2013 NFL Draft: Predicting the Most Successful Player at Every Position
This is the part where I scold you for getting excited about whatever NFL free agents your team has landed. In case you forgot, the proper way to build a consistent winner is through the NFL draft. Don't lose sight of that.
Want examples? Fine. How about every Washington Redskins team of the 2000s, or the supposed "Dream Team" that was built in Philadelphia?
Now that I've got your attention, let's focus on what's really important: Who is going to be the most successful player at each position in the 2013 NFL draft?
As you're clicking through, remember that this isn't about instant impact or guys who get you excited on draft day. This is about who is going to put together the best career.
So for those of you whose team didn't go nuts in the first few days of free agency, take heart and click through to find out who can help your franchise get to the top and stay there.
All combine results provided by NFL.com.
Geno Smith is the sexy choice. He put together some ridiculous streaks, dropped eight touchdowns against Baylor and threw 42 total scores in 2012.
That's impressive. But there was nary a top-flight defense on his schedule.
For my money, and I wouldn't put a ton on any of this year's quarterbacks, I'd go with Matt Barkley. The USC product began the season as a potential top pick, but failed to live up to such lofty expectations.
However, he's a guy that has all the talent (see his junior year) and the mental toughness to persevere. Perhaps his difficult senior year will give the former golden boy the grit he needs to survive in the NFL.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't gush about E.J. Manuel's ceilings. He has all the tools of a next-generation quarterback, but he will need to land in the right system and be given time to develop. If this article were based solely on possibilities, Manuel would probably be the winner.
As it is, give me possibilities and bona fide talent.
Pick: Matt Barkley
This year's class isn't the same as 2012's. There isn't a top-10 pick in the lot of them and it wouldn't be surprising if not a single running was selected in the first round.
Eddie Lacy would be the safe pick here. He's a big, seemingly indestructible back who should be able to pound between the tackles at the next level.
And if you were going on straight production, Montee Ball would be the sure-fire bet. But Ball, like Lacy, benefited from running behind oversized offensive linemen against often overmatched defenders.
So why not take a flier on Knile Davis? The Arkansas running back has top-flight speed (4.37 40-yard dash) to match with his physical running style. Just two years ago, he led the SEC by racking up 1,322 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Pick: Knile Davis
Should we go for the big receiver with playmaking abilities? Because Cordarrelle Patterson is an excellent choice if so.
What about a steady player who doesn't drop passes? Nobody is really talking about him, but I have been man-crushing on Conner Vernon for a long time. He focuses on the rock until it's safely locked away.
Those are both nice choices, but what about the player who can make plays and hold on to the ball? That's Tavon Austin in a nutshell. He returns punts, turns short passes into long gains and burns anyone who hesitates.
Yup. I like that.
The Pick: Tavon Austin
There are some serious sleepers at the tight end position. Vance McDonald and Travis Kelce won't go until later rounds, but have the potential to contribute heavily.
But everything at this position boils down to Tyler Eifert versus Zach Ertz.
And everything pointed towards Eifert once the combine wrapped up. He's strong (22 bench reps), fast (4.68 40) and we already knew he could catch the ball.
The Pick: Tyler Eifert
I understand why you would pick Luke Joeckel. He's ridden a wave of speculation that has crested with him landing as the No. 1 overall pick.
But the tide always returns to the sea and Joeckel's grip on the top tackle spot has been slipping. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher has already upended the Texas A&M star in some mocks, and his fast rise isn't a false prophesy.
The kid can maul, brawl and move. The combine proved that Fisher has the elite athleticism needed to excel on the left side and the tape confirms he has the skills.
The Pick: Eric Fisher
It seems that darn near every group in this draft has two top talents and then a sharp dropoff. The guard position is no different.
Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper comprise the top offensive guard duo. They're both 6'2" and weigh over 310 pounds. In other words, they're monstrous.
But some deference needs to be given to the Warmack's college performance. You know, the one where he was the top player for the best offensive line in NCAA history. It also doesn't hurt that he played in the SEC against an astronomically high number of first-round defensive linemen.
The Pick: Chance Warmack
The best part about picking Barrett Jones is that I could mentioned him in any of the offensive line slides and been fine.
So, I determined where he would be the best and placed him there.
Jones played center, guard and tackle at Alabama, winning two national championships and leading dominant offensive line after dominant offensive line. Three of the running backs that he blocked for might end up in the first round (Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy).
Other than Jones, you might be able to talk me into Travis Frederick from Wisconsin. Actually, scratch that. Frederick failed to show anything at the combine that would threaten Jones' spot as top dog.
The Pick: Barrett Jones
Sharrif Floyd is the poster boy for the draft process. He was a semi-unheralded prospect as recently as November, and then the pundits started sorting through the tape. Once they got to Floyd, most had to rewind it multiple times to truly appreciate his great balance of speed, quickness and power.
There is some stiff competition at defensive tackle though. Star Lotulelei has come under fire due to his heart condition, but there is a reason he was considered a top-five guy prior to the combine.
Additionally, Missouri's Sheldon Richardson will not fall out of the first round because he's another guy who can collapse the pocket just as quickly as he can pierce it.
The Pick: Sharrif Floyd
Again, the draft process is a funny thing.
Just a few months ago, very few writers were willing to put Ezekiel Ansah in the top 10. His 4.5 sacks were not going to turn any heads, but that didn't scare off Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller. He knew what we would all learn: Ansah is an athletic freak.
Now that we understand that Ansah is a big man (6'6", 277 lbs.) who can move up the field (4.63 40) or across it (4.26 20-yard shuttle), no one can deny his potential.
Another athletic suitor, Dion Jordan, has made a great case to sit atop the defensive end mountain. And Bjoern Werner put together the best college resume out of the three.
But it doesn't matter.
The Pick: Ezekiel Ansah
So I have to pick between two phenomenally talented outside linebackers from the SEC? I really should have paid more attention in that political game theory class because it doesn't seem that there is a right or wrong answer here.
Therefore, I'll lean on the last year of tape available and give the edge to Jones.
Both guys are crazy athletic and can make plays all over the field. The difference is that Jones did so repeatedly for the Bulldogs while Mingo got lost in the shuffle at times. Instead of science, I'll lean on simple math: 39 (sacks and tackles for a loss by Jones) is greater than 13.
The Pick: Jarvis Jones
I was tempted to go the Manti Te'o route. I wanted to talk about how the centerpiece of a mostly stellar defense will bounce back from all of the drama (girlfriend hoax, Alabama game) now that he only has to focus on football.
Then I realized that I was essentially making the same case that was used to defend Tim Tebow. That's all it took to steer clear of Te'o.
That still left me with a difficult choice between Arthur Brown and Alec Ogletree. Until I found the above video. Brown shows off great instincts in pursuit, and great strength when he takes on a West Virginia fullback and still makes the tackle while engaged with said fullback.
The Pick: Arthur Brown
After so much debate on the previous slides, it's nice to find one with a clear-cut winner.
Sure, you can make a case for Xavier Rhodes. He has great size (6'1"), speed (4.43) and can jump out of the building (40" vertical).
But he isn't Dee Milliner. Nobody in this draft is.
He is just a touch faster (4.37) and is only an inch shorter. However, it's his instincts and strength that make the difference. He can line up in press coverage, stay with a receiver in the open field or even lay the wood if given the opportunity.
The Pick: Dee Milliner
Small-school stud Jonathan Cyprien is the one with all the latest pre-draft hype. He deserves it, but he's still not going any earlier than the second round.
The same goes for Matt Elam or Eric Reid.
That leaves Kenny Vaccaro as the obvious choice for the top safety. He has the ability to do everything, which is what every NFL team covets in a safety. Run support or coverage, Vaccaro is a beast.
The Pick: Kenny Vaccaro
There's a reason that Dustin Hopkins is considered the top-rated kicker by just about everyone: he's good. Hopkins knocked in 24 of his 28 field goal attempts en route to becoming the ACC's single-season scoring leader.
There are others out there, like Caleb Sturgis or Brett Maher, but they don't stack up.
The Pick: Dustin Hopkins
Since we started off talking about sexy picks, let's dispense with another one: Brad Wing. Everyone remembers him running for a touchdown that was called back due to taunting. But believe it or not, that doesn't mean he's going to be the best punter.
That title is reserved for UCLA's Jeff Locke. The Pac-12 punter averaged 44.58 yards per punt. That'll get a scout's attention.
The Pick: Jeff Locke