With Super Bowl XLVIII having put the finishing touches on the 2013 NFL season, it’s time to take a look back and see if this season's NFL rookies lived up to their hype. During the 2013 draft there was a record 73 underclassmen that were declared for early entry into the draft and only 52 were actually drafted.
The top 10 picks saw five linemen being chosen, three defensive ends, one wide receiver, and one corner back. Here’s a look at the top 10 picks of the 2013 draft and how they panned out during the first year of their careers.
10. Chance Warmack, Tennessee Titans, G 2013 Salary: $3 Million ($7 million signing bonus)
Warmack may be one of the least talked about rookies from the top 10, but he may also have the highest upside. He dressed for all 16 games this season and was one of the most improved rookies on the list. He won his coaches over with his work ethic and drive, both on and off the field, and it paid off for him by the end of the season. While the Titans finished a disappointing 7-9, they have the pieces of the puzzle in order to have a strong offensive line that will hopefully open up running lanes and pass block for the QB.
1 Dee Milliner, New York Jets, CB 2013 Salary: $3.29 Million ($7.2 million signing bonus)
The 9th overall pick out of Alabama signed a 4-year, $12.5 million contract and started out very slow for the Jets, only to turn it on in the final month of play. He was benched several times for blowing his coverage, but he stuck with it and worked hard. After shutting down Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace in the final two games of the season and recording two interceptions, Milliner won the AFC Defensive Player of the Week Award for the final week of the 2013 calendar year. Next year he will come back smarter, stronger, and faster, and be an anchor of the secondary.
8. Tavon Austin, St. Louis Rams, WR 2013 Salary: $3 Million ($7.6 million signing bonus)
Simply put, the Rams offense was terrible this season, yet Austin still found a way to make it to the All-Rookie team by the end of the season. He inked a 4-year, $12 million deal before the season and he was used in both the passing and running games, as well as on special teams. He led the team in receptions with 40 and scored four receiving touchdowns. He had nine rushes for 150 yards and another touchdown, in addition to his one punt return touchdown that went for 98 yards. He has the speed to be a game changer for the Rams but at just 5’8 and 175 lbs, he may be best utilized for underneath routes and screens.
7. Jonathan Cooper, Arizona Cardinals, G 2013 Salary: $3.5 Million ($11.1 million signing bonus)
There isn't that much to say about Cooper, as he broke his left fibula in a preseason game in August. The 310-pounder signed a 4-year deal worth $14 million with an $11 million signing bonus. Clearly, missing Cooper hurt the Cardinals as their running game suffered for most of the season and they failed to make the playoffs. He should be ready to go for OTAs this offseason and play his first professional snaps next season if all goes as planned.
6. Barkevious Mingo, Cleveland Browns, DE 2013 Salary: $4 Million ($10.2 million signing bonus)
Due to injuries on the Browns defense, Mingo was forced into a larger role than most expected. He signed a 4-year, $16 million deal and it paid off as he played in 15 games and was in on 42 tackles with 5 sacks. He made the “All-Rookie” team at the end of the season and his football IQ should help him to remain in the league for a long time. If the Browns can get the right personnel to coach him up and play with him on the field, the defense should be able to keep them in the games for the most part. Now, if they could just figure out the QB position…
5. Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah, Detroit Lions, DE 2013 Salary: $4.6 Million ($11.9 million signing bonus)
With just three years of football experience before entering the draft, the Lions took a chance on the 6’5, 270-lb DE out of BYU and drafted him 5th overall. After signing a 4-year, $18.5 million contract, Ziggy led the way for all defensive rookies with eight sacks on the year. He played in 14 games for the Lions and was in on nearly 30 tackles for a rush defense that ranked 27th in the league. In addition to working alongside Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions look to have a tenacious defensive line for the next several years, if they can remain healthy.
4. Lane Johnson, Philadelphia Eagles, OL 2013 Salary: $4.9 Million ($12.8 million signing bonus)
Johnson had one of the better seasons out of the group of linemen that were drafted in the top 10. The number four pick signed a 4-year, $19.8 million deal and it actually paid dividends for the Eagles. While he gave up seven sacks in the first eight games, he only gave up three in the second half of the season as the Eagles went 10-6 and LeSean McCoy won the league rushing title. This looks like one of the more valuable picks as Johnson seems to have the durability, athleticism, and mindset to be a franchise tackle for years to come.
3. Dion Jordan, Miami Dolphins, DE 2013 Salary: $5.2 Million ($13.3 million signing bonus)
After Miami traded up to get the 3rd overall pick, Jordan had a very disappointing season for the Dolphins after signing a 4-year, $20.5 million deal. Granted, he was playing back up to Cameron Wake who made the Pro Bowl, but he finished with just 19 tackles and 2 sacks on the year. While backing up Wake, he was used mainly in situational roles and the coaching staff was hesitant on putting him on the field for a larger role because of his youth. He fought the injury bug a little bit, but expect Jordan to come into 2014 healthy so that his raw athleticism can flourish for the team.
2. Luke Joeckel, Jacksonville Jaguars, OL 2013 Salary: $5.25 Million ($13.79 million signing bonus)
The number 2 overall pick had a rough rookie campaign after signing a 4-year, $21 million deal that was fully guaranteed and included $13.8 million in signing bonuses. In early October, Joeckel broke his right ankle and missed the rest of the season after playing in just five games. Joeckel was dominated in each of his games as the entire Jaguars team struggled with him and they went 0-5 and 4-12 for the year. Hopefully, Joeckel can bounce back from his injury and help create some openings for the running game next season as the Jags will surely need all the help they can get.
1. Eric Fisher, Kansas City Chiefs, OL 2013 Salary: $5.5 Million ($14.5 million signing bonus)
Fisher, the overall number one pick in the draft, was drafted by the Chiefs and had an immediate impact on the team in his first year. The 6’7, 305 lb mammoth of a man was one of the most athletic lineman in the league, but he struggled with staying healthy and reading defenses. In July, he signed a 4-year, $22 million deal with a $14.5 million signing bonus. This offseason, many scouts are looking for him to add on another 15-20 pounds to help him stand his ground and stay a little more healthy throughout the season. The Chiefs were very patient with him this year, but with the pending departure of their left tackle, Branden Albert, Fisher may be looked at to moving to Alex Smith’s blind spot.