NFL Draft 2013: Ranking Top-5 Offensive Prospects at Every Position
And since the NFL has turned into an offensive league—for the most part—it's imperative that losing teams invest high draft picks in offensive players.
With this in mind, I'm going to rank the top-five prospects at each position on offense.
My rankings may differ from some others you've seen, but every evaluator has a different set of criteria he/she follows.
A difference of opinion doesn't mean much, though. Players boom and bust for so many different reasons every single year in the NFL that these evaluations are more of a sketch than a masterpiece.
Follow along to find out how I see things at this juncture.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia
Smith is not ready to step in like Andrew Luck and start shredding defenses with his arm from day one. He isn't nearly as far along in the mental game to read NFL defenses and work through his progressions, but his physical skills aren't lacking.
Smith has a strong, accurate arm and a nice delivery. He excels on short-to-intermediate timing patterns, and has the athleticism to escape pressure and make nice throws on the run.
2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
This isn't a knock against Wilson, but he similar to a young Tony Romo.
Wilson can make all the throws and he has a gun-slinger mentality, which gives him the confidence to fit passes into tight windows. He's also an underrated athlete who will be able to make plays with his feet to avoid pressure at the next level.
3. Mike Glennon, North Carolina State
Glennon has the biggest arm of any quarterback in this year's draft class, and at 6'6" and 232 pounds, he has the ideal size teams look for in a traditional pocket-passer.
He is similar to Joe Flacco and Ryan Mallett. Neither of them does much with their feet, but given a nice pocket to work with, they can shred opposing defenses.
Glennon is a raw prospect who will need plenty of work in the film room and in practice to develop solid mental skills, but he is an ideal fit for a team looking to develop an offense that likes to stretch the field.
4. Matt Barkley, USC
Barkley's decision to stay in school in 2012 hurt his draft stock, but it likely saved a team from making a terrible mistake early in last year's draft.
Barkley is a quarterback who is more mentally prepared for the NFL than the three ranked above him on this list, but his physical attributes are far from elite. He doesn't possess a particularly strong arm, doesn't throw well while on the move and has trouble when plays break down.
5. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
Nassib has been mentioned as a possible early pick on the first day, and while it won't be surprising to see the Buffalo Bills take him at No. 8, but doing so would be a tremendous mistake.
Nassib is much like Barkley in that he doesn't possess elite physical skills. He has a strong enough arm and a degree of mobility, but he's no Russell Wilson.
The biggest drawback to Nassib is that not only does he lack elite physical abilities, but he isn't mentally ready to handle NFL defenses right away.
1. Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Lacy isn't a burner, but he has all the other traits NFL teams look for in a bell-cow running back.
He's a big back at 6'0" and 220 pounds, and explodes through the hole with authority—powering through arm tackles with ease. He possesses excellent vision and is a tough player to bring down in the open field.
Lacy is also a capable receiver out of the backfield who will be a big part of an NFL offense in 2013-14.
2. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
Bernard is a bit smaller than Lacy, but he has a great set of wheels.
On any given play, Bernard is a threat to go the distance. He is extremely quick and fast, and once he hits a hole, he has the elusiveness to make linebackers and safeties miss.
He's a threat as a receiver and return man as well, and he'll be an impact player at the next level. Another valuable quality Bernard brings to the NFL is that he's young and fresh, having played just two seasons in college.
3. Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Barner is an explosive back who is a bit on the small size—5'11" and 195 pounds—and his ability to make game-breaking plays with his speed and quickness translates well to the NFL.
Barner isn't a traditional between-the-tackles back, but he fits in perfectly with the trending read-option offense that's beginning to dig its claws into the fabric of the NFL.
He averaged over six yards per carry all four seasons he played for the Ducks, and since then head coach Chip Kelly rotated his players so often, he brings fresh legs into the NFL.
4. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
Bell is a powerful runner with the size to bowl over NFL linebackers and enough burst and speed to break off big gains. By virtue of his size alone, 6'2" and 242 pounds. Bell is almost a clone of Steven Jackson.
Bell will fit in nicely with a team needing a power-running game to bolster an elite passing attack (Packers maybe?).
5. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
Taylor isn't being considered by many scouts to be worthy of this top-5 ranking. This is due to the fact that his measureables won't stack up to the other elite players in this year's draft class.
Although, Alfred Morris can tell you what measureables are worth.
Taylor will be a highly productive player at the next level, just as he has been for the Cardinal the past three seasons. He hits the hole with authority, has excellent vision and a knack for getting into the end zone.
1. Keenan Allen, California
Allen is the most pro-ready receiver in this year's draft class.
He is a polished route-runner who possesses above-average speed, good size and excellent hands. His best attributes come into play after he catches the ball, as Allen is an electric player in open space.
Allen is coming off a PCL injury that kept him out of the latter part of the 2012-13 season, but as long as he proves he's healthy during his pro day and at the NFL Scouting Combine, he'll be the first receiver off the board in April.
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
Patterson isn't nearly as polished as Allen, but his athletic frame and pure physical attributes will have scouts drooling.
Patterson possesses a quick first step and explosive speed on the outside. Plus, his ability to stretch the field will be attractive to teams in need of a No. 1 receiver.
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
While the first two receivers on this list possess ideal size to dominate the outside in the NFL, Austin is a bit of a pee-wee. At 5'9" and 171 lbs., Austin relies on a different set of skills to get the job done.
First and foremost, Austin can catch the ball. Once that's accomplished, he has elite quickness, agility and elusiveness to exploit bigger defenders.
Think Darren Sproles and Wes Welker wrapped up in one player. He will be a dynamic playmaker in the NFL, as long as he goes to a team that understands how to utilize his rare talents.
4. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
If Hopkins really applies himself, he could be the best wide receiver to come out of this year's draft class.
At 6'1" and 200 lbs., he's a bit on the small side. Small receivers can be effective in the NFL, but it's harder for them to win consistently on the outside against the big, physical cornerbacks.
His production last season for the Tigers can't be overlooked, as he hauled in 82 passes for 1,405 yards and 18 touchdowns.
5. Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Hunter has ideal size and speed on the outside to make an immediate impact in the NFL, but he lacks the needed strength to beat press coverage.
At 6'4" and 200 lbs., he has a similar look to A.J. Green, but his route-running and overall game falls well short of what Green brought to the NFL a couple of years ago.
Hunter may not be a dynamic player in his first season, but given a bit of time in the weight room and a good wide receivers coach, he'll explode onto the scene in due time.
1. Zach Ertz, Stanford
Ertz and Tyler Eifert have leaped over each other on multiple draft boards.
He doesn't possess hands as soft as Eifert's, but in every other way, Ertz is superior or equal.
Ertz has good speed, tracks the deep ball well, explodes in and out of his routes, does a good job leaping for balls at their highest point and is an exceptional run-blocker.
Don't be shocked to see him go in the first round in April.
2. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Eifert possesses the best pure hands of any receiver in this year's draft class. He has the ability to snatch balls out of the air even while he's being covered like a blanket. This is a quality that will serve him well at the next level in the red zone.
Eifert isn't nearly as physical at the point of attack as Ertz, though, and he needs work to become a capable run-blocker at the next level.
3. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
Kelce is likely going to draw some comparisons to Rob Gronkowski.
Blessed with excellent size, at 6'6" and 260 pounds, Kelce has the speed and agility to move that large body well both in space and at the line of scrimmage.
Kelce is the best blocking tight end in this year's draft class, and his ability to dominate at the point of attack will only make him that much more dangerous in the passing game if he's drafted to a run-first team.
4. Jordan Reed, Florida
Of all the tight ends on this list, Reed is the most explosive pure pass-catching tight end.
His raw athleticism and speed will make him a dangerous receiver at the next level, but he'll need to improve his run-blocking and overall strength to become a complete tight end.
5. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Escobar hasn't drawn much national attention—coming from a smaller school that is better known for its running game than its passing attack—but he should pique the interest of a few teams in the second round.
The 6'6", 255-lb. tight end led his team in receiving, and he's a capable run-blocker who has a high ceiling. He may be a bit of a project, but he has the qualities that could make him a dominant player in the NFL.
1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
There is no other offensive tackle that is as ready to dominate in the NFL straight from college as Joeckel is.
He possesses elite size, athleticism, strength (which will only get better) and technique. Watching him dominate the edge is a pure pleasure, and he'll be one of the first players off the board in April.
2. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
After Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews chose to stay in school for another season, scouts scrambled to take another look at Fisher, a talented prospect from a smaller school.
Fisher has ideal size to be a dominant left tackle in the NFL, and his technique and athleticism rank high as well. Where he needs to get better is at the point of attack, but time in an NFL weight room will take care of that concern.
Fisher closely resembles Joe Staley, and it's not just because they both went to the same school. His ability to run and locate defenders on the run make him a valuable asset in the running game and on screen passes.
3. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
Speaking of ideal size—6'7" and 303 pounds—Johnson is approximately the same size as Fisher. He isn't as fluid an athlete, but Johnson does a good job sliding his feet in pass-protection and possesses the long arms needed to fend off the NFL's speed-rushers on the edge.
He's an underrated run-blocker who uses his quickness to position his body, but he'll need to get stronger at the point of attack to become better in this capacity.
4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama
Fluker is an interesting prospect who projects as a right tackle in the NFL, but his ability to dominate in the running game makes him someone teams might be willing to take late in round one.
Blessed with a massive frame, the 6'6", 355-pound lineman is leaner than you might imagine. Josh Norris said at the Senior Bowl weigh-ins that he "looked great."
Fluker's best quality—and the one that will keep him from moving inside to play guard—is his incredibly long wingspan of 87 inches.
5. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
Looking for a productive tackle with an excellent history of longevity? Thomas is your man.
A four-year starter for the Vols, Thomas brings excellent technique and a tenacious attitude to the NFL.
Though not as physically imposing as the other tackles on this list, Thomas has the skills and experience to step in and start from day one.
1. Chance Warmack, Alabama
Warmack is almost as dominant a player as Luke Joeckel, and it won't shock anyone if he's taken before No. 10 in April.
Blessed with ideal size—6'3" and 320 pounds—Warmack absolutely dominates the point of attack, driving his man back on running plays. He is also an agile big man who is adept at pulling to either side, and he's an excellent blocker on the move.
2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Warmack isn't the only guard who will be picked in Round 1.
Cooper is an excellent guard prospect who is even better in pass-protection than Warmack, but he isn't nearly as dominant in the run game. Warmack is a pure mauler who possesses excellent technique, but Cooper relies much more on technique to get the job done.
3. Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
Bailey is a big man at 6'5" and 312 pounds, who was the key to the Razorbacks' running game for three seasons.
He is an athletic young man who is a physical specimen. And with about 15 more pounds of muscle, he will become an amazing guard in the NFL.
4. Larry Warford, Kentucky
A four-year starter at Kentucky, Warford looks to be a lock as a second-round pick in this year's draft.
A physically imposing young man at 6'3" and 343 pounds, Warford's biggest concern is one of conditioning, as he seemed to get worn out at the end of games. He's an excellent run-blocker who has the mobility to pull to both sides, and his power at the point of attack in impressive.
5. Hugh Thornton, Illinois
Thorton is a solid guard who can also slide over and play right tackle, if need be.
At 6'5" and 310 pounds, Thornton needs to bulk up a bit to dominate at the next level, but when he keeps his pads down low he shows good power in the running game and adequate agility in the passing game.
1. Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones is the only center in this year's draft class that is worthy of a first-round grade, and it won't shock anyone if he falls into the top-half of Round 2.
Jones is a technically-sound player who can play all five positions on the line. His toughness and smarts make him a valuable player at the next level.
2. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Year in and year out, Wisconsin produces excellent offensive linemen who understand how to maximize their physical abilities.
Frederick is the biggest center prospect in this year's draft class at 6'4" and 338 pounds. and he possesses agile feet to go along with his impressive size.
Frederick's best attribute, though, is his raw power. He can punish opposing defenders in the running game and is a decent enough pass-protector to become a starter in the NFL.
3. Khaled Holmes, USC
Holmes is better suited to go to a pass-happy team than the first two centers, as his strengths lie in his mobility and ability to protect the passer.
This isn't to say Holmes isn't an adequate run-blocker, but he's no mauler and will be hard pressed to ever develop into one in the NFL.
4. Brian Schwenke, California
Schwenke was voted to the All-Pac-12 first team at the end of the 2012-13 season, and he looks to be an intriguing pro prospect.
He will be playing in the Senior Bowl, and if he plays well, he could see his stock rise.
Schwenke's best attribute is that he is an attacking player in the running game, and he possesses enough lateral mobility and agility to be a solid pass-protector.
5. Dalton Freeman, Clemson
Freeman is an undersized center at 6'5" and just 285 pounds, but he'll excel in a zone-blocking scheme that allows him to utilize his exceptional mobility in the running game.
Freeman's greatest attribute is his ability to protect the passer. He did a marvelous job for Tajh Boyd this past season, and if it weren't for the fact that he's so lean, he'd be ranked much higher on my list.
If Freeman can add some strength and weight in the next year or two, he might be one of the true steals of this year's draft class.
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