2014 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota Jumps into Top 10 on November Big Board

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2014 NFL Draft: Marcus Mariota Jumps into Top 10 on November Big Board
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

College football is roaring ahead into the second half of the season so NFL draft talk is heating up for the 2014 draft. 

The stakes are getting bigger for the top teams and players, and previously overlooked talents on non-major teams are starting to get more attention. 

In this big board, three quarterbacks are in the top 10 for the first time, and the wide receiver and tight end rankings have been shuffled significantly.

Remember, this is not a mock draft; it is just ranking the 50 best draft-eligible college football players. 

*Denotes underclassmen

**Rankings done before games on Saturday Nov. 2

 

1. *Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

I wrote an article on Clowney back on October 17 with a pretty self-explanatory headline: "Jadeveon Clowney's Fall from Grace Has Been Greatly Exaggerated." Clowney still loves the game, works hard on the field and is the same athletic freak he was last year—he's just being game-planned around so much that it's hard for him to make a visible impact on the game and put up big stats. Previous: 1

 

2. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Matthews is a bit of a safe call here, but there's nothing not to like about the left tackle's season. He's stronger and more aggressive than his Texas A&M predecessor Luke Joeckel, with a heck of an NFL pedigree to boot. The senior has been dominating on Johnny Manziel's blind side all season. Previous: 2

 

3. *Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville 

Louisville may have fallen out of the ranks of the unbeatens, but Bridgewater has remained sharp all season even with the huge increase in pressure on his shoulders. He has the best field sense, best accuracy and best anticipation of all the quarterbacks in this draft class, which is what makes him the clear No. 1 quarterback (and I don't see that changing). Previous: 3

 

4. *Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

It is hard to argue against Barr as the best defensive player in the country this season. He has outstanding explosiveness and is a really instinctive pass-rusher who has not been slowed down by anyone yet. He has 13.0 tackles for loss, six sacks and five forced fumbles. He projects as an ideal 3-4 pass-rusher in the NFL. Previous: 7

 

5. *Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins really cemented himself as the top wide receiver in this class during the month of October while Marqise Lee struggled to stay healthy. Watkins is not as small as people think (6'1", 205 lbs.), and has it all: quickness, straight-line speed, soft hands and solid route running. He had 33 catches for 458 yards and three touchdowns in four games in October alone. 

 

6. *Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Mariota makes a really big jump after a month where he proved that he has as much raw athletic talent as anyone in the country. After watching him carve up a great Washington defense for 454 yards, it was obvious how special he is. There is still the question about how much playing in Oregon's system helps Mariota, however, which is why I hesitate to put him too close to Bridgewater's elite tier. Case in point: The Ducks pulled off a dominating 42-14 rout of UCLA while Mariota only managed 248 yards and one score. Previous: 22

 

7. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Lewan is in sort of an in-between spot here, and I feel like all three top left tackles right now are pretty clearly separate tier-wise from each other. Lewan has not been as dominant as Matthews this season, and I question his flexibility and quickness a little. But he's a vicious blocker with ideal size and an admirable character on and off the field. Previous: 5

 

8. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

Mosley is an ultra-versatile, athletic linebacker who can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense in the NFL. He is a little on the smaller side, but he tackles well in run support and is very solid in coverage. He's also an outstanding leader who has been the anchor of a great Alabama defense the past two seasons. Previous: 10

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

 

9. Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California

Another season, another top prospect from USC underperforming. But Lee's slide has been more injury-related than anything, and the depleted talent around him does not help. But he still has shown signs of the dynamic pass-catcher who is in there somewhere, and he's still just too good to slide too far. Previous: 4

 

10. *Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

 

From a purely football perspective, Hundley would likely benefit from returning to college next year. As a redshirt sophomore, he certainly shows signs of inconsistency with his throwing mechanics and has had an up-and-down past month. But the raw arm talent and underrated athleticism is there, he just needs to put it all together. Previous: 12

 

11. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young

I've had Van Noy on my radar after watching some tape on him toward the end of last year while he was rising up draft boards before deciding to forego the draft, and I've become a huge fan of his. This profile of Van Noy is one of three exceptional stories by Jeff Benedict about BYU's star senior. The athletic linebacker would be a breath of fresh air for any NFL franchise. Previous: 15

 

12. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

Mack has shot up draft boards this season after a breakout season-opening game against Ohio State which introduced him to the national stage. This Rant Sports profile on Mack is a good in-depth description of his skill set, and I agree with the article that the senior linebacker would be better suited in a 4-3 defense, although he could still excel as a pass-rushing specialist in a 3-4. Previous: 18

 

 

13. *Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Kouandjio has not had quite as good of a season as people were expecting, but by no means has he played badly. If anything, he has played better recently and deserves credit for not getting into a rut after looking stiff early on. His new move, which has been dubbed "The Slap", looks pretty awesome, but don't expect to see it work in the NFL. Previous: 6

 

14. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

Notre Dame's defense has taken a collective half-step back this season, no doubt due to the departure of Manti Te'o, who was a force to be reckoned with in the middle of the field. Nix is a prototypical 3-4 nose tackle who has surprisingly light feet for a guy who weighs 342 pounds. Previous: 9

 

15. *Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

There are some things you cannot teach to a wide receiver. Those things are height, long arms, jumping ability and tenacity. Evans has all of those things in spades, which has led to unbelievable plays like this and this. Evans has the look of a legitimate No. 1 NFL receiver if he declares. Previous: 16

 

16. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Mariota may have made the most headline-worthy jump in my ranks, but Hageman went from being outside last month's top 40 all the way to the No. 16 spot here. The 6'6" defensive tackle is a ridiculous athlete who can make some spectacular plays and was a huge part of Minnesota's consecutive upsets over Northwestern and Nebraska. A lack of consistency is the only thing keeping the senior out of the top 15. Previous: NR

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

 

17. *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Tuitt likely won't reach his outstanding 2012 total of 12 sacks again this year, although five in seven games is not too shabby. There was some talk a couple weeks back about whether or not Tuitt will come out, although it seems like he may be leaning towards leaving.

 

18. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Matthews has slowly but steadily crept up the board, rising three spots from September to October and another three this month to 18. He has all the measurables. Although his breakaway speed is not elite, his hands and route running are. The senior hasn't had less than six catches or 76 yards in a game yet this year. Previous: 21

 

19. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State

There is not much to say about Jackson that I (or others) have not already said, as he has been steady throughout this season. The big, run-blocking guard is not as good as Jonathan Cooper or Chance Warmack were last year, but he is pretty close. Previous: 19

 

20. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

Richardson has been an unheralded star in Baylor's meteoric rise up the polls. He is a behemoth at 6'5" and 340 pounds with impressive balance that stems from a strong lower body and solid footwork. The senior has made a compelling case to be the first guard taken next May. Previous: 35

 

21. *Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Todd McShay is much higher on Jernigan than I am, although I definitely find the defensive tackle's strength intriguing. He can throw aside linemen like rag dolls and be disruptive on some plays, but he gets driven away from the play too often. Previous: 31

 

22. *HaHa Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

This is an especially weak class for safeties. Clinton-Dix is late-first round material right now but would have been a full tier behind Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro last year. Clinton-Dix is much more of a cover guy than a hitter, moving efficiently and fluidly deep in the secondary. Previous: 19 

 

23. *Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson

Beasley seems to be a divisive prospect, as McShay left him out of his top 32 while Mel Kiper called him the sixth-best prospect in the country. He is reminiscent of Bruce Irvin, although he's an astonishing 20 pounds lighter than a lean Irvin was. Beasley will have to bulk up and hope he doesn't lose that quickness and bend around the edge. Previous: NR

 

24. *Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon

Ekpre-Olomu has been a consistent performer for the Ducks, who have had a very underrated defense this year and last. He doesn't just take on the opponent's best receiver in coverage but makes tackles and plays in the run game as well. Previous: 31

 

25. *Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

I was familiar with Ebron beforehand, but when I watched him play against Miami a couple weeks ago, I knew I was watching a future NFL first-round pick. The junior is an outstanding pass-catcher and can be a game-breaking tight end. Previous: 36

 

26. *Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

This is not a once-in-a-generation draft class in terms of talent, but when I got around to ranking those top 25 players and realized that I had Shazier here, I realized that it has some pretty outstanding talent. Shazier is a fantastic weak-side linebacker who can make plays all over the field. Previous: 23

 

27. *Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

I'll admit I was not sold on Manziel as an NFL prospect heading into this season, but he has really impressed me with his throwing ability thus far. He's a fearless player who has proven he has the arm strength to make it in the NFL. As long as he doesn't tail off in the second half of the season, he'll continue to climb my board. Previous: 37

 

28. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

They don't call him "Tiny" for nothing, as Richardson checks in at a powerful 6'6", 330 pounds. He has done a solid job holding up against some powerful pass rushes, including Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Missouri. Previous: 24

 

29. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

I really wanted to believe in Boyd as a franchise NFL quarterback, but that Florida State game was really a deal-breaker for me. He's taken advantage of some poor defenses, but to get blown out that badly at home putting up a 45.9 completion percentage, 156 passing yards and two interceptions is just unacceptable and continues a trend throughout Boyd's collegiate career. He could continue slipping unless he has a really strong finish. Previous: 11

 

30. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Matt Waldman of Football Outsiders wrote a really phenomenal article about Sutton a couple weeks back that outlines the defensive tackle in far more detail than I have the capacity to here. Scouts have voiced their concern about his "weight gain" (that article calls him 307 pounds), but if you read the very bottom of the Football Outsiders article and then check out his reported weights around the internet, they vary a lot. It's an overblown topic and Sutton is still a very good prospect.

 

31. *Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

A lot of people probably looked at Richardson's name and school, tilted their head and said "who?" But Richardson is one of the most explosive playmakers in the country with an average of 18.3 yards per catch and games of 209, 208, 134, 132 and 122 yards. His size at 6'1", 170 pounds is the only thing holding him back from being considered a lock first-round pick. Previous: NR

 

32. Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian

A former junior college transfer, Verrett has been one of, if not TCU's best player this season. He's the kind of player who doesn't stand out for any one thing in particular but does everything well. Previous: NR

 

33. *Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU

At 6'0", 187 pounds, Beckham continues the trend of smaller receivers in this draft class. But he's a playmaker who can also be a factor in the return game, and has been durable while getting a ton of touches. Previous: NR

 

34. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

The 6'6" left tackle has been a stalwart protecting Bryn Renner's blind side, and as a four-year starter Hurst has been one of the most decorated tackles in ACC history. He has good fundamentals and solid footwork for such a tall guy. Watch the tape below of him doing a good job against Clowney. Previous: NR

 

35. *Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State

A big faller this season, Roby went from the near-consensus top cornerback prospect at the start of the season to a day-two head-scratcher. He has been exposed in coverage way too often this season. Previous: 20

 

36. *Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State—Previous: 27

37. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State—Previous: NR

38. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech—Previous: NR

39. David Yankey, OG, Stanford—Previous: 28

40. *Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama—Previous: 38

41. *Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech—Previous: NR

42. *Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida—Previous: 29

43. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State—Previous: NR

44. *Hroniss Grasu, C, Oregon—Previous: NR

45. *Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington—Previous: 13

46. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford—Previous: NR

47. *Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida—Previous: NR

48. *Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State—Previous: 39

49. *Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida—Previous: NR

50. Michael Sam, DE, Missouri—Previous: NR

 

Dropped from ranking: Dominique Easley (out for season), Colt Lyerla (left school), Loucheiz Purifoy, Stephen Morris, Brandon Coleman

 

 

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