With the NFL combine now in the rear-view mirror, all that stands between us and the 2013 draft is a long set of player Pro Days ... and the start of free agency ... and any trades that might occur ... and ...
OK, so we're not there yet. But by now, most teams have a pretty distinct idea as to which players they might want to target come April. That's not to say that anything is set in stone or that those lists are short, but the combine constitutes a huge step toward formulating draft plans.
So, now is as good a time as any to unveil Big Board 3.0, which you can view here. And with that release, it's time to tackle a couple key topics:
1. The Luke Joeckel vs. Eric Fisher (vs. Lane Johnson) debate. There's a notion out there that the 2013 draft class is a weak one, bereft of impact players. While that may be true at quarterback, the remainder of the draft is, as a whole, extremely deep and chock-full of guys that can step in and play as rookie.
That's definitely the case at offensive tackle, where there appear to be three potentially elite prospects, plus at least four or five others that could come off the board in the first 40 picks. Joeckel and Fisher lead that charge, with Johnson rapidly -- and I mean, like, 4.72 in the 40 type of rapidly -- closing.
The choice at No. 1, though, if the Chiefs opt to go that direction, likely will come down to Joeckel and Fisher. The latter has solidified his stock on the strength of impressive performances at the Senior Bowl and combine. He is, without question, deserving of a spot near the top of this draft.
Yet, I'm holding firm to Joeckel as my No. 1 available prospect. You can nitpick either guy's game -- Fisher had trouble with power rushers on occasion (including at the Senior Bowl); Joeckel doesn't always bury defenders, and he blocked for mobile quarterbacks at Texas A&M.
But when you get right down to it, Joeckel shows special potential. While he may not be as fast as Fisher (Joeckel ran a 5.3 40 to Fisher's 5.05), he still shows plenty of quickness at the line, allowing him to both get upfield if he needs to or recover against pass rushers. He is capable of dealing with just about anything defenders throw at him, and there may not be a better cut-blocker in the draft.
I love Fisher's game ... just not as much as Joeckel's.
2. These are not the quarterbacks you seek. The thought of Geno Smith going No. 1 overall to Kansas City was a scary one -- and Oakland grabbing Smith at No. 3 would not be much less of a gamble.
Perhaps the best moment for Smith at the combine came in the 40-yard-dash, when he posted a 4.59, best of the QBs and four-hundreths better than E.J. Manuel. Smith should never be confused with Robert Griffin III, but he's mobile enough to be dangerous in the pocket.
Aside from that, however, the combine was fairly ho-hum for Smith, as well as for his QB counterparts.
The door was open, especially with Matt Barkley sitting out drills, for someone to really make a leap at that position. The only players that really came close were Tennessee's Tyler Bray and Arizona's Matt Scott, who probably are destined for a mid-round and late-round selection, respectively.
3. Tank Carradine's potential. Thanks to Adrian Peterson, it's easy to assume that a torn ACL is no longer a big deal in the long run. That's not necessarily true, and it's certainly not fair to players suffering from that injury. Not everyone -- maybe not anyone -- can come back as Peterson did.
Which brings us to Carradine, who is a little more than three months removed from an ACL injury. Without that setback, he might be a top-10 pick in this year's draft; if he shows at his April Pro Day that he's on track to being 100 percent, he might wind up in the top 20 anyway. There are games from last season where Carradine outplayed Bjoern Werner ... and Werner is generally believed to be an early Round 1 selection. Carradine, if he puts his injury behind him, might wind up being a more productive pro than Werner, and for a better value.