Alabama QB AJ McCarron will have the spotlight shining on him during his senior season.
There seemed to be an air of disappointment surrounding the 2013 NFL draft. Though the class featured a record number of underclassmen, it was a group that lacked star power, especially at the all-important offensive skill positions.
Luckily, the 2014 draft class will have plenty of big-name players who should satisfy the thirsts of those who are searching for star names.
Jadeveon Clowney may be the headline player of the class right now, but there are plenty of other standout prospects from around the country who will be searching for attention from scouts this season.
With summer now winding down and both the NFL and collegiate seasons quickly approaching, it’s time to take a look at who the top college prospects are and which potential NFL cities they could eventually be heading to.
Here are full preseason projections and position rankings for the 2014 NFL draft.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
In any other season, having the worst roster in the NFL would be cause for shame, but this year, it’s cause for celebration. Oakland’s future still looks as dark as the black hole at the Oakland Coliseum, though the good news is the Raiders are clearly the early favorites to acquire the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft and win the “Jadeveon Clowney Sweepstakes.”
Clowney is a special and rare once-in-a-decade-type of defensive prospect who has all the qualities you look for in a true No. 1 overall prospect.
The former top overall recruit of the 2011 class has lived up to the enormous amount of hype he had coming out of high school. The freakishly athletic 6’6’’, 274-pound junior has totaled 21 sacks and 35.5 tackles for loss during his first two seasons in Columbia.
Ultimately, Clowney has the potential to be the same caliber of defensive difference-maker in the NFL as legendary pass-rushers such as Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas and DeMarcus Ware.
The Raiders have been lacking a face-of-the-franchise superstar for quite some time. Clowney can fill that role and completely change the team’s complexion and outlook. Most importantly, he’d give the fanbase some hope for the future.
AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
It’s tough to imagine just how frustrated Chargers fans have been over the last three years, as they’ve had to endure watching Philip Rivers’ regression into misery. The former No. 4 overall pick of the 2004 draft has tossed an astounding 48 interceptions over the last three seasons, and there have been times when it’s looked like the game has just passed him by.
The 31-year-old Rivers is now staring at a make-or-break season. If he can’t improve his consistency, and if he fails to impress San Diego’s new regime, especially head coach Mike McCoy, it’s likely that the Chargers will be looking for a new quarterback in the 2014 draft.
The top quarterback prospect in the 2014 class—Alabama’s AJ McCarron—just so happens to bear a strong resemblance to the player that San Diego originally chose in the 2004 draft—Eli Manning.
Last year, McCarron transformed from game manager into game-changer, as he developed into one of the most efficient and productive passers in college football. The 6’4’’, 210-pound senior signal-caller completed 67 percent of his passes, averaged 9.3 yards per attempt, threw 30 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions and ranked first nationally with a 175 passer rating.
More important than his stats, though, was the fact that McCarron led the Tide to the team’s second straight BCS title and pushed his record as a starter to 25-2.
McCarron has proven that he’s a consummate leader and an ultimate winner. He has the size, passing skills, physical ability and all the crucial intangibles that you look for in an elite quarterback prospect.
He’ll enter the 2013 season as the top contender for the Heisman Trophy, as well as the favorite to be the first quarterback taken in the 2014 draft.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
This season will likely be the last year of the Jake Locker-Mike Munchak era in Tennessee. There would at least, however, be some silver lining if the Titans do finish in the basement of the AFC South in 2013.
They could attain a high enough draft slot to land an elite quarterback prospect like Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater to replace the struggling Locker. Bridgewater has drawn national praise and garnered plenty of publicity this offseason following a magnificent performance in a Sugar Bowl victory over the heavily favored Florida Gators.
The former standout at Miami Northwestern High School has been the savior signal-caller the Cardinals needed. The 6’3’’, 196-pound junior is a tough leader who possesses an incredible natural feel for the passing game, and he always seems to make the plays it takes to win games.
“Tennessee Teddy” is a nickname you just might be hearing in the future.
Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA
Buffalo solved its quarterback problem by selecting EJ Manuel in the 2013 draft. But the Bills still have holes in the new-look hybrid defense that new coordinator Mike Pettine is running. Pettine, a Rex Ryan disciple, would love to have an outside edge-rusher who can do all the things that UCLA’s Anthony Barr can.
After wasting away his first few years as a rarely used fullback, Barr finally made a splash in 2012—his first year on defense. He totaled 13 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles, and he was responsible for ending USC star QB Matt Barkley’s season with one single smashing sack.
To put it simply, Barr is a beast.
The 6’4’’, 235-pound senior could ultimately wind up becoming the same type of impact player as Shawne Merriman was early in his pro career.
Stephen Morris, QB, Miami
Blaine Gabbert, the former No. 10 overall pick of the 2011 draft, obviously hasn’t come close to developing into the type of quarterback that the Jaguars were hoping for. Jacksonville has given Gabbert one more year to prove himself, but that likely has to do more with the fact that there was no quarterback worth taking with the second pick in the 2013 draft.
New GM David Caldwell likely already has his eye on a few of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 draft class. Miami’s Stephen Morris is one senior signal-caller in particular whom the team should know well.
New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch coached Morris last year when he was the coordinator for the Hurricanes, so he knows exactly how well Morris fits in his offensive system.
Morris will remind new coach Gus Bradley, the former Seahawks defensive coordinator, a lot of Russell Wilson. Though he doesn’t possess the prototypical height of an average NFL quarterback, he does possess elite athleticism, explosive arm talent and outstanding leadership ability.
Last year, the 6’2’’, 218-pound senior threw for over 3,300 yards and 21 touchdowns, and he displayed arm strength that is superior to nearly every other quarterback in college football.
A Fisch-Morris reunion in Jacksonville is definitely a potential possibility to watch out for.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
2013 will serve as an audition season for QB Jay Cutler, who will be looking to impress new coach Marc Trestman. Cutler is entering the final year of his contract, so if he doesn’t do enough to gain Trestman’s trust, the Bears will likely be looking for a new starting quarterback in the 2014 draft.
Georgia’s Aaron Murray is the type of signal-caller who would flourish in Trestman’s uptempo West Coast-style offensive attack.
Murray is the only quarterback in college football who averaged over 10 yards per pass attempt last season. He finished the year with over 3,800 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and a 174 passer rating, which ranked second nationally.
The former 4-star recruit from Tampa’s Plant High School may only be 6'1", but he’s got flawless mechanics, pro-caliber arm strength and top-notch intangibles.
If Murray had led Georgia to a few more yards and beaten Alabama in the SEC Championship Game, he’d probably be entering the 2013 season as the Heisman front-runner.
If he leads the Bulldogs to a conference championship as a senior, he’ll likely take home the Heisman and hear his name called in the top 10 next April.
Marqise Lee, WR, USC
ESPN’s nonstop focus of the Mark Sanchez-Geno Smith quarterback battle has gotten almost comical at this point, considering the fact that the Jets are likely destined to finish with just a few wins regardless of who ends up behind center.
If Geno is the quarterback that the Jets want to build around for the future, then they’d be wise to surround him with a better supporting cast at the offensive skill positions.
If New York has the opportunity to select USC’s Marqise Lee—the top receiver prospect in the 2014 draft class—he would be almost impossible to pass up.
Lee led the nation with 118 catches for 1,721 yards and scored 14 touchdowns in 2012, and he proved that he could shine even on a struggling team.
The Jets could use that type of spark in the passing game. Finally finding a true No. 1 receiver to build the passing game around has to be one of GM John Idzik’s top priorities next offseason. He won’t be able to find a better option than Lee, who has the potential to be a shorter version of A.J. Green in the NFL.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
Adrian Peterson’s incredible and historic performance in 2012 really helped overshadow the highly inconsistent play of QB Christian Ponder. It’s doubtful, though, that Peterson and the Vikings will be able to overcome Ponder’s shortcomings again this year.
That means that the team will likely be looking for another starting QB in the 2014 draft. The organization won’t be able to find a much more talented prospect at the position than defending Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.
During his first season as a starter in 2012, Manziel displayed a combination of Brett Favre’s charisma and Cam Newton’s playmaking ability. The electric and dynamic dual-threat signal-caller led the nation with over 5,100 total yards of offense and accounted for 43 touchdowns as he led the Aggies to a surprising 11-win season.
Manziel’s the rock star of college football, but that means there are certain elements of his personality that will surely be thoroughly scrutinized by NFL evaluators. Still, regardless of what you think about his off-the-field habits, it’s impossible to deny the fact that Johnny Football is one of the most gifted young offensive playmakers that we’ve seen in college football in the last decade.
Many went overboard criticizing Tyrann Mathieu for his off-the-field problems and for the fact that he didn’t have prototypical size. Regardless, it’s likely that Mathieu will still make a big impact in the NFL in the coming years.
Manziel looks like he’s going to fall into the same category as the Honey Badger. He’s going to hear plenty of criticism between now and the 2014 draft. However, if he can tune out the naysayers and focus on reaching his potential, he has the talent to be just as successful at the NFL level as he’s been in college.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Arizona is hoping that OG Jonathan Cooper, the No. 7 pick in the 2013 draft, can come in and help fix an offensive line which ranked last in the NFL with 58 sacks allowed last year.
Cooper has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler, but the problem with the offensive line is that the Cardinals have a big question mark at the most important spot: left tackle. Levi Brown, who missed all of last season with a triceps injury, has never come close to living up to being a top-10 draft pick.
If Brown doesn’t show some drastic improvement this year, the team will have to go searching for a player who can keep Carson Palmer properly protected. Michigan’s Taylor Lewan is shaping up to be the top left tackle prospect in next year’s draft class, and he could be a player that catches Arizona’s attention.
Lewan would have likely been a top-20 pick if he had left Ann Arbor after his junior year and entered the 2013 draft. But instead, he chose to return to school and chase a Big Ten title and an Outland Trophy.
The 6’8’’, 315-pound senior has often been compared to former Wolverine Jake Long. But Lewan actually compares more favorably to Oakland’s Jared Veldheer. Like Veldheer, the tall tackle possesses surprising agility for his size, and he’s got all the technical skills you look for in a complete left tackle.
C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama
Detroit has plenty of playmakers on offense, most notably QB Matt Stafford, RB Reggie Bush and WR Calvin Johnson. But unfortunately, the same thing can’t be said about the team’s defense. Besides DT Ndamukong Suh, the Lions don’t have any other standout defenders, which is why they likely won’t be competing for a spot in the postseason this year.
The team’s linebacker corps, which is led by middle ‘backer Stephen Nicholas, who dramatically regressed in 2012, is one of the weakest units in the NFL. But the Lions can fix that by adding a tough, instinctive and explosive ‘backer like Alabama’s C.J. Mosley.
Last year, Mosley was the face of Alabama’s top-ranked defense, leading the Tide with 107 tackles, including 66 solo stops and four sacks.
The 6’2’’, 232-pound senior lines up predominantly inside in Alabama’s 3-4 defense. But he’s actually best suited to play on the outside in a 4-3 front in the NFL.
Mosley would be an instant upgrade over both Ashlee Palmer and DeAndre Levy in Detroit, and he would also help take some of the burden off of Nicholas.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Cleveland’s top corner, Joe Haden, is one of the best young defensive players in the NFL. Haden, the former No. 7 overall pick of the 2010 draft, possesses legitimate lockdown ability. Unfortunately, the Browns just don’t have a proper complement to him across the field at the other cornerback position. Buster Skrine and Chris Owens are not starting-caliber corners, and the recently drafted Leon McFadden seems better suited for a No. 3 role.
At least they won’t have to look far to find a top-flight young corner whom they could pair with Haden for the future. All the Browns' scouts have to do is head down I-71 to Columbus to check out Ohio State’s Bradley Roby—this year’s most talented corner prospect.
Roby is coming off a spectacular sophomore campaign in which he totaled 62 tackles—including 40 solo stops—two interceptions and 17 pass breakups and scored three touchdowns in three different ways.
The 5’11’’, 190-pound junior elevated his play to another level last season, and now he looks ready to rise to elite status in 2013.
The theoretical tandem of Haden and Roby would be one of the league’s top corner duos for a long time.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The Rams helped solidify one of their biggest weak spots this offseason when they signed coveted free-agent franchise left tackle Jake Long.
Long’s arrival is great news for everyone on the Rams besides the man he’s been brought in to replace—Rodger Saffold, who will now spend what is shaping up to be his final season with the Rams at right tackle. Saffold will likely be gone after this season, which means St. Louis could be in search for a new right tackle to pair with Long.
Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews, the son of Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews—a player whom Jeff Fisher coached during his time with the Oilers/Titans—has proven to be a steady and reliable starter on the right side for the Aggies for the past three years.
Matthews, who, like fellow classmate Taylor Lewan, could have been a top-20 pick in the 2013 draft if he had declared, will shift over to the left side and take over for departed Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel this year.
The 6’5’’, 305-pound senior isn’t quite the sound technician that Joeckel was, and he may not have true Hall of Fame potential like his father, but Jake’s got a combination of size, agility, DNA and blocking skills that’s quite impressive.
Ra'Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
Andy Reid loves taking linemen in the first round of the draft. He employed that strategy eight times during his tenure with the Eagles, and he started off his career in Kansas City with the same philosophy.
Having now addressed the offensive line by selecting Central Michigan OT Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, Reid and the Chiefs will likely turn their attention to the defensive line in the 2014 draft. The starting defensive end pairing of Tyson Jackson and Mike Devito isn’t exactly inspiring.
Reid will likely be on the lookout for an athletic and versatile interior player who can line up in both three and four-man fronts. Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman is a physical freak who possesses all the skills to impress a team like Kansas City.
Hageman is an intimidating 6’6’’, 311-pound explosive powerhouse who has the speed and power to dominate when his motor’s running at full speed.
The massive former tight end is a player who deserved much more publicity than he received this offseason. Hageman will be a name that many NFL draft enthusiasts will quickly become enamored with this fall.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
The early reports about the Mike Wallace era in Miami haven’t exactly been glowing. Wallace apparently hasn’t clicked with QB Ryan Tannehill all that well. But we at least have to reserve judgement for the regular season.
Considering the money they spent on him, the Dolphins are expecting their new No. 1 receiver to be spectacular. If he’s not as good as expected (the early reports certainly don’t suggest that he will be), they’ll have to go searching for another receiver in the 2014 draft.
We already know how much Miami’s offensive coordinator Mike Sherman adores Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans.
Evans is a player that Sherman recruited to College Station back when he was coaching the Aggies. Since then, the former basketball standout at Texas’ Ball High School has cashed in on his natural ability, and he’s now on his way to reaching the pinnacle of his potential.
The 6’5’’, 225-pound redshirt sophomore caught 82 passes for over 1,100 yards and five touchdowns in his debut season. More importantly, he gained the trust of QB Johnny Manziel.
Evans should compete for a Biletnikoff Award this season, as well as a spot in the top 15 of the 2014 draft.
Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
The Rams are hoping the trio of Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead and Zac Stacy can adequately replace what former franchise back Steven Jackson was able to bring to the table. If they can’t, St. Louis will likely spend one of its two first-round picks in the 2014 draft on a running back.
They won’t be able to find a better rushing prospect next year than Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk.
Seastrunk is a former 5-star recruit who shined last season after transferring from Oregon back to his home state of Texas. After a slow start to the year, the 5’10’’, 210-pound speedster exploded in the second half of the season, rushing for over 100 yards in five of his last six games and finishing with over 1,000 yards on the ground.
There are times when Seastrunk needs to show more patience as a runner. However, he still has the speed, playmaking skills and natural rushing instincts to become a dangerous big-play threat for an NFL offense.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Tampa Bay has one of the best one-two receiving punches in the league with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. But the Bucs lack a formidable receiving threat at the tight end position, where Luke Stocker is a No. 2 tight end masquerading as a starter.
If the Bucs have a shot at next year’s top tight end prospect—North Carolina’s Eric Ebron—then they could very well jump at the chance and snatch him up.
Ebron is the ACC’s latest freakishly athletic tight end, following in the footsteps of guys like Dwayne Allen, Vernon Davis and Kellen Winslow Jr.
The 6’4’’, 235-pound junior has called his own speed “illegal,” per the Charlotte News and Observer, and he’s right.
The Tar Heel tight end would add a much-needed dimension to the Bucs offense, and he’d give whoever ends up being their future quarterback another weapon.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
Chip Kelly’s offense will feature three explosive playmakers at the offensive skill positions: Mike Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Plus, it’s interesting to think about what Kelly could do with an intriguing group of tight ends. Still, you have to wonder just how good the Eagles offense can be with a player like Riley Cooper as the team’s second wide receiver.
With so much uncertainty surrounding Jeremy Maclin’s return from injury—and, subsequently, the uncertainty surrounding his return to Philadelphia—it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Philadelphia go hunting for another receiver early in the 2014 draft.
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins, a former freshman phenom, has the speed and home run-hitting ability that would fit in perfectly in Kelly’s offense.
Watkins slipped a bit as a sophomore and failed to live up to expectations after a fantastic freshman performance. Still, when the 6’1’’, 185-pound junior is healthy and focused, it’s clear that he’s got the talent to be a dynamic playmaker.
A coach like Kelly would likely start salivating if you brought up the idea of a potential pairing of receivers like Watkins and DeSean Jackson in the same offense.
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Pittsburgh’s defense is in somewhat of a transition phase right now. This offseason, the Steelers lost some key veteran defenders such as James Harrison, Keenan Lewis and Casey Hampton.
The team has capable replacements for both Harrison and Lewis. However, it remains to be seen how Steve McLendon, a former undrafted free agent who has been cut numerous times during his career in the NFL, will be able to replace Hampton. If McLendon can’t cut it as a full-time starter in 2013, Pittsburgh will likely go looking for a new nose tackle next offseason.
The Steelers won’t be able to find a better 3-4 nose tackle prospect in the 2014 draft class than Notre Dame’s Louis Nix.
At 6’3’’, 340 pounds, Nix is built like B.J. Raji of the Packers, but he’s even quicker and more athletic.
After quietly being the rock of Notre Dame’s stout run defense last year while Manti Te’o soaked up the spotlight, Nix will now receive the true attention he deserves as the spotlight player of the Irish defense this season.
Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
The offensive line and the linebacker corps are two areas that GM Jerry Reese has neglected during his tenure in New York, yet the Giants have still managed to win two Super Bowls.
Reese broke the Giants’ trend of not picking an offensive lineman in the first round of the draft when he picked Justin Pugh in the 2013 draft. Having added a solid young piece to the offensive line, it’s now time for Reese to turn his attention to the linebacker unit, since it’s a group that has lacked a standout player for far too long.
Since Reese has shown that he loves athletic ACC players, he may have his eye on a linebacker like Florida State’s Christian Jones.
Jones is a former highly touted 5-star recruit who took a huge step toward stardom during the 2012 season, when he led the Seminoles’ stacked defense with 95 tackles. The 6’4’’, 232-pound senior was one of the key run stoppers for a defense that ranked third nationally in rushing defense last year.
Jones has the size, speed and nose for the football to develop into a dominant strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 system like the one Perry Fewell runs.
Kyle Van Noy
Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU
After watching his team’s putrid defensive performance last year, Sean Payton knew drastic changes needed to be made. That’s why the unit has switched from a 4-3 front to a predominantly 3-4 alignment under new coordinator Rob Ryan.
Following the sudden system switch, the team lacks the proper personnel needed, especially at the outside linebacker position. Besides Parys Haralson, a castoff from San Francisco, and intriguing yet largely unproven third-year linebacker Martez Wilson, the team doesn’t have another rush linebacker that deserves to see meaningful snaps this season.
New Orleans can change that next offseason by selecting BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, the top 3-4 outside linebacker prospect in the 2014 draft class.
Van Noy is a former 4-star recruit from Nevada who’s proven to be a perfect fit on the edge of the Cougars' defense. Though his former teammate and close friend Ziggy Ansah received all of the praise in the months leading up to the 2013 draft, it was actually Van Noy who was BYU’s defensive MVP last year.
The 6’3’’, 245-pound edge-rusher totaled 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss, eight quarterback hurries, two interceptions and six forced fumbles.
Following a dazzling showcase performance in the Poinsettia Bowl, Van Noy now has scouts buzzing about his pro potential. He should be able to sure up a spot in the first round of the 2014 draft with a strong senior season
Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Baltimore just paid a mind-boggling amount of money to QB Joe Flacco. With so much invested in their franchise signal-caller, the Ravens now need to make sure that they keep their precious property properly protected. That means they need to find an upgrade over left tackle Bryant McKinnie.
Cyrus Kouandjio, who plays for Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome's alma mater Alabama, would be an instant upgrade for an over-the-hill player like McKinnie.
Kouandjio was one of the most decorated prospects of the 2011 recruiting class. The former All-American recruit truly came into his own as a sophomore in 2012, as he proved he can handle protecting QB AJ McCarron’s blind side.
The 6’6’’, 310-pound native of Cameroon has all the physical skills and tools to develop into an elite left tackle prospect.
Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
If you asked most NFL fans to name a cornerback on the Panthers, it wouldn’t be surprising if you received a lot of puzzled looks.
Carolina’s corner trio of Drayton Florence, Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Norman is sadly a rather forgettable group. The Panthers need more pizzazz and cache at the position, but most importantly, they need better playmakers in coverage who can make plays on the ball.
Florida’s Marcus Roberson is exactly the type of player they need.
Roberson made everyone around the SEC take notice of his skills in 2012, when he totaled 12 pass breakups and played a key role for a Gators secondary that allowed just 5.6 yards per pass.
The 6’0’’, 178-pound junior will again team with fellow highly regarded pro prospect Loucheiz Purifoy to give Florida the best cornerback combination in the country this season.
Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Andrew Luck has the potential to be a top-five quarterback in the NFL for the next decade. But in order for Luck to reach his full potential in Indianapolis, he’ll need to establish a partnership with a new No. 1 receiver.
Reggie Wayne was a solid top target last year, but he turns 35 this season and doesn’t have many seasons left. Darrius Heyward-Bey is still largely an unknown commodity at this point. T.Y. Hilton could be a sensational slot receiver, but at 5’9’’, he just doesn’t have the size to be a go-to receiver.
Indianapolis could turn to the 2014 draft to find that future No. 1 receiver for Luck. One player who could fill that role is Mississippi’s Donte Moncrief.
The 6’3’’, 226-pound junior possesses elite athleticism and has one of the most impressive size-speed combinations in college football. Last year, the star SEC pass-catcher hauled in 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns. He showed his big-play ability by ranking second in the conference with 11 catches of over 30 yards.
Moncrief and Luck would form quite a passing partnership in Indianapolis.
Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
In my final mock draft, I predicted Dallas would select DT Sharrif Floyd at 18. Suffice it to say, I was pretty shocked when the Cowboys opted not to take Floyd and instead opted to trade back to select Travis Frederick.
The Cowboys have a noticeable need at defensive tackle now that they’ve moved to a 4-3 defensive system under new coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Kiffin wants a quick, up-the-field penetrator like Warren Sapp, and he may just be able to find that kind of player in the 2014 draft.
Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan is only 6’2’’, 294 pounds, but he’s one of the quickest and most explosive tackles in the country.
During the first two years of his career, the former blue-chip recruit was overshadowed by bigger names like Bjoern Werner, Tank Carradine and Brandon Jenkins. But now that they’re all gone, it’s Jernigan’s time to shine.
It’s too early to start calling him the next Sapp. Still, it’s clear that Jernigan possesses the potential to be a special defensive tackle prospect.
Shayne Skov, LB, Stanford
Denver helped solidify the middle of its defense by selecting big, physical defensive tackle Sylvester Williams in the first round of the 2013 draft. What the Broncos must do now, however, is find a middle linebacker to keep the interior run defense strong, since Nate Irving is a nice situational player, but not a full-time starter.
Stanford’s Shayne Skov is the type of physical and intimidating inside run-stuffer who would be a perfect complement to explosive outside edge-rusher Von Miller.
Skov was the centerpiece of one of college football’s top run defenses in 2012. He anchored a front seven that ranked fifth nationally against the run, allowing just 97 yards on the ground per game.
The 6’3’’, 244-pound senior has the potential to be the next Brian Cushing.
Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
I would have liked to have seen the look on Aaron Rodgers' face the moment he first came to the realization that he's going to have David Bakhtiari—a rookie fourth-round pick from a team that ranked 122nd nationally with 50 sacks allowed last season—at left tackle, and Marshall Newhouse—a walking turnstile who has never looked like an NFL-caliber pass-blocker—on his right side.
Have fun with that, Aaron! You can bet that DeMarcus Ware, Aldon Smith, Brian Orakpo, Julius Peppers, Jason Pierre-Paul Jared Allen, Michael Johnson, Terrell Suggs, and Ezekiel Ansah all surely will.
Even if Bulaga can return back to his old form and take over as a starter again, it’s obvious that the Packers need more help at the position.
Texas A&M’s Cedric Ogbuehi is much more physically gifted than any tackle Green Bay has now. After flourishing last year inside at guard, the 6’5’’, 300-pound junior will now have the opportunity to prove himself at right tackle on the opposite side of Jake Matthews.
If Ogbuehi can prove that he can handle himself on the outside, he could entice a tackle-needy team like the Packers to spend a first-round pick on him in 2014.
Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
Considering the Bengals recently just spent a huge chunk of change on Carlos Dunlap and still have to pay star DT Geno Atkins, it’s unlikely that there will be enough money left for the team’s franchise player: DE Michael Johnson.
If Cincinnati loses Johnson after this season as expected, the team could look to the 2014 draft to find another pass-rusher to pair with Dunlap.
South Florida’s Aaron Lynch is a nasty pass-rushing prospect who would make a terrific replacement for Johnson in Cincinnati.
During his one season at Notre Dame, the former All-American recruit showed flashes of greatness, as he totaled 5.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss and 14 quarterback hurries. The 6’6’’, 244-pound sophomore is the type of long, athletic and disruptive defensive end that NFL teams place such a high value on in this day and age.
If Lynch can shake off the rust and play up to his potential in his home state of Florida, his name should quickly soar up draft boards.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
San Francisco has one of the most talented defenses in the NFL. But one thing the unit seems to be lacking is a true No. 1 corner. The 49ers desperately need to add some younger blood to their aging current corner crop. That’s why it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see them spend next year’s first-round pick on a cornerback.
One player that Jim Harbaugh knows well is Oregon’s Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, a player whom Harbaugh recruited and offered a scholarship to back when he was coaching at Stanford.
While Oregon’s offensive stars have garnered all the accolades and headlines, Ekpre-Olomu has quietly developed into a shutdown cover man. The 5’10’’, 190-pound junior tied for seventh in the nation with 16 passes defended in 2012, and he also forced six fumbles and had four interceptions.
The highly active and athletic ball hawk has what it takes to be a No. 1 corner in the NFL.
Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers
Bill Belichick showed an affinity for Rutgers players by selecting three Scarlet Knights player in the 2013 draft.
Unfortunately for Belichick, he wasn’t able to get his hands on Rutgers’ best pro prospect: WR Brandon Coleman. That could change next April, however, when Coleman will likely be one of the top receiver prospects in the 2014 class.
The athletic 6’6’’, 220-pound junior averaged a whopping 16.7 yards per catch and scored 10 touchdowns in 2012, even though he had to deal with plenty of inconsistencies from his quarterback Gary Nova.
Coleman is a big, physically imposing receiver who would form a tremendous trio with Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson in New England.
Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
The Seattle defense features one of the top young linebacker duos in the league: K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. However, following the loss of Leroy Hill this offseason, the Seahawks are now literally weak at the weak-side ‘backer spot.
They can change that by drafting a player such as Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier.
Shazier is one of the most athletic and explosive defenders in all of college football. Last year, the 6’2’’, 222-pound former 4-star recruit from Florida figured out how to fully use his football instincts to his benefit, as he developed into a dynamic defensive difference-maker. He totaled 114 tackles, including 69 solo stops, 17 tackles for loss, five sacks, 10 pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
The Buckeyes have had plenty of star linebackers in recent years like A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and Bobby Carpenter, but Shazier should turn out to be the best pro out of all of them.
Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Atlanta had one of the least effective pass rushes in the NFL last season, ranking 28th in the league with just 29 total sacks.
The team is hoping that new addition Osi Umenyiora can make up for the loss of John Abraham. But still, it’s obvious that the Falcons need to get a stronger pass rush from the interior in order to improve their sack total.
If the team can’t find another effective inside penetrator besides Jonathan Babineaux, who is entering the final year of his contract, then Atlanta will be forced to go looking for a tackle early in the 2014 draft.
Arizona State’s Will Sutton is a top tackle prospect who has shown that he can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. Last year, Sutton put together a breakout campaign, totaling 12 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss.
Sutton will hear naysayers talk about how he’s undersized at 6’1’’, 288 pounds. But the 2012 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year has the attitude, toughness and quickness to be a difference-maker in the NFL trenches.
De'Anthony Thomas, RB/WR, Oregon
To say that Arian Foster is breaking down wouldn’t be a totally fair statement, but at 27 years old and with a multitude of injury problems in recent years, it’s fair to wonder if it’s at least time to start lightening Foster’s load.
Ben Tate would be the logical choice to spell Foster, but Tate wasn’t as effective as the Texans were hoping for last year, and he’s entering the final year of his contract.
Finding a smaller, quicker and more explosive back would be a nice change of pace to complement Foster’s running style.
Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas is the type of versatile player Houston needs.
The 5’9’’, 176-pound running back/receiver/returner is cut from the Tavon Austin mold in terms of both his size and his playing style. Last year, the former All-American recruit averaged a whopping 7.6 yards per carry, caught 45 passes and accounted for 18 total touchdowns.
With Kenjon Barner now gone, the “Black Mamba” should now have even more opportunities to strike. Thomas should be able to make scouts overlook his lack of height, and he should solidify his status as a first-round draft pick with a strong junior performance.
1. AJ McCarron, Alabama
2. Stephen Morris, Miami
3. Aaron Murray, Georgia
4. David Fales, San Jose State
5. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
6. Derek Carr, Fresno State
7. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
8. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
9. Jeff Matthews, Cornell
10. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
11. Casey Pachall, TCU
12. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
13. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State
14. Keith Price, Washington
15. Jamal Londry-Jackson, Appalachian State
16. Cody Green, Tulsa
17. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
18. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
19. Keith Wenning, Ball State
20. Chase Rettig, Boston College
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
4. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
5. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
6. Braxton Miller, Ohio State
7. Devin Gardner, Michigan
8. Jeff Driskel, Florida
9. David Ash, Texas
10. Cody Fajardo, Nevada
11. Bryce Petty, Baylor
12. Brett Smith, Wyoming
13. Chuckie Keeton, Utah State
14. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss
15. Taylor Kelly, Arizona State
1. Charles Sims, West Virginia
2. Marion Grice, Arizona State
3. Damien Williams, Oklahoma
4. Rajion Neal, Tennessee
5. (FB) Trey Millard, Oklahoma
6. James White, Wisconsin
7. Silas Redd, USC
8. LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State
9. Stephen Houston, Indiana
10. John Hubert, Kansas State
11. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
12. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
13. Venric Mark, Northwestern
14. Dri Archer, Kent State
15. Alfred Blue, LSU
16. Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
17. (QB) Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
18. James Sims, Kansas
19. Ben Malena, Texas A&M
20. Glasco Martin, Baylor
1. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
2. De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon
3. James Wilder Jr., Florida State
4. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
5. Kenny Hilliard, LSU
6. Bishop Sankey, Washington
7. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
8. Jerome Smith, Syracuse
9. Tre Mason, Auburn
10. Brendan Bigelow, California
11. Jeremy Hill, LSU
12. Michael Dyer, Louisville
13. Devonta Freeman, Florida State
14. Adam Muema, San Diego State
15. Storm Woods, Oregon State
1. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
2. Mike Davis, Texas
3. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
4. Cody Hoffman, BYU
5. TJ Jones, Notre Dame
6. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
7. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
8. Isaiah Burse, Fresno State
9. Kevin Norwood, Alabama
10. Shaq Evans, UCLA
11. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
12. Tevin Reese, Baylor
13. (QB) Kain Colter, Northwestern
14. Ryan Grant, Tulane
15. Kofi Hughes, Indiana
16. Robert Herron, Wyoming
17. Noel Grigsby, San Jose State
18. Eric Ward, Texas Tech
19. D.J. Coles, Virginia Tech
20. Alex Amidon, Boston College
1. Marqise Lee, USC
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
3. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
4. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss
5. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
6. Jarvis Landry, LSU
7. Davante Adams, Fresno State
8. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
9. Rashad Greene, Florida State
10. DeVante Parker, Louisville
11. Allen Robinson, Penn State
12. Kasen Williams, Washington
13. Odell Beckham, LSU
14. Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State
15. Kenny Bell, Nebraska
1. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
2. Arthur Lynch, Georgia
3. Justin Jones, East Carolina
4. Trey Burton, Florida
5. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
6. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
7. Blake Jackson, Oklahoma State
8. Asa Watson, NC State
9. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
10. Ted Bolser, Indiana
11. Kaneakua Friel, BYU
12. Chris Coyle, Arizona State
13. Nehemiah Hicks, Texas A&M
14. Alex Bayer, Bowling Green
15. Gabe Linehan, Boise State
16. Justin Perillo, Maine
17. Jordan Najvar, Baylor
18. Rob Blanchflower, UMass
19. Gabe Holmes, Purdue
20. Gator Hoskins, Marshall
1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
3. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
4. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
5. Xavier Grimble, USC
6. Jake McGee, Virginia
7. Jay Rome, Georgia
8. Randall Telfer, USC
9. Nick O’Leary, Florida State
10. A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
11. Rory Anderson, South Carolina
12. Kyle Carter, Penn State
13. Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
14. Brian Vogler, Alabama
15. Clive Walford, Miami
1. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
2. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
3. James Hurst, North Carolina
4. Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
5. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
6. Ja’Wuan James, Tennessee
7. Morgan Moses, Virginia
8. Kevin Graf, USC
9. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
10. Brandon Thomas, Clemson
11. Austin Wentworth, Fresno State
12. Rob Crisp, NC State
13. Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
14. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
15. Donald Hawkins, Texas
16. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
17. Kenarious Gates, Georgia
18. Fou Fonoti, Michigan State
19. Matt Hall, Belhaven
20. Bryce Quigley, San Diego State
1. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
2. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
3. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
4. La’El Collins, LSU
5. Jake Fisher, Oregon
6. Cameron Erving, Florida State
7. Eric Lefeld, Cincinnati
8. Tyler Johnstone, Oregon
9. Cameron Fleming, Stanford
10. Chaz Green, Florida
11. Le’Raven Clark, Texas Tech
12. Christian Lombard, Notre Dame
13. Spencer Drango, Baylor
14. Kaleb Johnson, Rutgers
15. Aundrey Walker, USC
1. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
2. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
3. Anthony Steen, Alabama
4. Spencer Long, Nebraska
5. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
6. Antwan Lowery, Rutgers
7. John Urschel, Penn State
8. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
9. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
10. Zach Fulton, Tennessee
11. Jonotthan Harrison, Florida
12. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
13. Brandon Linder, Miami
14. Mason Walters, Texas
15. Jon Halapio, Florida
16. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
17. Chris Burnette, Georgia
18. Bryan Stork, Florida State
19. Zac Kerin, Toledo
20. Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
1. David Yankey, Stanford
2. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
3. Tre Jackson, Florida State
4. Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
5. Ryan Kelly, Alabama
6. Trai Turner, LSU
7. Josue Matias, Florida State
8. Russell Bodine, North Carolina
9. A.J. Cann, South Carolina
10. Kyle Costigan, Wisconsin
11. Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern
12. Marcus Jackson, Tennessee
13. Marcus Martin, USC
14. BJ Finney, Kansas State
15. Laken Tomlinson, Duke
1. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
2. Will Sutton, Arizona State
3. Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
4. DeAndre Coleman, California
5. Dominique Easley, Florida
6. Demonte McAllister, Florida State
7. Byran Jones, Arkansas
8. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
9. DaQuan Jones, Penn State
10. Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
11. Bruce Gaston, Purdue
12. Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State
13. Robert Thomas, Arkansas
14. Jay Bromley, Syracuse
15. Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
16. Caraun Reid, Princeton
17. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
18. Derrick Hopkins, Virginia Tech
19. Zach Kerr, Delaware
20. Wade Keliikipi, Oregon
1. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
2. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
3. Carl Davis, Iowa
4. Anthony Johnson, LSU
5. Tyeler Davison, Fresno State
6. Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
7. George Uko, USC
8. Leon Orr, Florida
9. Ego Ferguson, LSU
10. Grady Jarrett, Clemson
11. Brandon Ivory, Alabama
12. Danny Shelton, Washington
13. Travis Raciti, San Jose State
14. Desmond Jackson, Texas
15. Kaleb Eulls, Mississippi State
1. Kareem Martin, North Carolina
2. Chaz Sutton, South Carolina
3. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
4. Morgan Breslin, USC
5. Jonathan Newsome, Ball State
6. Denico Autry, Mississippi State
7. Cassius Marsh, UCLA
8. James Gayle, Virginia Tech
9. Ben Gardner, Stanford
10. Chris Smith, Arkansas
11. Ed Stinson, Alabama
12. Darryl Cato-Bishop, NC State
13. Dee Ford, Auburn
14. Taylor Hart, Oregon
15. Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M
16. Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
17. IK Enemkpali, Louisiana Tech
18. (DT) Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
19. Marcus Smith, Louisville
20. Andy Jennings, Fresno State
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2. Aaron Lynch, South Florida
3. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State
4. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
5. Scott Crichton, Oregon State
6. Kony Ealy, Missouri
7. Vic Beasley, Clemson
8. Trey Flowers, Arkansas
9. Henry Anderson, Stanford
10. Jeoffrey Pagan, Alabama
11. Marcus Rush, Michigan State
12. Anthony Chickillo, Miami
13. Deion Barnes, Penn State
14. C.J. Johnson, Ole Miss
15. Brock Hekking, Nevada
1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
2. C.J. Mosley, Alabama
3. Christian Jones, Florida State
4. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
5. Shayne Skov, Stanford
6. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
7. Jonathan Brown, Illinois
8. Trent Murphy, Stanford
9. Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
10. Max Bullough, Michigan State
11. Lamin Barrow, LSU
12. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
13. James Morris, Iowa
14. (DE) Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
15. Mike Marry, Ole Miss
16. Greg Blair, Cincinnati
17. Devon Kennard, USC
18. Steven Jenkins, Texas A&M
19. Telvin Smith, Florida State
20. Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State
1. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
2. Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
3. A.J. Johnson, Tennessee
4. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut
5. Trey Depriest, Alabama
6. Hayes Pullard, USC
7. Jordan Hicks, Texas
8. Jake Ryan, Michigan
9. Benardrick McKinney, Mississippi State
10. Carl Bradford, Arizona State
11. Eric Kendricks, UCLA
12. Denzel Perryman, Miami
13. Bryce Hager, Baylor
14. Jabari Hunt-Days, Georgia Tech
15. Amarlo Herrera, Georgia
1. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
2. Jason Verrett, TCU
3. Deion Belue, Alabama
4. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
5. Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
6. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
7. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
8. Ross Cockrell, Duke
9. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
10. Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame
11. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State
12. E.J. Gaines, Missouri
13. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
14. Ricardo Allen, Purdue
15. Carrington Byndom, Texas
16. Osahon Irabor, Arizona State
17. Jimmy Legree, South Carolina
18. Walt Aikens, Liberty
19. Nat Berhe, San Diego State
20. L.J. Jones, Fresno State
1. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
2. Marcus Roberson, Florida
3. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon
4. Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest
5. Loucheiz Purifoy, Florida
6. Damian Swann, Georgia
7. Terrance Mitchell, Oregon
8. Nick Waisome, Florida State
9. Quandre Diggs, Texas
10. Tim Scott, North Carolina
11. Demetrious Nicholson, Virginia
12. Blake Countess, Michigan
13. Levander Liggins, Louisiana Tech
14. Deshazor Everett, Texas A&M
15. Jalen Collins, LSU
1. Craig Loston, LSU
2. Tre Boston, North Carolina
3. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
4. Hakeem Smith, Louisville
5. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
6. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
7. Jaylen Watkins, Florida
8. (CB) Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
9. Alden Darby, Arizona State
10. Christian Bryant, Ohio State
11. Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
12. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
13. Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
14. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
15. Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin
16. Isaiah Johnson, Georgia Tech
17. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
18. Jason Hendricks, Pittsburgh
19. Julien David, Howard
20. Darwin Cook, West Virginia
1. Jordan Richards, Stanford
2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
3. Jonathan Dowling, Western Kentucky
4. Ed Reynolds, Stanford
5. Dion Bailey, USC
6. Adrian Amos, Penn State
7. Karlos Williams, Florida State
8. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
9. Derron Smith, Fresno State
10. Ronald Martin, LSU
11. Sam Carter, TCU
12. Kyshoen Jarrett, Virginia Tech
13. Corey Moore, Georgia
14. Vinnie Sunseri, Alabama
15. Erick Dargan, Oregon
1. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
3. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
4. Leonard Williams, DT, USC
5. Jordan Jenkins, LB, Georgia
6. Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
7. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
8. Shaq Thompson, FS, Washington
9. Jalen Mills, CB, LSU
10. Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
11. Johnathan Gray, RB, Texas
12. Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
13. Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
14. Dante Fowler, DE, Florida
15. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
16. Max Tuerk, OL, USC
17. Quinshad Davis, WR, North Carolina
18. Adolphus Washington, DE, Ohio State
19. Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
20. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC