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Top 25 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Provide Instant Offense

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2013

Top 25 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Provide Instant Offense

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    Looking for a prospect to provide an immediate boost to your team's offense? You've come to the right spot. Here are the top 25 prospects who are most likely to provide some instant offense for their future employer. 

    Keep in mind, this isn't necessarily a list of the top 25 offensive prospects, it's simply the ones most likely to provide an immediate spark in 2013. 

1. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame

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    Tight ends don't often come to mind when you think of "instant offense," but this is a new era of football. Over the past few years, we've seen an increase in the number of pure pass-catching tight ends and Eifert is the next potentially elite talent to enter the NFL draft. 

    Eifert lacks the elite athleticism of some of the new-age tight ends that have emerged in recent years but has a nice blend of size and athleticism, similar to Jason Witten.

2. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

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    Due to his lack of size, Austin is unlikely to be the top receiver on any draft boards this offseason. But he does have a unique skill set which could make him among the most effective rookies in 2013. 

    Austin reminds me of Vikings receiver Percy Harvin, and he could play a similar hybrid running back/receiver role for his future NFL team. 

3. Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

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    Ertz is another tight end who will make an immediate impact at the next level due to his blend of size and athleticism. At 6'6" and over 250 pounds, he has the size to be an elite possession receiver at the next level. 

    He only has one year of experience as Stanford's go-to tight end (he played behind Coby Fleener), but he emerged as one of the nation's premier tight ends as a junior and led Stanford with 69 receptions. 

4. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon

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    Barner may lack the size to ever carry the load at the next level, but creative offensive coordinators looking to jump-start their offense will be intrigued by his athleticism. 

    Any team looking for a change-of-pace back to give defenses something extra to plan for should be interested in Barner's services in the second or third round. 

5. Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

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    Due to Florida's struggles in the passing game this season, Reed has flown under the radar as a draft prospect and was a somewhat surprising early entry. 

    Reed lacks the elite size of most pass-catching tight ends (he's listed at 6'3") but could be the most athletic in this year's draft class. He compares favorably to former Gator Aaron Hernandez. 

6. DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson

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    Hopkins emerged as Tajh Boyd's most effective weapon this year and now has a chance to parlay that success into a spot in the first round.

    Hopkins lacks elite height and speed, but should be able to make an immediate impact due to his reliable hands. He's an aggressive receiver who will fight for the ball in traffic, and if he's able to get his hands on the ball, you can count on him to come down with it. For that reason, he should become a reliable target early in his career. 

7. Keenan Allen, WR California

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    Allen will likely be the top receiver on a few draft boards and has a chance to come off the board within the top 20 picks. 

    While he lacks the elite talent to be a star from day one, Allen does have the size and speed to make an impact immediately. His best chance to make an early impact would be to land with a team where he can be the No. 2 receiver (Houston, perhaps) and be placed into positions to maximize his abilities. 

8. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama

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    It's hard not to draw comparisons between Lacy and Mark Ingram, in both positive and negative ways. 

    Like Ingram, Lacy is an old-school downhill runner who lacks the athleticism to make guys miss. For this reason, he may never be a true feature back at the next level. However, Lacy also possesses the ability to pick up the tough yardage which will make him a valuable piece of an NFL offense early in his career.

    Lacy would be a perfect complement to a faster, more athletic running back to create a thunder-and-lightning backfield.  

9. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor

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    Williams has quietly emerged as the top senior receiver in this year's draft class and could sneak into the late first round.

    While he doesn't stand out in any one area, Williams is the complete package. He reminds me of a young Andre Johnson and would actually be a perfect fit as a second option behind Johnson in Houston.

10. Levine Toilolo, TE, Stanford

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    Listed at 6'7", Toilolo is a matchup nightmare. He lacks the elite athleticism of a Jimmy Graham, which will limit his upside slightly, but NFL offensive coordinators covet players who can create mismatches and Toilolo fits that description perfectly. 

    Even if he's nothing more than a red-zone weapon as a rookie, Toilolo will make his presence felt at the next level.

11. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

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    I wouldn't bet on Swope to ever turn in a 1,000-yard season at the next level, but he could put together a solid 10-year career as a slot receiver. 

    Swope is a prototypical possession receiver who will fight for yardage after the catch. He reminds me of Davone Bess, who has excelled in that role in Miami over the past few seasons. 

12. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

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    Patterson, a former JUCO transfer, is too raw to be placed much higher on this list but his combination of size and athleticism will make him a weapon from the time he sets foot on an NFL field. 

    While his rookie numbers will likely be modest, Patterson should turn in a handful of big plays to make his presence felt.

13. Stepfan Taylor, RB, Stanford

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    Taylor isn't the most exciting running back to watch, but he is the most consistent. Perhaps the most impressive note on Taylor's résumé is the fact that he duplicated his impressive junior year in 2012 despite losing offensive linemen David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin to the NFL.

    He definitely won't tear it up at the combine, but Taylor should have no problem stepping into an NFL locker room and proving he's capable of carrying the load. 

14. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

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    Bernard is a candidate to be the first running back off the board, but he lacks the physical running style of a feature back which pushes him down this list slightly. 

    As a finesse runner, Bernard has big-play ability but may prove to be a disappointment at the next level if his future employer is expecting him to be effective for 20-25 carries per game. 

    He reminds me of Kendall Hunter, who has been a solid change-of-pace back behind Frank Gore in San Francisco. 

15. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

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    Patton toyed with WAC defensive backs in 2012 and put up some impressive numbers in Louisiana Tech's high-flying offense. 

    He'll need to prove he has the speed to create separation at the next level, but if Patton answers that question at the combine, he will quickly rise up draft boards.

16. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

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    Ellington could be the next Darren Sproles or Leon Washington, but he lacks the size and strength to be anything more. In a limited role he can make an impact as a change-of-pace back, but at 5'9", 190 pounds, he simply lacks the ability to take a pounding as the feature back. 

    If Ellington develops as as a receiver (he had just 14 receptions in 2012), he could see an increased role, but it's tough to imagine him getting more than eight-10 touches per game in the early stages of his career.

17. Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State

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    Bell is a the new T.J. Duckett.

    Like Duckett, Bell lacks the ability to make guys miss which will limited his effectiveness at the next level, but he is an elite short-yardage back and should quickly emerge as a touchdown vulture in fantasy leagues. 

18. Robert Woods, WR, USC

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    Once considered a first-round lock, Woods was exposed this season in terms of his limitations as a receiver. While he now looks like a second- or third-round prospect, Woods still has the tools to make an immediate impact at the next level. 

    Woods' greatest contributions at USC came after the catch, a skill which translates well to the NFL and should allow him to be an effective third option in an NFL offense. 

19. Denard Robinson, WR/RB, Michigan

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    It's tough to predict where Robinson's impact will be since some teams will view him as a receiver and others as a running back. But it's safe to assume someone will find a spot for him in their offensive game plan. 

    Personally, I like Robinson as a running back. He was essentially a running back at Michigan and caught just three passes during his college career. So why not use him where he can make the most immediate impact? 

20. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

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    Smith is the only quarterback to make this list, and I struggled with whether to include him. 

    While Smith has a high bust factor, he deserves a place on this list due to the possibility that an offensive coordinator designs a system perfectly suited for his skill set. We've seen quarterbacks with limitations such as Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III find immediate success due to the scheme in which they played. And although Smith's talent isn't at that level, he does have the tools to be successful at the next level. 

21. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin

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    Ball is a polarizing figure in the 2013 NFL draft class. Some view his collegiate success as a sign that he's destined for greatness at the next level. Others view his 983 touches in college and history of concussions as a serious red flag. 

    Regardless of Ball's viability as a feature back at the next level he clearly has the tools to be effective, even if it's only in a backup role. 

22. Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas

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    Due to his modest athleticism, Hamilton's upside is limited. But he emerged as Tyler Wilson's go-to receiver in 2012 due to his reliable hands and strong route running, making him a candidate to develop into a steady possession receiver at the next level. 

    Hamilton's upside is limited to a second or third option, but if he lands on a veteran roster he could contribute immediately in a reserve role. 

23. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

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    Wheaton entered 2012 as a fringe prospect but established himself as one of the top senior receivers in this year's draft class with a breakout campaign. 

    And Wheaton's rise may not be finished. With a strong showing at the combine, Wheaton could demonstrate the ability to be one of the few deep threats in this year's class. 

24. Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee

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    If this were a list about raw talent, Hunter would be No. 1. But it's not, so he falls down the board based on a terribly inconsistent college career, a history of injuries and a reputation as a player who loses focus on the field. 

    Hunter will undoubtedly turn in a few highlight-reel plays in 2013, but he has shown nothing to demonstrate an ability to consistently be an impact player. He needs to mature and develop the basic fundamentals of the position before he can reach his full potential. 

25. Joseph Randle, RB, Oklahoma State

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    Randle is one of a number of running backs on this list who could come off the board in the second or third round. He lands lower on the list due to the fact that he lacks a unique quality (elite speed or size), which limits the likelihood of him contributing in a reserve role. 

    Depending on where he lands, Randle could emerge as a candidate to win a starting job. However, he could also find himself stuck behind a veteran and struggle to earn playing time early in his career. 

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