2013 NFL Draft in Five Questions with Greg Trippiedi

With NFL free agency news slowing to a trickle, it’s time to turn our attention to the next phase of the offseason cycle  - the NFL Draft.

The 2013 NFL Draft is less than a month away, so I called friend and draftnik Greg Trippiedi to help answer five questions about this year’s draft class. Greg has covered the draft for more than a decade, and his work is one of the best reads on the Internet.

Now, without further delay, here’s our Q&A:

What player drafted outside of the top 10 will end up playing like one, ala Clay Matthews?

Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Alec Ogletree does a defensive drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Hirschhorn: Alec Ogletree and it’s not close. His off the field troubles have been well documented, but they’re not kind of problems that tend to keep players off the field. His coaches at Georgia say he was never a problem in their locker room, and he has the reputation as a hard worker. While that doesn’t guarantee Ogletree will fix his problems, those types of players usually turn things around. If you judge him based solely on football concerns, Ogletree has top tier athleticism for his position and makes all the plays an elite inside linebacker should. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that in a few years Ogletree is in the same discussion with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman for best at the position.

Southern California Trojans receiver Robert Woods (2) is pursued by Notre Dame Fighting Irish safety Chris Salvi (24) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Trippiedi: I’m going to give you two names here, both playing the same position: wide receivers Robert Woods of USC, and Keenan Allen of Cal.  I think Tavon Austin is the best offensive specialist in the draft, but Woods and Allen are top ten level players who will be available after the 16th pick in the first round.  Both are fluid athletes who can score from anywhere on the field, and really high point the football on 50/50 balls despite neither really being viewed as much of a height/weight/speed specimen.  Plus, I feel more comfortable projecting receivers than I do defensive pass rushers. But as a footnote to the last comment, I think the player that reminds me the most of Matthews coming out of USC is Jarvis Jones of Georgia.  And he’s likely to be available when Green Bay picks.

What player drafted in the early rounds is most likely to get a general manager fired?

Jason: Ah, the commemorative “who would Scott Pioli draft?” category. The answer is Mike Glennon. Drafting a quarterback early is nearly always a career defining move for a general manager. Making the wrong choice is a surefire way to earn the selector a one-way ticket out of town. While evaluating any player comes with considerable challenges, quarterbacks present many additional hurdles for general managers.

Senior Bowl north squad quarterback Mike Glennon of North Carolina State (8) throws against the Senior Bowl south squad. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s where Glennon could end some poor GM’s tenure. With his rocket arm producing high volume yardage and touchdowns, Glennon cuts the figure of the perfect pocket passer. In a year where there is little agreement regarding the best quarterback, Glennon stands out to some teams with his traditional drop back passer capabilities. What seems to get lost in the shuffle is Glennon’s lack of accuracy and passing discipline. Watching his tape, it’s clear Glennon’s never seen a double covered receiver he didn’t like. Glennon is too trusting in his arm strength, leading to 29 interceptions over the past two seasons. Those mistakes will only be magnified in the pros.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah does lineman dirlls during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Greg: Assuming that “whoever Jeff Ireland drafts” isn’t an option here? No? Darn. With the easy answer off the board, it’s worth pointing out that the only picks that are directly responsible for getting GMs fired are quarterbacks, and no quarterback in this class is getting overdrafted.  So this is a very safe draft to be a GM.  There are two buyer beware players at the top of the first round who will be overdrafted on potential: LB Dion Jordan of Oregon, and DE Ziggy Ansah of BYU.  And it’s not that either won’t be good players.  But if I’m oh, I don’t know, Martin Mayhew or Mike Lombardi, I’d feel much better going with Kenny Vaccaro or Dee Milliner than I would with Ansah or Jordan.  Probably buys me an extra year on the job.

Ireland can take whomever he wants to at this point.  I don’t think anything can save him now.

Five years from now, who is the best quarterback from the 2013 draft class?

Southern California Trojans quarterback Matt Barkley (7) is pressured by Oregon Ducks linebacker Tyson Coleman (33) at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports

Jason: In five years, I think a lot of people will be wondering how their team let Matt Barkley slip past them. That’s not to say he’ll become the next Aaron Rodgers, because that wouldn’t be reasonable or fair. However, Barkley possesses enough characteristics of a successful quarterback to negate his shortcomings. The arm strength issue is overblown. Barkley has already demonstrated the ability to make the difficult out throws. What’s often overlooked is Barkley’s decision-making. As a freshman, he completed nearly 60 percent of his passes while throwing for 2,735 yards and 7.8 yards per attempt. That’s better than most of this year’s quarterback draft pool. Barkley’s best year was as a junior, where he was extremely efficient (5.6 touchdown to interception ratio, 69.1 percent completion) and extremely productive (3,528 passing yards, 39 touchdowns). That year is closer to the real Matt Barkley than his “down” 2012.

Right now, Barkley is viewed as a late first round selection (though we’ll address this more later). If that holds true, he’ll be given what few highly-drafted quarterbacks ever receive: time. It’s easy to see how a four-year starter who gets a year or two to build up his body and knowledge of the offense could flourish. Hopefully for Barkley, this is how his career plays out.

West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) drops back to pass against the Iowa State Cyclones during the second half at Jack Trice Stadium. West Virginia defeated Iowa State 31-24. Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Greg: Geno Smith is the correct answer here, no?  He’s going to get the most chances. Thing is, it’s probably the kind of year where you want to take the field.  Someone is coming out from deep in the draft to make an impact as a starter.

And this isn’t really a prediction, but I think that given the five year time frame you allow here, Landry Jones could disappear off the face of the earth just long enough to re-emerge as a starting quarterback in this league, not dissimilar to what happened to Matt Moore in the 2007 draft.  With a player like Jones, you just have to think that his weaknesses as a college quarterback became so obvious to scouts over the last two seasons that whatever team gets him in camp is probably going to try to stash him away on the roster for a few years, at which point, they’ll be left with a guy who was sacked less than 1 in 40 college pass attempts and completed 63.6 percent of his college passes.

In the meantime, the answer is Geno Smith.

Who is the first quarterback off the board, and which team selects them?

Jason: The answer is Geno Smith, right now. Remember, Matt Barkley didn’t work out at the combine and has yet to have his pro day. While pre-draft work shouldn’t affect draft stock as much as it does, we’ve seen time and time again how a good workout can propel players to higher selections. And when’s the last time a quarterback had a bad pro day workout? Hint: never.

So the question becomes whether a team that runs a west coast-style offense will draft a passer before a team that wants a little more mobility and athleticism from their quarterback does. Oakland is the x-factor, as they’ll legitimately consider Geno Smith at the third pick. If they pass, the next team that might go quarterback is Arizona. The Cardinals are better suited for Barkley’s skill set.

So in the end I give you two scenarios: Smith to Oakland or Barkley to Arizona.

Greg: Geno Smith will be the first quarterback taken, and he’s going between pick no. 2 and pick no. 4 in this draft.  I think Jacksonville has a 30 percent chance of taking him with the second pick.  Oakland has a 45 percent chance of taking him with the third pick, if he’s available.  And then I really don’t think he gets past Philadelphia with the fourth pick.  It’s hard to put a plurality on this because looking at the overall percentages I just used, it breaks down to something like 30-30-30-10 as to where Smith lands, so I’m going to split the difference and say the Raiders will take him at third overall.  I’m 100 percent sure this will happen 30 percent of the time.

The interesting scenarios come if Jacksonville takes Smith at no. 2, because I think that puts Matt Barkley in play for the Raiders at 3.  You can’t have percentages on that event.  Absolutely not.

Finally, put yourself in the shoes of Ted Thompson. Of the players reasonably likely to be available when the Green Bay Packers pick, who would you select and why?

Alabama Crimson Tide offensive lineman D.J. Fluker does bag drills during Alabama pro day at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility. Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Jason: This question really is “who is the best player available at the Packers’ selection?” I think there’s a decent chance Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker is still on the board at 26. If he is, I can’t imagine a better selection. Fluker is a mammoth tackle who created giant holes for three 1,000 yard rushers the past two years. Read that again, three 1,000 yard rushers in two years. Most of those runs came behind Fluker, who is one of the strongest linemen in the draft. With Fluker lining up next to Josh Sitton, the Packers would have the ability to run effectively for the first time in years. This would also free Bryan Bulaga, the team’s best tackle, to move to the left side where he played so well at Iowa. Green Bay could reasonably go from the second most sacked team to the top third of the league.

I also think it’s likely that if no great value exists at 26, Ted Thompson will trade back. The strength of this draft class is in the second and third rounds. Smart teams will be swinging trades to maximize their selections in those rounds.

Akron Zips quarterback Clayton Moore (8) runs during the first quarter as FIU Golden Panthers defensive back Jonathan Cyprien (25) prepares to make the tackle in the game at InfoCision Stadium. Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports

Greg: I think the two players who make the most sense for the Packers (but there’s at least a chance one if not both will not be there) are TE Tyler Eifert of Notre Dame, and FS Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International.  In the modern NFL, you have to be good in the middle of the field.  I think the Packers are perfectly well off at the tight end and safety positions for 2013, but the NFC is getting into an arms race for the kind of talent that can create scoring opportunities (Eifert) and limit scoring opportunities (Cyprien), and I don’t see the Packers being in a position to pass either of these first-rounders if available when they select in round one.

Today’s contributors:

Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Lombardi Ave. He has previously written for Hail to the Orange, College Hoops Net, Mocking the Draft, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.

Greg Trippiedi writes about the Washington Redskins at Redskins Hog Heaven and runs LiveBall Sports which covers current events in sports with a slant toward sports analytics and the business side of the sports world.  His teams go to the playoffs sometimes, which is a refreshing change from most years when they do not win anything. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/GTrippiedi.

Topics: 2013 NFL Draft, Alec Ogletree, D.J. Fluker, Dee Milliner, Dion Jordan, Ezekiel Ansah, Geno Smith, Jarvis Jones, Jonathan Cyprien, Keenan Allen, Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Barkley, Mike Glennon, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, Tyler Eifert, Ziggy Ansah

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