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Draft King Analysis
February 11, 2013
Lou Pickney,

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So, here we are, in that post-Super Bowl afterglow that is part denial of the long offseason ahead and part reflection of the memorable moments of the past several months. Enjoy it, because by early August you'll be so starved for anything resembling competitive football that you'll actually find yourself looking forward to pre-season NFL games.

There is a decent amount of analysis that can be done about each of the NFL's 32 teams and their perceived needs at this point, particuarly as it applies to the draft, but it's akin to building sand castles. It can be fun and perhaps inspired, but when the tide of player cuts, franchise tags and free agency rolls in, the meticulous analysis crumbles and has to be rebuilt. Throw in trades and you have a process that is constantly in flux, up to and into the process of the draft itself. But, in some ways, that's part of the fun.

This year's draft class is loaded with great defensive line prospects. But while there is a certain degree of supply-and-demand economics in play, and there will likely be first-round quality DL talent available toward the top of the second round, you could still end up seeing six of the ten first players picked being defensive tackles or 4-3 defensive ends. And, with the exception of Utah DT Star Lotulelei, all of the top guys are especially valuable in large part because they have shown an exceptional ability to pressure the quarterback.

Here are 18 defensive linemen (DE/OLB, DT and 3-4 NT) who could all end up potentially being in the first-round mix, and this doesn't include potential "surprise guys" who might end up being an unexpected top 32 selection, like West Virginia DE/OLB Bruce Irvin was last year: Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), Sharrif Floyd (Florida), Johnathan Hankins (Ohio State), Marqes Hunt (SMU), Jonathan Jenkins (Georgia), Datone Jones (UCLA), Jarvis Jones (Georgia), Dion Jordan (Oregon), Star Lotulelei (Utah), Barkevious "Kiki" Mingo (LSU), Sam Montgomery (LSU), Damontre Moore (Texas A&M), Alex Okafor (Texas), Sheldon Richardson (Missouri), Kawaan Short (Purdue), Bjoern Werner (Florida State), Jesse Williams (Alabama), Sylvester Williams (North Carolina). Throw in the potential for late risers and you have quite a crop of prospects. Invariably, some will fall into round two, if not further, which is one of many reasons why this draft class is so deep, albeit without the spikes at the top like Luck/RG3 last year.

On the other side of the line, don't fall for the trap that there is somehow less value in offensive tackles than there used to be. I've read that in a few places recently and it's nonsense -- though, to be sure, this draft isn't deep at the position. But with the passing game being so crucial in 2013, protecting quarterbacks from being blindsided is more important than ever, particularly with the rule changes that the NFL made for player safety having tilted the board dramatically in favor of the passing game.

Moreover, there is widespread speculation that the Kansas City Chiefs will take Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel at #1 overall. First and foremost the Chiefs must address their QB situation, but them taking West Virginia QB Geno Smith at the top spot is not a lock. Remember that the NFL is a copycat league, and with second-round QBs Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick finding success in Cincinnati and San Francisco respectively, you could make the argument for the Chiefs taking Joeckel at #1 and then either trading into the bottom part of round one or wait to see who falls to them at #34.

Just as I was going to publish this, word came down that the Eagles and Michael Vick agreed to a new one-year deal for 2013. No terms available yet, but this takes one potential starting/competing QB off the board... and will have fans wondering what might happen with Chip Kelly bringing his non-conventional approach to the NFL in tandem with a quarterback who, to be sure, has had a career that has been anything but conventional. It should be intriguing, if nothing else.


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