Who's going to be this year's Andrew Luck?
That is the question on every NFL fan's mind. Now that 2013 is officially here, the NFL regular season has hereby ended and we finally have some cold, hard evidence to support our analyses of last year's top draft picks, it's time to look ahead and figure out who the major rookie playmakers of 2013 are going to be.
And while 2012 was the Year of the Rookie Quarterback, the 2013 prospects are going to have a hard time living up to what their predecessors were able to do this season.
Nevertheless, here's a look at the top offensive talent on the 2013 board and where those prospects are likely to land.
QB Geno Smith
Projection: Kansas City Chiefs (1)
In the aftermath of everything that happened to the Chiefs in 2012, they're in the midst of an overhaul. Already, head coach Romeo Crennel has been fired, and though general manager Scott Pioli is still around for now, his future is far from certain.
Neither Matt Cassel nor Brady Quinn was particularly effective in 2012, leaving the Chiefs once again searching for the quarterback of the future—something they've done far too often of late. And in light of all of the hype stirred up by rookie QBs in 2012, they aren't going to be able to resist the best one on the board in 2013 when they have the top pick in the draft.
West Virginia's Geno Smith has had a great couple of years in his junior and senior seasons, but 2012 was particularly excellent for him.
He threw for 4,201 yards and a career-high 42 touchdowns with a career-high 71.2 completion percentage. Though the Mountaineers endured a brutal five-game losing streak midseason and dropped their bowl game to Syracuse, Smith was a bright spot and will be impossible for Kansas City to pass up.
WR Keenan Allen
Projection: Miami Dolphins (12)
Slowly but surely, the Miami Dolphins are starting to put the pieces together. It seems that they have their quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who—though not quite up there with the Lucks, Griffins and Wilsons—had an OK rookie campaign. He led Miami to a not-terrible 7-9 record, good for second in a weak AFC East, and threw for 3,294 yards and 12 touchdowns.
What Tannehill and the Dolphins need now is a stellar wide receiver. Last season, their passing offense ranked 26th in the league and wideouts caught just 13 touchdowns. Compare that to teams like New Orleans, New England and Denver, whose wide receivers caught upwards of 34 TDs.
Perhaps Cal's Keenan Allen is Miami's answer. The Bears didn't have a decent season by any stretch of the imagination, but Allen did, finishing with 737 yards and six touchdowns. Plus, at 6'3" and 210 pounds, he could present a nice matchup problem for defensive backs.
QB Matt Barkley
Projection: Arizona Cardinals (7)
2012 wasn't the year Matt Barkley expected to have. The Trojans entered the season ranked No. 1 in the nation, but a series of bad losses toward the end of the season did them in—and they couldn't even pull off a win in the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.
But in the eyes of some, Barkley is still an offensive stud. He threw 36 touchdown passes, tied for fifth-most in the NCAA, and he threw for 3,273 yards with a 63.6 completion percentage before suffering a shoulder injury that kept him out of the regular-season finale and the Sun Bowl.
Despite the fact that USC quarterbacks are starting to look like big old failures across the board in the NFL (hello, Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart), Barkley will still get someone to bite—and that someone appears to be Arizona with the seventh overall pick. The Cards had a terrible 2012, losing 11 of 12 down the stretch after starting the season 4-0, and their quarterback situation was a mess. Neither Kevin Kolb nor John Skelton proved to be what this team needed.
Barkley, in the long run, may not be either, but Arizona will gamble because of his potential.
He can stand to increase his stock over the course of the next few months in workouts and in interviews. But for now, he's still the second-best quarterback out there, and a team like the Cardinals will bite.