Studying each 2013 NFL Draft prospect's abilities while projecting where they fit is a great past time. However, when examining all of those individual trees, you can lose sight of how impressive the forest is compared to the classes that have come before.
So I took a look at some of the past draft classes and compared it to 2013's. I broke down the elements of each draft into three sections for easier analysis: quarterbacks, elite talent and depth. Each of these three ingredients is necessary for a top-tier class.
Surely, you will recognize the 1984 class by name alone; it stands astride NFL draft history as a colossus. The 2013 rookies aren't on that level, but scroll down to find out where they ultimately reside in the hierarchy.
You have to talk about the quarterbacks. It's the most premium position in all of sports and the odds of landing a capable signal-caller by other means are relatively modest.
Looking around at this year's class, the 1984 class has nothing to fear. There isn't a high ceiling here, and the talent level is more comparable to the 2010 class.
People like Geno Smith, but is he anything more than Sam Bradford? I don't mean in a playing-style way, more from a risk standpoint. Is he just the best path in a minefield? And Matt Barkley has a Jimmy Clausen thing going on. Outstanding pedigree and a California swagger, but some serious questions remain regarding the decision-making process.
Regardless of how many quarterbacks are drafted early, this quarterbacking class is mediocre at best.
You won't find a Larry Fitzgerald in this year’s pool. The closest thing to an automatic game breaker is Tavon Austin, but there isn't a complete No. 1 wide receiver. And while there is a lot of potential in guys like Sharrif Floyd or Star Lotulelei, their chances of having an Ndamukong Suh-like impact are remote. Frankly, you’d have to combine the two.
However, there are defensive playmakers with a ton of potential. Ezekial Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Dion Jordan and Jarvis Jones will define this draft class. If they all reach their almost impossible ceilings, this could be the most potent pass-rushing crop ever produced.
In terms of that type of production, the above guys are similar to the class of 2000. The linebackers in that group included LaVar Arrington (who was good for awhile), Brian Urlacher, John Abraham, Julian Peterson and Keith Bullock. That's four big-time names and a solid starter.
The key to this class is that it has just the right amount of mustard. What I mean is that there is enough talent in a large number of players and it's spread perfectly. Much like a ham sandwich with the proper distribution of mustard, these guys can really complement a good team and provide a quality starter. And those types of guys are available throughout the first couple rounds.
It's most similar in that respect to the 2009 draft class. The five through 50 picks (without any "elite" players) were probably the deepest (had the most consistent contributors) of the last decade, producing such players like Eugene Monroe (No. 8), Brian Cushing (No. 15), Clay Matthews (No. 26) and Connor Barwin (4No. 6). There's a real feeling that most teams will want to trade back to grab a depth guy while not taking a chance on one of the "top-tier" players.
The class of 2013 doesn't have a few rock stars at the top like 1984 or 2012. Without such guys, the crop of selections can't go down as a top 10 class of all time.
But there is a lot of solid talent with a few guys who can be studs on the defensive side. This class ranks in the second tier, in the B range. There’s lot to love about the 2013 prospects, there just aren’t any franchise saviors.