The 2013 NFL draft is far more convoluted than its immediate predecessor. With no obvious transcendent talent to fill the top in the form of an Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, you could easily argue five or six different players for the top spot without sounding too crazy. One thing we do know: the downgrade at quarterback is fairly serious, as evidenced by the presence of just one signal-caller in our first Big Board. Both lines is where NFL teams will find value in this upcoming draft.
Right now, the Big Board is based more on pure positional talent than team need, and where I think players will actually go. If this was a mock draft, you could see two or three quarterbacks in spots that are one or two rounds above where I think they actually are in the process, but that speaks to the complications of the position in this year's draft. There isn't a sure-fire winner this time around, and the 2012 class may be the ultimate outlier, but teams will always reach for arms.
So, here's the bottom half of the hypothetical first round; we have Nos. 1-16 here.
17. Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida: A fine prospect for the NFL's ever-increasing number of hybrid defenses, Floyd played all over the place on Florida's defensive line. Impressive upper-body strength, rarely gets washed out, nice stack-and-shed, redirects well.
18. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri: Classic three-tech tackle who explodes out of his stance. Uses angles very well to get through double-teams. Off-field and one-year-wonder concerns may dog him through the process, but based on pure 2012 season talent, he's upper-echelon.
19. Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State: Lanky, long-limbed pass defender who can play press and also close well in off-coverage. Takes outstanding inside position when asked to trail, and has impressive full-field awareness, for the most part. Big player who tends to get chippy in close coverage; think of Seattle's outside corners for the best comparison.
20. Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU: Raw like sushi, and that shows up all over the place. The former track star from Ghana spent a frustrating Senior Bowl practice week getting mauled by tackles who understood leverage better than he did, but he excelled in the actual game.
21. Jessie Williams, DT, Alabama: Might be overrated a tad on some boards because of the "OMG SABAN!" factor, but there's no doubt that Williams flashes great strength and a lot of potential. Born in Australia, Williams grew up playing rugby, and brought that tough, no-b.s. style to football at age 15. A true nose guard who could clog up blockers in any kind of front.
22. Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina: Any zone- or space-blocking team in need of a guard with speed and agility will have Cooper at or near the top of their list. Sometimes playing in a two-point stance (unusual for guards), he will block very well at the first and second levels in a "phone booth," and he's the best pulling guard in this draft class. Add the fact that he was credited with knockdown blocks in nine of 12 games in the 2012 season, and you have a total offensive lineman more than ready for the pros.
23. John Jenkins, DT, Georgia: Won't always put up the sexy numbers, but takes on and moves double-teams on nearly every play. Sets up any hybrid defense to succeed from a 0-tech to 1-tech role, but has the quicks to sub out to 5-tech run-stopping end as Red Bryant has. Amazing speed for his 350-pound frame. Could be even better at 335.
24: Zach Ertz, TE, Stanford: Ideal new-school tight end, though his willingness to block in Stanford's power running game makes him more than a one-trick pony. Outstanding hands, great boundary receiver, a beast in the red zone, and he's quicker than you think. Any NFL team looking to add a true franchise tight end to its roster? The line starts here.
25. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama: Like Andre Smith and James Carpenter before him, Fluker possesses the raw strength to star at right tackle for what has become college football's best offensive line. He's surprisingly agile when kicking out and dealing with speed ends, and he's nearly impossible to bull-rush. But like most right-tackle/guard prospects, Fluker will lose a few defenders on inside moves.
26. Dion Jordan, DE/OLB, Oregon: Built like a power forward; has tremendous positional potential at the NFL level. Can play some pass-rush end, but Jordan is probably best-suited to be an outside linebacker. Athletic and versatile enough that Oregon occasionally used him to cover slot receivers. Great athlete who could surprise on draft day because of his physical attributes.
27. Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State: Extremely strong interior defender who can gum things up from the center to the inside shoulder of either offensive tackle. At his best, will be a great addition to any four-man front, though conditioning issues have been raised in the past.
28. Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia: Few defenders in this draft class meet the NFL's new paradigm of the smaller, quicker linebacker who is more of a half-field defender than a traditional inside or outside linebacker. Like Luke Kuechly, Bobby Wagner and Lavonte David, Ogletree hangs in space adeptly, covers interior receivers well, and covers a lot of ground to tackle.
29. Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington: Stock rose seriously at the Senior Bowl; needs an equally strong scouting combine to confirm a first-round grade. A technical perfectionist lacking only top-end speed; does well in both press and off coverage.
30. Kevin Minter, LB, LSU: At 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, Minter is more the classic downhill inside linebacker than the newer types of half-field defenders, though he can cover the middle and seams and closes well on receivers. And with all the pre-hoax hype on Manti Te'o, this is the inside 'backer you want if the goal is to add a second-level defender who can actually shed blocks from a big offensive line.
31. Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia: Five years ago, Austin might have been a second-round afterthought. But in the modern NFL, where speed slot receivers can rule the day and mess up a lot of defensive game plans, you can bet that Geno Smith's primary target will get a lot of first-round looks. Besides his cartoonish speed, Austin also possesses ridiculous agility and change-of-direction skills. Austin's NFL team may want to quit the strategy of lining him up as a Pistol halfback, though -- at 5-foot-9 and 175 soaking wet, he may end up as a grease spot on the field from there when better defenses are done with him.
32. Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: The rating is based on playing concerns alone since we don't yet know the whole story with the Internet hoax, and that's for NFL teams to decide. While Te'o is a rangy defensive player, one would like to see a 255-pound man avoid getting pushed around, as he did in the BCS title game against Alabama. Could be a special player in specific defenses (Cover- and Tampa 2 come to mind) with a strong locker room.