10 College Football Stars Most Likely to Start in the NFL in 2014

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2014

10 College Football Stars Most Likely to Start in the NFL in 2014

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    As college football turns the page to another offseason, those stars that have either graduated or left school early are prepping for the 2014 NFL draft. 

    Blake Bortles, Teddy Bridgewater and Jadeveon Clowney are each considered top-five picks, while guys like Sammy Watkins and C.J. Mosley are projected to go in the first round in nearly every mock draft. 

    With that, check out the 10 stars from the 2013-14 CFB season that will be starting on Sundays. 

    Note: All draft projections are according to CBS Sports, unless otherwise noted. 

Teddy Bridgewater

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    The Louisville Cardinals star quarterback this past season is projected to be the number one pick to the Houston Texans, a team in desperate need of a solution at quarterback. 

    And Bridgewater could very well be the answer. 

    The star gunslinger racked up 31 touchdowns to just four interceptions while throwing for 3,970 yards and completing 71 percent of his passes. 

    Standing at 6'3", Bridgewater also possesses the prototypical body type for an NFL quarterback. 

    The Texans struggled all year at the quarterback position. Between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum, Houston never found consistency at the game's most important position and earned just two wins for the year. 

    Bridgwater could prove to be the savior in Houston. But for now, the projected top pick is almost sure to see the field as a starter in his first season in the league. 

Blake Bortles

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    Of the NFL teams that possess the top-five picks in this year's draft—Houston, St. Louis, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Oakland—only the Rams are set at the quarterback position. 

    With Bortles projected to be a top-five pick, the Fiesta Bowl champion is sure to be a starter for whomever scoops him up come draft night. 

    Bortles had a terrific season in 2013 for the UCF Knights and, in many ways, outplayed his American conference counterpart, Teddy Bridgewater. 

    Not only did Bortles best Bridgewater head-to-head, threw for 3,581 yards and 25 touchdowns, he ran for six more scores and led the Knights to a win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl. 

    Bortles had arguably his best performance against the Big 12 champions, throwing for 301 yards and four scores. He also has better physical attributes than Bridgewater, standing at 6'4" and weighing 230 pounds. 

    Whoever picks up Bortles will be looking to make him their franchise quarterback. That means he's sure to start in 2014. 

     

Jadeveon Clowney

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    Another guy projected to be selected in the top five, Jadeveon Clowney got a slow start to the 2013 season, but kicked it into high gear late. 

    After racking up just 13 tackles in his first four games this past season, Clowney finished the year with 40 tackles, including 11.5 for a loss and three sacks. And that was with offensive lines doing all they could to stop the beast known as Clowney. 

    It's no secret that NFL scouts are salivating at the chance to scoop up Clowney. The Texans could even draft him with the top pick, despite their dire need for a quarterback. 

    Standing at 6'6" and 274 pounds with a 4.56 40-yard dash time, Clowney is as prototypical a prospect at the defensive end position as it gets. He possesses all the skills to be successful at the next level, and he'll surely land a starting job in his first season. 

Sammy Watkins

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    Considered the best receiver in the draft by many, Clemson superstar Sammy Watkins is sure to see plenty of playing time come Sundays next fall. 

    Watkins, who had 12 touchdowns and over 1,400 yards receiving in 2013, is a speedy receiver who has tremendous big-play potential. That's something that nearly every team in the top 10 of the draft is desperately lacking. 

    The most likely destination for Watkins is either Oakland, Tampa Bay or Detroit. The Raiders finished 24th in the NFL in receiving yards per game (226.8), while the Buccaneers finished dead last (198.8). 

    And while Detroit finished third in the NFL in that category, Calvin "Megatron" Johnson is in desperate need of a partner-in-crime in the Motor City. Watkins would be a perfect answer for that. 

Mike Evans

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    In addition to Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans out of Texas A&M, otherwise known as Johnny Football's go-to guy in College Station, is a tremendous receiving prospect in this year's draft. 

    Evans hauled in 69 balls for 1,394 yards and 12 scores in 2013. Currently, he's projected to be picked up by the Baltimore Ravens, who missed the NFL playoffs just one season removed from their Super Bowl title. 

    Much of the Ravens' struggles this season came on offense, particularly in the passing game. The team's leading receiver, Torrey Smith, had just 1,128 yards and four touchdowns . 

    Evans could certainly turn into Joe Flacco's favorite target quickly, as he's a big-play receiver that stands at 6'5" and runs a 4.5 40-yard dash. 

    Expect Johnny Manziel's top receiver to become a household name on Sundays as well. 

C.J. Mosley

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    Alabama's best defender this year was almost undoubtedly linebacker C.J. Mosley. 

    And the First Team All-SEC selection is sure to be starting in the NFL in 2014. 

    As of now, Mosley is projected as a fringe top-10 pick, but could fall below that mark. Nevertheless, he's sure to go in the first round and will likely end up in a home that is in desperate need of a boost on defense. 

    The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans are two possible destinations for Mosley, and both teams struggled defensively. Buffalo ranked 23rd in the NFL in total defense, while Tennessee ranked 19th. And neither squad has any superstar linebackers to write home about. 

    Mosley is sure to be one of the most sought after linebackers in the draft and should adjust to the NFL pretty quickly. 

Marqise Lee

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    The USC Trojans superstar wide receiver saw a dip in numbers from 2012 to 2013. But that was largely due to the fact that he didn't have the quality of quarterback throwing him the ball that USC is accustomed to. 

    Nevertheless, Lee still racked up 57 catches for 791 yards. In 2012—his best season at USC—he had 118 catches for 1,721 yards with Matt Barkley throwing him the ball. 

    If Lee falls far enough in the first round, one of his likely destinations could be Kansas City. The Chiefs were a playoff team this season, but still need plenty of help at the receiver position to complement Dwayne Bowe. 

    America's heartland could be the perfect home for Lee. But whoever picks up this 6'0", 195-pound prospect is sure to land a serviceable starter for years to come. 

Jace Amaro

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    The best tight end in college football season, strike that, by far the best tight end in college football is taking his talents to the NFL this spring. 

    Tight ends are always a hot commodity, particularly because they are hard to find. Well, Jace Amaro from Texas Tech is a diamond in the rough. 

    Amaro totalled 106 receptions for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns in 2013 and was Kliff Kingsbury's favorite receiver in Lubbock. 

    The San Antonio native is also a physical specimen, checking in at 6'5" and 260 pounds, with room to grow. 

    If Amaro shoots up the boards high enough and gets picked in the first round, New England could be the team to scoop him up. With Rob Gronkowski routinely battling injuries and Aaron Hernandez's legal battles, the Patriots are starving for a tight end. 

    Amaro could very well be the answer. 

Johnny Manziel

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    The time for Johnny Football to play on the gridiron at the NFL level has finally come. 

    The former Heisman Trophy winner is almost guaranteed to be drafted high in the first round and is sure to be a starter from the get go, as most quarterbacks are drafted high. 

    The last remaining question is where he'll land. 

    If he goes in the top five, Oakland, Cleveland or Jacksonville are all distinct possibilities. All three teams have struggled to find consistency at the quarterback position for quite some time.

    If he falls to the mid-level of the first round, Tennessee could be a dark horse to pick up one of the most polarizing figures in the entire sport. 

    But one thing is for certain: Come this fall, Manziel will be a starting NFL quarterback. 

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    A projected first-to-second round pick in this year's draft, Alabama defensive back Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is sure to bolster any team's secondary. 

    CBS Sports projects Clinton-Dix, who recorded two interceptions and 52 tackles, to go in the first round to the Green Bay Packers. 

    The Packers ranked ninth in the NFL in pass defense but just 26th in interceptions. So Mike McCarthy and Co. could be looking for a playmaker in the secondary to fix that weakness. 

    At 6'1" and 208 pounds, the physical attributes are there for Clinton-Dix to be successful. Expect him to find an immediate starting position in the league.