Stock Up, Stock Down for Each NFL Draft Position Compared to Last Year
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It's inevitable. Last year's crop of rookies has to be compared to the 2013 NFL draft class. It's what we do.
Sure, we could wait to see how they fare in their freshman campaigns and go by the numbers. But where's the fun in that?
Speculation is a part of the draft process anyway, so balancing it out against last year's production isn't a reach, right? Besides, we're here to have fun. And be right with every prediction.
So click through to see how the incoming class stacks up against its predecessors.
All rankings and grades courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com, and all links require a subscription.
Quarterbacks: Stock Down
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Cheers to the easiest call out there. If you could bet on these sorts of things, Vegas would have taken these odds off the board long ago.
The 2013 class lacks a "sure thing." There are no Andrew Lucks or Robert Griffin IIIs. Geno Smith probably fits somewhere in between Ryan Tannehill and the above two, but he's the only one with a realistic shot at filling the void.
The depth is somewhat comparable as there are guys who have talent and flaws. Can anyone late have the success of Kirk Cousins or Nick Foles? It’s not impossible, but unlikely.
This one is easy. It's 2012 by a landslide.
Running Backs: Stock Down (Slightly)
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Things get much tighter once we move over to the running backs. There are quite a few similarities between the two classes.
There is a punishing Alabama back at the top (Eddie Lacy), but this year's version of Trent Richardson won’t go nearly as high. Is that because Richardson didn't prove worthy of his third overall selection (11 touchdowns with only a 3.6-yard average)? While Richardson's up-and-down performance didn't help, Lacy doesn't possess all the natural skills (namely agility) of his predecessor.
The further below-the-radar guys are the ones who make these classes so similar. There are a few gems to be unearthed in the later rounds, like Doug Martin and Alfred Morris of 2012. While Le'Veon Bell, Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis will be solid pros, it's hard to argue against the second- and fifth-most productive rushers (yards wise) of last year.
Wide Receivers: Stock Up
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It's easy to buy the speculation over the production when comparing the 2013 receiving class to the 2012 version.
There wasn't a ton to get excited about in last year's class. Nobody gained more than Justin Blackmon's 865 yards, and T.Y. Hilton's seven touchdowns are impressive, but not jaw dropping.
There are players in the upcoming draft who could have a much more impressive impact. Tavon Austin's individual stock has always been high and there is loads of interesting depth (DeAndre Hopkins, Cordarrelle Patterson, Quinton Patton, Justin Hunter), plus combine all-star Ryan Swopes.
This is Occam's razor territory. Don't choose the difficult answer over the simple one.
Tight Ends: Stock Up
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Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener combined had a great year. They jointly accounted for 71 catches, 802 yards and five touchdowns.
Those are solid numbers that would equal Tyler Eifert's sophomore production. You see where I'm going here, right? If one guy from this class, with an erratic quarterback, can put up the same numbers (albeit against easier competition but in fewer games), you have to go with this year's class.
Add Zach Ertz, with sleepers Vance McDonald and Travis Kelce, and this decision is easier than the one made in the previous slide.
Offensive Tackles: Stock Up
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The analysis becomes more complicated at offensive tackle. That whole speculation deal makes this judgment a little hazy.
Matt Kalil is well on his way to being an elite left tackle. As it is, he already tied compatriot Phil Loadholt as the 22nd-best tackle of 2012, according to Pro Football Focus.
And Kelechi Osemele proved a worthy starter. But this year's class has an elite feel to it. Lane Johnson could easily join Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel in the top 10, and no one should feel it's a reach. D.J. Fluker doesn't have the same ceiling, but he's certainly a tough enough player to equal Osemele and Riley Reiff.
We know there was one franchise left tackle last year, and three is greater than one.
Guards and Centers: Stock Up
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There wasn't much quality production from the 2012 guys to evaluate. David DeCastro didn't play a regular-season down due to an early injury, while Peter Konz and Ben Jones turned in mediocre efforts at best.
That won't match the beasts this year has to offer. Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack are vying hard for the top-guard-chosen title, with each grading out somewhere near the top 10 in terms of best overall players in the draft. They probably won't both be chosen that early, but that's only because of their positional value.
And I haven't mentioned Barrett Jones yet. He held it down as a member of a historically great offensive line for years while playing at every position.
Defensive Tackles and Nose Tackles: Stock Down
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The 2013 interior defensive linemen class is somewhat loaded. Guys like Star Lotulelei and Sharrif Floyd have scouts excited, now that all medical issues have been resolved.
There's also Kawann Short and Sheldon Richardson, two guys with the possibility of stringing together long, successful careers.
But last year brought in rookies who threw down from the very start. Their production is way too significant to pin your hopes on the incoming class.
Mike Martin and Fletcher Cox finished the season within Pro Football Focus' top 20 defensive tackles. And Michael Brockers wasn't far off at No. 33, which is better than Paul Soliai, Cullen Jenkins and Randy Stark.
I'm not counting out the current crop of rookies from making this battle interesting, I'm just not betting on it.
Defensive Ends: Stock Up
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Quinton Coples held his own with 5.5 sacks, and accompanied Chandler Jones (10.3 PFF grade, six sacks) and Bruce Irvin (eight sacks) as impact rookies. But their production wasn't matched by anyone else in their class.
This year's big boys have enough talent to equal and exceed their predecessors' play. Ezekiel Ansah is a freak, as he proved at the combine. Bjoern Werner and Damontre Moore have both seen their stock slip once the physical testing began, but their college tape warrants some faith.
Additionally, Cornellius Carradine and Auburn's Corey Lemonier could each notch five or six sacks on their own. That type of projection easily pushes this class into the next level.
And I didn't even count Dion Jordan as an end. I could have, but it's more fun with him in the next slide's conversation.
Outside Linebackers: Stock Up
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No, I'm not going to split the linebackers up by formation. There's too much speculation. And that's saying something for an article based solely on speculation.
Anyway, I mentioned before that I shifted Dion Jordan to rush linebacker in this scenario, mostly because him going to the Philadelphia Eagles makes sense. With him on board, a class that includes Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones and Sam Montgomery gets the nod over last year's up-and-down class.
Lavonte David and Dont'a Hightower carried their own weight nicely last year. They each finished the season ranked in the top 10 outside linebackers, according to Pro Football Focus, with a combined grade of 17.7.
However, those numbers are offset by the mediocrity of Courtney Upshaw and Melvin Ingram. Both were underwhelming overall but did flash some potential, just not as much as this year's class.
Middle Linebackers: Stock Down
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I couldn't do it. I wanted to pull the trigger because betting on the new, exciting guys is just like picking the over. It's more fun.
But how could I make such a selection considering the years that Bobby Wagner and Luke Kuechly put together? I'm not even considering anybody else in my analysis, and I still can't find the courage to go with the fresh blood.
Wagner stepped into a starting role and was a huge cog in a defensive powerhouse. He rated as the second-best inside linebacker of 2012 while holding together a stout Seattle Seahawks defense.
Kuechly wasn't far behind, grading out at 11.2 to Wagner's 16.3. He would have finished much higher if it wasn't for the first few weeks.
This year's group has plenty of talent, from the thumping Manti Te'o to the playmaking Alec Ogletree. Each has some distractions to work on, however, and the presence of Arthur Brown in this group isn't enough to challenge the greatness of the 2012 boys.
Cornerbacks: Stock Down
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When I was coming up with names from last year's class of cornerbacks, it took me awhile. Nothing struck me between the eyes. Then I started digging and realized how good those guys really were.
The most attractive element of the crop was its depth. For instance, Janoris Jenkins had the highlight plays (two touchdowns in two weeks), but the most steady, productive player was Casey Hayward, and it wasn't close. Hayward ranked as the third-best corner, just 1.9 points behind Richard Sherman.
Alfonzo Dennard, who should have never been a seventh-round pick, was also solid, along with Trumaine Johnson.
I like this year's class. Dee Milliner has instant starter written all over him, I'm coming around to Xavier Rhodes (great size) and Desmond Trufant may have something to offer. But that isn't nearly enough to even enter into this discussion, much less come out on top.
Safeties: Stock Up
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There really isn't much to compare here.
Harrison Smith was the only standout at safety last year. He picked off three passes and added 87 tackles. Mark Barron was selected early but had a middling year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
This year's class has an opportunity to have two or three guys who can produce on Smith's level. Kenny Vaccaro is the consensus top safety, but small-schoolers Jonathan Cyprien and Phillip Thomas have the skills to make an impact quickly.
Specialists: Stock Down
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Unless two Sebastian Janikowskis saunter into the green room, picking the 2012 class of specialists is a lock.
Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein set records as rookies. They combined to make 58 of 69 field-goal attempts and knocked in 17 from 50 or more yards.
Basically, they entered the league as two of the best kickers period. I don't care what kicker Dustin Hopkins or punter Jeff Locke bring, it won't be enough.