2013 NFL Draft Early Entries
By Pete Fiutak
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Teams in need of a quarterback in 2014
The Kansas City Chiefs need a quarterback, but they're not exactly doing back
flips over the current crop of passers coming out. It's not like there's a sure-thing like Andrew Luck on the horizon, but there will be plenty of options to start focusing on for the 2014 draft with the return of Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's AJ McCarron and Clemson's Tajh Boyd. All of them have problems and issues from height (Murray and Boyd), dynamic arm (McCarron), consistency (Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas) and pure talent (Fresno State's Derek Carr and Mississippi State's Tyler Russell), but the hype is already starting for possible early entries like Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Oklahoma's Blake Bell and Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
Again, there might not be any rock-solid franchise makers, but there's a good base of prospects to start with, and then the hope is for a Cam Newton or an RG3 to come from out of nowhere to take the world by storm. And that's why everything is looking up for …
Matt Barkley's stock has fallen through the floor. There were already a few question marks about his arm strength and size, and his injury hasn't helped the cause. He's not a lock to go in the first round – and Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray and Ryan Nassib are all second and third-rounders with none of them standing out among the pack. Most teams in need of a quarterback will likely wait around, hoping to hit the jackpot somewhere outside of the top 40, but Smith appears to be head-and-shoulders in front of the other top prospects and should be the one that teams fight over.
Kansas City isn't going to take Smith at the No. 1 overall spot, and the No. 2 to Jacksonville is way too rich. Arizona is in desperate need of a passer, and Smith might be the perfect pick at the right time at the eight. Buffalo at the 11 and the Jets at 15 will both be interested, but if Smith, Barkley or the other quarterback prospects slip by New York, there will be a freefall with no one in the back half of the first round looking to fill the position.
Teams in the late half of the first round
Get ready for teams in the top 15 to go way out of their way to trade down, trade down and trade down some more. Someone will want to pay a ransom to take Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, but the other top positions like defensive tackle, pass rushing end, quarterback and running back are deep with no reason to take the position early. This year it really is true; it's possible to get just as talented a player from 20 to 32 as it is from 10 to 19, and there isn't even a sure-thing No. 1 overall franchise-maker that's a must take for Kansas City. The value up top is as weak as it has been in the last several years.
Teams in need of a running back
This is going to be one of the most interesting running back drafts in years, but the position has been devalued to the point of being irrelevant. It might be nice to have Adrian Peterson, but teams have proved they could win Super Bowls with James Starks, Ahmad Bradshaw and Pierre Thomas. Thanks to several players leaving early, and with teams not looking to spend high draft picks on the position, running backs will be among the best value picks in the draft.
Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Clemson's Andre Ellington, Oregon's Kenjon Barner, Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and UCLA's Johnathan Franklin are seniors who already made this a decent class, and then the position got a huge boost with the addition of North Carolina's Giovani Barnard, Alabama's Eddie Lacy, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, Rutgers' Jawan Jamison and Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle. Throw in South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore as an X factor depending on his health, and there will be lots and lots of good options.
It could've been a lot worse considering early entries were an issue last year. The Tide turned out to be just fine in a bit of a rebuilding year, and they should be able to overcome the expected losses corner Dee Milliner – who'll likely be the first defensive back taken off the board – running back Eddie Lacy and right tackle D.J. Fluker. Guard Anthony Steen is returning along with quarterback AJ McCarron and linebacker, C.J. Mosley, who would've all been taken somewhere in the top 100. If you count running back T.J. Yeldon as a starter, seven starters are back on offense, six return on defense, and the depth is good enough fill in the gaps for a run at a third straight national title.
The Hokies always seem to lose a fast corner or a talented running back early to the next level, but not this year. It was a rough season, but it was also a bit of a rebuilding year with the payoff coming in 2014 with eight starters back on defense and five on offense including Logan Thomas, who has all the tools to become a No. 1 overall pick in 2014 with a lot of tweaking – a LOT of tweaking. He needs to improve his accuracy and consistency, but at 6-6 and 260 pounds with a howitzer of an arm, he has the look. This year he might have been a third round pick to develop for the future, but if he can take his game to another level, he could become one of the hot players for next year.
Texas … sort of
It's sort of a good news/bad news situation for the Longhorns. On the plus side, years of recruiting four and five-star prep talents have stockpiled the players and the depth with more athleticism and skill than just about any team in the country – Texas looks like an NFL team. However, several of the players haven't necessarily panned out – or they haven't been developed properly – to have the option to leave early for the next level. Losing defensive tackle Brandon Moore isn't all that big a deal, and while losing safety Kenny Vaccaro and end Alex Okafor hurts, they were seniors.
Again, though, the problem is that there aren't a slew of sure-thing players who could've left early. Corner Carrington Byndom, guards Trey Hopkins and Mason Waters and receiver Mike Davis are good enough to have been drafted if they had taken off, but they would've been late-round fliers. Overall, 19 starters are back including several excellent sophomores who'll have major decisions to make next year around this time.
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