Without a clear-cut best quarterback at the top of the 2013 NFL Draft, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper says that the first round will instead be dominated by the other side of the ball where plenty of defensive line prospects are worth looks.
"Half the first round is going to be front defensive players," Kiper said in a conference call with members of the media on Wednesday.
"When you compare last year's group with this year's on the defensive line, there were a lot of combo guys last year that could play up or down," Kiper said. "This year there might be 14 guys in the first round and these are legitimate first round guys."
So many defensive lineman with first round talent, in fact, that the first 32 picks might not be enough room to fit all of them. Kiper singled out Florida defensive tackle Shariff Floyd as a player that would be a mid-first round player in most drafts, but due to the depth of the position in the 2013 NFL Draft class, he's likely a late-first rounder, projected No. 30 in his mock draft to the San Francisco 49ers.
At the top of the draft class, Kiper raved about Texas A&M defensive end Damontre Moore likening him to Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and also compared Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones to Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.
"At linebacker you can use Jarvis Jones like Von Miller has been used in Denver," Kiper said. "The 3-4 outside linebacker is a misnomer. He can be used in different ways and we've seen how Von Miller can be used. Obviously we have to see that neck check out, he's had some problems there, but I think Jarvis Jones can be a Von Miller-type of a guy in the league."
With so many elite talents in the eyes of Kiper, some players just didn't live up to the elite billing and one of those players was Barkevious Mingo of LSU. "Mingo didn't produce the results I thought he would," Kiper said. "He was pushed and handled too much to be one of those top guys to me. He still graded well, he's still No. 11, he's gonna test great."
Another player that is likely to go in the top 10 is Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner, although Kiper wasn't sure where to place him in his mock draft due to the defensive scheme changes that will come with coaching changes.
"You have to wait and see how all these coaching schemes settle to see how they'll evaluate their personnel. Werner is a 4-3 defensive end. That's what he is. Let's see how it all shakes out, but Werner is a good pass rusher, that is strong with a good motor. Chris Long type of make about him."
The first round of the 2013 NFL Draft is scheduled to begin on Thursday, April 25 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, NY.