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Big Board: Prospects head into pro days seeking to boost draft stock

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

With the combine in the rearview mirror, scouts shift their attention to campus workouts staged throughout the country.

The first important Pro Day was March 6 with Mississippi State's Johnthan Banks easing some concerns about his straight-line speed with improved times from the combine. Texas, Georgia, USC and Utah are some of the headliner Pro Days NFLDraftScout.com will be tracking to gauge whether top prospects confirm scouting reports or cause evaluators to go back to the tape for another look.

The Big Board isn't a mock draft. There is no attention given to team needs or the selection order. It is simply a ranking of the 64 best draft-eligible prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft before we get consumed by the annual data overload from player workouts.

Underclassmen are denoted with an asterisk (*).

1. *Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: An all-conference pick all three years of his career, including first-team All-SEC honors as the Outland Trophy winner in 2012, the baby-faced Joeckel is already a proven star who should only get better as he grows into his frame. Before blasting Joeckel too much for running the 40-yard dash in 5.30 seconds, recall that the last offensive tackle to be drafted No. 1 overall, Jake Long, was timed at 5.22 seconds.

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2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: Impressive against Michigan State and Iowa in 2012, scouts still had some reservations about Fisher until a dominating performance against top competition at the Senior Bowl. He followed that up with a stellar performance in Indianapolis. He has the foot quickness, balance and length to be a "blind side" pass protector. It isn't out of the question to think the more physically mature Fisher could overtake Joeckel as the top tackle on some boards, meaning he's very much in contention to be the No. 1 overall pick.

3. *Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: In a draft in which everyone is projecting numbers based on upside, Jones actually produced. It was Jones -- not South Carolina phenom Jadeveon Clowney -- who led the country in sacks (14.5), tackles for loss (24.5) and forced fumbles (seven) -- this despite missing two games (Kentucky, Florida Atlantic) due to injury. Furthermore, Jones was similarly dominant last year, his first on the field for Georgia since transferring from Southern Cal. Some teams are reportedly red-flagging Jones due to spinal stenosis. Multiple teams I spoke with in Indianapolis, however, told me Jones passed their tests.

4. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: Warmack didn't do much at the combine but frankly, he didn't have to as he ranks among the safest prospects in the draft. Warmack possesses explosive functional power as a drive blocker and has the quick feet and balance to provide stellar pass protection, as well.

5. *Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Milliner emphatically erased questions about his straight-line speed in 4.37 seconds at the Combine, answering the only doubt scouts had about his game. Tough, physical and possessing prototypical size (6-0, 201) for the position, Milliner is the elite pass defender in this draft and a legitimate candidate to go off the board anywhere in the top five.

6. *Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: With so many talented defensive linemen playing in the SEC, Floyd didn't generate the buzz that his talents warranted until recently. Used predominately at defensive end a season ago, the 6-3, 303-pound junior was moved back inside to his more natural defensive tackle position this year and stepped up his play, earning First Team all-conference honors with 46 tackles, including a team-high 13 tackles for loss. While his Gators lost the Sugar Bowl to Teddy Bridgewater and Louisville, Floyd was dynamic, sacking the mobile sophomore quarterback twice and showing scouts flashes of untapped potential.

7. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Having only played football for three years -- and starting only one season -- the native of Ghana is as raw as it gets. Ansah is also as physically blessed as any prospect in the 2013 draft, demonstrating remarkable straight-line speed (4.63 in the 40-yard dash) and fluidity (4.26 seconds in the short shuttle), considering his 6-5, 271-pound frame. Proving athletic enough to handle converting to outside linebacker or staying at defensive end, Ansah could earn top five consideration if teams are convinced that he's committed to the game.

8. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: More athletic than Chance Warmack and proving considerably stronger in Indianapolis than many had given him credit for (35 reps), Cooper is a legitimate top 20 candidate, whose value is only increased by the fact that he can play center, as well.

9. *Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: Blessed with a quick first step, heavy hands and surprising instincts given the fact that the German native has played only five years of American football, Werner, 6-3, 266, is the surest of this year's talented defensive line class. He does not possess Ansah's upside but is currently a more polished and productive player, having earned the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 with 18 tackles for loss, including 13 sacks.

10. Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma: Having seen action at QB, DE and TE during his time at Kilgore Junior College (Texas), Johnson had already proven his athleticism. The 6-6, 303-pounder showed just how athletic he is at the combine, clocking in at 4.72 seconds in the 40-yard dash and registering a 34-inch vertical jump. With only two years at tackle, including just one on the blindside, Johnson isn't as polished as Joeckel or Fisher but may possess an even higher upside.

11. *Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: Of this year's skill-position players, Patterson presents the most "wow" factor. In his first season at the FBS level, Patterson, 6-2, 217, dominated the SEC to the tune of 154.83 all-purpose yards a game, easily the most of any player in the power conference. There remain concerns about his work ethic and ability to handle a complicated NFL offense.

12. *Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Measuring in slightly smaller than expected at 6-3, 294 pounds, Richardson slipped down my board slightly but remains one of the more intriguing defensive tackles in the 2013 class. He's the only defensive tackle I saw all year long hold up to the awesome Alabama interior offensive line, recording a game-high 14 tackles in that contest. He finished 2012 only four tackles behind linebacker Andrew Wilson as Missouri's leading tackler with 75 stops, leading all SEC interior defensive linemen in this category.

13. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: While lacking the size and physicality of Millner or Rhodes, the 6-0, 190 pound Trufant showcased a blend of speed and fluidity in Mobile to arguably rank as this year's top cover corner. If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Both of his older brothers -- Marcus and Isaiah -- are already cashing NFL paychecks as cornerbacks with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets, respectively. Desmond, in fact, matched Marcus' time in the 40-yard dash exactly, clocking in at 4.38 seconds to solidify his first round stock.

14. *Keenan Allen, WR, California: An exceptionally highly regarded prep prospect who originally was going to sign with Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide as a safety before joining his brother (quarterback Zach Maynard) at Cal, Allen possesses virtually all of the physical characteristics to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. He is not the same caliber of athlete as Tennessee's Cordarrelle Patterson but is a more polished player who has drawn comparisons to Green Bay's Jordy Nelson and Baltimore's Anquan Boldin for his sneaky speed, reliable hands and toughness.

15. *Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: Despite the 6-2, 210-pound corner wowing during measured drills at the combine, Rhodes left Indianapolis slipping down some NFL boards after a less than impressive showing during the positional workout and in interviews.

16. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Some questioned if West Virginia's spread offense made Austin look faster than he really was but in clocking in at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, he provided numerical proof of his game-breaking ability. Some will peg Austin as strictly a slot receiver at 5-9, 174 pounds. I see him as a matchup nightmare capable of lining up at receiver, running back and returner.

17. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Smith possesses all of the physical traits scouts are looking for at the quarterback position, as well as the work ethic to build upon them. He also improved his completion percentage and touchdown/interception ratio in each of his three starting seasons, culminating in a senior campaign in which he completed a sparkling 71.24 percent of his passes and threw 42 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Smith, however, didn't always play with the anticipation one might expect given his statistics and was less than stellar in high pressure situations. This potential red-flag was brought up again in Indianapolis, where Smith was good, but not great, in passing drills.

18. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal: While Geno Smith has the higher upside, Barkley is the most NFL-ready of this year's quarterback class, having starred for four seasons in the Trojans' pro-style scheme. He needs to prove his health as a shoulder injury sidelined him for USC's final two games, kept him out of the Senior Bowl and from participating in the combine, but it is worth noting that he measured in bigger (6-3, 227) than Smith (6-2, 218) there, which surprised many. While Barkley's interceptions doubled in 2012, USC's pass protection wasn't nearly as reliable as it had been earlier in his career and he had to keep pace with a leaky defense that hemorrhaged points. Barkley lacks elite traits but make no mistake, he's a first round prospect as he stands and should he dazzle at his March 27 Pro Day, he could easily wind up as the first quarterback selected in the 2013 draft.

19. *Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU: Mingo possesses the frame (6-4, 241 pounds) and athleticism to warrant top 10 consideration, but at this point he remains a largely unpolished product who relies on his natural tools rather than technique to make plays. Given Mingo's upside, it is easy to imagine him terrorizing NFL quarterbacks off the edge as a multi-dimensional defender. Considering Mingo's relatively pedestrian numbers (38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks) this season, as well as the struggles of other former highly regarded LSU defensive linemen in the NFL, the general manager who selects him that high is rolling the dice.

20. *D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: Anyone who watched Alabama dismantle a talented Notre Dame defense in the BCS title game knows that the Crimson Tide offensive line, including Fluker, specifically, plays with great power. As such, ignore the fact that he "only" posted 21 reps at the Combine. The 6-5, 339-pound Fluker shows plenty of explosion where it matters ... on the field.

21. Datone Jones, DE, UCLA: A few years ago Jones, at 6-4, 280 pounds might have been considered a 'tweener. With defensive coordinators forced to adjust to the rapidly expanding offenses of today's NFL, however, Jones ranks as an intriguing hybrid defender who can hold up against the run as a base defensive end, while beating interior lineman with his quickness if moved inside on passing downs. Jones racked up an impressive 19 tackles for loss in 2012 and has been equally impressive at the Senior Bowl and combine since.

22. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama: Registering just 36 tackles, including 2.5 tackles for loss and a single sack in 2012, Williams' stat line isn't nearly as impressive as his combination of size (6-3, 323) power (30 reps) and straight-line speed (4.94). Experienced inside and out in the 3-4 alignment and projecting nicely at defensive tackle in a four-man front, as well, Williams is one of the safer, tougher defensive linemen in the 2013 draft.

23. *Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame: Possessing soft hands and excellent body control, Eifert is the prototypical security blanket and he eased concerns about his straight-line speed with a very respectable 4.68 second 40-yard dash at 6-6, 250 pounds. Eifert isn't the second coming of Jimmy Graham but he has the length and speed to be a challenging matchup and is experienced lining up wide, as well as in the traditional in-line role.

24. *Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: No player dropped further on my Big Board due to his performance (or lack thereof) in Indianapolis than Moore, who proved both slower (4.95) and weaker (12 reps) than many of the prospects measuring much smaller than him (6-4, 250) at the combine. Moore has proven to be a playmaker at both defensive end and outside linebacker but the lack of preparation for the testing could be a sign that Moore's statistics were inflated by the Aggies' scheme and that he should have returned for his senior season.

25. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Lotulelei is a dominant defender but all of the wrong kind of attention was heaped upon him in Indianapolis when news broke that he might have a previously undisclosed heart condition. His stock could ultimately rest in the balance of the medical grades teams give based on his initial physical at the combine and the follow-ups -- known in NFL circles as the medical re-check -- in Indianapolis in April. Teams are legitimately concerned about the condition but remain hopeful he'll be able to ease their fears with further medical testing.

26. *Robert Woods, WR, USC: Measuring in at a rock-solid 6-0, 201 pounds and performing very well in the interviews and athletic drills at the combine, it was easy to see why scouts view Woods as one of the safest receivers in this draft class. Woods isn't flashy but he's intelligent enough to handle playing virtually any of the receiver positions immediately, a rarity for a rookie.

27. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon: At a rangy 6-6, 248 pounds, Jordan's length and explosiveness off the edge make him a matchup nightmare for opponents and he proved every bit the must-see athlete at the Combine, as expected. Unfortunately, while this Jordan might be able to "fly" in shorts like Mike, he hasn't been as productive as his athleticism would indicate. Jordan has struggled with various injuries throughout his career and this troubling tendency again arose at the combine where he announced that he would have to undergo surgery prior to the draft to repair a torn labrum.

28. *Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU: Instinctive and physical, Minter was the most dependable player on an LSU defense chock full of prospective NFL talent, but his 4.81 time in the 40 gives me reservations about his ability to remain on the field on third down in the NFL.

29. Kenny Vaccaro, FS, Texas: Instinctive, athletic and tough, Vaccaro has many of the traits scouts are looking for, though he showed less than ideal speed at the combine (4.63) and isn't a natural ball-hawk. He does possess the versatility teams require in today's game, as Vaccaro has starred as an in-the-box run-stuffer, single-high cover safety and even demonstrated the fluidity to handle nickel responsibilities. He carries some character red-flags, however, which teams will want to investigate.

30. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Demonstrating a quicker first step at the Senior Bowl than expected, as well as his trademark strong use of hands, Okafor was one of the few defenders to give Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson troubles. Despite his skill-set and the fact that he is a two-time All-Big 12 defender, scouts have some reservations about Okafor's motor -- concerns he did not sufficiently address by electing not to participate at the combine.

31. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: Prior to the start of his senior season Wilson lost his head coach (Bobby Petrino) to scandal, his offensive coordinator (Garrick McGee) to another program (Alabama-Birmingham) and top three receivers to the NFL, so I'll excuse the fact that he wasn't quite as productive in 2012 as he was as a junior. He was impressive, however, during the all-important Senior Bowl practices and during the combine interview and throwing sessions. Wilson possesses the arm talent and both the physical and mental toughness to be a successful starter in the NFL.

32. *Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Ertz proved to be quite a playmaker for the Cardinal but wasn't as impressive as I anticipated in Indianapolis, measuring in with shorter than ideal arms (31 3/4") and proving less explosive (4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 30.5" vertical jump) than his game-tape indicated. His ability to threaten the seam keeps him just inside the first round on my board.

The Second Tier:

33. *Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: In terms of pure talent, Hankins deserves to be ranked among the top 20 prospects in the country. Unfortunately, his motor too often appears to in neutral rather than overdrive, something he didn't address well enough for my taste on or off the turf at the combine and is slipping down my board as a result.

34. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue: Snap to snap consistency has been an issue with Short throughout much of his career but he's also proven to be a natural playmaker, averaging 16 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and three blocks kicks over the past three years. Short didn't work out at Purdue's pro day and is scheduled to hold his own workout later in March. He struggled to explain his inconsistent effort during interviews at the combine and despite his production could slip on draft day.

35. *DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: A polished route-runner who plays with speed and physicality, Hopkins is earning first-round grades from some teams.

36. *Matt Elam, SS, Florida: An instinctive defender with a knack for making the big play in big games, everything about Elam's game is big ... except his 5-10, 208-pound frame.

37. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame: Te'o answered the tough off-field questions sufficiently for my taste but, like Minter, his lack of straight-line speed likely makes him a two-down run defender in the NFL.

38. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky: Overshadowed in this class by Warmack and Cooper, the powerful Warford is a legitimate top 50 prospect in his own right.

39. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia: Jenkins did not produce elite statistics (50 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack) but at 6-4, 346 pounds, however, Jenkins certainly possesses the beef to clog running lanes and is experienced at both nose guard and defensive end in the 3-4 alignment.

40. Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International: The ultra-physical Cyprien was dynamic in Mobile, erasing my previous concerns about his level of competition. A pulled hamstring in Indianapolis kept him from working out and thus, my concern over his straight-line speed remains.

41. *Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama: Nursing a slightly torn hamstring, Lacy wasn't able to work out at the combine. If he can prove his speed at his March 13 Pro Day, however, he could join former teammates Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson as the top backs of their respective draft classes.

42. Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State: Having torn his ACL in November, Carradine will first have to prove his health to warrant this lofty grade but the talent and effort on tape is enough to warrant taking the risk.

43. Justin Pugh, OL, Syracuse: Whether he winds up remaining at left tackle or moving inside to guard Pugh has the athleticism to go along with his 6-5, 307-pound frame.

44. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers: A former safety turned linebacker, Greene is a turnover machine (played a role in 24 turnovers over his career), and a future NFL star as a 4-3 weakside linebacker.

45. *Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia: Ogletree boasts the athleticism to warrant top-15 consideration but his track-record of inappropriate behavior is alarming.

46. *Eric Reid, FS, LSU: Terrific in run support but questionable instincts, fluidity could make him a liability in coverage in the NFL.

47. *Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Hunter dropped too many big passes for my taste in 2012 but he's shockingly fluid for a 6-4, 196-pounder and could emerge as a Pro Bowl talent with greater concentration.

48. Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State: Thomas led the country with eight interceptions in 2012, returning three of them for scores. Instinctive and aggressive, he is the top ball-hawk of a strong safety class.

49. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State: Banks ran poorly at the combine (4.61) but has the length, physicality and aggression to be successful in a press scheme. His 16 career interceptions largely against SEC competition should not suddenly be forgotten because of a poor 40-yard dash.

50. *Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech: Rogers' significant off-field issues are a concern but he's clearly a first-round talent. I was impressed with the accountability he took in his interview at the combine and even more impressed with the all-around athleticism he demonstrated in timed drills and his positional workout he did there.

Just missed the cut:
51. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU
52. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
53. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
54. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
55. Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
56. Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
57. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
58. Terron Armstread, OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
59. Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
60. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
61. *David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado
62. *Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
63. *David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
64. *Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State

Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.


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