2014 College Football Recruits Who Are Better Than 2013 Signees
The 2013 recruiting cycle had one of the better player pools in recent memory. With top talents like Robert Nkemdiche, Vernon Hargreabes III, Su'a Cravens, Jaylon Smith, Max Browne, Carl Lawson, Matthew Thomas and Kelvin Taylor, it's easy to see why there are high expectations for this class.
The 2014 recruiting class features several players who not only are highly ranked, but would have been at the top or near the top of the board in 2013 recruiting. Defensive Da'Shawn Hand, RB Leonard Fournette, ATH Jabrill Peppers and OT Cam Robinson are all in that category.
Here's a look at those prospects and a few others who are better than some of the top recruits from last year.
Quin Blanding, S
If this were last year, Blanding would rival the top safeties on the board. He stacks up well and is in the conversation with Su'a Cravens, Antonio Conner, Leon McQuay III, Vonn Bell and Max Redfield.
While he may not grade out higher than Cravens or Conner, the 6'2", 200-pounder from Virginia perhaps would have edged out McQuay and Redfield in the 2013 rankings. It's also worth noting that Blanding is a better pure safety prospect than Priest Willis.
With his size, instincts, range, ball skills and speed, Blanding is this year's top safety. Not much would have been different in 2013, either.
Ross Pierschbacher, OG
Pierschbacher, who is from Iowa, is a classic Big Ten OG prospect. He stands 6'5", weighs 270 pounds and has a great skill set for the interior offensive front.
He's ranked No. 47 in this year's ESPNU 150, and that is higher than any OG prospect in 2013. It also should be noted that though each year's boards are different due to the available talent, Pierschbacher's rating and grade by the folks in Bristol along with my grade are the same as Grant Hill's, David Dawson's and Patrick Kugler's.
Kugler was the top OG on our board last year, and when Pierschbacher was put through our evaluation process, he earned an equal grade to the 2013 OG.
Speedy Noil, ATH
Constructing the ATH board can get tricky due to those players being able to play multiple positions.
For example, Noil is viewed as an ATH this year, but he in all likelihood will be a WR in college. So you'll see some lists that consider him a WR and others that consider him an ATH. Last year, Ryan Green got similar treatment, as he was a RB prospect who also had the ATH label.
I think Noil is the better prospect than Green at this point. Both have great speed, but Noil can play several offensive positions.
Da'Shawn Hand, DE
There could be some who feel that Hand is a better player than Robert Nkemdiche, and they could present a great argument. Hand's explosiveness and other attributes are terrific.
In the end, if it came down to it, Hand will fall just shy of edging out Nkemdiche, but he'd give Carl Lawson, Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen, Chris Jones and Elijah Daniel a run for their money.
Hand isn't in Jadaveon Clowney's class, but he's not chopped liver when compared with all of the recent great DE prospects like Noah Spence, Mario Edwards and Nkemdiche.
Jabrill Peppers, CB
There are questions if Peppers is going to stay at cornerback long term, and they're legit. The concern has nothing to do with Peppers' ability and skill, but rather his size.
The New Jersey native already is 6'1", 205 pounds and will add more bulk to his frame once he gets to a college weight room. So Peppers could be a candidate to move to safety, if not an offensive position since he has good instincts and ball skills.
However, if viewed as a "big" CB prospect, he would rank higher than Jalen Ramsey and Priest Willis. Peppers also would have ranked higher on the board than fellow New Jersey native Eli Apple.
Cameron Robinson, OT
Last year's top pure LT prospect was Laremy Tunsil. The 6'6", 295-pounder is a fantastic athlete for the position and has a high ceiling.
However, Robinson simply is a better player right now than Tunsil and would have been the top OT on the 2013 board. At 6'6", 335 pounds, Robinson is bigger and stronger than Tunsil while possessing equal athleticism and knee-bend.
So when you think of Robinson, think of a larger and more powerful version of Tunsil, which makes him a superior prospect.
Leonard Fournette, RB
In a 2013 recruiting class that featured RB prospects like Kelvin Taylor, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Ty Isaac, Derrick Green, Keith Ford and Greg Bryant, Fournette still would have been the best player.
That's a remarkable claim because all of those 2013 RBs are vastly talented and highly regarded. Fournette, a 6'1", 232-pound back, has a rare combination of size, speed, agility, instincts, vision and hands.
Fournette is a better prospect than Keith Marshall, Johnathan Gray, Trent Richardson and Malcolm Brown were when they were in high school.
Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.