We havent seen a single snap of football in the 2012 season yeat, but for a draft Junkie like me it is never to soon to look ahead at the 2013 draft. Here is a very early position-by-position look at the 2013 draft class.
Quarterbacks: The 2013 QB class has the potential to be really really good….or it could be not so good. A lot of the quality of the class will be decided by Tyler Bray and his choice between declaring early or heading back to school.
Best Player: Matt Barkley, USC: Barkley is the consensus top QB in the class and is a near lock for the number one overall pick. Barkley is a good decision maker and has an excellent arm, but QBs that come out of USC havent had much NFL success in recent years due in large part to the talent around them and the system they play in. In my opinion, Barkley has ben helped out tremendously by the level of quality he is surrounded with (namely his offensive line which has produced a top ten OT in each of the past 2 drafts). However, he is still a better prospect than Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart were and is deserving of being a top 5 pick.
X-Factor: Tyler Bray, Tennessee: without Bray, the 2013 class is a solid class. With him, it has the potential to be a great class. Bray is a raw player and really would be better off not declaring for the draft next year, but often players will declare earlier than they should so it wouldnt be shocking to see Bray do so. he would likely be a top 10 pick if he were to declare.
Biggest potential riser: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: the past two years we have seen Cameron Newton and Robert Griffen shoot up draft boards on the backs of excellent seasons. looking at the college football landscape, Logan Thomas appears to be the player best positioned to follow in their footsteps. Thomas needs to work on his footwork in a big way and his deliver leaves something to be desired but those are both fixable things and Thomas could be poised for a huge season and a big boost in his stock. he is currently considered to be a second round pick, but could go as high as top 10.
Player most relevant to the Ravens: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse: like last year, the only way the Ravens will take a QB is if they see a developmental player they could flip for a higher pick later on. Nassib is a guy that jumps out to me. his stock is currently somewhere around the third round but he has big upside and is coming off a season where he completed 62% of his passes. the Ravens could be interested in him, but more than likely they wouldnt take him or any other QB unless they were at least one full round below their talent value.
Position importance to the Ravens(scale of 1-10): 3
Runningbacks: This year, three RBs were taken in the first round. I would be shocked to see that trend continue next year. As it stands now there is only one player remotely worthy of a first rounder and that is Marcus Lattimore and he might not even declare for the draft at all. We might not see three RBs in the top two rounds next year. This will be an extremely weak RB class unless some surprising players emerge.
Best Player: Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Lattimore is a stud. He isnt as good as Trent Richardson(not even close) but he has the potential to be a top 10 player at his position for several years (think Michael Turner). the catch with Lattimore is that his 2011 season ended prematurely when he tore ligaments in his left knee. if he can show he still has his quickness and burst then he should be considered a late first rounder, probably coming off the board between 20 and 35.
X-factor: Joseph Randall, Oklahoma St.: Randall had a very good year last year rushing for over 1200 yards and scoring 24 TDs in OSUs high powered offense. This year he will likely be asked to carry a much much larger burden with the departures of Justin Blackmon and Brandon Weedon. If he has 1300 yards and 20+ TDs, he could find himself in the first round conversation.
Biggest Potential Riser: None: unless you want me to repeat what i said about Randall, there isnt really another player poised for a big year and possessing enough eligibility to enroll in the draft. there will probably be a surprise player that makes a big rise, but it is to early to look at any one player and say it will be him.
Player most relevant to the Ravens: This is a tough choice here until we see how the Ray Rice situation plays out. if he is resigned long term, the Ravens likely wont be interested in any RB outside of maybe a sixth or seventh rounder. If he isn’t, the Ravens would likely look RB early(unless Pierce or Allen have huge seasons) and a guy like Lattimore might be intriguing if they have a chance to get him.
Position importance to the Ravens: either a 1 if they re-sign Rice, or an 8 if they don’t.
Wide Recievers: Depending on which players declare for the draft, the 2013 WR class could be the most talented class in years. It could easily see 4 players taken in the top 15 and as many as 7 in the first round with a slew of quality second and third rounders as well.
Best Player: Keenan Allen, Cal: The consensus top player for most boards right now is Robert Woods from USC, but i am much more impressed with Allen who, while lacking Woods Explosion, is a bigger, stronger, more physical, and frankly more talented player who is producing more than Woods, with much less talent around him to help him out. Allen is a bit slower than Woods but is a solid 2″ taller and outweighs woods by close to 40lbs. if Woods, who weighs in at a terrible 180 lbs, doesnt add at least 10-15 lbs of bulk by the combine, i fully expect Allen to be the top WR taken.
X-Factor: Justin Hunter, Tennessee: Hunter was having an enormous season through the first two weeks last year. He had already racked up 403 yards on 16 catches (TWO GAMES!!!) and didn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. unfortunately he went down almost untouched with a torn ACL week 3 and his season was over. if Hunter comes back anything resembling his 2011 production, he could shoot up boards potentially into the top 10.
Biggest potential Riser: Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas: Cobi has spent the better part of the last two years behind a stellar group of Arkansas WRs who have produced 5 draft picks in the past two years. This year, Cobi is the early favorite to be the top target of Heisman candidate Tyler Wilson. Cobi could go from being a fringe 3rd rounder to being an early second rounder and might even sneak into the first with a big year.
Player most relevant to the Ravens: I remain adamant that the Ravens are going to need to spend a high draft pick on a WR in the near future. I thought they would pull the trigger this season(Stephen Hill), but i never expected Courtney Upshaw to fall into their laps like he did. Until Tandon Doss proves otherwise, i still say he is not a viable replacement for Anquan Boldin who has a limited number of games left in his body. Justin Hunter is a possibility but i look at a guy like Marquess Wilson out of Washington St. and think he might be a perfect fit. He needs to add muscle to his frame, but he could be a big time player at the next level.
Position importance to the Ravens: 10
Offensive Tackles: Doesn’t look to be incredibly strong as a group this year. there could be as many as 5 or 6 first round picks(for both RT and LT) but there could also be as few as 2. Oddly enough i think the top two players are both from Alabama.
Best Player: D.J. Fluker, RT, Alabama: I Think Fluker is easily the best Tackle in the class as of right now. I do not think he will be the first Tackle taken. Fluker has the potential to be a perrinial probowler and is an extremely safe pick. That said, Fluker is a RT at Bama. he will be a RT in the NFL and has very little business playing LT in the NFL and there in lies the rub. Do you take a RT with more potential and less risk in the top ten. or do you take the less talented LT based simply on importance of position?
X-Factor: Oday Aboushi, LT, Virginia: Aboushi is an interesting guy. He has elite Athleticism and footwork, but he doesn’t play much Elite competition. He is prone to some mental errors but has huge upside. with a good senior season he could find himself in the top 25, with a bad one he might slide as low as the third round.
Biggest Potential Riser: Justin Pugh, LT, Syracuse: I think Syracuse might be in for a big year. I don’t mean national championship big or anything like that, i just think they will draw enough media attention that a few of their better players will get noticed. Pugh is one of their best guys and he has done an excelent job blind side blocking for the Orange over the past two years. he has good size and strength and if he cleans up his footwork he could rise from his current 4th round projection up to an early second round grade.
Player most relevant to the Ravens: Barrett Jones, LT/LG/C/RG/RT, Jones is a guy that doesnt excell at any position along the line, but he plays very very well at all of them. a versital guy like Jones would fit in perfectly for the Ravens.
Position Importance to the Ravens: 8
Interior Offensive Lineman: Interior OL has the potential to be a very deep group next year. we probably wont see more than 2 players taken in the first round but I wouldnt be surprised to see 5-6 in each the second and the Third rounds meaning somewhere between 13 and 15 players in the top 90. thats quite a number for interior lineman.
Best Player: Barrett Jones, OT,RG,C,LG,RT: Maybe its a cop out to list Jones twice but I don’t care. I’m pretty high on Jones and I do think he is the best interior prospect in the class. He reminds me of Marshall Yanda but he could potentially be an NFL LT as well as all the other positions. He is downright nasty in the run game and he shows above average footwork and speed as a pass protector. Jones is going to be a solid player in the league.
X-Factor: Alvin Bailey, T/G, Arkansas: Can you see a trend here? If you have followed me for a while then you probably know that i place a high value on versatility on the Offensive Line and in the front seven on defense. I love Guards who can play Tackle and Centers who can play guard. Bailey has good potential but what remains to be seen is what type of offense will Arkansas run this year? If they run a pass heavy scheme and Bailey excels then he is a second round lock, if not he could slide down draft boards into the later rounds.
Biggest Potential Riser: Khalid Holmes, C, USC: Another season with Matt Barkly can’t ever hurt a center prospect. Holmes has a consensus second round grade right now but he could go as high as the mid teens following in the footsteps of the Pouncy Twins and a few others as highly drafted centers.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: Barrett Jones, G/T/C, Alabama: sorry to do it again but Jones is just the guy here. the Ravens don’t need much interior help unless one of the guys they have now doesn’t pan out.
Position Importance to the Ravens: 3
Best Player: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: Eifort is the best player in the class by a fairly wide margin, but i dont expect him to go until at least the 4oth pick. I don’t think he is worth a first rounder unless a team is desperate and that is never a good reason to draft a player. Eifort is a very good receiving TE, but his blocking leaves a lot to be desired.
X-Factor: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Ertz probably wont come out next year, but if he is told that his stock is high enough he very well might. Ertz could be in for a hug year with the departure of Coby Fleener (Colts). Ertz is currently a mid round pick, he could throw a wrench in things and fly as high as early round two.
Biggest Potential Riser: DC Jefferson, TE, Rutgers: Jefferson came to Rutgers as an athletic QB who was looking for a true position. He found it when they switched him to TE. At 6’6″ 258lbs, he has ideal size for the position and he runs a 4.77 40 yard time, which, while not fantastic, is pretty darn good for a guy his size. Jefferson was a stud last year and should see more action this year with the departure of Mohomed Sanu (Bengals). Jefferson is currently a 4th round grade, he might be the top TE in the class.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: None: The Ravens aren’t really in the market for a TE right now and i don’t expect them to be any time soon, especially not in a class with so little depth and overall talent. I honestly beleive that the duo of Pitta and Dickson will take a huge step forward this year and become a very intimidating duo in the NFL. The Ravens might pick up a TE in the 6th or 7th if they think one is a steal or a good special teams player. barring injury this position has almost no importance.
Position Importance to the Ravens: 1