Top 10 College Football Seniors Most Likely to be First Round Picks
Top 10 Seniors Most Likely to be First Round Picks
Every year, experts divulge into early NFL Draft predictions midway through the college football season. This year is no different because I am going to take a look at the top 10 seniors likely to be drafted in the first round this year.
We have seen many great performances this season. We have seen Geno Smith throw for 600 yards and eight touchdowns, throwing more touchdown passes than incomplete passes in a victory over Baylor. Smith is having the season of his career and the third-year starter is likely to be the top pick in the draft for a team looking for their future quarterback.
We have seen Manti Te'o overcome adversity to achieve greatness. He lost his girlfriend and his grandmother in the same week. He still played in the game that weekend in East Lansing as he led the Notre Dame Fighting Irish past Michigan State in a courageous performance unlike any I've ever witnessed.
With the bowl season quickly approaching, we have yet to see the last of great performances by these great athletes.
Each season, senior standouts are overlooked by underclassmen that declare for the draft, leaving college early. People think that because they are seniors, they aren't as good as the guys who are leaving college early because of their talent-- a totally untrue theory.
I am going to take a shot at providing a list of the 10 best seniors most likely to be first round picks in the 2013 NFL Draft in April. Although I could make a list of just offensive lineman, I am going to try and stick to the skill positions for the sake of an interesting slideshow.
10. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
Terrance Williams is second in the line of great Baylor receivers in the past couple of seasons. Last year, it was Kendall Wright who was drafted in the first round of the draft and I predict that Williams will follow his lead. He was second on the team in all major receiving categories, all career-bests for him, while finishing third in the Big 12 in touchdown catches with 11. Williams has a 6-foot 2-inch frame that is ideal for an NFL receiver and the speed to burn cornerbacks deep. He can create separation while having the ability to outfight defensive backs for a jump ball. He will likely be a late first round pick for a team looking for a solid number two receiver.
9. Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
Dion Jordan was originally recruited as a tight end by Oregon, then transitioned to defensive end in the spring of 2010. His first season as a defensive end in 2010, he recorded 33 tackles, including two sacks all while playing in a reserve role. Jordan is quick off the ball and is usually is lined up in a favorable position on the line because he is a stand-up pass rusher, able to move into a favorable matchup with ease. Teams looking for a linebacker will be intrigued by Jordan because of his ability to drop back in coverage and has the awareness to make big plays. This season so far, the senior has 29 tackles including five sacks and a pass deflection, making a strong case for a late-first round selection.
8. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Tavon Austin started out his collegiate career as a running back and boy did he make the right decision to convert to a wide receiver. Since he is not a tall player, he compensates for that lack of size with speed and ability to get the deep ball. Although he wouldn't be able to out-jump defensive backs, he would most likely burn them deep. He has been racking up the catches and is up to 67 this season through six games, his lowest total in a single game being nine. He would make a solid slot receiver in the NFL and I would compare him to a Wes Welker type of player with more speed.
7. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame
Manti Te'o has been a whale of a performer this season for Notre Dame. He has the Fighting Irish undefeated midway through the year-- something that nobody saw happening at the beginning of the season with opponents like Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State, Miami and Stanford in the first half of their season. They have impressed nearly everyone in the country with their play and the Hawaii-native has become an instant star. He has unbelievable quickness for his size and can cover a lot of ground. He has some of the best field vision at the linebacker position in the country and is the clear leader of the Notre Dame defense that has been stellar this season. He has 57 tackles so far this season to go along with three interceptions. This guy can do it all-- late first-round pick.
6. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Johnthan Banks is midway through his senior season and he has been as good as advertised for Mississippi State. He has the size that NFL scouts love in a cornerback and a physical tackler that can attack the run with the best of them. Speed can be an issue for him as he is often asked to play off his man in order to give himself a bit of a cushion. When he's caught guessing, he is often on the wrong side of a score because he doesn't have the speed to catch up to the receiver. He has 25 tackles and three interceptions this season so far and looks great as the Bulldogs premier corner.
5. Barrett Jones, OG, Alabama
Since redshirting for the Crimson Tide in 2008, Barrett Jones has gone on to start 35 of the next 39 games. He has been moved to the most important position on the offensive line in 2011-- the blindside tackle and did not disappoint. He is a very skilled lineman that uses his hands and his feet to gain the upper hand on his opponent. He rarely gets beat and has the size to put up with any defensive player. He will be a great addition to any struggling offensive line.
4. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
John Jenkins is one of the biggest defensive lineman in the draft and has the physical prowess to be one of the best rookie talents next season. The 6-foot 3-inch, 358-pound defensive tackle from Georgia has been as good as any lineman since transferring from a junior college in Mississippi two years ago. He started seven of the 14 games he appeared in last season for Georgia and decided to come back for another season after injuring himself in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1. Two weeks ago against South Carolina he had his best game as a collegiate athlete, recording a career-high eight tackles and a blocked field goal. He will be a mid-first round selection.
3. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
Star Lotulelei went into the season with all the hype in the world and right now the results of the hype are mixed. Although he hasn't had the season he thought he'd have to this point, he is still one of the nation's best defensive tackles and could give offensive lineman nightmares on the flip of a coin. However, many scout are waiting for that coin to flip. He has recorded 23 tackles this season with just two sacks, a number that many scouts are hoping picks up in the second half of the season. I still think he can be a top 10 pick in this year's draft, but it will all depend on his performance in the second half.
2. Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Right now, Matt Barkley is the second best quarterback in college football and would easily be number one if Geno Smith wasn't having such an outstanding season. Barkley is a smart, skillful quarterback that can grasp any offensive strategy in a heartbeat. He elected to return for his senior season at USC despite the popular belief that he would be a top 10 pick in last year's draft. Barkley's size and arm strength are his biggest criticism points for experts, but what he lacks in size and arm strength, he makes up for smarts and decision making. He isn't having quite the season he expected to have-- off the pace for all major passing categories compared to last season. He will be a top five pick in my estimation and will take over an NFL team in the coming years.
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Geno Smith has been simply amazing this year, dazzling fans and wowing experts. He has exceeded everyone's expectations and put together a half-season unlike any other quarterback this decade. Yes, even better than Robert Griffin III. He is on pace to exceed Griffin in all major passing categories from a year ago and his accuracy is second to none. Although he doesn't possess the running ability that RG3 did, he makes up for it with his spectacular arm. His completion percentage this season-- 75 percent. Yes, I said 75 percent. He also has 25 touchdowns with no interceptions. I'm guessing you though you read that wrong, too. Nope-- he has 25 touchdowns, no interceptions and over 2,500 passing yards. No wonder he is projected to win the Heisman trophy and be the number one pick in this year's draft. This guy is something else.
Be sure to check out the Rant Sports 100 in 100 Series, a preview of the top 100 College Football Teams for the 2013 Season!