2014 NFL Draft: Analyzing Key Players at Each Offensive Position
With draft talk really heating up as the bowl season gets underway, there will be more and more names thrown around, and they can be hard to keep track of (here's the defensive player version of this article).
So I tried to make a brief positional preview here for fans, highlighting five different types of players: the stud, the safe pick, the project, the wild card and the dark horse.
The stud is the biggest name, most naturally talented and/or imposing player. This is not, I repeat this is not necessarily the best prospect.
The safe pick is the guy with the least potential to bust; even if they aren't inherently the most exciting prospects, teams mostly know what they're getting.
The project is an athletic and gifted player who will take some time to mature and develop, but could end up being a great NFL player.
The wild card is the typical boom-or-bust prospect who could flame out or be a star if put in the right situation.
Finally, the dark horse is a lesser-known talent who could end up rising and making waves over the next few months.
The Stud: Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: Manziel has been the most dynamic player in college football for two years now and has shown a lot of improvement throwing the ball this season. He's a locked-in first rounder at this point for me.
The Safe Pick: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville: Bridgewater may not be the most exciting prospect, but he's the top quarterback in the class because he does everything well and limits his mistakes.
The Project: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech: Remember him? Considered a potential top prospect heading into the 2012 season, Thomas' poor decision-making and sub-par accuracy plummeted him down boards, but his natural athletic ability and size could make him enticing as a Day 3 pick.
The Wild Card: Zach Mettenberger, LSU: Even before he tore his ACL, Mettenberger had that boom-or-bust quality. He has an unbelievable arm, but his mechanics and consistency need improvement and now he needs to rehab hard.
The Dark Horse: Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois: Garoppolo may not be a big name yet, but he's got a heck of an arm and great mechanics. I think there's a good chance that the best player in the FCS will shoot up boards and have a shot at being taken in the first 100 picks.
The Stud: Lache Seastrunk, Baylor: An incredibly explosive and elusive runner, Seastrunk can eat up chunks of yards through the ground and the air.
The Safe Pick: Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: Carey is a solidly-built back who has a great mix of power and speed and has gotten a lot of experience as the focal point of Arizona's offense.
The Project: Jeremy Hill, LSU: Hill is a terrifying power runner when he gets going, as he can run through multiple players on any given run. But he's had some off-the-field issues and will need to be kept on track if he's going to be a productive player.
The Wild Card: Carlos Hyde, Ohio State: Hyde has been one of the best offensive players in college football over the past month or so, and is a big, physically imposing back. But he doesn't have great speed, and it remains to be seen whether or not his style will translate to the NFL.
The Dark Horse: David Fluellen, Toledo: He hasn't gotten any hype nationally, but Fluellen is a talented back who can do it all: run between the tackles, around the edge and catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Stud: Sammy Watkins, Clemson: An explosive deep threat who is underratedly strong, Watkins gets open at will and is deadly after the catch.
The Safe Pick: Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt: He's not the most exciting player, but Matthews is a great route runner and strong pass-catcher who doesn't make mistakes and will have a productive career.
The Project: Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State: At 6'5", Benjamin is an outstanding athlete who can make some highlight-reel plays. But he also misses some easy balls and will need to be refined in the NFL.
The Wild Card: Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU: A big-play threat, Beckham has been a little inconsistent this season, and has the ability to bust like Ted Ginn or thrive like DeSean Jackson.
The Dark Horse: Cody Hoffman, BYU: After a monster 2012 season, Hoffman was disappointing in his senior campaign. But he's a big, talented receiver who could put it all together and thrive in the right situation in the NFL.
The Stud: Eric Ebron, North Carolina: Ebron fits the mold of today's NFL tight end. He's incredibly athletic and will make big plays, but also has the ability to stay in and block as well.
The Safe Pick: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington: The top tight end prospect coming into the season, Seferian-Jenkins hasn't had a great year stats-wise, but is still a physically imposing talent who is a great blocker and can contribute some on passing downs.
The Project: Jace Amaro, Texas Tech: Amaro has been the biggest riser of all tight ends this season, and put up some crazy numbers. But he's used often as a slot receiver, and is going to have to improve his blocking and route-running over the next year or two.
The Wild Card: Colt Lyerla, Oregon: Remember Lyerla? He left Oregon at the beginning of the year and has some significant off-the-field issues, but if a team gives him a shot and he excels, he has the tools to make an immediate impact.
The Dark Horse: C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: He hasn't gotten a lot of attention because he isn't a big threat in the passing game, but he's a strong, athletic blocker who could take advantage of a weak tight end corps and get picked higher than everyone expects.
The Stud: Jake Matthews, Texas A&M: Matthews is far and away the best tackle in this class. He does everything well and is the perfect mix of strong, quick and mean.
The Safe Pick: Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama: He's a great athlete for someone his size and should be able to start right away on either side of the line with all of his experience at 'Bama.
The Project: Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M: An exceptional athlete who has been great opposite Matthews, Ogbuehi has a really high ceiling but no college experience at left tackle.
The Wild Card: Cameron Erving, Florida State: Erving made the switch from defensive tackle to left tackle in the spring of 2012 and has been a good starter there for two seasons now. But his lack of experience could expose him against quicker NFL defensive ends.
The Dark Horse: Morgan Moses, Virginia: A starter on the right side since he was a true freshman, Moses moved over to the left this year and has been very good. The 6'6" tackle could play on either side in the NFL, which makes him even more enticing to pro teams.
Interior Line (Guard and Center)
The Stud: Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor: He came back to earth after an exceptional first half of the season, but Richardson is scary quick for a 340-pound behemoth.
The Safe Pick: David Yankey, G, Stanford: Yankey has been the anchor on Stanford's exceptional offensive line this season, and has experience at guard and tackle. But he fits best at guard and will start right away.
The Project: Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA: Su'a-Filo was a starter at left tackle before leaving for two years to go on his Mormon mission. Upon returning this year, he started the year at guard but has switched back a little because of injuries and has been exposed a bit.
The Wild Card: La'el Collins, G, LSU: I know Collins has played left tackle this season, but the true junior was dominant as a guard in 2012 and may fit better there. His stock (and NFL impact) could be determined by what team takes him and where they play him.
The Dark Horse: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: Richburg doesn't get any attention at Colorado State, but he has a chance to be the first center taken.
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