There is a great misconception being perpetuated by some that the 2013 NFL Draft lacks talent.
That simply isn't true if you know where to look. While there is no denying that this year's class lacks the skill-position sizzle to get fans excited, it is the kind of draft that traditional football enthusiasts (and NFL scouts) love. That's because the class of 2013 offers an unusual bounty of the big guys who battle in the trenches, as well as the athletic, ball-hawking defensive backs to combat the complicated passing attacks en vogue in the NFL.
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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 100 best draft-eligible prospects for the 2013 NFL draft. Underclassmen are denoted with an asterisk (*).
1. *Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: Having earned all-conference recognition all three years of his career, including first-team All-SEC honors and winning the Outland Trophy in 2012, the baby-faced Joeckel is already a proven star who is just going to get better as he grows into his frame. He isn't an elite athlete and needs to gain strength to hold up against the bull-rush, but he's remarkably smooth in pass protection, demonstrating the same caliber of efficient footwork, balance and technique that made Matt Kalil an instant star for the Minnesota Vikings a year ago. Having proven himself against elite competition throughout his career, he's the safest prospect in the draft -- and he's only going to get better.
2. Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: While impressive against Michigan State and Iowa in 2012, scouts had some reservations about Fisher until a dominating performance against top competition at the Senior Bowl and he followed that up with a stellar performance in Indianapolis. He has the foot quickness, balance and length to be a "blindside" 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.
3. *Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Milliner emphatically put to bed any concerns about his straight-line speed in 4.37 seconds at the combine, answering the only question scouts had about his game. Tough, physical and possessing prototypical size (6-0, 201) for the position, Milliner is unquestionably the top defensive back in this draft and could be selected as high as No. 3 overall; only Shawn Springs (selected No. 3 by Seattle in 1997) has gone that early as a cornerback in the modern era.
4. *Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: With so many talented defensive linemen playing in the SEC, Floyd didn't generate the buzz that he warranted. 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.
5. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Over the past two seasons, no defensive tackle has generated more attention from the opposition than Lotulelei, though the Utah star was put under the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons after a routine electrocardiogram at the combine turned up what appeared to be a life-threatening heart issue. Lotulelei has since passed "at least 10" medical exams, including two cardiac MRIs, considered to be the "gold standard" of all heart tests. The fact that Lotulelei was not invited back to the combine for a medical re-check is an indicator that teams are convinced the combine flare-up was a fluke, making the Utes' defender a strong contender for top 10 honors.
6. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Having only played football for three years -- and starting just one season -- the native of Ghana is as raw as prospects come. 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.
7. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: More athletic than Alabama's Chance Warmack and proving considerably stronger in Indianapolis than many had given him credit for (35 reps of 225), Cooper is a legitimate top 10 candidate, whose value is only increased by the fact that he can play center.
8. Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: If the draft were held a week after the 2013 BCS title game, Warmack might have been drafted in the top 10. Now, there are some veteran scouts who question if he'll be drafted in the top 20. Some long-time evaluators suggest Warmack will even make the first round. He is shorter than scouts would like (6-2 even) and has performed poorly in workouts. I refuse to drop him out of the top 10 because his efforts on the field against elite competition but he's raised red-flags with a less-than-ideal work ethic and could surprise with how far he "slips" on draft day.
9. 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 blind side, Johnson isn't as polished as Joeckel or Fisher but may possess an even higher upside and some veteran scouts rank him as the elite tackle in this class.
10. *Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Richardson is a polarizing prospect because he's only been a dominant player for one season and therefore carries risk. 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 just four tackles behind linebacker Andrew Wilson as Missouri's leading tackler with 75 stops, leading all SEC interior defensive linemen in this category.
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. Some believe he's the most dynamic kick returner to enter the NFL since Devin Hester. There remain concerns, however, about his work ethic and ability to handle a complicated NFL offense.
12. *Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Scouts are left to question how much of Jones' statistics were inflated by scheme after a less than impressive pro day workout in which he ran the 40-yard dash in a relatively pedestrian 4.90-seconds. Frankly, I don't care about that number. The numbers I think apply more are Jones 24.5 tackles for loss, 14.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2012, which led the country. Jones may slip on draft day but he will prove a steal if he falls out of the top half -- just as Terrell Suggs did after a poor workout at Arizona State in 2003.
13. 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 5-09, 174 pounds. I see him as a matchup nightmare capable of lining up at receiver, running back and returner and pound-for-pound best player in the 2013 draft.
14. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: While lacking the size and physicality of Milliner 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.
15. *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.
16. *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.
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. A reportedly stellar performance at his pro day workout will push him up the board for some but only solidifies the first round status he's had on my board all year long.
18. Matt Barkley, QB, Southern Cal: Barkley wasn't dynamic at his March 27 pro day but in completing 55 of 62 passes he answers any concerns about the health of his shoulder and may have eased doubts about his arm-talent, overall. The USC quarterback may lack eye-popping measureables but he possesses the best combination of the three traits I've found to be the greatest indicator future success in the NFL -- accuracy, awareness and anticipation.
19. *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.
20. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon: Scouts love Jordan's potential but the front office executive who invests a top 10 pick on him may question why he didn't more big plays. The 6-6, 245-pound Jordan has as much athleticism as any player in the 2013 draft and offers the flexibility to rush the edge as well as drop into coverage (which he did as a linebacker and cornerback for the Ducks). Jordan relies on his speed as an edge-rusher, however, showing no advanced complementary inside move, at this time. While he's capable of unique coverage responsibilities he's never proven productive in this role, either, posting two passes broken up and zero interceptions in a pass-happy conference.
21. *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 just 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.
22. *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.
23. *Keenan Allen, WR, California: Recruited by Nick Saban to play safety at Alabama, scouts knew Allen, 6-2, 206, had the physicality to warrant comparisons to Anquan Boldin. Unfortunately, he also demonstrated the same lack of ideal speed as the former Florida Star standout during a personal pro day for scouts April 9. By clocking in at 4.70-4.76-seconds and further raising questions with a flagged drug test from the combine, Allen could easily slip into the second round. I'm higher on him than most. Criticize that fact now. Remember it later.
24. 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.
25. *Robert Woods, WR, USC: While all eyes were on his quarterback, Woods stole the show at USC's pro day, March 27, turning in much faster times in the shuttle drills, proving the quick change-of-direction so evident on his tape. Pro-ready due to his ability to line up inside and out and run route in a pro-style offense, Woods is viewed by some as the safest of the 2013 receiver class.
26. *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. If he were two inches taller I believe Elam would overtake Vaccaro as the top safety in this draft class; he may do so yet.
27. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State: In a draft class filled with talented cover corners, Taylor is one of the more enjoyable defenders to watch on tape as he's every bit as impressive zone, press and off-man coverage, as well as in run support. Taylor stood out at the Senior Bowl and certainly erased any concerns about his overall athleticism with a stellar performance at the combine. Taylor is a better all-around player than former Boise Standout Kyle Wilson, who was selected by the Jets 29th overall in 2010.
28. *DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson: A polished route-runner who plays with burst and physicality, Hopkins is earning first round grades from some teams. He has everything scouts are looking for except straight-line speed. The 6-1, 214-pound Hopkins has consistently clocked in the mid to late 4.5s by scouts on hand for his combine and pro day workouts.
29. *Eric Reid, FS, LSU: Reid entered his junior season as my top-rated safety. His big-play production dropped with the Tigers losing three defensive backs to the NFL (cornerbacks Morris Claiborne, Ron Brooks and strong safety Brandon Taylor) and Tyrann Mathieu to suspension. Reid is NFL ready -- terrific in run support, has the speed and length to be an eraser in deep coverage and has proven his ball skills.
30. *Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: No player dropped further on my Big Board due to his performance (or lack thereof) during combine and pro day drills 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.
31. 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.
32. Margus Hunt, DE, SMU: Hunt began the 2012 season atop Bruce Feldman's "Freak" list as the nation's top athlete and certainly didn't disappoint at the combine, posting a 4.62-40 yard dash and tying all defensive linemen with 38 reps of 225-pounds at 6-8, 277-pounds. In the first round, you're looking for dominant traits in which coaching can turn into production. With some polishing, Hunt could be an extraordinary player.
The second tier
33. Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State: Scouts wish he was a bit bigger and made more impactful plays but no linebacker in the 2013 draft plays with greater instincts, hustle and reliable open-field tackling than Brown.
34. *Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama: A disappointing pro day (including a 4.59-second 40-yard dash) could push Lacy down the board but he's much more impressive on game day with a unique combination of vision, balance and burst. If a running back is selected in the first round, it will be Lacy.
35. Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame: Other than a BCS Title game in which Alabama's incredible offensive line simply powered through the Irish's defensive line to get to him, Te'o proved to be a reliably consistent defender throughout his career. Ignore the hype. He'll prove a solid starter in the NFL.
36. Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama: 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.
37. Cornelius "Tank" Carradine, DE, Florida State: Carradine proved to be the more impressive overall prospect than either of his more hyped teammates, Bjoern Werner or Brandon Jenkins in 2012. If not for concerns about his recovery from a torn ACL suffered on November 24, he'd be a top 20 pick.
38. *Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: A "move" tight end in Stanford's pro-style offense, Ertz is a versatile, athletic pass-receiver. He does not, however, offer much as a blocker which limits his stock.
39. D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston: With team doctors' signing off on his surgically-repaired heart, scouts are left to focus on Hayden's undeniable fluidity and instincts in coverage.
40. *Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State: If grading strictly on his 2012 tape, Watson ranks as a top 20 prospect in the 2013 draft. Teams are left to question if the junior college transfer will take advantage of the unique traits he demonstrated in his one season at the D-I level or disappoint - like he did in workouts. Some see a future Pro Bowler in Watson. Others think he's the second coming of workout warrior Bruce Campbell.
41. *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.
42. 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. Only the fact that he has shorter than preferred arms (31.5") makes this a concern.
43. 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.
44. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas: Due to his time inside at defensive tackle, Okafor uses his hands very well and proved a better than advertised overall athlete at his March 26 pro day, as well.
45. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas: The Arkansas passer wasn't as productive as hoped in 2012 but he possesses the physical and leadership traits to compete for a starting role early in his NFL career.
46. Jonathan Cyprien, SS, Florida International: The ultra-physical Cyprien was dynamic in Mobile, erasing my previous concerns about his level of competition but speed (4.64) is a concern.
47. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina: Frankly, I would have liked to have seen more consistency with Williams over his two seasons with the Tar Heels but there is no questioning his combination of burst and strength.
48. Ryan Nassib, QB, Syracuse: Nassib wasn't as impressive at the Senior Bowl as I'd hoped for but he possesses the combination of physical traits -- including a strong arm and functional mobility in the pocket -- as well as intangibles to win over scouts and coaches, alike.
49. *Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU: On a defense blessed with extraordinary talent, Minter was the most consistent LSU defender a season ago. His lack of elite size, speed pushes him into the second round, but he should emerge as a quality starter early in his pro career.
50. 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.
Just missed the cut
51. Quinton Patton, WR, Louisiana Tech
52. Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State
53. Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky
54. E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
55. Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
56. *Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU
57. Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut
58. *Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU
59. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia
60. Terron Armstread, OT, Arkansas Pine-Bluff
61. *David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State
62. Bacarri Rambo, FS, Georgia
63. *David Bakhtiari, OT, Colorado
64. *Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
65. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State
66. *Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
67. Brennan Williams, OT, North Carolina
68. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
69. Brian Winters, OG, Kent State
70. *Alec Ogletree, OLB, Georgia
71. Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
72. Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern
73. *Chris Faulk, OT, LSU
74. *Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
75. Kyle Long, OL, Oregon
76. Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
77. Matt Scott, QB, Arizona
78. Sio Moore, OLB, Connecticut*
79. Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State
80. Christine Michael, RB, Texas A&M
81. John Simon, OLB, Ohio State
82. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M
83. Hugh Thornton, OG, Illinois
84. Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
85. Robert Alford, CB, Southeast Louisiana
86. D.J. Swearinger, SS, South Carolina
87. Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati
89. *LeVeon Bell, RB, Michigan State
90. Kiko Alonso, ILB, Oregon
91. *Corey Lemonier, OLB, Auburn
92. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers
93. *Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
94. Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama
95. *Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Miss
96. *Travis Frederick, OC, Wisconsin
97. Shawn Williams, SS, Georgia
98. Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
99. Malliciah Goodman, DE, Clemson
100. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina*
Rob Rang is a Senior Analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, distributed by The Sports Xchange.