How 2013 Draft Class Will Re-Shape the NFL

Dan SnyderCorrespondent IDecember 24, 2012

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 03:  Tavon Austin #1 of the West Virginia Mountaineers catches a forty three yard touchdown pass against the TCU Horned Frogs during the game on November 3, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Last year's draft may, inevitably, become known as the year of the quarterback and replace the illustrious 1983 class at some point through time. 

But with no real lock at the signal-caller positions in 2013 and not a single running back rated as a first-round talent, the question begs as to what this year's class will be known for and how it can help the game?

Well, for starters, not only do I think this class could change the way teams draft receivers, but this could become known as the year of the receiver. 

With guys like Keeenan Allen, Tavon Austin and Terrence Williams slated as the top three pass-catchers, there's a lot of talent at the top. But none of these guys are projected to be top 20 picks. Even with that said, I think this year has one of the deepest receiving corps in recent memory. It just doesn't have one guy who stands out. 

In my opinion, guys like Robert Woods, Justin Hunter, Da'Rick Rogers and Stedman Bailey all have a shot to become household names in the NFL, based purely on talent alone. Add in late rounders like Ryan Swope, Tavarres King and DeVonte Christopher and this class has some serious skills. 

But this class could also present a changing of the guard in how teams look at first-round receivers. With the success of the Wes Welker's and Victor Cruz's,  slot receivers could become more of an option in the first round, ergo Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey who will both be taken between picks 20-45. 

Another way the 2013 draft could re-shape the league is because of the defensive versatility the players hold. 

Names like Star Lotulelei and Dion Jordan burst into my mind when the term "scheme versatility" is mentioned. Lotulelei could become the next Haloti Ngata and has the ability to move all across the defensive line in a 3-4 or 4-3. Jordan is a pure pass-rusher who may be best suited standing up at linebacker. 

Many of the college defensive ends who entered this draft will be asked to drop back in coverage and stand up in a 3-4 and a lot of these guys could be good at it. 

The 3-4 outside linebacker class is one of the deepest in recent memory, and for teams in need of pass-rushers, you came to the right place. Some projections show that as many as eight pass-rushing linebackers could be off the board by the end of the first round. Although that number is probably a little high, it's not out of the question. 

You have players like Jarvis Jones and Adrian Hubbard who are already scheme fits in the 3-4, but then the rest of the pack is littered with guys trying to make the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.

Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, Dion Jordan, Sam Montgomery, Barkevious Mingo and Alex Okafor could all be top 32 selections in April's draft. Couple that with late-round talent in Corey Lemonier, Cornellius Carradine and Sean Porter and you have the makings of some serious pass-rush talent in the class of 2013. 

Finally, the third way this class could re-shape the NFL is at the running back position and how we look at drafting backs in the future. 

Generations ahead could look back at 2013 and think "this is the year we started looking at running backs as we do now," because, really, the running back position is no longer at the offensive forefront. 

According to lead draft writer, Matt Miller's rankings, no running back received a first-round grade for this class. I would have to agree with him and, for the most part, it would take a special back for me to consider him a first-round talent.

Look at some of the best backs in the NFL today and ask yourself if a running back is worth your team's first-round pick. Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte were second-rounders. Jamaal Charles and Frank Gore were scooped up in the third round and Arian Foster didn't even get drafted.

Now, of course there's some first-rounders who are big-impact guys like Adrian Peterson. But, again, he's a special player with game-breaking ability and should certainly have been a first-rounder. But in a league where the majority of the teams are fading to a committee in the backfield, running backs aren't worth the high picks or price tags.

This April's draft will be less about finding a game-changer and more about finding a piece to someone's backfield. Eddie Lacy could add the thunder to someone's lightning while Kenjon Barner is about as explosive as they come, but lacks the ability to carry the load.

Every draft sets some sort of new benchmark, whether for good or bad, and 2013 will be no different. The players will go out and play and the best will survive, but there are a few positions that can change this game and the way we think about drafting, forever.