Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
One of the 2013 prospects who has generated the most buzz in the early going leading up to the college football season is Lotulelei. He was a breakout star and extremely disruptive in the Pac-12 last season. The conference's offensive linemen voted him the winner of the Morris Trophy as the best defensive linemen in 2011. Lotulelei totaled 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, nine tackles for a loss and a forced fumble in his junior season. He had a much bigger impact than the numbers indicate.
For NFL scouts, Lotulelei could help himself by increasing his sack total as a senior. He is really just scratching the surface of his talent. The Tonga product is a strength and speed mismatch who has a great get-off when the ball is snapped. He should add a rip move and spin move to go along with his speed and power rushes.
Lotulelei is still raw. He has a huge ceiling and should only get better as he gains more experience. If Lotulelei builds on his 2011 season, he could get consideration at the very top of the 2013 draft.
D.J. Swearinger, S, South Carolina
The 2013 draft class could be stacked at the safety position. Really, there should be two quality safety classes in a row in 2013 and 2014.
A sleeper safety prospect to keep an eye on is Swearinger. The 6-foot, 210-pounder was a solid player for the Gamecocks last year and formed a nice duo with Antonio Allen.
Swearinger started 13 games and could've produced more if it weren't for a nagging foot injury. He totaled three interceptions and 80 tackles, making him second in tackles only to Allen (88). Swearinger started eight games in 2010 and had 66 tackles with one interception and one forced fumble.
The senior has a nice combination of speed and instincts. He could be a nice free safety prospect for the mid-rounds who could move higher with a strong season.
Travis Long, OLB/DE, Washington State
The Cougars are making the switch to a 3-4 defense and moving Long to outside linebacker. He played linebacker in high school before being moved to end in college. The 6-foot-4, 256-pounder is a much better fit as a standup linebacker as he can use his speed and athleticism to attack offenses in space. If Long performs well this season, he could be a prospect similar to Brooks Reed or Connor Barwin.
Long had modest production the past two seasons. Long had 51 tackles with 10.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks and one forced fumble as a sophomore in 2010. He notched 42 tackles with 12 tackles for a loss, four sacks and a forced fumble last year.
While Long's stat line is just decent, the coaches of the Pac-12 chose him as a Second-Team All-Pac-12 selection. That is due to the fact that he had a bigger impact than his numbers illustrate.
Long definitely is an outside linebacker at the next level. He is a nice sleeper prospect who could be in store for a good final season and elevate his draft stock.
2012 NFL Draft Stock Down
Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
The Illinois senior defensive end had his jaw broken in an altercation. The details about the event have not been released, but unless Buchanan was hit accidently, it could be held against him. Before the 2013 NFL Draft, scouts will look into the incident that led to his broken jaw. If Buchanan showed poor decision making by getting in a bar fight or fighting a teammate, it will be held against him.
Fortunately for Buchanan, his recovery time is brief enough where he should be fully recovered before training camp. Buchanan also will have had time to put any weight back on that he lost while being on a liquid diet with his jaw wired shut.
Buchanan recorded 64 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble in 2011. If the 6-foot-6, 240-pounder builds off his junior season, he could go in the first couple of rounds next April, assuming the broken jaw isn't part of bigger off-the-field problems.
Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
Like Buchanan, an off-the-field incident has hurt Stoneburner. Earlier this spring, he and teammate Jake Mewhort were caught urinating in public and briefly ran from police. Prior to the arrest, Stoneburner was a potential mid-rounder next April. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer suspended him indefinitely from the team, and he easily could miss some games next season.
The converted wide receiver was a real red-zone threat for the Buckeyes as a junior. Stoneburner had 14 receptions for 193 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The 6-foot-5, 245-pounder could have been even more productive if Ohio State had had some consistency at quarterback.
Aaron Lynch, DE, USF
The sophomore is actually more of a prospect for the 2014 or 2015 NFL draft. Lynch had a strong debut as a freshman while at Notre Dame. He had 33 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks and a forced fumble in 2011. He finished the season strong and was improving from game to game.
It was clear that once Lynch figured out the college game and could play without thinking too much, he would be a force. The 6-foot-6, 270-pounder already has an NFL body and is just scratching the surface of his talent.
This spring, Lynch decided he was too homesick to remain at Notre Dame, and he transferred to South Florida. Lynch will see easier competition in the Big East, and while that will make him more dominant, it could work against him to rise toward the top of the draft. Not too many Big East players go high in the first round.
Furthtermore, a number of NFL teams will worry about how Lynch will transition to his NFL city. Teams that are far from his family in Florida may be wary of selecting him. As a result of Lynch's transfer his maturity could be questioned, and he could get knocked down.