2013 NFL Draft Rankings: Quarterbacks & Running Backs
The top quarterbacks and running backs in the 2013 NFL Draft
By AJ Young - March 22 2013
OG | DE | DT | OLB | ILB | CB | S
These draft profiles are designed to provide you with a better insight into the prospects detailed in our mock drafts and on our 2013 NFL Draft Board:
[Editor’s note: Some of these prospects were covered in our NFL Combine previews, in which case, the profiles have been updated in light of the Combine]
1. Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia (15)
With 8,583 passing yards, 73 touchdowns and 13 interceptions over the course of his last two seasons starting in Morgantown, Smith's production in unquestionable. He's your consummate gunslinger who isn't afraid to throw the football down the field. Smith throws the ball with good zip and can find receivers with great accuracy; he hits receivers in stride and will rarely miss an open target. His footwork sometimes lets him down on deeper sideline throws and is at times inconsistent with his throwing mechanics on shorter routes causing balls to be batted down at the line of scrimmage. Nevertheless, he's fearless in the pocket and will stand there to the last second before letting the ball go; even if he's flushed outside, he consistently throws with velocity and accuracy regardless of which direction he's rolling in. His gunslinger mentality might get him into trouble at times in the NFL where defensive schemes are more complicated but on the whole he's the best quarterback in the draft and whoever drafts him will get a quarterback that can make all the throws and lead his team through tough situations.
2. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas (26)
6-2, 215 lbs, laser rocket arm. What more could you want from a quarterback? Well some accuracy wouldn't go amiss either and that's where Wilson can fall down at times. It's not that he doesn't have the arm to make the throws, it’s that occasional poor footwork and a slightly elongated throwing motion can cause the ball to arrive later than he anticipates when making the decision to throw; hence the ball ends up off target. Now that may read like a mighty good defense of bad accuracy but I'm genuinely unconcerned about Wilson's ability to make all the throws at the next level. Tom Brady was skinny with bad footwork coming out of college and look what coaching did for him. Obviously I'm not saying that Wilson could be the next Brady (he might be...), what I'm saying is that with the relevant coaching at the next level, he can shake a few bad habits with his footwork that are largely the product of playing behind Arkansas' porous offensive line and be an effective pocket passer. He put up good numbers in his junior year to the extent that in the offseason, Sports Illustrated projected him to be the number one overall pick in this year’s draft (which naturally meant he was cursed from that point on to be anything but the number one overall pick). His production dropped off in his senior year but he has all the potential and ability to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL.
3. Matt Barkley, QB, USC (39)
It feels like only yesterday that Matt Barkley became the first true freshman to start a season opener for the Trojans. It was an up and down four year career at Southern California for Barkley, marred by NCAA sanctions and injuries. He only managed to start a full season once in his career and his durability at the next level has consequently come into question. He doesn't have an arm as strong as the likes of Geno Smith or Tyler Wilson and can sometimes struggle with the deep ball. He's somewhat of a statue in the pocket (when the pocket collapses, imagine the athletic ability of Phil Rivers trying to avoid a sack coupled with the panicked look of Mark Sanchez) which doesn't bode well if he's drafted by a team with poor pass protection. Barkley has a tendency to throw balls up and hope for the best when under pressure and must improve on his decision making. Nevertheless he comes with a tonne of experience and understands how to run a pro-style offense. He manages the game effectively and makes all the right pre-snap adjustments. He sees all of the field and effectively goes through his progressions to throw to the open receiver. Barkley can make all the NFL throws and has impressive accuracy that will likely lure quarterback needy teams into selecting him. Just don't expect miracles straight away and pray he doesn't suffer too much immediate adversity.
4. Mike Glennon, QB, NC State (44)
NC State thought so much of Mike Glennon that they just couldn’t wait to see him play sooner rather than later. In fact, they were so enamored with Glennon that they couldn't wait for Russell Wilson to leave town; they literally kicked him out of the door. Albeit Wilson went on to win a Rose Bowl with Wisconsin before becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks so to what extent that was a great idea in up for debate. Whilst Glennon’s numbers were good during his two years starting, they weren't fantastic. He threw 29 interceptions over that span which raises some flags about his accuracy and decision making. Nevertheless, he ran a pro-style offence in college and showed good ability to read through his progressions and make the correct pre-snap adjustments. At 6-7, 225lbs he's not particularly mobile and his movement in the pocket leaves something to be desired at times; think a more statue like Phil Rivers. Either way, he has the ability to make all the throws at the next level in a weak quarterback class, he's one of the best available.
1. Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (29)
First Mark Ingram, then Trent Richardson, now Eddie Lacy. Whatever Nick Saban is feeding his running backs down in Tuscaloosa, it seems to be working. Lacy has a brutal running style to the extent that it sometimes looks as if he's delivering the hit on the defender, not vice versa (maybe not a great selling point in light of the recent rule change by NFL owners). He rarely gets taken down on the first attempt and does a terrific job of fighting for extra yardage. He displays good awareness in the backfield, knowing when to hit the hole and shows patience as he runs behind his blockers. At 5-11, 231 lbs, Lacy possesses great breakaway speed for his size and is the ideal height/weight combination for an NFL running back. There's a sentiment that Alabama's offensive line was so utterly dominant that Lacy looked better than he actually was but he still showed natural running skills that look to translate at the next level, regardless of how good Alabama’s offensive line was. Ultimately a few nagging injury concerns could cost him first round status but Lacy looks to be the real deal and will be an asset to whichever team drafts him.
2. Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (78)
Since tearing his ACL in spring training as a freshman, Bernard has done nothing but produce in his two years as a Tar Heel. Bernard thrived in North Carolina's pro-style offence, racking up 2,481 yards on the ground and 852 yards through the air for 31 total touchdowns. At 5-9, 202 lbs, Bernard is the ideal build for an NFL running back. He runs low to the ground and utilizes his ability to make defenders miss whilst also patiently running behind his blocks. If he had stayed at North Carolina for his senior year, chances are he would have been a Heisman candidate next season; he has a third round grade on my draft board but I wouldn’t be shocked if he was drafted high in the second round.
3. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin (82)
If you’re a running back coming out of college and your name is mentioned in the same breath as Barry Sanders, you’ve caught my attention at least. In his junior year Ball scored 39 touchdowns, tying him with Barry Sanders for the most touchdowns in a single season. The Heisman Trophy finalist then made the curious decision to return to Madison for his senior year in spite of large turnover on the offensive line, Russell Wilson leaving for the NFL and a change at offensive coordinator. This resulted in Ball notching up over 900 carries across his four year career at Wisconsin and that type of tread on the tyres will cause NFL teams to look at Ball with caution. Nevertheless, the tape and production speaks for itself. Ball ran for 5,140 yards on a 5.6 yards per carry average and finished up with an NCAA career record, 83 total touchdowns. He's one of the best between-the-tackles runners to come out of college in the last decade; he runs angry and fights for every single yard after contact yet patiently waits for holes to open before following his blockers into open space. In nearly 1000 career touches he only lost two fumbles. So what's the catch? A guy with Barry Sanders like numbers who runs in a fashion similar to Adrian Peterson must be a shoe-in top five pick right? Sadly not, for two reasons. His top end speed is non-existent; in 924 career rushes, his longest carry was for 67 yards. He just doesn't have that breakaway speed that scouts look for. And secondly, we live in an age where running backs just don't carry the same value that they used to; why tie up huge cap money in a running back when you can pick a guy like Arian Foster off the street for pennies? Particularly a guy that's absorbed a lot of punishment over his college career. Regardless, whoever picks Montee Ball is getting a hell of a player, third round grade or not.AJ Young
is the editor of Down at the One.