10 2014 Draft Prospects Teams Are Already Drooling over
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The scouting process for the 2014 NFL draft is just beginning, but even with a full season of college football still ahead for the top prospects, there are already many players whose physical abilities, NFL potential and body of work thus far stand out.
In the following 10 slides, we look at some of the draft's most enticing and promising prospects who will have NFL teams intrigued.
None of these players are among my top 10 prospects for the 2014 draft, but all of them have the potential to be very high draft selections. They all have questions left to answer this season, but have qualities in their game that will have NFL teams keeping a close eye on them.
All 10 of these players have the talent to wow NFL scouts this season, and potentially emerge as top-10 draft choices with strong senior/junior seasons.
The Top 10 Prospects
Jadeveon Clowney certainly has NFL scouts intrigued by his huge potential.
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1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Jr.)
2. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (Jr.)
3. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
4. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
5. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
6. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
7. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Jr.)
8. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (Jr.)
9. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
10. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (Jr.)
The top 10 prospects all certainly have the physical abilities and star qualities that meet the criteria for this list. These players are the most sure bets to be selected very early in the 2014 NFL draft, and becoming star NFL talents.
We took a closer look at each of those players earlier this week at B/R.
Loucheiz Purifoy, CB, Florida (Jr.)
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Loucheiz Purifoy easily could have been among the 10 choices for the top-10 prospects list, because there is a lot to love about his game. The long, athletic cornerback has star potential to be a playmaker in both coverage and run support.
Purifoy is listed at 6'1" by Florida's official website, and he has long arms with strong hands to supplement that height. He uses his length well to reach out and get his hands on opponents in man coverage, and to make plays in the ball in the air.
Purifoy has explosive speed and quick feet. His strength is man-to-man coverage, in which he frequently shuts down opposing receivers. He is also an active run support playmaker with great range and who can lay hard hits on offensive players.
To be a top draft pick, Purifoy needs to display better instincts and get beat less in zone coverage. He also has some issues with picking up penalties on the field. But if Purifoy has a strong junior season, someone should take a chance on him early as a potential No. 1 lockdown cornerback.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Jr.)
Sammy Watkins highlight video
At his best, there is no more dynamic or gifted draft-eligible offensive weapon in the country than Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins.
Listed at 6'1" and 205 pounds by Clemson's official website, Watkins has good outside receiver size, but can line up all over the field with his speed, quickness and big-play ability. He has great acceleration and can burn opponents with his speed, but can also make defenders miss in the open field with his moves.
Watkins is a threat to turn any play into a big play, not only as an outside receiver but also potentially as a runner out of the backfield and as a kick returner. While his athleticism and downfield playmaking ability already give him No. 1 wideout potential at the next level, his all-around game makes him a potential superstar and possible top 10 draft choice.
To be that high a draft choice, however, Watkins needs to bounce back with a strong junior season assuming he plans to declare for the 2014 NFL draft. He is coming off of a disappointing sophomore season derailed by suspension and injury.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (Jr.)
Seferian-Jenkins vs. Utah, 2012 (video by Draft Breakdown)
While the tight end position is evolving, few young tight ends have the total package of receiver-like athleticism, downfield catching ability over the middle and are strong in-line blockers. One prospect who does have all of those things and will garner high draft attention should he declare for the 2014 NFL draft is Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Seferian-Jenkins is a massive tight end, listed at 6'6" and 266 pounds by Washington's official website. Combined with great athleticism, Seferian-Jenkins can run by defenders and jump higher than them, and will create a tough mismatch for any defender to cover.
Seferian-Jenkins is also a strong, powerful blocker who can be an extension of the offensive line on running plays. Yet although he is a true in-line tight end, his athleticism will give teams the flexibility to line him out wide as well.
The only major concern with Seferian-Jenkins, who also played basketball at Washington as a freshman, is his character. Seferian-Jenkins is currently suspended indefinitely after being arrested in March for driving under the influence.
Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame (Jr.)
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The 2014 draft class doesn't look nearly as strong at defensive tackle as the 2013 class, but one potential star at the position who could go very high is Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
Nix is a massive nose tackle who is powerful and strong but also very quick for his size. He is a very good bull rusher who excels at driving back his opponent. He is also a nimble run defender who has shown an unusual ability to make plays on the run and in pursuit for a defensive tackle of his size.
He commands double-teams often, and has shown he can still penetrate and bring pressure through a double-team when he gets a good start off the line of scrimmage. He should draw intrigue from both 3-4 and 4-3 teams as a nose tackle.
Nix has yet to prove whether he can be a three-down player, as he has not been used often in that capacity at Notre Dame. That said, he has shown flashes of pass-rushing ability and at the very least can be a big-impact playmaker against the run.
Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
McCullers vs. Florida, 2012 (Draft Breakdown)
Teams who run a 3-4 defense should be drooling about the potential of Tennessee prospect Daniel McCullers as a nose tackle.
Listed at 6'8" and 360 pounds by Tennessee's official website, McCullers is an absolute size presence in the middle of a defensive line. He is a strong, powerful nose tackle who is an absolute load for opposing centers to handle, and he does a great job of driving through his opponent to push the pocket up the middle.
McCullers has rare athleticism for a man of his size. He certainly won't be among the fastest players at his position at the combine, but he has shown that he can make plays in space and track down runners downfield with a proper angle. He has shown the ability to penetrate in the run game with his quickness and power. He is very good at getting into the backfield and finishing plays with tackles.
Stamina could be a concern for McCullers, as it is for any player of his size, and he offers little as a pass-rusher. He should be limited to a two-down player, but is dominant against the run as he consistently commands double-teams and forces runners away from the middle with his size and disruption. He has huge potential as a 0-technique nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme.
Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee (Jr.)
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McCullers is not the only massive Tennessee player who NFL scouts should keep a close eye on. The other is junior left tackle Antonio Richardson, who has definite potential to rise and challenge the draft class' top offensive tackles.
Richardson has long arms, is powerful and is listed at 6'6" and 332 pounds by Tennessee's official website. He has very quick feet for an offensive lineman of his size, and has been a consistently strong pass-protector against top competition in the Southeastern Conference.
Richardson is an excellent run-blocker who is especially good at going to his inside and turning defensive tackles away from run plays. On the edge, he does a very good job shuffling his feet and shielding pass-rushers around the edge.
Richardson does have some issues with speed rushers, as he is not a terrific athlete and needs to continue polishing his pass-rushing technique. He has as much upside as any left tackle eligible for the 2014 draft class, and could mount a serious challenge to Jake Matthews and Cyrus Kouandjio as the SEC's best left tackle prospect.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (Jr.)
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Ryan Shazier truly emerged as one of the nation's best defensive playmakers in his sophomore season at Ohio State. An exceptional athlete with sideline-to-sideline range, Shazier should have NFL scouts very intrigued.
Shazier's biggest knock will be his lack of size, listed at 6'2", 222 pounds by Ohio State's official website. His lack of size, however, does not stop him from being a physical player and aggressive playmaker.
Shazier is a very sound tackler who uses his speed well to chase down run plays. While he is too small to be a pass-rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, he is a skilled blitzer off the edge who can explode into the backfield. Additionally, he is very fluid when dropping back into coverage and can make plays on the ball.
Shazier may be scheme-limited to playing 4-3 weak side linebacker, but he is a player who can be used in unique ways, including possibly as a "star" linebacker/safety hybrid. Regardless of where he eventually lines up, Shazier should be a mid-first-round pick on the merits of his athleticism and playmaking range.
De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (Jr.)
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A small back with little to no power game, De'Anthony Thomas will only be a situational runner at the next level. Even so, he is a unique athlete and playmaker who NFL scouts should be keeping a very close eye on.
Thomas doubles as a track star (he ran a 10.31-second 100-meter dash in March), which proves his status as one of the nation's fastest players. He has outstanding burst out of the backfield and the quickness to make defenders miss in the open field.
As a result, Thomas is a threat to turn any play into six points if he has room to run in the open field. While he may only be good for 10 carries or less out of the backfield in a game, he is also a terrific receiver out of the backfield and dynamic kickoff returner.
For a team looking for an X-factor as a situational/third-down running back, receiver out of the backfield and return specialist, Thomas could turn out to be a steal in the 2014 NFL draft. He is not much of a threat between the tackles, but should continue to make defenses pay with big open-field plays.
Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
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He may not be a top-8 pick, but Kent State's Dri Archer is the 2014 NFL draft's answer to Tavon Austin, the St. Louis Rams' top pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Like Austin, Archer is a very small player, listed at just 5'8" and 175 pounds by Kent State's official website. But also like Austin, Archer has a rare combination of speed and open-field agility which allows him to run away from defenders in the open field but also make them miss with his moves.
Archer can line up all over the field, from runner out of the backfield to slot receiver and kickoff returner. While most naturally suited to play running back, he is a solid route-runner and may be most valuable as a receiver at the next level.
Archer is a threat to turn any play into a big play with his speed and arsenal of open-field moves. Opposing defenses constantly have to account for him wherever he lines up on the field—and NFL teams should be accounting for him as a potential riser and impact player in the 2014 NFL draft class.
Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State
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Florida State is quickly blossoming as a hotbed of defensive draft prospects, and 2014 looks to be no exception. While they have a number of potential first-round picks, the one who could have scouts buzzing the most early is outside linebacker Christian Jones.
Listed at 6'4" and 232 pounds, Jones has a very good frame for an outside linebacker. He also has sideline-to-sideline playmaking range with very good speed.
Jones excels in pursuit, whether he is attacking a run up the middle of the field from the outside, or chasing down a run play to the sideline. He is very good at picking up backs and tight ends in short coverage with his speed, though poor hips have been exposed when deeper routes are run against him.
Jones' combination of size, athleticism, ability to get into the backfield and ability to drop into coverage give him scheme versatility. He appears best suited to play strong side linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but has enough pass-rushing ability to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
Jones could also project to playing inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme as a strong tackler with his athleticism, size and playmaking ability versus the run.
Dan Hope is an NFL draft featured columnist for Bleacher Report.