Manti Te'o and the Biggest Steals in the 2013 NFL Draft

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterApril 27, 2013

Manti Te'o and the Biggest Steals in the 2013 NFL Draft

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    There were 254 players taken in the 2013 NFL draft. It took three days to divvy up the picks and countless hours of preparation for teams to prepare draft boards and orchestrate a game plan for the roster-building process.

    It’ll take years to determine which NFL team had the best draft, and even then it'll be difficult to distinguish because there are so many different criteria to name a winner.

    Does the team that drafted the most All-Pro players "win" the draft? What about the team that found that one player that pushed it into the Super Bowl?

    There’s not just one set of criteria to pick the best draft-day performer. There’s also not just one right answer when it comes to draft-day steals.

    Does a pick warrant the “steal” label just by virtue of being taken later in the draft than projected? What about a team finding a Year 1 starter in the middle rounds?

    I’m not going to stick to one reason why a pick is a “steal"; I’m just going to go with the “you’ll know it when you see it” argument. Think Tom Brady in the sixth round to the New England Patriots.

    Here are 10 of the biggest “steals” from the 2013 NFL draft.

Manti Te’o, ILB, San Diego Chargers

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    If the NFL draft had been held in December, Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te’o would have been a top-five pick.

    But the new year hasn’t been kind to Te’o.

    The bottom fell out of his stock after a disappointing BCS National Championship Game performance, a soap-opera dating fiasco featuring a fictional girlfriend, and a very disappointing 40 time at the combine.

    Te’o’s bad 2013 ended—at least he hopes it did—on Friday when the San Diego Chargers moved up and selected him in the second round with the 38th overall pick in the draft.

    There were a lot of teams that had a first-round grade on Te’o, who played his final season at Notre Dame much faster than his combine times showed. And take away the BCS title game against Alabama, where Te’o faced two first-round offensive linemen in D.J. Fluker (now a teammate in San Diego) and Chance Warmack, and Te’o excelled.

    Te’o won the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Nagurski and the Lombardi awards in 2012. He now will set his sights on a bright career with the Chargers.

Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee Titans

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    Justin Hunter earns the “steal” tag because of his upside, big-play ability and the fact that he had a first-round grade from a number of teams.

    Hunter is a huge 6’4” target that will thrive on the outside but also has the ability to slide inside and threaten defenses in the slot. Wherever he lines up, he’s going to create mismatches for any defense that stands opposite of the Tennessee Titans, who traded up to draft Hunter at No. 34.

    He spent most of the 2011 season for the Tennessee Volunteers injured with a torn ACL and then had to slowly get back into game shape—which arguably never happened—during the 2012 campaign.

    With more than a year’s time between his injury and the start of training camp, Hunter should start his professional career with confidence in his knee and return to the days where big plays were the norm.

    Look for his focus issues (drops and poor route-running) to go by the wayside and for Hunter to make teams wish, three years from now, they hadn’t passed him over in the first round.

Shariff Floyd, DT, Minnesota Vikings

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    Defensive tackle Shariff Floyd was supposed to be a first-round selection. Heck, he was supposed to be a first-hour pick on Thursday night.

    His name wasn’t called from Radio City Music Hall until late in the first round, when the Minnesota Vikings made him the 23rd pick.

    This could turn out to be a wonderful value pick for the Vikings, depending on the reasons for Floyd’s free fall.

    Two defensive tackles—Sheldon Richardson to the New York Jets and Star Lotulelei to the Carolina Panthers—came off the board before Floyd. The question remains: Why?

    Nothing negative that would have caused his draft stock to plummet has been reported in recent days. Usually when a player with the skills Floyd has falls, it’s character concerns or a failed drug test. That’s not the case here (at least not yet, and possibly not at all).

    As long as nothing devastating comes out in the coming weeks to shed light on Floyd's fall to No. 23, this pick will be a steal for Minnesota.

Cornellius Carradine, DE, San Francisco 49ers

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    A torn ACL in his right knee in late November was likely the reason Florida State defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine wasn’t considered a surefire first-round prospect.

    After a blazing-fast 4.75 40-yard dash at his pro day on April 20 (just 135 days after knee surgery), Carradine flirted with first-round status nonetheless.

    But 32 picks passed in the first round and then seven more in the second before Carradine found out he was headed to the San Francisco 49ers.

    He won’t instantly make it to the top of the depth chart, but Carradine could find time to rush the quarterback from both sides once his knee strength is fully recovered. He’ll fit into the nickel package and learn his craft from Aldon Smith until he’s ready to be a three-down guy.

Robert Woods, WR, Buffalo Bills

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    There are a good number of wide receivers in this draft that are huge-upside boom-or-bust picks. A guy like first-round pick Cordarrelle Patterson instantly comes to mind.

    But Patterson isn’t the steal pick here—I’m much more enamored with Robert Woods from Southern California, even though he's not an electrifying player.

    Woods wasn’t a “wow” pick at No. 41 by the Buffalo Bills, but he may quietly turn into the best receiver in the draft. He was an absolute beast for the Trojans.

    While he wasn’t a burning-fast outside threat that no one could contain, Woods displayed superb hands, fantastic route-running and was Matt Barkley’s go-to guy. He averaged 84 catches in his three years at USC and caught 32 touchdown passes.

    If Woods can get used to the non-California weather in Buffalo, he could be a big-time success.

Menelik Watson, OT, Oakland Raiders

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    Football wasn’t Menelik Watson’s first sport. In fact, the Manchester, England-born behemoth participated in soccer, basketball and boxing before falling in love with the pigskin.

    Watson’s arduous and twisting path to the Florida State field (which also included time in junior college) prevented a four-year college career, and Watson started just one year at right tackle for the Seminoles. That may be the reason why he fell out of his projected first-round slot and landed with the Oakland Raiders at No. 42 in Round 2.

    With tremendous upside and absolutely awesome athletic ability, once Watson fully gets his feel for the game of football, he may turn into an elite talent. He’s incredibly raw right now, but he could grade out as well as any offensive tackle in the draft in a few years.

Arthur Brown, ILB, Baltimore Ravens

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    Don’t be surprised if Arthur Brown channels the recently retired Ray Lewis and becomes an elite-level linebacker for years to come.

    I’m not predicting Brown, who was taken with the 56th pick, will become the next Lewis; that’s unfair and those shoes are too big to fill. I am saying that because Brown has the ability to play inside or outside and can both excel in coverage and against the run, he will find himself on the field as a three-down 'backer.

    Most front-seven players who have above-average three-down skills aren't available late in the second round. Brown's size (6'1", 228) is likely the reason he fell and landed in steal-pick territory.

Keenan Allen, WR, San Diego Chargers

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    Wide receiver Keenan Allen missed the NFL Scouting Combine in February because he was recovering from a Grade 2 PCL tear in October. His slow recovery not only forced him from the combine, but it also negatively affected his running and speed at his pro day.

    But Allen is a guy with 17 touchdown catches over the last three seasons at California (remember, he missed three games his senior season) and 205 receptions.

    Some draft and NFL experts had first-round projections on Allen (Pete Prisco and Clark Judge of CBS Sports had Allen going to the Houston Texans at No. 27), but Allen fell all the way into the third round where the San Diego Chargers grabbed him with pick No. 76.

    Allen in the third round, even with his slowly healing knee, could end up as draft-day magic for the Chargers. 

Matt Barkley, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

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    The 2013 NFL draft has been extremely unique in regard to the quarterback position.

    The surprise of Florida State’s EJ Manuel being the first quarterback selected (the only in the first round), and Geno Smith added to the circus-like mix of passers on the New York Jets roster were both intriguing.

    Is USC’s Matt Barkley falling to the fourth round at pick No. 98 similarly interesting? Heck yeah.

    Barkley had a first- or, at worst, a second-round grade and a popular projection spot was the Buffalo Bills with the eighth pick in the draft. Instead, he landed 90 picks and two days later and a few cities south to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The biggest question now is how will Barkley fit into the new Chip Kelly system in Philadelphia. The Eagles traded up to grab Barkley, so it’s safe to assume someone with knowledge of how things will work under Kelly likes the idea of Barkley running things.

Khaseem Greene, OLB, Chicago Bears

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    With the 117th pick in Round 4 of the draft, the Chicago Bears added depth to their linebacker corps by selecting Khaseem Greene.

    Greene is a versatile linebacker that can get after quarterbacks in pass-rushing situations or drop into coverage. Adding Greene helps the Bears fill the void of departed linebackers Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach.

    But Greene, a converted safety (just like Urlacher was), could be more than added depth for the Bears down the road. He’s an extremely athletic linebacker who could be a dominant pass-rusher. His versatility is a plus, as is his tracking ability. Greene notched 277 tackles over the last two seasons at Rutgers and knows how to find the ball-carrier.

    B/R's Matt Miller had a second-round grade on Greene and listed him No. 57 player on his big board.

    If he continues as a top-notch tackler in the NFL—and he could get his shot at a starting spot as early as next year—Greene in the fourth round could be a great pick.