Five Bold Predictions: Barkley drafted in first round, but not Lacy
NFLDraftScout.com senior analyst Rob Rang offers his five bold predictions for the 2013 NFL Draft, including a few Pac-12 playmakers who will make the first round -- though not all of them quite as high as others project.
1. Matt Barkley will be drafted in the first round
Most will use the tired "value of the quarterback position" argument as the rationale as why Barkley, EJ Manuel or Ryan Nassib might join Geno Smith in the first round. But Barkley has earned it. Sure, his interception total rose in 2012 but revisionist historians fail to mention the same was true of Matt Ryan at Boston College. Barkley was unfairly characterized as the No. 1 overall prospect entering the 2012 season when in reality he was never an elite talent. He is, however, a very functional West Coast offense passer who possesses the best combination of accuracy, anticipation and awareness of any quarterback in the 2013 draft. If Barkley isn't selected in the top 10, expect a club to trade back into the late portion of the first round to draft him.
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2. No running back, including Eddie Lacy of Alabama, is drafted in the first round
At least one running back has been drafted in the first round of every NFL draft since 1963. This is the year, however, in which that historic trend is broken. This isn't just a reflection of the new running-back-by-committee approach that many NFL teams favor, it is a statement about the lack of quality of high-end talent in the 2013 class -- arguably the weakest positional group of the 2013 draft.
The 40-yard dash might be the most iconic measureable of the combine workouts but it is just one small factor among the many that scouts must take into consideration when grading prospects. As such, don't expect NFL teams to worry too much about the poor showing that Georgia pass-rusher Jarvis Jones or California wide receiver Keenan Allen had in this event during their respective pro day workouts. Jones, who was timed at 4.91 seconds in the event, led the country in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles in 2012 despite being the top priority of every SEC offense he faced. Allen is a big-bodied receiver whose savvy route-running, soft hands and toughness make him one of the safest of a solid class of pass-catchers. Teams that routinely draft in the top 10 do so because they let silly numbers like 40-yard dash times overtake the impressions made after years of dominant play on the field. Consistent draft-day winners focus on the on-field results.
4. Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan is exposed as overrated
The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Jordan might just be the most remarkable athlete in the 2013 draft but while he certainly possesses the upside to make scouts drool, general managers might wonder why he wasn't more productive in a pass-happy Pac-12 conference. Savvy talent evaluators will point out that Jordan was just as likely to drop back into coverage as rush the passer. Rather than actually make plays in coverage, however, Jordan simply took up space. He registered just two pass breakups over his career and never intercepted a pass. He registered 7 1/2 sacks as a junior in his career-high campaign and just five a season ago. Oregon coaches tout his toughness and dedication, yet he's struggled with durability throughout his career. Jordan's upside warrants early consideration, but he is far from the sure thing that his cut-ups have led some to believe.
5. North Carolina's Cooper, not Alabama's Warmack, is first guard drafted
If the 2013 NFL Draft had taken place after Alabama's demolition of Notre Dame in the BCS title game, Chance Warmack might have warranted a top-five selection. Since, scouts have had plenty of time to knock holes in the road-grader's game -- and, make no mistake, there are holes. Too much of Warmack's 317 pounds lie around his middle and while he has the quickness to get to the second level (just as Manti Te'o), he fades quickly, making him a less-than-ideal fit in the zone-blocking offense that an increasing number of NFL teams use. Furthermore, while extraordinarily gifted, Warmack has never been characterized as the hardest worker on the team, a trend which scouts tell me continued during prep for pre-draft workouts. Jonathan Cooper, on the other hand, erased any concerns about his strength with 35 repetitions at the combine and is lighter on his feet than the All-American Warmack. Cooper, furthermore, is the more versatile player, having started at center for the Tar Heels, as well as guard. Both players are likely to wind up as Pro Bowlers in the NFL but if one of them is to slip outside of the top 15 picks on draft day, Warmack is the more likely to do so.
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