We have no clue what will happen during the 2013 NFL Draft. This is true every season, but there's a difference this year: Everyone knows ahead of time that we don't know anything.
Every year, groupthink dominates mock drafts. The mock draft writers copy each other, settle on fitting a player with need, and tell us very little about what teams actually are thinking. For the most part, everyone is just throwing darts. Even the teams have no clue what will happen.
Did anyone foresee Donte Whitner going No. 8 in 2008? Did anyone have Tim Tebow drafted in the first round, a round ahead of Jimmy Clausen? Did anyone see Jake Locker and Christian Ponder both getting drafted in the top 12 in 2011?
The 2013 draft shapes up as the most deliciously unpredictable draft in years. This is your season if you like rooting against mock drafts being right. Here are five players who we see as the most likely to ruin your mock draft this year.
1. Geno Smith, West Virginia quarterback
There is a widespread assumption that the quarterbacks in this class will get pushed up the board just because they are quarterbacks and that's what happens. But we haven't had a quarterback class this lousy in a long time.
Smith has turned into the most-discussed player in this draft because he's the consensus top quarterback. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most mocks have Smith going in the top 10 (often in the top-five) despite the fact he's probably not the top quarterback on plenty of draft boards.
It seems just as likely that Smith falls out of the top 20. The teams that need quarterbacks at the top of the draft could trade back in to the end of the first round, but there just aren't a lot of logical QB-needy fits outside the top 10. And Smith's talent just doesn't seem likely to inspire any team to fall in love that early.
2. Tavon Austin, West Virginia wide receiver
Smith appears to be getting overrated. Austin might be underrated. In today's NFL, space players like Austin have more value than ever. Forget about his size; it's easy to imagine Austin getting drafted a lot earlier than expected.
3. Star Lotulelei, Utah defensive tackle
Every medical test taken since the NFL Scouting Combine indicate that Lotulelei is clear to play and NFL teams should not expect any issues moving forward. Then again, most of this news gets leaked out by the player's agent. (Like a lot of news this time of year.) Lotulelei has the profile of a top-five pick, but even his talent level draws varying opinions. A fall into the teens on draft day would scramble a lot of mocks..
4. Barkevious Mingo, LSU defensive end
Mingo is a classic example of a player who was loved by the draftnik community more than the NFL community. These sort of mistakes often get corrected during the draft "season," and don't stick out as much by April. (That's why you often see players "rising" and "falling" in mocks. It's usually just the media adjusting its evaluations to match what the pros think. Or do you not remember when ESPN had Mike Glennon and Manti Te'o in the top five?)
Bjoern Werner and Jarvis Jones are two other players that fit the Mingo mold of early attention that fades. Jones has been talked about a lot, but it wouldn't be surprising if he fell a lot further than his hype would indicate.
5. Matt Barkley, USC quarterback
Barkley is a poor man's Brady Quinn in terms of his draft profile. Everyone assumed Quinn was in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick because he was Brady Quinn. He didn't get taken in the top 20.
No one assumes any longer that Barkley will go in the top five, but there still are plenty of folks that think he'll get taken very high. Because he's Matt Barkley, and he's a quarterback.
It seems just as likely that Barkley will be the fourth or fifth quarterback off the board, possibly out of the first two rounds. And then we'll say how Barkley "slipped" like Jimmy Clausen when we really had him pegged wrong all along.