The NFL draft kicks off in a little over an hour and Florida State figures to factor heavily into the round one festivities. As many as five Seminoles could hear their names called tonight, the most first rounders FSU has ever had in a given year was four (1997, 2006). If all five are taken in the first 32 picks the 2013 Florida State draft class would become the most prolific in terms of NFL first round talent in school history.
Quite a distinction when you consider- as Jimbo Fisher recently put it- "[FSU has] as much tradition in the last 25 years in college football as anybody."
Tonight Bjoern Werner, Xavier Rhodes, EJ Manuel, Menelik Watson and Tank Carradine all have a shot to be taken in the first round. If ever there was a perfect example of the way that nearly four full months of draft over-scrutinization can affect a player's stock, the 2013 Seminoles draft class is it.
At the end of 2012 Bjoern Werner was a consensus top-5 pick. Tonight some draft pundits have him falling out of the back of the first round. Meanwhile Tank Carradine- who blew out his ACL in FSU's regular season finale against Florida and then seemed destined to lose millions- could potentially sneak ahead of Werner and go in the mid-to-late first.
That's more a testament to Carradine than a mark against Werner. Despite injuring himself just five months ago, Carradine has been a workout warrior and will likely be full-go at the start of NFL training camp. He has a high motor, he's extremely hungry and he matched Werner sack-for-sack at FSU while also leading the team in tackles before his injury.
If he goes tonight, it will be one of the most impressive recoveries I have ever seen.
EJ Manuel has watched his draft stock quietly sneak up as the draft has approached. Teams haven't watched a live snap in months and have begun to fall in love with measurables and workout figures. That helps Manuel immensely. The 6-5 230-pound dual-threat (when he wants to be) QB is an NFL prototype who is coming along right as the QB position could potentially be seeing a paradigm shift.
But it is interesting that the further away from watching live football and the deeper into the draft cycle that teams get, they also seem to be getting caught more and more in the minutia that surrounds the players as well.
Bjoern Werner produced on the field for three years. He got better each year. Against arguably FSU's best opponent in 2012 (Florida) he turned in a 3-sack performance. Everything on the tape shows a player that's productive on the field. But as Werner has been picked apart more and more, his stock has dropped.
It's almost as if you start with too many positives on a player, the tendency is to look for- and over anaylyze- every negative you can find.
With Manuel on the other hand, you can pop the tape in and see plenty of good things, but also inconsistencies and holes in his game that would not lend themselves to being considered a first round prospect. But as time has gone on, other players have been picked apart and teams start to overthink, a lot of the positives that have emerged from Manuel's interviews and workouts may be getting weighted more heavily.
Some mock drafts have Manuel going as high as four- to Philadelphia. While that's unlikely, it's definitely within the realm of possibility he goes in round one.
Werner likely will too, though not as high as he would have gone if that draft was held January 15th and they only had college film to go by.
The other two Seminoles vying to be selected tonight are Menelik Watson and Xavier Rhodes. Both of whom have taken a spin on the draft's wheel of fortune in the past few months themselves.
Watson went from off the radar when he started the season at Florida State as a JuCo with almost no competitive football experience to potential late first round pick. He combines impressive athleticism with an unrelenting work ethic. While he's still very raw in terms of football experience, he's got a blue-collar mentality that NFL offensive line coaches should love and he has a very high ceiling.
Some NFL team could very well see fit to take a shot on him later tonight.
Xavier Rhodes has the size and athleticism that is a hot commodity after big-bodied corners like Richard Sherman have started having success in the NFL. Of all the Florida State players hoping to hear their names called tonight, Rhodes is probably the safest bet. He could even end up back in his hometown of Miami playing for the Dolphins if they go that direction at 12.
It could just be a couple players, or it could be a record five, but Florida State figures to be well represented on night one of the NFL draft.
Keep checking back here all night for updates and analysis of how Florida State fares in this weekend's draft.
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