2014 NFL Draft: Marqise Lee Re-Establishes Spot in Top 10 on January Big Board

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2014 NFL Draft: Marqise Lee Re-Establishes Spot in Top 10 on January Big Board
Harry How/Getty Images

With the NFL regular season finally coming to a close, draft talk will being reaching a fervor in the coming months as fans and media ponder the future of their organizations.

Bowl season also lets us get a closer look at some of these prospects in big games, as underclassmen debate whether or not to declare for the draft, which has affected a bunch of rankings since my December big board

Here is a list of who has declared and who has decided to return to school. It will be updated until the deadline on January 15.

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

 

*Denotes underclassmen

 

1. *Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

Clowney has not declared yet for the draft, but it would be extremely surprising if he returned to school. It will be discussed endlessly over the next few months, but I believe that his character issues are way overblown and the consistent impact he makes on the game has been under-discussed. Previous: 1

 

2. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

Matthews is the clear No. 2 prospect in this draft, and there’s a pretty significant gap down to the next tier of prospects. If the Texans (or whoever they trade their pick to) aren't sold on a top QB and want to avoid the media circus of Clowney, Matthews would be an ideal selection. He’s better than Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel were last year. Previous: 2

 

3. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

In his senior year, Barr has taken a backseat in terms of media attention and hype despite elevating his level of play. His athletic ability is off the charts, and he is the prototypical fit for an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Previous: 4

 

4. *Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

I almost had Bridgewater sliding a little more than this but ended up just swapping him with Barr after an impressive bowl victory over Miami. His arm strength may not be elite, but he throws a really nice ball and shows phenomenal accuracy, touch and anticipation along with underrated quickness inside and out of the pocket. Previous: 3

 

5. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

After finally getting to watch a good bit of tape on Mack, I came away incredibly impressed. His quickness and acceleration is unbelievable for a linebacker, and he plays with an intensity and intelligence that make him a turnover-forcing machine. Then senior has the NCAA all-time forced fumble record with 16 and is tied for the most tackles for loss with 75. Previous: 7 

 

6. *Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Watkins has a huge matchup Wednesday night with Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, but his stock is already mostly cemented after an impressive junior campaign. While fans will love his speed and elusiveness after the catch, scouts have to note his deceptive strength and balance that make him difficult to re-route before the catch and difficult to bring down once he has the ball. Previous: 5

 

7. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama

Although he may not be the most dynamic prospect in the top 10, Mosley is the type of inside linebacker who can come in and stabilize a defense immediately, much like Luke Kuechly has done for Carolina. Previous: 6

 

8. *Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California

After being extremely high on Lee coming into the season, I soured on him too quickly, and his big rise up the board this month was more due to an overreaction negatively last month. He’s had a bumpy season but showed his elite athleticism and playmaking ability in USC’s dominating bowl victory. The gap between him and Watkins is very, very small and could be eradicated completely with a great combine and pro day from Lee. Previous: 29

 

9. *Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama

Kouandjio ended the season strongly after a mediocre start and has supplanted Taylor Lewan to become the No. 2 tackle on my board. He’s impressively quick and flexible for a guy with his amount of mass, and that combined with his experience makes him an ideal plug-and-play tackle prospect. Previous: 10

 

10. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

I may be higher on Hageman than others, but his combination of explosiveness and quickness is just so rare for a 6’6” defensive tackle. Some may balk at his list of off-the-field issues, but a deeper inquiry reveals a good-natured kid who has overcome a lot of obstacles and now gotten himself steadied. Previous: 11

 

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

We are just missing out on having three receivers in the top 10 here, but Evans is still a high-end prospect whose physical skills are hard to come by. He’s 6’5” with long arms and impressive leaping ability, and his coordination and hands are impressive for such a big guy. Inconsistency is the only thing keeping him out of the top 10. He has still not declared for the draft, as Johnny Manziel's instagram (linked under Manziel's ranking) stated on Tuesday. Previous: 18

 

12. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

Lewan has fallen a little this season, although the stakes were extremely high from the start. There’s a lot to like about his size, intensity, leadership and experience, but questions remain about his quickness and flexibility, which could scare some teams off and caused him to fall behind Kouandjio for the first time this season. Previous: 8

 

13. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young

Van Noy is another prospect who doesn’t get a lot of hype over at BYU, but he’s a super athletic linebacker who is perfectly suited for today’s NFL. He’s relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback but is also more than athletic enough to be effective in coverage and has the strength and tenacity to be a run-stopper. He’s versatile enough to play on the outside in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme in the NFL. Previous: 12

 

14. *Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Hundley has fallen out of favor a little bit as the season's worn on. Other quarterbacks may be the flavor of the month, but Hundley is still an impressive talent.

As a redshirt sophomore, he is inconsistent but flashes tremendous arm talent and is the best athlete at the quarterback position other than Johnny Manziel. The quarterbacks are all extremely close here, as is evidenced by the rankings. The slight break between these two and the next two shows a small gap in tiers, but it's very close and will likely change in the coming months. Previous: 13

 

15. *Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (scouting report here)

Manziel is a polarizing prospect, and his athletic ability is off the charts. Questions about his character will be addressed throughout the process, but I expect teams to come away impressed with his intelligence, toughness and leadership potential. Manziel has still not declared yet for the draft, despite reports. Previous: 22

 

16. Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee

Richardson is not quite as high-profile of a prospect as other premier tackles and won’t get a chance to showcase his talents in a bowl game, but the massive left tackle is a legitimate talent. His footwork is impressive for a 345-pound guy, and he’s good enough to start on the blind side right away. Previous: 23

 

17. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama

In a weak safety class, Clinton-Dix is the only one worth taking in the first round. He’s at his best in coverage down the field, where he can use his agility and speed in space to track the ball and make plays. Previous: 19

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18. *Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

After first learning about Bortles from an Optimum Scouting article back in September, I kept him on my radar throughout the season. I didn’t necessarily think he’d rise this high, and I still think he’s a risk as a top-five pick (which some are now predicting), but there is certainly a lot to like about his natural arm and athletic talents. As with Carr, there has to be some concern about his lack of good competition and ability in the pocket under pressure. A big game against Baylor would help Bortles immensely. Previous: 46

 

19. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State

Carr’s stock was not necessarily hurt in a big way by his disappointing bowl game performance against USC, but he definitely lost a major opportunity to climb the charts further and claim his spot as the No. 2 quarterback in the class. The senior has a great arm and a wealth of experience and productions to his name, but there are questions about his pocket presence under pressure which keep him here in the rankings. Previous: 14 

 

20. Jason Verrett, CB, Texas Christian

I bunched all three of these cornerbacks together because there's so little separating them. Verrett is still my preference at this time because he's such a steady NFL-ready corner. Although he's a little undersized, he attacks the ball in the air and doesn't let his height affect him. Previous: 26

 

21. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State

Dennard has the most potential of these three corners. He's a strong, rangy athlete who is extremely aggressive in coverage and can step up and make a hit just as easily as knocking down a good pass. He rose quickly after an extremely strong finish to an exceptional season for himself and Michigan State's entire defense. Previous: NR

 

22. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State

Gilbert is an incredibly fast corner who has the most big-play ability out of these three players. He's played well in big games and can also be a great returner in the NFL, which will add value for many teams. Previous: 35

 

23. *Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State

Shazier's rank has remained relatively steady throughout this season because he's one of those guys where you know what you're getting. He's an athletic, instinctive tackle machine who will make a great weakside 4-3 NFL linebacker. His upside is just a notch under where Lavonte David is now. Previous: 24 

 

24. *Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn

Robinson debuts on my big board this month after a great finish to the season. I was hesitant about Robinson, being that he's only a redshirt sophomore, but with his potential it wouldn't be a surprise if he came out, especially with a good showing in the BCS National Championship. He's the kind of talent that I'd definitely go back and watch in detail if he decides to come out and could see a big rise up the board as a result. Previous: NR

 

25. *Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

I had held Nix in the top 20 for the whole season even as his (and all of Notre Dame's defense) performance waned, but it was inevitable that he'd get moved down now. It's still rare to find a guy as big as Nix, especially one with the footwork that he possesses, but his lack of impact has to be noted. Previous: 15

 

26. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

Richardson is still the top guard prospect in the nation, although David Yankey and Xavier Su'a-Filo are gaining quickly. But Richardson is the mauler of the group, and you can't teach 6'5", 340 pounds. His experience in an up-tempo offense like Baylor's will serve him well in the NFL. Other players have passed him more because of their play and not because of Richardson performing badly. Previous: 16

 

27. *Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (scouting report here)

Ebron is a really talented tight end who will be a dynamic playmaker in the NFL. He isn't the best blocker, although he really needs to work more on his aggression and consistency because his technique is there when he wants it. His hands are a little inconsistent, but he can overcome that to be a big-time threat in the NFL. He has declared for the draft. Previous: 33

 

28. *Xavier Su'a-Filo, OT/G, UCLA

Su'a-Filo continues to be a favorite of mine and was impressive in the Sun Bowl against Virginia Tech. He started 13 games at left tackle (the most ever by a non-kicker Bruin) in 2009, then went on his Mormon mission before returning in 2012 and earning coaches first-team all-conference honors as a guard. He has played both guard and tackle in 2013 but projects best as a guard in the NFL because of his 6'3" height. Previous: 47

 

29. *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame

Tuitt's production sagged this year, and in similar fashion to Nix I held on as long as I could before finally dropping him down the ranks. But he's undeniably talented and still may be the best 3-4 defensive end prospect in this class. Previous: 17

 

30. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

Matthews does not do any one thing exceptionally well, but his strong hands, solid route running and impressive coordination make him such a productive player. He was the first SEC wide receiver in history to record 100 catches in a season, a truly remarkable feat. Previous: 21

Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

 

31. *Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Clemson

People were really high on Beasley halfway through this season, but I never fully bought into the hype. He's incredibly quick off the edge and has an impressive physique, but 225 pounds is just too light for a linebacker, let alone a defensive end. Previous: 27

 

32. *Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State

Robinson is an ultra-athletic receiver who can do it all. He's strong over the middle but also extremely fast down the field and has impressive leaping ability. If he declares, quarterback Christian Hackenburg will really miss him in his sophomore season. Previous: 30

 

33. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford

Murphy's a talented pass-rusher and probably should have won the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award over Will Sutton. But I have some reservations about his burst and bend around the edge, and NFL teams will be watching closely to see how he performs at the combine. Previous: 32

 

34. *Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech

Amaro is an incredibly lethal weapon as an over-the-middle pass-catcher. The 6'6" redshirt sophomore has good hands and looks like a less explosive version of Jimmy Graham at times. But he avoids a surefire first-round grade because he isn't used much as a blocker and benefits from Texas Tech's system. Previous: 20

 

35. David Yankey, OT/G, Stanford

Yankey has been the anchor on Stanford's offensive line and is an extremely efficient blocker who is solidly built and has good fundamentals with his hands and footwork. He's started at both tackle and guard, but like Su'a-Filo, is built more like a guard. Previous: 28

 

36. *Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri

Ealy makes his debut on the board as talk about him declaring for the draft has heated up recently. He's gotten a lot better throughout the season and throughout his career, and he showed his ceiling when he absolutely dominated against Kentucky. He can put on a little more weight but looks like an ideal 4-3 defensive end. Previous: NR

 

37. *Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Opinions seem to be divided on Jernigan. There are some who see his natural ability and say he has to be a top pick, but his lack of consistency and penchant for getting off the line slowly have caused others to hesitate. I guess I'm somewhere in between but am a little more on the cautious side about him. Previous: 36

 

38. *Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State

There's a lot to like about Benjamin. At 6'5" with a lot of speed, he's the most naturally gifted wideout in this class and can make some spectacular grabs. But he'll need to get a lot more consistent, and the fact that he'll be 23 when the draft happens yet is just a redshirt sophomore makes him a bit of a wild card. Previous: NR   

 

39. *Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU

Although his teammate, Odell Beckham Jr., started this season as the more heralded player, Landry has supplanted him as the better prospect. He's shown the strength and consistency that is needed to be effective in the NFL and would be an ideal No. 2 wideout who could play right away for many teams. Previous: NR

 

40. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

Sutton fails to rise much despite putting up great numbers this season. He looks slow at his heavier weight, and I'm not sure where he will fit in the NFL. Teams will have to figure out what they want out of him and if they can count on him to be consistent at a certain weight and position. Previous: 40

 

41. *Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State

Jameis Winston may get most of the credit for Florida State's turnaround, but don't discount the man protecting his blind side. Erving has a lot of natural talent and could end up moving into the first round. Previous: 45

 

42. *Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

Ogbuehi has been a pleasant surprise at right tackle for A&M this season. He's a bit of a project and boom-or-bust prospect right now, and he could decide to move over to the left next year like Matthews did. Previous: 43

 

43. *Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss

Moncrief flies under the radar, but he's a physically imposing receiver who could shoot up boards if he lights up the combine. Previous: NR

 

44. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

Hurst broke his left leg in his final collegiate game, which is a real shame for a guy who would have been pushing to elevate his draft stock. He's been a great four-year starter for UNC. Previous: 31

 

45. Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford (scouting report here)

Skov's upside is a bit capped because of his lack of elite quickness, but he could develop into a phenomenal run-stopper and every-down middle linebacker in the NFL. There's a lot to like about his toughness and leadership. 

 

46. *Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington

He may not have put up the numbers we were expecting this year, but Seferian-Jenkins is still the most polished all-around tight end prospect in the class. He has declared for the draft. Previous: NR

 

47. Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State

Florida State's defense is incredibly fast and suffocating, and Joyner is a big part of that. His 5'8" height may limit him to cornerback in the NFL, but he's succeeded in college as a safety as well. Previous: 46

 

48. Brent Urban, DE, Virginia

Urban may still be a relative unknown, but at 6'7", 295 pounds, he's an impressive specimen who makes a big impact on the game. He may also be able to play defensive end in both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses, which could make him more enticing to NFL teams. Previous: NR

 

49. *Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor

Oakman has had a rough past few years but seems to have settled in some at Baylor. After redshirting at Penn State in 2011, he then transferred and was forced to sit out the 2012 season. At 6'9", Oakman has the natural length that scouts salivate over and is a basketball-type athlete. Previous: 50

 

50. *Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

Some teams will be put off by his skinny frame, but Richardson is an explosive playmaker who has been a big contributor as the lone weapon on Colorado's offense. He has declared for the draft. Previous: 38

 

51. Ed Reynolds, S, Stanford

Reynolds is an athletic, physical safety who had a really impressive year and leaves Stanford with a number of accolades. His experience in a shutdown defense like Stanford's and his already well-built frame should help him make an impact right away in the NFL. Previous: NR

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