Matt Barkley, QB, USC, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
PROS: High football IQ, mechanically sound, very productive in college.
CONS: Bad decision making under duress, lack of ideal arm strength.
DRAFT BRIEFING: He was overrated this time last year when he decided to return to school, but as of a month ago had overcorrected to underrated. Come draft day, he will go about where he should go. Whether that’s someone being aggressive and trading into late Round 1 or waiting until early Day 2 is a wait-and-see. He was exposed this year as a flawed quarterback, but there is still starter potential with which to work. He needs a system that won’t force him to make all of the throws and minimizes the amount of pressure he’ll face, but he can be an asset in that type of system.
2013 OUTLOOK: I do not expect him to be drafted to start Day 1, so he is an afterthought in Year 1.
DYNASTY OUTLOOK: His low ceiling leaves me lukewarm on his dynasty potential, even if he thrives in the right situation. I cannot imagine him ever being better than a strong backup, which has value but not in the first three rounds of rookie drafts.
Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame, 6-foot-6, 250 pounds
PROS: Red zone asset, uses his body well for positioning, strong high pointer, quick enough to gain separation against linebackers, physical enough to out muscle defensive backs; he is everything a coach wants in a tight end.
CONS: He is not ‘special’ enough to make a focal point of the offense.
DRAFT BRIEFING: He is a Top 50 pick, but how early? He’s not going to be a game-in and game-out difference maker coaches must scheme against. However, he will be a significant part of the offense. Is that first-round worthy? On the right team, probably. A team like the New York Giants that are already well-rounded but having a glaring hole at tight end (if they don’t re-sign Martellus Bennett) would be a perfect fit whereas a team like the New England Patriots are going to pass unless they have visions of a four tight end offense in their eyes.
2013 OUTLOOK: Tight ends usually take a year or two to acclimate, but in the right spot he is someone to look for as a flier. Realistically, a September waiver probably makes more sense, but it’s something to consider right now. He won’t be a yardage churner, but he could be a big red zone guy if he falls into the right spot. Great injury/bye week filler and strong matchup play potential.
DYNASTY OUTLOOK: His ceiling is not like that of Rob Gronkowski or Jimmy Graham, and, given the depth of tight end, his value is going to be more limited than his actual skills indicate. He would be a very good piece for the Antonio Gates or Jason Witten owner to target late Round 1 or early Round 2 rookie draft day. Gates and Witten can serve as the bridge into Eifert’s prime years. Those prime years won’t be special, but they should be solid TE1 numbers.
Marcus Lattimore, RB, South Carolina, 6-foot, 220 pounds
PROS: Strong work ethic, character, well respected by coaches and teammates, and most importantly has the skills to be the best back in the draft.
CONS: That nasty knee injury he suffered in October, body type makes him more susceptible to lower body injuries at running back.
DRAFT BRIEFING: Some team will take him earlier than most feel comfortable and most will cry ‘reach.’ Those people are wrong.
2013 OUTLOOK: Until he is actually a full practice participant, forget about him. Athletes are recovering quicker and quicker from what used to be career threatening injuries, but given the severity of his injury I do not expect him to be anything more than a committee back in 2013.
DYNASTY OUTLOOK: Sky is the limit. All signs point to Eddie Lacy being the first running back selected, but an argument can be made for Lattimore being the second one picked up, regardless of whether he’s the second back taken in the draft or the 10th. He has Top 5 potential, the rest of these guys don’t. Obviously he comes with a lot of risk, but dynasty championships are not won with a roster full of average players. They are won with difference makers. Lattimore could be a difference maker, the other backs in this class can’t.