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The 2013 NFL Draft is under a month away, and the media frenzy is only going to get more insane as draft day nears. Mock drafts will be written, then discarded and rewritten across the internet. One of the more hotly debated points will surround the “safest” prospect in this year’s draft.
What exactly is a “safe” prospect? It is a prospect that the drafting franchise expects to come in from day one and play above the curve for his position, particularly during his rookie season. The best example from the 2012 draft is Andrew Luck.
Luck was one of the highest-rated quarterbacks of the past twenty-five years. The Colts took him because he had no yellow, let alone red, flags in his draft profile. Luck hadn’t had any sort of off-field trouble, and showed tremendous intangibles and athleticism throughout his time at Stanford and the pre-draft process. The Colts expected him to come in and elevate the franchise immediately. Andrew Luck did that by taking a 2-14 Indianapolis team from the previous season into the playoffs in 2012.
Looking at this year’s crop of prospect, no quarterback is in the same zip code as Andrew Luck in terms of “safety.” The trenches have the two best prospects in Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Alabama’s Chance Warmack. Arguments can be made for Oregon’s Dion Jordan or Florida’s Sharrif Floyd, but neither showed that consistent dominance in college. The upside and athleticism oozing from them push both into the top half of the first round.
Joeckel has consistently performed at an All-American level during his tenure at A&M and capped off his final season in College Station with an Outland Trophy. He will almost certainly be taken before Warmack on draft day. The earlier selection has much more to do with his left tackle position. Left tackles are far and away the most valued players on the offensive line in the NFL.
Chance Warmack, like Joeckel, performed at an All-American level for the Crimson Tide throughout his time at Alabama. He has had no major injuries of note, and he is one of the highest rated guards in the past few years. Consider that Stanford’s David DeCastro was hailed an ideal guard from a temperament, build, and intelligence standpoint last year… and Warmack is rated higher. The fact that he’s been through Nick Saban’s Process, particularly in terms of dealing with the media, only helps his extremely high grades.
So who is safest, Warmack or Joeckel? The answer comes down to team needs. The Chiefs, drafting No. 1 overall, need a tackle so they most likely feel Joeckel is the safer option. The Arizona Cardinals line was a historic disaster last year, so Cardinals management would be safe with either player. The Cardinals draft seventh so Joeckel will almost certainly be off the board.
Beginning with Arizona, Chance Warmack’s draft window is wide open. It is hard to envision a scenario where he makes it past the Cowboys at No. 18.