NFL Draft 2013: Players with a Lot to Prove Before April

Joe WirthContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2013

Geno Smith put up big numbers throughout his career in West Virginia, but can he translate those gaudy number to the NFL?
Geno Smith put up big numbers throughout his career in West Virginia, but can he translate those gaudy number to the NFL?Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

With the NFL Draft still three months away, there is still plenty of time for players’ stock to rise and fall. Although they have completed their body of work on the field, there is still time for players to be evaluated in various postseason exhibition games, pro days and the combine. The following three players have the most to prove before April.

West Virginia QB Geno Smith

After getting off to a hot start in 2012 and being the Heisman front-runner early, Smith’s play fell off. His 42 touchdowns and 4,205 yards passing were still some of the best numbers of any quarterback in the country, but his inability to win big games is a cause for concern.

Smith is still projected to be the first quarterback taken, but during his pre-draft workouts, NFL teams will be evaluating him to see if his gaudy numbers are just a product of Dana Holgorsen's system. Smith also played against some of the worst defenses in the country and scouts will be looking to see if he can have the same type of success against the complex defensive schemes of the NFL.

The quarterback position is always in demand in the NFL Draft, and this year is no different. With prospects like Tyler Wilson, Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon on his heels, a slipup by Smith could cause a precipitous drop of his draft stock.

Manti Te’o MLB Notre Dame

Although most of his questions during interviews with NFL teams may have to do with off-the-field problems, Te’o still has a lot to prove on the gridiron.

He had a phenomenal year for the Irish and is a guaranteed first-round pick, but there are still questions of what kind of pro he can become.

Although he improved drastically in this area this year, the main weakness in Te’o’s game is pass defense. Yes, he recorded seven interceptions, but he is still more of a run-stopping linebacker. Anytime offenses were able to get in space, he struggled.

Te’o also had one of the best nose tackles in the country this year in Louis Nix. For a linebacker to succeed he needs the nose tackle to take up blockers so the linebacker can read and make the play. Te’o owes a big chuck of success this year to Nix’s ability to clog up the middle.

The final question about Te’o is can he rebound from a poor performance against Alabama in the BCS National Championship game. He was made to look pedestrian against NFL-like running backs and offensive lineman.

His leadership skills are unquestionable, but he still has a lot to prove in the pre-draft process.

Matt Barkley QB USC

In September, it was almost a certainty that Barkley would win the Heisman Trophy, lead his Trojans to a National Championship and be the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft—the perfect ending to his USC career. What a difference four months can make.

Had Barkley chosen to come out after his junior year, he would have been a top-10 pick. Now, there are whispers that he may fall to the second round.

There are questions as to how accurate Barkley is as well as why he did not have more success with two of the best wide receivers in the country, Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, at his disposal.

Despite his sub-par senior season, Barkley had a tremendous career with USC. He was a four-year starter and exemplified great leadership as he helped the Trojans get through NCAA sanctions. Barkley will be a good pro quarterback, but where he falls in the draft is another issue.

The NFL Draft is one of the most over-analyzed events in sports. It is something people can focus on during the dark months without football. Teams have also taken part in this over-dissection. Instead of looking at a player’s body of work on the playing field, they over-concern themselves with workout numbers and things that do not necessarily translate to success on the field.

This over-thinking is why players like Akili Smith go in the first round and players like Tom Brady fall to the sixth—it is hard measure or quantify the it factor.