The 2013 NFL draft is one of the most important events on each franchise’s schedule, and teams can’t afford to screw their first-round selections up.
No organization wants to throw its pick away, but teams must take risks when they feel that the reward could pay off in the long run.
Each of the following players comes with an associated risk, but with the help of pre-draft workouts and testing, they will prove that they are well worth the risk to the teams selecting them.
Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
In a league predicated on the pass, the need for elite pass-rushing outside linebackers, like Georgia’s Jarvis Jones, is through the roof. As easy as selecting Jones should be for teams, the star’s issues in the past with what was diagnosed as spinal stenosis had many franchises worried.
After yet another clean bill of health (h/t Dan Pompei of the National Football Post), Jones should be climbing the draft board of every team that needs help getting pressure on the opponents' quarterback.
In other words, every team should be looking at Jones.
The outside linebacker led the nation this season in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven), and while there will always be concerns about the longevity of the prospect, the raw skill is well worth the risk.
Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
While there are few scouts who will question the belief that Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is the best player at his position in the 2013 draft, a heart condition discovered at the scouting combine (h/t ESPN) has created some slightly negative buzz around the prospect.
Despite the health issue, Lotulelei is still heralded as a top pick in the draft and will not fall past the top five picks in the first round.
After drawing comparisons to Baltimore Ravens star defensive lineman Haloti Ngata (h/t NFL.com), teams realize that the versatile Lotulelei can play almost anywhere on the line, and his abilities on the field will more than make up for the possible medical issues that he faces.
Lotulelei could go as high as No. 1.
Matt Barkley, QB, USC
The entire league is down on the lack of depth and talent in the 2013 quarterback draft class, and the hype around former USC star QB Matt Barkley should be much higher. This potential first-round pick is even being called a fourth-round talent by some NFL insiders (h/t Greg Cosell).
Barkley’s injury issues in his senior year of college carried over into the combine (h/t ESPN.com), further feeding the frenzy over the QB’s health status.
When the USC standout finally throws for teams, they’ll realize that he’s first-round material.
There are many who felt that Barkley would have been taken high in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft if he had come out after his junior season—the QB feels that way at the very least (h/t Pro Football Talk)—and now he just needs the forum to show off his healthy arm and prove his worth.
There will be at least one team desperate enough at QB to take the risk with Barkley in the first round.