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April 25, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: FSU players to watch

A high water mark of success for Florida State players in the NFL draft will be threatened over the next three days.

Florida State last had 10 players taken in the same NFL draft in 1995, a mark that could go down as a host of former Seminoles - including five expected to go in the first two rounds - have a chance to hear their name called starting Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Warchant takes a look at the FSU players primed for a chance at the next level:

NFL Draft - FSU players to watch

QB EJ Manuel

6-5, 237
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 5 QB, No. 73 overall (3rd round); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 3 QB, No. 29 overall (Round 1-2).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 2nd round, No. 35 overall (Philadelphia Eagles).

Skinny: Manuel's projection is the most volatile of FSU's five elite NFL prospects. He's been lauded for his athleticism, high ceiling and ideal fit into the league's newest trend, the read option. He's also been criticized for struggling with reads beyond the primary receiver, not throwing receivers open and fleeing the pocket at the first sign of trouble. He's bounced up and down the top five of everyone's QB board depending on where you're looking. Entering the draft, Manuel is being projected as a first rounder all the way down to a third rounder. While the 2013 QB class has no elite prospect, look for the usual hysterics to push some QB's into the first 40 picks because of the premium placed on signal callers at the NFL level.

DE Bjoern Werner

6-3, 266
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 3 DE, No. 23 overall (Round 1); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 2 DE, No. 19 overall (Round 1)
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 1st round, No. 28 overall (Denver Broncos).

Skinny: Werner was extremely productive as a starter the past two seasons, capping his FSU career with 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss despite becoming the focal point of most offensive fronts in 2012. Werner was projected as high as the top five following the season but his stock has slipped and settled in at the mid-to late first round according to most draft experts. His strengths are his quickness off the ball and ability to shed blocks. Some have criticized his motor in the second half of games. Either way, an NFL team will get a proven commodity with plenty of room to grow.

DE Tank Carradine

6-4, 276
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 5 DE, No. 40 overall (Round 2); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 4 DE, No. 32 overall (Round 1-2)
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 2nd round, No. 40 overall (Tennessee Titans).

Carradine is the fastest riser of all thanks to an impressive display of recovery from his torn ACL in November. He held a pro day in Cincinnati last week, running a 4.75 in the 40 yard dash a mere five months since the injury. It was an overwhelming message to NFL teams that he's in the first-round conversation. Carradine has seen the bounce, being inserted in the first round of several notable mock drafts. His lack of experience and less than a year of college production has been a sticking point, but what can't be questioned is Carradine's non-stop motor. He could be the fist FSU player off the board come Thursday.

CB Xavier Rhodes

6-2, 210
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 6 CB, No. 38 overall (Round 1-2); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 2 CB, No. 13 overall (Round 1).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 1st round, No. 24 overall (Xavier Rhodes).

Skinny: Rhodes was leaning towards leaving after 2011, but a knee injury in the bowl game leaned him towards a return. After another productive season, Rhodes' decision to leave after his junior season was a no brainer. The experts seem to agree, placing Rhodes is often rated as the No. 2 cornerback available behind Alabama's Dee Milliner. The premium placed on cornerbacks in the NFL almost assures Rhodes that he'll hear his named called on Thursday night in Round 1. His size (6-2, 210) and physicality at the line of scrimmage already had evaluators salivating, then he ran a 4.43 in the 40 to cement his position. The only complaint has been the lack of elite footwork, but that won't cost him his first-round value.

OT Menelik Watson

6-5, 310
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 6 OT, No. 28 overall (Round 1-2); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 5 OT, No. 22 overall (Round 1-2).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 2nd round, No. 37 overall (Cincinnati Bengals).

Skinny: No matter where Watson lands in the draft, he'll cap an amazing story. Watson, a former Division I-A basketball player who brought a grand total of eight games of football experience to Florida State last fall, showed enough ability - and more important, a very high ceiling - as FSU's right tackle to be considered one of the nation's top 50 NFL prospects. Watson is ripe for the picking in the late first round with a winning team that can allow him to develop at the next level. Scouts love his speed and footwork but his lack of game action and polished skill will scare some teams away from using a first round pick.

DE Brandon Jenkins

6-3, 251
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 7 DE, No. 85 overall (Round 3-4); NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 21 DE, No. 286 overall (Round 7-FA).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 4th round, No. 129 overall (Baltimore Ravens).

Skinny: Projections on Jenkins vary widely, and the feelings about the productive defensive end are predicated on which you prioritize: Production or post-injury measurables. Jenkins showed his effectiveness for three seasons, and following his junior year (2011) he was told by NFL evaluators that he was a second round pick. He opted to come back and it didn't pay off thanks to bad luck - he suffered a season-ending foot injury in the first game. Instead of a redshirt, Jenkins left for the draft, where he struggled to impress with footwork during the combine and posted a 5.08 40-yard dash. If a team focuses on promise, Jenkins could go as high as the third round. If not, he could slide into the later rounds.

FB Lonnie Pryor

6-0, 227
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 2 FB, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 2 FB, No. 175 overall (Round 5-6).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 7th round, No. 233 overall (Houston Texans).

Pryor ended his college career on a high note, earning Orange Bowl MVP honors in FSU's win over Northern Illinois on Jan. 1. Most evaluators have Pryor as one of the top two fullbacks in the draft, but the position carries little weight when it comes to draft value. Pryor's value comes in versatility; a converted high school tailback, Pryor has been productive as a ballcarrier and has value as a pass catcher. His downside is that he doesn't have the speed for NFL teams to rely on him as a tailback and currently lacks the size of a true NFL fullback. Look for Pryor to be a fit in a specific offensive scheme that maximizes his versatility, although we may not hear his name called until the fifth round or later.

K Dustin Hopkins

6-2, 193
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 1 K, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 1 K, No. 225 overall (Round 6-7).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 7th round, No. 227 overall (Cleveland Browns).

Skinny: Much like Pryor, Hopkins' draft position will be based on need, and it's rare to see kickers go earlier than the sixth round. He's rated as the top kicker by both ESPN and CBS, showing an NFL caliber leg during his decorated FSU career. No matter where he's picked, Hopkins is a sure-fire lock to compete for a starting job.

LB Vince Williams

6-1, 233
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 9 ILB, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 9 ILB, No. 227 overall (Round 6-7).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 5th round, No. 161 overall (Denver Broncos).

Skinny: Williams wasn't widely considered a draftable player until a breakout performance during Senior Bowl week. He got a late invite and took advantage, impressing scouts with his power and his leadership. Because of such a late burst onto NFL radars, Williams was not invited to the NFL Combine in February. But he preformed well at FSU's Pro Day in march and is very much in play to be picked in the late rounds. Williams' biggest weakness is his lateral speed and coverage ability at the next level, something he's tried to improve on while losing 19 pounds during the offseason.

DT Everett Dawkins

6-2, 292
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 17 DT, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 16 DT, No. 176 overall (Round 5-6).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 7th round, No. 229 overall (Minnesota Vikings).

Skinny: Dawkins was a staple of FSU's defense, but the trenches change drastically at the next level. He'll have to overcome his lack of NFL size as an interior lineman and show he has the burst and explosiveness to be an effective single-gap DT. He will likely be drafted into a 4-3 scheme. However, he was reliable and a leader for a strong FSU defense, and that should carry value for NFL teams looking for a sleeper on the interior.

LB Nick Moody

6-1, 236
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 18 OLB, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 32 OLB, No. 325 overall (Round 7-FA).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: 7th round, No. 248 overall (Tennessee Titans)

Skinny: Moving from safety to linebacker wasn't a home run in terms of productivity for Moody as a senior in 2012, but considering he was almost a 240-pound safety with big-hitting ability before the move, it did allow him to gain experience at a position that better suits his game at the NFL level. He showed why in his 40 time, running a 4.68. His experience in coverage should help, but he'll have to hope he's proven his ability to cover sideline to sideline, a big requirement of OLB's in the NFL.

WR Rodney Smith

6-5, 225
Rankings: Scouts Inc./ESPN - No. 35 WR, Unranked; NFL Draft Scout/CBS: No. 30 WR, No. 241 overall (Round 7).
Scouts Inc. Mock Draft Projection: Undrafted.

Skinny: Inconsistent play game-to-game and the revolving door of playing time in FSU coach Jimbo Fisher's offense didn't help Smith post big numbers in college. However, his size (6-5) and a strong 40 time at the NFL combine (4.43) will be too tempting for NFL teams to pass up late in the draft or in free agency. He'll have to get tougher bringing the ball in and will likely need to add weight to earn an NFL roster spot.

Other Notable FSU players with an outside chance to be drafted: Chris Thompson, Greg Reid.

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