By: Derek Havens
With the NFL Combine in the books, here is my position-by-position top five for the 2014 NFL Draft:
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
3. Blake Bortles, Central Florida
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State
5. Zach Mettenberger, Louisiana State
– There’s no Andrew Luck type quarterback in this class, but there are several prospects that offer intriguing upside. For teams in need of a QB, it will come down to evaluations and fits, but there’s no telling who the first guy off the board will end up being.
1. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
2. Tre Mason, Auburn
3. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
4. Andre Williams, Boston College
5. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
– Last year was the first time in over a decade no running back was taken in the first round. Could we see a repeat? I wouldn’t rule it out. While there are some talented prospects, I’m not sure any player is worth taking in the top 32.
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
3. Marqise Lee, USC
4. Odell Beckham Jr., Louisiana State
5. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
– Watkins and Evans will be the first two players taken, after that, Lee is most likely the third after a disappointing season. The receiver class is tremendously deep and there will be players taken in the second, third and fourth round that could end up being starters early on. If you need a wide out, you’re in luck.
1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
3. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
5. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
– Ebron is head and shoulders above the rest, but similar to wide receiver, the tight end class is very deep. There are some red flags around several players, however, there’s a bit of a gamble with some guys. That being said, in a league that looks for mismatches in the passing game, this is a good year to acquire talent.
1. Greg Robinson, Auburn
2. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
3. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
4. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
5. Billy Turner, North Dakota State
– Flip a coin for Robinson and Matthews, either could be the top tackle taken this year, while Martin offers tremendous versatility. After injury questions to Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio and Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson, there’s some serious medical decisions teams will need to make before the draft in May.
1. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
2. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
3. David Yankey, Stanford
4. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
5. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
– Unlike last year, I wouldn’t expect a guard in the top 20 overall — which speaks to the talent available at more important positions — but nevertheless, Su’a-Filo, Richardson and Yankey seem to be a cut above the rest.
1. Marcus Martin, USC
2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
3. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
4. Bryan Stork, Florida State
5. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
– Not a sure-fire center in this class, but some guys who should be able to develop. No concensous, but Richburg’s stock is rising in recent weeks.
1. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame
2. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
3. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
4. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
5. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
– A talented group up from that offers some versatility in multiple fronts. Florida’s Dominique Easley and Arizona State’s Will Sutton were both under consideration for the fifth spot, but both have some question marks — including Tuitt — over either rehab or weight gained in the last year.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2. Dee Ford, Auburn
3. Kony Ealy, Missouri
4. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
5. Kareem Martin, North Carolina
– There seems to be more talent for 3-4 outside linebackers and pure 4-3 defensive ends this year, but each of the prospects above have incredible upside. Clowney is the biggest name, but there are some quality pass rushers available in this class.
1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
2. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
3. Anthony Barr, UCLA
4. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
5. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
– Mack, Mosley and Barr could all be top 10 or 12 picks come May 8. Shazier and Van Noy are my next two prospects, but it’s close. There are some athletic linebackers in this group that should translate well to NFL defenses looking for answers in a pass-happy league.
1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
3. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
4. Jason Verrett, TCU
5. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
– After Dennard and Gilbert, there’s some debate over the next cornerback this year. Several have some intriguing size — both tall and short — but there are some questions after the top two prospects.
1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
4. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
5. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
– The safety class isn’t as strong as some of the others, but Pryor and Clinton-Dix seem to be first round talents. Joyner could be listed at CB, but despite his small frame, is being looked at to play safety; his versatility on the nation’s top team stood out in 2013.
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