by Bryan Knowles
It is an annual tradition at Football Outsiders to look back at the draft that was, in preparation for thinking about the draft that is upcoming. On most websites, that means talking about the early success of Baker Mayfield, the Cardinals' decision to take Josh Rosen, and whether Sam Darnold or Josh Allen will eventually become the quarterback to end the Patriots' reign of terror in the AFC East. But what if I told you that the NFL once held a draft, and no quarterbacks showed up?
Every year, we look back at the draft that was six years ago -- and the 2013 draft is a historical doozy, at least under center. It is the only draft in the 21st century where no quarterbacks went in the top 10 picks. None even went in the top 15! A year after the 2012 draft produced five Day 1 starters, the NCAA looked up at the NFL, turned its pockets inside out to show they were empty, and just shrugged.
Instead, the 2013 draft looked like a great year to get some beef up front. Nine offensive linemen were taken in the first round, tying the NFL record. The first seven picks went to linemen on one side of the ball or the other, with nary a fantasy player to be found. Perhaps because of the lack of skill position players, analysts found the 2013 draft difficult to predict -- there wasn't a surefire top prospect, and a very flat level of talent among the elite players, making deciding who would go where a very tough task to tackle. In retrospect, that might be because of the, shall we say, less than stellar careers the 2013 draft class has put up, with some calling it the worst draft of the past quarter-century. Was it really that bad, or has the lack of big-name quarterbacks and receivers unfairly colored the class as a whole? Let's go back and look.
For a reminder of who went where, Pro Football Reference is your source for all the picks in the draft and their basic statistics, while I find Wikipedia more useful for tracing draft pick transactions.
Conventional Wisdom: After a couple of years of highly touted classes, scouts were underwhelmed by the 2013 class. No Andrew Luck, no Robert Griffin. Several scouts claimed that there wasn't a single legitimate first-round quarterback available; that the teams that were in need of a quarterback (the Jaguars and Blaine Gabbert, Chip Kelly's brand new Eagles, the Brandon Weeden-led Browns…) were more or less out of luck. Without a clear top prospect available, consensus eventually settled on West Virginia's Geno Smith as the top name on the board. He was touted for his quick delivery, athleticism, arm strength, and competitive nature, but concerns about his accuracy and West Virginia's gimmicky spread offense -- imagine, using the shotgun all the time? -- had many scouts down on his potential.
After Smith, things entered a bit of a mush. USC's Matt Barkley opted not to come out early in the quarterback-heavy 2012 class, and started the next fall penciled in as the top overall pick. However, with a poor season and a shoulder injury, he tumbled down draft boards, with some saying he could fall to late in the third round. Syracuse's Ryan Nassib was the annual rifle-armed prospect who had scouts drooling, and ignoring warning signs like throwing the ball into coverage too often or sailing it away. His college head coach, Doug Marrone, was now head coach of quarterback-needy Buffalo, making it an obvious fit.
While those three were the most commonly mentioned names, a few others occasionally bubbled to the top. Florida State's EJ Manuel was a physically gifted player with some decision-making question marks; he was favorably compared to Blaine Gabbert. North Carolina State's Mike Glennon also got some pre-draft praise, and a small, but vocal, minority touted Arkansas' Tyler Wilson as possibly the best in the class overall.
Here at Football Outsiders, LCF v.2.0 was much more bullish on the class than scouts in general. Smith was the kind of passer that LCF loved -- a three-year starter with a high completion rate? Yes, please. With years of experience as a starter, Nassib and Manuel rated highly as well. Manuel was described as a "better college quarterback than you might realize." Oklahoma's Landry Jones was given the label of "Asterisk Part II," a reference to Russell Wilson's stellar LCF projection a year earlier for a player who was not expected to go in the first three rounds.
Highest Pick: Manuel, 16th overall to Buffalo.
Best Player: There's not a standout in the lot. Smith probably wins by default; he's the only player to have started more than one season from the class. Taken 39th overall by the Jets, Smith got the nod over Mark Sanchez as a rookie, thanks to Sanchez's shoulder injury. He had a -23.6% DVOA that year, but did lead the Jets to an 8-8 record. The Jets tumbled to 4-12 the next year, Smith fractured his jaw when his teammate punched him in the face, Ryan Fitzpatrick took over, and Smith has been a clipboard holder ever since. That's your star of the class. He is, at least, still employed, and considered an acceptable backup option.
Biggest Bust: The Bills did, as expected, take a quarterback. They didn't take Nassib, though -- instead, they went for Manuel, after trading down eight spots with St. Louis. Manuel ended up being the only first-round quarterback taken in a draft where zero first-round quarterbacks should have been taken. As a rookie, Manuel had a 4-6 record with a -19.9% DVOA, which was good enough to get him tabbed as the starter in 2014. That lasted just four games before he was pulled for Kyle Orton, and Manuel has never won a game as a starter since, getting only occasional spot starts since then. He spent 2018 out of football, and is currently fighting for a spot on Kansas City's roster. At least the Bills traded down for him, allowing them to grab Kiko Alonso in the second round.
Best Value: Calling any of these passers "valuable" is ridiculous. Bill Barnwell recently labeled this crop of passers as the worst in draft history, and he's not wrong.
If I had to pick one, I suppose Glennon came closest. Taken in the third round by Tampa Bay, Glennon took over from Josh Freeman a month into the season, finishing with a -7.7% DVOA and a 4-9 record as a starter. He turned that rookie year and good hype as a backup for Josh McCown and Jameis Winston into a massive contract with the Chicago Bears, where he lasted for just four games before getting benched for Mitchell Trubisky. He has the most passing touchdowns of anyone in the class, and is currently a backup in Oakland.
Conventional Wisdom: For the second year in a row, an Alabama running back was atop the class in the pre-draft conversation. While Eddie Lacy wasn't considered as good of a prospect as Trent Richardson had been a year before, his blend of size, power and speed was pretty clearly tops of the class in most pundits' eyes. He was a power guy first and foremost, and there were questions about his blocking and receiving ability as a pro, but destroying Georgia and Notre Dame in the SEC and National championship games was more than enough to put most of those worries to rest.
Right behind him was Wisconsin's Montee Ball, 2011 Heisman finalist and touchdown machine. Wisconsin had a history of productive college backs busting in the pros, and Ball had a down 2012 season thanks in part to a concussion suffered in an off-field assault, but he was considered a tough back with good feet and vision, suitable for at least a role in the backfield.
Rising late up the draft boards was North Carolina's Giovani Bernard. Bernard had dealt with ACL injuries in college, but he was considered an instant threat in the receiving game in addition to his abilities as a runner and kick returner. He was docked for a lack of power, but his vision and ability to cut back with the ball in his hands made him a bigger home run threat than Lacy. Most still had him only second or third in the class, but his stock was on the rise approaching draft day.
Football Outsiders did not have a Speed Score article in 2013, but Arkansas' Knile Davis put up an astounding 124.3. Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell was second at 110.2; no one doubted his size and speed, but his poor vision and lack of lateral agility made some scouts doubt if he could ever become a full-time back.
South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore was considered a top prospect before a terrible knee injury put his career in question; he decided to declare for the draft anyway and take his chances. Players like Clemson's Andre Ellington, Texas A&M's Christine Michael, and UCLA's Jonathan Franklin were considered decent Day 2 picks in a fairly deep class.
Highest Pick: Bernard, 37th overall to Cincinnati.
Best Player: Bell's marathon holdout during the 2018 season came about because he is easily the best running back of his class, and arguably the Best Player in drafted in 2013. A full 1,700 yards ahead of anyone else in the class, Bell ranked in the top five in rushing DYAR every year from 2014 to 2017, while adding substantial receiving value to boot. Bell's new contact with the Jets makes him the second-highest paid running back in football, and it's hard to argue that he doesn't deserve it. Both Lacy and Bernard have rushed for over 3,000 yards in their careers and have been perfectly respectable picks, but no. It's Bell by leaps and bounds.
Biggest Bust: Montee Ball went 58th overall to Denver and had a respectable rookie season -- 14th in DVOA and 21st in DYAR. Injuries, however, derailed his career; he suffered a groin injury in 2014 which sidelined him, and then couldn't beat out C.J. Anderson or Ronnie Hillman the next year. Ball was then arrested and served prison time in a domestic abuse case, slamming the door shut on his NFL career.
Ball did at least see an NFL field, however. Lattimore was a huge star at South Carolina before suffering a terrible injury in 2012, dislocating his right knee; tearing his ACL, MCL and meniscus; and suffering nerve damage. 49ers general manager Trent Baalke loved grabbing injured players at a draft-day discount, and took Lattimore in the fourth round. Lattimore never played a game in the NFL.
Best Value: It's Bell again, but there are other names worth mentioning. Central Florida's Latavius Murray wasn't invited to the combine and ended up as a sixth-round pick for Oakland, the 15th running back taken. Murray spent his rookie season on IR, but took over as the Raiders' lead back late in the 2014 season, earning a Pro Bowl berth the next year. He has more rushing yards than anyone from the class apart from Bell, and is currently replacing Mark Ingram in New Orleans' backfield.
Conventional Wisdom: West Virginia's Tavon Austin was the premier playmaker of the class. Small but elusive, he finished in the top two in all-purpose yards in each of his last two seasons. Yes, he had a slight build, and would be limited to the slot as a result, but 11 personnel was quickly becoming the formation of choice, about to pass 50% frequency -- players like Austin were regular starters now!
Tennessee had a pair of top prospects in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson was a similar playmaker to Austin, albeit with a less complete route tree, while Hunter's 6-foot-4 frame overshadowed some soft hands. California's Keenan Allen was considered a first-round pick until putting up a 4.71-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. USC's Robert Woods ranked as the second-best slot receiver in the class, albeit more of a threat on short and intermediate routes rather than a home-run hitter.
Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins was considered a pretty good route runner and a possession guy, albeit nothing particularly special -- a safe pick who looked better on the field than he did in drills. He usually was at the bottom of top-five lists, along with players like Louisana Tech's Quinton Patton, Baylor's Terrance Williams, and West Virginia's Stedman Bailey.
Football Outsiders' Playmaker Score hated the 2013 class. It didn't give anyone a score higher than 400, a mark considered to be the 50/50 point for turning into a top receiver in the NFL. Bailey and Hopkins came closest; lauded for good numbers but docked for lower athleticism. And it thought both Austin and Patterson would be busts, alongside Patton, Allen, and Kenny Stills.
Highest Pick: Austin, eighth overall to St. Louis.
Best Player: Hopkins did end up squeaking into the first round, taken by Houston with the 27th overall pick -- the second receiver taken after Austin. He's a full 2,000 yards ahead of anyone else in the class. Hopkins is in the conversation for best receiver in football today -- he has been able to put up massive numbers with the likes of T.J. Yates, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Brian Hoyer throwing to him. It's not a surprise that now that Houston has an actual quarterback, Hopkins has now had back-to-back seasons in the top five of DYAR.
Biggest Bust: The Rams traded their first-, second-, third-, and seventh-round selections to Buffalo to jump up eight slots and grab Tavon Austin. Austin has only once topped 500 yards receiving in a year, hitting 509 in 2016. In the few years he's had enough receptions to quality, Austin has never ranked higher than 80th in DYAR or DVOA. His reception numbers are padded by short, useless catches -- he led the league in failed reception rate in 2016, and regularly features in the tops of those rankings when he has enough plays to qualify. He has had value as a returner, mind you, but you need to get more out of a player than that if you're going to make him the first non-lineman off the board.
The 34th pick, Justin Hunter, is worth an honorable mention as well. The big-play ability he showed off at Tennessee has never really translated to the NFL. His size and speed remain unquestionable, and are enough to get him jobs as a third or fourth receiver as he has bounced around the league, but he has terrible hands and isn't a great route-runner. If you need someone to run a go route, he's fine -- anything else, and he gets iffy. This is not what the Titans hoped to get at the top of the second round.
Best Value: Hopkins would definitely go higher than 27th if they were to redraft the 2013 class, but there were other strong values as well. Keenan Allen's slow 40 dropped him all the way into the middle of the third round before San Diego stopped his fall. It turns out that a lot of his poor Pro Day performance was due to a torn PCL from which he wasn't fully recovered, and he has been a threat ever since he entered the league. Despite only playing in 70 of 96 possible games, Allen is still second in the class in receiving yards, passing the 5,000-yard mark this last season.
Kenny Stills went to the Saints in the fifth round before being traded to the Dolphins two years later. When playing with Drew Brees, Stills finished first and third in receiving DVOA in his first two seasons; he has come back down to earth some in Miami. While he has never really been lead-receiver material, Stills is a very effective flanker and deep threat, fourth in the class with 4,138 receiving yards and a valuable part of Miami's passing offense.
Conventional Wisdom: It looked a good year to be picking a tight end, but Notre Dame's Tyler Eifert stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Eifert, a quasi-wide receiver with nary a hole to be found in his game, could line up both inline and split wide for Notre Dame. He needed to work on his blocking some, but he was quickly improving. One scout called him the most predictable player among tight ends or receivers; a near surefire lock to be a successful player.
It was a fairly deep class, in all -- assuming you were OK with your tight ends not blocking. Stanford's Zach Ertz and San Diego State's Gavin Escobar were essentially never used as blockers, but both ran great routes and had stellar hands. Rice's Vance McDonald was mostly a slot receiver in college as well, though he had more problems with drops that some scouts were concerned about. Then there was Cincinnati's Travis Kelce, who started as a Wildcat quarterback in 2009, was suspended for the entire 2010 season, and only really saw the field as a regular tight end for one year. Not a tremendous athlete, he was still touted for an ideal frame, the ability to stretch the field vertically, and tremendous run-blocking capabilities -- a rarity in 2013's class.
Highest Pick: Eifert, 21st overall to Cincinnati.
Best Player: Kelce slipped to the Chiefs in the third round, and suffice it to say that they're happy with the selection. He's a two-time All Pro who set the NFL record for receiving yardage by a tight end this past season, albeit for only a couple hours. Excluding his rookie season, spent on injured reserve, Kelce's been in the top 10 in DYAR in every season, and the top five in every year but 2015. No listing of the best tight ends active today is complete without Kelce up near the top. 2013 was an absolute stellar class of tight ends, but Kelce is a rung above everyone else.
Biggest Bust: Is it fair to call Eifert a bust? When healthy, he has lived up to his potential; a red-zone weapon with obvious talent. The problem is, he has missed 52 games over the past five years, making just 14 appearances since 2016. The Bengals are happy to have him back, but they just can't rely on him to be on the field.
Instead, we'll go with Escobar, who went 47th overall to Dallas as the third tight end taken. Escobar was supposed to be a playmaker immediately, but couldn't beat out lesser-hyped players such as James Hanna or Geoff Swaim, limiting him to mostly special teams duty. Escobar ended his NFL career with 30 receptions for 333 yards and was last seen failing to make in impact with the San Diego Fleet of the short-lived AAF.
Best Value: It's Kelce, obviously. Philadelphia was very happy with Zach Ertz at the top of the second round, but you just don't see players of Kelce's quality dropping to Round 3 very often.
Conventional Wisdom: This was the year if you needed someone up front. The previous record for first-round offensive linemen was eight, set in 1996 and 2008, and it was very clear that it was going to be at least threatened, even with Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan opting to stay in school for another year.
The question was which tackle you liked at the top of the draft. Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel was a technician, an excellent pass-blocker with top-level athleticism for the position; he and Matthews anchored the best offensive line in the country. Central Michigan's Eric Fisher started at both tackle positions and guard in his college career and had the best pre-draft period of the top group of tackles; he needed to add some functional strength, but his speed and ability isolated in the open field jumped off of tape. Oklahoma's Lane Johnson moved from quarterback to tight end to defensive end in college before finally slotting in at tackle, where he found great success. He had a better combine than Joeckel or Fisher, as one of the best testing tackles in the history of the event. You couldn't really go wrong by taking any of the three.
But the bounty didn't end there. If it was a guard you were looking for, you could decide between North Carolina's Jonathan Cooper and Alabama's Chance Warmack; both projected to be top-10 picks despite disappointing at the combine. Joining them in the good-on-tape, bad-in-Indianapolis group was center Travis Frederick of Wisconsin; his 5.58-second 40-yard dash and 21 reps on the bench press scared some away from the tape that showed him to be the best lineman on the field for the Badgers.
The class had depth, too. The next tier of tackles included big names like Alabama's D.J. Fluker and Florida State's Menelik Watson, while Syracuse's Justin Pugh, Oregon's Kyle Long, and Kent State's Brian Winters all projected as future starting guards. Rarely have we seen a class filled with so much potential.
Highest Pick: Fisher, first overall to Kansas City.
Best Player: We listed 15 top prospects up there, and didn't talk about Colorado's David Bakhtiari, who earned a first-team All-Pro nod in 2018 after several years on the second team. His poor hands and lack of movement had some teams thinking he had to move inside to guard in the pros, causing him to fall down to the Packers in the fourth round. When Bryan Bulaga went down to an ACL tear, Bakhtiari took the opportunity and ran with it. He has been a fixture at left tackle ever since, with no one else in the class starting more than his 90 (out of a possible 96) games.
Both Johnson and Frederick have also earned All-Pro nods, with Long and Kentucky's Larry Warford turning into multiple-time Pro Bowlers themselves. There were a lot of good players to come out of this class, though you'll note we haven't actually mentioned either of the top two picks yet...
Biggest Bust: Fisher hasn't really been top-pick quality per se, but he has at least been a league-average starter and just went to his first Pro Bowl, making him miles better than the guy right behind him. Joeckel went second to Jacksonville, and never really worked out at tackle. He alternated between seasons of being hurt, missing much of 2013, 2016, and 2017 with knee injuries, and season of poor play, ranking near the top in sacks allowed and penalties committed. He improved slightly when Jacksonville gave up on his tackle prospects, moving him inside to guard, but he spent the 2018 season out of football. Injuries have also haunted Jonathan Cooper's career since he was taken seventh overall by Arizona, but a bust at No. 2 beats out a bust at No. 7.
Biggest steal: Bakhtiari's as good a shout as any, but this was a great draft for finding quality linemen late. Louisiana Tech's Jordan Mills went to Chicago in the fifth round, winning the right tackle job right out of training camp. He started every game at right tackle for the Bills over the last three seasons, though he is now still looking for his next team. Wisconsin's Ricky Wagner went five picks later to Baltimore; he has started 75 games for the Ravens and Lions, primarily at right tackle. Not bad for a couple of Day 3 picks.
Conventional Wisdom: Many scouts were still mixing up defensive linemen and edge rushers, but we were starting to see people consider the 3-4 linebacker and 4-3 defensive end as the same position. Baby steps. We're just going to look at actual interior linemen as we'd consider them today, here.
The experts generally agreed that the top three tackles, in order, were Florida's Sharrif Floyd, Utah's Star Lotulelei, and Missouri's Sheldon Richardson, with North Carolina's Sylvester Williams generally rounding out the players considered worthy of first-round selections. There was some disagreement as to where each player would succeed, however. Floyd was generally considered the top 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end prospect, with Lotulelei as the top nose tackle prospect in the draft. Lotulelei could hang in as a 4-3 tackle, but Richardson was considered the better prospect there.
The wild card was Datone Jones out of UCLA, as no one really knew exactly where his ideal position would be -- some considered him an obvious edge rushing prospect, with 13.5 sacks in four years, but others said that he was better as an interior rusher or a 3-4 end, rather than being the primary edge rushing talent. As such, it's hard to place him in either the DL or EDGE grouping in retrospect; Football Outsiders chose to leave him out of SackSEER, so that's what we'll work with.
Two players with the same last name and very different paths to the league turned heads in the next tier down, in Alabama's Jesse Williams and Missouri Southern's Brandon Williams. Jesse, from Australia, had little background in the game but proved a fast learner with ideal size. Brandon was the Division II national player of the year with impressive strength. Alongside them were players like Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, Purdue's Kawann Short, and LSU's Bennie Logan.
Highest Pick: Richardson, 13th overall to the New York Jets.
Best Player: The pundits were right to put Richardson in the top grouping, but they got the order wrong -- he was a hit right off the bat, earning Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2013. Off-field issues caused him to wear out his welcome in New York, but he has continued to be a very good player for Seattle, Minnesota, and now Cleveland. Lotulelei has been a solid, if unspectacular, first for Carolina and now Buffalo. As for the third guy...
Biggest Bust: Floyd fell to 23rd overall, taken by Minnesota. He seemed to be on a good arc for his first three seasons -- inconsistent, for sure, but flashing great run defense and solid interior penetration on passing plays as well. Then the injuries piled up. After missing some time with foot and knee injuries in 2014 and 2015, Floyd played in just one game in 2016 before requiring a "clean-up" operation on his knee that was expected to cost him about a month. A month turned into a season-long stint on the IR, which turned into a career-ending nerve injury; he hasn't played since 2016.
If you group Jones with the defensive tackles, he could end up in this slot as well. He went 26th overall to Green Bay where he flopped as a 3-4 end, never being more than a rotational player. The Packers then moved him to outside linebacker, which worked a little better, but not much. Jones has just 10 career sacks and has been bouncing around the league since the Packers opted not to pick up his fifth-year option; he is currently a free agent.
Best Value: Brandon Williams went 94th overall to Baltimore and has developed into one of the top run-stuffing defensive tackles in all of football. He has started 74 games for the Ravens and is coming off arguably his best season, having been named to the Pro Bowl for the first time. He is a lynchpin of the Ravens' defense, with their run defense noticeably declining whenever he's sidelined.
Conventional Wisdom: If you were looking for a 3-4 linebacker, you had to wade into the ferocious debate between Louisiana State's Barkevious Mingo and Oregon's Dion Jordan, both considered easy top-10 selections. Mingo was the freakish athlete; tremendous closing speed and fantastic raw tools which never seemed to add up to tremendous stats in college. Jordan was considered surprisingly good in coverage for a pass-rusher; someone who had to be a stand-up linebacker so teams could utilize both his pass rush and coverage abilities. Do you take the better pass-rusher on paper, or the more complete player? Experts were torn.
The other top-10 draft lock was Ezekiel Ansah of BYU, with the best closing speed of any pass rusher available in 2013. He was considered very, very raw, being born in Ghana and only playing football for the first time in 2010. He was a boom-or-bust prospect, with his sheer athletic ability hopefully making up for his lack of experience.
At Football Outsiders, SackSEER 2.0 saw a fairly strong class, albeit lacking in players who combined both high athletic grades and stellar college production. Of the big three, SackSEER liked Mingo the best, projecting him with 34.5 sacks in his first five years in the NFL. Ansah was right behind him at 30.3, while the model warned that Jordan (24.6) would be betting on someone with little production compared to his sheer amount of game experience. It placed Florida State's Bjoern Werner and Southern Mississippi's Jamie Collins over Jordan.
Highest Pick: Jordan, third overall to Miami
Best Player: By sacks, it's Ansah (fifth overall to Detroit) by leaps and bounds; he has 48.0 in a class where no one else has more than 32.5, and no other edge rusher has more than 22. Multiple shoulder surgeries over the past year have somewhat brought him back to earth, but not enough for anyone else in a mediocre class to catch him.
Jamie Collins, who went 52nd overall, had some great years in New England, before struggling some with Cleveland over the last couple of seasons. While he was treated as a potential edge rusher in most of the pre-draft buildup, he ended up as a WILL in the Patriots' scheme, which probably was for the best.
Biggest Bust: Jordan, who went third overall to Miami. If anything, SackSEER way overstated Jordan's potential; he ended up with just 7.0 sacks in his first five years. A large part of that, of course, comes from missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons thanks to multiple violations of the league's PED policy. To add insult to injury, the Dolphins traded up to get Jordan, losing the 42nd overall pick in the process. Ansah would have been gone by the time they were on the clock at 12, so the instinct to move wasn't the wrong one; they just got the wrong guy. Jordan did have one solid season in Seattle in 2017, but it's too little, too late for the Biggest Bust of the 2013 draft.
Best Value: Assuming Collins is considered a linebacker, this goes to Texas' Alex Okafor almost by default. Okafor went to Arizona in the fourth round and currently is sitting on 22.0 career sacks with the Cardinals and Saints, second-most among edge rushers in the 2013 class. No one's going to confuse Okafor for a superstar, but he's a quality player who can be depended on as an important part of a pass rush. He'll be replacing Dee Ford in Kansas City in 2019.
Conventional Wisdom: Most of the experts had Notre Dame's Manti Te'o ranked either No. 1 or close to it. Te'o essentially swept everything but the Heisman Trophy in 2012 -- the Maxwell Award, the Lott Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, the Walter Camp Award, et cetera, et cetera. The experts weren't united as to whether Te'o would be a great player, but most felt he had at least a floor of being good. Te'o was also the victim of a bizarre hoax involving a phony girlfriend and a catfishing scheme which drew massive amounts of media coverage leading up to the draft, but it did not appear to do serious harm to his draft stock.
After Te'o, consensus broke down. LSU's Kevin Minter, an absolute missile between the tackles, was preferred by those looking for a pure middle linebacker, while Georgia's Alec Ogletree was the top WILL linebacker prospect in the draft, as long as you could get over the DUI he picked up days before the combine. Kansas State's Arthur Brown and Oregon's Kiko Alonso drew significant interest as well.
Highest Pick: Ogletree, 30th overall to St. Louis.
Best Player: Likely Ogletree again. Other than Jamie Collins, whom we discussed earlier, no linebacker from the 2013 class has made the Pro Bowl. Ogletree, at least, has consistently seen the field as a low-tier starter for the Rams and Giants. He leads the entire rookie class with 425 solo tackles, but his first-place finish here is more a statement of the overall quality of the draft class than a hearty endorsement of Ogletree.
Biggest Bust: Brown was drafted 56th overall by the Ravens. He wasn't explicitly the replacement for Ray Lewis, but that's how the timing worked out. These were not expectations he could live up to. He never started a game in his career. He had 11 solo tackles as a rookie, which remains the entirety of his career total, as he was regularly a healthy scratch during his time in Baltimore. The Ravens gave up two picks to go up and get him, too; picks which ended up turning into Sam Martin and Theo Riddick. Either would have been a better choice than Brown, who was last seen being cut by the AAF's San Antonio Commanders.
If 56 is too low for your bust, it should be noted that Te'o, who went 38th overall to San Diego, has not become the solid starter many expected to be his floor. When he has been a starter, he has been average at best, and invisible at worst. He was a healthy scratch most of last year in New Orleans. But hey, he still has a career, which is more than Brown can say.
Best Value: Florida State's Vince Williams went in the sixth round to Pittsburgh and has gradually fought his way up the depth chart, finally becoming a full-time starter in 2017. He has gotten better every year he has been in the league; a very solid run-stuffer with real pass-rushing cred as well. Ogletree gets the nod over Williams when it comes to who has had the best career so far, but Williams is trending up while Ogletree is trending down.
Conventional Wisdom: After offensive and defensive linemen, the 2013 draft was considered richest when it came to defensive backs, especially at corner, where some predicted as many as five might be taken in the first round alone. Alabama's Dee Milliner was the cream of the crop; a smart, disciplined, and physical player who excelled at challenging receivers at the line of scrimmage. After him, Florida State's Xavier Rhodes and Washington's Desmond Trufant were considered first-round locks as well, Rhodes being a physical press corner, and Trufant the less physical but quicker and more nimble option.
Houston's D.J. Hayden (recovering from major heart surgery) and Boise State's Jamar Taylor were also highly touted. LSU's Tyrann Mathieu was also considered an interesting prospect, but his off-field issues (being kicked off the team and arrested for marijuana possession) had scouts very nervous about taking the Honey Badger.
Experts didn't see any elite safeties in the 2013 class, but there was plenty of depth to go around. Texas' Kenny Vaccaro was the best tackler of the bunch and pegged to go first, and then you had a mishmash of LSU's Eric Reid, Florida's Matt Elam, and Florida International's Johnathan Cyprien, each with their own set of supporters for the No. 2 safety spot.
Highest Pick: Milliner, ninth to the New York Jets.
Best Player: I am very torn on this one, with both Rhodes (25th overall to Minnesota) and Mississippi State's Darius Slay (36th overall to Detroit) having very good careers to this point. Both have one first-team All-Pro nod; both have been to the Pro Bowl twice. Slay has 17 interceptions to Rhodes' 10 and had the better 2018, so I suppose I'll give him the nod, but it's close.
Biggest Bust: Milliner. Milliner's rookie campaign was up and down. He was named a starter right off the bat, but was benched on three separate occasions during the year for poor play. He finished the season strong, however, and looked poised for a solid sophomore run, but injuries started to pile up. Milliner only appeared in eight games over the next two years as he struggled with ankle, Achilles, and wrist injuries, and was finally cut before the 2016 season started. He never received another shot in the NFL, finishing his career with just three interceptions.
Best Value: Iowa's Micah Hyde fell to the Packers in the fifth round, 159th overall, in part due to a public intoxication arrest as a senior. He quickly became a do-it-all player in Green Bay's secondary, working as both safety and slot corner as well as contributing on punt returns. He has become a full-time strong safety (mostly) in Buffalo, where he made his first Pro Bowl in 2017. Only Slay tops his 15 interceptions among the 2013 class.
Conventional Wisdom: A handful of special teamers were considered draftable candidates. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins made 78.6 percent of his field goal attempts and set an NCAA record for points scored by a kicker. Florida's Caleb Sturgis made 79.6 percent of his attempts, and showed tremendous kickoff strength at the combine. LSU's Brad Wing was the best punting prospect available, but his red flags (kicked out of LSU after two years; a me-first personality) made him essentially undraftable.
Don't draft specialists.
Highest Pick: Punter Jeff Locke of UCLA went 155th overall to Minnesota.
Best Player: It's probably punter Sam Martin of Appalachian State, who went 165th overall to Detroit and has been their starter ever since.
Biggest Bust: Locke. He was both drafted the highest and had arguably the worst career of the four drafted players (Locke, Martin, Sturgis, and Hopkins). He spent four years with Minnesota, then played a few games as a backup to Martin's backup in Detroit, and was last seen with the Arizona Hotshots in the AAF.
Best Value: Honestly, a consistent punter like Martin isn't a terrible use of the last regular pick in the fifth round, and I won't knock Detroit for using a late Day 3 pick to lock up a position for six years. But Brandon McManus, Jason Myers, and Brad Wing were all picked up as undrafted free agents. You don't need to use draft picks to find serviceable kickers and punters.
Per our annual Report Card Report, the 49ers had the best draft by far. They addressed their four top needs with their four top picks; Eric Reid was going to be a superstar safety, and a healthy Marcus Lattimore was a steal in the fourth round. The Bengals, Ravens, Rams, and Cardinals also received high grades. Conversely, the Cowboys were panned for reaching for Travis Frederick, and criticized for adding receiving weapons to a passing game that was already doing just fine with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, and Cole Beasley already on the roster. The Browns, Patriots, Bills, and Redskins also received low grades.
In reality, the 49ers' draft did not pan out. Eric Reid has been a solid safety, albeit one in Carolina now rather than in the red and gold, but no one else picked really made much of an impact. Lattimore was never healthy again, neither Tank Carradine nor Corey Lemonier made any appreciable impact on the pass rush, and Vance McDonald's stone hands became a running gag for 49ers fans for years. Quinton Dial and Marcus Cooper were nice for Day 3 picks, and it's better than the absolute zero San Francisco got out of the 2012 draft, but this turned out to be Trent Baalke's second whiff in a row. Is there any wonder the 49ers crashed so hard after the Jim Harbaugh era?
Similarly, Dallas had a pretty good draft, at least when taking into account the overall level of the draft class. Travis Frederick was considered a reach at the time, but he has turned into a four-time Pro Bowler and anchor of one of the best offensive lines of the mid-2010s; the Cowboys really missed him last season. In a year this poor, getting one absolute stud is enough to salvage any class, but Terrance Williams was a solid third-round pick. Williams has the seventh-most receiving yards in the class and is a decent blocker as well. I wouldn't put them atop the class or anything, but they did far better than the dead-last ranking the pundits gave out days after the draft. It's a good reminder that post-draft grades aren't even worth the paper they're printed on.
All in all, I'd have to say the Packers came out of the draft looking the best overall. First-round pick Datone Jones didn't live up to expectations, but Green Bay walked away with Eddie Lacy, David Bakhtiari, and Micah Hyde, who I'd call three of the top 40 picks in the draft. Yes, Lacy's career is pretty much done at this point and Hyde's now in Buffalo, but very few other teams can say they had three contributors of any kind in their 2013 draft classes -- and that's without including J.C. Tretter, who is now starting in Cleveland. I've seen articles out there calling the 2013 draft a failure for Ted Thompson because only Bakhtiari remains, which is ridiculous. In a year this bad, finding players who can contribute for four or five years isn't a flaw; it's a great success.
As for the worst class? In 2012, the Seahawks were panned for a draft class which included such bums as Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Bruce Irvin, and J.R. Sweezy. Perhaps to overcompensate, pundits gave Pete Carroll and John Schneider more of the benefit of the doubt for their 2013 class, which did turn out to be very poor. The only player Seattle drafted who has had any real impact has been Spencer Ware, who has racked up nearly 2,000 rushing yards for Kansas City. Other than that? Christine Michael has bounced around the league as a backup and emergency starter. Jordan Hill's injury list is longer than his list of accomplishments. The 2017 Seattle draft class has already played more snaps for the Seahawks than the 2013 class has. There's just nothing here.
At least the Seahawks didn't screw up a first-round pick, trading out of the first round to acquire Percy Harvin. The Browns don't have that luxury, taking Barkevious Mingo with the sixth overall pick. Mingo started 16 forgettable games for the Browns, and he still has to be considered their best pick of the draft, as their other four picks combined for seven games started. They don't even have a player such as Spencer Ware who went elsewhere and had success to fall back on. Yes, the pundits correctly tabbed the Browns as being, well, Brown-esque during the 2013 draft. It is perhaps not surprising this was Michael Lombardi's only year as general manager.
Previous articles in this series:
- 2012 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2011 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2010 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2009 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2008 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2007 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2006 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2005 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2004 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2003 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2002 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2001 Draft: Six Years Later
- 2000 Draft: Six Years Later
- 1999 Draft: Six Years Later
- 1998 Draft: Six Years Later