Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Top 5 2013 NFL Draft Prospects: Big Guys Dominate the Board

As much as last year’s draft was dominated by talented quarterbacks like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the 2013 NFL draft looks to be spearheaded by a group of grunts: players who reside deep in the trenches of offensive and defensive lines in professional football. I suppose as important as the quarterback position is, so are the lines, and having the players to either defend or attack those quarterbacks can make a huge difference for any football team. Also, based on the players available this year, it just looks to be a group of big guys who are bringing the most talent to the NFL.

Here are my top 5 NFL draft prospects for 2013, and with no surprise, big guys are taking the lead:

5. Jonathan Cooper – Offensive Guard – North Carolina Tar Heels – Great with his hands, Cooper is explosive as a run blocker and helped his running back, Geovani Bernard, average over 120 yards per game last year. Cooper has great size and mobility. Issues concerning him at the professional level come with his overall strength, but under an NFL training regimen, should make the transition smoothly. Although guards are rarely chosen near the top of the draft, Cooper is talented enough to be in consideration.

4. Star Lotulelei – Defensive Tackle – Utah Utes – A true dream of a big man at the heart of an NFL defense, Lotulelei will be a monster at the professional level. Although nose tackles typically fail to make too much of an impact and dramatic plays, his strength will help his team to break apart opposing run games and stuff his opponents. Another benefit to his talents is his agility and usefulness to be deployed at several positions across the defensive line including nose tackle and defensive end. This decision will largely fall upon the particular team that drafts him.

3. Dee Milliner – Cornerback – Alabama Crimson Tide – He is the prototypical cornerback and will be an immediate starter. With ideal size and speed, he has all the attributes to match NFL wide receivers in both physicality and speed. He also has impressive jumping ability and was able to defend high numbers of passes. This should translate well to the professional game. He will have to become a better tackler, though Milliner has already shown hints of becoming a big-time hitter. Any defense would be happy to have him.

2. Luke Joeckel – Offensive Tackle – Texas A&M – One of several premier left tackle prospects available in this year’s draft, Joeckel has all the physical attributes to dominate NFL defensive ends. Both agile and smart, Joeckel excels at reading the blitz and can contain a defensive lineman to give his quarterback adequate time. His hands are excellent but he may struggle in the run game a bit, as he lunges and struggles to engage defenders. He may have benefitted a bit from the agility of his quarterback, Johnny Manziel, but Joeckel has the talent to become a premier left tackle in the NFL.

1. Eric Fisher – Offensive Tackle – Central Michigan – Another legitimate offensive left tackle prospect is competing with Joeckel for the highly prized overall top pick. Where Fisher stands out on top is with his excellent run game blocking. He has great speed and drive to get through multiple levels of the defense, which will have his team’s running back consistently following his stride. With solid speed and agility, Fisher will also hold back opposing rushers in pass protection quite well. His struggles will be his hand placement, where Joeckel is slightly better. Also, coming from a smaller school, he will face a stern test in the NFL. Nevertheless, he will be a fortress at left tackle for one of the first teams to pick in the draft.

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