NFL Draft 2014: Melvin Gordon and Two Prospects Entering First Round Discussion
Who would have thought that just four weeks into this college football season and we would already be seeing prospects entering first-round discussion in the 2014 NFL draft, despite being only first-year eligible players?
Wisconsin Badgers running back Melvin Gordon is one of them, and for good reason.
Gordon has displayed speed, vision, balance, power and patience on his way to leading the NCAA in rushing yards this season with 624 yards on a mere 53 carries. And the crazy part is, he's not the only redshirt sophomore making noise.
Plenty of other young players are making their cases too. Seeing how well Giovanni Bernard has adapted to life in the NFL should make Gordon and other underclassmen consider making a similar jump early next year.
Nonetheless, getting past just the first-year eligible players—and Gordon in particular—which other college athletes are making similar cases for their right to be first-round NFL selections?
The season is young, but here are three players generating plenty of buzz early for the next NFL draft.
RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Badgers redshirt sophomore running back Melvin Gordon is a player who I have hyped previously a while back, but not even I could not have imagined a start like this.
So far this season, Gordon is averaging a ridiculous 11.8 yards per carry and an equally impressive average of one rushing touchdown for every 7.5 touches.
On top of that, he is also leading the entire FBS in rushing by more than 50 yards at 264 yards despite toting the rock 25 fewer times than Rutgers' Paul James, who ranks second in rushing with 573 yards.
Now, it would be absurd to think that Gordon can continue this frantic pace, but then again, maybe not.
Last season, Gordon exploded onto the national scene after a monstrous performance against Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference title game, rushing for 216 yards and one touchdown on just nine carries.
Clearly, this would appear to be nothing new for Gordon, who averaged exactly 10 yards per carry in a limited role while playing behind Montee Ball last season. However, regardless of what you think of Gordon and his fast start to 2013, don't think of him as purely a home run hitter.
Plenty of scouts already see him as more than that, including respected Rotoworld analyst Josh Norris, who considers Gordon to be the top running back in the ultra-talented class of 2015.
It goes without saying that a lot can change between now and then, but seeing as Gordon is already three years removed from high school would allow him to leave Wisconsin for the NFL at the end of the season if he chooses.
Clearly, that is the last thing that any Badgers fan wants to hear, but then again, it's not every day that you find backs who can pair vision with uncanny speed and acceleration.
NFL Comparison: Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles
WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Texas A&M wide receiver Mike Evans is a man, and he proved as much in the Aggies' game against rival Alabama, hauling in seven receptions for 279 yards and one score.
To put it simply, Evans was dominant and proved to be a man among boys in the way he used his physically imposing 6'-5", 225-pound frame and wingspan to outmuscle defenders for positioning.
In addition, Evans proved himself to be one of the better blocking wide receivers and consistently ran through arm tackles to further display his overwhelming toughness when challenged at the point of attack.
In fact, respected NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks was quick to offer his assessment of Evans following that performance, citing the Aggie as "a terrific big-bodied receiver with intriguing potential."
Furthermore, Bleacher Report's Dan Hope wrote an excellent breakdown of Evans, pointing out his natural leaping ability, size and body control as Evans' most impressive traits.
Clearly, scouts love Evans, but one game hardly proves a player's worth in the minds of NFL scouts.
To cement his status moving forward, evaluators not only want to see Evans become more polished with his route-running, but also continue to make strides in his ability to separate from defenders despite rather average overall speed.
It's well documented that most scouts consider Evans to be a wide receiver with build-up speed, but his biggest naysayers like to point to his 4.5-4.6 timed speed as his biggest downfall.
Nonetheless, because of his incredible catching radius, strong hands and superb spatial awareness skills, Evans is one of those unique players who consistently finds himself open even when he's covered.
NFL Comparison: Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson
DE/OLB Vic Beasley, Clemson
Others might not yet think so, but Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley is a name you should be following.
The former tight end-turned-linebacker-turned-defensive end is off to a blistering start with five sacks already, and he appears to have no signs of slowing down.
Last Thursday night, Beasley turned in a dominating performance against NC State, collecting three sacks and forcing a fumble to make his presence known. It wasn't just his stats, however, that put the scouting community on notice. It was the overall impact that his sheer presence had on the game.
Beasley consistently won his one-on-one battles and quickly became a one-man wrecking ball with his ability to get into the backfield and blow up plays. NC State simply had no answer for him and while he had been on scouts' radars before, he is now firmly entrenched as a player everyone should be watching.
In fact, Dane Brugler of CBS Sports listed Beasley as one of his Week 4 risers and a player who reminds him of a mix between Bruce Irvin and Barkevious Mingo.
That is certainly high praise and even higher expectations to live up to, although Beasley still has areas of his game that need work before reaching that level.
For instance, Beasley must continue to add strength and learn to run tighter arcs, as he has a tendency to get too wide and create gaping running lanes.
Nevertheless, few pass-rushers possess his type of upside. Beasley has many of the necessary tools already working in his favor, not the least of which include an increasing pass-rush repertoire, quickness off the snap and the necessary bend and flexibility to dip his inside shoulder and get after the quarterback.
It's early yet, but Beasley is an emerging NFL draft candidate for 2014 and a player with enough natural talent to become a future first-round draft pick.
NFL Comparison: Seattle Seahawks' Bruce Irvin