After NFL Scouting Combine, Who's in the Conversation for 2013 Draft's Top Pick?
The NFL's "Underwear Olympics" are over, and it's time to review who is in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick.
First, it's probably worthwhile to have a general disclaimer about what the combine actually means to NFL teams. The workouts are a process, regardless of how much or little emphasis teams place on it. That process starts and usually ends with tape, but in the middle is a lot of investigation, controlled workouts and interviews.
The combine helps with all of that other stuff. Teams get to meet players for the first time and get a feel for their composure and character. They poke and prod them and subject them to tons of medical and mental tests.
They also talk to other teams. While there may be smoke screens in the media, fans would be surprised how honest teams can be in back channels. They might not share their opinions with one another, but they certainly exchange information.
Of course, the workout is the star—from the first bench press rep to the final Rich Eisen-run 40-yard dash, the NFL Network covers almost every minute.
The combine isn't going to ever tell teams something they can't find out on tape, but it can break some ties. If a team has numerous players gridlocked within a certain position, a combine workout can help show who has the most upside.
For the media and fans, the combine can let outsiders know what teams already do—some of these guys we haven't been talking about are really good!
With all that in mind, who can legitimately go No. 1 following some stellar performances in Indianapolis?
In Case of Trade: Dion Jordan (OLB Oregon); Barkevious Mingo (OLB/DE LSU); Ezekiel Ansah (DE/OLB BYU)
As I said when I took a look at the No. 1 pick a few weeks ago, a trade of the first pick seems unlikely. As the board continues to shake out, it looks even less so. If there is an offensive tackle, quarterback or interior defensive lineman available that is worth the No. 1 overall pick, the Kansas City Chiefs would be crazy to pass on him.
The one caveat is if one of these edge rushers separate themselves from the pack. The Chiefs have a wonderful pair of rushers already in Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, so a team like Oakland, Philadelphia or the New York Jets could try to jump ahead of the group to get their guy at the very top.
All of these guys had phenomenal combine performances, so it is easy to envision scouts and general managers starting to drool over them.
The problem, of course, is that a team would be crazy to pay a king's ransom for the top pick when it could sit where it is and grab whichever top pass-rusher falls to it. There's no RGIII to trade up for, so this situation is possible, but not very likely.
Luke Joeckel (OT Texas A&M)
Joeckel is still the leader in the clubhouse, but he could be slipping after a less-than-elite-looking combine.
The Chiefs should just let Branden Albert walk and hand the left tackle spot over to Joeckel for the next decade. Why pay top money for a guy who isn't worth it when you can give rookie money to a player who will be worth so much more?
The former Aggie is a polished prospect with every single tool you could look for in a pass protector. He has some concerns about overall strength (at least when compared to some of the other top tackles), but no one is drafting a tackle first overall to be a run-blocker.
With Joeckel plus a free-agent (Band-Aid) quarterback, the Chiefs can be contenders again very soon.
Geno Smith (QB West Virginia)
The only other pick that made sense to me before the combine was the top quarterback in the class—Geno Smith. While he gets flak because he's not Andrew Luck or RGIII, people forget that Smith is actually a pretty talented prospect. He's tough, athletic and has more than enough arm strength to make every single throw.
Smith answered a lot of the athleticism questions with a great combine performance. He's not going to break any quarterback rushing records, but he can extend plays with his feet and pick up easy first downs.
While it's easy to say that the Chiefs shouldn't reach for a quarterback, it's also true that they may not have another chance at a prospect like Smith if they don't take it now. If Alex Smith becomes the placeholder and Andy Reid has the positive effect they believe he can, eight wins isn't out of the question in the AFC West. There aren't any Lucks or RGIIIs falling to eight-win teams either.
Star Lotulelei (DT/DE Utah)
The biggest news out of the combine was that Lotulelei had a heart condition that prevented him from working out with his peers. Now, if that condition persists or is something serious, he could fall far down every single draft board. However, if it checks out with teams at a later date, there's no reason to believe he couldn't still go first overall.
First the negative: I'm not sold on a 3-4 defensive lineman going so high in the draft. Frankly, I think that's a big part of what got Scott Pioli fired. The 3-4 employs space-eaters—guys that can be had later in the draft. The star pass-rushers of the 3-4 are the outside linebackers. That's who makes all the money and the big impact.
Lotulelei is certainly talented enough to go No. 1, however, and it is a need for the Chiefs, who could be losing both Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson.
Eric Fisher (OT Central Michigan)
Why not Fisher?
That's the question I've heard most often about the Central Michigan prospect since his performance at the Senior Bowl. Fisher is every bit the physical prospect that Joeckel is and pops even more on tape. His height and length allow him to keep pass-rushers off his body, and he's got better bend than other tall tackle prospects we've seen in recent years.
The biggest negative is lack of quality competition compared to Joeckel, although it's been years since NFL talent evaluators thought of the MAC as a "small-school" conference.
Fisher had a better combine than Joeckel, and teams are going to fall in love with him. If the Chiefs do, he could easily go with the top pick.
Sharrif Floyd (DT/DE Florida)
Right up there with Lotulelei, it seems crazy to me for the Chiefs to take Floyd first overall. On top of the positional value concerns, there's also the personal opinion that I don't think Floyd is worth a top five pick. Yet more and more, I hear people disagreeing with me in that regard.
He flashed at Florida, but his overall tape concerned me. He doesn't lack motor, in my opinion, but he struggles to make an impact. He'll beat his man to the wrong side, get blocked out of the play easier than he should or simply get run off around the edge.
With his athleticism, he can still make plays when all of that happens, but he is not the elite college playmaker that Ndamukong Suh or Gerald McCoy were coming out of school.
A lot of that could be boiled down to him being a "diamond in the rough," and if the Chiefs feel like they can polish Floyd up into something valuable, they may not want to miss on him.
Lane Johnson (OT Oklahoma)
Of all the potential first-round linemen, Johnson had the best combine. A former quarterback, Johnson ran a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash and leaped 34 inches in the vertical—both second among the linemen. His 118 inches in the broad jump was best among the lineman, and his 28 reps on the bench press were more than respectable for a pass-protector.
Just about everyone had Johnson as the third-best tackle in this class with a big margin after him. Slowly, but surely, that had his stock rising to teams in the top half of the first round that needed a legit left tackle.
After such an incredible combine workout, the term "upside" is going to get thrown around a lot, and if the Chiefs feel that they need a tackle and that Johnson has the most upside, he should be the pick.
Michael Schottey is the NFL national lead writer for Bleacher Report and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Find more of his stuff at The Go Route.
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