#1: There is no clear cut elite talent in this draft
Verdict: Almost true.
Sure, there is no Andrew Luck "perfect" prospect this year at QB in the consensus view. There's no slam dunk ace pass rusher like Ndamukong Suh or Julius Peppers. There's no AJ Greene or Larry Fitzgerald surefire #1 WR.
But if you look back at the history of the draft, it's extremely rare to see drafts with even one "slam dunk" quarterback. Cam Newton has been great, but pre-draft slam dunk? Nope. Sam Bradford? Nope. Matt Stafford? Detroit tried like crazy to deal that pick. Matt Ryan? Didn't go until the 3rd overall pick (he was passed over for a tackle that has since left the team that drafted him). Jamarcus Russell? Vince Young? Alex Smith? You have to go all the way back to Eli Manning in 2004 to find a slam dunk pre-draft prospect.
Now obviously a great deal of QBs have panned out from 2005-2011, but they were typically not the first quarterbacks drafted and even when they were, they were not given the pre-draft respect of a "can't miss" player. Drafts with elite QB prospects are much rarer than people seem to realize. Comparing any year to 2012 (and only in hindsight for 2012 without the same benefit in 2013) is a blatantly unfair comparison.
Similarly, having a "can't miss" top pass rusher is not a very common occurrence either. 2012 didn't really have one. 2009 didn't have one. 2007 didn't have one. 2005 didn't have one. It's basically an every-other-year thing. Of course, there were excellent pass rushers that weren't considered elite before the draft that did become elite in hindsight (JJ Watt, Demarcus Ware, Aldon Smith, etc.). But again, that's in hindsight.
Receiver is a similar story. Going back to 2004, there have only been two true "can't miss" mega prospects at WR: Calvin Johnson (2007) and AJ Green (2011).
Point being, elite talent is rare. And guess what? 2013 has elite talent. In fact, it has probably the most elite talent at the top for offensive line that I've ever seen. I guess because it's at an unsexy position, that group isn't being hyped up as much as guys like Luck and Von Miller from previous years. Joekel, Johnson, and Fisher would all go #1 overall if the other two didn't exist. Some evaluators have called Chance Warmack the best prospect on tape in the draft. Still others have countered that Jonathan Cooper is better than Warmack. I think all five are elite talents. Five elite talents, on that alone I'd put this draft up to an "average" or better level for top shelf players.
I think Dee Milliner is an elite talent. He's like Joe Haden but better, and few people would disagree that Haden the actual NFL player is superior to Patrick Peterson the actual NFL player, as insanely talented as Peterson is. I'm hearing rumors that Milliner might not be the top 10 lock people think he is, but that's their loss. Whoever gets Milliner is getting a multi-time pro-bowler.
I think Dion Jordan could be an elite talent if he goes to a 3-4 team.
Sheldon Richardson is at least arguably an elite prospect at 3-tech, and those are extremely rare. At the very least, he's probably one of the 5 best 3-tech pre-draft prospects in the last 10 drafts.
I think Matt Barkley is going to be a franchise quarterback if he lands in the right situation. The future is clouded with Geno Smith, but in college he could be a surgeon. He's a QB first, athlete second. He also showed tremendous growth year to year. People seem to be forgetting that because his defense was terrible.
So yeah, this draft might not have a jaw dropping talent at a megastar position, but it does have elite talent, especially on the O-line.
#2: "This is the worst QB class since 2000."
Verdict: Ridiculously false.
How do Geno Smith and Matt Barkley compare to that list of QBs from 2005 to 2011? I'd say they compare pretty damn well. Maybe not "elite" in a consensus sense, but I rate both highly and I'd remind people that many of the top QBs in the league today were not treated like sure things before the draft.
I think no draft proves this point more than 2011 did. Cam Newton has been a worthy #1 pick, but that wasn't the consensus view on draft day. The way people talk about Geno Smith today is a lot like how people talked about Cam Newton back then. Mike Mayock had both in the 20s. Jake Locker has been slow out of the gate, Blaine Gabbert is all but a bust, and Christian Ponder's ceiling appears to be mediocrity. Yet that QB draft was saved by a pair of controversial 2nd round picks: Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick (two QBs Seattle rated very highly that year).
In retrospect, the 2011 draft class was one of the better QB classes ever, producing three star QBs. And those stars came from unexpected places. Does this mean that the NFL just "missed" on their evaluations? Or does it mean something else?
I think it's simply a reflection of how a prospect will thrive based on where he lands. The 49ers were the perfect team for Kaepernick, and Dalton had AJ Green to throw to and grow with. But more importantly, the gap between the NFL and the NCAA level isn't what it once was for QBs, with the college ranks now being the driving force of change for NFL offenses. This is the real reason why so many young QBs have found success in recent years, and why there were so many surprise successes, including Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Nick Foles and Kirk Cousins in 2012.
So with two straight years of this effect being plainly evident, why are people being stupid and refusing to see the potential of a very deep QB class in 2013? Matt Scott in his first year was a better QB than Nick Foles ever was. I'd take numerous QBs in this draft over Kirk Cousins. I don't see a lot of difference between Ryan Tannehill and the top quarterbacks this year, and I'd take Barkley over Tannehill if given the choice. Sure, there isn't a Russell Wilson. There may never be another Russell Wilson.
I'll predict there will be at least 2 franchise QBs from this draft, and the opinion of this group will be vastly different in a few years time.
#3: Defensive line is one of the 2013 draft's biggest strengths.
Verdict: I don't think it will be in hindsight.
I don't see Dion Jordan as a natural 4-3 DE. He's too stiff around the corner and too one dimensional as a pass rusher. Also, and I feel this is significant, the Pac-12 has an abysmal track record at projecting pass rushers to the NFL. Of the major divisions, the Pac-12s failure rate with pass rushers is by far the worst. I like him as a OLB, but that's not a DL position.
Sharrif Floyd is getting the Aaron Curry treatment. Curry never produced sack numbers in four seasons, and on tape there wasn't anything that screamed untapped potential to the trained eye. Floyd has short arms and no ability to penetrate. He's an elite gap controller and run defender, so he might justify a mid-1st as a 3-4 DE. He'll be drafted as a 3-tech by Oakland though. Just the latest bust for the Raiders.
Don't even get me started on Ezekiel Ansah.
Star Lotulelei has upside, but I'm suspicious of physical specimens that never really got it together after playing for years in the NCAA.
Margus Hunt could be a first rounder. He's a good athlete, but that's insane.
There are some guys I like. Nobody is a sure thing but Sheldon Richardson is a good prospect. Datone Jones is on a great trajectory and has the kind of rare speed that nearly every successful 3-tech has. I really like Bjoern Werner even if he's a high floor / low ceiling type. I respect Alex Okafor even if he has the same ho-hum projection that Werner has.
It's a deep group that will probably produce value from surprise places, but the group at the top is hands down the most over-rated I've ever seen and I think the overall group will be more solid than great.