It's time to start breaking down the 2014 NFL draft's depth of talent.
This will be quite fascinating, because the quarterback position receives an immense upgrade. With the likes of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Clemson's Tajh Boyd, quarterbacks will once again be a primary focus.
And that will hold true for the middle rounds as well.
That said, each year great players get overlooked. It's simply what occurs given the entire pool of prospects. Not everyone is a bust; however, not everyone will live up to expectations.
As a result, certain players also go unnoticed and then emerge during their rookie campaigns. The following are some to keep an eye on as the 2013 college football season unfolds.
Shayne Skov: LB, Stanford
Shayne Skov is one of the nation's best middle linebackers. But because of the sound talent that has been on Stanford since 2009, he has gone overlooked.
Between 2009 and 2010 he accounted for 146 tackles and had 13.5 tackles for a loss. His 2011 campaign, however, was cut short to injury. Still, as Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com writes, Skov is Stanford's key player after racking up 81 tackles in 2012:
"Talking to him [Skov] at the end of spring, he estimated that he was between 90-95 percent and you could see when he got back for our second session in April, he was passing guys again like he used to," said Stanford coach David Shaw. "He was passing up other defenders on his way to the ball.
With the instincts and reactionary skills to fill multiple gaps and track down from the backside, Skov's a complete player. And as this upcoming campaign progresses, he'll gradually gain draft stock momentum.
James White: RB, Wisconsin
James White goes off the radar because of Wisconsin's recent running back success.
Montee Ball, of course, stands out as he was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011 and performed well in 2012. Before him there was John Clay, a bruiser between the tackles.
As for White, he has enjoyed a sound career thus far with 2,571 rushing yards and a 6.1-yards per carry average.
The Badgers being known for offensive linemen also outshines their ball-carrier's production. Wisconsin graduated Ricky Wagner and Travis Frederick to the NFL, along with Kevin Zeitler in 2012.
White, though, is feeling prepared, as Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports wrote on April 26:
White considers his shared time at running back a blessing -- that means less mileage. NFL teams might like that, he figures. He knows he can play every down if necessary but doesn't have to.
“At times you find yourself wanting more,” White said. “But whenever you get your opportunity, you have to run with it. That's what I'm doing.”
In short, continuing to impact will drastically inflate White's NFL potential.
Bennett Jackson: CB, Notre Dame
Bennett Jackson comes off a season where he defended eight passes–four of which were picks–and collected 65 tackles.
Jackson did all this with basically one arm for a good deal of the 2012 season. According to Tim Prister of IrishIllustrated.com on April 23, Jackson was playing with a torn labrum:
If you weren’t on the team or a part of Notre Dame’s medical staff, you wouldn’t detect that Jackson was dealing with a torn labrum in his right shoulder.
“I felt like I needed it,” said Jackson of off-season surgery to repair the tear that kept him out of spring drills.
“Occasionally, it would pop out,” Jackson said. “I just got used to the feeling (to the point where) it really didn’t bother me too much anymore. It used to happen in practice all the time, but I just kind of got used to it. It was just part of the game to me.”
Provided he gets back to complete health, Jackson will develop as one of the draft's top cornerbacks. He has the wherewithal in coverage to make plays in zone, but also the awareness in man-to-man to time his judging on the ball.
Include the ability for pressing in Cover 1 and 2 and that also helps with run support. Plus, he'll gain even more exposure should the Irish enjoy another strong season.
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