With college football's regular season in the books, NFL teams are intensifying their scrutiny of prospects for the 2013 draft. If there's an emerging story line, it's that the upcoming class won't be as top-heavy as a year ago, when quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were the top two choices. Says one general manager, "You definitely don't want the first pick, because there's not a 'must have' guy."
SI interviewed a half-dozen scouts and G.M.'s to identify the top eight prospects, without regard for any particular team's needs. The list is notable for seven juniors who are likely to declare and the absence of any offensive skill-position players.
1 Luke Joeckel, OT, 6'6", 310-pound junior, Texas A&M
"He plays left tackle, which is a premium. He's got size and athleticism, and he's very smart. He's going to continue to grow into his body."
2 Taylor Lewan, OT, 6'8", 309-pound junior, Michigan
"He has a big frame, a good motor and a nasty streak. He's also started 34 or 35 games, so he has a lot of experience. He's not an 'elite' left tackle, but look for him to rise up boards."
3 Barkevious Mingo, OLB, 6'5", 240-pound junior, LSU
"The two things he has are a knack for pass rushing and speed. That's a combination that gets you drafted high."
4 Bjoern Werner, DE, 6'4", 255-pound junior, Florida State
"He's one of the best pass rushers in the draft. I wouldn't call him dominant, but there's such a premium on guys who can get to the quarterback that he'll go a little higher than he should."
5 Star Lotulelei, NT, 6'4", 320-pound senior, Utah
"He's good, but his value is going to escalate even further because there aren't many quality defensive tackles."
6 DeMarcus Milliner, CB, 6'1", 199-pound junior, Alabama
"He's a big corner with good speed and ball skills who hits. He's got a lot of upside. He's well-coached with good fundamentals, and he's going to test well at the combine."
7 Alec Ogletree, ILB, 6'3", 232-pound junior, Georgia
"He's got a little bit of a questionable background, but he's definitely a talent. He's a converted safety who can play all three downs and could probably play any linebacker position. He plays with a nasty streak, too."
8 Jarvis Jones, OLB, 6'3", 241-pound junior, Georgia
"He's a good pass rusher, but he doesn't have elite speed—that Von Miller--type burst around the corner. He's able to win with power and just enough getting-around-the-edge quickness."
The Top 2013 NFL Draft Prospects
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On December 8, Luke Joeckel's teammate Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman in its 78-year history.
GREG NELSON (MANZIEL)
MARK ALMOND/BIRMINGHAM NEWS/LANDOV (MILLINER)
MANNY FLORES/CAL SPORT MEDIA (JOECKEL)
AL TIELEMANS (JONES)