The 2014 NFL Draft picture is starting to come more into focus with the Combine in the rearview mirror and Pro Days getting underway. It’s now time to start finalizing draft boards and locking prospects into a certain range.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Edge rushers continue to be one of the more valued positions in the NFL. Clowney has a good chance to be a different maker as someone capable of slowing down an opponent’s passing attack.
2. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Matthews gets the nod as my top offensive tackle because of his combination of experience, sound technique and solid athleticism. This is a player who can step in and immediately help improve a team’s offensive line.
3. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: Robinson is an amazing athlete who features a ton of upside. However, there are still parts of his game that need work. Auburn’s run-heavy offense didn’t provide Robinson a lot of opportunities to perfect his kick slide. He’ll need reps in order to fully develop as a pass protector.
4. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Mack is the most versatile defender in this draft class and should be able to make an immediate impact. The thing that makes him so intriguing is that he’s only scratching the surface of his pass-rushing potential.
5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: Watkins produced plenty of big plays during his time at Clemson, but I still have some questions about ability to make an impact on a consistent basis. He’ll come off the board somewhere in the top 10 based on his potential.
6. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Despite a highly productive college career, Anthony Barr’s best football is still ahead of him. Look for him to quickly develop into one of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the NFL. His combination of quickness, length and fluidity gives a defensive coach plenty to work with.
7. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Evans’ combination of size, solid speed and aggressiveness makes him a top-notch prospect. There aren’t many receivers who attack the ball like Evans which is something that NFL teams will love.
8. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Taylor Lewan has been flying under the radar a little bit, but this is an elite offensive tackle prospect with tons of upside. I love the nasty streak he displays in the running game.
9. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Bridgewater is the most complete quarterback prospect in this year’s draft class. He has the arm strength, sound technique and ability to make quick decisions needed to exceed at the next level. Bridgewater might not be the sexy pick but he has the best chance to become a top-level starter in the NFL.
10. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: Mosley is an explosive athlete who makes quick decisions which allows him to make plays from sideline to sideline. He’s also features solid blitz timing which will come in handy at the next level.
11. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma St: Gilbert features good size, length and athleticism which makes him an attractive prospect. What stood out to me was how he consistently held him in coverage despite being asked to play on an island all season.
12. Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Injuries and inconsistent quarterback play hurt Lee’s production this season. However, he remains the top receiver on by board because of how he produced throughout his career. Lee has the speed to take the top off the defense, quickness to create in space and consistency needed to provide the quarterback with a reliable target.
13. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: I may be one of the few who have Fuller ranked this high, but he showed this past season that he’s a complete player. This is a physical defender who supports the run, disrupts the receiver’s timing and can dislodge the ball from target. He also has the fluidity to stick with his target and the ball skills to create turnovers.
14. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Aaron Donald may not have prototypical size, but his effort and quick first step makes him a first round prospect.
15. Odell Beckham Jr, WR, LSU: Odell Beckham Jr. turned in a great performance at the combine which only backed up his play on the field. It’s important to note that Beckham is not only an explosive athlete, as he also has excellent hands and routinely attacks the ball at its highest point.
16. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: If Jason Verrett had better size we’d be talking about him as a top-10 prospect. He’s easily the best cover cornerback in this draft. It’s his ability to quickly change direction and read developing routes that make him so special. He also has the click-and-close ability to break on the ball and create turnovers.
17. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: Pryor made a name for himself as a big hitter and aggressive defender. However, it’s his explosiveness that stands out for me. This is a safety who can cover a ton over ground and make plays from sideline to sideline and at the line of scrimmage.
18. Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee: I’ve been on Ja’Wuan James all year and have yet to see anything to warrant taking him out of the first-round mix. He has the size, length, balance and change of direction ability to play tackle at the next level. I have little doubt that he’ll have a better NFL career than his more touted teammate Antonio Richardson.
19. Zach Martin, OL, Notre Dame: Martin’s ability to play all five offensive line positions is what really separates him from other prospects. He’s not an elite athlete or overly powerful, but he uses good technique and really understands how to play the game.
20. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: Amaro has the size, quickness and pass-catching ability NFL teams now covet from the tight end position. He’ll create a ton of mismatches at the next level.
21. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Ebron’s size, quickness and natural talents are undeniable. He’d be higher on my board if I didn’t have concerns about his concentration and history of drops. Ebron also needs to give more effort in the blocking department.
22. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: Despite a disappointing season, Nix remains one of the top prospects in this draft. There just aren’t many people who possess his combination of size and quickness. He’s the most likely out of this defensive tackle group to develop into a dominant run stuffer.
23. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: Early on, I wasn’t very high on Jernigan as I saw him as a prospect who didn’t standout in one area. That changed after I went back to take a second look where I was able to appreciate how he impacts all aspects of the game. He may not be elite in one area, but this is a three-down player who will make a constant impact.
24. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: Dennard is a physical defender who shows good ball skills and the quickness needed to turn and run with his target. One concern I have is that he tends to play too much with his hands which will result in a lot of pass interference calls in the NFL.
25. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel’s competitiveness, athleticism and never-say-die attitude is one of the main reasons he shows up this high on my board. Based on quarterback skills, I have Manziel as more of a late second-round prospect. The big story with Manziel is that nobody really knows what type of pro he’ll be because of his unorthodox playing style.
26. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn: Ford used the pre-draft process to his full advantage by dominating at the Senior Bowl and putting up impressive numbers at his Pro Day. His ability to generate pressure on the quarterback is someone all NFL teams value.
27. Bradin Cooks, WR, Oregon State: Cooks might be on the shorter side, but he’s a tough player who can make plays all over the field. He really helped himself with his excellent showing at the Combine.
28. David Yankey, OG, Stanford: Yankey is a big and powerful interior lineman who excels at opening holes in the running game. However, it’s important to note that he’s a former left tackle who really looked great in pass protect at the guard spot.
29. Xavier Su’a Filo, OL, UCLA: Versatility is key in the NFL and Xavier Su’a Filo brings a lot of that to the table. He’s probably better suited to play guard at the next level, but he showed last year that he’s capable of holding up in space.
30. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State: Gabe Jackson’s explosive first step is what makes him such an attractive prospect. He uses that initial burst to drive defenders off the ball or to cross the face of the defensive linemen. Jackson also has the fluidity to hold up in pass protection.
31. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF: Bortles is a naturally talented quarterback but there are a lot of aspects of his game that needs to be cleaned up. My biggest concerns right now are his lack of accuracy and tendency to force to ball into coverage. His in the first round mix because of his upside, but he also comes with a high chance of failing to live up to expectations.
32. Trai Turner, OG, LSU: Turner wasn’t the most heralded offensive lineman on his college roster, but taking a closer look it’s easy to notice his talent. This is a massive player who has a quick burst off the line that helps him generate a push in the running game. Turner is also fluid enough to hold up in pass protection.
Though Jim Harbaugh recently stated he intends to remain head coach of the San Francisco 49ers through the end of the 2015 season when his contract expires, league insiders don’t expect that will be the case. The team whose keeps popping as a potential landing spot are the Miami Dolphins.
The New York Jets are returning to a more run oriented offense in 2014 in an attempt to exploit their strengths and lessen the load on Geno Smith. I’m told the game plan is to try and keep Smith under 20 passes per game. Part of the plan is to keep continuity on the offensive line, which is why they’ve made resigning right tackle Austin Howard a priority. At the same time I’m told the team views re-signing veteran guard Willie Colon as a last resort and will look to sign a player at the position via free agency. Names that make the most sense include Zane Beadles of the Denver Broncos and Geoff Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Aaron Donald continues his assault up draft boards. While most mock drafts have Timmy Jernigan pegged as the first round pick of the Chicago Bears, Donald’s name continues to be talked about amongst league insiders.
Full Podcast with more on Dez Southward, Sammy Watkins and the first two picks of the draft.
Speaking with those from Verrett’s camp this evening I found out most of the news from doctors re-examining his injured labrum was positive. Verrett was offered two options; 1) rehabilitate his injured labrum without surgery or 2) undergo surgery to repair the labrum.
While rehabilitation without the surgery sounded comforting I’m told Verrett was informed he would be dealing with a large degree of potential pain moving forward and there was no guarantee another knock to the shoulder would not further damage the labrum at which point surgery would be a necessity. That meant the possibility of missing a portion of the 2014 season.
Surgery before the draft would immediately repair the injury, lessen any pain experienced from the start of camp and severely reduce the potential of further damage moving forward.
Considering Verrett will have at least four months after the procedure to rehab his labrum, undergoing surgery was a no brainer.
I’m told Verrett’s schedule will closely follow what I originally reported from the combine on Saturday, February 22nd, though the date of surgery has yet to be confirmed.
Tomorrow Verrett will participate in pro-day at TCU and is expected to bench press and take part in position drills. League franchises will also be informed of the exact date of the surgery in the next day or so.
League sources told me tonight this will not effect Verrett’s draft stock. Dion Jordan and Dee Milliner had similar procedures a year ago and both ended up in the top ten selections in the 2013 NFL Draft.