The 2013 NFL Draft will be won or lost in the trenches.
That’s where the bulk of the best talent resides and where the teams making the best choices will get richer.
“I’ve got six offensive tackles with first-round grades, and I’ve got six defensive tackles with first-round grades,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.
There probably won’t be a receiver picked in the top 10. There may not be a running back picked in the top 20. The offensive and defensive lines will rule over the skill positions.
Here’s a position-by-position look at the defensive prospects, broken into tiers, which are not meant to be definitive. In other words, the top tier includes players who are potential first-round picks, not just the top 32. Rounds two and three will be held on Day Two. Only selected third-day prospects are included.
Class grade: A
Sharrif Floyd has played multiple spots on the line for the Gators and fits into a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme. … Star Lotulelei was held out of the combine over concerns about a test done on his heart, but follow-ups showed no problems. He’s in the Haloti Ngata mold. … Ziggy Ansah, who comes from Ghana, didn’t start playing football until 2010. He’s raw, but flashes immense potential. … Sheldon Richardson had academic problems and is a one-year wonder. … Sylvester Williams briefly quit football after high school, but later blossomed for the Tar Heels. He’s a run-stuffer. … Bjoern Werner’s from Germany. He was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
Tank Carradine, Werner’s Seminoles teammate, tore his ACL late in the season and might be limited to start 2013. … Datone Jones fits best on the inside. He had 19 tackles for loss for the Bruins. … Kawann Short had 14.5 tackles for loss and was a second-team All-America for the Boilermakers. … Jesse Williams, an Australian, has some injury concerns. He’s a tough former rugby player. … Margus Hunt won gold medals in the shot put and discus in the 2006 World Junior Championships for Estonia. He’s a freakish athlete still adjusting to football.
William Gholston is the cousin of former Jets draft bust Vernon Gholston. … Quanterus Smith had 12.5 sacks in 10 games before tearing an ACL. … Montori Hughes got booted from Tennessee, but can be a rotational player if he shows his work ethic has improved.
Class grade: C
Neither Dion Jordan nor Barkevious Mingo put up big numbers last season, with a combined 9.5 sacks, but both have an excellent first step and the potential to be disruptive pass rushers from the outside linebacker position. … Jarvis Jones led the nation in sacks (14.5) and has gotten a clean bill of health on his spinal stenosis condition. Manti Te’o finished second in the Heisman vote. His slow 40 time at the combine (4.82 seconds) might hurt him as much as the hoax about his girlfriend. … Alec Ogletree’s a converted safety with excellent athleticism, but was suspended for four games to start the 2012 season and arrested for DUI before the combine.
Kevin Minter can play all three downs and made 130 tackles last year. He was the most consistent defender on a team loaded with NFL talent. … Arthur Brown plays bigger than his size suggests. NFL.com ranks him as the best linebacker prospect in the draft. … Damontre Moore has slipped leading up to the draft because of poor workouts. … Jamie Collins runs a 4.64 40 and had 10 sacks as a senior. … Sio Moore did 29 reps on the 225-pound bench press at the combine and broke up 11 passes last year.
Sean Porter needs to bulk up, but he’s versatile and has really developed in coverage. … Corey Lemonier’s leaving school early after a down junior season. Keith Pough made 71 tackles for loss in his career, setting an FCS all-time record. … Tom Wort is one of three players in the draft born in England.
Class grade: B
Dee Milliner, like most Alabama cornerbacks, is tough, physical and forces the run. He’s a well-rounded player who ran 4.37 at the combine. What’s not to like?
Both of Desmond Trufant’s brothers are in the NFL. He shined at the Senior Bowl, ran 4.38 and can play man coverage. Rhodes has great size. He might not be as “sticky” in man coverage as Trufant but he ran 4.44. Kenny Vaccaro will be the seventh Texas DB taken in the top 50 in eight years.
Matt Elam was first-team All-America. … Jonathan Cyprien had a good Senior Bowl and did well in limited chances versus major programs. … Shamarko Thomas is a 5-foot-9 dynamo who ran 4.42 and had a 40.5-inch vertical jump. Can his body hold up to his hard-hitting style? … D.J. Hayden almost died in November after a freak hit in practice tore a vein in his heart. He ran 4.42.
Johnthan Banks is another big, long-armed guy. The concern is his speed (4.61 at the combine). He played faster. David Amerson runs well and was good in 2011. He gambled a bunch and had a down 2012 season. ... Jamar Taylor (4.39) supports the run and had a good Senior Bowl. He can start right away. … Darius Slay has just 13 career starts but had five INTs last season, has size and was the fastest corner at the combine (4.36). ... Blidi Wreh-Wilson fits a zone scheme. … Jordan Poyer had seven INTs last season. ... Tyrann Mathieu, “the Honey Badger,” got kicked out of LSU and didn’t run real fast. But he’s a playmaker. … Eric Reid’s father was a track All-America at LSU. He looked elite in 2011 but tailed off. ... D.J. Swearinger, J.J. Wilcox and Shawn Williams all qualify as “rugged” safeties. Wilcox played only one season at safety, switching from RB and slot receiver. ... T.J. McDonald is the son of former 49er safety Tim McDonald.
Name, School Ht. Wt.
Sharrif Floyd*, Florida 6-3 297
Star Lotulelei, Utah 6-2 311
Ziggy Ansah, BYU 6-5 271
Sheldon Richardson*, Missouri 6-2 294
Sylvester Williams, North Carolina 6-3 313
Bjoern Werner*, Florida State 6-3 266
Tank Carradine, Florida State 6-4 276
Datone Jones, UCLA 6-4 283
Kawann Short, Purdue 6-3 299
Jesse Williams, Alabama 6-3 323
Alex Okafor, Texas 6-4 264
Johnathan Hankins*, Ohio State 6-3 320
John Jenkins, Georgia 6-4 346
Margus Hunt, SMU 6-8 277
Brandon Jenkins, Florida State 6-2 251
Bennie Logan*, LSU 6-2 309
William Gholston*, Michigan State 6-6 281
Quanterus Smith, Western Kentucky 6-5 250
Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern St. 6-1 335
Sam Montgomery*, LSU 6-3 262
Montori Hughes, Tennessee-Martin 6-4 329
Cory Grissom, South Florida 6-1 306
Name, School Ht. Wt.
Dion Jordan, Oregon 6-6 248
Barkevious Mingo*, LSU 6-4 241
Jarvis Jones*, Georgia 6-2 245
Manti Te’o, Notre Dame 6-1 241
Alec Ogletree*, Georgia 6-2 242
Kevin Minter, LSU 6-0 246
Arthur Brown, Kansas State 6-0 241
Damontre Moore*, Texas A&M 6-4 250
Chase Thomas, Stanford 6-3 244
Khaseem Greene, Rutgers 6-1 241
Jamie Collins, Southern Miss 6-3 250
Sio Moore, Connecticut 6-1 245
Kiko Alonso, Oregon 6-3 238
Corey Lemonier*, Auburn 6-3 255
Jelani Jenkins*, Florida 6-0 243
Nico Johnson, Alabama 6-2 248
Gerald Hodges, Penn St. 6-1 243
Kevin Reddick, North Carolina 6-1 243
Sean Porter, Texas A&M 6-1 229
Keith Pough, Howard 6-2 239
Zaviar Gooden, Missouri 6-1 234
Tom Wort*, Oklahoma 6-0 235
Name, School Ht. Wt.
Dee Milliner*, Alabama 6-1 201
Desmond Trufant, Washington 6-1 190
Xavier Rhodes*, Florida St. 6-2 210
Kenny Vaccaro (FS), Texas 6-1 214
Matt Elam* (SS), Florida 5-10 208
Jonathan Cyprien (SS), Fla. Intntl 6-1 217
Shamarko Thomas (SS), Syracuse 5-9 213
Jamar Taylor, Boise St. 5-11 192
D.J. Hayden, Houston 6-0 189
David Amerson*, North Carolina St. 6-1 205
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut 6-1 195
Eric Reid* (FS), Louisiana St. 6-1 211
Darius Slay, Mississippi St. 6-1 192
Johnthan Banks*, Mississippi St. 6-2 185
Robert Alford, Southeast La. 5-10 188
Tyrann Mathieu*, Louisiana St. 5-9 186
Jordan Poyer, Oregon St. 6-1 191
B.W. Webb, William & Mary 5-10 184
D.J. Swearinger (FS), South Carolina 5-11 208
Philip Thomas (FS), Fresno St. 6-1 208
Logan Ryan*, Rutgers 5-11 191
Shawn Williams (SS), Georgia 6-1 213
J.J. Wilcox (SS), Ga. Southern 6-1 213
Leon McFadden, San Diego St. 5-10 193
T.J. McDonald (FS), Southern Cal 6-3 219
Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut 5-11 201
Bacarri Rambo (FS), Georgia 6-1 211
Josh Evans (FS), Florida 6-1 207
Tharold Simon*, Louisiana St. 6-2 202
Terry Hawthorne, Illinois 6-1 198
Duke Williams (SS), Nevada 5-11 203
Robert Lester (SS), Alabama 6-1 220
Will Davis, Utah State 5-11 186
Sanders Commings, Georgia 6-1 216
Demetrius McCray, Appalachian St. 6-1 187
Vernon Kearney, Lane (Tenn.) 6-1 175
• – underclassman