2013 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Will Be Drafted Higher Than Expected

Robert QuinnCorrespondent IJanuary 29, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: 5 Players Who Will Be Drafted Higher Than Expected

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    The 2013 NFL draft is already on the minds of the fans whose team's didn't make the Super Bowl. While many will be discussing which collegiate star will be drafted with the No. 1 overall pick, there are quite a few players who will be taken much higher than originally expected. 

    Last year, we saw this when the Seattle Seahawks drafted West Virginia pass-rusher Bruce Irvin with the No. 15 overall pick. The 2013 draft will be no different, as there will be quite a few players that come off the board well before the areas that many pundits had them slotted. 

    This slideshow highlights five players that fans should become familiar with. 

WR DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson

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    Overlooked by wide receivers such as California's Keenan Allen and Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson, Clemson wideout DeAndre Hopkins will be a surprise pick in April. A three-year starter for the Tigers, Hopkins has been extremely productive, catching 205 passes for 3,009 yards and 27 touchdowns. His 18 touchdowns in 2012 set an ACC conference record. 

    Hopkins has adequate size, standing 6'1" and weighing 205 pounds, but he plays much bigger. He is able to locate the ball and catch it away from his body with ease. He's explosive off the line and creates yards after catches with ease. 

    He was used mostly in slants and screens with Clemson, but he turned them into big plays. He's raw as a route runner, but his athleticism and potential will attract many teams into drafting him higher than expected. 

QB Matt Barkley, Southern California

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    Matt Barkley has been lost in the discussion regarding the top signal-callers in the 2013 NFL draft. A four-year starter for the Trojans, Barkley has competed 64.1 percent of his passes for 12,327 yards, 116 touchdowns and 48 interceptions. Barkley is one of the more complete quarterbacks in this draft class, but he's been expected to be drafted in the second or third rounds. 

    Barkley's got average arm strength, but he works the short to intermediate zones very well. He reads defenses with ease and leads his wide receivers into passes. He's not the most mobile of passers, but he isn't a statue in the pocket. 

    Barkley's intangibles and body of work will make a team fall in love with him, and it won't be a surprise to see him selected in the first round of the draft. 

CB Tyrann Mathieu, Louisiana State

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    Tyrann Mathieu was dismissed from the LSU Tigers prior to the 2012 season after failing multiple drug tests, but that won't stop the "Honey Badger" from being selected in the third- or fourth-round range.

    Many expect Mathieu to be a late-round pick, or go undrafted, but players of his caliber are very rare. Mathieu was a playmaker in his two seasons with the Tigers, making 133 tackles, intercepting four passes and forcing 11 fumbles. He also made 16 tackles for a loss and recovered four fumbles. Mathieu was a weapon on special teams in his sophomore year, as he returned two punts for touchdowns. 

    Mathieu played all over the Louisiana State secondary, at both safety positions, outside cornerback and nickel cornerback. He has a knack for being around the ball and goes for the strip when tackling. He's small, standing at 5'9" and weighing approximately 175 pounds, but he plays much bigger than his size indicates. 

    He doesn't shy from bigger receivers and tight ends, and he can play bump-and-run coverage. He's extremely aggressive, and if he checks out in the interview process, he will be drafted in the middle of the draft. 

TE Travis Kelce, Cincinnati

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    Cincinnati senior tight end Travis Kelce became a big part of the Bearcats offense in 2012, catching 45 passes for 722 yards and eight scores. He's a big, physical tight end, standing at 6'6", 260 pounds, but he has deceptive agility and athleticism.

    Kelce is overshadowed by Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert and Stanford's Zach Ertz, but he's going to surprise many draft experts when drafted in the second or third round of the 2013 NFL draft. He's probably the most complete tight end in the class, as he is an incredible blocker with great size.

    Kelce, the younger brother of Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce, brings a complete skill set that projects very well to the next level. When teams turn on his tape, they're going to come away impressed. 

LB Arthur Brown, Kansas State

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    Arthur Brown is one of the linebackers whose name is gaining steam in the evaluation process. A two-time captain at Kansas State, the senior recorded 218 tackles for the Wildcats, 17 of which came for a loss, and picked off three passes. 

    At 6'1" and weighing 230 pounds, he may be seen as a bit undersized for the middle linebacker position in the National Football League. However, he projects well to the weak-side linebacker position in a 4-3 defensive alignment and could probably thrive at inside linebacker in a 3-4 front. 

    Brown's a great tackler and sheds blockers with ease. He's great in coverage, a trait NFL teams are looking for in linebackers due to the increased emphasis on passing in offenses.

    With questions surrounding Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones' spinal stenosis and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o and the imaginary girlfriend scandal, Brown very well could be the first linebacker selected in the 2013 NFL draft.