The 2013 NFL Draft has been one of the most frustrating, exciting, unique, and unpredictable drafts I’ve ever covered. It seems to leave both draft followers and common fans scratching their heads and chomping at the bit for the draft to start.
With so much uncertainty around the draft, I’ve tried to weave through the rumors and speculation to combine what I’ve seen in evaluations with what I’ve heard throughout the NFL grapevine to make sense of the 2013 NFL Draft.
1. Why is This Year More Unpredictable Than Most?
This year’s draft is easily the hardest to “predict” in the past five or six years for a variety of reasons. We have no idea where the quarterbacks will be going (if at all in the first round) nor what the first three teams picking are scheming. We have five new GMs in the Top 10 (not including 2nd year GM Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie) and four more whose jobs are on the line if they can’t turn their teams’ around. New faces plus desperate in-place general managers mean there’s little stability atop the draft.
2. Who Will Be the First Quarterback Taken?
If you had asked me a month ago, the answer would have been easy: Geno Smith. While I still think he’s a first rounder and certainly wouldn’t shock me to be a Top 10 pick, the team most linked to quarterback, the Buffalo Bills, don’t feel he’s a great fit for their west coast offense. They like Ryan Nassib or EJ Manuel more than Geno Smith, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see either one of those quarterbacks end up being the 8th overall selection in the 2013 draft.
3. How Many Quarterbacks Go in the First Round?
The question I am asked most, the answer I’ve stuck with is three (Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, and EJ Manuel), with an outside chance of Matt Barkley being number four. The Jaguars and Jets likely target Smith, the Bills and Jets could consider Nassib, and the Bills, Jets, Jaguars, and Eagles are all options for Manuel in a trade up scenario.
4. Where Is Playmaking Receiver Tavon Austin Ending Up?
We haven’t seen a sub 5’10 receiver go Top 10 in the past 20 years, so draft history isn’t in Tavon Austin’s favor. However, thanks to the adaptations to NFL offenses and his elite quickness/big play ability, a team is likely to gamble on him in the Top 12 picks, maybe even Top 10. The Bills at 8 may be a fit if they pass on a quarterback; along with the Jets at 9, but neither really NEED his skill set. The Panthers at 14 are the most intriguing, and it may be worth trading up into the Top 10 to secure a playmaker for Cam Newton.
5. Could Offensive Linemen dominate the Top 16 Picks?
It’s clear that three of the first five picks will be offensive tackles Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, and Lane Johnson. Also, despite not having ideal value, it seems guards Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper also may end up as Top 16 selections. Add in right tackles DJ Fluker and Menelik Watson along with late rising Justin Pugh of Syracuse, and the Top 16 may be half full of offensive linemen.
6. Who is the Best Pass Rusher in this Draft?
That answer likely depends on which team you’re asking for. If you’re the Eagles or Browns, who play a conventional 3-4 defense, Barkevious Mingo of LSU likely has the most upside and best body type for that spot. If you’re the Cardinals or Jets, finding a big bodied rusher like Ezekiel Ansah would make sense, though he’s very raw as a rusher. And don’t rule out freak athlete Dion Jordan, who played for new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly as well as being a fit for the Cardinals and Jets.
7. Are We REALLY Going to see Zero Running Backs in Round One?
It seems that way, based on this running back class and it’s diminishing value in the NFL. But I wouldn’t bet on it. Teams like the Packers and Broncos in the late first round could use a running back, while the Jets, Lions, and Jaguars could all target a running back in a 2nd round trade up. Jonathan Franklin and Eddie Lacy are the two most linked to the 1st round.
8. How Many Trades Are Going to Happen on Thursday?
Having five in the Top 10 isn’t out of the question, which is ridiculous considering that the first two picks may be set in stone. The Jets, Dolphins, and Rams should be the most active in the first round, potentially moving up AND down throughout the night. I’d put the over-under at nine draft day 1st round trades (would be a record), and I’d probably take the over.
9. Will The SEC Maintain Draft-Day Dominance in the 1st Round?
In a word, yes. There’s projected to be three Alabama players going in the first round (Warmack, Fluker, Milliner), two Georgia players (Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree), two LSU players (Mingo and Eric Reid), and two new SEC added teams in Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) and Sheldon Richardson (Missouri). However, interesting to note that Florida State may have four 1st round picks alone (Manuel, Xavier Rhodes, Bjoern Werner, and Tank Carradine), while the Conference-USA has three prospects linked to round one (DJ Hayden of Houston, Quinton Patton of Louisiana Tech, and Margus Hunt of SMU).
10. Who Are Some Potential Surprises to Sneak Into the 1st Round?
After the quarterbacks and running backs sneaking into the late 1st possibly, don’t rule out non-FBS prospects Terron Armstead (OT from Arkansas Pine-Bluff) and Robert Alford (CB from SE Louisiana) to crack the first round. Also, non-major conference prospects Quinton Patton and FIU Safety Jonathan Cyprien deserve to be 1st rounders by our grading, and may land somewhere between picks 21 and 32.