The 2013 NFL Draft is setting up as one of the most unpredictable in years. It's the byproduct of a class minus a megastar or franchise-caliber quarterback.
But it won't be a draft without drama.
NFLDraftScout.com goes beyond the regular mock draft with five bold predictions from three members of our NFL draft coverage team.
Wide receiver Tavon Austin is the first WVU player draft
Austin is the top playmaker in the draft. His height isn't the detriment it could have been in a bygone era. Austin is similar, though not as tall or strong in the upper body, to Percy Harvin. It stands to reason the line for Austin's services will be a healthy queue, and including the New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers, St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots, among others. The 2012 draft was an education in how general managers and coaches value playmakers over prototypes, a slight sea change evident in picks such as Bruce Irvin to the Seahawks, Shea McClellin to the Bears and Chandler Jones to the Patriots. Austin can return kicks, punts, line up anywhere in the offensive formation as a receiver or runner and is one part Harvin another Devin Hester. If he's not a top-10 pick, it'd be a surprise. It wouldn't be stunning to see teammate Geno Smith, the top-ranked quarterback in the draft, to slide right out of the top 10.
Boise State gets another first-round pick
Jamar Taylor isn't the top cornerback on the draft board, but he's not far away from it based on his game tape. If Taylor had more prove-it type games, as Kyle Wilson did as a first-round choice of the Jets, he'd be a top-20 target. There are teams that value Taylor over Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, a taller cornerback who lacks scheme versatility and might wind up at safety. Teams in the low-to-mid 20s won't hesitate to add Taylor. The Vikings, if he's available at No. 25, would be better for adding Taylor.
Five Alabama prospects in first two rounds
Eight Crimson Tide players were drafted in 2012, including five of the top 35 overall picks -- Trent Richardson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw. It's possible Alabama could produce four first-round picks again next week. The locks are cornerback Dee Milliner, guard Chance Warmack and offensive tackle D.J. Fluker. Running back Eddie Lacy is a fringe round one guy and defensive tackle Jesse Williams might fit into the top 50 because of his 3-4 experience. He's one of the few true 3-4 nose tackles in the pool. The trend will continue next season, when quarterback A.J. McCarron and wide receiver Kevin Norwood lead the '14 Tide draft parade.
Florida State's EJ Manuel is the top QB drafted
He has all the tools -- mental and physical, leadership and competitiveness -- Chip Kelly wants and the first-year Eagles' coach is just one of the possible best-suited matches for Manuel. His release isn't pure; neither was Dan Marino's. He's a warm-weather product of a so-called college offense; so was Jim Kelly. Manuel can be the face of a franchise tomorrow, and in a draft class where every prospect brings a briefcase of drawbacks, this is a much of a "choose your flavor" scenario as there ever has been in a draft.
One linebacker becomes an All-Pro
Arthur Brown of Kansas State got little press in Manhattan and isn't yet a headliner, but he'll make like NaVorro Bowman and go from overlooked rookie to most wanted in short order. Brown can play inside or outside linebacker and his experience stopping the run and in coverage showed scouts he'll play all three downs with the kind of verve coaches want from their defensive captain. This isn't a knock on Manti Te'o or Alec Ogletree as much as a nudge to the limelight for Brown.