When grading draft classes, a whole lot has to be taken into consideration. How good were the players selected? Did they represent good values at the time or were they reaches? Would other players have been better fits for the scheme?
In my full draft grades at the end of this article, I consider all of those factors. But before we get to them, I wanted to highlight three teams who selected 2013 draft classes that will be the most productive in three years.
I'm not saying any of these teams will have the best player from this class or even one rife with Pro Bowlers. But I believe these three teams most improved their squad and added a slew of future starters to their ranks.
Like everyone else, I loved the Vikings' first round. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes will immediately start at need positions on the defense, while wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is a project but should contribute in the return game and in specific packages, a la Percy Harvin.
If Patterson works hard and develops into a well-rounded receiver, he could end up being the most dynamic offensive player in this draft.
You might think the Vikings' draft slowed down after that, but the team may have gotten two sleepers in Penn State linebackers Gerald Hodges and Michael Mauti. Penn State is famous for its linebackers, and both could end up being starters for this team.
All in all, a great draft for the Vikings that should pay both immediate and long-term dividends.
The Cardinals may not have added the potential star power of other teams in this draft, but it's possible the team selected five or six future starters.
Guard Jonathan Cooper is a future Pro Bowler. Linebacker Kevin Minter should be a very productive starter. Cornerback—or possibly future free safety—Tyrann Mathieu is a question mark, but if nothing else should contribute in the return game and ensure Patrick Peterson can focus on improving as a corner.
Defensive end Alex Okafor could end up being a nice pass-rushing option off the edge. Running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington will each compete for a starting job. Wide receiver Ryan Swope could end up being a dangerous option in the slot.
Obviously, not all of these players will pan out, but the Cardinals had such a deep draft you have to think a good portion will be contributors for years to come. We may soon enough be looking back on the 2013 draft as the turning point for this franchise in the post-Kurt Warner years.
San Francisco 49ers
Sure, they probably overpaid slightly to draft free safety Eric Reid. But seeing as it was a major need and the 49ers had about 24,567 picks, who cares?
When you look at the sheer potential depth of this class, it's truly impressive. Tank Carradine was a steal in the second round and looks like the heir apparent to Justin Smith. Vance McDonald could instantly become the new Delanie Walker.
In the third round, Corey Lemonier could be a nice, rotational pass-rusher. Wide receiver Quinton Patton came in the fourth round and looks like a really nice option in the slot in the future. And if he can stay healthy—and after two knee operations, it's a huge if—running back Marcus Lattimore in the fourth round could become a star and the steal of this draft.
The rich not only got richer, they got a whole lot deeper. In the first four rounds, the team added six players who could end up being starters. There may not be a star in this class, but the Niners already have plenty of those anyway.