Early thoughts on 2013 (not positive)

Wisconsin's Montee Ball could be the best of a bad bunch at the skill positions

This could be the weakest class since this blog began in 2008. It’s the first time I haven’t had a list of at least five or ten guys you can pencil into the first round, and there are more question marks going into the new college season than I’ve ever experienced before.

The skill positions in particular look thin and might be one of the reasons Cleveland used the supplemental draft to grab wide receiver Josh Gordon. The Browns clearly needed to find a receiver with the potential to be a go-to target. For all Gordon’s off-field concerns at Baylor, he might have more physical potential than any 2013 eligible receiver. A second round pick is a high price given the character red flags, but they probably got a player with more impact potential and upside than if they had to pick through the scraps next April.

There are some big names that people are going to talk about, but I’m not convinced any carry that elite potential that we’ve seen recently with Trent Richardson, AJ Green and Julio Jones (to name three). Robert Woods has been a production machine in some USC games, but he’s also had consistency issues. He’s also not a big size/speed guy. He has a chance to become a productive NFL receiver – probably as a #2 or working the slot – but he won’t excite many people going into the draft and isn’t a lock to even declare for next year.

Running backs Marcus Lattimore and Knile Davis have to prove they can return from serious injuries, while receiver Keenan Allen needs to show he can shine without a dominant passing game at California. In fact the best value skill-player may be Wisconsin’s Montee Ball – and he’ll face questions over his decision to return to college this year despite his work-load and production last season.

Defensively there are some guys with nice potential. Nobody can question Jarvis Jones’ talent at Georgia, but we can question exactly what position he’ll play at the next level. Teams will also want to do a thorough medical after a serious neck injury that eventually led to his transfer from USC. Star Lotulelei at Utah gets a good press but I’m still not totally convinced he’s anywhere near the finished article – he made the right decision to return this year.

After that there’s no big name corner that immediately stands out. David Amerson had 13 interceptions last year, but he’s slow and a switch to safety seems likely. In fact the players that excite me the most from this class (after Jones) are the blue-collar, high-motor defensive ends – Bjoern Werner and John Simon. Neither are truly great physical specimen’s, but both have that JJ Watt-style ability to create pressure. In a class that lacks a lot of explosive pass-rushers or defensive backs, they could go higher than most people expect.

The two LSU guys – Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery – helped create one of the best defenses in college football last year. Yet when I look back at tape from 2011, they don’t create enough consistent pressure to make you believe they’ll be high first round picks. They’ll have explosive plays, but they also struggle to disengage a lot. Are they pro-level pass rushers? For now, I’m not sure.

There are a handful of offensive tackles with some promise – Oday Aboushi, Ricky Wagner and Luke Joeckel for example. But the best offensive lineman in the class for me is guard Jonathan Cooper at North Carolina. He should be a high pick in the first two rounds next year. We’re used to seeing at least one highly touted offensive tackle going in the top-10, but there’s no obvious candidate this time.

Then there’s the quarterbacks – the position we appear destined to focus on yet again. Next April it’ll be 20 years since the Seahawks last drafted a quarterback in round one. Perhaps Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson will push us into a different direction? Or maybe not. We have to wait and see how it plays out. But we’ll start the 2012 college season focusing on quarterbacks and merely hope by the end of it we’re talking about another position.

Matt Barkley, despite lacking ideal physical tools, is as good a quarterback prospect as you will ever wish to see in a draft class. Logan Thomas has almost the exact opposite skill-set in that he has all the elite physical tools but doesn’t have the same level of polish and technical quality. His absence from the Manning passing academy this year hints towards a full shift with Virginia Tech and at this point I’d be surprised if he declared as a junior.

Tyler Wilson is technically sound with a good arm and a level of scheme-intelligence that will challenge even Barkley’s. Yet there are some concerns. He’s listed at 6-3 by Arkansas but reports in the last fortnight have argued he’s much shorter. Wilson does have a slingy release and gets into awkward positions with his footwork (happy feet). Barkley isn’t the tallest at around 6-2, but he’s a prototype over-the-top, pocket passer who reads the field superbly. There’s no doubt that if Wilson can lead Arkansas to the SEC title game after all the drama with Bobby Petrino, his stock will be through the roof. But he’s one of the most intriguing prospects to watch next year and could go anywhere from first overall to the middle-rounds.

Aaron Murray will also have to battle with talk about his height but has shown flashes of quality. Like Wilson, he also has a chance to impress in the SEC with Georgia. Geno Smith should continue to produce big numbers under Dana Holgorsen. Tyler Bray at Tennessee needs to prove he can stay healthy and become a productive passer, while we should expect at least one prospect to emerge from nowhere (see: Cam Newton, Robert Griffin III etc). Just don’t expect much from Landry Jones or EJ Manuel. Mike Glennon could be one to keep an eye on.

Chad Reuter at NFL.com has listed his own quarterback rankings, while Tony Pauline is churning through the divisions grading all of the draft-eligible talent. I’d recommend checking out the work of both.

Overall this could be a challenging class. Prospects will emerge and it’s far too early to say exactly what we can expect in the draft next year. But right now, there aren’t too many reasons to get excited.


  1. Kip Earlywine

    I think Jarvis Jones will be a top five pick, but if the neck injury and positional questions help him slide to the Seahawks, I’d be psyched. Had he declared in 2012, he would have been the best pass rusher in that draft, IMO. And while I really like Irvin, Jones is hardly a designated pass rusher, he can do it all and I think his versatility would be a big plus as the LEO role is intended for hybrid DE/LB types like Chris Clemons.

  2. Darnell

    No doubt about Jarvis Jones, elite propsect in any class IMO.

    I do really like some of the WRs that could be available in the second half of round 1 (similar to the Britt/Nicks draft). Justin Hunter,Da’Rick Rodgers, Terrence Williams. I think Cobi Hamilton will climb a lot. And Ryan Swope, nice player/prospect, will go a little later than he should because he’s white – but like Jordy Nelson could prove to be someone that should be a 1st rounder.

  3. Turp

    Nice summary on prospects Rob. Totally agree Kip – would love a Jarvis Jones pick next year.

  4. Kip Earlywine

    Once again I’m rooting for Landry Jones to raise his draft stock so some other team will take him early. Tyler Bray is another guy I’m rooting for to continue being over-rated. Bray reminds me a ton of Nick Foles- awful footwork and mobility with nice numbers but all from a 1 read offense. Even with Russell Wilson and Matt Flynn, I still have my eye on QBs in 2013, especially if for any reason Matt Barkley slides out of the top 5.

  5. Peter


    I can’t wait for the college season to get going. As a fan of your site I have to imagine that it’s a bit hard to churn out the material at this time of year….could be wrong….

    Besides Star Lotulelei, are there any other interior d0linemen you like? From memory, I thought Werner was a DE? I’m stoked on the Jason Jones signing, this last year, but I still think seattle would totally benefit from more pressure inside (which team wouldn’t?) I like Branch and Mebane, and maybe with excessive pressure coming from the edges they would be able to get to the Qb as well, but I’m starting to think they may be tapped as far as potential and dominance goes….

    Kip, I hear you on watching the QB’s this year. I’m kind of hoping Wilson, Bray, Thomas, Jeff Teul, the kid from Kansas State Colin Klein, and a whole host of others tear it up this season…though I think Seattle may need to look at QB once again (I sincerely hope not and do hope one on the roster takes over) what my bigger hope is for a truly dominant WR, an abolute game changer force to be reckoned with…I do not know who that may be at this time….or one or more pieces to the defensive front seven ala NY giants and their awesome rotation, but coupled with our hopefully great backfield. Point being, let’s let a whole ton of QB’s rise to the top, and Seattle hopefully gets to stay out of the conversation this year for that position, so we can go one and be one fo those teams that pick the player they want, and not something they need.

    Like this last draft…only with out the snickering from the media!

  6. Misfit74

    Exciting group of QBs, a few WRs, and if he declares and is healthy Marcus Lattimore. I have to say I’m not a big fan of Montee Ball, though he appears to be better than a lot of draft-eligibles for 2013. I like Andre Ellington for an all-purpose back. Hunter, Allen, and Rodgers at WR so far seem to be quality. I haven’t paid a ton of attention to the defensive side, yet.

  7. James

    Rob, your early analysis of a weak draft class appears to be right on. No doubt there will be a few good players there when the Seahawks pick, probably in the middle of the round based on their brutal schedule, and questions at QB (and now RB). The issue is, will the available players be at positions of need? Despite what John and all other GMs say, you don’t go for best available player, but for best available player at a position of need, based on a priority-of-need ranking system. Certainly, John and Pete’s draft picks thus far have all been for positions of need. The comments above are correct that the needs are likely to be another Leo (if Clemons doesn’t sign an extension) to pair with Bruce Irvin; a WR unless Lockette or Durham have a break-out; and more depth at DL. God forbid the Seahawks will have had such a miserable 2012 season that they need to draft a QB in round one. The QB class is way down this year…no one even close to Luck or RGIII, and the best 2012 guys no better than Tannehill or Weeden. Honestly, I believe Russell Wilson is a better prospect than Barkley. If the Seahawks have struck out on both Flynn and Wilson so badly that they would go QB in R1, time to start rooting for the Titans or just watch replays of the college games on Sunday afternoons, and wonder how long until Paul Allen goes looking for a front office and coach that can land a franchise guy.

  8. James

    TE is the new WR, so I wonder if the Seahawks will look for a TE in R1? I watched the replay of the great 49ers/Saints playoff game on the nfl network today, and the game was completely dominated at the finish by Graham and Davis, two superior athletes that could not be covered by CBs, LBs or Safeties. So who exactly does guard them, if you don’t have a Kam Chancellor? Anyway, after watching Gronkowski and Hernandez turn the league upside down, and then Graham and Davis, it is clear that the emerging trend is not for a #1 WR, but for a TE, or better yet, two, whose size and speed makes him impossible to cover. The Seahawks will be lucky to get one more good year from Winslow, and Miller is a solid but not spectacular athlete, so TE might be the pick if they go offense.

  9. Attyla the Hawk

    It may be short on headliner talent. But even in some of the weak headliner drafts we’ve seen recently — which is how this crop is being compared, there is always talent there to be developed.

    Even if you look at 2006 and 2007 — those drafts were pretty lousy at the top. But plenty of pro bowl talent and quality starters to be had down the line. Maybe it was luck, but teams established championship talents in 2006 (GB and NO) despite getting mild results from their #1 picks (Bush and Hawk).

    In 2007, you see GB, NO and SF all doing well late. Laying the foundation for future success even in down years. A team with good talent evaluation skills can really separate themselves from other teams even in lean years. Seattle can really separate themselves from the pack if they can manage to reproduce some of that late round success they’ve been able to do repeatedly.

    If it is a down year, then we will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that the teams that do well will not be known by us. It will come down to guys that can develop beyond what we can see, and guys drafted for specific roles that they can succeed in better than in college. The visionaries will be the winners as opposed to the analysts.

  10. Ray Smith

    Nicely done Rob 🙂 I think you should take the time to check out John Simon, DE for Ohio State. He plays with the ferocity of a Justin Smith of the 49ers and is 6’2″ 265#. He’s a guy that makes the other players around him better and I hope he ends up a Seahawk.

    Russells receiver from Wisconsin, ,Jared Abbrederis is one to watch too. I’ve been rewatching all 3 of Wilson’s losses and there are stand outs on both teams in those games. Ohio State has a very good defense overall and there was a lot more to Michigan State’s D than Jerel Worthy although he was the spark plug for them. It seemed like the D didn’t play well unless/until Worthy would make a monster play.

    • Rob Staton

      Hi Ray – yeah I’m a big Simon fan and name-checked him in this piece. Under rated, great motor.

  11. MEEEE

    Good stuff Rob,

    Looking like a weak class. I think the guy that makes me the most excited is Justin Hunter, WR out of Tennessee.

    Looking forward though to 2014(I know wayyyyyy too early), I can’t help but be excited at the looks of the skill players. Players like Sammy Watkins, DeAnthony Thomas, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Michael Dyer, Marquis Lee, etc. It looks to be a fantastic class.

    IMO if the Hawks can trade out of the 1st and pick up a first in 2014 then I would do it. More picks for a likely STACKED class at the skill positions.

    • Attyla the Hawk

      If it’s sufficiently weak, you should see more than a few 3rd year sophs declare as Brockers did this past season. Potential type players get taken earlier in a weak draft. And given the new CBA, it’s all about the 2nd contract in terms of getting true market value. Getting the rookie contract behind you with productivity left on your body is going to be paramount.

      That reality, coupled with a draft with little ability to displace inconsistent, high ceiling prospects should make the 2013 draft class very attractive for very young players.

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