Rating the Strength of Every Position in the 2013 NFL Draft

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistJanuary 25, 2013

Rating the Strength of Every Position in the 2013 NFL Draft

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    With the Senior Bowl wrapping up in Mobile, Alabama, the 2013 NFL draft class is beginning to take shape. 

    Scouts, general managers and coaches will soon gather to formulate their draft boards and, as is the case every year, certain positions will be featured more prominently than others. 

    With that in mind, let's take a look at each position in this year's class and evaluate the strength of the position based on elite talent and overall depth. 

    Each position will be evaluated on a scale of weak, mediocre, above average, good and great. 


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    Since we're just one year removed from what could prove to be one of the greatest quarterback classes of all time, this year's crop leaves a lot to be desired. But the 2013 class has more potential than it has been getting credit for from the media. 

    There isn't an elite prospect in this class. In fact, there may not be a consensus first-round pick in the entire group. 

    But what this class lacks in elite talent, it makes up for in depth. 

    Five prospects will get at least some first-round consideration (Geno Smith, Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib). Any quarterback from that group that doesn't come off the board in the first round should be gone in the top 50. 

    Beyond that group, there are a few others (Tyler Bray, Landry Jones, Zac Dysert, etc.) who could be in consideration in the third or fourth round as developmental prospects. 

    So while there is no reason to expect an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III to emerge from this group, when we look back on this class in five years we will likely see a few starters around the league. 

    Overall strength: above average

Running Backs

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    The makeup of the running back class is remarkably similar to quarterbacks. 

    There isn't a first-round lock in group and we may not see one come off the board until the mid-second round. But once that first guy comes off the board, expect a run on the position. 

    Like the quarterbacks, this year's running back class is all about depth. 

    As many as 15 running backs could be in the conversation as second- or third-round selections.

    While this year's class may not produce many feature backs, there are a number of prospects who have the ability to contribute immediately. 

    Bigger backs such as Alabama's Eddie Lacy, Texas A&M's Christine Michael and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell could be immediate assets as short-yardage specialists. The smaller guys such as Oregon's Kenjon Barner, Clemson's Andre Ellington and Fresno State's Robbie Rouse could provide a spark as change-of-pace backs. 

    The wild card in this group will be Marcus Lattimore. While his history of knee injuries raises a giant red flag, he is the only elite prospect in this class when healthy. 

    Overall strength: above average

Wide Receivers

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    While this year's class lacks an elite receiver, we could see somewhere in the range of five to seven prospects come off the board in the first round. 

    No one will make an A.J. Green or Julio Jones-like immediate impact, but this group has the potential to develop into an elite class. 

    The downside to this year's group is the lack of experience. Multiple top prospects have either missed time due to injuries (Tennessee's Justin Hunter), are recent JUCO transfers (Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson) or only recently moved into starting roles (Arkansas' Cobi Hamilton). 

    But while there are red flags attached to nearly every prospect, there is also a ton of potential in this year's class. 

    One of my personal favorites is Quinton Patton, who blossomed as a senior at Louisiana Tech and should continue to grow once he's surrounded by NFL talent. 

    Overall strength: good

Tight Ends

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    Unlike the other offensive skill positions, this class of tight ends does have some elite prospects. 

    Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz are both legitimate first-round prospects who have the skills to contribute as offensive weapons immediately. 

    But beyond those two, the class starts to go downhill. 

    Florida's Jordan Reed and Michigan State's Dion Sims will likely be the next two off the board, and both have potential. But neither has shown the consistency to warrant a high pick. 

    There are some intriguing prospects in the later rounds such as the 6'8" Levine Toilolo from Stanford or converted quarterback D.C. Jefferson out of Rutgers. But this class still leaves a lot to be desired. 

    There will be teams in need of a tight end who come out of the draft disappointed. 

    Overall strength: mediocre

Offensive Line

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    This is not the year to be in the market for a left tackle, but teams looking for help at the other four offensive line positions have plenty of talent to chose from. 

    Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel are the two elite prospects and should come off the board in the top 10. Following closely behind will be Oklahoma's Lane Johnson. But once those three are gone, there's no more immediate help on the blind side. 

    For teams in need of help on the right side, there will be plenty to chose from in the first three rounds. Alabama's D.J. Fluker and Syracuse's Justin Pugh are two names that should come off the board in the first or second round and could start immediately. 

    The interior line is particularly strong this year, and we could see two prospects come off the board in the top 20. 

    Alabama's Chance Warmack and North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper are the elite prospects at guard. But teams choosing to wait to address the position will still have plenty to chose from on the second day of the draft. 

    Kent State's Brian Winters is a sleeper to keep in mind. He played left tackle in college but has the nasty demeanor to excel on the inside at the next level. 

    There are also a number of sleepers in this class, such as Ohio State's Reid Fragel. A former tight end, Fragel has just one year of experience on the offensive line but clearly has the athleticism to develop into a left tackle. 

    Overall, this appears to be one of the strongest positions in the draft. The class features a nice mix of elite prospects, depth in the middle rounds and intriguing late-round guys. 

    Overall strength: great

Defensive Line

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    The defensive line has been the strength of the NFL draft for the past few seasons, and this year is no different. 

    As many as 16 linemen could come off the board in the first round, including five or six in the top 10. 

    The group is headlined by stars such as Florida State's Bjoern Werner, Oregon's Dion Jordan and Utah's Star Lotulelei. But plenty of others with the ability to contribute immediately will slide to the late first round. 

    This year's class isn't just supported by the elite prospects. The middle rounds of the draft will feature a number of intriguing prospects such as SMU's Margus Hunt, a former track and field athlete, and Brandon Williams, a fast-rising tackle out of Missouri Southern. 

    Overall strength: great


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    There are are some big names in this year's class, most notably Manti Te'o, but the depth at linebacker is severely lacking. 

    Six or seven prospects could come off the board in the first round, but there is a steep drop-off once the elite prospects are off the board. 

    Teams running the 4-3 defense will have a particularly difficult time filling holes with this class. Georgia's Jarvis Jones will likely come off the board in the first round but may be the only strong-side linebacker capable of immediately stepping into a starting role. 

    The inside linebacker class is stronger than in recent years, with Te'o, LSU's Kevin Minter and Georgia's Alec Ogletree all potentially earning first-round grades from teams. 

    Overall strength: mediocre


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    The top of this year's cornerback class is as strong as its been in a number of years. Teams looking to fill needs at cornerback often reach at the end of the first round, but as many as five prospects could earn legitimate first-round grades. 

    Alabama's Dee Milliner is at the head of the class and should come off the board in the top five or six picks. 

    There should continue to be a run on cornerbacks in the second round with prospects such as Rutgers' Logan Ryan and Utah State's Will Davis coming off the board. 

    The middle rounds of the draft should also produce a number of prospects capable of contributing early, including USC's Nickell Robey, who projects as nickel corner at the next level. 

    Overall strength: good


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    Over the past two years I've given a combined three safety prospects a second-round grade or better (Mark Barron, Harrison Smith and Rahim Moore). A number of teams will be looking to bring in a good, young safety from this year's class. 

    Fortunately, they're in luck as this should be one of the stronger classes to enter the draft in recent years. 

    Texas' Kenny Vaccaro, Florida's Matt Elam and LSU's Eric Reid could all potentially come off the board in the first round. 

    Those three will be followed by four or five others on the second day of the draft, including Nevada's Duke Williams, Fresno State's Phillip Thomas and Alabama's Robert Lester. 

    The later rounds of the draft should also produce a number of developmental prospects and those capable of making an immediate impact on special teams such as Michigan's Jordan Kovacs and Syracuse's Shamarko Thomas. 

    Overall strength: good

Special Teams

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    This year's class of special teams players is highlighted by a rare early entrant: LSU punter Brad Wing. The redshirt sophomore is one of the better prospects to enter the draft in recent years and could come off the board as high as the third round. 

    The addition of Wing makes this year's draft class a potentially elite group of punters. Louisiana Tech's Ryan Allen and Oklahoma State's Quinn Sharp could also come off the board within the first five rounds. 

    The kickers aren't quite as strong as the punters, with only one prospect, Florida's Caleb Sturgis, earning a consensus draftable grade. 

    There are also a number of return specialists who could make an immediate impact, the most intriguing of which is Michigan's Denard Robinson. At the Senior Bowl, Robinson has struggled fielding kicks but has the athleticism to be an impact player at the position once he develops. 

    Others such as Texas' Marquise Goodwin and Utah State's Kerwynn Williams could also draw interest as return specialists. 

    Overall strength: good