Draft Class Positional Grades

Matt Barkley

A lot of people have the perception that this year’s draft class is terrible. While it’s true it lacks elite star power at the top, I wouldn’t consider it a weak class. The media consistently overhypes big names that attract attention because its in their best interest to draw coverage to networks like ESPN. But it’s important to put things in perspective, just because last year’s draft class was star-studded up front, and included names like Robert Griffin, Andrew Luck, and Trent Richardson, doesn’t mean this year’s class is weak.

People tend to compare draft classes to the previous year. It’s easy to think about the success that RG3, Luck and Richardson had, and then add Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris’ breakout seasons to the mix, and claim this year’s class won’t even come close to that. I’ll admit the 2012 draft class was a damn good one, but it’s only one year. It’s always convenient to compare a class to the previous one, but it’s unfair.

We can’t get blinded by comparing it to one class, especially an uncharacteristically and absurdly successful one. For one, it’s important to understand that we are referring to last year’s draft class AFTER THE FACT. Although it seems crazy now, Russell Wilson, Doug Martin and Alfred Morris were hardly even talked about throughout the draft process last season, and there will most certainly be productive players that go under the radar in this year’s class as well.

But no matter how much you sugarcoat it, this year’s draft class is not star-studded. The top half of the first round is well below average in terms of talent. BUT it’s rather naive to say the draft class is “weak.” Although this year’s class isn’t top-heavy by any means, it’s very deep and loaded with depth at a number of positions. In fact, it’s MUCH deeper than last year’s front-loaded draft class.

Throughout my years of studying the draft, I’ve noticed that the talent pool (a term referring to a group of talented players that are ready to make an immediate NFL impact), drops off significantly each year around pick 40 (about 10 picks into the second round). Last year, the talent was sunk by the time the second round began, around pick 32 overall.

However, this year, the talent pool extends far past that range. You can never be to sure until the draft plays out, but I see the talent pool dropping off around pick 55 overall, in the mid to late second round. Since the draft isn’t top heavy, it means that the player you get around pick 20 isn’t too much better than the player you can get at pick 40.

Saints’ GM seems to agree, stating in his press conference today:

“We [the Saints] have less than 32 graded as 1st rounders, but 45-50 graded as 2nd rounders.”

Unfortunately for Saints fans, this means that it’s a GREAT year to have a second round pick, because the value isn’t TOO much different than late first rounders.

Regardless, after analyzing each position and dividing the first and second round prospects into tiers, I was able to grade each position as a whole. Keep in mind that I have only studied and watched film on players projected to go in rounds 1 and 2. The grades directly reflect this; I’m not grading the class, rounds 1-7, but rather players projected as first and early second day picks. To refer to commentary above, I stopped evaluating after the talent pool dropped.

Refer to my big board to get the top names of the prospects in each position group.

As you’ll see, this year’s class is more defensive than offensive. It’s weak at QB, center and wide receiver. But it’s extremely strong at offensive tackle, guard and cornerback…

QUARTERBACKS = C-

-I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say none of the QBs this year deserve first round grades. However, there are a number of 2nd, 3rd and 4th rounders that have a chance to develop for a few years and can potentially be starting QBs in the league. But none of them stand out to me by any means.

RUNNING BACKS = A

-I love this year’s running back class. Similar to QBs, it doesn’t have any sure-fire first rounders, but I think the class is so deep that teams will actually WAIT LONGER on RBs, knowing they can get a talented player later.

WIDE RECEIVERS = C+

-There aren’t many game-changers, but again, the class is very deep. The WR run will start in the late-first.

TIGHT ENDS = B

-After Tyler Eifert, there are a lot of third round prospects that can start their careers as real quality backups.

OFFENSIVE TACKLES = A

-There’s a chance that five offensive tackles get drafted in the first round. That’s a big deal in itself.

OFFENSIVE GUARDS = A

-The two elite guards in the first, followed by a number of serviceable second rounders, boosts this grade up a lot.

OFFENSIVE CENTERS = F

-It would be a slight upset if one center was drafted before the third round.

DEFENSIVE ENDS (4-3) = C

-FSU’s Carradine and Werner lead the pack here. Other than that, most of the pass rushers in this year’s draft project to a 3-4, or in Dion Jordan’s case, a 4-3 SLB.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES (3-4 DEs, 4-3 DTs, 3-4 NTs) = B+

-Three relatively early first round talents are good, but the second rounders come with a lot of risk.

PASS RUSHERS (3-4 prospects) = B+

-Mingo, Ansah, Jones and potentially Carradine could be studs. Most of these prospects are very raw though, and the second round doesn’t offer nearly as much upside.

INSIDE LINEBACKERS = C

-ILBs are a dime a dozen in terms of draft value, but the influx of late-first, early second round prospects is solid.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4-3) = A

-This is difficult to grade because a lot of the high caliber ILBs like Ogletree and Brown project better to OLBs… as do Dion Jordan and potentially Jarvis Jones.

CORNERBACKS = A+

-This is by far the best corner class we’ve seen in years. A whopping five corners could go in round 1 alone.

SAFETIES = B

-There are three potential first rounders and an early second rounder that make this year’s safety class top-heavy.

CUMULATIVE GPA FOR THE 2013 NFL DRAFT CLASS = 2.86

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Categories: The NFL Draft

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