NFL Draft 2013: Risky Picks That Will Pay Huge Dividends

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 24: Geno Smith of West Virginia throws during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 24, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2013 NFL draft is approaching fast, and there are certain players being deemed as risks that are drawing more attention than others.

These risky players are being knocked down draft boards for injuries or other questions surrounding their worth, but each of the following college stars will turn out to be viable NFL starters from Day 1.

All of the following players will blossom into serious threats at the next level, and the teams that take on these risks will reap the rewards.

For my latest first-round mock draft, click here.


No. 3: Oakland Raiders

Projected Pick: Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia

The Oakland Raiders have serious questions to answer across their roster, but with the third-overall pick, the team should be taking the best quarterback prospect available, West Virginia’s Geno Smith.

Whether the team cuts or trades veteran QB Carson Palmer, Smith should be drafted as the future of the Raiders’ franchise and should be the unquestioned starting quarterback heading into the 2013 season.

Not only is Smith a proven talent on the field (4,205 yards passing, 42 touchdowns and just six interceptions in his senior year), the West Virginia star stole the show at the 2013 scouting combine by being a top performer in the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump (h/t

With all the raw tools to be great in the NFL, Oakland needs to take the risk of selecting Smith and ride it all the way to glory.


No. 4: Philadelphia Eagles

Projected Pick: Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia

The Philadelphia Eagles are making major fundamental changes with their offensive and defensive schemes under new head coach Chip Kelly, and the reported transition to a 3-4 defense (h/t requires an elite pass-rushing outside linebacker to be effective.

That’s where Georgia’s Jarvis Jones comes into play.

Jones led college football with 14.5 sacks, 24.5 tackles for losses and seven forced fumbles, but there were serious questions about a spinal-cord injury that could be detrimental to the long-term success of the defender’s career.

According to Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, those fears are unfounded, and Jones has been given a clean bill of health

If Philadelphia’s doctors agree that there is no medical issue and the team feels college football’s leading pass-rusher could be a difference maker with the Eagles, Jones will be taken No. 4 overall in April.


No. 8: Buffalo Bills:

Projected Pick: Matt Barkley, QB, USC

The Buffalo Bills released veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick (h/t ESPN) and re-signed Tarvaris Jackson (h/t Yahoo! Sports), but there is no question that the team will be looking in the draft for a quarterback that can be the face of the franchise.

Despite the lack of elite depth and talent in this year’s QB class, the upside of USC’s Matt Barkley is undeniable.

There is no question that returning to college hurt Barkley’s stock in this year’s draft—many had the QB as the No. 1 overall pick coming into this season (h/t Vic Ketchman)—but the raw skill shown in his four years at USC is enough to warrant the risk from the Bills.

Buffalo will have to be reassured during Barkley’s pro day that his shoulder injury is healing well (h/t ESPN), but if the team is satisfied with the results of the testing, Barkley should be the Bills' No. 8 overall pick.