Now, that we've reached the Jan. 15 deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2013 NFL Draft, scouts are working hard to put together draft boards that accurately reflect the available talent in this year's class. Although each team's draft rankings differ slightly based on team needs, schematic fits and height/weight/size preferences, I thought I would unveil my first official Big Board for April's event.
The prospects are graded solely on their talent and my view of their NFL potential, so this list will vary greatly from my Mock Draft because I'm not attempting to connect a player to a specific team need or schematic fit. While these rankings will continue to fluctuate based on performances at college all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine and pro day workouts, this initial installment serves as a good starting point for the evaluation process leading up to the draft.
Without further ado, here are my top 50 draft prospects heading into the college all-star game circuit:
1) Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M: Franchise-caliber left tackle prospect with the athleticism and movement skills to shadow elite rushers on the edge.
2) Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M: Disruptive edge player with exceptional first-step quickness and burst. Moore amassed 12.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss during his final season as an Aggie.
3) Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia: Explosive pass rusher with freakish athleticism and closing quickness. Jones could be the best player in the draft, but medical concerns could significantly impact his stock prior to draft day.
4) Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State: Ascending pass-rush prospect with underrated athleticism. Shows the ability to win with speed or power off the edge while also displaying a relentless motor.
5) Chance Warmack, OG, Alabama: Blue-chip interior blocker with the capacity to move defenders off the ball in the running game.
6) Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU: Raw pass rusher with remarkable athleticism and movement skills. Mingo will need some time to develop a solid set of rush moves, but his natural talent and athletic potential are unrivaled at the position.
7) Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama: Milliner is undoubtedly the best cover corner in the class. Great technician with outstanding hands and ball skills.
8) Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah: Big-bodied interior defender with a unique combination of size, strength and athleticism. Scouts question his motor, but he is a dominant player when focused.
9) Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A disappointing performance in the BCS National Championship Game exposed his flaws (limited athleticism and suspect block disruption), but scouts still view him as a solid starter in the middle of a 4-3 defense.
10) Keenan Allen, WR, Cal: Polished pass catcher with all of the tools to blossom as a No. 1 receiver in the NFL. Allen's size and ball skills will make him a tough matchup on the perimeter.
11) Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: Big interior blocker with the athleticism to play in a power-based or zone scheme.
12) Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: High-motor, athletic defensive tackle with exceptional lateral quickness and burst.
13) Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan: Athletic edge blocker with fantastic footwork, balance and body control. Not quite a finished product, but has made tremendous progress over the past year. Scouts are highly intrigued by his potential.
14) Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia: Polished pocket passer with blue-chip arm talent. Questions persist about his ability to work through progressions against disguised coverage, but Smith has big-time game. Offensive coordinators will approve of his solid decision making from the pocket.
15) Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU: Montgomery is not an explosive athlete, but he is a relentless edge player capable of dominating against the run or pass.
16) Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee: The former junior-college standout was impressive in a 12-game stint at Tennessee, but scouts will dig deep into the game tape to determine whether Patterson is a legitimate franchise player or a one-year wonder.
17) Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon: Jordan's athleticism and versatility could make him a star in a hybrid defense that incorporates the outside linebacker into the rush and coverage.
18) Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia: Explosive sideline-to-sideline playmaker with the athleticism to stay on the field as a three-down linebacker.
19) Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: Big-bodied defensive tackle with a relentless motor and sneaky athleticism. Floyd has the capacity to play the one- or three-technique in a 4-3 scheme.
20) Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: Run-stuffing interior defender with the size, strength and power to control the point of attack.
21) Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: The comparisons to Jason Pierre-Paul extend beyond his limited football experience and freakish athleticism. Ansah showcases a relentless motor, natural rush skills and a knack for making plays on the ball.
22) Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: Rhodes is a coveted press corner prospect with the length, athleticism and tenacity to thrive as a shutdown corner in the NFL. If he can also show the capacity to play in zone or off-man, Rhodes' stock could soar up the charts prior to April's draft.
23) Matt Barkley, QB, USC: Barkley isn't the prototypical franchise quarterback based on his arm talent and physical dimensions, but he is an experienced signal-caller with a high football IQ and a thorough understanding of how to run a game from the line of scrimmage. Those traits are significant for offensive coordinators looking for a young quarterback to step in immediately as a starter.
24) John Jenkins, DT, Georgia: A massive run-stuffer with the size, strength and power to thrive as an immovable object in the middle of a defense. Scouts certainly will question Jenkins' character, given that he was declared academically ineligible for the Capital One Bowl, but he can address those concerns in interviews prior to the draft.
25) Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Ertz is a big, agile pass catcher with outstanding hands and ball skills. Scouts view him as a more complete tight end prospect than former teammate Coby Fleener, which says a lot about Ertz's immense talent and potential.
26) Matt Elam, S, Florida
27) Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
28) Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
29) Kevin Minter, LB, LSU
30) Mike Glennon, QB, N.C. State
31) D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
32) Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
33) Robert Woods, WR, USC
34) Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
35) Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia
36) DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
37) Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas
38) Eric Reid, S, LSU
39) Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
40) Barrett Jones, C/OG, Alabama
41) Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
42) Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
43) Terrance Williams, WR, Baylor
44) Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
45) Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
46) Jesse Williams, NT, Alabama
47) Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
48) Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
49) Phillip Thomas, S, Fresno State
50) Da'Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech