CAPTION: Feb 28, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The first group of defensive backs get instructions during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
Heading into the combine, I’ve ranked the top 25 prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft based on film study I’ve done the past few months and various conversations with scouts, coaches and fellow draft pundits. If you want just the top 25 players, and not who goes where and why—get to know these young men. -- Peter Schrager
Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State
The more and more I watch film of Werner, the more I see the next Jared Allen. At 6-4, 260 pounds, the relentless pass rushing defensive end can get to the quarterback and stop the run. A one-time high school foreign exchange student from Germany, he’s already married and can make an impact immediately. A can’t-miss prospect.
Sharrif Floyd, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Too high for Floyd? Think again. 6-3, 305 pounds and only just getting started, the Philadelphia native could end up having the best career out of any of the prospects in this draft class. He’s quick on his feet, but I’m almost more impressed with his hands. He’s everywhere on film. Teams looking to run the 4-3 would be foolish to pass on Floyd.
Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
A great story, already, Jones transferred from USC to Georgia after suffering a neck injury and being unsure whether he was in Lane Kiffin’s plans a few years back. At UGA, he excelled. He can play either inside or outside linebacker at the next level and will excel both in pass rush and coverage situations. He led the nation in sacks, tackles for a loss and forced fumbles in 2012. He can flat out play.
Chance Warmack, Offensive Guard, Alabama
Believe the hype on Warmack. There’s a chance he goes as high as No. 2 overall in the draft. The last guard to do that was Leonard Davis in 2001. At 6-3, 325 pounds, he’s a thick, immovable object in the middle. He just so happens to be extremely light on his feet and incredibly fundamentally sound. He creates holes for running backs — ask Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson or Eddie Lacy — and he can provide elite protection in pass-rush scenarios. You don’t see guards get buzz like this too often. It’s warranted.
Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M
Every time I watched Johnny Manziel in college, I’d end up leaving more impressed by his two offensive tackles — Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. Matthews returned to school for his senior season. Joeckel could very well be the first overall pick in April. Technically sound but strong and athletic, he’s a franchise cornerstone. You’re not going to swing and miss on a top pick if you go with Joeckel. He’ll be your tackle for the next decade. At least.
Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU
At the end of the college season, I had Ansah graded as a second- or third-round pick. After watching his tapes and speaking to some sources around the league, I’ve bumped him all the way up into the top 10. Raised in Ghana, he showed up at BYU and tried out for the basketball team. When he didn’t make the squad, he gave football a shot. It took a bit of time, but he blossomed into a pass rushing phenom in 2012. Still very raw, the 6-6, 270 pound athletic specimen has drawn comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul. The sky’s the limit. Which team is going to take the roll of the dice?
Star Lotulelei, Defensive Tackle, Utah
Though he struggled with getting his weight under control early in his college career, Lotulelei proved to be a menacing force to be reckoned with the past two seasons. Compared favorably to Haloti Ngata, the 6-4, 320-pound defensive tackle could be a fit in either a 3-4 or a 4-3. He’s married with two kids and is mature well beyond his 23 years of age. Lotulelei recorded 20.5 tackles for a loss the past two years. He’ll be highly coveted come April’s draft.
Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina
Not quite the A+ prospect fellow guard Chance Warmack is, Cooper is getting plenty of top 10 talk, all the same. An All-Conference player all four years at UNC, Cooper was also an outstanding wrestler in high school. At 6-3, 315 pounds, he’s no doubt a big boy. But he’s athletic and fundamentally sound, too. You watch Giovani Bernard, his college running back, on film — and it’s Cooper who consistently stands out.
Eric Fisher, Offensive Tackle, Central Michigan
Listed at 6-8, Fisher is a mountain of a man. It’s amazing how athletic he is considering his height. He has got eye-popping agility and runs like a tight end in the rare instances he’s blocking in the open field. He’s going to wow at the combine in all things athletic — including the 40. Joeckel’s the higher ranked offensive tackle right now for me. But not by very much.
Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M
Moore’s another Aggies player where you pop the tape in to watch Manziel, and you walk away shaking your head in amazement at the talented defensive end on the other side of the ball. He played both linebacker and defensive end in college, and though he was overshadowed by teammate Von Miller at times, there were flashes of brilliance. His versatility makes him very intriguing at the next level.
Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama
Milliner’s the top corner on my draft board and likely the only one worth taking in the top 10. Former teammate Dre Kirkpatrick was a first-round pick. So will Milliner. He’s 6-2, 200 pounds — so the size is there — and he’s a suffocating cover corner. Pop in the BCS Championship Game tape and watch him blanket cover Tyler Eifert. Great player.
Dion Jordan, Outside Linebacker, Oregon
A converted high school tight end, Jordan excelled at defensive end at Oregon. In the pros, he’s one of those 3-4/4-3 hybrid linebackers. He reminds me a lot of Aldon Smith. Super athletic, the big knock on him is a bum shoulder. We’ll see how that’s holding up in Indianapolis this week.
Lane Johnson, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
Johnson had a big Senior Bowl, catapulting him into first-round consideration. Another converted tight end, he’s a 6-7, 303-pound Juco transfer who had a very strong 2012. He started 11 of 13 games at left tackle and excelled. What an athlete! Strong, sturdy and still a bit of a work in progress — Johnson could be a nice early pick based on potential.
Johnthan Banks, Cornerback, Mississippi State
The second-rated corner on my board, Banks excelled in the loaded SEC for years. A versatile player, he started his career as a safety and moved to corner the past two years — where he excelled. He has a bit of a wiry frame, but he can beef up at the next level. At 6-2 and speedy, the potential to cover some of the NFL’s elite big wide receivers is there.
Barkevious Mingo, Linebacker, LSU
I’ve seen Mingo pegged anywhere from the top five to the end of the first round. He’s a top-20 guy. Capable of playing either inside or outside at the next level, the 6-5, 240-pound probably fits best as a 3-4 OLB. He didn’t have a huge 2012, but scouts are still high on his production at the next level.
Manti Te'o, Linebacker, Notre Dame
I am of the belief that Te’o’s still a top-20 pick. A wonderful inside linebacker, he’ll spend his week in Indianapolis addressing the events of the past two months and confirming that they’re behind him. As a player? Te’o gets the job done. Standing 6-2, 255 pounds and capable of going sideline to sideline or taking on bigger linemen, he’ll be a first-round pick in April.
Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri
I’m a big Richardson fan. He's 6-4, 300 pounds and he has quick feet and good hands. Fundamentally sound, he’s a disruptive force inside. As a DT on a bad Missouri team a season ago, he led all interior defensive linemen in tackles and had 4.5 sacks. Very exciting player.
Cordarrelle Patterson, Wide Receiver, Tennessee
A Juco transfer with just one year of FBS experience under his belt, it’s pretty incredible to see him ranked as the top receiver in this draft. Patterson was a revelation in his one year at Tennessee, compiling a school record 1,858 all-purpose yards, shattering SEC punt and kick return average records in the process. He can do it all. He’s still raw, though.
Eric Reid, Safety, LSU
A star on a defense filled with stars, Reid had 91 tackles from the free safety spot in 2012. Has size, athleticism and toughness. The SEC churns out talented safeties who can contribute right away. Reid’s this year’s guy.
Keenan Allen, Wide Receiver, California
I’ve heard Allen compared to Anquan Boldin, which I think is a fair assessment. Tough as nails and strong, Allen can be a very reliable possession receiver at the next level. He’s not going to burn you deep every time, but he’s going to block and he’s going to catch footballs. In an era where the over-the-middle and underneath route is becoming more and more the norm, Allen’s value increases.
Terrance Williams, Wide Receiver, Baylor
I was a big Kendall Wright fan a year ago and think he had a very solid rookie season in Tennessee. Williams, Wright’s former teammate at Baylor, led the nation in receiving yards and caught 97 balls in 2012 — despite not having Robert Griffin III throwing him passes. At 6-2, 200 pounds, he has good size, but also possesses top-flight speed. He could be a burner at the next level.
Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback, Florida State
Coming off a knee injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season, Rhodes had a very good bounceback 2012. A physical presence, he can definitely level a punishing hit, not a given for some corners. He can also cause havoc in the passing game. I’m a big Rhodes fan. The knock is his reaction speed. I think he’s a first rounder.
Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama
Lacy’s not going to run at the combine due to a hamstring injury, but that shouldn’t impact his draft status too much. After a season where he ran for 1,322 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, Lacy’s the top running back on my board. In an era where everyone’s turning to backfields-by-committee, he could be a legitimate workhorse back, capable of running the ball up the gut or outside. The Frank Gore comparisons, in my eyes, are a lot more accurate than the Mark Ingram ones.
John Jenkins, Defensive Tackle, Georgia
The big fella! I see John Jenkins and I think of Terrence Cody. You’re not going to get three downs per drive (not initially, at least), but you are going to get a mass of a man and run stopper. He’s a 3-4 nose tackle. At 6-4, 355 pounds, he likely doesn’t fit in a 4-3 team’s scheme.
Jesse Williams, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
A native of Brisbane, Australia, Williams will be a sensation down under, regardless of where he ends up in the pros. He should be a first-round selection in April. He’s a high-motor guy who could likely play the DT in a 4-3 or even the NT or DE in a 3-4. A very versatile — and athletic — defensive lineman, the 6-4, 320-pound Aussie could rise up draft boards with a strong showing in Indy.