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.
This years corner class has the potential to be the weakest in several years. It has solid depth, but we arent likely to see 4-5 CBs in the first round like we have the past couple drafts. A more realistic guess is that we might have 3 CBs taken and two of those three will likely be picked 20th or later.
Best Player: David Amerson, North Carolina State: Amerson was a huge stud in 2011 and racked up 13 INTs in addition to playing suffocating coverage. He has good size at 6’3″ and right around 200 lbs. If he could maintain his 4.4 speed it would be nice to see him add another 10-15 lbs to his frame so he doesn’t get pushed around by bigger NFL WRs. Amerson Excels in Zone coverages and has an attacking style of play, especially when the ball is in the air. He may be better suited to play safety in the NFL, If he grows into his frame and weighs in at around 225, he almost definitely will. Amerson is a top ten lock.
XFactor: Demarcus Milliner, Alabama: Milliner has looked good when he has hit the field, but with Dre Kirkpatrick firmly entrenched as the starter and DeQuan Menzie being a perfect opposite to him, Milliner generally only saw playtime in Nickel and Dime packages. Milliner has decent size(6’1″ 200lbs) and weight(200) but could stand to add a few pounds of bulk. despite not playing a ton Milliner led the Crimson Tide in INTs(granted he only had 3). Milliner looks like he could be a great slot corner in the NFL and with increased playing time he could see his stock rise from late second round all the way up to mid first.
Biggest Potential Riser: Logan Ryan, Rutgers: Ryan finally got a crack at the starting lineup last season and had a pretty solid year. he struggled a bit early but that is pretty much expected for any press cover corner as a first year player. as the season progressed he got better and better and he ended up with 14 pass break ups, 3INTs, 2 FFs, 67 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. he is an excellent help defender in the run game and a great 2013 could shoot him from a little known mid-rounder to a very well know high rounder that could sneak into the back half of the first round.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: Terry Hawthorne, Illinois: CBs arent going to be incredibly relavent to the Ravens. L. Webb and Jimmy Smith are already locked up long term, Cary Williams is in negotiations and shouldnt be very expensive to sign and the Ravens have 3 young players(Gorrer, Brown, Jackson) that they are trying to make into useful pieces. Thats why i went hawthorne here, he is a likely 4-5th rounder(the Ravens have a history of taking CBs in the 5th) but he has a ton of upside and talent, but is extremely raw.
Position Importance to the Ravens(1-10): 4
Its no secret that the Ravens could use a safety. Ed Reed is not going to be in the league for more than maybe 2 more seasons and there seems to be a decent chance that he might be suiting up for a different team if he plays in 2014. Many Ravens fans were hoping for Mark Barron in this past draft, but Barron was far to talented to slide that far and the Ravens quite frankly had more pressing needs to address than safety this year. fortunately this is set to be the strongest safety class in years, but that isnt saying much because the past 2 drafts there has been only one player worth a top 3 round pick and the year before that there were only 2(granted each of those two guys is a top 5 safety now). there could potentially be 7-8 safeties taken in the top 2 rounds this year.
Best Player: Tony Jefferson, OU: Jefferson is the best player in the class by consensus. However, I am not especially high on Jefferson as a prospect. he has poor size(5-11, 200) and isn’t especially fast(estimated 4.5 forty) and I generally don’t trust players who come from the Oklahoma defensive scheme as they almost always struggle to adapt to the NFL game. I try not to let the school a prospect goes to affect my analysis of a player, but OU defenders are one of the few exceptions. All that said, Jefferson is a good pass defender and can cover a lot of ground to break up plays thanks in large part to his excellent instincts. He is a great leader and certainly has the intangibles to succeed in the NFL. if he were 20 lbs heavier and 2 inches taller he would probably be a top 10 pick. as it stands he is a late first rounder and he isn’t a fit for the Ravens.
XFactor: Tyrann Mathieu, LSU: The trick here is whether teams decide to evaluate Mathieu(from now on i’ll call him TM) as a safety or as a cornerback. I like TM better than i have liked either Morris Claiborne or Patrick Peterson in the past two drafts, but TM wont be drafted anywhere near the top 10 because teams will be terrified of deciding how to play him. TM is a late first rounder who could slide to the mid second round and might end up being one of the major steals of the draft. he has sterling instincts and is deceptively fast(4.42) but his size is a major issue(5’9″ 180 lbs). personally I evaluate him as a corner because i don’t think he is tall enough to play safety(Ed Reed is a short safety and he is a full 2″ taller), but teams evaluating him as a safety could throw a wrench in this draft class.
Biggest Potential Riser: Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech: Johnson has excellent size and speed at 6’2″ 205 lbs and running a 4.45 forty. that alone is a big factor in his potential rise. You might be starting to notice a trend in my potential risers. They all have great size and speed but either haven’t made full use of it or haven’t had enough playing time to show their ability. Johnson is the next in my list of such players. Johnson was prone to mental lapses in his first two seasons as a starter but he showed a lot of potential and could be a good NFL player in the future. despite that he still grades out as one of the most consistent safeties in the nation and he finished with 67 tackles, 3INTs and a sack last year. He had enough talent to start as a true freshman in 2010, he retained his starting job last season and should again this season, he could rise as high as the second round.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: Robert Lester, Alabama: Lester is a ball hawking free safety who plays for the best defensive unit in college football. Lester had a breakout year in 2010, his first as a starter, and logged 8INTs, 52 tackles and a sack. He looked like a potential top 10 pick. last year he took a huge step back and struggled at time in his coverage and his INTs went way down(just 1 in 2011). Its easy to look at him and say 2010 was a fluke, but i disagree. many of Lesters coverage lapses look to be partially due to coverage issues up front in the Tide defense, Lester was asked to do quite a bit more that he had been asked to do in 2010 and at times he struggled. Lester could be a potential Ed Reed replacement(even though i hate the term replacement).
Position Importance to the Ravens: 9
This is a pretty good class of ILBs, there isn’t a ton of great players at the top, but the depth is very good and solid players can be had in almost any round.
Best Player: Manti Teo, Notre Dame: I am a big believer in Manti Teo. In my eyes, Teo is the best ILB prospect since Patrick Willis. Teo has excelent instincts and standing at 6’2″ 255 lbs, he is a beast of a man. Teo consistently makes his presence felt in the middle of the ND defense, but he doesn’t live in the middle like most college ILBs, the guy is a true sideline to sideline defender and he makes plays everywhere. He is just as comfortable blitzing as he is in coverage and he never misses a tackle. last year he registered 128 tackles, 13.5 for loss and 5 sacks and 3 pass break ups, in 2010 he had 133 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble, as a true freshman he had 63 tackles, 5.5 for loss. Teo has the potential to slide quite a bit thanks to the strength of the offensive prospects as well as the top DEs and FSs, if he falls into the 20′s i wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Ravens strike. forget about replacing Ray Lewis too, The Ravens just need an ILB no matter what, if Ray were 24 the Ravens would still look closely at this years draft crop.
XFactor: Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov is a tough player to evaluate at this point because he only played in 2 games last season before blowing out his knee and missing the rest of the year. If Skov bounces back, shows good speed and quickness and, most importantly, avoids re-injury, he could be a 1st rounder. If he gets re-injured he might go undrafted(players with 2 major knee injuries generally don’t fare well in the draft) or at best be a 5th rounder. 2012 might be more important to Skov than almost any other draft prospect.
Biggest Potential Riser: Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech: Bruce Taylor had a great 2010 and was having a very good 2011 and might have been considered as high as a second round grade, but he missed the last four games of last season with a nasty injury. If he can bounce back strong he could rise up the ranks faily quickly because he(like all my potential risers) has great size and speed. Taylor is primarily a run defender who does struggle in coverage, but he has the tools to be a solid coverage defender.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens:Teo, Teo, Teo, Teo, Teo.
Position Importance to the Ravens: 8
I don’t think the Ravens will be super interested in the 2013 OLB class. they just drafted Upshaw, Kindle could potentially play this year, Kruger has one more year on his contract and of course Suggs is locked down for the next few years. even so, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them take a talented slider in the second or third round.
Best Player: Jarvis Jones, Georgia: I have jones rated slightly higher than Sam Montgomery at this point in time due mostly to their size. Montgomery weighs the same as Jones, but has a much higher center of gravity because he is 3 inches taller and has a tendency to be out-leveraged by strong OTs with good footwork(read: every NFL offensive tackle). because of that I view Jones as the better prospect despite Montgomery being perhaps a better player. Jones was a transfer from USC and had a dominant first year with the Bulldogs logging 13.5 sacks, 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed and 2 forced fumbles. I expect Jones to add 5-15 lbs of muscle to his frame, if he does, he is a top ten lock.
Biggest Potential Riser: Trevardo Williams, UCONN: I dont really see any player in this group that could really skyrocket their draft stock this year. I would have said Ron Powell, but he tore some ligaments in his knee a few weeks ago and might not play this season. That leaves me with Williams. Williams had 12.5 sacks last year as he exploded onto the scene but, unlike my other potential risers, his size is an issue. Williams is just 6’2″ 235 lbs and is hovering around 4.7 forty time speed. Williams needs to add bulk, but losing any of his already limited speed would be fatal to his draft stock. he needs to duplicate last years numbers and hope a team will take a flier on him in the third round, as it stands now he is likely a 5th rounder at best.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M: Moore took over many of the responsibilities of Von Miller when he left for the NFL and has done a very good job at it. at 6’4″ 245 lbs he has good size and his 4.7 speed isn’t bad for his size. Moore has been an under achiever off the field but a solid player on the field which is why he continues to get back on the starting lineup. Moore could be a project player for the Ravens if he slides into the middle of the third round.
Position Importance to the Ravens: 4
The DL group is pretty solid this year. the top has some good players and there is good depth across the board. there isn’t a ton of star power here, but there is a glut of sound players.
Best Player: Star Lotulelei, DT/NT, Utah- Star is the only Star of the class(will anyone laugh at that?). he can play pretty much any position on the DL but he is an absolute beast on the interior. Star isn’t especially fast overall(5.2 forty) but he has excellent quickness off the snap and overwhelms blockers with his size and quickness. Star is a near can’t miss prospect and is a top 10 lock, probably top 3.
XFactor: Sylvestor Williams, UNC: Williams hasn’t had a ton of opportunities playing next to some big time players on the UNC defense, but this year he will get a real shot at making some noise. he has great size for a 3-4 DE at 6’3″ 320 lbs and he is lightning fast for his size. That said, Williams is raw and is likely going to take at least 1 year of work before he is ready to play. He would really be better served by going back to school one more year, but a monster season might drive him to declare early and he could be a steal in the third round.
Biggest Potential Riser: Jesse Williams, DT/DE, Alabama: Williams has only been playing football for about 4 years so his potential isn’t anywhere near tapped yet. he is from Australia and spent 2 years playing at a junior college before being snagged by the Crimson Tide and plugged in as a starter. Williams is currently slated as a fourth rounder but I have a feeling a team would take a second round chance on him tomorrow given the chance. With a big year he could end up sneaking into the first round.
Player Most Relevant to the Ravens: Jesse Williams: Williams plays 3-4 DE in Bamas base sets and switches to DT in pass rush situations(read: Suggs downs) so he already has experience playing the exact role that he would play for the Ravens. at 6’4″ 320 lbs he would add another mammoth DL to the Ravens front and would likely play DE opposite Ngata. if he is there in the second round I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens snap him up.
Read my thoughts on the 2012 offensive class here.