The Biggest Steals from Day 1 of the 2013 NFL Draft
Nearly half the players drafted will probably not become good NFL players. Half of them will be busts, and only a couple will become elite players.
A “steal” can happen for a lot of different reasons, and time will tell what players in this draft are really steals; a lot goes into turning a prospect into a quality NFL player outside of when he is drafted. Still, a lot of uncontrollable things like problems in a player's personal life can have as much of an impact as controllable things like coaching and scheme.
All that said, there are always a few highly regarded prospects that fall in the draft unexpectedly and present a great value for the team that picks them. The 2013 NFL draft was full of twists and turns, and they presented several huge values for teams that let the draft come to them.
Star Lotulelei, 14th Overall
Just a few months ago, draft experts expected Star Lotulelei to be drafted in the first five picks, but he tumbled on Day 1. Teams that could have used Lotulelei bypassed the defensive tackle before the Carolina Panthers selected him with the 14th overall pick.
Head coach Ron Rivera is a defensive-minded guy who will put Lotulelei’s versatility to good use, and Lotulelei will prove to be one of the steals of the draft. He is a true impact player on the defensive line and will make others around him better.
Lotulelei was diagnosed with a heart condition in February and could not participate in the rest of the NFL combine. He was subsequently cleared by doctors, but you have to wonder if that factored into his fall. Bleacher Report's Will Carroll analyzed Lotulelei’s issue and determined, “There should be no concerns about Lotulelei's heart given the clearance, but there is little doubt that it will be in the minds of some GMs on draft day.”
Sharrif Floyd, 23rd Overall
Analysts predicted Sharrif Floyd at third overall in just about every mock draft, but he fell to 23rd overall. That’s quite a fall and, subsequently, quite a steal for the Minnesota Vikings.
Greg Cosell of NFL Films, known for his eye for talent, said of Floyd, "He's my favorite player that I’ve seen on tape, and I’ve seen an awful lot of players" (via ProFootballTalk).
On the other hand, one scout told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Those idiots on TV made Floyd," but he was in the minority.
NFL Network's Mike Mayock called Floyd “the most explosive defensive tackle” in this draft but said teams texted him Thursday night to explain that character concerns and a lack of college production caused Floyd to fall.
Jeff Darlington of NFL.com disputed assertions that Floyd had any such character problems.
If Floyd is what many respected evaluators believe, the Vikings may have found the eventual replacement for Kevin Williams at the end of the first round. Quite a value.
Xavier Rhodes, 25th Overall
The Oakland Raiders made the first surprise move of the draft, trading down from No. 3 to No. 12 and eventually selecting cornerback D.J. Hayden. Dee Milliner went off the board with the ninth pick to the Jets, but most expected Xavier Rhodes to be the second cornerback taken.
Rhodes fell thanks to the odd run on offensive linemen in the middle of the first round, so Minnesota scooped him up with the 25th overall pick, as the Vikings needed a replacement for Antoine Winfield.
It’s unclear why Rhodes fell from the middle to the late first round, but the selection of Hayden and odd picks like Kyle Long and Justin Pugh in the first 19 picks certainly contributed. Rhodes is a little bit raw, but he’s instinctive and a perfect fit in Minnesota’s defense.
Datone Jones, 26th Overall
Some will argue that Datone Jones was not expected to go any higher, but they would be selling Jones short. There weren’t any 5-technique defensive ends as good as Jones, and half of the league uses the 3-4 as a base defense.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Packers very shrewdly selected Jones after struggling to set the edge in their loss to the 49ers in the playoffs. You won’t see a better motor than Jones, and he was the only guy who could crack Eric Fisher at the Senior Bowl. Fisher went first overall and is expected to anchor an offensive line for a decade.
Jones will come in and anchor the Packers defensive line for a decade and open things up for Clay Matthews. Jones was a steal, regardless of where pundits expected him to be taken.
Cordarrelle Patterson, 29th Overall
The biggest playmaker in the draft fell all the way to 29th overall, where the Minnesota Vikings selected him with their third first-round pick of the draft. The Vikings thought highly enough of Cordarrelle Patterson to send several valuable picks to the New England Patriots for the rights to draft him.
Patterson is not without some concern, but he’s basically a bigger version of Percy Harvin, who the Vikings shipped to Seattle this offseason. The Vikings are doing everything they can to give Christian Ponder the weapons he needs to be a good NFL quarterback.
Greg Jennings will also provide Patterson with a good mentor at the position. Jennings will be the go-to guy and possession receiver while Patterson gets up to speed in the offense. Patterson has game-breaking speed and agility and will be a nightmare to stop if the Vikings can get him the ball in space.
Patterson could prove to be the steal of the entire draft if character concerns are overblown. You could make a case that he will make a bigger impact on an offense than the first overall pick, Eric Fisher.