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Ranking the Top 10 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

Zach GillilandFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

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    Chris Chambers/Getty Images

    The NFL draft is a few months away, but the debates have already started on which players should get drafted higher than the others. I have put together a list of the top 10 prospects who will perform the best at the next level.

    The players included on my list are the most pro-ready prospects. This list is made up of the players who can make an immediate impact in the NFL next season.

Honorable Mentions

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    Johnny Manziel, of Texas A&M, declared for the NFL draft Wednesday morning.
    Johnny Manziel, of Texas A&M, declared for the NFL draft Wednesday morning.Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M

    Johnny Manziel figures to be in the top five quarterbacks taken, but it is unclear how high or low he will go. He's on the honorable mention list because the arm strength of Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles puts them ahead of Manziel in that regard.

     

    Marqise Lee, WR, Southern Cal

    Marqise Lee will make a great slot receiver in the NFL, but he is lower than Sammy Watkins and Jordan Matthews because of his size. He has great speed, but Watkins and Matthews have the ability to play in the slot or on the outside.

     

    Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M

    Mike Evans has great size and speed, but his consistency is questionable. He had big games against Auburn and Alabama, but he only had three other games in which he went over 100 yards receiving. Against Missouri, he had four catches for eight yards, and against LSU, he had only four catches for 51 yards.

     

    Cyrus Kouandjio, OL, Alabama

    Cyrus Kouandjio is a big offensive lineman who will also have a great NFL career. He is draft eligible this year and will likely go in the first round if he chooses to enter the draft. The only reason he isn't on my list is because of his struggles in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, in which quarterback AJ McCarron was sacked seven times.

     

    Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

    Khalil Mack will be very good off the edge and rushing the quarterback, fitting nicely in the 3-4 defensive scheme. The reason he is off my list is because of the schedule he faced. Anthony Barr faced a much tougher schedule in the Pac-12.

10. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

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    The last spot on my list belongs to Matthews. While other projections may have Lee or Evans ahead of Matthews, I believe he can make a bigger impact in the NFL.

    Matthews can get open and just seems to find the ball. In his career at Vanderbilt, he caught 262 passes for 3,759 yards, both tops in SEC history.

    Matthews’ game projects very well to the next level because of his consistency. He is not going to blow you away with his speed, but he runs great routes and has very good hands. On third down, this is the guy quarterbacks should want to throw the ball to.

    In this highlight video, Matthews shows his ability to get open and make big plays.

    He will be important to his future NFL team right away. Matthews should be the second receiver taken off the board behind Watkins.

9. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida

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    Bortles led Central Florida to an amazing 12-1 season, capped off with a victory over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.

    Bortles has come out of nowhere to the front of the projections. At the beginning of the year, many football fans did not know who he was. Heck, even before the bowl game many still did not know his name.

    Everyone sure knows who he is now, though. This season, he threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns. He possesses a strong arm and has good mobility.

    He is on this list above others like Manziel because of his arm strength and size. His size puts his draft stock above Manziel’s.

    In this video, there are numerous highlights where Bortles makes plays happen with his feet and shows how far he can sling it.

    He is going to make an instant impact in the NFL, regardless of which team he goes to.

8. Timmy Jernigan, DL, Florida State

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    Jernigan is expected to enter the draft, after winning the BCS National Championship.
    Jernigan is expected to enter the draft, after winning the BCS National Championship.Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Timmy Jernigan is not a senior, but he is expected to forgo his eligibility and enter the draft, per Rand Getlin of Yahoo! Sports. The defensive lineman would be going out a winner after his Seminoles won the BCS Championship Monday night.

    Jernigan had a good game against Auburn, totaling nine tackles. He can disrupt the run game and has great penetration into the backfield.

    He's on this list because he can start somewhere in his rookie season and make an impact.

    If the stud defensive lineman decides to go pro, running backs and quarterbacks better be aware of him on the field next season.

7. Taylor Lewan, OL, Michigan

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    Lewan opted to come back this year for his senior campaign.
    Lewan opted to come back this year for his senior campaign.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Taylor Lewan is very big and very physical. At 6'8" and 308 pounds, he is ready to compete in the NFL right away. If he has a weakness, it would be in pass protection. His big frame doesn’t allow him to be as quick as others in pass blocking such as Jake Matthews.

    Lewan is physical and can make a difference in a team’s running game quickly. Lewan is a good fit for a team that wants to run the ball.

    He is included on this list because of the necessity of linemen in the NFL, and he is ready to be a standout player. It shouldn’t take Lewan long to get acclimated to the pros, as he will probably make his presence known right away.

6. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama

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    C.J. Mosley is one of the top defensive prospects for this year's draft.
    C.J. Mosley is one of the top defensive prospects for this year's draft.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    C.J. Mosley is the best inside linebacker in this year’s class. While guys like Barr and Mack will be great on the edge, Mosley will be a force up the middle in pass coverage and stopping the run.

    Mosley is finishing up a great career at Alabama and a stellar senior season, in which he won the Butkus Award.

    Mosley is at No. 6 on this list because he will have an impact right away in the NFL. Young middle linebackers like Luke Kuechly and Kiko Alonso have highlighted the past two draft classes, and Mosley is next in line.

    Mosley finished his senior season with 106 tackles and was a leader on Alabama’s defense.

5. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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    Bridgewater will probably be the first overall pick in this year’s draft because of Houston’s need for a quarterback. While he isn't the best prospect available, the Texans are making the right move based on their needs.

    Bridgewater caught the nation by storm last season against Florida, when he led Louisville to a Sugar Bowl victory.

    This season, he hasn’t disappointed either, throwing for 31 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

    Bridgewater is the top quarterback prospect because of his arm strength. He may not be the dual-threat guy Manziel is, but he can become a very successful pocket passer in the NFL.

    While he may not have a blazing 40-yard dash, this video above shows how he can make plays with his athletic ability and arm strength.

4. Jake Matthews, OL, Texas A&M

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    Matthews figures to go high in this year's draft.
    Matthews figures to go high in this year's draft.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Jake Matthews is a solid offensive lineman who is projected to be among the first taken in this year’s draft.

    He has an NFL-ready body at 6'5" and 305 pounds and can make an immediate impact protecting the quarterback. Offensive line is a position that is important in building a team, so that is why Matthews is so high. He will be regarded as a top prize for NFL teams looking to build a team.

    Although he lacks the height of Lewan, Matthews is more ready for the NFL because he has been more consistent with his pass blocking. With more teams going to the spread passing game in the NFL, Matthews becomes more valuable in this draft.

3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

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    Watkins has the most athletic ability of any receiver in this class. He has the speed to be a deep-ball threat, but he also can haul in big catches near the goal line because of his jumping skills.

    In this video, Watkins catches a touchdown against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl and shows how he can jump higher than defenders.

    Watkins has the hands to catch almost anything thrown his way and can get to full speed quicker than most receivers.

    He had a career night in the Orange Bowl, hauling in 16 catches for 227 yards.

    His game translates very well to the NFL, and he will be a dynamic threat for whichever team decides to draft him. He could play the slot or outside receiver positions.

    He is high on this list because he is more ready than any other receiver to have an impact. He's higher than Matthews because he is more of a dynamic threat. He will be a better NFL player than Lee and Evans because of consistency.

2. Anthony Barr, LB, UCLA

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    Barr is a guy who would be a perfect fit in the 3-4 defense scheme. He reminds me of Von Miller because of the way he can get off the edge.

    Barr was almost unstoppable at UCLA rushing the passer, totaling 10 sacks his senior season.

    This video above shows an analysis of how good he is coming off the edge.

    He is so high on the list because of his ability to affect the game immediately. He can be very successful in his rookie season just because of his ability to get to the quarterback. Barr will be one of the NFL’s bright stars as he makes the jump to the pros.

    The reason Barr is on this list and Mack is in the honorable mentions is mainly because of strength of schedule. Barr, who played in the Pac-12, faced better competition than Mack did at Buffalo.

1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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    Jadeveon Clowney is easily the most athletic draft prospect in the past decade. At 6'6" and around 270 pounds with the speed of a running back, Clowney is a scary mismatch for offensive coordinators.

    The only thing that has been questioned this year is his endurance and desire to play. The endurance is way overrated because surely he will be in shape when the NFL season comes around. There's no doubting his desire to play; maybe he was looking ahead to the NFL this season.

    Nobody will know the answer to that, but when Clowney plays hard, he is the best player on the field. A prime example of that was in last year's Michigan game when he destroyed running back Vincent Smith, shown in this video above.

    He will be successful in the NFL because of his athletic ability. He will be a force the first game he plays. He can stop the run effectively and also get to the quarterback.

    When there is a player with his size that also has speed, it’s a no-brainer that he is going to go very high in the draft.

    He's sitting at the top of this list because he is the most ready for the NFL. He probably could have come out of high school into the NFL just because of his physical stature.

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