Predicting the Biggest Draft Day Free Falls of the 2013 NFL Draft

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2013

Predicting the Biggest Draft Day Free Falls of the 2013 NFL Draft

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    Every year, we get blindsided by a few prospects who inexplicably plummet on draft day.

    The cringe-worthy scenes of Aaron Rodgers in the 2005 green room as team after team passed on him is etched in draft lore. Vontaze Burfict dropped right out of the draft last year.

    It is difficult to predict which players will fall a month from now, but which ones are prime candidates for a free fall in the 2013 NFL draft? Click through to find out.

Keenan Allen, WR, California

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    Keenan Allen was the top receiver on many 2013 boards immediately after last year's draft. His quarterback situation at California didn't help, but he was widely viewed as a great prospect. Others began to creep up on him as the season wore on. 

    Then he injured his knee.

    The injury was not terribly serious, but it was bad enough to keep him out of the combine and pro days altogether. While those events probably don't sway NFL teams much, it has been enough to put others like Cordarrelle Patterson and Tavon Austin in the limelight.

    It doesn't help matters that his tape and statistics are limited by his teammates. Allen looks good on his own, but we might be talking about him in the top 10 if he played at Oklahoma State or Alabama.

    A moderate draft-day slide should not be surprising given all the circumstances surrounding Allen. He is first-round talent, but there are plenty of talented guys around him.

Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia

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    One of the more polarizing players in this year's NFL draft finds himself floating the wrong direction on Prospect River.

    Jarvis Jones was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2009 while at USC, leading to an eventual transfer to Georgia, where he has been healthy in two years of starting. Nonetheless, the condition has put a rain cloud over his head heading into draft season. 

    He chose to focus on Georgia's pro day rather than participate at the NFL combine, a decision that could prove costly. While he avoided a poor performance under a bigger microspcope in Indianapolis, Jones did himself no favors with a poor showing at the Georgia pro day.

    Granted, there are plenty of examples of poor workouts working out in the NFL—the name Terrell Suggs has been bandied about in comparison to Jones—but the spinal stenosis specter looms large over the talented pass-rusher.

Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

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    If you are looking for a hot name within the draft community, look no further than West Virginia's Tavon Austin.

    The electric receiver has some amazing tape, and he is certain to make many a NFL defender look silly. His playmaking ability is undeniable. The problem, however, is his size.

    Austin is 5'8" and 174 pounds. Considering the success of other diminutive players, it isn't a stretch to say the West Virginia product will do just fine despite his size. Wes Welker is 5'9" and 185 pounds; Darren Sproles 5'6" and 190 pounds.

    On the flip side, Dexter McCluster has nearly identical size at 5'8" and 170 pounds.

    The $1 million question is, will a team forego drafting a blue-chip piece in the top 20 to take a 5'8" receiver? 

    He is likely to make whichever team drafts him a happy one, but it should not be surprising to see him fall into the back of the first round or even into Day 2.

Damontre Moore, DL, Texas A&M

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    It is difficult to find a prospect who had a worse showing at the NFL combine than Damontre Moore. Once a polarizing figure, Moore's support for a top-10 ranking has eroded since his time in Indianapolis.

    Moore ran a 4.95 40-yard dash and put up just 12 reps on the 225-pound bench press before retiring from competition with a hamstring issue. 

    The truth is, Moore has shown the potential to be a great pass-rusher, but his inconsistency might be his biggest downfall.

Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee

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    As Keenan Allen's draft stock began to slip, Cordarrelle Patterson's began to skyrocket. 

    Patterson is an electric player with the ball in his hands. His vision and elusiveness is reminiscent of Percy Harvin, which is why he was so effective from different parts of the field.

    The problem with Patterson is his limited experience, which has contributed to a short route tree for the talented receiver. Then there is the dreaded "anonymous scout" questioning his football intelligence.

    The Tennessee product has incredible upside, but there are several receivers that are far more polished. That could lead to an unexpected slide for the former Volunteer.

Matt Barkley, QB, USC

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    Quarterbacks are a valuable commodity in today's NFL. Why else would Brock Osweiler have gone in the second round to the Denver Broncos to back up Peyton Manning? Why are the Jaguars sticking with Blaine Gabbert?

    Even so, there are limits to the insanity. After all, there are no Andrew Lucks or Robert Griffin IIIs in this draft, with plenty of question marks surrounding this year's crop. This could be like the 2005 draft, which saw Aaron Rodgers fall all the way to 24th after Alex Smith was taken first overall.

    Matt Barkley's draft stock took a major hit last season after many thought he was the top prospect heading into it. 

    Barkley best fits a West Coast offense, and there are only a few teams that run such an offense. The Packers, Texans, Bengals, 49ers, Redskins, Dolphins, Bears, Rams, Chiefs and Jets run some form of West Coast offense, and most of those teams are set at the quarterback position.

    The Jets might be the best option, but they seem bent on running Mark Sanchez out of New Jersey. The ranks among the fans might also have qualms about taking another USC quarterback in the first round.

    Of course, any team could draft him, WCO or not. 

Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse

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    It is difficult to get a read on Ryan Nassib's draft stock. The Syracuse product came out of nowhere to challenge Geno Smith and Matt Barkley at the top of the draft for quarterbacks.

    Greg Cosell and Russ Lande have Nassib ranked as their No. 1 quarterback—with Lande ranking Nassib as his top overall player—a bold position considering where Nassib falls with the rest of the pack.

    His former coach at Syracuse is now the head coach for the Buffalo Bills, making that destination a popular choice for mock drafts. Whether that comes in the first or second round, however, is an interesting question.

Matt Elam, S, Florida

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    Few 2013 prospects can lay a lick like Matt Elam can. Without question, he is a good, physical safety. But is he a first-round prospect?

    Elam is a violent player, but will teams be able to get past his size? At 5'10", the Florida product is undersized for his position.

    But what does the big hitter show on tape? Here is what his scouting report on NFL.com had to say:

    Elam is one of the higher profile prospects at his position due to his onfield emotion and energy when lining up big hits in the open field. The junior thrives when his nunmber is called, and Elam was very visible since he frequently lined up in the box at strong safety. However, when looking beyond the splash plays, Elam lacks urgency to his game and can be seen standing around while others make the play. That combined with his tendency to launch himself at ball carriers rather than make form tackles may cause some evaluators to be a bit apprhensive. But, if the Gator can harness the electricity he flashes, Elam could end up being one of the top safeties in this class and is a potential first-round pick.

    Kenny Vaccarro and Jonathan Cyprien might have a leg up on Elam at the safety position, which could drive him well into the second round.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame

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    Lennay Kekua jokes linger despite having jumped the shark months ago, but she is not the reason The Big Catfish will fall in the draft. At least not the main reason.

    The fact remains that Manti Te'o was overrated at the conclusion of the college season. The hype Kekua helped create propelled him to a second-place finish in the Heisman balloting and had Te'o as a top-five pick at the height of the furor.

    His tape tells a different story.

    Te'o had a decent pro day this week, improving his draft stock ever so slightly in the process. Or a lot, in some cases.

    Manti Te'o runs unofficial 4.71 40-yard dash at Notre Dame pro day. --- "Puts him in position to be a mid-1st rd pick" says Mel Kiper Jr

    — NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) March 26, 2013

    He very well could be taken in the first round, but he just as easily could fall into the middle of the second. 

Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford

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    Tyler Eifert sat at the top of most tight end rankings throughout the college season, and he didn't do anything to hurt himself as the season came to a close. 

    A curious thing happened, though. Despite doing much to gain on Eifert, Ertz became a bit of a draft darling as we moved into draft season. Even after being outshined by Eifert and other tight ends at the combine, the Stanford product is still a mock-draft dandy.

    Ertz is not a bad player, but it seems like a stretch that he will go before Eifert, who is no lock for the first round himself.