As the college bowl season keeps moving along, one thing remains on the minds of everyone watching: The 2014 NFL draft. This year's draft features a strong crop of players at each position and figures to bolster many NFL teams when it's all said and done.
Of course, the draft is all about rankings. Each prospect is heavily scrutinized and graded accordingly. This process allows us to decide when players should be drafted. Often the term "draft stock" is thrown around in many circles during this time of year.
Draft stocks, after all, are very fluid. There will be plenty of movement between now and when the draft finally rolls around in May. However, as things stand right now, there are players that sit atop their position groups due to stellar play over their college careers.
Let's go ahead and break down each player who finds himself graded at the top of his respective position at this point in the year.
Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
At 6'3" and 205 pounds, Teddy Bridgewater has the combination of size and athleticism to excel at the NFL level. Bridgewater has impressed scouts with his ability to maintain solid mechanics while under duress. He has a good amount of mobility, which allows him to create time in the pocket if needed.
The biggest knock on Bridgewater at this point is his durability. Bridgewater has taken an enormous amount of hits over his college career, and scouts are concerned that this will lead to future problems. Still, he is the best quarterback in this year's draft class without a shadow of a doubt.
Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
Ka'Deem Carey has been the catalyst of the Arizona offense over the past two seasons. He led the nation in rushing in 2012 with 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns. He has been able to recreate his success in 2013 as well, rushing for 1,716 yards and 17 scores.
Carey has been able to supplement his rushing ability with his skill set as a receiver out of the backfield. He recorded 36 receptions in 2012 and another 26 in 2013. At 5'10", 198 pounds, he has great NFL size, although he lacks blazing straight-line speed. Carey may find himself sneaking into the first round; however, he currently sits with a second-round grade.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Like Bridgewater at the quarterback position, Sammy Watkins is easily the best wide receiver in this year's draft class. The speedster, at 6'1" and 205 pounds, has the playmaking ability to produce immediately on any NFL team.
Watkins has shown reliable hands over the 2013 season, recording 85 receptions for 1,237 yards and 10 touchdowns. His stock increases moreover due to his ability to double as a kick returner. His dynamic skill set should land him within the top 10 picks in the 2014 draft.
Eric Ebron, North Carolina
At 6'4" and 245 pounds, Eric Ebron figures to be the only sure-thing first-rounder at the tight end position. He could be targeted early by multiple teams, as the tight end has become an increasingly valuable weapon in the NFL.
Ebron has the athleticism to split out wide and create mismatches against defenders. He also has the ability to be an effective blocker at the point of attack. He will need some coaching in the blocking department when he does reach the NFL; however, that seems to be the norm these days.
Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews has become one of the most dominant right tackles in the nation. He has a big body at 6'5" and 305 pounds and is ferocious when blocking for the run. Matthews also has the mobility and quickness off the snap to make blocks in space.
Even though Matthews' knack is driving defensive ends away from the line of scrimmage, he is more than capable in pass protection as well. He has shown enough strength to maintain his blocks long enough to provide enough time and space for a scrambling quarterback.
David Yankey, OG, Stanford
David Yankey possesses a prototypical size for an offensive guard. At 6'5" and 312 pounds, he is a force in the running game. The Cardinal offense featured the run heavily over the 2013 season, and Yankey was a huge reason for their success.
One of the smartest prospects in the draft, Yankey has been able to flourish both at left guard and left tackle. He has enough athleticism to pull quickly after the snap and enough strength to move defenders away from the line of scrimmage.
Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
There may not be a true first-round center in this year's draft; however, Travis Swanson is as close as any. At 6'4" and 318 pounds, Swanson has great balance, which allows himself to hold his own in pass protection. He will flourish on a pass-happy NFL team.
Swanson does not have any durability issues, as he has started all 50 games during his tenure at Arkansas. His skill set allows him the potential to move into the late portion of the first round to a center-needy team.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Jadeveon Clowney is one of those freak athletes that only comes around every so often. His immense size at 6'5" and 268 pounds, combined with his explosiveness and sound technique, make him the most sought-after prospect by many teams in this year's draft.
Clowney is not just a dynamic pass-rusher, but he excels against the run as well. His speed off the snap is impressive and too quick for most offensive tackles. This allows him to move cleanly into position to plug a hole or make a stop in the backfield. There is no doubt that Clowney will be selected within the first few picks in May.
Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame
Despite his huge size of 6'2" and 352 pounds, Louis Nix has quick feet and enough athleticism to be a force in the NFL. Nix has been able to excel both against the run and pass while at Notre Dame. His versatility will allow him to play either at nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme or inside in a 4-3 scheme.
As long as he is willing to learn and continues to improve his play, Nix will certainly find himself drafted in the mid-first round in May. He is a younger prospect and will need to impress coaches during interviews to secure his first-round status.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
At 6'4" and 248 pounds, Anthony Bar has a perfect combination of a large frame and quick feet. This blend of attributes enables Barr to quickly change direction and avoid potential blockers. Barr also encompasses enough strength to easily take down ball-carriers when one-on-one in the open field.
Barr's ability as a tackler is impressive as well. He is one of the hardest hitting players in the nation and has a knack for jarring a ball loose with his devastating hits. He could improve in the area at times, as he needs to learn to wrap up better; however, this will be easily coached at the next level. Barr will be the first linebacker off the board in this year's draft.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
C.J. Mosley has a great physical stature at 6'2" and 232 pounds. He also has a background as the leader of a very good Alabama defense, which makes him a favorite among scouts. Mosley is great against the run, as he is able to shed blocks while keeping his eyes on the ball-carrier.
Mosley is a very intelligent linebacker and rarely makes crucial mistakes. His high motor allows him to fly around the field, although he could improve as an open-field tackler. Still, his draft stock remains on the rise, and he could find himself going inside the top 10 in May.
Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
Darqueze Dennard may be the NFL's next shutdown corner. At 5'11" and 197 pounds, Dennard has been able to completely shut one side of the field down by himself while at Michigan State. Dennard has a great combination of a tall, athletic frame and solid speed and footwork.
An NFL-ready cornerback, Dennard was partly responsible for Michigan State's top-ranked defense in 2013, and he has the ability to do the same on the NFL level. There is a fair chance that Dennard could be the first defender taken off the board when the draft rolls around.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix is the epitome of a free safety at the NFL level. He possesses great size at 6'1" and 208 pounds, although his is not extremely bulky for a safety. However, what he lacks in bulk, he makes up for with athleticism.
Clinton-Dix has fluid hips and can change directions quickly to get from sideline to sideline in a hurry. He anticipates passing plays nicely, as he has the ability to read the opposing quarterback's eyes. His speed allows him to track down ball-carriers in the open field and get up to the line of scrimmage quickly enough to help against the run.
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