The 2012 NFL Draft is behind us now and the next wave of stars are ready to make an impact for their teams and position themselves to be first round selections in 2013. Next year will be identical to 2012 with several QB's being the focal point of the draft. Also, defensive players with the ability to cover and/or rush the passer will be in high demand. Here are some upper classmen that will be leaders on the field for their respective teams and on top of many NFL draft boards in 2013.
1. Matt Barkley - Southern Cal - QB - Barkley is probably the leader of the pack for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. He would have been a top ten pick in the 2012 NFL Draft if he decided to skip his senior season at USC. By staying in school he will get his degree and also have a chance to help his top ranked team win a National Championship plus perhaps become the number one selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. Barkley is an exceptional talent playing QB. In 2013 he completed over 69 percent of his passes, threw for over 3,500 yards, and pitched out 39 touchdown passes. If he comes close to those numbers or better and his team finishes with a BCS game win or BCS title he should accomplish all of the goals mention above.
2. Tyler Wilson - Arkansas - QB - At 6'3 and 220 pounds, Wilson is a good athlete playing the QB position. He thrived in ex-Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino's offense completing 63 percent of his throws. He helped guide them to 11 wins and a Top 5 National Ranking. Wilson did an outstanding job of replacing 2011 starter Ryan Mallett. He will lose some of his top wide outs, but WR Cobi Hamilton will assume a bigger role and is ready to be the next big star of the offense. Wilson has a strong arm with pretty good accuracy and has a chance playing in the SEC to make a push at Matt Barkley for the Heisman Trophy.
3. Brandon Jenkins - DE/OLB - Florida State - This young man has tremendous speed and burst coming off the edge. He made himself notice during his sophomore season racking up 13.5 sacks and 21.5 tackles for a loss. He is 6'3 and 265 pounds with a quick first step and freakish athleticism. Jenkins production fell off his junior season, but if he can reproduce the sensational 2010 season he had, NFL teams that run a base 34 defense should have him at the top of their radar.
4. Akex Okafor - DE - Texas - Many hybrid defensive ends were taking in the 2012 NFL Draft first round. The NFL has become a pass first league and teams are countering that with athletic and quick pass rushers who can rush with their hands in the ground or standing up to get fast pressure on opposing QB's. Okafor like Jenkins above has that ability to do just that. He is 6'4, 260 pounds and is a pass rushing force. He needs to get stronger at the point of attack against the run, but with a strong 2013 season he can position himself as maybe the best pass rusher in the class and the first to come off the board.
5. Barrett Jones - Alabama - OT/OG - Jones stands at 6'5, 310 pounds with the size, playing strength, and agility to be an outstanding pro at the next level. He is excellent at pass protecting and also at run blocking. He was the winner of the 2012 Outland Trophy as the best offensive lineman in college football all starting at left tackle. Jones has added value by showing his versatility of also playing guard in his career. He has the tools to be an outstanding franchise left tackle and be the first offensive lineman drafted in 2013.
6. Manti Te'o - Notre Dame - LB - Notre Dame has been quite as far as developing first round talent for several years. In the 2012 draft that all changed with WR Michael Floyd and FS Harrison Smith getting selected in round one. Manti Te'o should keep the streak alive next year. On NFL defenses, when your middle linebacker is fast your defense is fast. Te'o is athletic, physically intimidating, and always around the ball. He needs to work on his pass coverage, but has the tools to be effective in a 43 or 34 defense. He can have the type of impact on a defense like 49ers MLB Patrick Willis and Bears MLB Brian Urlacher. Top 20 pick even with the underclassmen that enter the draft.
7. Landry Jones - Oklahoma - QB - Jones will be the Ryan Tannehill of next year's draft, meaning he will be the 3rd QB talked about after Barkley and Wilson. Jones has the size at 6'4, 230 pounds and arm strength to be a good pocket passer. The 2010 season Jones put himself on the Heisman watch list for 2011 with sensational season, but he and his teammates suffered some big losses and resulted in him falling off the list. He still finished with over 4,400 yards passing and 29 touchdown passes. Jones will more than likely end up with an NFL team that is desperate for a change at QB.
8. Johnathan Banks - Mississippi State - CB - Banks is 6'2, 185 pounds has the speed, size, and ball skills to be a first round cornerback. He has a fluid back pedal and can turn and run with the fastest of wide outs. Great in man coverage but needs work playing zone or off man coverage. Needs to get stronger so he can be better equipped in run support and dealing with the big physical receivers at the next level. He will see plenty of that in the SEC and if he can master that he will definitely here his name called early on day one in the 2013 NFL Draft.
9. T.J. McDonald - Southern Cal - FS - The 6'3, 205 pound junior can cover and come up and play the run well. McDonald has the playing speed and smarts, he seems to always be in position to make the tackle or break up the pass. He has scheme versatility where he can play in the slot with his coverage skills, come up in the box as a blitzer or help with run support, and also play the deep zone watching the QB's eyes then break on the pass to make a play. He will be a hot commodity because of his ability to cover tight ends on underneath routes. A lot of teams are using a fast paced offense with multiple tight end sets and having an athlete like McDonald with his size and toughness will be the new drafting trend soon.
10. Cobi Hamilton - Arkansas - WR - Hamilton has the size standing at 6'3, 210 pounds and the speed to create mismatches wherever he lines up. He will be QB Tyler Wilson's (number 2 on this list) favorite receiver with the departure of several wide outs in the 2012 NFL Draft. He will get plenty of opportunities to produce big numbers and will get challenged every week playing in the SEC. Hamilton has the chance to put himself in the Top 20 of NFL prospects and with a pretty good QB returning in Arkansas to throw him the ball, he will have plenty of opportunities to shine.