Tag Archives: NFL Draft

Final 2014 NFL Mock Draft (1st round)

1. Houston Texans: Jadeveon Clowney, DE. South Carolina

Quarterback is the indefinite need, but talent counts for a lot. If the Texans decision-making staff isn’t in love with any passers, it’ll be tough to justify passing on the player with the most upside in the draft for any other positional player.


2. St. Louis Rams (f/WAS): Greg Robinson, OT. Auburn

While the bad taste of the failed Jason Smith selection still lingers, the Rams need to be courageous and make the right pick. Whether Robinson ultimately moves Jake Long over to right tackle or not, the picks gives them a couple legitimately talented bookends. Protecting Sam Bradford from further missed time should be among the top priorities.


3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Johnny Manziel, QB. Texas A&M

Blaine Gabbert has officially left town and Jacksonville is under a new regime that showed signs of improvement in 2013. A new quarterback to both infuse a level of talent and also reinvigorate league-wide appeal in the franchise couldn’t hurt.


4. Cleveland Browns: Sammy Watkins, WR. Clemson

If there truly is no interest in selecting one of the available quarterbacks with this pick, than finding more offensive weapons for the eventual long-term signal caller is imperative. Watkins, paired with Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, would pose a dynamic threat for opposing defenses.


5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT. Texas A&M

The natural fit to a team that desperately needs a long-term answer to the left tackle position. Whomever the quarterback is moving forward, the Raiders need to be able to protect him.


6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB. Buffalo

No draft decisions are easy, but when fit, need, and talent blend into one available prospect, it doesn’t need to be that hard a selection. The Falcons could use help in the pass rushing department and Khalil Mack, perhaps more importantly, doubles as a complete player as well.


7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mike Evans, WR. Texas A&M

Mike Williams is now in Buffalo and there’s no legitimate depth to speak of. Pairing Johnny Manziel’s favorite target with an equally imposing Vincent Jackson appears to be the most logical choice. Lovie Smith is now in town and brought McCown with him as his starting quarterback. The Bucs can put that supposed need off for now.


8. Minnesota Vikings: Blake Bortles, QB. Central Florida

The Vikes could go in a number of directions with this selection depending on their view of the quarterback class. In my eyes, two things are certain – Physically, Blake Bortles warrants No. 1 consideration and schematically, he’s a fit for Norv Turner’s offense. If Bortles can recreate the success of another ex-Viking quarterback & UCF alum from the past, than this would be a great selection.


9. Buffalo Bills: Zack Martin, OT. Notre Dame

Being a former OL coach (with success), you have to think Doug Marrone values blockers more than most would. Injuries derailed an otherwise encouraging rookie campaign from E.J. Manuel. Keeping him clean and upright is important, and I think that may take precedent. Martin is an experienced leader with the flexibility to even project at guard.


10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB. Oklahoma State

I don’t buy the theory that Detroit would opt for a pass catcher over an available top cornerback prospect. Justin Gilbert is a legitimate top 10 talent and at a position of long-term need for the Lions. I’ll give Detroit’s staff credit and continue believing they’ll make the logical choice in this scenario.


11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB. UCLA

Shaun Phillips was signed and the Titans boast a couple of good young linebackers in the Zach Brown, Akeem Ayers duo. Still, there’s no such thing as ‘too many’ pass rushers. Anthony Barr is good value at this point and a good fir for Ray Horton’s base 3-4.


12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT. Pittsburgh

He’s been steadily rising despite his obvious lack of size, and for good reason. The G-Men lost big Linval Joseph in free agency but still possess enough meat on the interior defensive line with Cullen Jenkins and 2013 2nd round pick Jonathan Hankins.


13. St. Louis Rams: Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, S. Alabama

The trade that allowed Washington to select RG3 has partially helped St. Louis stockpile quality defensive players. After addressing the glaring offensive need, the Rams look to address one of the few glaring needs remaining on defense. In-the-box strong safety T.J. McDonald was impressive, but now he’s paired with a true center-fielder with range who can cover.


14. Chicago Bears: Bradley Roby, CB. Ohio State

Charles Tillman is on his last legs and may even be moving inside to safety at some point next year. New blood is needed at the position in an NFC North with a good group of opposing receivers.


15. Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Mosley, ILB. Alabama

Pittsburgh does well to capitalize on experienced, proven college players in the early round and it’s hard to argue Mosley isn’t best available at this point, either. Partnering him with Lawrence Timmons would form a very difficult duo to play against.


16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE. Missouri

Ealy is as slam-dunk of a pick as you’ll see for Dallas at this point. Finding a potential top 10 talent, at a position that has just become a primary need, fall to the middle of round one is true value. DeMarcus Ware out, Kony Ealy in.


17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, S. Louisville

In the post Ed Reed era, Matt Elam was added and was encouraging as a rookie. Calvin Pryor, a physical, downhill hitter with raw coverage skills would be an ideal complement. The position would unquestionably be solidified.


18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE. North Carolina

A tight end?! Seriously, we’re talking steal at this point if Ebron nears the 20s. The Jets added a reliable offensive producer in Eric Decker and can bolster the offensive weaponry in a different way with this selection. Ultimately, the team needs talented pass catchers. They get one here.


19. Miami Dolphins: Taylor Lewan, OT. Michigan

Plug and play prospect for the Phins. The offensive tackle need is negated and Ryan Tannehill gains some much needed protection help. Lewan at No. 19 would be good value if he were around here.


20. Arizona Cardinals: Dee Ford, OLB. Auburn

When you give the Cards roster a look, you’ll quickly realize that they don’t have many glaring holes that can be filled with the group available. However, the team lacks a true disruption off the edge.


21. Green Bay Packers: Ra’Shede Hageman, DL. Minnesota

Ted Thompson is a draft day wildcard who, in multiple instances, has had little fear of selecting someone who maybe wasn’t the popular choice. Hageman has top 10 potential and if given time to develop consistency, this could easily prove to be a steal down the road.


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Kyle Fuller, CB. Virginia Tech

An athlete with size and speed, the Va Tech product has been rising well. The Eagles 3-4 transition has some good pieces, but the secondary could certainly stand to still be improved.


23. Kansas City Chiefs: Odell Beckham Jr., WR. LSU

After a staggeringly quick turnaround, the Chiefs are now a team without many glaring holes. The offense lacks a bit of a punch, and a wide receiver trio of Dwayne Bowe, Odell Beckham Jr., and Donnie Avery is little more formidable.


24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB. Ohio State

Despite losing Michael Johnson, the Bengals still have a lot invested in the defensive end position. We’ve witnessed the value of a large group of good young linebackers in recent years, and Shazier fits the mold. A quick, twitchy athlete with sideline to sideline qualities. Slots in right next to (and complements downhill defenders) Maualuga and Burfict nicely.


25. San Diego Chargers: Darqueze Dennard, CB. Michigan State

I think the cornerback group may shake out this way, but were Darqueze Dennard the fourth off the board, someone gets a major steal. San Diego simply can’t enter the 2014 season with its current crop of corners.


26. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB. Louisville

After landing the weapon earlier in Sammy Watkins, the Browns get the quarterback to piece everything together here. Bridgewater helped build up a Lousiville program without a plethora of talent surrounding him. He enters Cleveland with a few very legitimate targets.


27. New Orleans Saints: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB. Boise State

Unfortunately for the pass rusher-hungry Saints, nobody of great value remains. However, Boise State’s DeMarcus Lawrence has 1st round upside and could develop nicely into Junior Galette’s sidekick.


28. Carolina Panthers: Marqise Lee, WR. USC

The Panthers already had a big wide receiver need even before Steve Smith left town. Now without the long-time leader, the grunt work will be spread out amongst the current crop. However, Marqise Lee has plenty of experience being a workhorse in the passing game.


29. New England Patriots: Kelvin Benjamin, WR. Florida State

Physically, the FSU receiver is Calvin Johnson without the speed. Great high-point skills and can overmatch most corners on the boundary. New England got by with a rather sub-par group last year and Benjamin helps infuse some talent – as well as a threat in the redzone.


30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Tuitt, DE. Notre Dame

Shear value at this point. Tuitt’s slide is more of a formality and the 49ers are happy to see it. Justin Smith is extra long in the tooth, while Ray McDonald is on the wrong side of 30. Preparing for the future is never a bad thing.


31. Denver Broncos: Allen Robinson, WR. Penn State

Offering many stylistic similarities to Demaryius Thomas, Allen Robinson’s addition could make Denver’s downfield offense even more deadly. A tough vertical receiver who wins many 50-50 balls. Eric Decker is now in New York and Peyton needs his targets.


32. Seattle Seahawks: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT. Alabama

The champions don’t have many needs, but the loss of right tackle Breno Giacomini might have left the most immediate need going into 2014. Kouandjio is one of the best natural right tackles in this class and Pete Carroll already had 1st round success with James Carpenter – another Alabama alum.

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2014 NFL Draft to have record 30 prospects in attendance

A record 30 prospects have accepted an invitation to attend the 2014 NFL Draft live from Radio City Music Hall // COURTESY Marianne O'Leary

A record 30 prospects have accepted an invitation to attend the 2014 NFL Draft live from Radio City Music Hall // COURTESY Marianne O’Leary

The NFL Draft is one of the fastest annually growing entities in the sports world, let alone just within the NFL circle. With it comes inflation, and there is no shortage of it with regards to prospects making the trip to Radio City Music Hall. Long gone are the days of seeing only a small handful of prospects beginning round one in the backstage green room. The historic fleet of 30 players is spearheaded by polarizing passer Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, amongst many other intriguing prospects will join the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner.

Four quarterbacks will attend, with Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo being the only non-“big 3” member of the class’ position to accept an invitation. Fresno State’s David Carr reportedly opted to experience draft day/weekend from home. The two most well-represented schools at the draft hail from the SEC, as Alabama and Texas A&M have three each in attendance. Additionally, the SEC also accounts for 11 attendees of the 30 – the most among any conference. Wide receiver boasts the most players in attendance with seven. There will be no running backs or interior offensive linemen at this year’s draft.

In alphabetical order, here are the 30 prospects who will be in attendance for the 2014 NFL Draft:

Odell Beckham, WR. LSU
Blake Bortles, QB. UCF
Teddy Bridgewater, QB. Louisville
Hasean Clinton-Dix, S. Alabama
Jadeveon Clowney, DE. South Carolina
Brandin Cooks, WR. Oregon State
Kony Ealy, DE. Missouri
Eric Ebron, TE. UNC
Mike Evans, WR. Texas A&M
Kyle Fuller, CB. Va Tech
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. EIU
Justin Gilbert, CB. Oklahoma State
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT. Minnesota
Timmy Jernigan, DT. Florida State
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT. Alabam
Cody Latimer, WR. Indiana
Marqise Lee, WR. USC
Taylor Lewan, OT. Michigan
Khalil Mack, LB. Buffalo
Johnny Manziel, QB. Texas A&M
Jake Matthews, OT. Texas A&M
Jordan Matthews, WR. Vanderbilt
Morgan Moses, OT. Virginia
C.J. Mosley, LB. Alabama
Calvin Pryor, S. Lousiville
Greg Robinson, OT. Auburn
Bradley Roby, CB. Ohio State
Ryan Shazier, LB. Ohio State
Jason Verrett, CB. TCU
Sammy Watkins, WR. Clemson

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2014 NFL Mock Draft, v. I

As promised, here is the first installment of Dion Caputi’s 2014 NFL Mock Draft. So as to avoid over-stuffing appetites for draft-related content too early in the process, I’ve opted to keep mocks to a minimum until this point. However, with the big day(s) approaching fast, be prepared for a ramped up effort to provide you with evaluation notes, analysis, and – of course – mocks. Now, lets get after it:

1. Houston Texans: Blake Bortles, QB. UCF

Matt Schaub is officially out of town and the combination of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum and T.J. Yates won’t offer new management any palpable assurances. I lend a fair amount of credence to the notion that Bill O’Brien likes a particular style of quarterback. In two years at Penn State, he transformed an erratic Matt McGloin into a more well-versed pocket passer, before coaching the tall-standing gunslinger Christian Hackenberg to 2013 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. Of the quarterback triumvirate that the draft’s top 10 will be focused around, the lone prospect that fits O’Brien’s physical mold is Blake Bortles. The big, pocket-mobile passer has all the tools necessary to be a franchise cornerstone and the talent to warrant No. 1 overall consideration.

2. St. Louis Rams (f/WAS): Greg Robinson, OT. Auburn

Arguably the most valuable prospect in this draft class, quarterbacks-aside. The underclassman blocker has quickly become a top 3 lock and perhaps the standalone tackle above Jake Matthews. A really good bender with quick feet, Robinson displayed all season how physical he can be with pads on and an athletic inclination during workouts at this year’s combine. The endgame for St. Louis, were they to select Robinson No. 2 overall, would be to plug the Auburn product in at left tackle. Short (and long) term, it would allow the organization to slide Jake Long to the right side, where he is likely to be more effective. Conversely, if St. Louis is comfortable with Long on the blindside and can’t move down, you have to think Sammy Watkins is a very logical option for a team that has flexibility with its picks.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jadeveon Clowney, DE. South Carolina

I’d argue that despite Gus Bradley’s comments about Chad Henne “probably” being the opening day starter, that a quarterback should be the pick here. Regardless, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator knows the value of putting pressure on the opposing passer, and few prospects to enter the NFL Draft have projected to be as good at it as Jadeveon Clowney. Motivation is the overwhelming concern to most evaluators, but the disruptive potential that the Gamecocks star offers is sure to make him a dangerous commodity to pass on. There is depth at the quarterback position in the 2014 NFL Draft, so the Jaguars may prefer to target one on day two.

4. Cleveland Browns: Teddy Bridgewater, QB. Louisville

It’s tough to justify entering a season with Brian Hoyer as the standalone quarterback option when jobs are on the line. The Louisville gunslinger is accurate, mechanically smooth, and did a lot to help build up a program that wasn’t packed with an abundance of offensive talent. The cloudiness over Cleveland’s interest in seeking a quarterback with this pick doesn’t hinder my strong belief that the organization will ultimately opt for a signal caller to build around. New head coach Mike Pettine is a defensive minded individual, and while it may be a stretch here, it can be argued that Justin Gilbert could form a frustratingly good duo with Joe Haden.

5. Oakland Raiders: Jake Matthews, OT. Texas A&M

The Raiders have done well to invest in veteran pass rushing help, but holes remain. Amidst the fallout of Rodger Saffold’s botched signing and Jared Veldheer’s bay area departure, the organization was left without a viable blindside option. The acquisition of Matt Schaub relieves the pressure to select an immediate improvement at quarterback, and in this scenario a supreme talent is available in a primary area of need. Discovering a long term solution under center remains a legitimate need, however.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Khalil Mack, OLB. Buffalo

If reports are true, than the Falcons may be looking to move up in order to secure elite pass rushing prospect Jadeveon Clowney, and the Rams at No. 2 are a very likely suitor should that be the case. However, in a no-trade mock, Thomas Dimitroff and co. are pleasantly surprised to find another potentially elite defender to aid a porous pass rush. In multiple ways, this scenario could actually prove more fruitful. The UB standout could have a similar rookie impact to that of Von Miller. It’d be hard to envision Atlanta passing on Mack to reach for offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, but he – as well as Anthony Barr – are likely to be in the discussion, at the very least.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sammy Watkins, WR. Clemson

The Bucs have very little depth at wide receiver after Vincent Jackson as it is and the team just dealt troubled Mike Williams to Buffalo. The big investment in prized free agent defensive end Michael Johnson negates the need to add a pass rusher here and Alterraun Verner shores up a need at cornerback. Josh McCown was brought in to be Lovie Smith’s starter, so by process of elimination + evaluating available talent in this scenario, top pass catching prospect Sammy Watkins is an easy selection.

8. Minnesota Vikings: Johnny Manziel, QB. Texas A&M

Love it or hate it, the Vikings desperately need a quarterback, and Johnny Football could very well be the game-changing wildcard that Minnesota lacks. General Manager Rick Spielman is one of few survivors of the Brad Childress-era staff assembled in 2006. He has lasted through two head coaches and two unsuccessful attempts at drafting a franchise quarterback. Swinging for the fences at No. 8 may be his last chance despite being good at his job overall. The Vikes have a penchant for moving down the board and positively manipulating the draft, but if no quarterbacks are available and they can’t, linebacker C.J. Mosley makes a lot of sense in an emergency scenario.

9. Buffalo Bills: Taylor Lewan, OT. Michigan

The Bills managed to rank in the top third of the league in sacks and the overall pass defense was statistically impressive. What can stand to be improved more so, however, is pass protection. E.J. Manuel put together what I would quantify as an encouraging rookie campaign, but was marred by multiple injuries in the process. Taylor Lewan would offer a level of flexibility to head coach Doug Marrone – who comes from an offensive line background. Every year we witness an emphasis on tackles when a run begins, so taking the big Michigan man here may not wind up being that much of a reach. Lewan can slot in on the right side or push left tackle Cordy Glenn inside to guard – where I’ve always thought he projects better to. Hasean Clinton-Dix could be a natural replacement for the departed Jairus Byrd, as well.

10. Detroit Lions: Justin Gilbert, CB. Oklahoma State

A dream scenario for the Lions, having arguably the top player available at perhaps their most legitimate of needs fall to them. Gilbert offers the Lions a cornerstone piece to lean on in the secondary and even holds extra value as a return threat. Detroit has been void of a true playmaker in the defensive backfield and there are few players available with the talent level he has remaining in this scenario.

11. Tennessee Titans: Anthony Barr, OLB. UCLA

New defensive coordinator Ray Horton deploys a host of 3-4 variations and an impact pass rusher to groom into a high leverage role would help the process along. Barr is excellent value, as he could ultimately wind up a top 5 selection and many wouldn’t think twice about it. The converted fullback also provides a level of flexibility amongst the front seven, with versatile linebackers Zach Brown and Akeem Ayers able to line up in a variety of spots. Veteran Shaun Phillips was signed to a two-year deal, but I’m not sure he negates Tennessee’s need to find 3-4 pieces early on.

12. New York Giants: Aaron Donald, DT. Pittsburgh

Despite losing big Linval Joseph to the Vikings in free agency, the G-Men still have enough run-stuffing size in the middle between Cullen Jenkins and 2013 2nd round pick Jonathan Hankins. Adding an active, high-motor presence like Aaron Donald to help reinforce the defensive line would partially make up for lost depth. Capable in both the run and pass, the Pitt product is well-dressed in accolades and boasts three years of excellent production. Those who write off the 2013 Nagurski, Bednarik, Outland, and Lombardi award winner due to his lack of size are making a critical mistake.

13. St. Louis Rams: Hasean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, S. Alabama

After improving the offensive line early on, the Rams have even more flexibility at No. 13. Frankly, I’d be very surprised if the Rams were to make both picks without moving down, but with so many premium draft picks available there is plenty of flexibility. Jeff Fisher is a former defensive back himself and while T.J. McDonald had an encouraging rookie season, the organization could stand to pair him with another young talent. Although St. Louis hasn’t shied away from spending high picks on wide receivers, you can’t rule out the possibility this year – Mike Evans would be a natural complement to the electric Tavon Austin.

14. Chicago Bears: Darqueze Dennard, CB. Michigan State

After improving the pass rush with the addition of Jared Allen, the Bears eliminated a potential early round need. The organization, in my mind, did well to retain Charles Tillman for one more year, but the veteran cornerback is now at an advanced age and regressed last season. While he may remain on the boundary, it can be argued that a move to safety may benefit his career. Regardless, the team needs an infusion of young talent at the position and the consensus All-American Darqueze Dennard is a great fit. There isn’t a very big drop off, if any, from Justin Gilbert in talent and I’d argue Dennard’s positional aptitude is greater.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers: C.J. Mosley, ILB. Alabama

Particularly in recent years, the Steelers have done well to capitalize on falling talent. The selections of Maurkice Pouncey, Cam Heyward, David DeCastro, and Jarvis Jones helped aid specific needs and promoted a youthful turnover in the process. In this scenario, there are few better fits than the instinctual, athletic C.J. Mosley. Boasting quality physical skills and a high football IQ, the defensive field general can be plugged in next to Lawrence Timmons from day one. We’ve seen the value in many good, young linebackers of the past couple draft classes and I think the Alabama product might be the best prospect of all by comparison. Keeping in touch with the defensive youth movement, I’d keep a close eye on nose tackle Louis Nix. Perhaps even Notre Dame left tackle Zack Martin.

16. Dallas Cowboys: Kony Ealy, DE. Missouri

It was difficult not to notice how poor the Cowboys defense was last season as it transitioned away from a 3-4 base front. Take DeMarcus Ware out the equation and what’s really left? Particularly along the defensive line, the Cowboys desperately need to add young blood and the well-built, raw talent from Missouri helps aid those concerns. Jeremy Mincey is a half-decent vet and there are a couple young ends that can compete, but the team lacks a potential difference maker. Kony Ealy might be a top 10 player based solely on talent, in my opinion. Safety is also a possibility, as the team has done well to rebuild its secondary in recent years, so Louisville’s Calvin Pryor makes a lot of sense as well.

17. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Pryor, S. Louisville

General Manager Ozzie Newsome is top shelf when it comes to roster management and further proved it this offseason by knocking off multiple needs prior to the draft. Last year, the effort to move on in the post-Ed Reed era began with the 1st round selection of promising young Matt Elam. Were the draft to shake out this way, I can definitely see a scenario where the thought of pairing him with the raw, but talented Calvin Pryor is too tantalizing to pass up on. The addition of wily vet Steve Smith eliminates the need to look for a wide receiver here, in my opinion, but big Mike Evans is an intriguing looking fit. Perhaps a projectable 3-4 defensive end like Ra’Shede Hageman or Stephon Tuitt, as well.

18. New York Jets: Eric Ebron, TE. North Carolina

A little bit of a curveball, as the Jets could greatly benefit from plugging in a number of available defensive talents that Rex Ryan may be chomping on the bit to work with. Still, Eric Ebron’s talent is undeniable and him being unselected at this point would constitute a shock to many onlookers. While I don’t think he’s Vernon Davis 2.0 as a prospect, as some might, the North Carolina star is a mismatch nightmare and will help aid whomever is under center for Gang Green in 2014. As noted, there is a host of defensive building blocks that make sense. A nose tackle like Louis Nix or pass rusher like Dee Ford. The need at cornerback is currently so big that you can’t rule one out despite the lack of true value available, in my opinion.

19. Miami Dolphins: Zack Martin, OT. Notre Dame

I’m tempted to believe the Dolphins would consider again addressing the defensive line with in-state talent Timmy Jernigan at this point, as he’d be value. However, if offensive line is the decision, which makes more sense to me, than you could make an argument for either Martin or Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio. Ultimately, the Notre Dame captain wins out in that situation here, as he is guard/tackle versatile and brings a very level-headed personality into a locker room that could really use it right now.

20. Arizona Cardinals: Dee Ford, DE/OLB. Auburn

The Cards did very well to fill a sizable need on the blindside with the addition of Jared Veldheer, while also relieving pressure to add immediate help at cornerback with the signing of Antonio Cromartie. On paper, there are few glaring needs for Arizona, but for a team that does well to generate consistent pressure on opposing passers, further reinforcements couldn’t hurt. Disruptive edge rushers are a draft day premium and it would be a technicality that brought Dee Ford to No. 20 overall, in my estimation. Depending on how much faith the organization has in right tackle Bobby Massie, Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio could be a natural fit as well. Just a thought, but Austin Seferian-Jenkins would really open up a Cardinals offense that often emphasizes tight ends.

21. Green Bay Packers: Ra’Shede Hageman, DL. Minnesota

There’s another slight curveball, I’d say. Jernigan still on the board and Hageman goes to Green Bay. Why? Ted Thompson is a bit of a draft day wildcard and I think he does a fair amount of projecting with many his selections. Physically, the Minnesota product is a specimen in the J.J. Watt mold. However, he’s incredibly raw and doesn’t display regular consistency. Hageman has untraceable potential and I think the Pack in particular would believe they can tap it.

22. Philadelphia Eagles: Bradley Roby, CB. Ohio State

The Eagles began a 3-4 transition and have a few pieces worth emphasizing, but the secondary stands to be improved upon. Malcolm Jenkins was brought in to play safety and pairing him with a fellow Ohio State alum would be an intriguing option, in this case. You can never have enough good cornerbacks and if the semi-enigmatic talent at Bradley Roby’s disposal is properly channeled, he could be a bargain. Consistency is somewhat of a concern, but he won’t be overloaded with responsibility as a rookie.

23. Kansas City Chiefs: Mike Evans, WR. Texas A&M

It was impossible to predict such a drastic and positive turnaround for the Chiefs in 2013. After picking first overall last year, they’re a team without very many glaring needs this May. Without a safety to potentially plug in next to Eric Berry or additional depth at linebacker, the team can look in a variety of directions. Mike Evans is arguably the best remaining talent and could ultimately wind up going well inside the top 15. Big, red zone threat with strong hands, the Johnny Football’s preferred target is also able to run good routes – a highly intriguing combination. A wide receiver trio of Evans, Bowe, and Avery would be quite formidable, and it can never hurt to add more offensive weaponry.

24. Cincinnati Bengals: Ryan Shazier, OLB. Ohio State

Cincy stays in-state to seek improvement at the linebacker position, here. Shazier is a twitchy athlete with sideline-to-sideline speed. His positional value is aided by the current crop of young linebackers who have made great contributions early on (e.g. Luke Kuechly, Kiko Alonso, Lavonte David, Bobby Wagner, etc.). Despite losing Michael Johnson, the Bengals have invested premium picks in the defensive end position, so reaching for one – if you even believe one is worthy – isn’t necessary. Combining the All-American Buckeye with Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga would give the Bengals another nice piece on defense.

25. San Diego Chargers: Kyle Fuller, CB. Virginia Tech

With Irish Chocolate on the board and a palpable need at nose tackle, the Chargers ultimately lean toward the position that is much harder to improve. Simply put, San Diego can’t enter this season with its current group of cornerbacks. Eric Weddle aside, the secondary is in disarray and new blood is needed. Va Tech’s Kyle Fuller is an instinctual boundary defender with great athleticism and physicality. His hand usage in press isn’t what I believe it can be, but there is formidable upside. Some elements of his game are reminiscent of long-time Chargers soldier Quentin Jammer.

26. Cleveland Browns (f/IND): Brandin Cooks, WR. Oregon State

Despite there being talent available at cornerback and Timmy Jernigan still floating around unpicked, the Browns would do well to surround their new quarterback (No. 4 overall pick Teddy Bridgewater) with more targets. The explosive and athletic Brandin Cooks is a dynamic downfield threat that offers something a little different than what the current Browns receiving corps does. The reliable-handed Oregon State receiver can also create after the catch. An offensive core that features Bridgewater, Cooks, Josh Gordon, Jordan Cameron, and co. looks young and formidable. I wouldn’t even rule out a top rated guard like UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo or perhaps guard/swing tackle David Yankey of Stanford.

27. New Orleans Saints: Demarcus Lawrence, DE/OLB. Boise State

Rob Ryan’s transition to a 3-4 front has panned out, as the Saints recovered from a historically poor 2012 season. However, the focal point of any unbalanced formation is generally the edge rushing Jack linebackers or “conversions.” 26-year-old Junior Galette tallied 12.0 sacks last year and can only benefit from having a formidable bookend. Former JUCO transfer Demarcus Lawrence of Boise State is a fast-rising prospect with a proven track record of pass rushing ability and production, boasting 20.0 sacks over the previous two seasons. Lawrence is fluid in space and has a great physical skill-set to build upon. Not many are mocking him in the first round, but I personally don’t see a very big drop off between Dee Ford and himself. It is a deep wide receiver class, so I think there is more value in the pass rushing option here. Although, in this scenario I’d be very intrigued to see the do-it-all Marqise Lee of USC working with Drew Brees. Champ Bailey may also cancel out any chances of a first round cornerback.

28. Carolina Panthers: Kelvin Benjamin, WR. Florida State

Full disclosure: I pegged a cornerback here and couldn’t bring myself to stick with it. With the unparalleled depth this draft class has at the wide receiver position, coupled with its lesser positional value, I just don’t know how likely it is that Carolina chooses one here. That said, it’s difficult to justify passing on the opportunity to surround Cam Newton with more weapons, and the national title winner Kelvin Benjamin could be a dyanmic addition. A true redzone threat who high-points with ease, Benjamin is only scratching the surface of his potential. If the organization that drafts him is patient and realizes he will enter the league without much polish, there are a number of benefits to be reaped long term. Although he doesn’t remotely match up in the speed department, Benjamin is of similar size + body type to that of Calvin Johnson’s, and that can (and will) cause mismatches at the next level.

29. New England Patriots: Timmy Jernigan, DT. Florida State

And the seemingly unrealistic slide is over. Jernigan falling to No. 29 is no indictment of his abilities, but a formality based on the way this mock scenario has panned out in my mind. The Patriots are always a trading candidate on draft day, but in the event a player like this is available at this point, it’s an easy decision. The squatty, powerful Seminole has the skill-set to play either defensive tackle role in a base 4-3 and would be able to contribute without immediate pressure in New England. The countdown on Vince Wilfork’s Patriot career may have begun this offseason and the club has always shown a willingness to be patient with its high picks. The turnover on defense continues with this selection, as Chandler Jones and Timmy Jernigan would be two very formidable building blocks.

30. San Francisco 49ers: Stephon Tuitt, DE. Notre Dame

San Fran has gotten by nicely along its defensive line for a few years now, but it might be time to begin looking at infusing some youth. In September, both starting ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald will be 35 and 30, respectively. Adding a top, young talent to groom for the future could prove supremely useful – especially considering the value of Tuitt at this point. The 6’5″ 304 lbs. Fighting Irish 5-tech has tallied a total of 19.5 sacks in two years and has a strong foundation for future improvement.

31. Denver Broncos: Jason Verrett, CB. Texas Christian

The Super Bowl runners-up suffered the loss of both Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and future Hall of Famer Champ Bailey. Despite landing Aqib Talib in free agency, the team remains a little exposed at the position. TCU’s Jason Verrett reminds me a little of Russell Wilson as a prospect: a complete player who would, in my mind, be a very high pick were it not for less-than-ideal size. That said, he can adapt to multiple coverage schemes, tackle, play physical, and boasts very good hops as well. Despite the height deficiency I do project him to be able to play on the boundary at the next level. I wouldn’t rule out a wide receiver here either. Although Emmanuel Sanders was brought in, the departure of Eric Decker could entice Denver to pull the trigger on any one of the remaining talents at the position. An overabundance of offensive weapons has never harmed a Peyton Manning-led team.

32. Seattle Seahawks: Cyrus Kouandjio, OT. Alabama

The champion Seattle Seahawks’ very talented roster is well-documented, but the team did witness starting right tackle Breno Giacomini bolt for the Jets. Although the team could also potentially look to replace departed cornerback Brandon Browner, it did just fine without him, so the position is likely to be addressed later. Pete Carroll and co. have been happy with the production of the last Alabama offensive lineman it selected in round 1, in James Carpenter, which can only help the case for this one. Cyrus Kouandjio projects to be a very effective right tackle at the next level and could easily be selected much earlier despite a rocky-at-times pre draft run up. This pick helps shore up one of, if not the only, legitimate positional concern the Seahawks have right now.

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2014 NFL Combine Notes: Defensive Line & Linebacker

Monday brought with it my personal favorite day of the combine: conversions. Nothing intrigues me more than evaluating the hybrid types who have drawn the distinction of being a potential 3-4 rushers. We also got the opportunity to take a look at the rest of the linebackers and defensive linemen (both tackle & end) in attendance. Here are a few notes on Monday’s combine workouts:

Defensive Tackle

*Monday starts and ends with Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald. The undersized (6’0 3/4″ 285 lbs.) 3-tech ran a 4.68 – the best among defensive tackles by a wide margin – threw up 35 reps on the bench press, and displayed his short-area burst with an impress 7.11 seconds in the 3-cone drill. His movement in drills was top notch. Donald, a potential late 1st round selection, had a really strong combine and only helped himself with his performance in Indy.

*The big man Ra’Shede Hageman of Minnesota once again caught eyes with his stellar physical makeup. He carries his frame very well and got East-West pretty comfortably. An athletic body-type with room to grow. Struggled to regularly stay low when participating in drills, which is consistent with his game film.

*The squatty Florida State product Timmy Jernigan showed off good, quick feet and a pretty strong looking frame to match. Able to sink hips well when changing direction, using hands well on bags. Bent his hips very well, maintaining balance nicely when moving laterally. Overall, had a nice day.

*Another individual who carried a big frame well was LSU’s Anthony Johnson. Combined good footwork with decent lateral ability. Another balanced, wide-based individual in drills.

*Penn State nose tackle-type DaQuan Jones was moving well for a 6’4″ 322-pounder. A little stiff when changing direction, but that’s okay for someone of his stature. Managed to keep low and look the part of a leverage-savvy inside lineman.

*Mr. Irish Chocolate himself, Notre Dame’s Louis Nix did himself no harm, in my opinion. Ran about as slow (5.42) as you’d expect a natural 6’2 3/4″ 331-pound nose tackle to, but was moving better than I expected laterally and had a deceptively decent short-area burst.

*Louisiana Tech nose tackle Justin Ellis exhibited pretty decent movement for a bulky interior lineman. His lateral movement and ability to sink his hips, keeping a wide base, was something that particularly caught my eye. Late add at the Senior Bowl, where he was encouraging, Ellis has done a good enough job to keep the momentum going.

*Princeton’s Caraun Reid had a good day and is maintaining a solid pre-draft run up. He looked really quick in drills and ran a solid 4.91 as well. Movement skills were above-average, to me. He’s setting a good example for future Ivy Leaguers with pro aspirations. Do everything and make the most of opportunities.

Defensive End

*The big man on the draft circuit, South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney blazed the best 40-time amongst the DL groups, posting a 4.53 at a filled out 6’5″ 266-pounds. He did not participate in drills, but tallied nice numbers in both the vertical (37 1/2″) and broad (124.0″) jumps. I, like most, would have liked to see him compete, as he’s by no means a lock for No. 1 overall, but he did the job in physical testing. With that said, nobody ever doubted that aspect of his evaluation.

*Oregon State’s Scott Crichton was a bit of an eye-opener on Monday, displaying his high motor in drills and good short-area quickness. He has big hands and used them well in bag drills. Also carried his 6’3″ 273-pound frame well.

*Missouri’s Kony Ealy has a heavier frame and was moving well with it. Good short-area explosion is what caught my eye when watching him. Looked a little stiff at times, but nothing overly concerning.

*Despite being a bit of a tweener, I’m a fan of Texas’ Jackson Jeffcoat. Had somewhat of an up and down workout overall, but I couldn’t help noticing his quickness when getting lateral. On the other end of the spectrum, his ability to turn and run with fluidity left a little to be desired. Still unsure as to whether he is a fit in space as a 3-4 player – might be better off adding to his frame and putting his hand in the dirt, full time.

*Shepherd’s Howard Jones is a lean athlete who looked more like a linebacker – which is where he will play at the next level – rather than a lineman. Physical testing was solid and he moved about the field really well in drills. A little stiff when flipping his hips, but the athleticism was on full display. 40.5″ vertical, 124.0″ broad, 7.16 3-cone. All top shelf figures.

*Another player who will likely be playing in space as a 3-4 rusher moving forward is Boise State’s DeMarcus Lawrence. I was very impressed with his workout, as he had fluidity on display throughout every movement drill. I didn’t see much stiffness either. One of the players who won from his group, in my mind.

*One of my 2014 NFL Draft favorites, North Carolina’s Kareem Martin did well. At 6’6″ 272-pounds, ran a 4.72 time, moved without much stiffness, and had pretty active hands. Didn’t shock or awe the way I thought he was capable of, but still put together a good performance.

*USF’s Tevin Mims caught my attention at times. Pretty fluid in free-flow movement, change of direction was nice in conversion drills, and carried a 6’4″ 260-pound frame well. I see the foundation for a decent stand up 3-4 linebacker in his skill set.

*Ball State’s Jonathan Newsome looked like a linebacker running through drills with defensive linemen. Well-built athlete who was noticeably loose in movement. Change of direction and hip-flip skills were pretty solid, as well. Definite stand up conversion in most base fronts.

*The polarizing Michael Sam of Missouri was so-so throughout the day. Competed well and showed off a solid physical makeup, but was very rigid in change of direction throughout drills. Looked too stiff to play in space, lacked the sort of lower-body explosion I was expecting, and didn’t time well (4.91). Without sounding as though I’m piling on, as I do think there is a fit for him in a base 4-3, he’s got some work to do before May.

*Arkansas’ Chris Smith had a better day than I expected. Better in space than I saw compared to his in-game footage and showed off a good initial burst in many instances. Ran a 4.71, which was better than the 4.8-range I had him pegged for. Still needs to get a little strong, in my opinion.

*Lastly, Boston College’s Kasim Edebali was a high energy mover throughout the day. Noticeable quickness and burst in drills, ran alright at 4.79. I liked his change of direction skills and I think his best fit will come as a 3-4 player at the next level.


Linebacker

*Buffalo’s Khalil Mack entered the day with the distinction of being the best player available amongst the LB group. He didn’t disappoint, as he stayed fluid, looked loose, moved freely, and made a couple good catches. As a space player, he should be just fine. No hindering limitations in that regard. Ran well too, posting a 4.65 – good enough to tie him for the fourth best time. Impressive 40.0″ vertical and 4.18 shuttle numbers.

*Interesting UCLA product Anthony Barr put his raw talent on display. Bends very well and stayed really flexible in movement. Ran a solid 4.66 time and coupled it with a nice 6.82 in the 3-cone. Effortlessly carries his 6’5″ 255-pound frame and showed great initial burst. Definite 3-4 player to me if you’re looking to maximize Barr’s capabilities.

*I am very intrigued by Florida’s Ronald Powell. Very talented player packed with upside – a former top HS recruit at DE, I see a nice fit as a rush linebacker. Pretty fluid in space and has a little better hip bend than I saw on film. The physically gifted Gator also ran a nice 4.65.

*The Florida State linebackers had a solid day. In particular, Telvin Smith, who posted the second best time at 4.52, was flying through drills at high speed, and changed direction with ease. Versatile Christian Jones wasn’t as fluid as his teammate, but did exhibit quality footwork and used his hands well in bag drills.

*Boston College’s Kevin Pierre-Louis posted the fastest time, at 4.51, and put his footwork, good bend, and lateral quickness on display. Unfortunately he’s undersized and rounds a little when he’s changing direction.

*Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo was a pleasant surprise at the combine. Physical player who’s athleticism wasn’t believed to be the equal of some other peers in the LB group, but he proved capable. Much-better-than-expected 4.71 time, strong hand usage in bag drills, and was improved in East-West movement.

*Another athlete with versatility, USC’s Devon Kennard has played inside, outside, and at defensive end while with the Trojans. Great physical makeup, ran a clean 4.70, and looked pretty loose hipped for a player who exited HS as a defensive end. He has a lot of untapped pass rushing potential.

*Small-schooler Jordan Tripp from Montana had a very solid workout. Consistent and quick were the two positives I took from his combine. In a day where more than half the linebackers couldn’t catch a cold, let alone a football, Tripp made comfortable off-body grabs with regularity. He was active with good footwork. Even ran an impressive 4.67 time. FCS kids standing out.

*BYU’S Kyle Van Noy is an energy player who flowed well in drills. Good hips, changed direction pretty well, and did every drill at a high pace. He’s an all around player who needs to establish a fit for himself, but I see him succeeding in a number of schemes. Actually hit is head on a camera tripod while laying out for a ball near the sideline at one point.

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2014 NFL Combine Notes: Quarterback, Wide Receiver & Running Back

Things heated up at the 2014 NFL Combine on Sunday, as we witnessed an infusion of speed with the offensive playmakers. We saw a few of the “name” quarterbacks participate in throwing drills, while others opted to hold out until pro days. This year’s wide out class is as deep as it has ever been and coupled with a long list of running backs with very different skill-sets. Certainly an intriguing bunch to evaluate. here’s what caught my eye on day two of workouts in Indianapolis:

Quarterback

*Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater was in attendance, tallying a 30″ vertical + 9’5″ broad jump, but chose not to throw. Johnny Manziel also opted to wait for his pro day to showcase his throwing, but ran a 4.68 time in the 40-yard dash, 31.5″ vertical, and 9’5″ broad jump.

*Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas let it rip on Sunday. On film he exhibits an inability to control his arm with consistency, leading to erratic spells. In Indy, he was regularly throwing ropes to receivers in intermediate and longer range drills. He showcased well and surely will catch the eye of coaches who feel they can massage his most obvious creases. There obviously is no physical limitations, and he even clocked the best time of any quarterback with a 4.60. Without ruling out his future as a passer, it’s worth noting that he’s got the size + speed to entice some as a prospective tight end… a position he was highly touted at out of high school.

*Tajh Boyd of Clemson displayed pretty solid timing with his foreign receivers. Drops were quick and easy, release was compact. Made a couple nice throws downfield.

*Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is one of the more under-appreciated passers of this class, and his downfield throwing abilities don’t get the due credit, in my view. On Sunday, he made three very nice, very accurate deep throws for completions. McCarron was putting a little bit of loft under his short-intermediate throws and out-route simulation drills, but overall it was a positive showing.

*Highly touted UCF passer Blake Bortles threw and had a good day. Solid on deep passes. Perhaps most importantly, there was no evident loss of velocity, as some have been increasingly concerned about in this pre-draft run up. Short-intermediate range throws were released with pretty noticeable strength.

*Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t really stand out to me, but continued to display really good footwork. This carried over from his solid Senior Bowl performance, and I believe it translated into pretty good timing despite unfamiliarity with the receivers.

*Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage was arguably the best of the second group on Sunday and displayed a strong arm with good timing.

Running Back

*Nobody did more to earn the label of “workout warrior” out of the running back group than Georgia Southern’s Jerick McKinnon. He marked the second-fastest 40-time among his position (4.41), the most bench press reps (32), second best vertical (40.5), second best broad jump (11’0″). Performed well in drills, looked fluid and quick when running routes. Had a really good day.

*Kent State’s Dri Archer was, by far, the fastest timed player of his positional group after posting a blazing 4.26 time in the 40-yard dash. He exhibited comfortable, off-body hands. Archer made me a believe that he can be utilized as both a running back and slot-receiver in order to get him touches in space. Could be a legitimate playmaker if placed in the right system.

*Blake Bortles running back at UCF was the talented Storm Johnson, who put together a very solid combine workout. The Miami (FL) transfer solidified the notion that he has good hands and can be a factor in the passing game, making a handful of quality off-body grabs. Loose, fluid movement for a well-sized ‘back. Likely to remain in my top 5 for the position.

*Washington’s Bishop Sankey made a bit of a statement. A primarily downhill, North-South runner who ran really well (4.49) and showed reliable hands in catching drills. Good hips, bent well, stayed loose.

*Alabama State’s Isaiah Crowell did himself good with a solid performance at the combine too. Was moving really nicely and intrigued with a couple quality catches off his frame. Timed speed was average at best, but the former 5-star recruit from the University of Georgia flashed enough talent to warrant a look.

*Lache Seastrunk of Baylor checked out physically. Very muscular, strong lower-body and it translated well – the ex-Oregon Duck had the best vertical (41.5) and broad (11’2″) jumps, putting his explosion on full display.

*Oregon x-factor and return specialist De’Anthony Thomas underwhelmed in his 40-time, clocking in at a 4.50, but looked as quick as you’d expect. Teams will have to find creative ways to get him in space, but he has the electricity to intrigue a team hungry for a potential playmaker and returner.

*Auburn’s Tre Mason wasn’t really a standout amongst his positional group, but didn’t perform poorly either. Solid in receiving drills, but could have maybe ran routes with a little more purpose. Aside from that, he competed and did himself no harm.

*Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde ran his first 40-yard dash and pulled up holding his left hamstring. He did not participate in any drills afterward as a precaution.

*For a bigger, bulkier ‘back like Toledo’s David Fluellen, he was able to sink his hips and change direction really nicely. Pleasantly surprised by his decent fluidity.

Wide Receiver

*First and foremost, the fastest timed receiver was Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, who clocked a 4.33. A fleet-footed burner with the ability to play in the slot or out wide. Looked explosive during drills.

*Clemson’s Sammy Watkins didn’t get me out of my seat with his workout, but he flashed the occasional “wow” moment during the day in drills. Great body control, really solid hands, and did everything at a high speed, while remaining efficient in his movement He may be disappointed with it, but his official 4.43 time was nothing to scoff at.

*Johnny Manziel’s most talented target Mike Evans was a standout among his section of wide receivers. Long athlete who displayed really good hands all throughout the day, plucking off his frame with regularity and comfort. Looked a little stiffer in and out of his breaks, but strides nicely downfield.

*Kelvin Benjamin looks like a specimen at 6’5″ 240 lbs. definitely passed the eye-test. Ran a 4.61, which is fine for a player of his stature, and demonstrated his ability to use his length when making catches. Had a bit of a propensity to drop the occasional pass this past season, but was pretty consistent in making catches during combine drills. Appeared to be a little less rigid than Mike Evans when changing direction or sticking his foot in the ground in/out breaks.

*Big, physical Rutgers pass catcher Brandon Coleman ran a really solid 4.51 time at 6’6″ 225 lbs. Made a few nice catches downfield and overall, I believe he helped himself. Physical makeup is very interesting.

*Disappointing 4.60 time for Penn State underclassman Allen Robinson, but he proved on film that he could get separation and win in 50-50 situations when he was in them. Still, his physical testing wasn’t anything more than average.

*LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. exhibited impressive body control during the gauntlet drill and ran routes with authority. Timed speed of 4.43 was a good figure for him, as well.

*Ole Miss’ Donte Moncrief was up and down in drills, but physically did well. Ran an impressive 4.40 and was a top performer in the vertical and broad jumps. Big frame was carried well.

*A surprise from Pittsburgh State (KS) John Brown blazed a 4.34 and looked very quick in and out of cuts during drills. Accelerated quickly and stayed loose all throughout the day. I’ll have to do a little more work.

*Alabama’s Kevin Norwood is a player I’ve been high on for some time now. He struggled to consistently complete drills without the occasional drop.

*Oklahoma slot-man Jalen Saunders was agile and electric, ran fast (4.44), and looked good enough in a variety of drills to indicate he could line up out wide on occasion too – which film also suggest, in my view.

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Official list of 2014 NFL Draft declarations

Last edited on Jan. 19 at 1:15 p.m.

Eligible players who have graduated
QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
DE Carl Bradford, Arizona State
LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
S Dion Bailey, USC

Total number of players who have declared: 98 (*NFL Draft record)

Quarterback (3)
Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Brett Smith, Wyoming

Running Back (20)
George Atkinson III, Notre Dame
Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State
Brendan Bigelow, California
Alfred Blue, LSU
Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
Devonta Freeman, Florida State
Jeremy Hill, LSU
Storm Johnson, Central Florida
Henry Josey, Missouri
Tre Mason, Auburn
Adam Muema, San Diego State
Darrin Reaves, UAB
Bishop Sankey, Washington
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Jerome Smith, Syracuse
Josh Spooney, Brown
De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
Terrance West, Towson
James Wilder Jr., Florida State

Wide Receiver (20)
Davante Adams, Fresno State
Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU
Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt
Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Austin Franklin, New Mexico State
Jamel Johnson, Alabama State
Jarvis Landry, LSU
Cody Latimer, Indiana
Marqise Lee, USC
Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
Paul Richardson, Colorado
Allen Robinson, Penn State
Willie Snead, Ball State
Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
Sammy Watkins, Clemson

Tight End (10)
Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Xavier Grimble, USC
Nic Jacobs, McNeese State
A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
Colt Lyerla, Oregon
Jake Murphy, Utah
Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
Richard Rodgers, California
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

Offensive Tackle (5)
Cameron Fleming, Stanford
Terrance Hackney, Bethune-Cookman
Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Greg Robinson, Auburn

Offensive Guard (3)
Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
Trai Turner, LSU
David Yankey, Stanford

Center (2)
Russell Bodine, North Carolina
Marcus Martin, USC

Defensive End (8)
Scott Crichton, Oregon State
Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
Kony Ealy, Missouri
Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
Aaron Lynch, USF
Chris McCain, California
Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
George Uko, USC

Defensive Tackle (9)
Dominique Easley, Florida
Ego Ferguson, LSU
Carlos Gray, North Carolina State
Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
Anthony Johnson, LSU
Viliama Moala, Cal
Louis Nix, Notre Dame
Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama
Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina

Linebacker (4)
Khairi Fortt, California
Ronald Powell, Florida
Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
Yawin Smallwood, UConn

Cornerback (7)
Bashaud Breeland, Clemson
Vic Hampton, South Carolina
Kameron Jackson, California
Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
Marcus Roberson, Florida
Bradley Roby, Ohio State

Safety (7)
Nick Addison, Bethune-Cookman
Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky
Al Louis-Jean, Boston College
Calvin Pryor, Louisville
Ed Reynolds, Stanford
Pierre Warren, Jacksonville State

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Top 5 by position, 1.0

* = Undecided.

Quarterback

1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (JR)

The class is led by razor-sharp Teddy Bridgewater who boasts an NFL arm and has gotten more accurate each season.

2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (SO)

Johnny Football has faults, but supremely talented with ‘escapability’ and propensity for playmaking in the game’s most important position.

3. A.J. McCarron, Alabama

A.J. McCarron makes excellent decisions and has a deceptively strong-arm despite lacking the star power of fellow classmates.

4. Blake Bortles, Central Florida (JR)

Only average competition, but few quarterbacks, when on-point, were as dangerous as Blake Bortles this season – a raw talent with good field vision. Is he ready for the major responsibility that the NFL has to offer?

5. Zach Mettenberger, Louisiana State

LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, a much-improved SEC passer, possesses prototypical size and the draft’s strongest arm; torn ACL is only a major concern if he can’t plant + drive his foot on throws.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Murray, Georgia

Murray is somewhat limited + coming off a torn ACL, but perhaps the most mentally strong quarterback in the class.


Running Back

1. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (JR)

From Baylor, by way of Oregon, Lache Seastrunk is a home-run threat with terrific quickness and creativity.

2. Storm Johnson, Central Florida (JR)

Storm Johnson, a Miami (FL) transfer, was somewhat of a forgotten man, but features an ideal combination of size + speed.

3. Bishop Sankey, Washington (JR)

Sankey is a shiftier downhill runner with good quickness and vision, but lacking top-end foot speed.

4. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

Possesses certain Le’Veon Bell characteristics. The rough & tough Carlos Hyde has ‘plus’ quickness and runs very well between the tackles.

5. Tre Mason, Auburn (JR)

Not a powerful ‘back, but the Heisman Trophy finalist features an excellent initial burst and smooth change of direction Skills. Also has value on special teams as a kick returner.

HM: Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State (JR)

Former highly touted UGA recruit Isaiah Crowell is a bit of a slasher with deceptive strength on contact.


Wide Receiver

1. Marqise Lee, Southern California (JR)

Unfortunately Marqise Lee’s production tailed off after the graduation of Matt Barkley, but his versatility and ability to change the game in all phases of the field make him a valuable weapon.

2. Sammy Watkins, Clemson (JR)

Sammy Watkins is a track star with terrific athleticism, but will need to answer questions about a substance-related suspension from May 2012.

3. Allen Robinson, Penn State (JR)

PSU’s Allen Robinson is the Big Ten’s most dangerous pass catcher – a vertical threat with great ball skills.

4. Mike Evans, Texas A&M (SO)

Johnny Football’s favorite target, Mike Evans, is a big wide out with near-H-back size and deceptively good run + catch ability.

5. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

Vandy’s Jordan Matthews is a passing game focal point and highly competitive with defenders in 50-50 situations with very reliable hands.

HM: Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma

OU’s shifty slot-type Jalen Saunders has the separation skills and good awareness to find soft zones.


Tight End

1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina (JR)

The athletic and fast Eric Ebron leads a primarily junior-led tight end class. Overall bulk & height may be of concern, but receiver skills are not in question.

2. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (JR)

Tech’s Jace Amaro is a gritty pass catcher with good in-line blocking skills. Very physical and snatches off-body when making catches.

3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington (JR)

2013 Mackey Award winner Seferian-Jenkins is good route runner with a very wide catch radius. Cited for DUI and served a day in jail, leading to a one-game suspension this past season.

4. Xavier Grimble, Southern California (JR)

Well-built, natural hands, good quickness and has route running potential. Blocking skills leave something to be desired.

5. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa

Big Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is a strong blocker and decent hands as an outlet receiver. Has ‘momentum speed.’ Can he make the big catch?

HM: Richard Rodgers, California (JR)

Rodgers appears to be a bigger H-Back with good movement in route running. His weight + medical will be important factors in his evaluation.


Offensive Tackle

1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

Prototype left tackle with excellent hand usage in pass protection. Athletic blocker with nice kick-slide. Picked up right where last year’s No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel left off at A&M. Also has long snapping experience.

2. Greg Robinson, Auburn (JR)

Big, strong, aggressive. Stays square, bends well, and – most importantly – has really good feet. Hands in pass pro could improve. A terrific talent.

3. Taylor Lewan, Michigan

Fantastic height (6’8”) and long arms. Aggressive run blocker, who keeps a generally low pad level in pass pro. Fared rather well vs. Jadeveon Clowney. Feet can be a little slow at times and won’t be as athletic as some of the defenders he will be assigned to block.

4. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee (JR)

Few are as balanced in both pass protection and run blocking. Powerful + aggressive and very competitive. Athleticism is only average and endurance is something of a concern.

5. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (JR)

‘Plus’ quickness for a heavier blocker of his size. Powerful drive-blocker with experience. Plays with leverage and stands his ground well in pass protection. Consistency is questionable.

HM: James Hurst, North Carolina

Tall, well-built left tackle type. Capable pass blocker with long wingspan. Can be ‘sticky’ when engaged with defenders and may be a nice fit for a zone-blocking scheme at NFL level.


Offensive Guard

1. Cyril Richardson, Baylor

Massive guard who may get spot looks at right tackle. Terrific run blocker, with the size to handle interior rushers in passing situations. Good movement for his size, pulls pretty comfortably.

2. David Yankey*, Stanford (JR)

The big Aussie-born Yankey is another potential right tackle with a nice blend of pass and run blocking skills. Not particularly quick in movement, but fundamentally sound. Stout at point of attack.

3. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State

Mammoth road grader Gabe Jackson has the size + experience needed to be a day one starter at the NFL level. Very strong, but don’t drive blockers overly well or possesses ‘plus’ athleticism, despite being quick for his size.

4. Xavier Su’a-Filo, California-Los Angeles

Left guard/left tackle versatile, but the slightly over-aged Su’a-Filo (23) – who completed a two-year Mormon mission during his time at UCLA – has had his potential in question. Still, he is highly athletic + quick feet.

5. Zack Martin, Notre Dame

Undersized left tackle who projects to guard at the NFL level, Martin is an experienced lineman and two-time co-captain of the Irish. Great fundamentals.

HM: Jon Halapio, Florida

Power blocker with good leverage, the UF product has ideal size and bulk for the position. Played through injury as a senior.


Center

1. Travis Swanson, Arkansas

Size (6’5” 318 lbs.) + experience (starting since 2010) are the two staples of this All-American first teamer’s game. Swanson, a team captain, is also viewed as a leadership figure with stability. Unquestioned top center.

2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State

Small-schooler with the look of a prototype center. Intriguing size + strength + athleticism. Routinely is able to cover ground in movement and generates momentum quickly. Undervalued.

3. Marcus Martin, Southern California (JR)

Nice quickness off the snap and aggressiveness at the point of attack. Like a running back, often keeps his feet moving through contact, driving defenders. Laterally fluid, and projects well in man & zone-blocking schemes.

4. Bryan Stork, Florida State

Experienced, fleet-footed center who may be best utilized in a zone-blocking scheme at the next level. A nicely framed in-line blocker who neutralizes stronger defenders by playing at a lower pad level.

5. Tyler Larsen, Utah State

Best asset is his fluid ability to move laterally. Seals A-gaps well with his East-West quickness + bulk. Good range ion getting to the second level off the snap.

HM: Russell Bodine, North Carolina (JR)

Athletic frame with an ideal attacking rate off the snap. More of a finesse blocker who won’t overpower many interior defensive linemen, but stays competitive at the point of attack.


Defensive End

1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (JR)

Pegged as a top 3 projection since the beginning of his collegiate career. Specimen with elite pass rushing talent. Motor and motivation are in question, but he fits the mold of great pass rushers (like Mario Williams, Julius Peppers) of past draft classes.

2. Kony Ealy, Missouri (JR)

Naturally long edge rusher who can comfortably turn speed into power. Somewhat in the Jason Pierre-Paul mold – a gifted athlete with a very high ceiling and nearly no physical limitations.

3. Trent Murphy, Stanford

A potential 3-4 outside linebacker conversion with versatility and terrific size. Another naturally long defender with ideal short-area agility. Comfortable engaging and shedding blocks, and possesses a strong variety of pass rushing moves.

4. Dominique Easley, Florida

Will have to continue proving he can overcome a ACL injuries to both knees, but the undersized DT/DE-type has a fantastic first-step and can be downright disruptive at times. Could be a later round value if teams are overtly concerned about size + medical.

5. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

A little light for his size, the son of former NFL defensive end Jim Jeffcoat, still possesses nice length and height. Plays with good leverage and, for a true pass rusher, understands positional responsibility. Flexible rusher + uses hands well to get off blocks.

HM: Kareem Martin, North Carolina

Doesn’t bring fire off the snap or ideal closing speed, but a big athletic frame with stoutness at the point of attack make Martin a versatile commodity. Fluid movement skills for a taller lineman (6’6”) and deceptive lateral agility.


Defensive Tackle

1. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota

The former tight end is a phenomenal athlete and possesses excellent movement skills – let alone for a 6’6” 311-pound interior lineman. Consistency, technique – plays a little high, and a 2012 misdemeanor will concern some.

2. Will Sutton, Arizona State

The shortish two-time consensus All-American can be a disruptive one-gapper and has developed more positional responsibility as a senior. Sack production dipped in 2013 after adding weight in effort to fill out his compact frame.

3. Louis Nix, Notre Dame

Mammoth nose tackles with good movement skills are a rare commodity if they aren’t always required to come off the field in potential passing situations. “Irish Chocolate” is a strong, space-eating run defender who is particularly powerful. Like many nose tackles, Nix is, perhaps, a little too bulky with questionable endurance & conditioning.

4. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State (JR)

Squatty 4-3 nose tackle-type with brute strength, who plays at a low pad level. Particularly good run defender, but can be effective in the passing game as well. Motor, injuries, and conditioning are concerning, but Jernigan is a talent.

5. Ego Ferguson, Louisiana State (JR)

Active interior defensive lineman with good size and short-area quickness. Laterally fluid, reads + reacts well, and frequently involved in tackles. Has benefited from playing alongside fellow underclassman Anthony Johnson, but he’s certainly taken advantage.

HM: Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina (JR)

Experienced lineman with a good first-step. Generates leverage strength and uses hands well to disengage blockers. Has the look of a 4-3/3-4 versatile player. Capable of anchoring. Only an average sized frame without much more room to grow.


Outside Linebacker

1. Anthony Barr, California-Los Angeles

Rangy and highly athletic, Barr carries his frame well and moves about the field smoothly. Penetrates very well and can be highly disruptive as a pass rusher or affect passing lanes. Tackling consistency + strength are areas of improvement.

2. Khalil Mack, Buffalo

Capable of rushing from a variety of places and posing a threat with his short-area explosiveness. Albeit against lesser competition, Mack has held his own when asked to cover. Somewhat of a tweener, but an athletic play-maker with legitimate pass rushing potential.

3. Vic Beasley*, Clemson (JR)

A pursuit defender with great closing speed. Primarily pass rushing oriented defender who would likely be best utilized on the edge in a 3-4 base. He’s comfortable enough when dropping into coverage.

4. Kyle Van Noy, Brigham-Young

Contains well, takes really good angles, and often involved in tackles due to his speed. Plays sideline-to-sideline and has experience rushing off the edge in a 3-4 front. Although he’ll likely be a 4-3 OLB in the NFL, he has lined up in a variety of spots on-field.

5. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State (JR)

Speedy athlete who can disrupt the game with his ability to close in the backfield. Prone to over-pursuing and only average in coverage, but the All-Big Ten first team selection needs to be accounted for when rushing the passer. A little light and undersized.

HM: Khairi Fortt, California (JR)

A Penn State transfer following the Sandusky scandal. He’s a little raw, but rich in talent. Excellent in movement, Fortt covers ground very well and tackles with really good form. Coverage skills leave something to be desired, but there is a strong base for growth.


Inside Linebacker

1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Would have been a coveted prospect in last year’s draft. Mosley is an athletic, disciplined, and experienced inside ‘backer. Sure-tackler with coverage skills, the versatile ‘Bama product doesn’t come off the field. Less effective when playing closer to the line of scrimmage and taking on bigger blockers; not

2. Shayne Skov, Stanford

Productive defensive quarterback with hailed leadership skills and a propensity to live in the film room. Good pop behind hits – able to generate momentum behind hits. Big and heavy enough to stand ground while engaging blockers. Coverage skills are a little underrated, but definitely has room to grow. Only average athleticism.

3. Christian Jones, Florida State

Prototypical FSU linebacker – athleticism and measurables. Jones features short-area explosion and covers the field well, taking good angles on ball carriers. Instincts are average at best, but he enjoys contact and playing physical. He was suspended this season for one game due to an unspecified violation of team rules.

4. Yamin Smallwood, Connecticut (JR)

Heady linebacker with good instincts. Diagnoses plays well and physical enough to execute when tracking ball carriers. Effective blitzer when called to do so, and handles himself well when taking on blockers. Wins many one-on-one battles.

5. Max Bullough, Michigan State

Well-framed Big Ten linebacker Max Bullough plays with intensity and a noticeable on-field motor. Displays good instincts and a knack for playing effective zone-coverage. Not very athletic, may be beaten to the seam by quicker tight ends, and below average pass rushing skills.

HM: Chris Borland, Wisconsin

Perhaps generously listed at 5’11”, size will be a major concern to many. That said, Borland would be one of the more coveted players in the draft if he were he taller. Stout, active run defender with good instincts and fluid hips in coverage. Lacks elite speed, but deceptively quick and plays well laterally. People blacklisted a Wisconsin player in 2012 due to height. I’d advise nobody does the same in 2014.


Cornerback

1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Like a defensive end who can rush the pass rusher, a cornerback who can play effective man-coverage is coveted. Gilbert has good size and packs a punch behind hits. Nice leaping skills round out a neatly checked athletic evaluation. Prone to penalties and could be more involved in run defense.

2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

Speedy + ball skills. The cousin of Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Darqueze, is an excellent all around prospect. Reliable and respected in both man + zone. Can be aggressive and poses a definite turnover threat to opposing quarterbacks.

3. Kameron Jackson, California (JR)

Scrappy and durable, the very fast Long Beach Poly HS product is aggressive and tough to beat despite being undersized. Capable of playing in a variety of coverage schemes and looks like an equally effective nickel-type.

4. Jason Verrett, Texas-Christian

One of the most effective press-man cornerbacks available. Very physical in man-coverage and steps up well as a run defender. Size is less than desirable, but he’s a proven play-maker at TCU with impressive ball skills.

5. Terrance Mitchell, Oregon (JR)

Played a little in Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s shadow in Eugene, but he’s going to generate a buzz as we draw closer to May. Fundamentals and technique are top-notch. Excellent, smooth back pedal + comfortably fluid hip work. A 5-interception junior season opened some eyes to his quietly improved ball skills.

HM: Bradley Roby, Ohio State (JR)

An up-and-down season has some questioning his consistency, but Bradley Roby is an earlier round player based on talent. Excellent body control and really good speed for the position with man-coverage capabilities. Tackling isn’t anything better than average and not overly physical.


Safety

1. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama (JR)

A good balance of effectiveness when playing center-field and in the box. Speed is evident on tape and used to being around the ball. Well put together and strong frame with room to add.

2. Dion Bailey, Southern California (JR)

Strong ball skills and even better instincts tell the story on Bailey. Has the necessary blend of size + speed to match up on modern tight ends. He’s an undersized linebacker, so some will place him in the tweener category.

3. Calvin Pryor, Louisville (JR)

Another aggressive, hard-hitting safety with a willingness to defend in the box. A bigger frame with room to grow, the Louisville underclassman has displayed durability throughout his three years. Quietly good ball skills. Man-coverage skills are relatively untested. Somewhat reminiscent of another ex-Louisville safety Kerry Rhodes.

4. LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State

It’s a shame that Joyner’s height (5’8”) will prevent him from being drafted as high as his talent level would indicate. Has been very effective in numerous defensive back positions. Highly aggressive and physical when blitzing or playing in the box. May be pegged as a better nickel than full-time safety at the next level.

5. Craig Loston, Louisiana State

Explosive athlete who loves the big hit. Tackling in general is hit or miss (pardon the pun), but capable of generating turnovers with his powerful hitting skills. Angles aren’t the best, but Loston is an extremely willing box defender. Consistency in coverage is the question.

HM: Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

A plus-size box defender with great physicality and length to disrupt and alter the passing game. Likes delivering big hits, but his tackling form suffers at times because of it. A torn ACL ensured he would only play three games as a senior. Played cornerback for the Hokies but may be a safety in the NFL.

-DC

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Ranking a handful of 2014 eligible QBs

ImageLouisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has fulfilled expectations through six games.


1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

Features ideal height, standing at 6’3″, and ‘plus’ mobility in and out of the pocket. Last season’s Big East OPOY is accurate (64.5% in ’11, 68.5% in ’12) and became far more efficient in his second season as a starter. Numbers have improved, as expected, due in large to a weak 2013 schedule. So far, Bridgewater has improved to a 71.0% completion, while upping his 2012 yards per attempt (8.9) to a staggering 10.6. Throwing 18 touchdowns on a mere two interceptions only highlights his ability to make good decisions, albeit against competition that won’t punish him for occasional lapses in judgement. The Miami, FL native has continued to exhibit good pocket presence and avoids pressure without taking off running on instinct. Somewhat troubling is his lack of bulk, as he weighs in at sub-200 lbs., but the soon-to-be 21-year-old Jr. has enough time to fill out his frame.

2. Tajh Boyd, Clemson

A little on the short end, as he is 6’1” at most, but a strong armed passer, featuring a quick release, with all of the necessary physical skills needed to compensate. Drastically improved his completion percentage from 59.7 in ’11 to 67.2 in ’12, while chucking 36 touchdowns on 13 interceptions last season. I would not question his work ethic after notable year-to-year improvement, as this scrappy pivot has a propensity to turn his game up in crunch time. Like Bridgewater, Boyd’s statistic accumulation to this point has been head-turning, and he’s managed to protect the football, drastically reducing turnovers. Thus far, he appears to have solidified himself as a mid-60% completion passer. Despite mediocre height, Boyd’s a mobile pocket passer who creates throwing lanes well to counter. The 2012 ACC POY is notably tough and likes to initiate contact when he runs. He’s managed to successfully recover from a torn ACL suffered in high school without setbacks.

3. A.J. McCarron, Alabama

Lacks ideal athleticism or ‘escapability’ in the pocket and doesn’t possess the big arm you’d prefer. However, he’s veteran passer with consistently good accuracy. McCarron was statistically the most efficient quarterback in college football last season (with a rating of 175.3), contributing significantly to a very talented Alabama offense. In his second year as a starter in 2012, he improved in completion percentage (66.8 in ’11 to 67.2), passing yards yards (2,634 to 2,933), yards per attempt (8.0 to 9.3), touchdowns (16 to 30) and interceptions (5 to 3). Plays in an NFL transferable offense and utilizes the talent around him well. He’s a good quarterback and will get opportunities at the next level – but how good can he be? There has been limited statistical improvement in 2013, as McCarron’s already matched his 2012 interception total in only six games. With that said, he’s completing slightly more passes and staying efficient despite a less potent rushing attack supporting him.

4. Aaron Murray, Georgia

Another signal caller on the short end, as he — like Boyd — is 6’1” at most, but possesses the traits to utilize the height deficiency to his benefit. He’s agile behind the line of scrimmage and can create throwing lanes for himself. Played behind a generally NFL-sized offensive line throughout his UGA tenure, and his size has not proven to be a hindrance. He’s now a four-year starter who’s generally improved with each year leading the Bulldog offense. In 2012, Murray passed for career highs in completion percentage (64.5), yards (3,893), yards per attempt (10.1), touchdowns (36) and rating (174.8). So far in 2013 he’s remained efficient, but his completion percentage has taken a small hit (62.8% through six games). If he’s been unable to surpass 65% in four full years of starting at Georgia, odds are he’s hit his plateau from that standpoint.

5. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech

Must improve on the subtleties of the position, I.E. ‘feeling’ back-side pressure, protecting the football when running, fluidity and rhythm in drops, but the 6’6” 250 lbs. signal caller is a specimen. Elite arm strength, gifted athlete, makes bucket throws, and improvises well when under fire. Athletic enough to maintain accuracy when throwing on the run and sets his feet properly before releasing. A more primary issue I find when evaluating Thomas is that he appears to have peaked early from an accuracy perspective. The fifth-year Sr. is highly likely to remain a sub 60.0% passer heading to the pro level at year’s end, a poor distinction. With that said, his accuracy numbers would benefit greatly from opting for higher percentage passes, as his decision making is suspect at times and trusts his arm a little too much. He’s falling off the radar, but NFL coaching and patience are key to potentially tapping the obvious potential that the Lynchburg, VA native possesses.

6. Bryn Renner, North Carolina

Regarded as a promising high school recruit, Renner has NFL size (6’3” 225 lbs.) and the arm to match. Capable of making great throws that only starters at the pro level can make; however, consistency has proven to be an issue, as he’s equally capable of making curious decisions with the ball in his possession. On-field maturity will be monitored closely this year, as his decision making and game management skills have been questionable. With an eye on the NFL, Renner could most help himself if he’s able to display more on-field reliability at North Carolina. Mistakes will happen, but they need to be minimized. Unfortunately, in four games, prior to a minor foot injury that kept him out against Virginia Tech, Renner’s shown little improvement in his areas of issue. Style is a little reminiscent of Jay Cutler’s, as he’s a physically well-put-together passer, who wins and loses taking risks, with a completion percentage that will waiver around a 60% at most.

-DC

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Draft Grades: AFC North

Baltimore Ravens

1 – Round 1 (32): Matt Elam, S. Florida
2 – Round 2 (56): Arthur Brown, LB. Kansas State
3 – Round 3 (94): Brandon Williams, DT. Missouri Southern State
4 – Round 4 (129): John Simon, DE/OLB. Ohio State
5 – Round 4 (130): Kyle Juszczyk, FB/TE. Harvard
6 – Round 5 (168): Ricky Wagner, OT. Wisconsin
7 – Round 6 (200): Kapron Lewis-Moore, DE. Notre Dame
8 – Round 6 (203): Ryan Jensen, OG/C. Colorado State-Pueblo
9 – Round 7 (238): Aaron Mellette, WR. Elon
10 – Round 7 (247): Marc Anthony, CB. California

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Following the departure of future Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens had the impossible task of finding replacements at the safety and linebacker positions. While it is literally impossible to do so, the team targeted the positions and landed two starting-caliber players with each of its first two picks in Matt Elam and Arthur Brown. Elam is a physical, downhill attack safety with ball skills and Brown, a laterally fluid, productive linebacker who finds the football. Brandon Williams was an interesting pick, but I felt he came off the board too early. Still, he poses an interesting project for defensive coaches and the MSS product has loads of untapped potential as a space eater with some movement skills. Ozzie Newsome added a couple good soldiers on either side of the ball in round four with consecutive picks. John Simon is a high energy, high motor 3-4 OLB type who will provide depth to the teams rotation and can play the run. Juszczyk is bit of a hybrid H-back type with blocking ability and sneaky-good receiving skills. A good underneath player or hands in the flats that can turn it up-field with quickness. Rounds five and six brought more depth aboard. Wagner, is a fundamentally sound run blocker with bulk – albeit possessing limited upside. Lewis-Moore adds size at the 3-4 DE spot with a strong lower-half, some lateral agility, and experience in an unbalanced front. Ryan Jensen is an interesting interior OL projection that offers versatility, but I don’t know that he’ll ever be a starter at the NFL level. Aaron Mellette, the productive Elon wide out with size and get-off speed can be a quality big-slot option early in his career if he can prove his separation skills translate. Marc Anthony is primarily a special teamer who may have to really leave a strong impression to make the team at all. It was a solid, unspectacular draft. The Ravens hit off many needs, were realistic in the later rounds adding depth and potentially key role players. Although there isn’t much true impact potential after the first two-three selections, a nice bunch of players should come from this class.

Grade: B

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Cincinnati Bengals

1 – Round 1 (21): Tyler Eifert, TE. Notre Dame
2 – Round 2 (37): Giovani Bernard, RB. North Carolina
3 – Round 2 (53): Margus Hunt, DE. Southern Methodist
4 – Round 3 (84): Shawn Williams, S. Georgia
5 – Round 4 (118): Sean Porter, LB. Texas A&M
6 – Round 5 (156): Tanner Hawkinson, OT/OG. Kansas
7 – Round 6 (190): Rex Burkhead, RB. Nebraska
8 – Round 6 (197): Cobi Hamilton, WR. Arkansas
9 – Round 7 (240): Reid Fragel, OT. Ohio State

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Cincy’s draft is bunched with potential day one starters at the top. Tyler Eifert and Jermaine Gresham should pose a very formidable pass catching tight end duo for Andy Dalton to utilize as they continue to try and stockpile offensive weapons. Gio Bernard is a quick, shifty rusher with nice vision and big-play ability who could even contribute on special teams. Medical is a question on Gio, but if healthy, he could be a nice yard-getter as a rookie in both run and pass games. The Bengals added another physically imposing defensive end to the stable with the Estonian specimen Margus Hunt. Not much immediate pressure to produce in Cincinnati and he can play/learn off fellow freak athletes Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap as he picks up on the subtleties of the position. Shawn Williams is a hard-hitting in the box safety that may vie for time very early on – should have been a day two player. Sean Porter underachieved a little this past year, but he was still a productive starter and should contribute in a rotation as a rookie as well. Tanner Hawkinson will likely play guard exclusively at the next level and will need to strengthen his base and add to his frame in order to potentially move up the depth chart, but he moves well and has good feet. Rex Burkhead has hands and can be a scrappy scat-back type, but he’s limited. Cobi Hamilton was shear value at No. 197. Another big-bodied pass catcher who can make plays down field and high-point a lot of passes. He, like Tyler Wilson, was victim of a major transition year at Arkansas and saw numerous double-teams this past season. Reid Fragel, a converted tight end is a nice wild card to cap this class. Very raw, but had quality athleticism. Developmental swing-tackle. Value almost all over the board and you can see exactly what Cincinnati was trying to achieve with nearly all picks. On paper, I thought it was a win.

Grade: B+

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Cleveland Browns

1 – Round 1 (6): Barkevious Mingo, DE. Louisiana State
2 – Round 2 (N/A): Used on Josh Gordon, WR. Baylor in Supplemental Draft
3 – Round 3 (68): Leon McFadden, CB. San Diego State
4 – Round 6 (175): Jamoris Slaughter, S. Notre Dame
5 – Round 7 (217): Armonty Bryant, DE. East Carolina
6 – Round 7 (227): Garrett Gilkey, OG. Chadron State

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The Cleveland Browns may have fooled a few teams/draftniks into thinking they truly aren’t sold on Brandon Weeden enough that they may have seriously considered a quarterback. We don’t necessarily know they love Weeden, but perhaps simply nobody available this year. Either way, I do value acquiring future picks – like Cleveland was able to do – in a relatively notable way, as it gives them flexibility next year. Michael Lombardi will be around for two years at the very least, so the organization has some chips entering next year. From the top, I’ve long been a fan of Barkevious Mingo. Whether at defensive end, where he’ll likely play, or linebacker, he’s an athlete who can bend, play in space, locate the football, and finish. He’s barely scratched the surface of his potential and the talent speaks for itself with the LSU product. Josh Gordon’s selection in the Supp Draft meant no second round pick, but he’s proven to be a nice piece for the future. Leon McFadden has good feet for the position + fills a need, but limited upside and average value at best leave me wondering whether the Browns plucked a possible starter with the selection. Jamoris Slaughter, Armonty Bryant, and Garrett Gilkey are depth-caliber players that don’t possess much upside above that distinction. Although the movement set up Cleveland for future success in the 2014 draft and Gordon’s rookie season was encouraging, I’ll grade the picks made. I simply see one potential starter from this class and even though I really like the aforementioned player, it wasn’t enough to warrant high marks overall.

Grade: C+

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Pittsburgh Steelers

1 – Round 1 (17): Jarvis Jones, OLB. Georgia
2 – Round 2 (48): Le’Veon Bell, RB. Michigan State
3 – Round 3 (79): Markus Wheaton, WR. Oregon State
4 – Round 4 (111): Shamarko Thomas, S. Syracuse
5 – Round 4 (115): Landry Jones, QB. Oklahoma
6 – Round 5 (150): Terry Hawthorne, CB. Illinois
7 – Round 6 (186): Justin Brown, WR. Oklahoma
8 – Round 6 (206): Vince Williams, LB. Florida State
9 – Round 7 (223): Nicholas Williams, DT. Samford

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Hard to dislike what the Steelers did overall. Jarvis Jones is an immediate plug and play defender who continues the youth turnover on defense. Excellent value, to me, in the pick, as Jones is a playmaker that penetrates and disrupts. I’m not as sold as the team obviously is on Le’Veon Bell’s potential as a third-down ‘back, but he suits what the offense tries to do in the ground game, and if he develops further as a blocker, he could indeed be an unquestioned feature running back for Pittsburgh. So many parallels can be drawn between Markus Wheaton and Mike Wallace as prospects. Straight-line burners, who reach top speed with ease, third round selections. Take it for what it’s worth, but the team obviously knew what role they were trying to replace when adding the player, and I like the pick. Shamarko Thomas is a little stiff and maybe not the most natural cover-safety in the draft, but he fills a similar role to that of Troy Polamalu. That being, a downhill, near the line of scrimmage safety that primarily plays in the box and supports the run. He’s a rocked up athlete with impressive speed and strength. Landry Jones was a bit of an odd one, but I see the schematic fit and if he can quietly develop into a nice backup to Big Ben, it’s a fourth round pick well spent. For as tough as he is, Roethlisberger has only played a full 16-game schedule once in his nine-year career. A good secondary option is needed in Pittsburgh. Terry Hawthorne was a strong value in the fifth round, as I felt he could have gone a round or two earlier based purely on his talent, physical ability, and upside. He’s a fluid athlete with good hips and will fit nicely into a depth role in the short term. Justin Brown never really developed into the potential No. 1 receiver he could have been at Penn State, but flashed. At Oklahoma he was a support option and displayed some YAC ability. He could be a decent fourth or fifth option in time. There’s still some untapped ability there. Vince Williams is another athletic interior linebacker from FSU with fluidity and football IQ, much like Lawrence Timmons. Plays laterally and can hold his own at the point of attack, should be a good special teamer as well. Pittsburgh capped its 2013 draft with 6’5” 310 lbs. 5-tech Nicholas Williams. A decent bargain, as his movement skills and upside had him in the mid-round discussion to some. Top to bottom, I can appreciate Pittsburgh’s ability to draft value and talent when filling primary needs. Another solid one, on-paper.

Grade: B+

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Draft Grades: AFC East

Buffalo Bills

1 – Round 1 (16): E.J. Manuel, QB. Florida State
2 – Round 2 (41): Robert Woods, WR. USC
3 – Round 2 (46): Kiko Alonso, LB. Oregon
4 – Round 3 (78): Marquise Goodwin, WR. Texas
5 – Round 4 (105): Duke Williams, S. Nevada
6 – Round 5 (143): Jonathan Meeks, S. Clemson
7 – Round 6 (177): Dustin Hopkins, K. Florida State
8 – Round 7 (222): Chris Gragg, TE. Arkansas

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The Bills’ draft grade generally will hinge on how the evaluator feels about E.J. Manuel’s potential to be a franchise quarterback. While it certainly was the unconventional choice and shocked many, there’s little reason to think – especially in a trade down – that it was a bad pick. Manuel has all the physical tools and confident (not cocky) mindset needed to be an impactful NFL passer. Although his pocket presence and completion consistency are areas of concern, they can be developed, unlike the positives of his game. Aside going earlier than expected, there’s no reason to outright slam the pick. Landing Robert Woods, a perfect potential compliment receiver at the NFL level with some Reggie Wayne elements to his game was a strong, value selection. Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso has the ability to potentially start from day one – coverage savvy, fluid lateral mover, good schematic fit. Buffalo went a little off the board with Marquise Goodwin… few really understood the pick from a ‘helping E.J. Manuel’ standpoint, but the slot-WR and potential return ace has speed to burn and if used properly could be the wild card of the Bills’ 2013 class. Duke Williams was a nice bargain pickup in the fourth round and could’ve justified a late second day call. Jonathan Meeks has the look of a special teams player for the most part and better players were left on the board. Similarly, albeit a bit of a nit-pick considering it was round six, Dustin Hopkins wasn’t the player I’d have pegged with more potential contributors, particularly on defense, still available. That said, he’s a good kicker and we saw the value of good rookie legs in 2012. Chris Gragg is a balanced player and very well should secure a roster spot.

Grade: B

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Miami Dolphins

1 – Round 1 (3): Dion Jordan, DE. Oregon
2 – Round 2 (54): Jamar Taylor, CB. Boise State
3 – Round 3 (77): Dallas Thomas, OG. Tennessee
4 – Round 3 (93): Will Davis, CB. Utah State
5 – Round 4 (104): Jelani Jenkins, LB. Florida
6 – Round 4 (106): Dion Sims, TE. Michigan State
7 – Round 5 (164): Mike Gillislee, RB. Florida
8 – Round 5 (166): Caleb Sturgis, K. Florida
9 – Round 7 (250): Don Jones, S. Arkansas State

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The Dolphins had an excess of early picks and used it to acquire their guy at No. 3 in Dion Jordan. They obviously had a vision of Jordan bookending Wake going into the draft and while I prefer him to be a 3-4 edge rusher as opposed to a downed end at the next level, the potential is there for stardom in either role. Jordan will reach his ceiling if he’s able to successfully fill out his frame over the first two seasons of his NFL career and adjust to his targeted playing weight. If he doesn’t make a significant impact as a rookie, nobody should panic. He is a bit of a projection player who’s still raw at the position – still, boom or bust type prospect. Miami ended Jamar Taylor’s medically related slide at No. 54 and hope to acquire a better player than the one it traded away to land the respective pick in Vontae Davis. The team lacks depth at cornerback and Jamar Taylor is physical in press and a reliable tackler who can play sticky coverage. Dallas Thomas was a good pick – guard/swing tackle with good pass pro skills and strong hands at the point of attack. Will Davis is a raw athlete with upside who went a round early to me. Projection player who was added to infuse some talent and depth, but better players were available. Jelani Jenkins is another projection player, who flashed at UF, but his best days are ahead of him – he’s just scratching the surface. Tough, fast, sideline-to-sideline player with upside. The Michael Egnew experiment isn’t one I’ve ever been in favor of because I don’t believe he can handle NFL contact in the block or pass game. Dion Sims won’t have such a problem at the next level. Upside is a little limited, but he should become a reliable blocker that can find soft zones and make catches underneath. Potential to be a decent chain mover or No. 3/4 receiving option at the position, especially in double TE sets. Running backs fell and Miami got a very good one later in Mike Gillislee. Similar role to what the Phins lost in Reggie Bush, Gillislee is an all-around adept player with hands out of the backfield. His style compliments the contrasting thunder/lightning that Lamar Miller and Dan Thomas offer. Miami went back to Gainesville to find its future kicker in Caleb Sturgis. Doubles as a potential kickoff specialist. Dan Carpenter’s time in Miami should be up after this selection. Don Jones is a freak athlete who will have to prove he can play football at the NFL level before getting reps on defense. Nice ST’s potential early. A lot of the Dolphins’ draft grade is based on potential as the class is primarily projection-based, more-so than most teams.

Grade: B

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New England Patriots

1 – Round 2 (52): Jamie Collins, LB. Southern Mississippi
2 – Round 2 (59): Aaron Dobson, WR. Marshall
3 – Round 3 (83): Logan Ryan, CB. Rutgers
4 – Round 3 (91): Duron Harmon, S. Rutgers
5 – Round 4 (102): Josh Boyce, WR. TCU
6 – Round 7 (226): Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB. Illinois
7 – Round 7 (235): Steve Beauharnais, LB. Rutgers

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New England did the usual dance and moved back in order to acquire picks. Rutgers was a common theme throughout, but impressive athlete Jamie Collins, who rose well in the pre-draft, leads the class. A big-bodied athlete who can rush the passer and play in space, Collins could be a legitimate piece on the New England defense for years to come if his final year at Southern Miss translates moving forward. Aaron Dobson is a reliable red-zone weapon that wins many 50-50 balls. He should add a new dynamic to New England’s short-yardage passing game with his mismatch skills on the boundary. Good footwork and ball-skills + nice size are the staples of Logan Ryan’s prospect evaluation. He’s a bit of a projection, as the player needs to continue to add strength to his frame, but lots of upside. Duron Harmon is not a bad football player, and his versatility is likely what made him a commodity to New England, but it’s difficult to justify selecting him as high as he was taken despite some rumblings he’d been a slight riser going into the draft. Conversely, Josh Boyce was a good value selection that most may have viewed as a late day two prospect. Another bigger target with some downfield speed and playmaking ability. Michael Buchanan in round seven may be the steal of the 2013 draft. Although there are character issues, Buchanan was considered by some to be a pre-season top 10 talent. Inconsistencies and underachieving play contributed to the slide, but he is a quality pass rusher who can bend and play in space. Similarly, Steve Beauharnais could’ve gone early on day three and nobody would have blinked. Could be a starter down the road who will immediately help on special teams. An up and down draft overall, but features a couple gems.

Grade: B

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New York Jets

1 – Round 1 (9): Dee Milliner, CB. Alabama
2 – Round 1 (13): Sheldon Richardson, DT. Missouri
3 – Round 2 (39): Geno Smith, QB. West Virginia
4 – Round 3 (72): Brian Winters, OG. Kent State
5 – Round 5 (141): Oday Aboushi, OT. Virginia
6 – Round 6 (178): William Campbell, OG. Michigan
7 – Round 7 (215): Tommy Bohanon, FB. Wake Forest

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Overall, the New York Jets did pretty well for themselves, but how you perceive Geno Smith can drive this class’ grade up or down. At the top, Dee Milliner was a bit of a gift at No. 9, if healthy. Although the Revis comparison/replacement conversations could prove counterproductive to Milliner as a rookie, if there is one player mentally able to handle it, it’s him. Sheldon Richardson is a super-talent. He is an impressive 1-gapper with a quick and disruptive first step. More 5-tech ability means he was a better fit than other DT/3-4 DEs available. There is lots of boom or bust potential in Richardson, as I personally don’t see much in between. Geno Smith was the right pick for New York. Whether Geno’s presence makes or breaks Sanchez is irrelevant at this point – you need to improve the position and stop-gaps like David Garrard wouldn’t have cut it mid-season if a change does happen. Smith is a wild card that could easily be the premier piece of this class, despite the fact that he’s hardly a sure thing. The talent and drive is there though. Brian Winters is an intriguing athlete with upside, but I’d have preferred to see the Jets go against their nature and look for more polish to improve the guard-play. Still, theoretically, Winters is a proper scheme fit. Aboushi is interesting in round five – I pegged him to come off the board a round earlier, so the value was right. He won’t play the left side with Ferguson on the roster, but he has that sort of potential. A big bodied Brooklyn-native who could be a down-the-road starter. William Campbell is a negatively received pick and it will take some convincing as far as his full-time transition at the position before I believe he can ever be a contributor. On the other hand, seventh rounders don’t often contribute much, but Tommy Bohanon is a hard nosed, true lead-blocking type that loves contact. He developed minor receiving ability this past season and should wind up being a good bargain late in the draft for Gang Green. As I said, what puts this class over (or under) the top is how Geno Smith’s selection is perceived. I don’t see a franchise cornerstone, but I see a good quarterback and a good value in the second round.

Grade: B+

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