Time flies when you're having fun, something the NFL season is an annual testament to. It seems like just yesterday the season was kicking off in the Meadowlands, and just like that, only four teams are left standing.
So it's hardly too early to start looking at the 2013 NFL draft, which will take place April 25-27th at Radio City Music Hall.
The 2013 draft class has been lauded for its depth, but not necessarily for its star power. There are no sure-fire, immediate-impact skill position guys that have general managers stirring in their loins.
But there are a number of high-ceiling offensive prospects that, with a good showing over the next few months, could easily slip into the first round. And should they be drafted by the right team, there's no reason they come in and make a first-year difference.
Here's a look at how the draft might play out, with an emphasis on those very players.
Note: Highlighted players are pictured.
1. Kansas City Chiefs: DT Star Lotulelei, Utah
Is it too early to give up on Dontari Poe? Probably. Lotulelei has franchise-changing potential up the middle of a defense. Think everything that Ndamukung Suh brings to the table without everything he takes away from it. That's too good to pass up.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Moore has excelled since taking over for Von Miller as the anchor of Texas A&M's pass rush. With Jacksonville in desperate need of a sack artist, he could follow Miller's path to the second overall pick, too.
3. Oakland Raiders: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU
With prodigious height, weight and athleticism, Mingo is one of the most sought after commodities in the draft. Mingo has never been—and never will be—the high-volume sack master that, say, Jadeveon Clowney is. He's only totaled four QB takedowns all season, never putting up more than one in a game. Teams want to draft him despite that, thanks to his all-around effectiveness and ceiling.
4. Philadelphia Eagles: QB Geno Smith, West Virginia
Nick Foles looked serviceable after taking the reins in Philadelphia. Enough so that, in the eys of some, he's earned a shot at the full-time starting gig.
But serviceable won't be enough to get the Eagles back on their feet—especially with a new regime taking over the coaching staff.
Geno Smith will shoot up draft boards during his individual workouts and projects perfectly into Marty Mornhinweg's offense. He's got just enough athleticism to move the pocket, and more than enough accuracy to thrive in the league.
At West Virginia, he excelled at finding his explosive playmakers, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey, in open space. With the Eagles, he'll find similar weapons in DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin and LeSean McCoy
Look for shades of the old, game-breaking Eagles offense to return in Philly next year.
5. Detroit Lions: OLB Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Alabama corner Dee Milliner fits a need and could be considered too. But at the end of the day, Jones is the highest-rated player left on the board, and the Lions' woeful defense can't ignore his talent.
6. Cleveland Browns: DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Werner, a big, rugged German import is viewed as one of the safest picks in the draft. But don't think that means his upside isn't considerable. Cleveland's already-strong defense continues to get stronger with this one.
7. Arizona Cardinals: QB Matt Barkley, USC
I know, I know, I know. His senior season was a bust and a half. But there's a reason Barkley has been so highly touted his whole life to begin with. He's not Matt Leinart, either—Barkley is willing to put in work at the next level. He won't have any problem getting the ball to Larry Fitzgerald.
8. Buffalo Bills: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Even with the emergence of Cordy Glenn, Buffalo needs help at the tackle position. It might not be Ryan Fitzpatrick he's protecting, but Joeckel will make whomever the Bills' quarterback is thankful next season.
9 New York Jets: ILB Alec Ogletree, Georgia
More likely to address their quarterback problems through free agency, the Jets instead look toward shoring up their declining run defense. Ogletree is big, physical and athletic—everything Rex Ryan looks for in a linebacker.
10. Tennessee Titans: ILB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Did Te'o hurt his stock this much in the bowl game? Kind of. Alabama's offensive line is scary—future pros, the lot of them—but nothing compared to what Te'o will face in the league. His body of work still earns him a high selection, but Ogletree could slide past him as the top ILB.
11. San Diego Chargers: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
San Diego is in desperate need of a tackle, and Fisher could be just the remedy they seek. The Chargers are surely upset about Taylor Lewan's return to school, but Fisher—while not as safe of a pick—has the potential to be just as good.
12. Miami Dolphins: WR Keenan Allen, California
Allen is a bit of a reach, but as the draft's top receiver, he's too good for the Dolphins to pass up.
Because of the team's offensive woes, Ryan Tannehill has been overlooked in the historic 2012 QB class. Luck, Griffin and Wilson all earned their plaudits, no doubt, but Tannehill showed sporadic flashes of greatness too.
What he needs is a true, bona fide No. 1 receiver on the outside. Or, at the very least, someone with the potential to get there. Brian Hartline proved himself a viable weapon this season, but it's doubtful that he's that guy.
Allen's numbers took a hit in 2012, as the whole Cal team slogged its way to a 3-9 record. But his 98-catch, 1,343-yard sophomore season hints at how high his ceiling might be.
He and Tannehill could become a dangerous duo in 2013.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama
The Bucs couldn't be happier with this one, as the draft's consensus top corner falls right into their laps—probably a few spots later than he should, too. In 2012 they excelled in every facet of the game other than pass defense—where they were historically bad—so this would be an impact selection right from the get go.
14. Carolina Panthers: DT Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Oh, what they'd do to get their hands on Star Lotulelei. But drafting 14th, the Panthers will happily accept Hankins as a consolation prize. The gap-stuffer from Ohio State has been in rare form this season and (pun intended) fills a massive hole along Carolina's defensive line.
15. New Orleans Saints: DE Sam Montgomery, LSU
The Saints need to shore up the back third, and they will take a hard look at some secondary help. But realizing that Montgomery is the best player left on the board, they instead opt to shore up the pass rush, which should, in turn, make their secondary look better.
16. St. Louis Rams: OG Chance Warmack, Alabama
Warmack is a steal this late in the first round; he's about as close to a sure thing this draft his to offer. Without a discernible weakness, the Alabama guard becomes a much-needed building block along the Rams' shaky offensive lines.
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama
This pick would be Jake Matthews if he declared for the draft. But alas, the Texas A&M pile-mover is rumored to be leaning toward returning to school. Fluker isn't a bad consolation, though: He's got massive upside and could finally be the answer to the Steelers' problems at tackle.
18. Dallas Cowboys: DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
Dallas is soft up the middle on defense, something the Cowboys' new defensive coordinator, whoever it may be, surely won't tolerate. Williams isn't a sexy name, but he'll be a serviceable tackle for a long time.
19. New York Giants: CB Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State
This is a match made in heaven for the Giants, whose secondary has been super leaky in 2012. Banks is one of the hottest prospects in the draft, a big, physical corner who should be ready to play in Week 1.
20. Chicago Bears: OT Kyle Long, Oregon
Like Pittsburgh, the Bears are always trying to address their offensive line, and it never seems to work. And again, like Pittsburgh, they would love to see Jake Matthews enter the draft. And one more time, like Pittsburgh, they take a high-upside prospect who could ameliorate those problems.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: DE/OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon
The Bengals' defensive line has been good this year, but they could use another rusher from the outside. Jordan is versatile enough to line up all over the field, and he would give a good Bengals defense yet another weapon.
22. St. Louis Rams (via WAS): WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
The Rams go sexy with the first pick acquired in the Robert Griffin trade.
Patterson is a boom-or-bust prospect, but that boom is of the 'sonic variety. Sam Bradford desperately needs playmakers on the outside, where a combination of Chris Givens and Brandon Gibson has hardly gotten the job done.
At Tennessee he shared the spotlight with fellow first-round prospect Justin Hunter. And although it was Hunter who put up the better numbers, Patterson is the one whose physical tools have NFL scouts drooling.
If Patterson pans out, he and Bradford could form a dynamic tandem for years to come.
23. Minnesota Vikings: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Even with Harrison Smith in tow, the Vikings could always use help in the secondary. Especially when Jamarca Samford is starting next to him. Vaccaro is the best safety in the draft, he and would help fortify Minnesota's porous back third.
24. Indianapolis Colts: DE/OLB Corey Lemonier, Auburn
Needing help all over the defensive side of the ball, Indy opts to go with one of the draft's most versatile players. Lemonier can realistically play standing up or with his hand down, adding a valuable piece to a Colts defense that desperately needs one.
25. Seattle Seahawks: TE Zach Ertz, Stanford
Seattle is sound all over the field, but it could use more of a pass-catching threat at tight end. Ertz has more than filled the shoes of Coby Fleener at Stanford this year, and he would be a welcome addition to the burgeoning Seahawks offense.
26. Green Bay Packers: DE/OLB Enzekiel Ansah, BYU
Ansah is raw and unpolished, but has the physical tools to dominate in the NFL. The Packers' pass rush has disappeared in spells due to injury this year, and Ansah would be a nice depth selection. Learning from the likes of Clay Matthews could help him reach his recherche potential, too.
27. Houston Texans: WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Matt Schaub needs a reliable option other than Andre Johnson. Rookie Keshawn Martin was hyped during training camp, but he has failed to emerge as such a player. Tavon Austin his NFL slot receiver written all over him, and he could walk from one explosive offense (West Virginia) to another in Houston
28. Denver Broncos: DT Kawann Short, Purdue
Short has been inconsistent during his tenure in West Lafayette, but when he's on he's shown rare pass-rushing ability up the middle. The Broncos need help in the defensive interior, and they are willing to bank on his potential.
29. Baltimore Ravens: OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
The Ravens' interior blocking has been a mess for a while now. They went after the Eagles' Evan Mathis this offseason, but they weren't able to pilfer him from Philly. Cooper is a great value this late in the round, and he probably starts from day one.
30. San Francisco 49ers: DT Johnathan Jenkins, Georgia
What do you give the team that has everything? Depth, I guess. Jenkins is probably the best player left on the board, and fits perfectly into the Niners' 3-4 system. He's a huge body who could eventually become a starter and impact player in the middle of their defense.
31. New England Patriots: DT Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
In need of depth behind Vince Wilfork, the Pats are lucky to find a guy as talented as Richardson this late in the round. In any other draft, the Missouri product might be off the board earlier. But in a draft so strong along the defensive line, he falls to New England and makes Bill Belichick happy enough to almost crack a smile.
32. Atlanta Falcons: TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Despite his recent play, Tony Gonzalez won't be around forever. The Falcons need to duly prepare for his inevitable aging, and drafting Eifert is the right way to do that. Learning under Gonzalez's tutelage, the Notre Dame product could become an impact player at the NFL level.
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