15 Can't Miss Picks for the 2013 NFL Draft
Every year leading up to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., NFL scouts, coaches, media and fans start to ramp up NFL draft talk for that coming April. And every year as those same folks pick their favorite players, there are always a few players who simply stand above the rest.
The can’t-miss tag is placed on players who have not only had outstanding college careers but who NFL executives feel will fit into any offensive or defensive system. A can’t-miss player is one who is smart, tough, athletic and will have the respect of his teammates.
These players do not have many holes in their game or life. Most of these players are starters from Day 1 of their NFL career but even if they are not, they will contribute right away.
Not all can’t-miss players are first round selections, either. All the players on this list are top 100 prospects, but only 32 can be selected in the first round. Barring injury, all of these players will play in the NFL at least eight seasons.
These 15 players will impact the NFL in 2013.
No. 15 SMU DE Margus Hunt
Hunt is an incredible athlete who is just scratching the surface on his football ability. The former track and field star at SMU has only been playing football since 2009. Hunt had 17.5 career sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss for SMU.
For a player who is 6’8”, Hunt plays with good leverage. When he comes off the football low, Hunt has the overall body strength to knock the blocker off the line of scrimmage. Hunt has very long arms and when he locks out on the blocker, Hunt can control the block.
Hunt is a smart player. When he is double-teamed, he will grab both blockers to free up his teammates. Hunt is very strong and has great agility for a man his size. Hunt has strong hands and can get under the pads of his blocker.
Hunt is still learning pass-rush moves, but has so much natural ability, he will get sacks on quickness alone. Hunt gives great effort and will make tackles down the line of scrimmage.
Hunt is a NFL coach's dream. Hunt can play 4-3 defensive tackle or line up as a 3-4 defensive end. Hunt will tear up the Combine with his athletic numbers.
No. 14 Kansas State LB Arthur Brown
Brown led Kansas State with 100 tackles in 2012 and also produced seven tackles for loss. In his two seasons playing for the Wildcats, Brown had 201 total tackles. Brown is active and is always around the football. Though Brown is not the most physically imposing player, he uses his speed and football intelligence to make a lot of plays.
Brown is a fast, explosive linebacker who plays unrelenting. Brown plays with very good instincts and awareness. The former Miami Hurricane locates the football quickly and can sift through blockers quickly to close on the ball. Brown plays with very good leverage, with square shoulders to snap and shed the blocker.
Brown lacks bulk, but understanding this, he uses his speed to avoid blockers in close quarters and then will use exceptional closing quickness to make the tackle. Rarely is Brown blocked for very long. He is quick to disengage and get to the ball carrier.
Brown has excellent speed and covers a lot of ground, sideline to sideline. When Brown is unblocked, he is sure to make the tackle. Brown is excellent in pursuit.
Brown has the speed, foot quickness and flexibility in his hips to be outstanding in pass coverage. Brown is a plug and play type of player. Brown will be a starter at middle or weak-side linebacker for a NFL team in 2013.
No. 13 Syracuse QB Ryan Nassib
Quarterback Donovan McNabb had a great career at Syracuse but not as good as Nassib. Nassib threw for 3,749 yards as a senior, which is tops in school history for one season. In 2012, Nassib also broke the school record for touchdowns in a season with 26. The Pennsylvania native is Syracuse’s career passing yardage leader with 9,190 yards.
The right-handed passer is a strong-armed quarterback with enough foot quickness to work outside the pocket. Nassib has good accuracy and touch, especially on his intermediate throws. He has enough arm talent to make any throw in football. Nassib can throw the deep out and deep dig routes with velocity.
Nassib has mobility to avoid pressure in the pocket and uses that foot quickness to get out from under center and into his set up quickly. Nassib plays with poise and does not get rattled much. Nassib has the pocket presence to keep his eyes down field while avoiding the sack. Nassib has a quick release and throws an easy-to-catch pass.
Nassib is very good at reading through his progression and will not force the football into a covered receiver. Nassib will dump the football off and live to fight another down. Nassib is tough and has great leadership ability.
Nassib will stand out in the Senior Bowl and coaches will fall in love with his command of the offense. Nassib could very well be the second or third quarterback drafted in the 2013 NFL draft. The only quarterback to make this list, Nassib will wind up a starter in 2013 and will hold that job for years to come.
No. 12 Stanford OLB Chase Thomas
The senior led the Pac-12 in tackles for losses in 2012 and had 8.5 sacks on the season. In his Stanford career, Thomas had 226 tackles, 27.5 sacks and 50 tackles for losses. The Georgia native also accounted for 15 turnovers in his college career.
Thomas has the size and versatility to play inside or outside linebacker in the NFL. Thomas plays smart and hard. Thomas makes tackles all over the football field. Thomas plays with excellent awareness and possesses good read and react ability. He is a conscious player who can grasp the intricacies of the defense.
Thomas can line up over a tight end and will show good punch. Thomas can snap his hips and hold the point of attack with his leverage. Thomas uses his hands extremely well to snap and shed the blocker. Thomas has good short area quickness and can close on the football quickly. Thomas looks for contact and will deliver knockout blows. Thomas can play effectively on or off the line of scrimmage.
Thomas is very good as a pass rusher and uses a variety of pass-rush moves to close to the quarterback. In pass coverage, Thomas understands route progressions and gets himself in the right position to make the play. Thomas’ star will continue to climb from now until the 2013 NFL draft.
No. 11 Rutgers CB Logan Ryan
Ryan recorded seven interceptions the past two seasons and also is an exceptional tackler, finishing with 170 tackles in his Rutgers career. Logan is also a member of the Big East All-Academic Football Team.
Ryan is a good-sized cornerback who is impressive in press coverage. Ryan has the strength and length to jam and re-route the receiver at the line of scrimmage. Ryan has smooth hips and can transition from his back pedal to running effortlessly. Ryan is a savvy player who can run the route for the wide receiver.
Ryan is quick in his back pedal and gets his head around quickly to locate the football. Ryan can plant and drive in any direction out of his back pedal and has an impressive closing burst. Ryan has very good top-end speed and can recover if beaten deep.
Ryan is a very good tackler who will front up the ball carrier and make tackles with force. Ryan will stick his face in on the tackle and is not afraid of contact. Ryan is a physical player in all facets of the game and his toughness stands out.
His teammates rally around him and his play is infectious. Ryan is the type of player that will have an outstanding career at cornerback then can transition to safety later in his career.
No. 10 Oklahoma FS Tony Jefferson
In 2010, Jefferson was the Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year. Not a bad way to start a college career that would end after the 2012 season with 258 career tackles. In his three years in Norman, Jefferson produced eight interceptions and 18 tackles for a loss.
Jefferson was the leader of one of the best defenses in college football. Jefferson earned the respect of his coaches and peers by playing intelligent football. Jefferson has great leadership qualities and understands how to play in multiple defensive schemes.
Jefferson has the versatility to play deep in coverage or close to the line of scrimmage. Jefferson is an athletic player who plays with good alertness. Jefferson is quick to close on the football and is not afraid to go for the big hit. Jefferson looks for contact and wants to make the game-changing play.
Jefferson has good range and finds the football quickly off the quarterback’s hand. Jefferson has good speed and takes good pursuit angles. Jefferson has good hands and though he would rather knock the receiver out than make a play on the ball, he will produce interceptions.
Jefferson can play either free or strong safety. Jefferson will grasp the NFL playbook quickly and will win his teammates over with his toughness.
No. 9 West Virginia WR Tavon Austin
Austin is one of the most electrifying athletes to ever come out of college and his skill set transfers well to the wide-open passing attacks of the NFL. Though small in stature, Austin can be used all over the offensive formation and in the return game. As a senior in 2012, Austin had 2,910 all-purpose yards.
Austin is a threat to score from anywhere on the football field. Austin has world-class top end speed. His short area burst and quickness make him hard to tackle in the open field.
Austin is an excellent route runner. Austin uses his speed and quickness to set up his routes. With his low center of gravity, Austin gets in and out of his breaks with explosion.
Austin has very good hands and is very willing to go across the middle to make the tough catch. Though he is not physically strong, Austin can escape press coverage with his speed. Austin can be used out of the backfield as a running back as well. Austin is a very shifty runner who can cut on a dime.
Austin adds major value as a returner. Tavon can return both punts and kickoffs. Austin is a starter day one as a returner in the NFL and with the influx of offensive-minded head coaches; Austin will see plenty of time from the line of scrimmage. Austin could be a Pro Bowl player as a rookie.
No. 8 Cal WR Keenan Allen
Allen is Cal's all-time leader with 205 receptions while ranking third on the school's career list with 2,570 receiving yards. Allen had 17 touchdown catches in his Cal career. Allen also has shown the ability to handle kickoff return and punt return duties, which only adds to his can’t-miss value in the NFL.
Allen is a very precise route runner who sells his route effectively. Allen has outstanding hands and if the football is within his arm circumference, Allen will make the grab. Allen is a very good slant-route runner and has the toughness to go across the middle of the defense.
Allen is powerful off the line of scrimmage and is very rarely altered in his release. Allen is strong and is sneaky coming out of his breaks to give the defender just enough of a bump to create separation. Allen has amazing hand/eye coordination and picks the football up quickly out of his breaks.
Allen is a long strider so he does not appear to be fast, yet somehow he is always getting behind the secondary. Allen is a smooth athlete that is faster than he appears.
While Allen may not have world-class speed, he has enough to play in the NFL for as long as he is healthy. Allen is the most complete wide receiver in the 2013 NFL draft.
No. 7 Stanford TE Zach Ertz
Ertz ended his career at Stanford with 1,373 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns. Ertz was the Cardinal's top receiving threat in 2012. Ertz played in a pro-style offense so he is NFL ready and has the talent to be a Pro Bowl player for years.
Ertz is a very good athlete that plays with quick hands. His hands are soft and natural as a pass catcher. Ertz has excellent concentration and will snatch the football out of the air. Rarely does Ertz let the ball get to his body. Ertz has good jumping ability and will go up high to grab a pass.
Ertz is a solid route runner who runs good post and corner routes. Ertz plays well by feel and when he feels the defender in coverage, Ertz knows when and where to break off his route. Ertz is very adept to recognizing man vs. zone coverages.
As a blocker, Ertz is very good with his leverage and gaining the angle on the defender. Ertz is an outstanding positional blocker who can move his feet to seal the edge.
Ertz has good strength to sustain his block and works very hard to finish every block. Ertz is a better NFL prospect than his former teammate, Coby Fleener.
No. 6 Oklahoma OT Lane Johnson
Johnson is simply such a good athlete, football comes easy to him. Once the former high school quarterback gets into the NFL and can concentrate solely on football, his ascent will happen rapidly.
Johnson is a versatile athlete that can play either tackle position and did so at Oklahoma. Johnson is very light on his feet. Johnson is quick off the line of scrimmage and has good initial quickness.
Johnson is smooth in his pass pro set and slides off the football with good bend. Johnson has excellent lateral quickness and uses his feet well to mirror the pass rusher.
Johnson is quick with his pass pro punch, using jabs much like a boxer. Johnson is naturally strong and can hold the point of attack with pure power. Johnson has a good anchor and with good flexibility can root the defender off the spot.
Johnson is a good angle blocker in the run game. Johnson does have some technique issue to clean up, but his pure athletic ability and talent make him a starter as soon as he is drafted. Johnson may start his career at right tackle, but Johnson has all the tools to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL.
No. 5 Alabama DT Jesse Williams
Williams is not the type of player that will wow people with his statistics. But NFL scouts and coaches know just how valuable players like Williams are at the next level. Williams did not even record two sacks in his college career, yet he was the anchor to the best rush defense in the country.
Williams is one of the strongest players in the draft. Williams is tough, smart and understands leverage. Williams has extremely strong hands and works to keep the hands of the blocker off his body.
Williams has good lower body strength and snap. With his strength, Williams can stun the blocker with his hand usage. Williams gives good effort and will make plays down the line of scrimmage.
Williams will never be an elite pass rusher, but he can eat up two blockers and allow his teammates to pressure the quarterback. Williams does not have many pass-rush moves but can press the pocket with bull rushes.
When double-teamed, Williams becomes more of a space-eater. As a tackler, he is powerful and violent.
Williams is NFL-ready right now and can be plugged in at 3-4 nose tackle or 4-3 defensive tackle. Williams will have a career like Pittsburgh stalwart Casey Hampton and will be able to decide how long he wants to play in the NFL.
No. 4 Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher
The early comparison for Fisher is former Chippewa offensive lineman and now San Francisco 49er, Joe Staley. Not a bad guy to be compared to.
Profootballfocus.com ranked Staley as the best offensive tackle in the NFL in 2012. Fisher may actually have more upside coming out of college than Staley and that makes for a perfect can’t-miss prospect.
Fisher is a long-limb player with good initial quickness off the football. Fisher is quick out of his stance and has good foot speed to pull or block linebackers at the second level. Fisher is quick with his punch and will flash power to shock the defender.
Fisher is quick to kick slide in pass pro yet has the flexibility to bend and power slide when called upon. Fisher plays with good balance and can change direction quickly. Fisher does not get beat off the football and has the athletic ability to mirror any pass rusher.
Fisher has good strength but still has room to grow. With added strength and bulk, Fisher can be a prototypical left tackle in the NFL. Playing one of the premier positions in the NFL, Fisher has the makeup and natural ability to handle the best the NFL has to offer as soon as he is drafted.
No. 3 Texas A&M DE Damontre Moore
Moore was a very productive player in the SEC. Moore led the Aggies in tackles with 80 and sacks with 12.5 in 2012. Moore also added 20 tackles for loss this past season. Moore has the versatility to play all along the defensive front and has the athletic ability to play in space as well.
Moore is a smart player who has NFL length, effort and toughness. Moore is the epitome of a football player. He is fast off the football and anticipates the snap count well. Moore jumps off the ball and has an explosive first step.
Moore can dip his shoulder with good body lean and close the gap to the quarterback. Moore has outstanding top-end speed and quickness. Moore plays with good flexibility and balance.
Moore has excellent change-of-direction ability and is a player who can retrace his steps and make the play, either forward or laterally without losing speed. Moore has loose hips and is fluid in space. Moore is violent with his hands in the run and as a rusher. Moore is quick to shed the blocker and close to the football.
Moore is a violent tackler who will work to strip the football. Moore fits any defensive scheme in the NFL and will be a very high draft selection in 2013. With continued production, Moore could challenge fellow teammate Von Miller as one of the best defenders to ever come out of Texas A&M.
No. 2 FSU DE Bjoern Werner
Werner is the best defensive player in the 2013 NFL draft. Werner had 23.5 sacks, 35 tackles for loss, 18 passes defensed and three forced fumbles in his three-year career in Tallahassee. While many scouts compare him to St. Louis Rams' Chris Long, Werner is a better athlete than Long coming out of college and could be used at multiple positions.
Werner has long arms and large hands. Werner uses his length well to keep blockers away from his body. For a player who just starting playing football five years ago, Werner has a great knowledge of the game and has the uncanny ability to read blocks and quickly locate the ball.
He shows solid football instincts and has speedy instincts to locate the football. Werner is a quick-twitch player who gets off the football with a burst.
Werner plays with very good leverage and keeps the blocker at bay. As a pass rusher, Werner does not have blazing speed, but he is slippery with his pass rush moves and sets the blocker up well. Werner is all-out every play and never takes a snap off. Werner plays with good lateral quickness and is light on his feet.
Werner is a good space player and since his motor never stops, he is around the football a lot. Werner is a solid, sure tackler who can drop his weight, roll his hips and drive through the tackle.
Werner can play 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker. The sky is the limit for an already solid player. Whichever NFL team drafts Werner will get a sure-fire starter and future Pro Bowler.
No. 1 Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel
Joeckel’s introduction into college football was lining up against future first-round selection Von Miller every day. Once Miller moved on to the NFL, Joeckel had to face the No. 3 player on this list, Damontre Moore.
Both those defenders helped Joeckel in his development and now the native Texan is the best player in the 2013 NFL draft and the surest can’t-miss prospect.
Joeckel is a powerful athlete who is very light on his feet. Joeckel moves with ease from his kick slide to his power slide. Joeckel can go toe to toe with power rushers and on the next play, he can mirror a speed rusher. Joeckel has outstanding flexibility and his pass set punch will stun the rusher.
Joeckel is a force in the run game. He comes off the football with a flat back and uses leverage to move the defender off the line of scrimmage. Joeckel is athletic enough to set his block, pass the defender to the guard or tight end, then climb to the linebacker and make the block. Joeckel moves fluidly in space and plays with a nasty streak.
Joeckel will walk into a NFL locker room as the starting left tackle and should hold that position down for his entire career. Joeckel has the makings of a Hall of Fame player and will anchor his offensive line until he decides to hang up his cleats.