Biggest Remaining Question Marks Heading into the 2013 NFL Draft
The 2013 NFL draft is about a month away, yet many obvious and intriguing questions remain. For example, where will Geno Smith end up?
No one claims to have all the answers, and no one will until draft day. That doesn't mean, however, that we can't make educated guesses.
After all, that's what the draft is all about.
Is There a 1st-Round Running Back?
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Right now, this looks like a no, but that could easily change.
The strongest piece of evidence pointing in favor of a first-round running back is history. Since the modern draft was created, a running back has been selected in the first round every year.
Eddie Lacy is widely considered the draft's top running back. But is he special enough to justify a first-round selection in a deep class at the position? That's not to mention the plethora of late first-round talent in other areas.
Lacy probably won't go in the first round, and if he doesn't, the 2013 NFL draft will go down in history.
Who Is the Draft's Top Pass-Rusher?
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This is a three-man race. The top pass-rusher is either Barkevious Mingo, Ezekiel Ansah or Dion Jordan. All three could be top-10 picks, and all three offer schematic versatility.
Mingo is probably the best pure edge-rusher, as he utilizes great length, explosiveness and speed to attack the quarterback. Jordan's ability in coverage is rare, though, and Ansah offers a dynamic combination of size and athleticism.
The Jaguars could use the No. 2 pick on any of the three, and it's vaguely possible one might even be Kansas City's pick at No. 1.
Expect Ansah to go first here because of his untapped potential, but he could also go third.
Just How Important Is Size?
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Tavon Austin is the most relevant player here. At just 5'8", 174 pounds, the West Virginia star is tiny, and durability concerns run rampant. But Austin is almost unquestionably the most explosive player in the draft.
If Austin is still the first wide receiver drafted and a top-10 pick, the NFL will seemingly be saying that size isn't everything. If he falls until even the second half of the first round, it will be saying that yes, size matters.
Another example of this is Arthur Brown. The Kansas State linebacker is an animal on the field, combining terrific athleticism with superb instincts and football ability. The only question is his size, as he is 6'0", 241 pounds.
Both Austin and Brown are top-10 talents. But will they be top-10 picks?
Where Will Geno Smith Get Drafted?
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The top quarterback in this year's draft, Geno Smith has been projected everywhere from No. 1 overall to the second round. No one is certain where he will go.
Since the Chiefs traded for Alex Smith, it seems unlikely that the West Virginia star will be heading to Kansas City with the No. 1 selection. However, he could go to the Jaguars at No. 2. Jacksonville probably doesn't see much in either Chad Henne or Blaine Gabbert, and the team desperately needs a quarterback.
The Raiders draft after Jacksonville, and they could also take Smith. The team is reportedly considering cutting its starting quarterback, Carson Palmer.
If Smith makes it past these two teams, it's hard to imagine him falling past Arizona and Buffalo at No. 7 and No. 8 respectively.
How Important Is a Player's Position?
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Most analysts consider Chance Warmack a top-10 talent, and some believe he is the best player in the draft. However, Warmack plays guard, a position that isn't considered overly important.
Like Warmack, Jonathan Cooper is a top prospect. He is a different type of player than Warmack is, but is undeniably talented and a top-20 talent.
But just where will these two interior linemen be drafted?
It's plausible that one of them could go as high as No. 10 to the Titans. The Chargers at No. 11 are also possible, and even the Cardinals could be an option at No. 7.
The question is whether a guard will actually go that high. It's impossible to say just what NFL teams are thinking here.
How Will the Trade Market Shape Up?
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The 2012 draft was a flurry of trade activity, with four trades going down in the top 10.
Much of that amped-up movement can be attributed to the new rookie wage scale. Will that trend continue now that the scale has been in place for another year?
In the top 10, there are a couple potential trade targets. If defensive ends fly off the boards, a team could try to move up for one of them. The same could happen at offensive tackle, where Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson could all go in the top 10.
And of course, if Geno Smith falls, a team could attempt to trade up for the top-ranked quarterback.
These are possible scenarios that could bring about a trade. We will only know for sure on draft day.
Does the NFL Believe in the Zone Read?
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Like any other draft, the 2013 edition offers a variety of quarterbacks. Some of them—especially E.J. Manuel and Matt Scott—are being talked up for their ability to play in a zone-read offense.
Both Manuel and Scott's running abilities are among their strongest traits, and they aren't quite as efficient when throwing the football as other quarterback prospects are.
So, this is the perfect opportunity to see if the NFL really does believe in the zone read. If Manuel and Scott are drafted before better passers, it would seem to indicate that, yes, there is hope for the system.
If Manuel and Scott fall into place according to their passing skills, then it would appear that the NFL considers the recent movement nothing more than a fad.
What Do Teams Want Along the Defensive Line?
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This applies especially to the draft's interior defensive linemen, where there are several top prospects.
The likely top-drafted defensive tackle is Sharrif Floyd. Floyd is a quick, disruptive tackle who uses solid technique and physical ability to penetrate opposing lines. He rarely has a negative play.
On the other end of the spectrum is Star Lotulelei. The powerful defensive tackle is nearly impossible to move, but he also offers surprising quickness and athleticism.
Then there is Sheldon Richardson, an explosive player who is raw but full of potential.
Each of these three fits a clear prototype—from raw to ready and explosive to powerful—and how they come off the board will be telling.
Just How Overrated Was Manti Te'o?
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At one point, Manti Te'o was being mocked at No. 1 overall. Now, he's widely considered a second-round pick.
How much of this is due to his off-the-field situation and reevaluation of his on-field performance is impossible to say. It can, however, be said that his stock has taken a beating.
Te'o was obviously overrated during the season. Just how much he was will be determined by where he is drafted. If he still goes in the middle of the first round, his stock wasn't too inflated.
But if he falls to the second or lower, he was clearly overhyped.
How Badly Do Teams Want a Quarterback?
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Most analysts will say that this is a bad quarterback class, and many expect that just one quarterback will be a first-round selection.
It would be difficult to find many who disagree with the notion that there aren't many first-round talents at quarterback. Nonetheless, don't be surprised if several end up going early.
Quarterback is the most highly valued position in all of sports. This obviously leads to them being over-drafted. See Ponder, Christian for further reading.
But just how valued is the quarterback position, and how desperate are teams?
We will know that at the end of April, when we see where the quarterbacks end up.