Hours after the 2012 NFL draft concluded, many major media websites, outlets and football bloggers were already listing their first-round mock projections for the 2013 draft – which I got a kick out of. The smoke had not even cleared from the 2012 draft; players had not even arrived in their new NFL cities. Yet, the 2013 first-round NFL mock drafts were up, complete with round-by-round projections.

These lists and mock drafts are based on what, exactly? Future online data sales, web hits, player statistics and All-American or all-conference honors? Career production? With all due respect to the various approaches taken by others, I think it is more important that you take your time and get it right. To achieve this, you must gather all the information needed, which starts with studying a player’s DNA (film). Go back at least two years, so that when the 2013 season ends and the film study begins, one will have three years of a player’s DNA with which to form evaluations.

After the traditional bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Sun, etc.) and end-of-January showcase exhibitions (East-West Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and many others) are in the books, I begin stacking the players, vertically, by position. Once finished with that, I compare them horizontally for final grade purposes. Unlike what is found on other websites, I find it hard to give a round projection based on past performances; with a full season in front of the prospects, marks can and should change, for better or for worse. I want my final grade to reflect the player’s complete DNA, and to be loaded on April 1, 2013.

As a former NFL personnel executive, I pride myself on watching film to evaluate a player’s DNA. With that said, I have completed the 2011 and 2012 film evaluations. I have a list, detailing who I believe are the top 50 players as of now, below. I don’t attach a round grade to the prospects, but rather a color grade that corresponds with a round range based on skill set, positional attributes, production, upside and leadership. Here are my top 50 prospects for the 2013 NFL draft and the explanation chart used to stack players in a color range. Their final DNA will separate into rounds much later in the process.

Top 50

First

Last

Year

School

Pos

Height

Weight

1

Matt

Barkley

SR

USC

QB

6’1

218

2

Tyler

Wilson

SR

Arkansas

QB

6’3

220

3

Barkevious

Mingo

JR

LSU

OLB

6’4

240

4

Robert

Woods

JR

USC

WR

6’1

184

5

David

Amerson

JR

N.C. State

CB

6’2

193

6

Sam

Montgomery

JR

LSU

DE

6’4

245

7

Star

Lotulelei

SR

Utah

DT

6’3

325

8

Jarvis

Jones

JR

Georgia

OLB

6’2

242

9

Dee

Milliner

JR

Alabama

CB

6’1

196

10

Eric

Reid

JR

LSU

FS

6’2

208

11

Logan

Thomas

JR

Virginia Tech

QB

6’5

254

12

Keenan

Allen

JR

California

WR

6’3

208

13

Jackson

Jeffcoat

JR

Texas

DE

6’4

250

14

Manti

Te’o

SR

Notre Dame

ILB

6’2

252

15

Johnathon

Hankins

JR

Ohio State

DT

6’3

332

16

Justin

Hunter

JR

Tennessee

WR

6’4

205

17

Marcus

Lattimore

JR

South Carolina

RB

6’0

232

18

Barrett

Jones

SR

Alabama

OG

6’4

312

19

Landry

Jones

SR

Oklahoma

QB

6’4

230

20

Chris

Faulk

JR

LSU

OT

6’6

323

21

Luke

Joeckel

JR

Texas A&M

OT

6’6

310

22

William

Gholston

JR

Michigan State

DE

6’6

278

23

Johnthan

Banks

SR

Mississippi State

CB

6’1

185

24

Alex

Okafor

SR

Texas

DE

6’4

260

25

T.J.

McDonald

SR

USC

FS

6’2

205

26

Ricky

Wagner

SR

Wisconsin

OT

6’6

320

27

Sean

Porter

SR

Texas A&M

OLB

6’2

230

28

D.J.

Fluker

JR

Alabama

OT

6’6

335

29

Xavier

Rhodes

JR

Florida State

CB

6’1

215

30

Jake

Matthews

JR

Texas A&M

OT

6’5

305

31

Michael

Buchanan

SR

Illinois

DE

6’5

240

32

Tyler

Eifert

JR

Notre Dame

TE

6’5

249

33

Tyler

Bray

JR

Tennessee

QB

6’5

209

34

Jonathan

Cooper

SR

North Carolina

OG

6’3

311

35

Bennie

Logan

JR

LSU

DT

6’3

294

36

Shayne

Skov

SR

Stanford

ILB

6’3

244

37

John

Simon

SR

Ohio State

DE

6’2

270

38

Kawann

Short

SR

Purdue

DT

6’3

310

39

Margus

Hunt

SR

SMU

DE

6’7

288

40

Tyrann

Mathieu

JR

LSU

CB

5’9

179

41

Wes

Horton

SR

Southern Cal

DE

6’5

265

42

Jesse

Williams

SR

Alabama

DT

6’3

320

43

Terrance

Williams

SR

Baylor

WR

6’1

193

44

Brandon

Jenkins

SR

Florida State

OLB

6’3

264

45

Aaron

Murray

JR

Georgia

QB

6’1

215

46

Marquess

Wilson

JR

Washington State

WR

6’2

190

47

Johnathan

Jenkins

SR

Georgia

DT

6’3

351

48

Zach

Mettenberger

JR

LSU

QB

6’5

225

49

Khaled

Holmes

SR

USC

OC

6’3

310

50

Travis

Frederick

JR

Wisconsin

OG

6’4

327

*bold denotes underclassman

BLUE – Blue players are playmakers and difference-makers in every game. Playoff teams need at least 10 or more on the roster.

RED – Starters/heavy contributors with whom you can win right away; they have Blue traits with ascending skill sets.

ORANGE – Backup/special teams players with limited production. They struggle to match up with high Red players and have limited skill sets.

GREEN – A high percentage of free-agent “greenies” get hurt and lack the skill sets to ascend to Orange.

Coming soon: the top 300 players, stacked alphabetically by position, with both seniors and projected underclassmen that are likely to declare for the 2013 NFL draft.