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The most interesting prospects in the NFL Draft

Travis Marmon

Sports Editor

The 2013 NFL Draft starts this coming Thursday night. Football fans wallowing through the offseason can take some joy in watching teams make improvements, seeing young men have their wildest dreams come true on national television and look in awe at ESPN’s resident avian Mel Kiper, Jr. and his frighteningly encyclopedic knowledge of almost every prospect in the country.

This draft is going to be an odd one for sure. Whereas last year, top picks Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson and Matt Kalil were all obvious choices by their respective teams and had great success during the season, there are very few sure-fire prospects this year. The safest picks in the draft appear to be offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Fisher, but they don’t have easily predictable destinations and do not play an exciting position. The quarterback class is incredibly underwhelming compared to last year, and many players who were once highly touted took dramatic falls in stock after the NFL Combine. Below are some of the more intriguing players and their possible teams.

Geno Smith

The West Virginia quarterback looks like a reach in the first round compared to last year’s class, but he clearly has been the best QB prospect in an otherwise disappointing crop. Smith has very good pocket presence and can make plays with his feet if necessary. He is not a scrambler, but rather a shifty quarterback in the mold of Aaron Rodgers. His numbers dropped off over the course of the season, but he has high potential. Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Buffalo and the New York Jets could all be looking for a quarterback in the top 10.

Dion Jordan

It looked like there would be a glut of pass-rushers at the top of the draft a few months ago, but disappointing combines and health concerns dropped players like Barkevious Mingo, Jarvis Jones and Bjoern Werner out of most analysts’ top 10 lists. Oregon’s athletically freakish Jordan is raw and does not have the numbers of his competitors, but his speed and 6’6”, 248-pound frame could create match-up nightmares in the NFL. Originally recruited as a tight end, teams are hoping to find a Jason Pierre-Paul type player in Jordan, using pure skill to make up for inexperience. See also: BYU’s Ziggy Ansah, another prospect whose athleticism bolted him into the top 10. Detroit, Cleveland and Jacksonville are possible destinations for both players.

Star Lotulelei

Utah’s dominant defensive tackle was once projected as a top five pick, but a heart condition (which turned out to be a false alarm) scared teams off. Florida’s Sharrif Floyd appears to be the consensus choice for the Oakland Raiders, but Lotulelei could find himself going to Carolina or New Orleans in the middle of the first round. Hopefully he will beat the health concerns and go on to have a great career.

Manti Te’o

All eyes will be on the former Notre Dame star in the wake of his girlfriend hoax fiasco, but the real question is if he can live up to the name he made for himself on the field. It’s hard to evaluate inside linebackers — tackle statistics are unreliable and a great all-around defense can mask deficiencies. But as naïve as Te’o may be in his personal life, he was a great leader at Notre Dame, and that should translate into the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings is his most likely destination.

 

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