2013 NFL Draft Prospects: Top 5 Players at Every Major Position
The 2013 NFL Draft is a long way away, but it's never too late to get to know the prospects who could go early. I have already compiled a mock draft for the first round, which you can see here, but this slideshow is a list of the top five prospects at all 15 major positions.
The top quarterbacks in this year's class will get their opportunity to make premium dollars as high draft picks, but I'm not sure there is a franchise changer in the class. Geno Smith and Matt Barkley are widely regarded as the top in the class, but who is this year's Andy Dalton? Dalton was taken in the second round but has started from day one and really surprised people with how good he's been. Tyler Wilson, Tyler Bray and Landry Jones could be that guy, but when will teams take a chance on them?
There are plenty of teams that could use a franchise quarterback, but I get the feeling none of the players mentioned previously will live up to the 2012 class. But honestly, who could? The 2012 class of quarterbacks could be one of the best ever when it is all said and done.
The first overall pick in the draft will likely come down to either the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars. Any one of those teams could take use a quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how willing these franchises will be to risk drafting one of them. If I were a GM, I would rather have one of the premier defensive players, which this draft is full of.
Do you disagree with the top five at any position? If so, comment below or reach out to us on Twitter with the hash tag #RML
QB 1: Matt Barkley, USC
Matt Barkley had a down year at USC, but I love the fact that he was a four-year starter in a pro style offense. His offensive line was awful this year but he still put up decent numbers. In his senior season he passed for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He made some questionable decisions this year but is the best quarterback in the class. His stock could tumble if he does not recover quickly from the injury that kept him out of the Notre Dame game. That could have been a signature game and a chance to cement him as the No. 1 option, so it was unfortunate he missed it.
QB 2: Geno Smith, West Virginia
Geno Smith put himself on the map with a monster game against Baylor, but came back down to Earth after that game against better defenses. He was 45-51 with 656 yards and eight touchdowns in that Baylor game. Smith finished his prolific year with 3,597 yards, 37 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 70 percent of his passes. He progresses through his reads well, moves the defense with his eyes and has excellent mobility. Teams will no doubt like his big arm and the ability to make plays on the move. He is similar to Robert Griffin III only not as fast, but still a weapon. He didn't have the toughest competition though so it will be interesting to see how well he performs at the next level.
QB 3: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
Arkansas was a train wreck this year and that likely has a lot to do with Tyler Wilson's poor season. He missed some time with an injury and finished 2012 with 3,387 yards, 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was much better in 2011 and 2012 was supposed to be a breakout year for Wilson, but anyone would have struggled in that environment. In 2011, Wilson had 3,638 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is not afraid to stand in the pocket and has good patience when making his reads. He has a good arm and above average accuracy, but his decision making stood out to me in his junior season. He rarely made mistakes and teams have to like that.
QB 4: Landry Jones, Oklahoma
Landry Jones has set many passing records in his time at Oklahoma. Though the team never got to the National Championship game like they hoped, Jones was never a reason for that. He took steps forward in his development with come back wins over West Virginia and Oklahoma State. He finished his senior season with 3,745 yards, 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Jones made the right decision going back as he would have been pushed way down the list after all the talented quarterbacks that went early. He is likely a second round pick, and if given time can develop into a decent starter. He has a strong arm and can make all the NFL throws.
QB 5: Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Tyler Bray did not live up to his potential at Tennessee, but could be a project at the next level that turns into a solid starting quarterback. He only completed 59 percent of his passes as a senior, which is way too low, but Tennessee got big plays and Bray shows good touch and accuracy on deep balls. He finished with 3,612 yards, 34 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2012. Bray has a huge arm and can fit the ball into tight windows. He could come back for his senior season and be one of the top picks in the 2014 draft with a good year.
RB 1: Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
Joseph Randle has all the tools to be a featured back at the next level. He has great speed and elusiveness and also is a terrific in pass protection. He shined on the biggest stages and finished with 1,351 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had over 1,200 yards and a ridiculous 24 touchdowns on the ground in 2011. Randle is a weapon out of the backfield as a receiver as well. He should be a late first to early second round pick.
RB 2: Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
If you're looking for someone to be a featured back, it doesn't get much better than Giovani Bernard. He had 1,228 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2012, but also had 47 catches for 490 yards with five touchdowns. He was the main weapon for the Tar Heels this season and should go in the second round. He is a redshirt sophomore though, so he could still come back for another year.
RB 3: Eddie Lacy, Alabama
Eddie Lacy was the next great Alabama running back after Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson, though I'm not sure if he was so good because of his own talent or the monster of an offensive line he ran behind. Alabama has three offensive lineman that could go in the first round of the draft this year. That said, Lacy is definitely an NFL-caliber runner and not just a product of the system. He averaged 6.4 yards per carry in the tough SEC and had his best game against Georgia's elite defense. He had 20 carries for 181 yards in the SEC Championship.
RB 4: Mike Gillislee, Florida
Mike Gillislee has been climbing up draft boards and does everything you want from an NFL running back. He has elite speed and runs hard. He played hurt this season and still had 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns. He helped lead Florida to a one-loss season and an appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
RB 5: Kenjon Barner, Oregon
Kenjon Barner emerged as a Heisman candidate with his 300 rushing yard performance against USC, but faded as Oregon lost to Stanford and he did not have a great game. Still, he had a terrific season rushing for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. He averaged 6.6 yards per carry and would be a serious weapon in any NFL offense. I'm not sure if he is someone you can lean on for 20-25 carries per game, but his speed cannot be ignored.
WR 1: Justin Hunter, Tennessee
The wide receivers class is not particularly exciting, but there are some No. 1 wide receivers to be had early. Justin Hunter has deep play ability and a big frame that will be a weapon in the red zone. He looks to be fully recovered from his knee injury that caused him to miss most of 2011. Hunter finished the 2012 season with 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns
WR 2: Keenan Allen, Cal
Keenan Allen likely would be the top prospect if he wasn't out with a knee injury right now. He totaled 61 receptions for 737 yards and six touchdowns in 2012 and is a weapon as a punt returner as well. His talents were better showcased in 2011 when he was healthy and recorded 98 catches for 1,342 yards and six touchdowns. He could very easily be the first wide receiver taken and should be a first round pick, provided he is healthy by April.
WR 3: Terrence Williams, Baylor
Terrence Williams had a monster season for Baylor's prolific offense. He had 95 catches for 1,764 yards and 12 touchdowns and was a part of the video-game like matchup between Baylor and West Virginia. Williams had 17 catches for 314 yards, both of which set Big 12 records. He is one of the faster wide receivers in the class and is one of the best at making big plays down the field.
WR 4: Tavon Austin, West Virginia
For every top quarterback prospect there is usually a great wide receiver catching passes from him. Well, Tavon Austin not only did that, but was used all over the field in West Virginia's offense. He had 110 receptions for 1,259 yards and 12 touchdowns and 61 rushes for 598 yards and three touchdowns. His size is a question, but he reminds me a lot of Dexter McCluster in that he's someone who can change the game with one play. He can be a terrific slot receiver and returner at the next level.
WR 5: DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
DeAndre Hopkins took over the No. 1 spot after Sammy Watkins was suspended and never looked back. He had 69 catches for 1,214 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2012. His big play ability is off the charts and he has elite speed. He needs work running more precise routes and mainly used his speed to beat corners in college. If he adds some strength and runs better routes, he can be a No. 1 option at the next level.
TE 1: Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Tyler Eifert is without question the top tight end in this year's class and should be a first round pick. He was the only consistent weapon in the passing game for Notre Dame. Eifert works the seams well, has a big body and drastically improved his blocking this season. He is polished all-around and would have had better numbers in an offensive that utilized him. As a junior he had 44 catches for 624 yards and four touchdowns in 2012
TE 2: Zach Ertz, Stanford
The tight end position at Stanford is so important and Zach Ertz carried the torch from Coby Fleener, who was an early round pick last season. Ertz had his best game of the season against Oregon, catching 11 passes for 106 yards and was the team's leading receiver for the season. He is an elite blocker and has a high motor. He should be taken in the second round and no later.
TE 3: Joseph Fauria, UCLA
Joseph Fauria is the nephew of former NFL tight end Christian Fauria and could be even better than his uncle. He has a massive frame (6'7'', 258 lbs) and was previous at the tight end factory in Notre Dame before transferring to UCLA. He had 41 receptions for 578 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2012 but needs to improve as a blocker to be an every down tight end.
TE 4: Jordan Reed, Florida
Jordan Reed had 44 receptions for 552 yards and three touchdowns in 2012, but could very well come back for his senior season and improve his draft position. He is an athletic weapon but still learning the position after making the switch from quarterback. He would have had better numbers had Florida had a more consistent passing attack. He needs to work on his blocking as well. I imagine he will return for his senior season but you never know.
TE 5: Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Though he was a backup as a junior, Levine Toilolo played in an NFL style offense and could make the jump to the NFL if he feels he will be a second day pick. He is a load at 6'8'', 265 lbs and works the middle of the field as well as any tight end in the draft.
OT 1: Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Luke Joeckel is the best offensive tackle prospect to come out in a long time. He is almost a sure-fire Pro Bowl caliber talent and proved it every Saturday this season. Against elite tests he dominated and the competition was almost not enough for him. He got better as the season progressed and did struggle for a bit in the second half against Florida, but he is as good a prospect to come out since Joe Thomas or Matt Kalil, and maybe better. He has started every single game since his freshman season and could be the top pick in the draft.
OT 2: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Seems crazy to think the top two offensive tackles would be from the same school, but Joeckel was a first-team All-American and Jake Matthews made the third team, so it's not a surprise that Matthews could be the second tackle off the board. His father is Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews and Jake could be one of the premier tackles in the game in a couple of years. Matthews is a better run-blocker than Joeckel and about as good as pass protector. He passed every test he has this season and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel rarely saw pressure from the outside.
OT 3: Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Taylor Lewan had a poor showing against Alabama but it got better from there. He is nasty and plays with a mean streak, looking to punish defenders and is an emotional leader for the Wolverines. He is not quite polished yet and it wouldn't be surprising if he returned for his senior season.
OT 4: Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher was a dominant force at his level of competition and was very versatile playing both tackle positions and guard as well. He needs a good performance at the Senior Bowl against top competition to prove he's worthy of an early selection. He is a terrific athlete for his size and could develop into an elite pass protector with good coaching.
OT 5: D.J. Fluker, Alabama
D.J. Fluker probably projects best as a right tackle at the next level. He isn't the best pass blocker but has enough talent to get by at the next level. He's a powerful run blocker and could actually be a guard at the next level as well. He is versatile but likely won't get any looks for teams drafting a left tackle.
OG 1: Chance Warmack, Alabama
Chance Warmack is an absolutely dominating run blocker in the interior and is solid in pass protection. He had a terrific game against Georgia standout defensive tackle Jonathan Jenkins and should be a top 20 pick in the draft. He's without a doubt the top guard in this class.
OG 2: Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
Being a tackle first then moving to guard at Tennessee, Dallas Thomas is an excellent pass blocker. He possesses above average run blocking skills and played well against all the elite SEC competition Tennessee played this season.
OG 3: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Barrett Jones will have a lot of eyes on him due to the fact that he played all three offensive line positions at a high level. He probably fits in the NFL best in the interior, though. He played well against LSU but struggled against Texas A&M. He played center as a senior but like I said could be either a guard or center at the next level, which teams will like.
OG 4: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
While Jonathan Cooper likely projects better as a center in the NFL due to his size, he is an elite run blocker that has value at both the interior line spots. Teams that want him to play guard will likely ask him to add weight to his frame. He explodes off the ball and moves well in space, but could he could add some strength to get better for the next level..
OG 5: D.J. Fluker, Alabama
As I mentioned previously, Fluker projects to the NFL as a guard more than a tackle, but he's got the ability to play both.
C 1: Barrett Jones, Alabama
Jones is not only one of the top guard prospects but my top center prospect. He is a great run blocker and very athletic. He should go in the first round.
C 2: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Cooper projects better as a center and should be taken in one of the top two rounds.
C 3: Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
Travis Frederick comes from Wisconsin who is known for developing quality NFL-caliber offensive linemen. He played better at guard than center but would go higher if a team likes him enough at center. He was All-Big 10 First Team in 2012.
C 4: Khaled Holmes, USC
Khaled Holmes' stock took a nose dive in his last season. He struggled against fellow top prospect Louis Nix but could still be taken in the early rounds. He fits well in a power run-blocking scheme and could play both guard and center if need be. He gets off the ball quickly and is strong at the point of attack.
C 5: Dalton Freeman, Clemson
Dalton Freeman got by as an undersized player in college but will need to bulk up from his 285 pound frame to be successful in the NFL. That won't be a difficult task. Freeman played very well against Florida State's elite defensive line and I love that he was a four-year starter at center. He needs to add to his frame and get stronger, but the rest of his game is polished.
DE 1: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Damontre Moore is an absolute monster and would fit in any defensive system. He played in the 3-4 with Mike Sherman as an outside linebacker/pass rusher and moved to defensive end this past season. He put up huge numbers leading the Aggies with 80 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks. He should be a top five pick in the draft.
DE 2: Sam Montgomery, LSU
Sam Montgomery had up and down games this season against NFL talent. He played well against Alabama and South Carolina but struggled against Luke Joeckel of A&M and did not play well against Florida. Still, he has elite pass rushing skills and has improved his run blocking. He added 30 pounds of muscle while at LSU and really improved his draft stock over the years.
DE 3: Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Bjoern Werner had a great finish to the season and ended 2012 with 40 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. He possesses elite strength and plays with a nasty, violent streak. He could improve his pass rushing skills but he is an elite run defender and will put pressure on the quarterback. He fits best in a 4-3 system but could play defensive end in a 3-4 as well.
DE 4: Barkevious Mingo, LSU
It wasn't the best start for Barkevious Mingo but he got better as the season progressed. At 240 lbs he definitely would fit better as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but that doesn't mean he couldn't play outside linebacker in a 4-3 or be used as a situational pass rusher. He's got great speed off the edge and deceptive power. Teams concentrated more on stopping him and he only had five tackles for loss and four sacks in 2012, but there is no doubting his play-making ability off the edge. He'll need to add weight to his frame and get better against the run to be considered a complete player.
DE 5: Alex Okafor, Texas
Though he missed the final two games of the season, Alex Okafor is one of the best all-around defensive ends in the class. He fits in any system. He already has an NFL frame and is effective as both a pass rusher and in run defense. He is a smart player and recognizes plays quickly. Okafor finished 2012 with 46 tackles and 8.5 sacks. It was clear Texas missed him in the final games.
DT 1: Star Lotulelei, Utah
Star Lotulelei is a force in the middle and would make an instant impact at the next level. He had 42 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, five sacks, three forced fumbles in his senior season and should be a top 15 selection. He dominated in his one-on-one matchups and has the speed, power and burst to beat double teams. He would fit as a 3-4 nose or 4-3 defensive tackle.
DT 2: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
Johnathan Hankins is another dominant run-stuffer that fits as both a 4-3 defensive tackle or a 3-4 nose tackle. He anchored a dominant defense in Ohio State, a team that finished 12-0. He had 55 tackles, four tackles for loss and one sack but so much of his pressure up the middle led to outside pressure for Ohio State.
DT 3: Kawann Short, Purdue
Kawann Short had a terrific game against Notre Dame and was a consistent force in the middle all season long. He is a quicker tackle who can bring pressure up the middle. He finished with 42 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2012. He would be a fit best as a three-technique 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end.
DT 4: Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
Sheldon Richardson is one of the more athletic defensive tackles in this year's class and is an elite pass rushing prospect at the position. He had 75 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and four sacks in 2012. He has tremendous athleticism and uses his body well to get leverage in run defense. Richardson played defensive end in college but is definitely a tackle prospect in the NFL. He had a monster game against fellow NFL prospect D.J. Fluker, racking up 14 tackles and a sack.
DT 5: Jonathan Jenkins, Georgia
Jonathan Jenkins is a load at 351 pounds and probably projects best as a 3-4 nose tackle at the next level. He did not have a good game in the SEC Championship and Alabama ran all over the Georgia Bulldogs, but played well in pretty much every other major test he had in 2012.
OLB 1: Jarvis Jones, Georgia
Jarvis Jones is one of the premier defenders in college football and is almost a lock to be a top 10 pick. He really solidified his position in the draft with the huge game against Missouri in which he recorded nine tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. He also had a ridiculous game against Florida with 13 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and two forced fumbles. The guy is an absolute monster and could be the top defensive player drafted. He finished 2012 with 77 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, one interception and seven forced fumbles.
OLB 2: Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
Moore is one of the top defensive players and would fit as an end or outside linebacker in any system.
OLB 3: C.J. Mosley, Alabama
C.J. Mosley has quietly had a terrific season for Alabama and should be a first-round pick. He finished 2012 with 99 tackles, seven tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He has terrific speed and was all over the field. He's been a contributor for Nick Saban's defense all three seasons and has a high football I.Q. He is an elite pass defender and undersized, but the NFL is moving towards that style of linebacker. Teams will love his ability to cover tight ends and running backs in man coverage.
OLB 4: Barkevious Mingo, LSU
As I said before Mingo definitely fits better as an outside linebacker at the next level, and more specifically in the 3-4 as a rusher.
OLB 5: Sam Montgomery, LSU
Montgomery could also be a 3-4 rush linebacker but is not fit as a 4-3 outside linebacker.
MLB 1: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
Manti Te'o is not only a spectacular middle linebacker (he missed only two tackles in 2012), but he's an emotional leader and lifts the play of everyone around him. His story and how he helped transform Notre Dame into an elite defense and the No. 1 team in the country led to him nearly being the first pure defender to win the Heisman. He was just 300 points away from accomplishing that feat. Te'o had over 100 tackles and seven interceptions in 2012. His end to end speed and pass coverage skills make him an elite prospect and will likely land him in the top 10.
MLB 2: Kevin Minter, LSU
LSU had one of the premier defenses in college football which was led by MLB Kevin Minter. He had 111 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and six pass deflections. He had a monster game against Florida with 20 tackles and two sacks despite the losing effort from LSU. He is physical and would work well in both defensive systems.
MLB 3: Alex Ogletree, Georgia
Alec Ogletree was a force for Georgia and one of the best linebackers in college football. In 2012, he had 98 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, one interception, six pass deflections and a return touchdown against Alabama in the SEC Championship. He was hampered by a broken foot in 2011 and suspended the first four games of this season for drug use, so there are certainly some red flags. The talent is there, though.
MLB 4: Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
Kevin Reddick is an elite run defender and shined with the NFL talent around him all graduated and at the next level. He should be a second round pick. Reddick finished 2012 with 85 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, six pass deflections and two forced fumbles in 2012. He doesn't move well sideline to sideline but he has terrific instincts and a high I.Q. Sometimes his effort is not all there, which could lead to him falling on draft day.
MLB 5: Shayne Skov, Stanford
Stanford had a very underrated defense but were actually a very talented group. They slowed down high-powered offenses USC and Oregon in two stunning upsets and kept themselves in the Notre Dame game to the very end. Shayne Skov was a big part of that. He has a couple of question marks after blowing out his knee in 2011 and missing the first game of the season this year after being charged with a DUI. He finished 2012 with 73 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He was named Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against Oregon.
CB 1: Dee Milliner, Alabama
Alabama was burned later in the year by LSU and Texas A&M and Dee Milliner's stock dropped a bit, but he's still my top rated corner. He has excellent instincts and elite man coverage skills. Milliner finished 2012 with 51 tackles, four tackles for loss, and 18 pass breakups which was among the nation's best. He's started since he was a freshman and has a ton of experience that should make him an instant contributor at the next level.
CB 2: Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
Before Johnthan Banks suffered a knee injury in the middle of the season he was playing very well. He struggled against Alabama and Texas A&M as the injury seemed to take away his explosiveness. He still won the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation's top defensive back. He had four interceptions and seven pass deflections in 2012. Banks also has value as a punt returner. He has a nose for the ball as he collected 16 interceptions as a four-year contributor for an SEC defense. Teams have to like his instincts and ability to make plays on the ball.
CB 3: Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
Teams typically did not throw at Xavier Rhodes in either of the last two seasons but when they did they were generally unsuccessful. He had a good game against Clemson, who has two receivers that will play at the next level. He can play in both man and zone and be a shut down corner in the NFL. In Florida State's bowl win over Notre Dame last year, Rhodes dominated NFL product Michael Floyd before getting hurt.
CB 4: Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
Jordan Poyer is a terrific defender but has also returned kickoffs and punts for the Beavers in his career. He averaged an incredible 14 yards per punt return as a junior in 2011. Oregon State blitzes a ton and leaves their corners on an island, and Poyer played well all season. He was the Jim Thorpe Player of the Week when he intercepted three passes against Washington State. He has a red flag after being arrested for a bar fight back in May, but I doubt that will affect his draft stock.
CB 5: David Amerson, NC State
I don't like that David Amerson was burned for deep plays against Tennessee early in the season, giving up two 40+ yard touchdown passes, but he recovered and play well down the stretch. In 2011 Amerson was phenomenal collecting 13 interceptions as quarterbacks found it a dangerous game when they tested him. It was the second highest total in college football history from a Division 1 program. He has a competitive drive that his coaches rave about and does not sacrifice speed and agility despite being what most would consider safety-type height (6'3''). He has elite ball skills and plays extremely aggressive, which doesn't get him in trouble as often as you might think.
Safety 1: Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in the class as he shows good movement and instincts in pass coverage and is not afraid to come up and make big hits in run support. He had 88 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, five pass break-ups and two forced fumbles in 2012. He has a nose for the football and rarely gets beat deep. He greatly improved his draft stock in 2012 and should be one of the first 25 players taken.
Safety 2: Eric Reid, LSU
Eric Reid showed flashes of being a talented player at times last year but had trouble in some games. He still needs work but he has the raw ability, speed and athleticism to be a great safety at the next level. He is best suited for a strong safety in the NFL as he is much better in run support and looks to punish those going across the middle. He has great ball skills, can read plays well and react quickly to make stops. He can be aggressive at times which leads to too many mistakes, but that can be corrected with good coaching. He's a top prospect that should go late first or early second round.
Safety 3: Matt Elam, Florida
Playing for Florida's top ranked defense, Matt Elam was all over the field. He is very athletic and physical and moves well sideline to sideline making plays. He is consistently in the backfield on running plays and rarely gets beat when playing "centerfield" in the defense. He has good vision and the ability to escape blockers in traffic to make stops. Elam fits the mold of today's NFL safety and should be one of the top 50 players taken.
Safety 4: Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
Tony Jefferson has started three years in a row for Oklahoma and is as polished as a safety can get before moving on to the next level. Even when not in the box he would still make plays at the line of scrimmage, showing off great speed and play recognition. He played well in every game this season. As a freshman he lined up mostly as a Nickel corner and has the ability to cover fast slot receivers, which will make him valuable to NFL teams.
Safety 5: Robert Lester, Alabama
While he did not do enough to move up the draft boards and into the first round, Robert Lester has been fantastic in his three years as the starting safety for Alabama. He has above average ball skills and a nack for finding the football against the pass. He had four interceptions this season and was second in the nation with eight in 2010 as a true sophomore. I like his three years starting experience in an elite SEC defense and he's improved his pass coverage skills even though his interceptions are down. He was always around the football.
Kicker 1: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
Dustin Hopkins is the best kicker in the draft this year and has a monster leg with good accuracy from distance. He went 11-14 from beyond 40 yards which included a perfect 5-5 beyond 50 yards. He had a long of 56.
Kicker 2: Caleb Sturgis, Florida
Caleb Sturgis went 23-27 on the year and was an impressive 8-9 from beyond 40 yards, including 3-3 from beyond 50. He's got a big leg and should be one of the first kickers drafted.
Kicker 3: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
Quinn Sharp might be a punter at the next level but he did both in college and was successful at it. He was 25-31 on field goals this season but struggled from distance, going 8-14 from beyond 40 yards. That's not a terrible percentage but teams will probably like his skills as a punter more. He could be a punter and kickoff specialist at the next level.
Kicker 4: Matt Weller, Ohio
Matt Weller struggled at times in 2012, missing eight field goals, seven of which were shorter than 40 yards. He did not attempt a field goal of 50 yards this season but has a career long of 52. I doubt he gets drafted but he should have an opportunity as an undrafted free agent.
Kicker 5: Brett Maher, Nebraska
Also doubling as a punter and place kicker, Brett Maher was about average on field goals this season. He is accurate from within 40 yards but struggled from deep. Four of his six misses came from beyond 40 and three of his four misses in 2011 came from beyond 50. He is an accurate kicker but won't wow anyone with his leg strength. Maher has a career long of 54.
Punter 1: Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech
Ryan Allen is by far the best punter in this year's class and will be a draft pick. He won the Ray Guy Award for the nation's top punter two years in a row. He averaged 48 yards per punt in 2012 and averaged 46.9 over the previous two seasons.
Punter 2: Brad Wing, LSU
Brad Wing entered the season as one of the top rated punters and got plenty of work with LSU's inconsistent offense. He had 59 punts in each of the last two seasons and averaged 44.4 in 2011 and 44.8 in 2012. He has a career long of 73 yards.
Punter 3: Quinn Sharp, Oklahoma State
Like I said previously, Sharp probably has more worth as a punter in the NFL. He started all four years for Oklahoma State and hovered between 45.1 and 46.3 yards per punt all four years. He is consistent and has a big leg.
Punter 4: Tress Way, Oklahoma
Though his average got a little bit lower each year at Oklahoma, Tress Way is consistent and also started all four years for the Sooners. He has a career long of 85 yards and averaged 43.6 yards per punt in 2012.
Punter 5: Jackson Rice, Oregon
Though he didn't have much practice with Oregon's offense moving the ball on basically everyone all year, Jackson Rice had plenty of work pinning teams deep. He doesn't have a huge leg but is good enough to get an invite to camp next season.
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