The Vista’s 2013 NFL Draft preview From first round locks to potential busts, The Vista introduces you to the faces of the upcoming NFL Draft
By Morgan Lewis
Come April 25, 253 college athletes hope to hear their name called and join the fraternity known as the National Football League. But the 2013 NFL Draft has more question marks than certainty, with a long list of boom or bust prospects.
With the Kansas City Chiefs holding the first overall selection, consensus among scouts and analysts is that the Texas A&M University Aggies’ left tackle, Luke Joeckel will be taken with the first overall pick. After that, there is little certainty as to where any of the top prospects will land.
The position with the most depth in the 2013 class is the offensive line, with five potential players that could be taken in the top 10. After Joeckel, the University of Oklahoma Sooners’ Lane Johnson and the Central Michigan University Chippewas’ Eric Fisher have the potential to become stars at the tackle position.
Even with a lack of NFL experience, these are the type of players that be plugged in Week 1 and help a franchise. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide’s Chance Warmack and the University of North Carolina Tar Heels’ Jonathan Cooper are absolute monsters at the guard position and have scout’s like ESPN’s Todd McShay drooling over them.
After the offensive line, the 2013 class has more players that are question marks than sure things. Unlike the 2012 Draft, this class has nowhere near the depth at the quarterback position. The 2012 class had several “can’t miss” prospects, but the lack of the type of signal caller at the level of Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III has raised several questions for NFL evaluators in 2013.
Perhaps the best passer in this class is the West Virginia University Mountaineers’ Geno Smith, but there is still uncertainty as to where he will land. The only team with a glaring need of a quarterback is the Buffalo Bills at the seventh pick, but if the Bills pass on the Mountaineers’ star, it could be the first time in over a decade that a quarterback won’t be taken in the first ten picks.
With the NFL’s transformation into a pass-heavy league, some teams may reach for players like the University of Southern California Trojans’ Matt Barkley. While there aren’t many weak spots in his game, Barkley does not excel in any one area which could cause the former top 10 lock to maybe fall out of the first round.
The wide receiver position has solid depth, but the best players at those positions still have red flags. University of Tennessee Volunteers’ Cordarrelle Patterson and the Mountaineers’ Tavon Austin are the most exciting wideouts that can stretch the defense with both their speed and shiftiness in the open field. Even with the level of production they had at the college level, there are still concerns.
Patterson is the most physically gifted of the two but there are questions about how fast the junior college transfer can adapt his game to the pro level. If you want to see one of the most highlight tapes in all of college football, search for one Austin, Tavon, on YouTube.
The most explosive playmaker in the draft has all the makings to be the next DeSean Jackson, except without all of the off-field issues. Yet, like Jackson, Austin is very undersized, which raises obvious questions of durability. Both potential first round selections have all the makings to be a boom or bust type of prospect.
With as many high risk, high reward players there are on offense, a few of the top rated defensive players in the 2013 draft are causing just as much concern. The University of Georgia Bulldogs’ linebacker, Jarvis Jones was ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.’s top rated player after the season. His ability as a pass rusher and in run support have gathered comparisons to All-Pro linebacker Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.
What concerns most evaluators is not Jones’ on-field ability, but a shaky injury history. Jones has a neck injury called spinal stenosis, which is an abnormal narrowing of the spine that he sustained as a freshman making a tackle during a game.
Even though he became the nation’s top linebacker and a two-time All-American since the injury, there are still concerns about using a high pick and investing millions of dollars into a player with a potentially life-altering spinal problem. With the league stressing player safety as of late, it is understandable why teams would question Jones’ health.
Another player with top 10 talent carrying some baggage into his NFL career is the University of Utah Utes’ defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. Lotulelei has been a lock for the top five since the beginning of the 2012 season.
But a report from NFL.com stated that recent tests at the NFL scouting combine showed that his left ventricle was operating at only 44 percent efficiency, compared to the normal range of 50 to 70 percent. Tests since that time have shown that his heart is stable, but there is still concern on whether the 22-year-old will not have issues later on in his career.
Sure, every player taken this year is a risk. Executives do not truly know if they are getting the next Tom Brady or Ryan Leaf. The 2013 draft features top players at almost every position that bring more uncertainty than in years past.
Only time will tell whether the players that are taken this weekend will pan out. Until then, teams will be swimming in a pool of uncertainty until their prized rookies step foot on the field.