15 Thoughts on the 2013 NFL Draft: Pre-Combine Edition

Tavon Austin Kenny Vaccaro

Which one of these prospects is overrated: Kenny Vaccaro or Tavon Austin? (Photo; US Presswire)

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko)

The NFL Combine starts on Saturday and everyone involved in the NFL Draft hopes that it starts to provide some clarity at the top of the draft. Nobody is exactly sure how the top prospects stack up and with no clear cut QB, the top pick is still very much in doubt.

In this weeks 15 thoughts column, I take stock of where prospects stand coming into the combine, go over all the latest news and provide some players to watch during the combine this weekend .

1. First Pick Still Wide Open – I struggle to remember a year in which there was so much uncertainty surrounding the #1 pick in the draft. Kansas City is in a tough position. They have a desperate need for a QB, but are any of these Quarterbacks really worth the first pick? Their dilemma is compounded, by not having needs at positions that other possible #1 picks could fill. Luke Joeckel is the safest bet to come off the board first, but the Chiefs have a solid LT in Branden Albert who they should resign before he hits free agency. They already have two good outside pass rushers in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston, making it unlikely they pick one first overall. It will be interesting to watch this week to see if any of the top prospects separate themselves from the pack and take a firm grip of the top spot. In my opinion the best choice for the Chiefs might be Utah DT Star Lotulelei. He could pair with last year’s number one pick Dontari Poe to form a tough and stout defensive line.

2. Who will “win” the combine? – The most entertaining part of watching the NFL combine is seeing who “wins” the drills. The 40 yard dash is obviously the most heralded event and will be the most watched. Here are some players who could run the fastest times over the weekend. Texas WR Marquise Goodwin is an obvious choice. He has a track background and even though he competes in jumping events, he still has world class speed. Auburn RB Onterio McCalebb will be one of the fastest running backs. He weighed in at the Senior Bowl at less than 170 lbs, but he can absolutely fly. USC CB Nickell Robey is another undersized player who can fly, he might be the fastest defensive back this year. Zaviar Gooden is an OLB from Mizzou and is ultra-athletic. He has been rumored to run a sub 4.4  forty in the past and could run in the 4.4s this week. I will be watching LSU DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo closely. He is a freak athlete who has been rumored to run in the low 4.5s. If he does that this week he will make a lot of money. Other players who are expected to run very well: Tennessee WR Justin Hunter, Clemson RB Andre Ellington, WVU WR Tavon Austin, UConn OLB Sio Moore and Oregon RB Kenjon Barner.

3. Lots of Defensive Tackle Talent – The 2013 NFL Draft is loaded with defensive tackle talent. The first round alone is likely to see six tackles selected and as many as eight depending on who rises. Players like Star Lotulelei, Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd are locks for the top 12 picks, if not higher. The next tier of tackles is stacked as well. Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins, Alabama’s Jesse Williams, Purdue’s Kawann Short, UNC’s Sylvester Williams and UGA’s John Jenkins could all have their names called in the latter half of the first round. For teams like the Patriots that could use another starting defensive tackle, they will have the chance to fill that need. What’s unique about the group is that there is a player for each type of scheme and many of them offer great versatility. Williams is the best nose tackle in the draft. Floyd and Richardson are the best 3-Techniques. Jenkins, Short and Hankins can all play multiple positions including nose tackle. It’s a good year to need defensive linemen. I’ll be watching this group closely at the combine to see the type of shape these guys have gotten in.

4. Wide Receiver Talent Throughout – While the defensive tackle position is top heavy with talent and then drops off towards the middle of the second round. The wide receiver position is exactly the opposite. There might be only two or three receivers selected in the first round, but there could be as  many as 10-11 selected by the end of the second round, including many more in the third. It’s a very deep and talented group, but it lacks some star power. Cordarrelle Patterson looks to be the only lock in the first round, although there is a good chance Keenan Allen and Tavon Austin hear their names called on day one. I am a huge fan of Robert Woods and think he is first round worthy. However, players like Markus Wheaton, Quinton Patton, Stedman Bailey, etc. are all guys who will make an NFL impact, but likely won’t go in the first round. Based on my rankings there is legitimately 30-35 receivers who could be drafted and some of the late round guys could make an instant contribution. With a great combine many of these receivers projected in the 2nd-3rd round, could vault themselves into the late first round mix.

5. Could this be the year a OG goes in the top 10? –  With uncertainty at the top of the draft and extremely fluid draft rankings this could be the year that an Offensive Guard goes in the top ten of the draft. Chris Naeole who was selected #10 overall out of Colorado by the New Orleans Saints in 1997, was the last OG to go that high. If it’s to happen this year Chance Warmack will be the guy to end the streak. Warmack is the best OG I have evaluated since I started doing this in early 2000s. Quite simply he is a beast and NFL ready. He’s a dominating run blocker and an extremely powerful pass blocker. Warmack shows the quickness and agility to make all the blocks in the NFL. I currently have him ranked as the #3 prospect in this year’s draft class, but there’s no disputing that he is the most ready. Which ever team picks him can plug him into LG and forget about the need for the next decade. We went through a similar discussion last year with David DeCastro and he slipped all the way to the Steelers at pick #24. Make no mistake about it Warmack is a superior prospect and a special player. There’s also an outside chance that UNC OG Jonathan Cooper could sneak into the top 10, as he is another elite OG prospect. I find that more unlikely to happen. If Warmack ends up sliding outside the top 10, it won’t be because of talent, rather the position he plays. Offensive Guard just isn’t valued highly in the NFL Draft and this year will test that sentiment.

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14 Responses to “15 Thoughts on the 2013 NFL Draft: Pre-Combine Edition”

  1. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I think the Patriots will be watching those guys who will be there in the 3d and later rounds.
    CB Demetrius McCray, from a small school but huge talent.
    DT Brandon Williams, 340 lbs, small school, player
    SS Cooper Taylor, at 6’4″ 220, with very good coverage ability
    DE Devin Taylor , 6’7″ 275
    OT Emmett Cleary, 6’7″ 312
    DE/LB John Simon, may break the bench press record
    WR Conner Vernon
    CB Darius Slay, 6’1″ , played with CB Banks
    Many others!!!!

    • JH TARBORO says:

      RUSS, I always like your player combinations !

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Thanks , I have a large draft board, which will be getting smaller. The Patriots being a good team always draft late, so BB looks at those guys who have talent in the later rounds most. Then they invite high name players in to camp for interviews, but RARELY interview the guys they want/draft.

  2. JH TARBORO says:

    Guys, Someone just asked me a what if question: What if Welker goes to Denver with Peyton? Brandon Stokley is a free agent. Your thoughts!

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I think they sign Stokley, if Welker goes, maybe, Rams, Vikings, Steelers, and ???

  3. JH TARBORO says:

    Tavon Austin is not overrated just small, when i last checked Welker is small and because of height and weight, he might drop to 2nd round. As a PLAYMAKER just watch his tape, i’m a Tavon Austin advocate and i’m not apologetic for it either. We also need more than 1 receiver i like (Wheaton,Dobson,Patton,Bailey etc.) I understand the rest of our needs in this draft. Should be interesting!!!

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I’m not big on Austin, or Bailey having seen them play in person. I like Wheaton, (the next Troy Brown) very high IQ guy, practiced against CB Jordan Poyer every day. They both worked together to get better. This makes CB Jordan Poyer my CB pick for the Patriots as well.

  4. AM says:

    Kansas City would be smart to wait until the second round before testing the QB waters. There isn’t that big a margin between Geno Smith or Ryan Nassib and any of the other QB prospects. They could grab an impact player in the top 10, and then pick up a solid QB at the top of Round Two (or trade back into the first if needs be).

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I agree, and do not be surprised if they take OG Chance Warmack 1st, he is as close to an all-pro as it comes, and a great running game helps who ever is at QB in KC.

      • AM says:

        He is a fantastic talent, although picking a guard first takes some serious chutzpah. Not saying he isn’t worth it, just that the pick is going to be questioned year-round if he doesn’t come in playing at an immediate Pro Bowl level. Of course, Andy Reid probably has supreme job security right now–brand new coach with a good track record–so he might be inclined to roll the dice on Warmack.

        If I were Reid, I would definitely go OL in the first round (either Warmack or Luke Joeckel), and then grab Matt Barkley or the best QB available at the top of the second.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          I agree with you AM, and given the importance, of the KC running game, OG Warmack is a slam-dunk. I like him 1st, he is the highest rated player in the draft, and I see no down side. OT Joeckel is good as well, but Warmack fits the run game better, moving into the second level for extra blocks, that I don’t see Joeckel doing as well.
          I also think KC stays with Cassel, and drafts a back up for now, or brings in Mallett to back up (smarter choice for a 3d draft pick) and use that 2nd pick on other needs.

  5. Stephen S says:

    1 Was watching Nickell Robey he sure can tackle as well not afraid to be physical does he do special teams and where do you see him going
    2 Which recievers/dbs will do well in the cone drill that the pats maybe interested in

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Markus Wheaton, Conner Vernon, are WR’s who will do very well. CB Demetrius McCray, this guy is so good I think as a 7th now, he could go in the 3d round. 6’1″ 190, runs well !! a play maker, from a small school !!

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