5 Prospects Who Are Stone Cold Lead Pipe Locks to Succeed in the NFL
Last week, we took a look at five top prospects with sufficient concerns about their game that they were given "buyer beware" status. This week, it's time to flip the script and look at the five can't-miss prospects of the 2014 NFL draft.
Obviously, the term can't-miss is the elephant in the room. No prospect is perfect. As much as we all want to think we know about a prospect, it is impossible to know every detail.
NFL franchises do everything possible to gather every piece of information when they are determining whether to spend a draft pick on them.
The five players on this list share several traits that put them in this class—things that set them apart from other prospects in both a general sense as well as more specific to their position.
The first trait is scheme versatility. Oftentimes, talented players are never able to realize their potential because there just isn't a good fit.
The second fundamental trait these players share is intelligence. All of these players display a high level of football acumen on the field. Each of these players show such tremendous potential because they are smart. These aren't players who have resumes riddled with negatives centered on mental errors.
These prospects are low-risk/high-reward players of the highest order. No, that's not declaring each of them future Hall of Famers. However, compared to the other players at their position, they are no less talented and carry very little in the way of negatives.
There's something special about each of these players that will show once they are in the NFL.
Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Clemson
If this list was based exclusively on the most talented player at the position, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins is at the top of the list. Watkins possesses as intriguing a blend of skills as there is in this draft. His ability to go into and out of his breaks quickly makes him a huge challenge for defenders.
Watkins has elite speed to go along with his 6'1", 205-pound athletic build. Watkins did a lot of his damage on the perimeter, using the horizontal passing game with great success.
However, Watkins should not be limited. While at Clemson, Watkins also had proven to be quite adept at navigating the middle of the field or simply streaking past defenders on a go.
What makes Watkins a sure thing? He can play anywhere.
His talent allows him to line up inside or outside and excel. His speed means he can impact the return game and his strength lets him finish runs with authority. Any weakness in Watkins' game is nitpicking at this point.
C.J. Mosley, Linebacker, Alabama
If you want a player you can simply drop into your defense and have him produce for a decade, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is your guy. While analysts sit around and pick apart linebackers for lack of coverage skills or proper hand usage, Mosley just continues to produce.
Mosley has a distinct advantage of being very scheme versatile. He comes from a 3-4 defense at Alabama where he flowed between spots. This sort of ability makes NFL teams swoon.
No matter how skillful you are on defense, there is always that one spot among the linebackers that can use an upgrade. Drafting Mosley means no matter where that spot is, he's got you covered.
There is very little consensus among the media about the eminent players at a given position. However, part of what makes Mosley a lock for greatness is that he is almost universally recognized as the best player at his position.
Mosley is fast, smart and aggressive. He can rush the passer or drop into coverage. His instincts and football IQ are top notch.
Ka'Deem Carey, Running Back, Arizona
Running back is a tough spot to put onto a list of sure things. There are so many variables that can influence a running back's success in the NFL.
Most are drafted later than their talent would indicate and rarely finish their careers where they started. Therefore, to put a running back on this list is a calculated risk. They must find a near-perfect opportunity to succeed.
Arizona running back Ka'Deem Carey is very much a unique back. His size is ideal, and he runs with great pad level. Most importantly, Carey shows tremendous patience and vision.
Too many running backs with better physical tools have flamed out because they could never pick up the subtler nuances of the game. This is where Carey excels. He sets up his blockers well, and while he's not a burner, he has the quickness to get to the second level in a hurry.
Another aspect of Carey's game that stands out is that he fights hard for extra yards. His legs go like jackhammers when he's in the clutter, and he is always going forward.
Teams can become enamored with low 40 times or tremendous size, but a player like Carey just screams production. When you figure in that he is among the most gifted pass protectors and receivers at the position in the draft, his potential grows.
Gabe Jackson, Guard, Mississippi State
While many of the players on this list are the most talented at their given positions, Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson is not. That's not to say Jackson is bad, though.
Quite the contrary.
Jackson is a very talented guard who has all the physical tools you look for. His game got lost sometimes playing with very mediocre talent around him on that Mississippi State line.
No, where Jackson shines ahead of the other guards in this class is his brain. Jackson is a natural leader and an incredibly smart football player. Where he struggles with some physical aspects of the game, his acumen more than makes up for it. He calls out protections and makes sure everyone is doing their job.
Jackson makes this list, because after watching him play, it is clear that the team that drafts him will not only get a talented blocker but a natural leader along the offensive line.
Sometimes, playing on the offensive line is less about being a great athlete and more about being a great football player. Among this group, Jackson is in the top five in terms of talent, but he is the very best when it comes to intangibles.
Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU
Every NFL franchise wants to find a great cornerback. In fact, most teams want several. However, teams must be cautious not to get caught up in trends. Sometimes, there are trends about a physical ideal that every team feels like they need to adhere to.
When this happens, great players who don't fall in that category get missed. The teams that pass on TCU cornerback Jason Verrett because he doesn't match a physical template are going to feel foolish.
Verrett makes this list because he's the hardest-working, most technically gifted cornerback in the entire draft. No, he's not 6'1" or 200 pounds. In fact, to examine him on the field, he is a bit slight of build. Do not ever let that sort of thing throw you off, however.
Verrett's ability to understand routes and quarterback tendencies is elite. While Verrett might not have a 4.30 40-yard dash in him, his short-area quickness more than makes up for it.
No matter what sort of novel or exotic defense your team runs, they all still need hardworking cornerbacks who you can throw out there and forget about. All the other top corners in this class have parts of their games that franchises can point to as a weakness to their unit as a whole. Verrett has no such gaps in his game.