Top 32 2013 NFL Draft prospects
Three USC players -- Matt Barkley, Robert Woods, T.J. McDonald -- top the list
Tyler Wilson's adjustment to the new coaching staff in Arkansas will be crucial
Robert Lester grades better than 2012 first-rounder and ex-teammate Mark Barron
The book is barely closed on the 2012 NFL Draft, but it's never too early to start thinking ahead. Information is already being processed for next April's event, and it looks as though the early portion of the draft will be well represented by the senior class, with a number of versatile, complete linebackers available in the first round. So as we begin preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, here's a list of 32 prospects expected to impact the early selections.
* denotes underclassman
1. Matt Barkley, QB, USC -- Barkley graded as a top-eight pick had he entered the 2012 draft. He's an accurate passer with the skills necessary to lead a west coast offense at the next level. Depending on who owns the first pick next April, Barkley could easily be the first overall selection in 2013.
2. Robert Woods, WR, USC* -- Matt Barkley's favorite target, Woods is a dynamic receiver who battles defenders to make the reception in underneath coverage or beats them downfield for the long catch.
3. T.J. McDonald, S, USC -- The Trojans have a third player at the top of the draft board, though this time it's from the defensive side of the ball. McDonald is a terrific safety whose skill set is underrated, just like Mark Barron's, the seventh pick of the 2012 draft. He's also an explosive run defender who also plays the ball well in coverage, just like Barron.
4. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State* -- Hankins is a mammoth space eater on the inside with the ability to line up at defensive tackle or on the nose. His sheer size and power makes him enticing, though Hankins must learn the details of his position.
5. Keenan Allen, WR, Cal* -- Allen keeps the momentum going for the PAC 12, as he's another prospect from the conference with early-first-round potential. Allen offers better size compared to his USC rival Woods. He's a receiver whose game has shown consistent improvement the past two seasons, and he projects as a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
6. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame -- Te'o bypassed NFL riches for one last season on the college field. He's a dominant run defender who forces the action in the box and plays with great instincts.
7. Sam Montgomery, DE/OLB, LSU* -- Montgomery is an explosive college defensive end also getting consideration at outside linebacker in the scouting community. He's fast up the field out of a three-point stance and immediately changes direction, pursuing the action with speed. Montgomery is a prospect who could be an early pick if he enters the draft.
8. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina -- Scouts grade Cooper much higher than any of the guards selected in the first round of the 2012 draft. He's large, athletic and controls defenders at the line of scrimmage or easily annihilates opponents blocking in motion.
9. Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah -- Lotulelei received a first-round grade from scouts for the 2012 draft, but the athletic tackle decided to return to Utah for his senior season. He's a large man who easily moves around the field to disrupt the action. Lotulelei is being compared to Haloti Ngata in style and substance.
10. Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia -- Jones is a prolific pass rusher who combines outstanding speed and athleticism. He's quick up the field and a defender who constantly disrupts the action behind the line of scrimmage.
11. Barkevious Mingo, DE/OLB, LSU -- Mingo is yet another talented prospect the NFL will pluck from the LSU defense. He's a terrific athlete who shows a lot of pass rushing skill out of a three-point stance, as well as the athleticism necessary to stand up over tackle at linebacker.
12. Kawann Short, DT, Purdue -- The athletic lineman was rumored to be entering the 2012 draft, but chose to stay at Purdue for his senior campaign. He's fluid on his feet, tough to stop and will get consideration at a number of positions on the defensive line.
13. Tyler Wilson, QB, Arkansas -- Wilson's game really took off last season after he stepped into the starting lineup for the departed Ryan Mallett. He has the arm strength and intangibles needed to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. How Wilson adjusts to the Razorbacks' new coaching staff will be something to watch.
14. D.J. Fluker, OL, Alabama* -- His game is reminiscent of Andre Smith's when the former Tide tackle was at his best, as Fluker is big and strong but also nimble. He could end up an early pick in 2013 if he continues to improve his game.
15. Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina* -- Lattimore burst on the scene as a true freshman and was one of the nation's best ballcarriers before being sidelined with a knee injury seven games into the 2011 season. He has the physical skills to be a feature running back at the next level if he returns to prior form.
16. Ricky Wagner, T, Wisconsin -- Wagner will be the next top offensive lineman produced by the Wisconsin program. He offers a great combination of size and strength and could end up as one of the highest-rated left tackles in next April's draft.
17. Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina -- Williams made an immediate impression on the Tar Heels defense after transferring from junior college. He's an intense, wide-bodied defender who controls the line of scrimmage and commands double-team blocks. Williams' upside is enormous.
18. Eric Reid, S, LSU* -- Reid was an intimidating force in the middle of the LSU defense last season. He's a forceful run defender who also shows skill in pass coverage. Reid's size and athleticism were made for the NFL.
19. Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame* -- Eifert is a developing tight end with a complete game. He's a terrific pass catcher who plays fast and gets the job done as a blocker on the line of scrimmage.
20. David Amerson, CB, North Carolina State* -- The opportunistic Amerson picked off a whopping 13 passes last season. He shows a nose for the ball and offers enticing size. Amerson can move further up boards if he continues his terrific play and proves last season was no fluke.
21. Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford -- Scouts graded Skov as a first-round pick, as they love the intense linebacker's game, but an early-season knee injury in September forced him to the sidelines. Skov is a forceful run defender who constantly makes plays behind the line of scrimmage.
22. Kevin Reddick, LB, North Carolina -- Word was Reddick gave serious consideration to entering this years' draft, where he would've been a top-45 choice. He's an athletic defender who can defend the run or cover running backs and tight ends.
23. Robert Lester, S, Alabama -- Many graded Lester's ball skills better than those of Mark Barron's entering the 2011 season. He's not as forceful against the run compared to his former teammate, but Lester's ability in coverage will push him into the first round next April.
24. Alex Okafor, DE, Texas -- Okafor was a constant nuisance for opponents, as the athletic defensive end made plays in every area of the field. He lacks classic defensive end size to this point, but has all the other skills necessary to be a first-round pick.
25. Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M* -- Matthews is a skilled right tackle with a nice combination of size as well as growth potential. He's a solid run blocker who also holds his own in pass protection.
26. Devin Taylor, DE/OLB, South Carolina -- Taylor was dominant in 2010 and projected as an early first-round pick. His play last season was disappointing, though, as he disappeared for stretches and was virtually non-existent in many games. At the top of his game he's a difference-maker in the defensive front seven.
27. Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois -- Buchanan took a back seat to Whitney Mercilus, but there's an opinion in the scouting community he's more well-rounded compared to his former teammate. Buchanan is athletic, plays strong and possesses an NFL frame.
28. Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma -- Jones was erratic last season, and I struggled to place him at the end of this list. He possesses the physical skills to play at the next level, and his draft grade will likely be inflated due to the position he plays.
29. Chance Warmack, G, Alabama -- Warmack does not receive the notoriety compared to others on the Alabama offensive line, but scouts love his game. He's a wide-bodied blocker with a thick lower body and terrific power. Warmack drives defenders off the line run blocking or anchors at the point of attack in pass protection.
30. Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State -- Brown exploded on the scene for Kansas State last season after transferring from Miami-Florida. He's a three-down linebacker who makes plays all over the field. His size and style are comparable to former Hurricane linebacker Ray Lewis.
31. Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State -- Banks balked at entering the draft after receiving a mid-round grade from scouts, but on film he's a terrific cornerback prospect. He combines size and ball skills to shut down some of the nation's top receivers in the SEC.
32. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin -- Ball is another who was on the verge of entering the draft but decided to stay at the last minute. He has a nice combination of size, quickness and vision. Ball possesses could be a feature runner at the next level.