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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Never too early for draft talk

By Dan Graziano

This week's "Hot Read" on our ESPN.com NFL page is about the 2013 draft -- and I mean, all about it. It's a conversation with Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay about a lot of the key issues, teams and players involved in next year's draft. And while the Philadelphia Eagles (currently in the No. 4 position in the draft if the season ended today) are the only NFC East team whose playoff dreams are really out the window, I know every team's fan base always has at least one eye on what's next. So here are a few of the items of potential NFC East interest in this piece, which is not Insider!

Jones
Jones
Mel picks the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets when asked which team cannot afford to have a bad draft. Of the Cowboys, he writes, "I loved the Cowboys' first pick in 2012 with Morris Claiborne, but this is a team that's had mixed results over the years, particularly lower on the board, and Jerry Jones' role as an evaluator is constantly a cause for debate. I don't think the Cowboys are in a bad situation overall in terms of personnel, but the spotlight seems like it'll be brighter than ever this season."

Four of the top five players Mel lists as potential No. 1 picks play defense, and none play quarterback. He names Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, of course, along with pass-rushers Jarvis Jones of Georgia and Damontre Moore of Texas A&M, as well as Utah defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel. If the Eagles really are picking in that top five and don't have a quarterback with whom they're in love, they could look at a top offensive lineman such as Joeckel or a linebacker like Te'o. Of course, much would depend on who's making the pick, since it does not appear as though it'll be Andy Reid anymore.

Todd says this draft will be light on skill-position players -- i.e., no clear elite quarterbacks, no real first-round running backs and not much top talent at wide receiver. This is likely fine for the NFC East teams, all of whom could use line help on either side of the ball. Todd also says defensive line is this draft's deepest position group, which is fun news for teams like the Eagles and the New York Giants, who like to draft defensive linemen.

Mel says only two of this draft's quarterbacks appear to make sense as potential Week 1 starters in 2013 (after five rookies started at quarterback in Week 1 this year). They are USC's Matt Barkley and West Virginia's Geno Smith, though he doesn't seem sold on either. Of course, as Todd points out, few had Ryan Tannehill as a 2012 NFL starter this time last year.

Mel lists the St. Louis Rams as one of the teams in the best position to make a splash, because of the extra first-round pick they have as a result of the Robert Griffin III deal with the Washington Redskins, who undoubtedly wish the Rams well with the picks, but have no regrets.