Teams in need of a quarterback in 2014
The Kansas City Chiefs need a quarterback, but they're not exactly doing back flips over the current crop of passers coming out. There's no sure-thing like Andrew Luck on the horizon, but there will be plenty of options to start focusing on for the 2014 draft with Georgia's Aaron Murray, Alabama's A.J. McCarron and Clemson's Tajh Boyd all scheduled to come out.
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All of them have problems and issues from height (Murray and Boyd), dynamic arm (McCarron), consistency (Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas) and pure talent (Fresno State's Derek Carr and Mississippi State's Tyler Russell), but the hype is already starting for possible early entries like Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Oklahoma's Blake Bell and Ohio State's Braxton Miller.
Matt Barkley's stock has fallen through the floor. He's not a lock to go in the first round -- and Tyler Wilson, Mike Glennon, Tyler Bray and Ryan Nassib are all second and third-rounders with none of them standing out among the pack.
Most teams in need of a quarterback will likely wait around, hoping to hit the jackpot somewhere outside of the top 40, but Smith appears to be head-and-shoulders in front of the other top prospects and should be the one that teams fight over.
Kansas City isn't going to take Smith at the No. 1 overall spot, and No. 2 to Jacksonville is way too rich. Arizona is in desperate need of a passer, and Smith might be the perfect pick at the right time at the No. 8 spot. Buffalo at No. 11 and the Jets at No. 15 will both be interested, but if Smith, Barkley or the other quarterback prospects slip past that point, there will be a freefall with no one in the back half of the first round looking to fill the position.
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Teams in the late half of the first round
Get ready for teams in the top 15 to go way out of their way to trade down, trade down and trade down some more.
Someone will want to pay a ransom to take Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, but the other top positions like defensive tackle, pass rushing end, quarterback and running back are deep with no reason to take the position early. This year it really is true -- it's possible to get just as talented a player from 20 to 32 as it is from 10 to 19.
There isn't even a sure-thing No. 1 overall franchise-maker that's a must-take for Kansas City. The value up top is as weak as it has been in the last several years.
Teams in need of a running back
This is going to be one of the most interesting running back drafts in years, but the position has been devalued to the point of being irrelevant. It might be nice to have Adrian Peterson, but teams have proved they could win Super Bowls with James Starks, Ahmad Bradshaw and Pierre Thomas. Thanks to several players leaving early, and with teams not looking to spend high draft picks on the position, running backs will be among the best value picks in the draft.
The many senior running backs already made this a decent class, and then the position got a huge boost with the addition of North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, Alabama's Eddie Lacy, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell, Rutgers' Jawan Jamison and Oklahoma State's Joseph Randle. Throw in South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore as an X-factor depending on his health, and there will be lots and lots of good options.
|Some stars are gone, but A.J. McCarron and others will return to Alabama.|
It could've been a lot worse considering early entries were an issue last year. The Tide turned out to be just fine in a bit of a rebuilding year, and they should be able to overcome the expected losses of corner Dee Milliner -- who'll likely be the first defensive back taken off the board -- running back Eddie Lacy and right tackle D.J. Fluker. Guard Anthony Steen is returning along with quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker, C.J. Mosley, who would've all been taken somewhere in the top 100.
If you count running back T.J. Yeldon as a starter, seven starters are back on offense, six return on defense, and the depth is good enough to fill in the gaps for a run at a third straight national title.
The Hokies always seem to lose a fast corner or a talented running back early to the next level, but not this year. It was a rough season, but it was also a bit of a rebuilding year with the payoff coming in 2014 with eight starters back on defense and five on offense including Logan Thomas, who has all the tools to become a No. 1 overall pick in 2014 with a lot of tweaking.
He needs to improve his accuracy and consistency, but at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds with a cannon of an arm, he has the look. This year he might have been a third-round pick to develop for the future, but if he can take his game to another level, he could become one of the hot players for next year.
The 2013 NFL Draft
A whopping 69 players are taking off early, but it's not like the influx of young talent is helping out a relatively mediocre draft.
|After Luke Joeckel and a few others, the early entry NFL Draft crop is pretty thin.|
Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore, Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo and Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner are all destined to go in the top 10, and Alabama CB Dee Milliner and Auburn DE Corey Lemonier will boost up the top 15, but it's not like 2010 when Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, A.J. Green, Patrick Peterson, Julio Jones and Aldon Smith made up a whopper of a top seven.
Last year was even stronger up top with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Trent Richardson, Matt Kalil, Justin Blackmon, Morris Claiborne, Ryan Tannehill, Luke Kuechly and Stephon Gilmore all going in the top 10. This year, the top early entries are building blocks and potentially good starters, but there aren't any sure-thing superstars.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs are suffering from a case of bad timing, being a year too late and missing out on Andrew Luck.
The Chiefs desperately need a quarterback, but unless they can trade down they're not going to take Geno Smith. Star Lotulelei is the best overall prospect in the draft, but Kansas City invested heavily in defensive linemen over the last several years by taking Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe, with little to show for it.
Lotulelei is a building block, but this is a good class of defensive tackles and the Chiefs can find value later in the draft -- it's doubtful it'll find any takers to move up to pay the premium for the top spot.
Every year LSU loses players early to the NFL, and every year the program restocks the shelves. However, this time around it's a little bit different. The Tigers are losing some really good players, even though offensive tackle Chris Faulk wasn't a part of the fun this year after suffering a major knee injury, and life will go on without running back Michael Ford.
Bennie Logan was yet another good defensive tackle in a long line of excellent LSU interior players, and Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery were strong pass rushers who'll be instant starters at the next level. Eric Reid has been among the best defensive backs in America over the last few years and turned into a leader in the defensive back seven, and Tharold Simon emerged as a good do-it-all corner.
Like most top SEC teams, Georgia is known for stockpiling the NFL with fresh bodies, and it's also known for sending them up early. While getting back quarterback Aaron Murray is a nice boost for 2013 -- leading an offense that should be unstoppable at times -- the defense can't help but take a step back after losing pass rusher extraordinaire Jarvis Jones, along with playmaking linebacker Alec Ogletree, who can work inside or out in any defensive system.
|The loss of star linebacker Jarvis Jones is a major blow to Georgia.|
The defensive interior has lots of work to do after losing John Jenkins, who never quite lived up to the hype, but was still a solid starter, and Kwame Geathers, who had rare size to stick on the inside.
It's not like a few years ago when the Sooners seemed to own the first part of the draft, but Bob Stoops has brought in the "Hello!" talent on a regular basis and constantly has to deal with losing key parts to the puzzle.
Tony Jefferson tackled just about everything in sight as part safety and part linebacker. He'll be missed even though OU has become a factory for defensive backs. Sooner receivers haven't done much of anything in the NFL, but Kenny Stills is an explosive target who could break the mold. Linebacker Tom Wort was an emotional leader for a good defensive front seven.
The Seminoles have been immune, for the most part, from major personnel losses over the last few years, mainly because the talent level hasn't been up to normal snuff, but that's quickly changing.
Defensive end Bjoern Werner wasn't always consistent, but he was the team's top pass rusher and will be a mortal lock to go in the top 10 overall. Also gone is Menelik Watson, a big-bodied blocker who was a key part of the FSU attack. Xavier Rhodes might not be the first corner taken off the board, but he's destined to go in the first round with a rare combination of size and speed.