The NFL season hasn't started yet, but that won't keep fans from looking ahead to see which players they could potentially be looking at in the 2013 NFL draft.

If you're a fan of the Arizona Cardinals, you may catch yourself peeking in at Logan Thomas or Matt Barkley this fall. Miami Dolphins fans can spend their Saturdays watching Robert Woods and Keenan Allen dominate in the Pac-12. 

The season may not be here yet, but it's never too early to look ahead. With the draft order based on my most recent power rankings, here's a look at the first round of the 2013 draft.

Note: Only projected juniors and redshirt sophomores are listed. Not all eligible players are included in this version.

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Just five years ago, the Arkansas Razorbacks backfield contained two future first-rounders (Darren McFadden and Felix Jones) and another running back/fullback 'tweener (Peyton Hillis) who was one of the best backs in the NFL in 2010. In Hillis' big year for the Cleveland Browns, the Hogs unveiled another back with the potential for pro success in his future. Knile Davis tore up the SEC at the ripe old age of 18 in his sophomore year.

Big things were expected from Davis in 2011, including a run at a Heisman Trophy. Instead, he broke the same right ankle he fractured in high school and missed the entire season. He's ready to go full speed to open the 2012 campaign. Obviously, whether Davis can regain everything he had before the injury will greatly affect his 2013 (or 2014) NFL Draft stock, but what exactly did he have before the ankle gave way again?



Davis is built to last, at a shade under 6'0" and 225 pounds. One glance at Davis and you know those numbers are legit. He is a very sturdy back and not top-heavy or high-cut. In fact, the first things you notice when you look at Davis are his tree-trunk thighs:

Davis has a good initial burst for a big back, and he has a second gear. He doesn't have a fifth gear. Davis isn't going to pull away from anyone in the open field. He will get back up to the second gear relatively quickly after contact. Even though his legs are big, Davis is not a heavy-legged plodder. At times, he displays great feet for a big back, but at other times he's clumsy. Still, tight-roping the sideline like this for a touchdown is impressive at any size:


Which rookies are already making a name for themselves as studs in the NFL? After breaking down the preseason and training camp performances of the top rookies, here is a look at those who are already standing out.

Of course, you know all about Andrew Luck. The No. 1 overall pick has looked great, but that's been discussed at length here and here this preseason. Who else is standing out?

There are tons of rookies on every team who look great so far, but these five players have the look of early studs and big impacts for their respective teams.


Kendall Wright, Wide Receiver, Tennessee Titans


While their college teams are jockeying for position in their conferences and the BCS standings, the top 2013 NFL draft eligible prospects will be causing their stock to rise and fall each week. The final big board in late April will look very different from this one. There will be new names, and names on this list will fall out of the draft's top 50-100, or perhaps not even declare for the draft. Who are the top 25 overall 2013 NFL draft-eligible prospects heading into the 2013 college football season?

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Keenan Allen is the best 2013 NFL draft eligible wide receiver that doesn't have questions about rehab from an injury.

Is he the best 2013 NFL draft eligible wide receiver, period? Let's take a closer look at the big Golden Bear pass-catcher.



Allen's size is going to be an asset at 6'3", 210 pounds. He is not a super-sized wide receiver like, say, Calvin Johnson, but his long limbs and better than average-sized frame should make him a tough draw for smaller cornerbacks.

Allen has speed, but it is build-up speed. He does not get up to top speed right out of his break, but given time to ramp up, Allen can run away from defensive backs.


With the first two picks in the 2012 NFL draft, the Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins made the easy choices by selecting the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft class. Now, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III must lead their two new teams to the promised land. How are the two rookie quarterbacks looking after their first NFL action?

This is the preseason, so no two scenarios can be truly compared. Luck has played more snaps and thrown the ball more, so there is a larger sample size to evaluate. Judging from the first two preseasons games, here is what we've seen.


Andrew Luck

Stats: 363 yards passing (second best in the NFL), 63.4 percent completions, two touchdowns and two interceptions 

The Colts were expected by many to be a step behind the Washington Redskins this season, mostly because of inexperienced offensive linemen and a lack of notable players at receiver. So far, that hasn't slowed down Andrew Luck.


It's impossible to predict the final 2012 NFL standings with any accuracy, but if you want to mock the first round of next year's draft, you have to stick your neck out and take a shot. We can see the winds of change blowing around a few teams, and there are some teams that look like they will be stuck in the doldrums for yet another season. By projecting the order of finish of all 32 teams and adding in the current beliefs about the 2013 NFL draft-eligible prospects, we can take a stab at seeing how teams will be able to help themselves next year...because there's always a next year.


Wisconsin running back Montee Ball was a Heisman hopeful last year and Heisman favorite this year. Unfortunately, he was attacked by five other people (Adam Rittenberg, ESPN) in an unprovoked assault earlier this month, which could slow him early in the season.

As we have learned in the past, Heisman candidacy doesn't always equal big-time pro prospects. Does Ball pass the eyeball test to fit in as a starting pro running back, or is this another case of the right back in the right system who won't translate as well to the NFL?



Ball is listed at 5'11", 212 pounds with a 40 time anywhere from the mid-4.4s to the mid-4.6s. He is not a "special" back in any way physically. His initial burst and second gear are not elite, although he doesn't slow down once he reaches top speed, and he maintains his top speed from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. 

Ball's lateral agility is slightly above average at best. He doesn't make sharp cuts behind the line of scrimmage and sometimes has to gather himself to change direction. His balance and footwork is good, but not exceptional. Where he does shine in the quickness/elusiveness vein is in the open field.


It's preseason, but that doesn't mean that it's too early to think about how the 2012 NFL season will shake out and which current college stars will be targeted in the first round. Many of these predictions will look silly in a few months, but it is always an enriching exercise to think about where teams will be picking in the next NFL draft and who they may consider at those picks.

Just slotting the 32 teams will remind you that the St. Louis Rams have an extra first-rounder next year and that there will be some good teams missing the playoffs this year in the NFC. 

How would a draft play out based on a current estimation of player stock and NFL power rankings?

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Many will jump to compare the play of Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Cam Newton, but are they really so similar?

At first glance, the two quarterbacks do seem very similar. Both are built like tight ends and stand out from the crowd as 6'5"-or-taller, well-built quarterbacks. It's easy to make the visual comparison that these two players do look alike on the football field due to their throwing motions, running style and physical dominance.

Newton made his mark at Auburn, and later with the Carolina Panthers, as a run-pass threat who was big enough to roll over tacklers and strong enough to thread the ball downfield. Similarly, Thomas is even bigger, stronger and may have a better short-to-intermediate arm. 

At surface level, yes, Newton and Thomas play a lot alike, but digging down deeper, we've found the comparisons end at face value.