The 2013 NFL draft class is stacked with playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Consequently, a lot of those top-flight prospects have various questions surrounding them—whether it be medical concerns, lackluster college production or off-field issues.
However, several prospective first-round selections stand out from the pack as having a lot of upside, but also bringing a lot of risk to the table.
Here is a breakdown of some of this draft's most intriguing talents who bring with them some baggage should franchises choose to invest heavily in them.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
As productive as he was with the Bulldogs, it seems that Jones is falling out of favor with several NFL teams due to concerns about his spinal stenosis condition, according to Pro Football Talk.
Although that injury did not cause him any problems in Athens, the fact that teams are already dropping him off of their boards in the first round is an indicator of how disconcerting it could be to select Jones with too high of a draft pick.
The upside to taking Jones is very evident. He played against the very best competition college football had to offer, and on a defense filled with NFL talent, he was one of the standout performers.
Jones is a nightmare matchup as a pass-rusher, defends well against the run and is also exceptional in coverage.
However, there does appear to be a risk in drafting him. As his NFL.com draft profile points out, great players with his medical condition had to walk away from the game, including Chris Samuels, Michael Irvin and Marcus McNeill.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Widely considered the best defensive player in the draft before the combine, Lotulelei learned of a heart condition that could significantly lower his draft stock in April.
As Mike Garafolo of the USA TODAY reported, the abnormal heart exam that led to concerns for Lotulelei may simply be the result of losing 10 pounds in three days before the NFL Scouting Combine. Other possible explanations included too much sodium in his diet and simply dehydration.
The former Utes standout may not have had the most gaudy numbers in college, but his combination of size and athleticism will likely command double teams from the beginning. That makes him a tantalizing pick near the top of the draft.
It remains to be seen what sort of affects this will have on Lotulelei long-term, though. But if teams have to continue waiting for more advanced tests to confirm his health, it may scare them away.
Bleacher Report's injury expert Will Carroll has some interesting thoughts on Lotulelei's situation:
Bit surprised we've heard nothing about Star Lotulelei and the more advanced tests he'll be taking. Longer he waits, more teams worry.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) March 2, 2013
ESPN's Todd McShay (subscription required) has Lotulelei going No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs in his latest mock, which is a testament to how talented Lotulelei is even with his medical red flags.
Lotulelei will be among the most interesting prospects to watch in April, as he could go anywhere from first overall to possibly falling outside the top 10.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
Ansah projects best as a defensive end at the NFL level, but he has been a standup outside linebacker in the Cougars' 3-4 scheme the past two seasons. It should be a transition he can make, but he is still so raw.
This is a prospect who is a physical freak at 6'5" and 271 pounds, and he also ran a 4.63 40-yard dash at the combine. But what is concerning is his lack of production against fairly generous competition.
Still, that size and speed combination is enough to tempt plenty of teams in selecting Ansah in the top 32 picks.
The perception is that Ansah is raw, but NFL.com's Gil Brandt was particularly impressed with Ansah's intelligence.
Ziggy's a smart, smart guy. Don't confuse that w/ soft. Check out final minute of BYU-SJS game. He destroyed QB. Plenty of room to grow, too— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) March 5, 2013
Gifted with so many incredible physical tools, Ansah has the ability to be a Pro Bowl-caliber player. A lot of how he develops will depend on which organization he lands with. Bringing him along slowly would be ideal, but if he is asked to be a prominent contributor right away, it could stunt his development.
For someone who is meant to be a force as a pass-rusher at the next level, 4.5 career sacks in college isn't exactly encouraging.
Ansah presents front offices with the classic dilemma: Given his natural skill set, it seems silly to pass on him in the first round, yet he also hasn't produced very much at the collegiate level. But if Ansah becomes a star, plenty of teams will be kicking themselves for not selecting the physical specimen.
Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
Despite a recent DUI and a four-game suspension to start his final year with the Bulldogs, there is something special about Ogletree's knack for making plays.
It's worth citing the expertise of ESPN's McShay once again to how special Ogletree is. Despite missing those four games, he still led an extremely talented defense in tackles this past season.
Pound-for-pound,Ogletree is one of five-best athletes and football players this class has to offer. Shake my head in amazement every tape.— Todd McShay (@McShay13) March 2, 2013
Ogletree really is something to watch on tape. His speed and pursuit angles allow him to range from sideline-to-sideline, stopping opposing ball carriers and even athletic quarterbacks in their tracks. He started out as a safety in Athens, which is a testament to his unique coverage ability.
At 6'2" and 242 pounds, there is a chance that Ogletree can stick to his typical inside linebacker spot in the pros, but his athleticism allows him the flexibility to play on the outside as well.
Considering how athletic he is, Ogletree should develop into a solid three-down linebacker no matter where he lines up on defense. As long as he stays out of trouble on the field, there is little doubt that Ogletree can have an extremely productive NFL career assuming he stays healthy.
That's a rather large caveat, though, and teams may not be willing to take a flier on Ogletree given his past off-field transgressions.