Prospects with the Highest Upside in the 2013 NFL Draft
The 2013 class of NFL draft prospects is loaded with talent. There are several highly productive players entering the draft, but many have maxed out most of their available talent and have been left off this list.
The athletes who remain have just begun their quest for dominance. For these prospects, the ceiling is far from reached. Their potential should have NFL teams drooling.
It is in this tricky realm of "potential" that we examine the players with the highest upside in this year’s draft. Barring some late-round sleepers who have yet to be fully evaluated, I'm confident this list contains a representative sample of the unlimited potential of this year’s crop of prospects.
Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU
Weight: 240 pounds
Barkevious Mingo might be the quickest defensive lineman I've ever watched on film. His ability to close ground in a hurry, combined with his long arms and tall frame make him an NFL prospect with unlimited potential.
Mingo is not a finished product. He did not have the type of production this past year that many expected. It appears he hasn't quite figured out how to utilize his unique skill set just yet.
But once he's taught proper hand technique and other nuances of the game, the sky is truly the limit.
Strengths: His athleticism, quickness, balance and fluidity of motion are unrivaled in this year's class.
Weaknesses: Awareness, technique, power.
Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M
Weight: 310 pounds
Luke Joeckel has the ideal frame for an All-Pro left tackle in the NFL. But his foot speed, athleticism and balance are what separates him from the pack.
Joeckel has sound technique and operates under his feet with a proper base. This allows him to shuffle laterally with amazing quickness while still maintaining leverage against a power bull-rush.
One of the more impressive bonuses to his game is his desire to finish blocks and drive his legs through defenders. This was absent in the game of Matt Kalil, who was taken No. 4 overall in last year's draft specifically for his prowess as a pass protector.
Strengths: Fantastic balance. Beautiful footwork. Finishes blocks. Hustles. Strong. Good athlete.
Weaknesses: Struggles against speed-rushers who have the ability to get low around the edge. Can improve upon his initial punch in his pass sets as well.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Weight: 252 pounds
Tyler Eifert is an amazing physical specimen who is equipped with everything needed to be an elite NFL tight end. This kid is undoubtedly the complete package.
Eifert can line up wide or put his hand in the dirt. His blocking ability is impressive, demonstrating sound fundamentals with prototypical balance and functional strength. This allows him to hold his blocks for extended periods of time and even generate leg drive.
Those are rare qualities for a tight end with elite receiving ability. Eifert has good speed and strong hands. When combining these elements with his height and ability to jump, it makes it near impossible for any one defender to guard him.
As an athlete, Tyler has smooth fluid movements comparable to a Jeremy Shockey.
Anyone who actually can favor Zach Ertz over Tyler Eifert needs explain how and why. This guy is the real deal and will be a dangerous addition to any offense.
Strengths: Size, strength, speed. Great athlete with reliable hands and willingness to compete.
Weaknesses: Running after the catch and change of direction skills.
Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri
Weight: 295 pounds
Sheldon Richardson is one of the most athletic interior linemen I've ever seen. He moves around with linebacker-like quickness and has very good bend.
One of the more unique facets to his game is his ability to change directions and close space on the ball-carrier. Richardson is a penetrating-type tackle with a knack for making plays and good awareness to force turnovers. He is also a big-effort player who might be seen running 50 yards downfield in pursuit of a tackle.
Strengths: Sudden. Good athlete. Big-time playmaker who plays hard every snap.
Weaknesses: Can get pushed around at times. Somewhat limited with his hand technique, relies too heavily on his rip move.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Weight: 205 pounds
Cordarrelle Patterson is a big-bodied wide receiver with the speed and quickness of a smaller guy.
He's still raw, but has impressive body control, hands and elusiveness after the catch.
Patterson needs to work on his route running and concentration at times. But he has the natural tools to become an elite NFL player if he continues to improve upon his craft. He even has the ability to be used in the return game. You must find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.
Strengths: Size, speed and elusiveness make him a deadly offensive weapon who can create something out of nothing.
Weaknesses: Route running needs improvement. It may be a reason he has not shown much ability to separate from defenders.
Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama
Weight: 322 pounds
Chance Warmack is a deceptively good athlete. He has good feet and can move in space.
But his most impressive quality is his ability to dominate at the point of attack. Warmack is a powerful guy who can get defenders on their heels and drive them backward. This strength allows him to lock onto his blocks while using his wide frame to wall-off defenders.
Strengths: Powerful player with light feet and impressive athletic ability for a guard.
Weaknesses: A bit on the shorter side and could struggle against some of the longer-armed defenders in the NFL.
Star Lotulelei, NT/DT, Utah
Weight: 320 pounds
Star Lotulelei is a beast upfront. His massive frame contains 300 pounds of muscle mass as opposed to most defensive linemen who tend to be on the tubby side.
Star is truly that, a star. He may be the strongest guy in this draft class. He uses his entire body to perform football-specific tasks, such as knocking down linemen and yanking down ball-carriers with one hand.
This giant-of-a-man is likely the second coming of Haloti Ngata, who displayed a similar level of physical dominance while at the University of Oregon. He has impressive speed and a fluidity of movement that allows him to be highly effective at shedding blockers and disrupting the offense.
Strengths: Unparalleled power, immovable anchor, good athlete and consistent playmaker.
Weaknesses: Limited with his hand technique and sometimes gets caught looking around instead of shedding the blocker.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Weight: 199 pounds
Dee Milliner is a highly-skilled shutdown corner with a physical style of play. He has been effective using his size and speed to dominate wide receivers on a weekly basis.
Milliner is a solid tackler and has impressive awareness to compete for the ball in the air. He rarely allows a big play, but is not afraid to take calculated risks when the situation calls for it. He can run with just about anyone down the field and does a nice job breaking on the ball when it's thrown.
Strengths: Great size and strength for a corner, yet he can turn his hips and run. Battles for jump balls and has the ability to play the run.
Weaknesses: Is not overly fast and can struggle against quicker, smaller receivers when he plays off coverage.
Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
Weight: 245 pounds
Kevin Minter is the ideal NFL middle linebacker. He has the ability to stalemate blockers at the point of attack, shed and stop a ball-carrier dead in his tracks. This is the type of linebacker who can set a tone for your defense and shore up any leaks in running lanes between the tackles.
Minter is a tough physical prospect with impressive tackling technique and a punishing mentality.
He also has great timing on blitzes and is a high-motor, high-effort player who any defensive scheme can build around.
Strengths: Fantastic at taking on and shedding blockers. Great tackler. Strong physical athlete.
Weaknesses: Lacks some awareness in his zone drops and is not overly fast. He also may need work in man-to-man coverage.
Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon
Weight: 243 pounds
Dion Jordan is one of the more fluid athletes in the draft. It just so happens that he is also as big as LeBron James, yet moves like Kobe Bryant.
Jordan has impressive bend and wonderful hips which make him very good in open space. He also has a rare ability to drop into coverage and cover guys despite his length. This makes him one of the more versatile prospects in the draft.
As a pass-rusher, Jordan is good at changing directions and gives good effort, but he often overruns the play and is pushed well beyond the quarterback. But even this is not all bad, considering he has the speed to recover and close ground in a hurry.
Strengths: Rare versatility and athleticism. One of the most fluid athletes in the draft and has good awareness.
Weaknesses: Needs a better array of pass-rush moves, better hand technique and must improve his strength to hold up at the point of attack.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Weight: 218 pounds
Kenny Vaccaro is an intriguing prospect with a long wingspan and nasty streak.
He plays physical and has earned a reputation as a guy who will knock your head off. His speed is pretty decent for a safety, and he reacts quickly when the ball is in the air.
Kenny is also capable of remarkable catches when he isn't busy trying to put someone to sleep.
Strengths: Big physical safety who punishes receivers and is highly active in run support. Has great hands and can cover surprisingly well.
Weaknesses: Does not wrap up tackles and lacks elite speed for his position.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Weight: 220 pounds
Eddie Lacy has continued to improve almost every week. He has only been the primary ball-carrier for a single season and should have fresh legs going into his NFL career.
He is a powerful running back with unexpected wiggle. He can jump-cut and change directions with impressive quickness, and this facet of his game seems to be evolving as he gains experience.
He is a young raw talent with a hard-nosed running style and a body perfectly suited for the NFL.
Strengths: Powerful runner with tremendous effort and leg drive to move the pile. Improved elusiveness and impressive change of direction seemed to be added to his game as he gained experience.
Weaknesses: Seems to lack ideal vision at times and may not have the speed to take it all the way at the next level.
Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Weight: 220 pounds
Geno Smith is built like an NFL quarterback and has the requisite arm strength and accuracy to succeed in the NFL. His mobility and athleticism are becoming hot commodities at the position and should be coveted by numerous teams.
Smith is coming from a read-option system that primarily consists of short, high-percentage throws. His ability to read defenses is a big question mark, and accuracy around the mid-range point is still a concern. But he does have good mobility and handles pressure in his face well.
Smith has elite tools, which makes his upside nearly unlimited. But with that said, he is far from a safe pick and could become a bust in the same manner as Akili Smith several years before. Either way, he won't last long on draft day. Several QB-needy teams will be clamoring for his services early and often.
Strengths: Good size and athleticism. Strong arm and displays accuracy.
Weaknesses: Ability to go through the progressions and read NFL defenses is a big unknown.