Top 25 Offensive Prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIJanuary 1, 2013

Top 25 Offensive Prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft

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    The defensive side of the ball is where most of the top prospects in the 2013 NFL draft class can be found. But for many teams this April, the top priority will be adding players who can help them score points.

    Whether that be rebuilding the offensive line, adding playmakers who can run and catch or attempting to find a new franchise quarterback, there are plenty of top prospects who could be early-round draft picks.

    From Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel to Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert and West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, here's how I rank the top offensive prospects in the draft from No. 25 to No. 1.

    These rankings are based on how each player grades out based on their on-field play. They are not indicative of the order in which these players will be drafted.

25. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

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    Andre Ellington is not a three-down running back, but he could be dynamic in a two- or three-back committee system.

    Listed at only 5’9” and 195 pounds, Ellington doesn't have much power, but he has great acceleration out of the backfield. His quickness in the open field allows him to to evade tacklers and turn simple running plays into big gains.

    Ellington is also a good receiver out of the backfield. And even though he is small, he is fairly effective as a blocker in blitz pickup.

    He projects as a third-down back at the next level and should be a late second- or third-round selection.

24. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia (Jr.)

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    In one of the weakest quarterback classes in years, the one signal-caller who has not gotten enough national attention is Georgia’s Aaron Murray. While he is no lock to enter the 2013 NFL draft, he has the potential to be a solid starting quarterback at the next level.

    Murray is a skilled pocket passer with a strong arm, has great downfield accuracy and touch, good footwork and is a good decision-maker. He ranked second in the NCAA in passing efficiency this season.

    At 6'1", he does not have ideal measurables for a quarterback. But with sound mechanics and his ability to throw the ball downfield, his height shouldn’t be much of a deficiency.

    He still needs to get better at throwing the ball under duress and limiting his mistakes in such situations.

    But if he enters the 2013 NFL draft, with a high demand for quarterbacks, he could go in the first round.

23. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

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    The biggest knock on Montee Ball as a running back is that there is nothing particularly special about him. Conversely, he has no real deficiencies.

    He's been tremendously productive as a collegian, rushing for 3,653 yards and 54 touchdowns over his junior and senior seasons (entering Tuesday's Rose Bowl game versus Stanford).

    Ball doesn’t have game-breaking speed or great power, but he is a consistent runner who hits the hole hard and has great vision and the quickness to make defenders miss. He tends to get stronger over the course of a game, making him the best candidate among running backs in the 2013 draft class to be a feature back in the NFL.

    Ball won’t blow anyone away at the NFL Scouting Combine, which could keep him out of the first two rounds. But he has a well-rounded skill set and is a strong and determined runner.

    His college production should translate to continued success at the next level.

22. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford (Jr.)

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    One year after Coby Fleener was the first tight end drafted and the No. 34 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, Zach Ertz could also be one of the first two tight ends selected in the first two rounds if he declares as a junior.

    Ertz had a breakout season that earned him All-American honors, and he may be the most well-rounded tight end in the 2013 draft class.

    Ertz is not an explosive athlete, but he is a skilled receiver who can be a reliable intermediate weapon and a vertical downfield target. At listed measurables of 6’6” and 252 pounds, Ertz has ideal size for the position, and in addition to being a productive receiver, he is also a good in-line blocker.

    For a team looking for a more traditional tight end who can also add another weapon to its passing offense, Ertz should be near the top of their board.

21. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

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    Arkansas had three wide receivers drafted in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, but they should have one receiver selected even higher in 2013. Cobi Hamilton is one of the best downfield receiving threats in the draft class, coming off a senior season that was filled with big plays.

    Hamilton is a fast receiver who consistently displayed against some of the nation’s best defenses in the SEC that he can separate from defensive backs and make big plays down the field. He also has good open-field quickness to earn yards after the catch and the body control to make spectacular catches.

    Drops can be an issue at times for Hamilton, and he is raw as a route-runner. But for a team in need of a downfield weapon, Hamilton could be a big addition.

    He stands as a potential second-round pick.

20. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

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    Coming from a mid-major program at Central Michigan, Eric Fisher is an underappreciated player, but he is one of the best offensive tackle prospects in the 2013 draft class.

    Fisher is a skilled pass-blocker who has ideal measurables for a left tackle at 6’8” and 305 pounds, and he is a good athlete for his size. He has good agility for an offensive lineman, which makes him effective at handling speed-rushers off the edge.

    Fisher is still developing as a run-blocker, but his upside is high.

    In a year where many teams are in need of rebuilding their offensive lines, Fisher could end up working his way into the late first round.

19. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (R-So.)

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    Giovani Bernard has only played two seasons of college football, but he has already declared his intention to declare for the 2013 NFL draft. He is ready to move onto the next level.

    Bernard is an explosive runner with great speed and quickness. He could be the first running back selected.

    Bernard's quickness, vision and speed to create big plays when he finds an opening make him a hot commodity. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield and a great punt returner.

    Bernard isn’t a power back, but in a two-back system where he gets around 15 carries per game, he could be a terrific weapon both between the tackles and on the outside.

    He projects as a likely second-round pick.

18. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee (Jr.)

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    Cordarrelle Patterson has Giovani Bernard beat. As a junior college transfer, he has only played one season of major college football, but he showed enough to make himself one of the top wide-receiver prospects for the 2013 NFL draft.

    Patterson immediately emerged as a big-play weapon at Tennessee. He has a terrific combination of size and speed, tracks the ball as well as any wideout in this draft class and has the ability to separate from defensive backs downfield and make defenders miss with his quickness in the open field.

    Patterson was somewhat inconsistent in his lone season as a Volunteer and lacks polish as a route-runner. But he has the upside to be as good as any wide receiver in this draft class.

    He is a likely second-round pick.

17. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

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    Without Robert Griffin III passing the ball or Kendall Wright drawing coverages across from him, Terrance Williams had to prove whether he was a top wide receiver prospect in his senior season. By leading the nation in receiving yards, he certainly did that.

    Williams is a big-play receiver—he led all of college football with 34 receptions of 20 or more yards—and he accomplishes that with explosive acceleration off the line and great downfield speed. He has good size and the ability to separate deep against defensive backs. He also can make plays over the middle.

    Occasional drops and difficulties running intermediate routes are areas where Williams needs to improve, but he can contribute immediately in the NFL as a field-stretching playmaker.

    He is a likely early second-round pick.

16. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (Jr.)

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    Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the most complete running back in the 2013 draft class. With a combination of size, power, speed and quickness, Lacy is dangerous both between and outside the tackles.

    Lacy can run over defenders, and he can also run by and away from them. He has good open-field moves and receiving ability for a 220-pound back, and his combination of acceleration and power makes him a hard back to take down once he gets his momentum going.

    Given the great number of players who can play the position and short shelf life of NFL running backs, they shouldn’t be first-round picks unless they are truly star talents.

    Lacy isn’t quite a star, but if any back ends up in the late first round, he would be the best choice.

15. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee (Jr.)

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    Justin Hunter is a true downfield weapon with the most upside of any wide receiver in the draft class. Hunter has a terrific combination of size, speed and leaping ability, making him a threat to make catches over defenders and to separate from them deep downfield.

    Hunter had a productive junior season, catching 73 passes for 1,083 yards. But while he can make spectacular catches and game-changing plays, he has had issues with drops and is not a strong route-runner.

    Hunter will need to develop to become an all-around No. 1 wideout at the next level, which makes him a fringe first-round pick. But he has the potential to be an immediate weapon and a star receiver as his game develops.

14. Keenan Allen, WR, California (Jr.)

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    There is a lot to like about Keenan Allen as an NFL wide receiver prospect. With great size, consistent hands, crisp route-running and good athleticism, Allen is regarded by most draft prognosticators as the top wideout in the draft class.

    Allen is a reliable receiver with the size (6'3", 210 pounds) to be a matchup problem. He is a playmaker in the short, intermediate and downfield passing games. He projects as more of a possession receiver than a big playmaker, however, as he does not have great downfield speed or open-field moves.

    Allen is also coming off a knee injury that cost him the final three games of his senior season. But if he is healthy during pre-draft testing, he has a great likelihood of ending up as a first-round pick.

13. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

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    As one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL draft class, Geno Smith may well end up as the No. 1 overall pick in April. Smith, however, is far from a bona fide franchise quarterback prospect. If it were not for the inflated value of quarterbacks in the draft, he would instead be a late first-round pick.

    There is a lot to like about Smith’s game. He is a skilled pocket passer who consistently throws the ball accurately downfield. He has a strong arm, good mechanics and good athleticism.

    There are also some major flaws in his game that make him risky as a high first-round selection. He makes poor decisions and takes too many sacks under pressure, has very little experience with lining up under center and often stares down his first read.

    He has all the tools to be a great NFL quarterback, but he is going to be a work in progress rather than an immediate fix at the next level.

12. Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    Matt Barkley’s draft stock has taken a huge hit because of an extremely disappointing senior season, leaving many to question whether he will even be a first-round pick.

    But even though Barkley hasn’t proven to be the elite quarterback prospect he was expected to be, he is still one of the top quarterbacks in the 2013 NFL draft class and should end up as a first-round pick at the end of the process.

    Some significant flaws were exposed in Barkley’s game this year. He was mistake-prone when put under pressure, and his arm strength is subpar by NFL standards. But while the criticism his play has received has been deserved to an extent, he is also a victim of over-scrutiny and is still capable of developing into a very good starting quarterback.

    Barkley is an accurate passer from the pocket, has good footwork, is mechanically sound and good at going through his progressions and making reads. He would be a risky high first-round selection, especially if he goes to a team that does not have good weapons or pass protection around him. But he can thrive in the right system.

11. Tavon Austin, WR/RB, West Virginia

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    It’s not often that a 5’9”, 174-pound wide receiver is a first-round pick, but Tavon Austin is a likely exception with good reason. Although small, he is the most dynamic offensive playmaker in the 2013 NFL draft class.

    With exceptional quickness and elusiveness, great route-running ability and outstanding vision that make him a threat both as a wideout and coming out of the backfield, Austin is a player who can be used in a myriad of ways in an NFL offense. While he is not a vertical outside receiver, he could be an elite slot receiver while also being an option as a complementary running back and as a kickoff and punt returner.

    As an NFL player, Austin should be somewhere between that of Randall Cobb and Darren Sproles. For an offense in need of a game-changer to keep the defense on its heels, he could be an instant difference-maker.

10. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

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    Like Matt Barkley and USC, Tyler Wilson and his Arkansas Razorbacks had a disappointing season, and his draft stock slipped as a result. Even so, Wilson is the closest thing this draft class has to a franchise quarterback prospect.

    Wilson is a good downfield pocket passer, with a good arm and downfield accuracy, sound mechanics and good pocket presence. While there is no immediate fix at quarterback in the 2013 draft class, Wilson is the safest bet to at least be a solid starter.

    Like the other top quarterbacks, he needs to develop significantly in certain areas. He needs to cut down on his mistakes, as he has a tendency to force too many passes, and he does not have much experience lining up under center.

    He may not have elite tools, but he is a sound passer who should benefit from an NFL system where he is likely to have better weapons around him than he did at Arkansas in his senior season.

9. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

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    Jonathan Cooper was a first-team All-American in his senior season with good reason. A powerful 310-pound guard, Cooper was dominant as both a pass-protector and run-blocker at North Carolina and should continue to do well in both areas at the next level.

    Cooper moves well for an interior lineman and can handle both speed- and power-rushers. With the best feet of any interior-line prospect in the draft class, he is tremendous at opening holes as a pulling guard, and he also has the straight-ahead power to drive defensive linemen off the line.

    Cooper could be an immediate NFL starter at either left or right guard and should be a late first-round pick.

8. Robert Woods, WR, USC (Jr.)

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    Robert Woods won’t be considered a great downfield receiving target, because he lacks prototypical measurables for a top NFL wide receiver. But he has everything else that an NFL team should covet in a pass-catcher.

    Woods is an exceptional route-runner, has tremendous hands and great open-field quickness. He is a physical receiver who is good at making catches in traffic. While he isn’t going to beat defensive backs in one-on-one coverages running straight down the field, he is tremendous at getting open and can make defenders miss with the ball in his hands.

    Woods can line up as either an outside or slot receiver and immediately become a go-to weapon in an NFL offense. He should be one of the first wide receivers off the board.

7. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (Jr.)

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    Among vertical-threat wideouts in the 2013 NFL draft class, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins may be the best. Overshadowed by Sammy Watkins before this season, Hopkins broke out as one of the nation’s best wideouts as a junior. He has a complete skill set.

    Hopkins is a good downfield receiver who has an explosive burst off the line of scrimmage and good long speed. He has reliable hands, is a smooth route-runner and has the moves to beat defenders in the open field.

    Hopkins doesn’t have great height or leaping ability, but while he may not be a jump-ball receiver, he can be an instant playmaker both downfield and as an intermediate receiver at the next level.

    He should be a first-round draft pick.

6. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (Jr.)

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    Tyler Eifert fits the modern prototype of a “basketball player” tight end. With great size, the speed to separate downfield and great leaping ability, Eifert is a big playmaker as a downfield receiving threat over the middle and could be an immediate impact player on an NFL offense.

    Eifert creates matchup nightmares with his size (6'5") and athleticism, and he has reliable hands. He is a solid but not overpowering run-blocker.

    Assuming he enters the 2013 NFL draft, which he likely will, Eifert is the best skill-position prospect in the class. With the current trend of big, athletic tight ends making an impact in the NFL, Eifert should be a first-round selection.

5. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)

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    While the 2013 NFL draft class is not loaded with top skill-position prospects, it has a strong class of offensive linemen. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews isn’t even the best offensive tackle on his team, but he is still one of the top prospects in the 2013 NFL draft.

    Matthews plays right tackle for the Aggies, but he has the skill set to make a natural transition to left tackle at the next level. Matthews has great length and size, gets great leverage and has terrific feet. He is good at handling pass-rushers around the edge and is a strong run-blocker.

    Drafting Matthews to be a left tackle may be a projection, but he could be an immediate starter at right tackle, while having the potential to be terrific as a premier pass-protector on the blind side.

    With many teams drafting early needing offensive tackles, Matthews will almost certainly be a top-20 draft choice.

4. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (Jr.)

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    Taylor Lewan isn’t quite Jake Long, the former Michigan left tackle who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, but he isn’t far off. Lewan is a well-rounded offensive tackle with great technique, strength and footwork. He can be an immediate starter for an NFL team.

    Lewan isn’t a terrific athlete for a left tackle, but he is a steady pass-protector and a powerful run-blocker. He does a good job shielding the edge to keep pass-rushers at bay, and he can drive defensive linemen back to open holes in the run game.

    Whether Lewan ends up on the left or right side of an NFL offensive line remains to be seen. But he projects to be capable of playing either position.

    He is well worth a top-20 draft choice.

3. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama

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    Chance Warmack may not go as high as he should because of the position he plays. But he is the best pure guard prospect in the draft class and one of the surest bets from the class to be a great NFL player.

    Warmack is a massive guard at 322 pounds, and he backs up that size with great strength and power that make him a mauling run-blocker. What makes him special, however, is that he combines that power with very good feet and athleticism for his size, making him a terrific pulling guard and also a very solid pass-blocker.

    The team that drafts Warmack, likely somewhere in the middle of the first round, should get a longtime starter at one of their guard spots.

2. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama

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    Versatility is an important trait for every prospect, and there may not be a prospect at any position with more impressive versatility than Barrett Jones. A two-time All-American offensive lineman at Alabama, Jones has played all five spots on the offensive line for the Crimson Tide—and has succeeded everywhere he’s played.

    Jones’ two seasons as an All-American came in drastically different roles. He played left tackle as a junior, and center as a senior. He doesn’t have the length or athleticism to play left tackle at the next level, but he is a terrific interior-line prospect who could play any spot inside and possibly even kick out to right tackle.

    Jones is consistent inside as both a run- and pass-blocker, and he is a smart, experienced lineman. He is better at guard than he is at center, but is still the best center prospect in a weak class at that position.

    What will make him attractive to so many NFL teams is his potential to fill holes at four positions on an offensive line and switch positions if needed.

    Jones is a polished lineman who is ready to start on an NFL offensive line. His versatility will make him valuable to whichever team drafts him.

    That should certainly make him a first-round pick.

1. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M (Jr.)

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    There are no truly elite offensive prospects in the 2013 NFL draft, but the closest to earning that designation is Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel.

    At the most valued position on the offensive line, Joeckel is a terrific all-around prospect with the potential to be an NFL star for many years to come. He is the clear-cut best offensive prospect in the draft class.

    Joeckel is an outstanding pass-protector with the length and athleticism to handle even the most explosive pass-rushers. He doesn't have great power or strength, but he gets terrific leverage and is quick off the snap, which leads him to winning many battles as a run-blocker. He uses his athleticism to get out in space and block outside the hash marks and/or downfield for runners.

    Joeckel should be the first offensive lineman off the board in April and is unlikely to make it past the top five picks in the draft.