Who are the most reliable prospects in the 2013 NFL draft?
The keyword in that sentence is "most." Let’s face it, projecting how college players will translate to the NFL is rocket science. NFL scouts spend 12 months a year evaluating prospects. Yet, every April at the NFL draft, teams select players that end up busting.
Players bust for a variety of reasons. Some can’t combat the rise in competition, others fail to adapt to new schemes and some simply fail to cultivate the necessary work ethic to succeed at the professional level.
A reliable prospect is a player who has the least probability to become a bust. These players come from NFL-friendly systems, have both the athletic and mental abilities to make the jump and have had productive collegiate careers.
This year’s class lacks star power, but it does feature some reliable prospects who will have productive NFL careers.
Tavon Austin was an electric game-changer last year at West Virgina. His incredible speed and vision resulted in a dynamite statistical season, accumulating 1,289 yards receiving and 643 yards on the ground. In his junior season, he tallied 1,186 yards receiving and eight touchdowns.
Austin's 215 receptions over the past two seasons illustrate his exceptional hands, which, coupled with his speed, will make him a nightmare as a slot receiver in the NFL.
His dynamism to line up both outside as a receiver and in the backfield as a running back creates comparisons to Percy Harvin. Austin is much thinner than Harvin, but he compensates with elevated speed and quickness.
Ten years ago, Austin’s pro prospects may have been limited to returning kicks, which he is also exceptional at. But in today's speed-centric NFL, Austin has real star power.
He can play multiple positions and has explosive big-play ability, which makes Austin a reliable selection come daft day.
Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy get all the love, but a significant reason the three backs were able to achieve success at Alabama was the colossal efforts of their offensive line. Guard Chance Warmack created holes for all three and will continue his reliability at the next level.
Warmack is a bear inside, as he rarely gives up ground against impeding rushers. He also possesses the athleticism to pull and lead block for runners on the outside, which allows him to vacillate between systems and guard positions.
Warmack’s production is undeniable. He started 44 games during his four seasons at Alabama, winning three national championships. He was only penalized two times during his senior season, illustrating his exceptional discipline and mental awareness.
There are a litany of NFL teams in need of guards this offseason, and one will be fortunate enough to acquire the ever-reliable Warmack
Star Lotulelei’s versatility and athleticism make him one of the most sought-after players in this year’s draft and also one of the more reliable.
He unfortunately made headlines at the NFL combine when medical tests discovered a heart condition, barring him from any workouts. However, it appears the condition is no longer a concern.
Lotulelei is a reliable selection for any team employing the 3-4 defensive scheme. His strength and constant motor make him a menace in against the run as a nose tackle. He played in 91.2 percent of Utah’s defensive snaps last season, which is incredible for his size and position.
Lotulelei's high degree of durability and conditioning will be a significant advantage, especially given the NFL’s recent increase in no-huddle offenses.
What’s not to like about Dee Milliner?
Playing against the nation's best competition, Milliner was selected as a first-team All-American his junior season. He was a three-year contributor at Alabama and a member of two national championship teams.
Physically, Milliner is top-notch. His combination of size (6’0”, 200 pounds) and speed (4.37 40-yard dash) allows him to match up against opposing team’s top receivers. He is not limited to man-to-man or zone coverage, and he has proven in college to be solid in press coverage.
Milliner has the production and physical ability to translate to the NFL and will be a reliable draft pick to whoever selects him.
The massive bookend left tackle from Texas A&M might be the first overall pick in this year's draft—and for good reason. The first-team All American anchored the Aggies' elite offensive line, clearing the way for Johnny Manziel’s Heisman run.
Joeckel’s got the size (6’6”, 306 pounds), the quick feet and the production to justify his high selection and to have a fruitful and tenuous career in the NFL.
In college, Joeckel was proficient both as a pass-blocker and run-blocker, which allows him to seamlessly fit any offensive scheme. His durability is also proven thus far, as he started all three years Texas A&M without any significant injuries.
Highly regarded as the best tackle in the draft, Joeckel is a safe and reliable selection.
The best name in the 2013 draft class is Barkevious Mingo. Hands down.
But he’s more than just an excellent name.
Mingo was a force for the vaunted LSU Tigers defense during his collegiate tenure. In today’s pass-happy NFL, pass-rushers are a necessity and Mingo is a pass-rushing machine. Over his three seasons at LSU, he accumulated 15 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss.
Mingo flies off the edge, running a 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine, creating havoc in the opponent’s backfield. His slight build masks his surprising strength, which, in combination with his speed, makes him a handful for opposing pass-blockers.
In a 3-4 defensive scheme, Mingo will be an effective and reliable player.
In a quarterback class full of question marks, Tyler Wilson is the most reliable of the bunch.
Wilson’s production is unquestioned, as he threw for 7,025 yards and 45 touchdowns during his two seasons as a starter at Arkansas.
He displays good feet, toughness, the ability to create time in the pocket and excellent accuracy. His leadership ability was on display during his tenure in Arkansas, never more apparent than in defeat.
The Razorbacks had a tough 2012 campaign, but considering the dramatic departure of Bobby Petrino prior to the season, Wilson deserves a pass. No pun intended.
Despite all the drama and the disappearance of the Arkansas defense, Wilson’s production dipped only slightly in 2012.
During his tenure at Arkansas, Wilson faced the countries best defenses and excelled. Also, unlike many of his contemporaries, he faced the utmost adversity in college when he lost his coach suddenly, but he didn’t fold.
Skilled, tough, battle-tested—Wilson is ready for the NFL and is the most reliable of the quarterbacks in his class.
Last season, Texas struggled defensively. But don’t blame the senior safety for the team’s woes. Kenny Vaccaro racked up 92 tackles and two interceptions.
Vaccaro had a productive career at Texas, starting both his junior and senior seasons, as well as six games during his sophomore year. He has a skill set that allows him to play either safety position, as he is a force both in run defense and in pass coverage.
Teams won’t have to worry about work ethic and attitude with Vaccaro, who returned his senior season despite being touted as a first-round pick after his junior year.
Production, unselfishness and versatility make Vaccaro one of the more reliable players in this year’s draft.