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What to Know About the 2013 NFL Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft is finally here and you better be prepared for the unpredictable. This year’s draft is wide open from top to bottom. Literally any one prospect could go anywhere as no one as this point in time really knows what is going to happen. The draft is filled with a ton of good, but very few exceptionally great players with every team giving prospects drastically different rankings. This has the makings of the most exciting NFL Draft in history. Here are just a few of the things you might need or want to know about this year’s draft.

More Drama Then Ever: Can anyone remember a year where we didn’t already know who the first overall pick in the draft was going to be. I can’t. That happens to be the case this year as the Kansas City Chiefs have yet to let it be known who they are taking with the top overall selection and remain quiet only revealing that they have their choice narrowed down to four players. Left tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher have been the front-runners to be taken with the first pick for months now, although a different report seems to come out every day as to which one it will be. It gets pretty dicey after the Chiefs are done making their selection as nobody has really any idea what direction some of the new regimes selecting in the top eleven picks are going to take. There’s the Jags, who have been as secretive as any team, while nobody ever knows what the Raiders might do and then Chip Kelly is sitting there at no.4 and could select just about anybody to fit his system that no one has any clue as to what it will look like. This type of uncertainty goes throughout the draft. While teams usually have their own personal prospect rankings and big boards that differ from other teams, they are never this drastically different. Take Florida’s Sharrif Floyd who appears to be the consensus top defensive tackle for example. At least one team reportedly has him as their best prospect in the entire draft, while a couple of other teams apparently have him as their third-ranked defensive tackle and a mid to late first round pick. This is the case with a number of prospects and the intrigue as to where all of these guys may go continues all the way into the late stages of the third round, where a prospect like Tyler Bray may be available even though a number of teams view him as having the best pure arm talent of any quarterback in the draft. There is very little separating the top 100 or so prospects leaving open the very real possibility that anyone can go anywhere in the draft. So don’t hold your breath waiting for your team to take a certain player or hoping the prospect you want will still be available and certainly don’t put a lot of stock in yours or anyone else’s mock draft as this year it is wide open.

The Offensive Tackles: There are three left tackle prospects ranked at or near the top of the draft in Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson. All three are expected to come off the board very early. One appears to be a lock to land in Kansas City, while the destination of the other two remains unclear, but could very likely be within the first five picks. Whoever doesn’t end up with the Chiefs between Joeckel or Fisher is bound to go within the next couple of picks as the Jags, Raiders, Eagles and Lions all have a need at the position. If the second tackle is taken immediately after with the next pick or two, then Johnson becomes even more valuable and teams outside the top five like Arizona, Buffalo, San Diego, Miami and New Orleans that are in need of a left tackle may feel pressured to have to trade up to land him. These three guys will likely determine which direction the early portion of the draft heads.

The Quarterbacks: This is as interesting a quarterback draft class as you will ever see. There is not one sure-fire first round quarterback, although a couple of them could very likely still be selected with one of the first 32 picks. Every one of the top ten prospects has their strengths, but also possesses major flaws, even the position’s top ranked player Geno Smith.  Other than Smith, who seems to be rated as the top quarterback on most boards, there is no real consensus as to how to rank the rest of the class. However, most of them will be selected on Day 2 of the draft in the second and third rounds. This entire class really is made up of beauty in the eye of the beholder type players. There is not one player in the group who can fit any and all offensive schemes, so where these prospects end up will really depend on the type of scheme a team is running.

No Running Backs in First Round: For the first time since 1963 there is a chance a running back won’t be selected in the first round. It’s not like this is a poor draft class as six or seven backs could be off the board in the top 100 picks. The problem is that the only truly elite, game-changing running back in the class is South Carolina’s Marcus Lattimore and he’s currently trying to recover from his second straight devastating season-ending knee injury and could miss the majority if not all of the 2013 season. He probably will come off the board around the fourth round, but a team with a strong roster could surprise and take him in the third. Alabama’s Eddie Lacy is the top ranked running back coming into the draft and the only one with a chance to be taken with one of the first 32 picks, most likely in the late portion of the round. Teams currently in the late first round that could consider a running back include the Bengals at 21, Green Bay at 26 and Denver at 28.

Draft Depth:  This might not be the sexiest draft in terms of elite, true first round level prospects as there are fewer than ever this year. But what this draft lacks in exceptional prospects, it more than makes up for it with the number of good players available. There are more late first, second round type prospects in this draft than ever that will still be around deep into the third round. Your team’s first round pick might not have you booking your season’s tickets right away, but when you see the number of good players your team has added by the end of the draft you might.

International Flavor: As the NFL’s popularity grows around the world, athletes from all kinds of countries with different athletic backgrounds have migrated to the United States to play football. This year’s draft may be the best example of the growth of American football across the world yet as the number of foreign-born prospects is higher and more talented than ever. These are not just athletes that are trying their hand at pro football, but young men that have proved themselves at the college level first and are some of the top prospects available in the draft. Five of these prospects could be first round picks, four of which happen to be defensive linemen. BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah is projected by most draft outlets to be selected among the top ten picks, while Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Margus Hunt (SMU), Jesse Williams (Alabama) and offensive tackle Menelik Watson (Florida State) will come off the board in the late first, early second round range.  Ansah and Hunt were some of the best performers at the NFL Scouting Combine and blew scouts away with their off the charts athleticism. Ansah came to America from Ghana and to join the BYU track team and had aspirations of playing in the NBA, however it was the coaching staff from the football team that saw him working out and convinced him to play football. The Estonian-born Hunt has a similar story as the former 2006 World Junior Championships Gold Medalist in the shot put and discus moved to Texas to attend SMU so he could train under famed track coach Dave Wollman, but after coming to SMU, the track and field program ended up being cancelled. Hunt wanted to keep training with Wollman, so the coach sent him over to the football team so he could remain on scholarship and he blossomed into the type of athlete football scouts dream about at 6’8”, 277lbs with 4.70/40 speed combined with incredible strength. Werner and Watson both found themselves playing football at Florida State. The German-born Bjoern Werner loved the sport so much as a teenager that he went on multiple student-exchange programs to the States during high school so he could play football before he eventually landed with the Seminoles in college. Watson meanwhile came to America from England on a scholarship to play basketball at Marist College. He spent two years there before deciding to try boxing and then eventually football. He ended up at Saddlebrooks Junior College in California where he played on an offensive line next to Oregon’s Kyle Long. From there he gained some recognition around the nation and ended up signing with Florida State. Finally Jesse Williams is a great story as the Australian-born rugby and basketball player decided to start playing American football as a teenager and took the opportunity to show off his skills as a 16-year old to coaches from the University of Hawaii that were in Australia teaching a clinic. After seeing him work out they immediately had him commit to their program.  It was later discovered he was a few required credits from being allowed to attend the school so he ended up attending Western Arizona Community College where he was a dominant force before being snatched up as a JUCO-transfer by Alabama’s Nick Saban. The international talent doesn’t end there as LSU punter Brad Wing is one of the nation’s best, while British-born and former Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye showed up at one of the NFL’s Super Regional Combines at Cowboys Stadium this month and caused scouts’ jaws to drop. 

New Decision-Makers in Charge: Look out for the new regimes at the NFL draft this year. Kansas City, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Arizona and San Diego all have new general managers and head coaches in place, while Philadelphia, Buffalo, Carolina and the New York Jets have either a new general manager or head coach taking over this season. The Eagles may be the most interesting to watch of these teams at the draft as former Oregon Head Coach and innovative football mastermind Chip Kelly brings his bag of tricks to the NFL and could take just about anyone to fit his systems.

Top Players with Injury Concerns: Medical reports may be more important than ever this year as a number of the draft’s top prospects have injury concerns. Alabama’s Dee Milliner once looked like a for-sure top ten pick and he still might be when all is said and done, but recent reports have come out revealing the numerous injuries and surgeries he’s dealt with in his career and he could see his stock falling quickly. This is also an off-season where we’ve seen Star Lotulelei of Utah be forced to sit out the Combine with a heart issue that no doubt permanently hurt his stock, despite eventually being medically cleared to work out for teams and play in the NFL with no issues. Georgia’s Jarvis Jones was far and away the nation’s best pass-rusher in college last year, but a lifelong spinal stenosis condition discovered when he was at playing for USC has teams worried and was reported as one of the reason’s he decided not to work out at the Combine. Dion Jordan had shoulder surgery following the Combine, while late season knee injuries to Cornellius Carradine and Keenan Allen kept them out of workouts until early April and could see them be the main reason they are still available in the second round. Then there is South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who is the best running back in the class and has no doubt first round ability, but is trying to battle back from his second straight devastating season-ending knee injury and will have to wait for a team that is comfortable with him likely being out for a full season while he recovers. That probably happens in the fourth round. There are also talented offensive linemen like Barrett Jones and Dallas Thomas that are recovering from injuries too. Finally some good news on the injury front as Houston’s D.J. Hayden is completely healthy and recovered from a life-threatening injury to his heart that he suffered during the season and is currently one of the hard-charging risers as the draft nears and could even be taken in the first round.

Trades: Sit back and enjoy because a lot of trades are expected this year with all the uncertainty going on between teams. Perhaps even an unprecedented amount of movement throughout the event could happen. There are very few clear cut elite prospects at the top of the draft that team’s are desperate to have  so that alone will put pressure on team’s that are just out of range in landing one to make a move up to get them. Also due to the uncertainty as to where each team values or ranks a certain prospect over another has left teams with no clue as to whether the guy they want will be there when they pick or not leading them feeling like they have to move up to ensure they get him.  A number of teams want to move down and get more picks. Teams like the Jags, Raiders, Jets and Saints have holes all over their rosters and not enough picks to fill them with, while a squad like New England, who like to trade down in most years have just five picks at the moment to work with. St. Louis, Minnesota and the New York Jets all have two first round picks and could deal up or down. There are number of teams that want to move up as well and have the ammunition to do so. San Francisco has an astounding thirteen draft picks, but not enough space on their roster to add that many prospects so watch for them to move up or try and turn some of those picks into higher ones for next year. The Ravens are another team that likes to move around the draft and this year should be no different as they have twelve draft selections they can deal from. Then there are the Dolphins and Vikings who both have a pair of first round picks this year and could move up or down, while the Jets do as well, but aren’t expected to be a team that is going to give one of them up.

Written By: Mark Scott

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