2014 All-NFL Draft Team, Preseason Edition
The turn from July to August inevitably means one thing: Everyone in the college football world is rushing to put out a preseason All-American team. Why should draft fans be left out?
How would an All-American team made up completely of the top prospects in the 2014 NFL draft class look? In some cases, it looks just like the other teams based on college production, but being a good draft prospect doesn't always mean you're the most productive guy in college football—just ask Kellen Moore about that.
Scanning the NCAA for the best draft-eligible players—that means redshirt sophomore or higher—here is my take on the 2014 All-Draft Team.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (No. 2 overall player)
The junior quarterback for the Louisville Cardinals enters the season as the top passer eligible for the 2014 draft class, as well as my No. 2 overall prospect.
Bridgewater is close to perfect as a prospect. He has the arm strength to whip the ball downfield and isn't afraid to challenge defenses with tight passes into coverage. He's also a dangerous runner when need be and has shown he isn't afraid to take hits in and out of the pocket.
Playing on a team with few legitimate NFL prospects, Bridgewater has put the Louisville program on his back and willed results. He's ready to do the same in the NFL. With his all-around game that is an ideal fit for today's sped-up, versatile NFL, Bridgewater has a chance to be the first player off the board when the 2014 draft comes.
Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (No. 46 overall player)
A former Oregon Duck, Lache Seastrunk left his mark on the Baylor program in 2012. At 5'10" and 210 pounds, he has the size to bulldoze over defenders who get in his way, but he also has the speed to bounce runs outside and pick up big yards in a hurry.
Seastrunk passes the eyeball test for running backs with his short, stout frame and long stride on breakaway runs. If he can match (or exceed) the 1,100 yards of total offense he posted in 2012, NFL scouts will be knocking on the door at Baylor.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona (No. 54 overall player)
A big producer and tough all-purpose runner, Ka'Deem Carey has the tools to push himself into the first round of the 2014 draft.
At 5'10" and 198 pounds, he's a bit thin, but he makes up for that lean physique with a hard-charging mentality. And when he's not bouncing off defenders, Carey is outrunning them to the end zone.
With his 1,929 yards rushing last season, Carey firmly put himself on the map as a top-tier runner. If he comes close to that this year with defenses piling up to stop him, he'll have a shot to be the first running back drafted.
Wide Receivers and Tight End
Sammy Watkins, Clemson (No. 7 overall player)
My top-ranked wide receiver in the 2014 class, Sammy Watkins has deep-ball ability and smoothness in the open field that will remind you of A.J. Green. And that's a good thing.
At 6'1" and 205 pounds, he's not the biggest wide receiver in the class, but Watkins makes up for any lack of size with exceptional vision and body control. When matched up one-on-one with any defender in the nation, my money is going on Watkins to come down with the football. He's athletic both in space and on the move, showing he can be a run-after-catch guy and not "just" a jump-ball performer.
Watkins may not have Tavon Austin-like running ability at the line of scrimmage, but his ability to stretch a defense is elite.
Marqise Lee, USC (No. 11 overall player)
You can't watch Marqise Lee play and not be impressed by his ability to find the end zone. With 25 touchdowns in two seasons at USC, Lee quickly proved to be one of the elite scorers in college football.
Lee, like Watkins, doesn't have Calvin Johnson-like size at 6'0" and 195 pounds, but he's a smooth mover in space and a dynamic route-runner. The fact that he has been able to produce so well without great size is a testament to his skills in getting open, running away from defenders and being able to challenge coverage in the red zone.
It will be a dogfight between the two receivers all season to see who will be drafted first, but this might be a question that has no wrong answer.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington (No. 36 overall player)
It may be impossible to separate Austin Seferian-Jenkins the football player from his off-field issues. But if we're focusing on his ability as a tight end, there's no comparison in college football today.
Weighing in at 6'6" and 278 pounds, Seferian-Jenkins is simply bigger, stronger and faster than the men tasked with stopping him. Try covering him with a linebacker and he'll leave them behind. Want to put a faster safety on him? He'll just box them out and use his huge frame and wingspan to win matchups.
With such a unique skill set and size, Seferian-Jenkins is a surefire first-round pick if he can duplicate his 2012 success and keep his off-field troubles in the past.
OT: Taylor Lewan, Michigan (No. 3 overall player)
The top-ranked offensive lineman in the country entering the season, Taylor Lewan went against the best of the best last season in the Outback Bowl and held his own against No. 1 overall player Jadeveon Clowney. That's a good sign for the NFL prospects of a player many thought would enter the 2013 class. Lewan has first-overall talent and will be a likely top-five pick.
G: Cyril Richardson, Baylor (No. 17 overall player)
A massive man (6'5", 335 pounds) who has experience at guard and tackle, Cyril Richardson may challenge Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack's draft positions from the 2013 class. He's huge but mobile, and his strength at the point of attack reminds me of Warmack's days at Alabama. NFL teams looking for the next Mike Iupati will be flocking to Baylor.
C: Travis Swanson, Arkansas (No. 83 overall player)
The center class heading into the season doesn't look great, but Arkansas' Travis Swanson has the goods to be a leader in the middle of the line. In fact, I like him better than 2013 first-rounder Travis Frederick. He's quick enough to be asked to pull and move to the second level. While he doesn't have elite strength to handle nose tackles, there's plenty to work with here once he's coached up in the NFL.
G: Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State (No. 30 overall player)
Jackson, like Richardson, is a mammoth-sized offensive guard prospect (6'3", 335 pounds). And like Richardson again, he's very quick and agile for such a big man. Jackson is more of a man-blocking-system guard, as he's better moving forward than laterally, but if you put a defender in front of Jackson, he'll finish the play on his back.
OT: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M (No. 4 overall player)
The only thing keeping Jake Matthews behind Lewan right now is his lack of experience at left tackle. He'll make the move to the blind side this year for Texas A&M, and if he plays like he did in 2012, he'll challenge Lewan for the top offensive line spot. Matthews, who has an amazing football pedigree, is as clean of a technician as I've seen in the last five years. There are shades of Joe Thomas here.
DE: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina (No. 1 overall player)
The nation's top-ranked player and most hyped prospect since Andrew Luck, Jadeveon Clowney lives up to the excitement surrounding his play. It's not just the big plays, although there are many, but the raw potential that he possesses as an athlete and a football player.
Even if Clowney can't live up to the incredible hype, he's still the best player in this class. A coach's dream, Clowney will be the odds-on favorite to be the first pick in the 2014 NFL draft.
DT: Louis Nix, Notre Dame (No. 9 overall player)
All we heard about last season was the dominance of Manti Te'o for Notre Dame, but I would argue that Louis Nix was the best defender on the squad last season. A stout stud in the middle of the defensive line, Nix is the ideal nose tackle in today's game. He's tough at the point of attack but quick enough to run down ball-carriers. That's going to make him a top-10 player once he declares for the draft.
DT: Timmy Jernigan, FSU (No. 19 overall player)
A rotational player on a deep Florida State line in 2012, Timmy Jernigan's coming-out party is scheduled for September 2. That's when the Seminoles' season kicks off and when Jernigan will prove that he's ready to handle a starting job—not just in Tallahassee, but in the NFL. His pass-rushing skill set makes him a fan and scouting favorite.
DE: Aaron Lynch, South Florida (No. 10 overall player)
The former Notre Dame defender has moved closer to home and will get this first action with South Florida after sitting out the 2012 season due to transfer rules. Lynch has gotten a lot of hype, but he's also a very intimidating physical presence. If he can shake off the rust of a missed season, he's capable of being an elite pass-rusher and run defender on the edge.
Anthony Barr: UCLA (No. 5 overall player)
A former high school running back, Anthony Barr plays the game at one speed—fast. He's like a shark on the field, always moving and attacking his prey. Barr has top-end skills as a pass-rusher and in coverage. Once he learns to take on blockers and stop the run, he may be unstoppable. Even in the NFL.
C.J. Mosley: Alabama (No. 6 overall player)
The most accomplished of the four linebackers making our team, C.J. Mosley is a hitter. An athletic, versatile player, he can play both inside and outside linebacker and has shown that he doesn't lose a step no matter where you line him up. Mosley projects best to the inside at the next level, where he can wreak havoc on blockers, runners and quarterbacks.
Kyle Van Noy: BYU (No. 20 overall player)
Scouts taking a look at No. 5 overall pick Ezekiel Ansah were no doubt challenged with the same task I was—watching Ansah and not Kyle Van Noy. The BYU outside linebacker has all the tools to be a terrorizing presence off the edge in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. Consider him Von Miller lite.
Ryan Shazier: Ohio State (No. 25 overall player)
No linebacker in college football has a quicker first step than Ryan Shazier. When we're talking about quickness into the backfield and ability to attack the run, Shazier is elite. Added muscle will help his draft stock, but either way, this Buckeye was a first-rounder the minute he returned to Ohio State for the 2013 season.
CB: Bradley Roby, Ohio State (No. 8 overall player)
As flawless as a junior cornerback could look, Bradley Roby is the top cover man in all the land. He's big (5'11", 195 pounds), fluid and fast enough to track speed receivers down the field. Watch Roby take on the best the Big Ten has to offer, and you'll see a natural cover corner who is ready for the NFL.
FS: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama (No. 42 overall player)
It shouldn't be a surprise to see at least one Alabama defensive back here. Head coach Nick Saban is one of the best defensive back coaches in the country, and with the natural ability of Clinton-Dix mixed in with Saban's genius, it's easy to see why he's the best free safety in the country.
SS: Craig Loston, LSU (No. 72 overall player)
The strong safety class is a bit thinner this year than last, but don't tell LSU safety Craig Loston that. At 6'2" and 205 pounds, he's likely to run you over and twist a cleat in your face.
Loston is the personification of the strong safety we all think of—big, nasty, aggressive and a damn good hitter. If he learns to play in man coverage this season, offenses are in trouble.
CB: Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Oregon (No. 24 overall player)
In talking to a handful of NFL scouts and executives for this piece, one told me that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is "a true cover corner. If you liked Desmond Trufant, you'll love this kid." Well, Trufant went No. 22 overall to the Atlanta Falcons. Early viewing tells me that Ekpre-Olomu is just as fluid and just as smart in coverage. Remember the name—and learn to pronounce it.
K: Cairo Santos, Tulane (No. 193 overall player)
Cairo Santos attempted 21 field goals in 2012. He made 21 field goals.
Santos has the accuracy and distance to make a mark on the NFL, just like Blair Walsh and Justin Tucker did in 2012. The pressure is on in his senior season, but that's what he handles best.
P: Kyle Christy, Florida (No. 205 overall player)
A wise man once told me that scouting punters meant seeing who could consistently kick the ball the longest, highest and more accurately. Kyle Christy does those things better than anyone in the nation. His average of 45.8 yards per punt is the best of any returning player.
Returner: Dri Archer, Kent State (No. 155 overall player)
If Darren Sproles played for Kent State, he would be Dri Archer. Small (5'8", 180 pounds), shifty and tough as hell to tackle, Archer may not be a full-time running back in the NFL, but teams will find a way to get him the ball. As a returner in 2012 he took kick returns with an average of almost 35 yards—and three touchdowns.
All-Purpose: De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon (No. 13 overall player)
When words fail the sportswriter, you know a player is something special. I could try to think of colorful adjectives to describe De'Anthony Thomas, or you could just watch this. Do yourself a favor. Watch it. Thomas is college football's most electric player with the ball in his hands. If Tavon Austin could be drafted in the top 10, so can Thomas.