2014's 5-Star Recruits with the Best NFL Skill Sets
5-star RB Leonard Fournette
Is it far too early to be thinking about the recruits of the 2014 class and how they would project as NFL players?
Of course it's far to early, and frankly, it's crazy. For as good as they are as recruits, they aren't even guaranteed to succeed at the college level—let alone in the NFL.
That said, I'm feeling a bit out of the box right now, and there's something about recruiting that just begs us to project, to hope and to dare to dream.
Believe it or not, even though these recruits are still in high school, many of them already have the intangibles and measurables that you look for in a NFL prospect.
With that in mind, and with the NFL draft right around the corner, let's have a little bit of fun.
Here are five 2014 recruits with the best NFL-ready skill-sets:
Note: We'll use B/R draft expert Matt Miller's latest mock draft to help us along this process for some of these recruits.
Damian Prince, 5-Star OT
Damian Prince is 6'6'', 300 pounds, so he already has NFL size as just a rising senior in high school.
What makes Prince really stand out, though, is the fact that even at his size, he runs a 5.00 40 according to 247Sports. That may not seem all that impressive to you, believe you me, that's very fast for a 300-pound lineman.
He'll be quick enough to really get a jump at the line of scrimmage, and he'll be extremely effective at the second level walling off linebackers. Prince will also be able to pull and be a lead blocker, and with his size and strength, he could be dominant.
Top NFL draft prospect Eric Fisher checks in at 6'7'', 305 pounds, and he projects to be a top five pick according to our draft expert Matt Miller. Projected No. 1 overall pick Luke Joeckel is 6'6'', 306 pounds.
Prince appears to be right on track.
Jabrill Peppers, 5-Star ATH/CB
Jabrill Peppers has the potential to be a superstar at the college level, and that's potential that I believe could translate to the pros as well.
He's ranked as the No. 1 athlete in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings, but he projects best as a cornerback.
He has tremendous size at 6'1'', 205 pounds and he runs a 4.50 40 according to 247Sports. He's big enough to jam and compete with the bigger, stronger wide receivers in the NFL today, but he's also fast enough to flip his hips and cover the deep zone or stick with a slot receiver through the middle.
Peppers is also a very physical cornerback, so he could set the edge and hold his own against an NFL running game.
Consider that Dee Milliner is 6'1'', 197 pounds, and Milliner is projected to be a top 10 draft pick (Miller). Peppers is built in that mold, and he hasn't even played his senior year of high school football yet.
Jalen Hurd, 5-Star RB
Jalen Hurd, a 5-star running back, already has the measurables to be elite in today's NFL.
He's 6'3'' 230 pounds, so he's massive for a running back, but he combines that size with incredible speed, shiftiness and agility.
Hurd is big and strong enough to carry the ball between the tackles and pick up tough yards, but he's also fast enough to get the edge on a stretch play or bounce it outside and make defenders miss.
In today's NFL, with linebackers and defensive linemen growing bigger and stronger, but also getting quicker, the style of running back will have to change as well.
There's always going to be a need for the shifty change-of-pace back, but having a big-bodied bruiser that can also kick it outside is going to become a necessity.
Hurd has what it takes to be that kind of running back as the position evolves.
Leonard Fournette, 5-Star RB
Much like Hurd, 5-star running back Leonard Fournette is a big running back with tremendous speed and agility.
Fournette is ranked as the No. 1 back in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports Composite, and he has superstar potential.
He also has an NFL skill set.
I talked about my projected evolution of the running back position in Hurd's slide, so there's no need to go over that again.
What you need to know about Fournette is that he can do everything that Hurd does, but he's better. He's a more refined runner with better footwork and vision. He's a little bit more compact, thus he can lower his shoulder and pick up tough yards, but he has great, natural running instincts to find cutback lanes and make a move.
He'll be effective between the tackles as a power runner or on the edges as a speed guy.
Fournette really is the complete running back at 6'0'' 215 pounds.
Da'Shawn Hand, 5-Star SDE
He also displays the intangibles that you look for in a top-notch NFL draft pick though.
Hand has great size for a defensive end at 6'5'', 247 pounds, and there's a good chance that he'll only get bigger and stronger in the next few seasons. Where he'll really stand out, though, is with his combination of speed and fundamentals. He runs a 4.60 40 according to 247Sports.
He has the quickness to get the edge and turn the corner as a pass-rusher, and he has a great move set. He uses his hands well to create separation and disengage, he plays with good leverage, and he's extremely explosive at the line of scrimmage.
Quick, fundamental defensive ends are becoming a staple in the NFL today, and teams are looking for players that can really set the edge and get after the quarterback. They also need to be able to play comfortable in space though and have great agility (sometimes even backing up into coverage), so Hand really fits that prototype.
He's still big and strong enough to be a power defender, but he'll excel because of his fundamentals and quickness.
Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah projects to be a top 10 NFL draft pick, according to Miller. Ansah is 6'6'', 273 pounds, so he obviously has a bit more size than Hand, but like I said, Hand should get bigger in the next few years.
Combine his projected growth with his speed and fundamentals, and you'll have a player that could succeed at the NFL level.