in the NFL, and he doesn't have any glaring weaknesses.
Offensive Tackle: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
The 6'6", 310-pound Luke Joeckel projects as a starting left tackle in the NFL. No one will mistake him for Joe Thomas, but he should be a solid fixture for his NFL team.
A good pass-blocker, Joeckel can handle speed-rushers without much of a problem. He struggles more in the run game where he has to overpower the defender.
Again, Joeckel will likely never be a dominant blindside protector. However, he is technically sound and athletic enough to comfortably project him in the top 10.
Offensive Guard: Chance Warmack, Alabama
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A truly dominant guard, Chance Warmack has many wondering who was a better guard prospect—he or David DeCastro. That this is even a conversation shows how good Warmack is.
The 6'3", 320-pounder is a road-grader in the run game, but he's athletic enough to play in space as well. In fact, Warmack excels at pulling in the run game and pass-protecting.
A guard like Warmack can make a huge impact on an offense. He opens up the run game while eliminating interior pressure. Right now, Warmack looks like a mid-first-round pick.
Center: Barrett Jones, Alabama
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An incredibly versatile lineman, Barrett Jones is capable of playing any position along the offensive front. However, he projects best as a center and will likely play there in the NFL.
The 6'5", 310-pounder is a great athlete who can play in space or overpower defenders. There's no limit to his schematic versatility.
As a pure center, Jones isn't really elite. His versatility, however, pushes him over the top, ensuring his first-round status. What Jones lacks in elite upside he makes up for in his high probability of success.
Defensive End: Barkevious Mingo, LSU
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An undersized defensive end, Barkevious Mingo is a one-dimensional pass-rusher. Fortunately, Mingo is a truly dominant pass-rusher with huge upside.
The LSU star needs to bulk up in order to better defend the run, but his explosiveness and length make up for this weakness. Mingo's pass-rush repertoire is expansive, and his various moves are deadly.
While Mingo isn't exactly a safe pick, he has the potential to dominate. Rarely do players of Mingo's natural ability not make it in the NFL.
Defensive Tackle: Star Lotulelei, Utah
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Star Lotulelei has been criticized some for inconsistency, but he is an incredible talent. The 6'3", 325-pounder utilizes a rare combination of power and athleticism to dominate offensive linemen.
Capable of playing any interior line position, Lotulelei is coveted by teams of any defensive scheme. Lotulelei's dominance has caught many by surprise, and he is clearly a top prospect in the 2013 NFL draft.
It's hard to imagine Lotulelei falling outside of the top 10 due to both his versatility and raw ability. There isn't an NFL team he doesn't appeal to.
Outside Linebacker: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
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A pass-rushing linebacker, Jarvis Jones can play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Many have compared Jones to Von Miller, and he could make a similar impact in the NFL.
Jones' explosiveness and various pass-rush moves are often difficult to deal with. However, he has struggled some to beat more athletic offensive linemen, and he has little experience in coverage.
Jones has the potential to be a game-changing player. He also has some bust risk, but even with that risk, Jones is a legitimate top-10 pick.
Inside Linebacker: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
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If Manti Te'o had entered the 2012 NFL draft, he likely would have been a first-round pick. Te'o returned, though, and his stock remains just as strong.
At 6'3", 255 pounds, Te'o is a big, powerful linebacker who excels against the run. He's far from elite in coverage, but he isn't really bad there either.
As a pass-rusher, Te'o can make an impact. His best fit is likely in a 3-4 defense, though he can play in a 4-3. It's possible Te'o could still fall some, but he will likely be a mid-first-round pick.
Cornerback: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
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An excellent athlete with great size, Johnthan Banks is loaded with upside. His physical play and raw talent will appeal to many teams of differing schemes and preferences.
Because of his length, some have projected Banks to safety, but he is quick and smooth enough to stick on the outside. Though he doesn't have quite elite upside, he could be an excellent player.
Currently, Banks isn't as good of a prospect as either Morris Claiborne or Patrick Peterson from the past two drafts. He is still a legitimate first-round pick, though, and should come off the board early.
Safety: Eric Reid, LSU
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A good athlete with great size, Eric Reid is an all-around solid player. He isn't a huge playmaker by any stretch, but he rarely makes mistakes.
The 6'2", 210-pounder can patrol the deep middle of the field in coverage or play near the line of scrimmage in run support. This flexibility will appeal to many teams.
Reid probably isn't the top-10 pick some have made him out to be, but he is a first-rounder. There is a definite market for mistake-free players, especially at safety.