E.J. Manuel, QB, Florida State
Much has been made of the 2013 NFL Draft lacking talent at quarterback. On the other hand, one player who has a real buzz about him is Florida State's E.J. Manuel. The 6-foot-5, 237-pounder passes the eyeball test as a quarterback in that he has big size and a strong arm. Unlike many quarterbacks with those attributes, Manuel has some mobility and can make plays with his feet. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, which was the second0fastest time among the quarterbacks at the Combine.
Manuel improved his accuracy and field vision this season from 2011, but played an easy schedule. He completed 68 percent of his passes for 3,397 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Manuel ran the ball well for the Seminoles, too, scoring four rushing touchdowns. He connected on 65 percent of his passes for 2,817 yards with 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions in 2011. The junior also ran for 411 yards and four touchdowns.
Manuel's strong performances at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine may see him rise to the top of the second round. It wouldn't be surprising to hear that some teams are thinking of taking Manuel late in the first round. Quarterbacks rise during the draft process, and he seems to be the prospect with the most intrigue.
Malliciah Goodman, DE, Clemson
The 6-foot-4, 276-pound Goodman is an interesting prospect. Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that Goodman never realized his potential during his collegiate years, but he could be a player who turns into something in the NFL. Goodman has some speed and explosiveness to go along with his power. The senior produced 20 tackles, seven sacks and four forced fumbles in 2012. He didn't produce much in the other seasons and scouts were disappointed that he couldn't force his way onto the field.
The NFL is always looking for pass-rushers. Goodman showed that potential during this year and at the Senior Bowl. Scouts believe that Goodman could add mass in the NFL and play in the 280s or 290s. They think his best fit could come as a 3-4 defensive end. Furthermore, sources indicate that Goodman stands a real chance of going in the third round.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Eifert used the Combine to establish himself as the clear-cut No.1-rated tight end in the 2013 NFL Draft. Athletically, he was the most impressive tight end prospect. The Notre Dame product ran better than expected and looked very impressive in the other drills. Eifert was second in the broad jump (9'11'') and blazed a 40 time of 4.60 seconds officially. He continued to impress in the field drills with his athletic route-running and natural-hands catching in the gauntlet drill.
Eifert was consistently productive over his collegiate career despite never playing with a good passing quarterback. Eifert hauled in 50 passes this year for 685 yards and four touchdowns in 2012. Despite less than stellar quarterback play in 2011, he caught 63 passes for 803 yards and five touchdowns. The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder had a solid debut with 27 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns in 2010.
Eifert's production and athletic skill set should make him a Thursday night pick this April.
Jonathan Bostic, ILB, Florida
Scouts have told WalterFootball.com that this is a deep inside linebacker draft. Bostic is one of those prospects who they believe is a good value pick on the second day. He has a good combination of size and speed. Bostic (6-1, 245) had an impressive 40-yard time of 4.61 seconds with a 10-yard split of 1.58 seconds at the Combine. He also did well on the bench press (22 reps) and looked good in the field drills.
Bostic was a solid performer and a key member of a tough Gators' defense in 2012. The senior recorded 68 tackles, two interceptions, one forced fumble and three sacks. He had 94 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss, three sacks and a forced fumble in 2011. There have been more high profile inside linebackers in this draft class with the likes of Georgia's Alec Ogletree and Notre Dame's Manti Te'o, but there are a number of teams that sound content to pass on the high-profile players for a player like Bostic.
Steve Williams, CB, California
Williams was one of the workout warrior stars at the Combine. The 5-foot-9, 181-pounder was thought to have a record-setting 40 time of 4.25 seconds, but the official time was deemed 4.42 seconds. He tied with Miami's Brandon McGee for the fastest 10-yard split of 1.46 seconds. Williams' explosion was also on display with a vertical leap of 40.5 inches, which tied for first.
Williams had 80 tackles with three interceptions, 10 passes broken up and a forced fumble this year. He totaled 45 tackles with two interceptions and 11 passes broken up in 2011. Williams probably should have returned for his senior season, but his huge Combine performance helped him to stand out and could cause some teams to reevaluate where they have him.
Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
WalterFootball.com disclosed a few days ago that Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter was projected by teams to go in the first round; that represents a significant leap in his draft stock. Scouts told WalterFootball.com that they love Hunter's upside. He has size to work in the short to intermediate part of the field and the deep speed to get vertical. To go along with his size and speed, they like his run-after-the-catch ability.
The 6-foot-4, 196-pound Hunter is proving that he is regaining his speed and explosiveness following hi 2011 ACL injury. Hunter missed most of that season before playing in every game as in 2012. He totaled 73 receptions for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns in an offense that spread the ball around to him, Cordarrelle Patterson, Zach Rogers and Mychal Rivera.
Hunter hasn't received a lot of first-round buzz, but one team in the mid 20s said it would be ecstatic if he was on the board at its pick.
Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Scouts have also indicated that Florida State offensive tackle Menelik Watson was another big upside prospect who would go among the top-32 selections. The 6-foot-5, 310-pounder has quick feet with superb agility for an offensive lineman. He is strong and has the length to remain at tackle in the NFL. Watson's athleticism may make some teams feel he could shift over to left tackle after some developmental time.
One thing that impressed teams at the Combine was Watson's intelligence. The Manchester, England product did really well displaying his ability to breakdown the x's and o's of football during his interviews. Considering he grew up playing basketball before two seasons of football in junior college and one at Florida State, it surprised teams how well Watson understood the game. There is real buzz about him, and it appears he is very likely to go in the back half of the first round.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin's superb Combine has jumped his draft stock into top-25 consideration. The passing-driven NFL has become more apt to select smaller receivers because of their ability to change games in a single play. The success of smaller wide outs like Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson and Wes Welker helps Austin's cause.
Austin totaled 114 receptions for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012. The senior also had 72 carries for 643 yards and three touchdowns. Austin was an electric play-maker who was able to consistently produce long scoring plays. He would be a definite first-rounder if he weren't so undersized, but it appears that he has impressed enough evaluators to go in the top 25.
2013 NFL Draft Stock Down
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
Following the end of the college football season, it seemed like Lacy's draft stock was going to keep rising into him being a potential mid-first-round draft pick. He finished the year in impressive fashion with dominant performances against Georgia and Notre Dame to lead Alabama's National Championship effort.
However, Lacy has hurt his draft stock by missing workouts with an injured hamstring. He had a small tear in the tissue surrounding the hamstring in February. That prevented him from working out at the Combine and Alabama's pro day. Lacy is no longer a lock to be the first running back selected.
There are some speed concerns about the 5-foot-11, 231-pound power back, so not addressing that issue is hurting Lacy with teams. He is said to be scheduling another workout date before the 2013 NFL Draft. If Lacy can't perform well for scouts before late April, it wouldn't be surprising if he falls to the second round.
Kevin Reddick, ILB, North Carolina
In speaking with scouts, they feel that Reddick is poised to fall in the 2013 NFL Draft. He never seemed to realize his potential at North Carolina despite a lot of talent around him. The senior racked up 85 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and six passes breakup in 2012. That was his best season in college football.
Scouts see the 6-foot-1, 243-pound Reddick as a straight-line player who doesn't do well making adjustments or reading-and-reacting. In the NFL, he is figured to turn into a backup linebacker and special teams contributor. These scouts feel Reddick is a late-round pick, but do believe there is the potential for other teams to reach on him in the mid-rounds.