Breaking Down the Top 2014 NFL Draft Prospect for Each BCS Conference Team

Jonathan McDanalContributor IIIJuly 4, 2013

Breaking Down the Top 2014 NFL Draft Prospect for Each BCS Conference Team

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    With the 2013 season getting closer and closer, it's time to start taking a look at how things will pan out for the draft prospects. From power rankings to bowl predictions, there is an abundance of information flowing around the Internet regarding teams' projected seasons.

    Here is a look at every BCS conference's teams and their best prospect for the upcoming 2014 draft. There are 74 teams represented here, as Army and Navy do not have stars who will likely make it to the NFL.

     

    To those at the service academies: Thank you for your service on and off the field. We appreciate everything you have sacrificed for all of us.

Alabama Crimson Tide

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    Cyrus Kouandjio is going to be the unquestioned leader of the Alabama offensive line in 2013. He has been a part of both national title teams over the past two seasons, and he is going to be the best returning starter on the line.

    He started at left tackle in all 13 of the Tide's games last season, and he graded out at 90 percent or better for six of them. As impressive as Alabama's rushing attack normally is, it's guys like Kouandjio who make it all possible.

    Look for him on the All-SEC and All-America teams at the end of his junior season. He'll be a top-10 pick if he declares early.

Arizona Wildcats

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    Ka'Deem Carey is going to be hard-pressed to lose his title as best potential draft pick at Arizona. It's not that Arizona is a bad team, but Carey is simply that good.

    He racked up 1,929 rushing yards in 2012 alone, and he's Arizona's best shot at the 2013 Heisman. Carey may or may not be drafted as the top running back in the country, but he will be the first Wildcat off the board.

Arizona State Sun Devils

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    Will Sutton is one of the most dangerous and talented defensive ends in college football. He tallied 23.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks last season. He put those numbers up, despite missing out on playing time due to injury.

    The Pac-12 can be mentally ready as much as it wants, but Sutton is going to make a serious run for the top half of the first round at the rest of the conference's expense. Barring injury, he should make the grade if he simply repeats what he did in 2012.

Arkansas Razorbacks

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    Travis Swanson is rated the No. 1 center in the 2014 draft class, according to NFL Scout Guide. While there is still some stiff competition and an entire season between now and then, he'll definitely be the best Arkansas Razorback in the cycle.

    As hard as it is to believe, he set the tone for an Arkansas offensive line that stood firm as the team set records last season. The Razorbacks had never had back-to-back 1,000-yard receivers in any two seasons prior to the 2011 and 2012 performances.

    Stats clearly aren't everything, since Arkansas didn't make the postseason in 2012, but Swanson is still one of the few Razorbacks in this class who has a shot at significant playing time at the pro tier.

Auburn Tigers

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    Despite seeing a limited number of starts last season, Dee Ford is projecting extremely well for the Auburn Tigers. He started his 2013 campaign off with Defensive MVP honors during the Tigers' spring game, and this looks like his season.

    Auburn is going to take some time to recover from the Gene Chizik era, but Ford is exactly the type of player that will make things a lot easier. Last year, he earned 34 tackles (11 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, one pass breakup, one forced fumble and eight quarterback hurries.

    That's not bad for a backup who didn't even play in every game. He'll surprise a lot of people with his 2013 performance.

Baylor Bears

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    Cyril Richardson is one of the the biggest reasons that Baylor's name is no longer associated with bad football. Baylor saw incredibly unusual offensive production over the past few seasons, and 2012 proved that it wasn't all Robert Griffin III's doing.

    Yes, Baylor's quarterbacks coach is excellent, and RG3 earned his Heisman, but it was Richardson's offensive line that gave both Griffin and Nick Florence the time they needed in the pocket to push Baylor into significance in the Big 12 these past two years.

    Richardson will pave the road for a record-breaking Seastrunk run in 2013, and Baylor has a noticeable shot at the Big 12 title if the next quarterback is as good as either one of the previous two were.

Boston College

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    Alex Amidon caught just 78 passes last season for a total of 1,210 yards. Amidon is a men among boys at Boston College, and that isn't likely to change next season.

    Yes, the Eagles are heading for brighter days, but Amidon alone isn't going to be enough to put them into ACC contention just one season after Frank Spaziani's termination.

    Amidon will have a great season, but don't look for him to go in the first round of the draft. Boston College just doesn't have the support around him to push him that high.

BYU Cougars

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    Kyle Van Noy is in a class of his own over at BYU. He finished 2012 with 53 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, eight quarterback hurries, six forced fumbles (one recovery), two interceptions and two blocked kicks.

    Van Noy is not just a BYU standout either. He's easily going to be a first-round pick, unless he does something completely out-of-character during the 2013 season.

California Golden Bears

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    Deandre Coleman is roughly half the defensive line for California, at least as far as stats are concerned. He logged 48 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks last season, and he led the squad in all those categories except sacks.

    Coleman is an anchor for the Golden Bears in the trenches, but at least they'll be able to use his name on the recruiting trail after he's gone.

Cincinnati Bearcats

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    Greg Blair was a bit of an unsung hero for the Bearcats last season. He made 138 tackles (68 solo), nine tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, six pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two interceptions during the 2012 attempt at the Big East title.

    In the off-and-on mess that was the Cincinnati defense, Blair was the one person whom the Bearcats could consistently count on for production. Without Blair, who knows if they would have even made the postseason at all, much less beat their opponent.

Clemson Tigers

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    Tajh Boyd gets the edge for Clemson's spot on this list, but it should be noted that Sammy Watkins could be taken over Boyd by an NFL squad that is hurting for a receiver. Watkins and Boyd form one of the most formidable combos in the nation, but Boyd stands to contribute in the more effective manner.

    Boyd went 287-of-427 for 3,896 yards, 36 touchdowns and 13 interceptions last season alone, and he's poised to set a few records at Clemson before he takes off for the NFL. If he can take Clemson to the Orange Bowl (or better) and cut down on his interceptions, he can bump his draft status up enough to overtake Watkins and enter the top-10 tier of the draft.

Colorado Buffaloes

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    Chidera Uzo-Diribe didn't have stellar stats last season, but he was also on one of the worst teams in the Pac-12. Things may or may not look better for Colorado in 2013, but Uzo-Diribe will definitely take his talents to the pros in some fashion.

    He's got great measurables, and he could raise his draft stock immensely if he gets invited to the combine. Until then,  he'll simply have to improve on last season's stats: 38 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, two pass breakups and two quarterback hurries.

Connecticut Huskies

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    Yawin Smallwood is an underrated linebacker hailing from the UConn Huskies. He produced 94 tackles in his first season on the field, and he improved himself greatly in 2012.

    This past season, he made 120 tackles (59 solo), 15 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, four pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles. He may not project as an NFL superstar, but he's definitely getting picked up in May.

Duke Blue Devils

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    Jamison Crowder is set to be the No. 1 player on the Duke Blue Devils' offense in 2013. His partner in crime, Conner Vernon, is gone, and quarterback Sean Renfree also ran out of time in college at the end of last season.

    Crowder tied Vernon with 1,074 receiving yards last season, but Crowder accomplished his yardage on nine fewer receptions. Both players scored eight touchdowns as receivers.

    While he will clearly be the best player at Duke, expect his stats to suffer a little bit due to his being constantly accounted for in every single game (especially his yards-per-catch number). Crowder will still make the cut for the draft in May, though.

Florida Gators

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    Loucheiz Purifoy is an excellent rusher and sure tackler in space for the Florida Gators. If he improves again in 2013, he can raise his draft stock accordingly. In 2012, he threw down 51 tackles (a whopping 38 solo), one tackle for loss, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks.

    Sure, his tackles for loss could be higher, but that overall stat line is still impressive for a defense that finished fourth nationally against the run. Without letting the enemy get past the line of scrimmage, the defensive backs aren't going to get a whole lot of opportunity to get into the backfield.

    If Florida's rushing defense takes a step back due to NFL losses, expect Purifoy to prove that last year wasn't a fluke by any stretch of the imagination. He will pick up whatever slack there is in his area of the field.

Florida State Seminoles

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    Christian Jones was a force for the Florida State Seminoles last season, and there is zero reason to expect things to be different in 2013. With the like of Bjoern Werner no longer on the line, Jones should have more opportunities to shine.

    Jones racked up 95 tackles (48 solo), seven tackles for loss, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and two fumble returns just in 2012, and he is one of the best linebackers in the ACC. With a little improvement, he can become a premier linebacker in the country.

    That will happen just in time for the 2014 NFL draft, too.

Georgia Bulldogs

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    Aaron Murray is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. He has a strong arm, and he's great with the deep ball. Last season, he went 249-of-386 for 3,893 yards, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

    As one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation, Murray is clearly the best overall prospect on the Bulldogs' roster. If he is given the respect he's earned over the past few seasons, he should go in the first round, though don't expect it to be in the top 10.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

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    Jeremiah Attaochu is a standout linebacker for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He logged 69 tackles (44 solo), 12 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one pass breakup, two quarterback hurries and one forced fumble on the way to Georgia Tech's ACC Championship Game appearance in 2012.

    Attaochu is the most talented player at Georgia Tech. The only downside is that the Yellow Jackets will lose him to the NFL after this season.

Houston Cougars

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    Richie Leone may not get a lot of hype, but he's one of the most NFL-ready punters in the 2014 class. On 71 kickoffs, he averaged 62.5 yards per boot with 25 touchbacks, and he launched 60 punts an average of 45.5 yards each as well.

    Leone may not be the perfect picture of a top-notch prospect, but it will give Houston a little recruiting leverage. Of course, if the offensive coordinator can get his team playing like it did just a few short years ago, this could change during the 2013 run.

Illinois Fighting Illini

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    Jonathan Brown made 59 tackles (28 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass breakup and one forced fumble in 2012. He was a Butkus Award semifinalist, and he was also named second-team All-Big Ten last year.

    Brown is the leader on the defense that could make the difference between a horrible season and a postseason jaunt for the Fighting Illini. The NFL will not overlook that, and he should get a chance with someone in May.

Indiana Hoosiers

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    Ted Bolser of the Indiana Hoosiers doesn't have extremely impressive stats, but he's a tight end. They will not get impressive stats until intangibles like blocks and effectiveness in the yards-after-catch aspect of the game are taken more seriously on the collegiate level.

    Bolser gained 441 yards and scored three touchdowns off just 41 receptions last season, and he became only the third Indiana Hoosier to cross the 1,000-yard career mark as a tight end. If his production increases just a little bit in 2013, Indiana could be a dark-horse candidate for the Big Ten Championship.

    After taking most of their losses by fewer than four points (including to Ohio State), it's more of a possibility than most people may realize.

Iowa Hawkeyes

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    C.J. Fiedorowicz may have scored just one touchdown last season, but his 433 yards off 45 receptions is enough to prove that he's a first-down threat any time he touches the ball.

    If the Iowa Hawkeyes could build up an offense around him, he'd have even better numbers. Until then, though, he will be producing yardage against a lot of attention. If a receiver can break out in 2013, Fiedorowicz could end up as a finalist for the Mackey Award (best tight end) along with guys like Colt Lyerla (Oregon).

    Regardless, Fiedorowicz will be the top-drafted Hawkeye in 2014.

Iowa State Cyclones

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    Kirby Van Der Kamp is another unsung hero in college football, and he's the second punter on this list. From the highlight video, you can see what he's capable of at any given moment. He didn't have as much success as he would have liked in 2012, but he's still got a great leg.

    He averaged 41 yards per punt over 77 punts last season, but he still found ways to be named Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Week during the run. His less-than-stellar numbers belie the fact that he can stick teams inside the 20 almost at-will, as long as his coverage team is doing its job.

    Of course, every team hopes it can get through an entire season without using its punter at all, so it's difficult to look forward to a great performance from Van Der Kamp. However, if you need to kick it away, he's definitely a guy you want on your side.

Kansas Jayhawks

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    James Sims is the star running back for the Kansas Jayhawks, and he was the lone bright spot on the roster last season. He ran for 1,013 yards and nine touchdowns off a team-leading 218 carries during the one-win performance.

    There is hope for the Jayhawks, though, as a lot of their losses were by one possession. Regardless, Sims will still be the headliner barring unforeseen circumstances, and he'll be the lone NFL notch in their belt during the coming draft.

Kansas State Wildcats

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    Ty Zimmerman is Kansas State's single biggest threat to an opposing offense, period. Out of his 50 total tackles last season, 39 were unassisted. He reeled off just three tackles for loss in 2012, but he's a defensive back, so their bar is a good bit lower than, say, a defensive lineman.

    Zimmerman added five interceptions, a fumble return and two pass breakups as well. He is the best Kansas State player in the 2014 class by far.

Kentucky Wildcats

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    When you hear the words "Kentucky football" side-by-side, the first images aren't of national championships and first-round draft picks. However, Avery Williamson doesn't really care what you think about when you hear his team's name.

    He busted out 135 tackles (70 solo), 4.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, one interception and two forced fumbles last season. While the Wildcats aren't exactly shooting for the SEC title in 2013, Williamson is exactly the type of player that Kentucky's future will be built on if Mark Stoops can help it.

    In all honesty, any great team can be built on production like that, it's impressive anywhere in the country.

LSU Tigers

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    Anthony Johnson is the preseason leader in the 2013 edition of the "LSU shuffle." Season after season, LSU puts players into the NFL, and there are a lot of times that the projected first pick ends up in the second or third position due to stellar performances by other beastly Tigers.

    Johnson pulled off 30 tackles (11 solo), 10 tackles for loss, three sacks, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries last season, and he will return in 2013 to anchor yet another LSU defensive line.

    SEC linemen are a hot commodity right now—and for good reason. Johnson can be the first Tiger selected in the draft if he keeps up the good work in 2013. If not, then there are plenty of guys waiting in the wings who will gladly take his draft slot.

Louisville Cardinals

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    Teddy Bridgewater is the unquestioned front-runner at Louisville. The biggest debate isn't whether he'll be selected first from the team, but it's whether he'll be selected in front of or behind South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

    With a great performance in 2013, Bridgewater may just end up the No. 1 overall pick. In 2012, Bridgewater completed 287 of his 419 pass attempts for 3,718 yards, 27 touchdowns and eight interceptions.

    He capped his season off with a win over an under-motivated Florida team, but the Gators did try to mount a comeback late in the game. Bridgewater was there to ensure that it was far too late for the Gators to leave with a win.

    If he can bring that intensity to every game in 2013, then undefeated Louisville may be in the final BCS National Championship Game. If that happens, then Bridgewater could pass Clowney as the No. 1 pick.

Maryland Terrapins

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    Jeremiah Johnson broke out in Maryland's secondary last season, and he returns for what could be his final season in 2013. From his cornerback spot in 2012, he totaled 43 tackles (32 solo), five tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, eight pass breakups and one forced fumble.

    As the leader of the secondary, Johnson will figure heavily into Maryland's success against the pass in 2013. Johnson may or may not return for his senior season, but he's the best draft-eligible Terrapin for 2014.

Memphis Tigers

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    Johnnie Farms is a 300-pound, 6'2" beast leading the Memphis defensive line into the American Athletic Conference in 2013.

    Farms made 38 tackles (17 solo), 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one pass breakup, two forced fumbles and one fumble return last season in Conference USA. The move up will make things more difficult for him, but he should be the clear starter this fall.

Miami Hurricanes

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    Stephen Morris is an excellent quarterback with a cannon for an arm. Last season, he went 245-of-421 for 3,345 yards, 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

    He needs to make better decisions with the football in order to be taken in the early rounds, but he should still get a shot even slightly below the 60 percent mark. If Miami plays as well as it possibly can this fall, he could rise up the draft boards faster than Teddy Bridgewater did last season.

Michigan Wolverines

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    Taylor Lewan just needs to take care of business in 2013 in order to be the top player drafted, not just from Michigan, but from the entire Big Ten Conference.

    He has played in 37 games with a total of 35 starts. He has put many a player to shame in direct competition over the seasons, and some were among the best in collegiate history.

    Lewan went head-to-head against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl this past season, and he won. Granted, the Wolverines weren't as fortunate, but this is about individual prospects. If Devin Gardner takes full advantage of the strength on his offensive line, then Michigan's 2013 season will look nothing like last year's disappointing run.

    Lewan is one of the best players in the draft, period, and he's already projected to go in the top five, according to CBS Sports.

Michigan State Spartans

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    Max Bullough is the Michigan State Spartans' leading linebacker, and he's returning for a final run through the Big Ten in 2013. If it's as good as his 2012 performance, he's solid for the first or second round of the draft.

    Last year, he racked up 110 tackles (51 solo), 12.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass breakups, three quarterback hurries, one interception and one forced fumble. Through his career, he has amassed 223 tackles over 40 games.

    He's consistent, but he would really benefit from specializing in one aspect of his game. If he steps up as a pass-rusher or run-stopper, his draft stock will skyrocket. Anyhow, he's the top Spartan in the draft class.

Minnesota Golden Gophers

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    Ra'Shede Hageman stands firm on the Minnesota Golden Gophers' defensive line. He logged 35 tackles (20 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, six sacks (second on the team), two pass breakups and a forced fumble last year as the Gophers headed to the postseason.

    Hageman is the top Gopher entering the 2014 draft, and he has an opportunity to climb up the rankings if he has done his homework during the offseason.

Mississippi State Bulldogs

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    Gabe Jackson has steadily improved in each season at Mississippi State, and he is the reason that Tyler Russell was able to get Mississippi State to a bowl last year. (The loss in that bowl is all on Russell and the Northwestern Wildcats' ball hawks.)

    He was an All-SEC player in 2011 and 2012, but he was at a Texas A&M-sized disadvantage in 2012. Without the addition of Texas A&M to the conference, Jackson would have been on the first string with ease.

    Jackson is going to be the first player drafted from this particular roster, and a great performance in 2013 can push him into the first round.

Missouri Tigers

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    Even during Missouri's terribly unlucky 2012 season, Kony Ealy proved himself as an SEC-quality defensive lineman. He grabbed 37 tackles (18 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble.

    If he can prove that he has the leadership ability to push the kids around him to greatness, his draft stock is going up. As it is, he is underrated by scouts. He has a knack for disrupting the opponent's timing, and that throws the whole offense off.

    All he has is one more season, but it may be all he needs.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

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    Taylor Martinez can be an excellent quarterback, and all he needs to improve is his passing game to be taken more than just a little seriously as an NFL prospect.

    His completion percentage is fine, as it stood at 62 percent last season. He completed 228 of 368 passes for 2,871 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His arm is good, but he needs to calm down and make better decisions with the ball.

    An almost 50 percent touchdown-to-interception ratio isn't going to push him over his guard, Spencer Long, who currently holds the flimsy position of top projected 'Husker on the roster.

UNC Tar Heels

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    Kareem Martin threw down 40 tackles (19 solo), 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, three pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in 2012. He was one of the ACC's top pass-rushers, and he's the top player on the 2013 roster.

    Martin is the biggest reason that UNC will compete for the ACC crown this winter. Bryn Renner can do whatever he wants to score points on the offensive side of the ball, but without strong defensive line play from Martin and company, the opponents would simply walk all over the Tar Heels.

NC State Wolfpack

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    Rob Crisp was injured in the season opener against Tennessee last year, and he missed five games as a result. However, he came back to start in the final seven games and finish strong.

    He has had a steadily improving career at NC State, and he'll be the top-drafted member of the Wolfpack in the 2014 class. Barring another piece of bad luck, he'll retain that title all the way to the pros.

Northwestern Wildcats

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    Venric Mark rushed for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns off 226 carries last season, and that's easily good enough to put him right here. He was a major part of Northwestern's success in 2012, with the exception of the ball-hawking defense that stole the bowl game from the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

    Mark is still the single-best player at Northwestern who is eligible for the 2014 draft, and he'll get his shot at a significant role on Sundays this May. If you throw in his kick-returning stats, at almost 20 yards per return, he'll easily make the grade.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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    Louis Nix III projects at a top 10 pick in the 2014 class, and there is basically only one person on the field that could overtake him: Stephon Tuitt. For now, though, Nix is in the lead by a full round of the draft.

    Nix posted 50 tackles (20 solo), 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups, three quarterback hurries and one forced fumble last season on his way to the national championship game against Alabama.

    Nix is a beast in the center of the Irish's stingy defensive line, and he'll be a quick contributor at the pro level.

Ohio State Buckeyes

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    Bradley Roby is one of the best cornerbacks in the country, and he's quite probably the best one in the Big Ten. Roby was an All-American as a sophomore, and he's entering what will be his final season if he grades out as well as he did in 2012.

    He amassed 62 tackles (40 solo), two tackles for loss, one sack, 17 pass breakups, two interceptions and a blocked kick during the Buckeyes' undefeated run through 2012. If your team is going to isolate someone to try to gain a one-on-one advantage over Ohio State, Roby is not the guy it wants to pick on.

    Roby should finish the 2013 season on the All-America Team once again. The NFL scouts will give him the good news about his draft status, and he'll leave the secondary to Eli Apple for the future.

Oklahoma Sooners

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    Damien Williams came to Oklahoma from junior college, and he stepped up in 2012 big time. Williams has the potential to be a great running back, and his stats prove that he got off to a great start.

    He ran for 11 touchdowns and 905 yards last season off 160 carries. He tacked on 29 receptions for 301 yards and another score, too. Williams played in 12 games last season, and he earned the starting role in eight of them.

    If he continues on his current trajectory, he could be the highest-drafted running back in the class. Ka'Deem Carey will certainly have something to say about that, but it's not out of the question.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

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    Justin Gilbert is a combination cornerback/punt returner for the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He enters the 2013 season tied for the Big 12 record for career touchdowns from kickoff returns with five.

    As a corner, Gilbert made 63 tackles (53 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups and a forced fumble in 2012. He was a terror in space, and he was practically a guarantee as the last line of defense for the Cowboys.

    He returned 32 kickoffs for 827 yards (25.84 per-return average) as well, which earned him a slot on the All-Big 12 Second Team.

Ole Miss Rebels

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    Donte Moncrief is the best wide receiver at Ole Miss, and his contribution to the team has gotten better since the offensive reorganization by Hugh Freeze. Moncrief is heading to the NFL in some capacity for sure.

    Moncrief caught 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns for an average of 14.83 yards per catch. Ole Miss may not have gotten a top-tier recruiting class until 2013, but the Rebels have a roster that has some surprisingly talented people on it.

    For the 2014 cycle, Moncreif is the head of the class.

Oregon Ducks

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    Colt Lyerla is probably going to win the Mackey Award (best tight end) in 2013. Lyerla is an incredibly effective part of the Oregon offense that's known for its rushing totals far more than its passing attack.

    Lyerla reeled in just 25 passes for 392 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed 13 times for 77 yards and another score. Lyerla is a first-down threat any time he touches the ball, and he is a valuable asset in the blocking game.

    Lyerla could be overtaken by De'Anthony Thomas at some point through the 2013 season, but Lyerla is a special talent. Not that Thomas isn't, but running backs are easier to find than tight ends.

Oregon State Beavers

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    Oregon State's defense finally got some recognition last season. That stands to reason since the Beavers finally put a headline-worthy performance together. Michael Doctor wasn't the best player out there last season, but he wasn't far off.

    This time around, he's the best eligible prospect on the turf. Doctor racked up 83 tackles (44 solo), 11 tackles for loss, one interception and four pass breakups from his linebacker slot in 2012. He'll be the key player on the Beavers' defense in 2013.

    With another year of experience under his belt, his numbers should be that much better.

Penn State Nittany Lions

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    Glenn Carson apparently took Bill O'Brien's advice to heart during the 2012 season just like the rest of the team. The Nittany Lions rallied from an 0-2 start to earn an 8-4 final record.

    Carson shot from his linebacker position to drop 85 tackles (40 solo), three tackles for loss, one sack and three pass breakups last season. Carson is easily Penn State's top prospect for the 2014 class.

Pittsburgh Panthers

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    Pitt's Devin Street is yet another wide receiver on this list. He was a valuable asset to the Panthers, and he will help the new quarterback get acclimated to the collegiate game.

    Street caught 73 passes for 975 yards and five touchdowns last year alone. While that may not seem that wonderful, he was a 2-star recruit, according to DraftPanthers.com, when he signed with Pitt. If he can bulk up from 190 to a more NFL-ready size this next year, he can raise his draft stock immensely.

Purdue Boilermakers

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    Ricardo Allen is one of the best corners in the Big Ten for this draft cycle. He's currently tied for the Purdue all-time career record with three pick-sixes. Obviously, he has a great chance of breaking that record this season.

    Allen amassed 45 tackles (an insane 42 solo), four tackles for loss, one sack, four pass breakups and a pick-six last season. He was almost a guaranteed stop if he met someone in space, and that's impressive all by itself.

    Allen is easily the best Boilermaker on the 2014 big boards, and he'll hear his name called sometime during the weekend.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

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    Brandon Coleman should get a lot more action in 2013, since Jawan Jamison left for greener pastures this past offseason. Coleman is the Rutgers Scarlet Knights' leading receiver from 2012.

    He tallied 43 receptions for 718 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, and he outgained the second-place receiver by well over 100 yards. Without Jamison's 1,000-yard body breaking down defensive lines, the Knights are going to have to rely far more on Coleman to get the offense to the end zone.

    Coleman will be happy to oblige.

SMU Mustangs

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    Kenneth Acker is another defensive back who is deadly in space. He racked up 50 tackles (41 solo), two tackles for loss, 12 pass breakups and three interceptions (one pick-six) last season alone.

    If SMU is going to do well in the American Athletic Conference during its first season on board, Acker is going to have to play lights-out. Regardless, he'd have to do pretty badly in order to lose his spot on this list.

South Carolina Gamecocks

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    Jadeveon Clowney joins Teddy Bridgewater in the argument about who will be the No. 1 overall pick. Forget whether he's the best player on his team. That's a given at this point.

    Last year alone, Clowney totaled 54 tackles (40 solo), 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, two pass breakups, five quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles (one recovered).

    Clowney was a monster in 2012, and he will be one again in his final season with the Gamecocks. He'll probably be the first player off the boards in May.

South Florida Bulls

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    Aaron Lynch is finally ready to take the field for South Florida after sitting out the 2012 season following his transfer from Notre Dame. He's being given a lot of trust based on his Freshman All-American performance with the Irish—and with good reason.

    Lynch ripped off 33 tackles (19 solo), seven tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two pass breakups, 14 quarterback hurries and one forced fumble during that 2011 season. If he performs to his potential, he'll easily be the best player on the Bulls' roster.

Stanford Cardinal

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    David Yankey is the anchor of the Stanford offensive line, and he has been for some time now. Yankey led the way for Andrew Luck in 2011 and for the Cardinal's Rose Bowl-winning season in 2012.

    He was a consensus All-American last season, and he won the Morris Trophy. The Morris Trophy is awarded to the best offensive lineman in the conference as voted by the conference's defensive linemen. That's the one vote in college football that has zero inherent bias.

    Look for him on the Outland Trophy list in 2013, he'll be there for a long time.

Syracuse Orange

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    Dyshawn Davis was a defensive leader for the Syracuse Orange last season. Their defense was largely underrated up until the Pinstripe Bowl against West Virginia. Once the Orange walked away with that victory, the defense was legitimized.

    Davis threw down 71 tackles (45 solo), 14.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and two fumble recoveries in 2012.

    Davis is going to be the first Syracuse player off the board in May.

Temple Owls

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    Paul Layton is arriving on Temple's campus with one year of eligibility remaining and an award-winning leg to bring to the table. Layton earned the 2012 CFPA Specialist Trophy for best performance as an all-purpose kicker.

    That performance included punting, kickoffs and field goals. He'll be Temple's punter, and his 2012 stats from Albany prove that's a good decision. He has averaged over 40 yards per punt over a 157-punt career.

    His longest kick is for 82 yards, and he's booted one of at least 69 yards in each season he's played. Temple will be glad to have a field-position trump card, even if it's for only a year before he takes off.

Tennessee Volunteers

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    Antonio "Tiny" Richardson (6'6" and 327 pounds) is projected as the top Tennessee prospect in many places, but that will also require him to declare early after getting his draft feedback from the NFL later in the season.

    Richardson has led the offensive line over the past couple of seasons, and that line was responsible for Tyler Bray's phenomenal performances. Granted, it didn't help Tennessee get to the postseason much, but that was due to the defenses constant breakdown.

    Richardson has the size and skill to contribute at the pro level immediately, and he'll be scarfed up within the first two rounds if he performs as expected this fall.

Texas Longhorns

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    Jackson Jeffcoat, presuming that he stays healthy for the upcoming season, will leave as Texas' top selection this coming May. Jeffcoat was a crucial loss to the Longhorns defense when he went down last year.

    Jeffcoat's 2011 stats are more comparable to what scouts should expect in 2013, so we'll use those here. He had 63 tackles (34 solo), 17 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries that season. (He was a sophomore at the time.)

    Jeffcoat is one of the keys to Texas' potential success in 2013, but he is not a lock for the team's top draft slot. Quandre Diggs and Jordan Hicks are threats. Of course, if Jeffcoat stays healthy, that shouldn't be a problem for him.

Texas A&M Aggies

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    Jake Matthews comes from a long line of stellar linemen who have gone on to be long-term solutions for NFL squads. Matthews would have been a top draft pick without the genetic "certification," but that certainly cements his stance at the top of the Aggies' eligible roster.

    Matthews helped block for Heisman winner Johnny Manziel last season, and he won't have the All-American Luke Joeckel on the line with him in 2013. At first glance, that looks like a problem, but the focus will be mostly on him (and his up-and-coming little brother, Mike) for 2013.

    That will allow him to put his best foot forward for the draft. As of now, he's projected to go in the top three of the 2014 draft, according to CBS Sports. If Teddy Bridgewater falters or Jadeveon Clowney shows weakness, the top overall slot it Matthews' to claim.

TCU Horned Frogs

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    Jason Verrett will have a two-game head start on fellow superstar defender Devonte Fields when 2013 kicks off. This is due to Fields' two-game suspension from the field. Verrett will not waste any time impressing the scouts against LSU in the season opener.

    Verett posted 63 tackles (46 solo), five tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups, six interceptions and one blocked kick in 2012 alone. Expect to see him pick off Zach Mettenberger at least once in the season opener, and that by itself will fuel a draft-stock hype machine that will rightfully push him high into the early rounds.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

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    Eric Ward is one of the biggest reasons that Seth Doege looked good last season. Yes, Doege was a good quarterback, but Ward was an underrated receiver.

    He caught 82 passes for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. He is on a short list of players who have caught 12 touchdowns in each of two consecutive seasons at Texas Tech. The other player on that list is Michael Crabtree.

    Ward could very well turn out to be the steal of the draft, especially if he picks up the NFL game like he potentially can.

UCF Knights

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    Blake Bortles is currently the No. 12 quarterback of the 2015 draft class, but he is eligible this season. (Teammate Clayton Geathers is eligible as well, and he's the No. 14 safety of his class for now.)

    Bortles edges Geathers out as the top UCF draft-eligible player by a hair, but that could change this season. Bortles went 251-of-399 for 3,059 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's got a good arm, and a little bump in his touchdown-to-interception ratio would get him on scouts' radar quickly.

    Either way, if he declares in 2014, he'll be the top prospect. Given the quarterback depth in the draft class, though, he may want to wait until after his senior season.

UCLA Bruins

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    Anthony Barr is a destroyer for the UCLA Bruins who lines up at linebacker. He helped anchor the defense that led UCLA to the Pac-12 title game last season.

    Barr totaled 82 tackles (60 solo), 21 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, five pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles and one blocked kick in 2012.

    Barr is one of the best linebackers in the country, let alone on the Bruins roster. Barr will lead the UCLA charge into the NFL in May.

USC Trojans

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    Marqise Lee is projected as a top-10 pick this draft cycle, and he's earned his recognition so far. The true test is what he can do without Matt Barkley under center, which will happen this fall.

    Lee hauled in 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2012, and he stands to do even better this season since Robert Woods is no longer in college. Of course, the major downside to that is that Lee will be double-teamed all year long.

    Luckily for USC, it doesn't matter how many people the enemy places on Lee, he's still going to be faster than they are. Lee will be the first Trojan drafted in 2014.

Utah Utes

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    Brian Blechen helped the Utah Utes score a signature win over the rising California Golden Bears in 2012. (He did not play in the win over BYU.) Blechen is a formidable opponent, indeed.

    Blechen logged 58 tackles (39 solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and one interception on the way to becoming the Utes top prospect for 2014.

    The Utes aren't exactly Pac-12 contenders yet, but they're moving in the right direction with stars like Blechen or last season's Star Lotulelei.

    Blechen will easily be the first Ute selected in the 2014 draft.

Vanderbilt Commodores

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    Jordan Matthews is going to have to endure his final season without Jordan Rodgers to throw to him. In fact, Zac Stacy won't be there to take the focus off the passing attack, either.

    This will make his 2013 accomplishments all the more meaningful, though, and that will help his draft stock substantially. Back in 2012, Matthews caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns. He added three rushing attempts for 61 yards and one more score, too.

    Matthews may not be the best receiver in the country, but he's got a solid set of skills that will help him catch someone's attention by the third round. He'll be the first Vanderbilt player to go, if not the only one.

Virginia Cavaliers

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    Morgan Moses anchored the Virginia Cavaliers' offensive line last season. Despite the lackluster win-loss record, Virginia did some things it hasn't done in a while, thanks to Moses.

    For starters, the Cavaliers went over 500 yards in more than one game for the first time since 2004. Also, against Louisiana Tech, the Cavaliers set a school record with 480 passing yards in a single game.

    Moses has helped Virginia improve vastly, but it had a long way to go before he got there. Moses is a 335-pound, 6'6" monster of a man, and he'll be the first player from Virginia to go in the next NFL draft.

Virginia Tech Hokies

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    Antone Exum, provided he returns at full strength from his offseason injury, will be the Virginia Tech Hokies' top draft pick for the 2014 cycle.

    Exum was a ghost on the field last season, and he seemed to be everywhere the ball went. He tallied 48 tackles (35 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, 16 pass breakups, five interceptions and two forced fumbles. He was a one-man show in the Virginia Tech secondary.

    Unless Logan Thomas figures out how to dig in and bring his 2011 self back to the field, Exum will retain his spot on this list permanently.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

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    Michael Campanaro is Wake Forest's wild card, and he's done a great hob so far. In 2012, he racked up 79 receptions for 763 yards and six touchdowns. He added another touchdown and 82 yards off 16 rushing attempts. For good measure, he tossed a touchdown pass.

    Campanaro was named to second-team All-ACC, and he's going to be Wake Forest's headline one more time in 2013.

Washington Huskies

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    Austin Seferian-Jenkins is expected to go in the upper third of the first round this cycle. Assuming he can stay healthy and out of trouble, he will do just that.

    In 2012, Seferian-Jenkins caught 69 passes for 852 yards and seven touchdowns. The 69 receptions and 850 yards are both single-season records for a Washington tight end. He holds career records in both receiving yards (1,388) and touchdowns (13) for a tight end as well.

    Seferian-Jenkins will be the first Husky drafted, and he'll be the first tight end unless he's surpassed by Colt Lyerla.

Washington State Cougars

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    In the sea of mediocrity (or worse), Deone Bucannon was a lighthouse for the Washington State Cougars last year. Though the Cougars did not come close to bowl season, there were still flashes of potential greatness.

    Bucannon was one of those flashes. He racked up 106 tackles (64 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, one sack, four pass breakups, one forced fumble and four interceptions. Bucannon was a definite clean-up guy from his safety slot.

    He will be the Cougars' top draft pick in 2014.

West Virginia Mountaineers

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    Will Clarke is the strongest player on West Virginia's defensive line, and he will be even stronger in 2013 than he was in 2012.

    He posted 26 tackles (14 solo), 6.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, four pass breakups and four quarterback hurries in 2012. Granted, he'll have to do a lot better than that if West Virginia's going to contend for the Big 12 in 2013, but he'll still be the Mountaineers' highest-drafted player in 2014.

    Clarke has plenty of room to improve, but he's still good enough to get a shot at the NFL this May.

Wisconsin Badgers

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    Jared Abbrederis was a consensus first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver last season, and he's going to play the key role in Wisconsin's offense in 2013. With players like Montee Ball gone, Abbrederis is going to get thrown to a lot more often.

    Abbrederis caught 49 passes last season for 837 yards and five touchdowns. He also got eight carries for 83 yards. Abbrederis is a sort of wild card for the Wisconsin Badgers, but his production is going to have to increase if he's going to make a splash with the NFL scouts.

    Wisconsin may or may not make if to a fourth straight Rose Bowl, but Abbrederis can still earn himself a trip to the early rounds with a solid 2013 run.

     

    Stats and recruiting information are courtesy of NFL Scout Guide and cfbstats.com unless noted otherwise.