With less than three weeks until the Super Bowl, 28 NFL teams have begun focusing on the offseason. It may seem early, but the official scouting process is underway with a full schedule in the coming months.
This week will be the first set of collegiate All-Star Games, with the East-West Shrine game and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl taking place on Saturday, January 19th. These games will be followed up by the Senior Bowl on January 26th in Mobile, Alabama.
With the NFL Draft season about to kick into full swing, fans are gearing up to see how their teams can improve this offseason. Here we will examine three things every fan needs to know heading into the draft.
The 2012 NFL Draft class spoiled the league with one of the most impressive groups of young quarterbacks in history. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson all impressed as starters from day one. Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles also stepped up for their teams later in the season.
This year the crop of quarterbacks is considerably weaker with no clear prospect locked into the first overall slot. Geno Smith is the likely front-runner at this point, but the field is wide open for more developmental players to shoot up the board. Keep an eye for sleeper picks like Ryan Nassib, Zac Dysert and Mike Glennon to rise throughout the offseason.
There are clear strengths and weaknesses in every draft class; this year's greatest strength lies on the defense line. Whether it be with run-stuffing defensive tackles or dynamic edge pass-rushers, the 2013 defensive line class is poised to make an immediate impact in the NFL.
There is a plethora of talent at defensive tackle for the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. The top names to focus on at this point are Star Lotulelei (Utah), Jesse Williams (Alabama), Jonathan Hankins (Ohio State) and John Jenkins (Georgia). Other names too look out for on draft weekend include Sharif Floyd (Florida), Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), Kawann Short (Purdue) and Sylvester Williams (North Carolina).
The defense end class is also filled with players that are prepared to deliver on the next level. At the top of the board are Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Dion Jordan (Oregon), Sam Montgomery (LSU) and Alex Okafor (Texas). Some deeper names to keep an eye on are Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), Margus Hunt (SMU) and Morgan Breslin (USC).
At the end of 2012, the offensive line class was looking to be loaded with talent at the top of the draft. With a combination of impressive tackles and guards, the plane was set to see as many as eight prospects drafted in the first round. However the field has shifted in the last week with Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and Jake Matthews (Texas A&M) announcing their return for their senior seasons.
Despite the Loss of Lewan and Matthews, the 2013 class still features an elite left tackle prospect: Luke Joeckel. The Texas A&M standout is one of best pass protectors available in many years and will anchor the left side for one lucky team. Other impressive tackles this year will include Eric Fisher (Central Michigan), D.J. Fluker (Alabama) and Dallas Thomas (Tennessee).
The offensive guard class also includes some prominent athletes likely to hear their names called in the first round. Chance Warmack (Alabama) is the top prospect this year with an elite blend of raw strength and mobility. Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina) and Barrett Jones (Alabama) also have elite tools that will make them long-time contributors in the NFL.