Buying or Selling NFL Draft's Top 25 Players as Franchise Cornerstones

Wes StueveContributor IIIFebruary 10, 2013

Buying or Selling NFL Draft's Top 25 Players as Franchise Cornerstones

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    In the NFL draft, each team wants to find key parts of its future roster. Teams look for the players who will form the base of a winning team for years to come—in other words, franchise cornerstones.

    In the 2013 NFL draft, there is a finite supply of these prospects, including several among the draft's top 25 players.

    The criteria for the top 25 are based on a combination of future potential and probability. A player's best possible outcome is crucial, but so is his likelihood of becoming a decent player.

    Whether or not a player is a franchise cornerstone depends on his ability to directly affect his team's chances of winning. Position is a factor, as is upside and probability. 

    Every team wants a cornerstone, but only a few will find one. Which players offer cornerstone potential?

Honorable Mentions

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    D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama

    Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech

    Zac Dysert, QB, Miami (Ohio)

    D.J. Fluker is an excellent run-blocker with superb power. He plays right tackle right now, but as a guard, he's a superb prospect. Few linemen possess such elite power.

    Quinton Patton is fast and athletic, but he has some work to do as a wide receiver. He is far from a sure bet, though he could develop into a great player.

    There are better quarterback prospects than Zac Dysert, but Dysert has legitimate starter potential. He throws with great velocity and possesses incredible downfield accuracy.

25. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

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    A great athlete, Datone Jones weighs in at 6'4", 280 pounds. He can play defensive end in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. In a 3-4, Jones is a lighter, pass-rushing end. In a 4-3, Jones is a run-stopper who isn't as much of a threat off the edge.

    Though Jones should become a solid player, he isn't exactly a cornerstone. He isn't someone a team will build around, but he should be an important piece.

    Verdict: Selling

24. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

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    Few linemen play with as much power as Jesse Williams. The 6'3", 320-pounder utilizes great leverage and strength, and he can overpower any offensive lineman.

    Williams' best fit in the NFL is probably as a nose tackle. He may never be one of the NFL's most dynamic nose tackles, but he will be a solid run-stopper.

    If Williams develops into the player he should, he could be a key cog for a defense.

    Verdict: Buying

23. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

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    At 6'1", 182 pounds, Markus Wheaton is undersized but explosive. He's not a traditional wideout by any means, but he's a superb deep threat with dynamic ability. 

    Few players in this draft have the playmaking ability that Wheaton possesses. If he pans out—and he has the skills to—he should be a valuable weapon for his team.

    Verdict: Buying

22. Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

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    Few wide receivers possess the sheer combination of size and speed that Cordarrelle Patterson possesses. The 6'3", 205-pounder is full of potential. However, he has some flaws, including a tendency to catch balls with his body.

    Though Patterson is full of potential, he isn't likely to reach his full upside. It's more likely that he will become a player who gets by on his physical ability than one who dominates.

    Verdict: Selling

21. Jarvis Jones, LB, Georgia

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    Jarvis Jones is an explosive pass-rusher who is hindered by his lack of length. Jones struggles against the run, but his burst off the edge and flexibility make him a weapon against the pass.

    It's tough to say just how Jones will project to the NFL, and there are significant health concerns. However, if he pans out, he has the ability to take over a game.

    Verdict: Selling

20. Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati

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    Blocking in tight ends can be overrated, but when a tight end is truly dominant in the run game, it can be a valuable asset. Travis Kelce is one of those tight ends.

    A powerful 6'6", 260-pounder, Kelce isn't a great athlete, but he does a good job of getting open. He is also a reliable safety net who rarely drops a pass.

    The Cincinnati product may not become a star, but he's a player who will be a solid part of his team for years to come.

    Verdict: Buying 

19. Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama

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    Many project Dee Milliner as a top-five or top-10 pick, but he isn't quite special enough to go that high. Milliner's physical ability is merely average, and he relies mostly on technique.

    In the NFL, Milliner will likely be a solid player, but it's hard to imagine him being much better than that. As with any player, there also is risk as Milliner adjusts to the NFL.

    Verdict: Selling

18. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas

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    It's difficult to find a safety as adept in coverage as Kenny Vaccaro is. The 6'1", 215-pounder can cover wide receivers with ease, and he is also solid against the run.

    Vaccaro's overall ability makes him an intriguing target to many teams. In an NFL lacking safety talent, he will likely be pushed up draft boards. It's unlikely Vaccaro will become a star, but he will be a player who can move around and make plays in all aspects of the game.

    Verdict: Buying

17. Keenan Allen, WR, California

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    If he had played on a college team with a decent quarterback, Keenan Allen would be receiving much more attention. The 6'3", 220-pounder is a solid athlete with great catching ability.

    Allen's strong hands and yard-after-catch ability make him a safe bet to make plays. He also has enough vertical speed to stretch the field.

    Verdict: Buying

16. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida

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    At 6'5", 303 pounds, Sharrif Floyd is a powerful player with solid athleticism. His strength shows as a run defender and pass-rusher, as he dominates interior linemen.

    Floyd could play a variety of roles in the NFL, from 5-tech to 1-tech or 3-tech. He has the ability to excel at any of them as well. Regardless of what role he plays, he should be a strength along the interior of his NFL team's defense.

    Verdict: Buying

15. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan

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    A 6'7", 305-pounder, Eric Fisher combines above-average athleticism with great length. At times, Fisher will dominate with power, but he tends to play too high and will surrender leverage.

    Fisher has the potential to develop into a legitimate franchise left tackle, and he should be at least solid. It's tough to imagine him not being a long-term fixture along his team's offensive line.

    Verdict: Buying

14. Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU

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    Few pass-rushers possess Barkevious Mingo's combination of length and speed. He has incredible upside as a threat off the edge, but there is also huge bust potential in Mingo's game.

    At 6'5", 240 pounds, Mingo needs to bulk up in order to improve against the run. Mingo also needs to add to his pass-rush repertoire so he can properly utilize his physical ability.

    Given Mingo's rawness and downside, it's hard to buy him as a franchise cornerstone. He certainly could become one with time, but he's too risky.

    Verdict: Selling

13. Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

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    It's rare for a defensive end to possess as dynamic of a first step as Bjoern Werner does. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, often beating offensive linemen purely because of his jump.

    Werner is a flexible pass-rusher, but he has significant flaws. His motor often runs cold, and his lack of power remains an issue. He's essentially a one-dimensional pass-rusher who relies entirely on his first step.

    Werner's pass-rushing ability is great, but his downside and one-dimensional play are problematic. That makes it hard to buy him as a franchise cornerstone.

    Verdict: Selling

12. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas

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    Tyler Wilson's senior year was up and down, largely because of Bobby Petrino's abrupt departure and a terrible supporting cast. However, Wilson still possesses huge ability and potential.

    At 6'2", 218 pounds, Wilson is a great athlete with excellent arm strength. He is a risk-taker, which is good and bad. He makes plays, but he also forces passes, which often results in turnovers.

    Wilson needs some work, but he has franchise-quarterback upside. He could be a legitimate starting quarterback in the NFL.

    Verdict: Buying

11. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma

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    There may not be as athletic of an offensive tackle in the NFL as Lane Johnson. At 6'6", 302 pounds, Johnson possesses fantastic speed and ability in the open field.

    Johnson does a great job of mirroring pass-rushers, but he needs to do a better job of extending his arms and keeping pass-rushers at bay. He also needs to bulk up in order to improve at the point of attack.

    Though Johnson needs to improve his game, he has terrific upside as a finesse offensive tackle. He could be a dominant blindside protector.

    Verdict: Buying

10. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri

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    Sheldon Richardson possesses truly rare speed and burst for a defensive tackle. The 6'4", 295-pounder explodes through offensive lines, racking up tackles for loss. 

    Richardson is a dynamic pass-rusher as well, and he could even split out wide as a defensive end. The Missouri product has serious playmaking potential with the ability to make an impact on any given play. 

    Richardson's physical abilities make him a good bet to become an impact player in the NFL. Regardless of scheme, he should be a valuable addition.

    Verdict: Buying

9. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina

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    Given that he weighs in at 6'3", 295 pounds, Jonathan Cooper is simply incredible in the open field. He shows terrific burst, speed and flexibility in the open field. 

    That's not to say Cooper can't play the power game as well. He does well there, but his ability to play in space is unparalleled and makes him an elite guard prospect.

    Though Cooper is a fantastic prospect, he is still just a guard. It's virtually impossible for a guard to be a legitimate franchise cornerstone.

    Verdict: Selling 

8. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

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    Ezekiel Ansah is the definition of a physical specimen. The 6'5", 275-pounder possesses incredible speed and strength to go with his ideal size.

    Ansah is still raw as a pass-rusher, and his flexibility is in doubt, but his burst and closing speed are incredible. He has also played a variety of positions at BYU, from nose tackle to linebacker.

    Though he is certainly boom or bust, Ansah is a player worth taking a chance on. If he turns out, he could have a Julius Peppers-type impact.

    Verdict: Buying

7. Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State

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    Bjoern Werner gets a lot of hype, but he isn't even the best defensive end on his team. That title belongs to Cornellius Carradine, whose stock has suffered due to a torn ACL.

    The 6'5", 265-pounder combines great power and length with pass-rushing savvy. He doesn't possess the best first step, but he has the ability to improve there.

    It's impossible to say how Carradine will recover from injury, but if he comes back at full strength, he should be a star. At this point, there's no reason to think the Florida State star won't come back the same player.

    Verdict: Buying

6. Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M

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    It's difficult to find an offensive tackle with the athleticism and technique of Luke Joeckel. He is ready to enter the NFL and play at an above-average level from day one.

    The 6'6", 310-pounder is a great athlete with solid length. He will be overpowered at times, and he isn't great in the run game, but his pass-blocking ability is valuable.

    A franchise left tackle remains a valuable commodity, and Joeckel has the ability to become one.

    Verdict: Buying

5. Dion Jordan, LB, Oregon

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    Dion Jordan is a rare prospect. 

    At 6'7", 240 pounds, he needs to add bulk, but his length and athleticism are rare. He is an incredible athlete who would cover wide receivers at Oregon.

    Given his insane pass-rushing ability, Jordan has the potential to become a dynamic all-around player. He can be a star in every aspect of the game.

    There is some downside with Jordan, given his lack of bulk, but he has unbelievable potential. 

    Verdict: Buying

4. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State

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    Arthur Brown is the rare linebacker with dynamic ability. He explodes all over the field with legitimate sideline-to-sideline speed. 

    Though he weighs just 230 pounds, Brown does a great job of shredding blocks. He can play the run or cover against the pass. Brown has even displayed an ability to rush the passer.

    It's difficult for a linebacker to be a true franchise cornerstone, but Brown has the ability to be a 10-year star. He is a legitimate impact defender.

    Verdict: Buying

3. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama

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    Chance Warmack is the type of guard who can step in as a rookie and immediately improve his team's run game. The 6'2", 320-pounder plays with incredible power and surprising athleticism.

    Though Warmack is best in the power game, he can also play in the open field, pulling and pass-blocking. In just a couple years, he could be the NFL's best guard. 

    However, Warmack faces the same issue that Jonathan Cooper does. Can a guard be a franchise cornerstone? 

    In Warmack's case, the answer is yes.

    Verdict: Buying

2. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

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    Many claim this draft class lacks a quarterback worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, but Geno Smith is more than talented enough to go in the top five. He should be an above-average quarterback in the NFL.

    Smith's movement in the pocket is rare, and he is a good athlete. His accuracy and decision-making are above-average as well. He's a smart player with solid footwork and mechanics.

    Smith may not be Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, but he's still a good quarterback prospect. He lacks star ability, but an above-average quarterback is a crucial part of any team.

    Verdict: Buying

1. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah

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    Star Lotulelei possesses incredible power at defensive tackle. The 6'3", 320-pounder is almost impossible to move off the line of scrimmage, and he frequently overpowers offensive linemen, driving them into the backfield. 

    With his combination of size, strength and athleticism, Lotulelei could play a number of roles in the NFL. He could play as a nose tackle, 3-tech, 1-tech or 5-tech. 

    Some have criticized Lotulelei for a lack of elite athleticism, but he is well above average there. Given his abundance of power, that is more than sufficient. 

    Defensive tackles are rarely long-term fixtures, but Lotulelei is an exception.

    Verdict: Buying