If NFL teams are smart, there won't be a single quarterback selected in the first 10 picks of the 2013 NFL Draft. Drafting a quarterback early in Round 1 this year is simply too risky, and it's not the only thing teams must be careful about heading into Thursday's draft extravaganza.
If there's one thing we know for sure about the draft, however, it's that at least a few teams will throw caution to the wind and take a big gamble.
Sometimes these gambles pay off, while other times they result in general managers losing their jobs.
With this in mind, here are a few big risks teams should avoid in this year's draft.
Drafting a Quarterback in the Top 10
This year's crop of young signal-callers is like an entire class full of Blaine Gabberts and Alex Smiths.
Not to say that this year's class won't produce starting-caliber quarterbacks. Far from it. In fact, there are some promising prospects who could turn into stars, given the right circumstances.
Unfortunately for quarterback-needy teams this season, the right circumstances include sitting behind an established starter for at least one year while learning the ropes and refining their games.
Do any of this year's signal-callers have enough game to be worthy of a top-10 pick?
Geno Smith has all the raw physical tools you look for in a franchise quarterback, but he will be an interception machine if he is forced into starting duties in 2013. He struggles to progress through his reads in a timely manner, and NFL defensive backs will bait him into all kinds of mistakes.
Matt Barkley is a competent signal-caller who has limited arm strength. Of all the quarterbacks in this year's class, he's the one ready to step into a starting lineup, but his physical attributes are all average.
Every quarterback in this year's class has a late-first-round grade at best on my big board, and it would be foolish to reach for a player who isn't ready to handle the NFL in Week 1.
Character Issues Must Not Be Overlooked
As it does every year, the NFL draft features certain players whose physical talents are undeniable but whose character is highly questionable.
Certain teams, like the Atlanta Falcons, won't even think about drafting players with arrests on their record (h/t Scott Carasik of Bleacher Report).
Others, like the Cincinnati Bengals, seem to be attracted to guys with troubled pasts.
The smart money is always to avoid drafting players who have gotten in repeated trouble over their college careers, and most of the teams that are consistently in contention for the playoffs tend to lean in this direction.
Who is the riskiest prospect with character concerns?
Alec Ogletree is one player who fits this description. An athletically gifted young man who began his career at Georgia as a safety, this inside linebacker has the potential to become a terrific player in the NFL.
Unfortunately, Ogletree has a history of poor judgement (h/t Russ Lande of the National Football Post). He has failed drug tests and has an arrest on his record, and as a result, he could slip into the bottom half of the first round.
Cornerback Tyrann Mathieu is another player teams must be wary of drafting. Multiple failed drug tests and an arrest mark him as a huge red-flag prospect.
Tight end Travis Kelce of Cincinnati is another prospect with unique and potentially valuable skills, but he missed an entire season after breaking team rules.
These players must be carefully considered on draft day, as there's a chance they could end up blowing up like Rolando McClain, who has been in trouble since joining the NFL three years ago and may be on his way out of the league for good after his latest arrest (via USA Today).
Drafting for Need Rather Than Taking the Best Player Available
Teams typically reach for quarterbacks in the first round, but that isn't the only time we see teams make poor choices when assessing value.
This year, there isn't a huge difference talent-wise between the player selected at No. 5 and the player selected at No. 50. It's a deep class without many players who truly stand above their peers—a stark contrast to last year's draft when Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin were undoubtedly the top players in the draft.
Is it ever OK to make a selection based on need rather than taking the best player?
This dynamic could cause some teams to become convinced that it's alright to reach for an offensive lineman they desperately need rather than taking another player they value higher at a position they don't need as much.
The best way to build a roster for the long haul is by consistently selecting the best player regardless of position or need. Competition breeds success, and you can never have too many good players on your roster.
This is the philosophy that San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke employs, which is why he's not opposed to drafting a quarterback this year, should the right one come along (h/t 49ers.com).
Drafting for need is a strategy that will continually keep a franchise on the ropes, which will cause a total collapse over time.
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