The Biggest Wild Cards of the 2013 NFL Draft
Every year several NFL draft prospects prove to be so polarizing that even the best and brightest experts struggle to reach a consensus on when and where they’ll be drafted.
These players tend to be found all over the draft board depending on whose board you’re looking at. This can often be the result of a troubled past or serious injury. Sometimes players have shown some serious flashes of talent but have too small of a sample size for experts to be sure.
This is one of the more enjoyable aspects of the NFL draft process. Different eyes see different lies.
Here's my take on 10 of the biggest wild cards in this year's draft.
If you think you know when these guys will be taken, feel free to state your case in the comment section below.
Jarvis Jones, OLB
Weight: 242 lbs
Range: Second overall to late second round
Jarvis Jones is definitely one of the more interesting draft prospects in the 2013 class of future NFL hopefuls. For Jones, the NFL combine should hold great weight in the decisions of organizations and front offices around the league.
This highly coveted sack specialist possesses the speed and quickness to close ground quickly and has been one of the more productive college prospects in this draft class. Anytime you can rack up 28 sacks in two seasons, you must be doing something right.
On the high end of his projection, Daniel Jeremiah, former scout turned analyst at NFL.com, mocks Jones to the second overall selection.
However, despite the stats and favorable skill set, Jones does have some serious medical concerns, which ended his career at USC. At the combine in Indianapolis this February, he should be one of the more probed and prodded prospects in attendance. If his exams don't check out favorably, Jarvis Jones may run the risk of a serious landslide.
From analysts I've talked to such as Josh Norris from Rotoworld.com, Jarvis could fall into the second round.
This worst-case-scenario projection isn't even based exclusively on medical issues according to Josh. I happen to agree with Norris based on my own analysis.
Tyrann Mathieu, CB/KR
Weight: 175 lbs
Range: Second round to undrafted free agent
Tyrann Mathieu was once a Heisman finalist and one of the most exciting defenders in the nation. But after being kicked out of school for violating the substance-abuse policy, followed by an arrest on drug-related charges, Mathieu has become one of this draft's biggest enigmas heading into April.
If teams are able to see beyond his tarnished past, they still may have trouble with Mathieu's measurables. At 5'9", Tyrann isn't exactly the prototypical size for an NFL cornerback. He also has never been exceptional in man coverage.
What the guy formerly known as the "Honey Badger" does bring to the table is an uncanny knack for creating big plays. He's a deadly punt returner and has a ton of value as a ball-hawking, fumble-causing game-changer on defense.
The most unlikely scenario here would be for Mathieu to go undrafted. Expect him to be snagged somewhere between Round 3 and Round 5.
Datone Jones, DE
Weight: 280 lbs
Range: Late first round to late third round
Datone Jones' stock has been rising significantly since the Senior Bowl, and he has the versatility to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive front.
Looking at several mock drafts after the Senior Bowl, Jones is projected to go in the later parts of the first round. But teams could be concerned about his lack of production as a pass-rusher over the years. In fact, in his last three seasons with the Bruins, Jones has only managed a total of 13.5 sacks in 41 games.
These numbers could turn teams off, but he does have the strength to play a 5-technique within a 3-4 scheme.
This versatility and rising stock value post-Senior Bowl have Jones hard to peg down in terms of an accurate projection, but if he isn't gone by the third round, many people will be very surprised.
Marcus Lattimore, RB
Weight: 220 lbs
School: South Carolina
Range: Second round to fifth round
The issue with Marcus Lattimore is pretty cut-and-dry here. After suffering a horrendous knee injury, most scouts and GMs are left wondering if this dynamic ball-carrier will be able to make a full recovery.
Another issue created by Lattimore's injury could be that he will now be unable to show scouts his speed at the combine or pro days due to limitations while recovering from the major surgery. This could be cause for concern for several teams who had questions about his top-end speed.
If Marcus is able to demonstrate impressive progress toward full recovery with his knee at the combine, he should be drafted well before the fifth round.
Matt Barkley, QB
Weight: 230 lbs
Range: Top 10 overall to late second round
Matt Barkley headed into his senior season as the No. 1-ranked prospect on the No. 1-ranked program in the nation. Unfortunately, the season didn't go as planned and Barkley seemed to regress significantly from his junior year.
As it stands now, many teams appear hesitant to pull the trigger on Barkley in the top half of the draft. Depending on which publication you prefer, he's currently ranked anywhere from the second-best QB in the draft to the fifth-best.
With so many needy teams looking to find a franchise quarterback, they may be willing to overlook some obvious weaknesses and scoop him up earlier than anyone was expecting. The worst-case scenario is Barkley is still hanging around in the later part of the second round.
DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Weight: 205 lbs
Range: Middle of the first round to third round
DeAndre Hopkins is one of the most polished receivers in this year's class. He is an excellent route-runner and has extremely reliable hands. But with so much depth at the wide receiver position this year, Hopkins' value could suffer significantly.
Many GMs may project him to be a guy with a low ceiling of potential and ultimately could pass him up for a guy with more impressive physical tools and higher potential. Most wide receivers under six feet tall struggle to break into the first round of the draft, but for Hopkins, this feat is not entirely out of reach. He's one of the safer pass-catchers in this class and should be able to contribute on a team right away.
Hopkins' biggest moment this February and March will come when he's timed in his 40-yard dash. If he finds a way to run it under 4.5 seconds, he may wind up going in the first round after all.
D.J. Swearinger, SS
Weight: 210 lbs
School: South Carolina
Range: Late first round to fourth round
This kid is being projected all over the place, which may be due to the possibility that most people haven't really heard of this diverse safety.
According to Josh Norris' first-round mock on NFL.com, he has Swearinger going at No. 22 to the St. Louis Rams. However, most of the boards I've looked at have Swearinger projected anywhere from the second round to the late fourth round.
This predicament is oddly similar to the guy whom Swearinger replaced this year: Antonio Allen. Allen was expected to be a second-round pick in last year's draft but ended up falling all the way down to the seventh round after a terrible display of backpedaling and hip transitions at the Gamecocks' pro-day.
Hopefully Swearinger will not share the same fate, though he's already graded lower than Allen was at this time last year by NFL.com.
D.J. Fluker, OT
Weight: 335 lbs
Range: Top 15 overall to late second round
D.J. Fluker is showing up on big boards all over the charts. The biggest concern seems to be his foot speed and whether or not he can hold up to the speed of the NFL. I think he can do it and do it well, but the rest of the league may need some more convincing.
Some teams are projecting Fluker as a guard, but he can play either guard position or right tackle effectively. His quickness seems to be underrated, and his effort and toughness are almost worth drafting on their own.
Any team who picks up Fluker will have itself one of the most physical linemen in the entire NFL.
Mike Glennon, QB
Weight: 232 lbs
School: NC State
Range: Top 10 overall to third round
Mike Glennon is a tall prospect with a cannon for an arm. Unfortunately, there isn't much else to brag about, at least just yet. Teams have taken great interest in Glennon's potential and expect he has what it takes to make every NFL throw.
In a quarterback-driven league, there may be several organizations willing to reach a bit on this kid so they can groom him to be the new face of the franchise.
Bucky Brooks, former scout and current analyst for NFL.com, recently projected Mike Glennon to be drafted at No. 8 by the Buffalo Bills. This would be very close to his maximum expectancy but not at all an unimaginable scenario. Teams tend to be forever attracted to size and arm strength, thinking the rest can develop over time.
If more teams think like Draftbreakdown.com and I do, then we can anticipate Glennon will probably be hanging around in the third round, possibly doing his best Napoleon Dynamite impersonation.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
Weight: 205 lbs
Range: Sixth overall to early third round
This fairly raw but highly gifted underclassman is equipped with a great combination of size and speed. He's also one of the more exciting players to watch with the ball in his hands in this draft.
Cordarrelle Patterson seems to be one of those prospects analysts either love or hate this year. NFL.com's Albert Breer gave him the highest mock projection I've seen yet, slotting him to go sixth overall to the Cleveland Browns. This is not too far off from the thinking of a few of his colleagues.
However, several other sites, including Draftbreakdown.com, have Patterson ranked outside the top 60 prospects in the 2013 draft.
This disparity likely originates from the raw ability he displayed at Tennessee while often being upstaged by teammate and fellow wideout Justin Hunter. I was much more impressed with Patterson on tape than Hunter and would be surprised to see Hunter drafted first as some have projected.
Patterson also needs to work on being a more reliable target in terms of catching the ball. His biggest asset is his ability to make things happen after the catch, combined with his enormous potential with regards to size and speed. If Patterson is still around by the middle of the second round, we can almost certainly chalk it up to a poor showing at the NFL Scouting Combine, held later this month.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.