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Post-NFL Combine Top Position Rankings for 2014 NFL Draft

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2014

Post-NFL Combine Top Position Rankings for 2014 NFL Draft

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The 2014 NFL Scouting Combine has now come to a close, so it is time to reflect on everything that happened and continue refining player rankings for the 2014 NFL draft.

    While the combine is good for getting an extra look at players, it has taken on way too much meaning in the general public. It is just one small part of evaluating a prospect, and no one drill or number should be given too much weight.

    With that being said, there are still some valuable things to pull from the past few days. It'll also cause many people (myself included) to go back and look at the tape of some guys more closely or with a different perspective.

    These rankings will continue to be fluid through pro days and right up until the draft, but they're getting closer and closer to the final product. I also included some position changes that I think will/should be made in the NFL, so don't freak out when you see a guy listed differently than he was in college.

    Here are my post-combine NFL draft rankings for each position.

Quarterback

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    1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

    2. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (scouting report)

    3. Blake Bortles, Central Florida

    4. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois (scouting report)

    5. Derek Carr, Fresno State

    6. David Fales, San Jose State

    7. Brett Smith, Wyoming

    8. AJ McCarron, Alabama

     

    Ironically, the most important about the combine for quarterbacks is one that the public doesn't get to see. Interviews go a long way towards NFL teams getting a feel for the person they're evaluating.

    That being said, there shouldn't be much of a shake-up solely because of how a quarterback looks throwing in shorts and a T-shirt. Manziel, Bridgewater and Carr didn't throw (which doesn't matter in the long run), and Smith was somehow not even invited.

    Garoppolo switched spots with Carr since my last quarterback rankings. I really have a good feeling about this kid and his arm. Fales also moved up one spot. He's going to need some polishing but has a lot of talent.

    McCarron moved up a couple spots after looking pretty smooth at the combine. His upside isn't high, but Boyd (who was eighth in my last ranking) had a really inconsistent motion, which is what shows up on tape too.

Running Back

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    1. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

    2. Charles Sims, West Virginia

    3. Jeremy Hill, LSU

    4. Bishop Sankey, Washington

    5. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona

    6. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State

    7. Tre Mason, Auburn

    8. Terrance West, Towson

    9. Devonta Freeman, Florida State

    10. Andre Williams, Boston College

     

    The combine was ultimately pretty disappointing for a bunch of these running backs. Ka'Deem Carey's stock took the biggest hit as he ran the 40 in just 4.70. 

    But the combine notwithstanding, this is an extremely close group that does not have any elite talents or distinct tiers. Seastrunk and Sims are both quicker guys who can catch the ball (Sims has the best hands in the class), and they could flourish in up-tempo offenses.

    Hill, Carey, Hyde and Williams are all more powerful backs who will run you over. But Hill has the explosiveness and upside that the other three do not. Sankey and Mason are well-rounded backs, and Sankey looked really good at the combine.

    West is the big unknown here, although he had an unbelievable 2,509 yards at Towson and boasts a good blend of power and agility.

    Hyde and Mason may be the biggest name, but Hyde is too slow, and Mason had the benefit of a great scheme at Auburn. The guys ahead of them on this list have better NFL potential.

Wide Receiver

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    1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson

    2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M

    3. Marqise Lee, Southern California

    4. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt

    5. Jarvis Landry, LSU (scouting report)

    6. Odell Beckham, Jr., LSU 

    7. Allen Robinson, Penn State

    8. Brandon Coleman, Rutgers

    9. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State

    10. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

    11. Donte Moncrief, Ole Miss

    12. Paul Richardson, Colorado

     

    These rankings haven't changed too much for me since my previous list. Receiver is easily the best and deepest position in this draft, with seven guys potentially carrying first-round grades.

    Watkins and Evans are legitimate top-10 talents, and Lee could be in the top-15 mix as well. Matthews helped himself a ton at the combine, as some people questioned his athleticism on tape.

    I'm a huge fan of both LSU receivers, but I like and trust Landry's hands more than Beckham's, who was a little more one dimensional and inconsistent compared to Landry in 2013. But I do think he'll be drafted higher than I have him ranked.

    Coleman (6'6") and Benjamin (6'5") are the two high-upside guys here, although I think Coleman is quicker and has much more consistent hands. His poor stats were affected by an awful Rutgers offense.

    Cooks showed off his quickness at the combine, but he's limited to being a slot receiver in the NFL. Moncrief and Richardson are both very fast receivers who are going to need to develop their games a little more, but they are still second-round talents. 

Tight End

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina (scouting report)

    2. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech

    3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

    4. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame

    5. Colt Lyerla, Oregon

    6. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa

    7. Arthur Lynch, Georgia

    8. Xavier Grimble, Southern California

     

    Ebron ran a 4.60 40-yard dash, which is impressive for a tight end but is actually a little slower than many were expecting from him. He still solidified himself as the top tight end, but needs to show more in the strength and blocking department.

    Amaro and Niklas are both big players, but Amaro is almost strictly a receiving threat with little blocking experience while Niklas is more of a traditional in-line blocking TE who plays with his hand in the dirt.

    Seferian-Jenkins didn't run at all at the combine, which was a disappointment. But Lyerla came out of nowhere and put up some huge numbers, which may make teams reconsider his troubled past and off-field issues.

    Fiedorowicz, Lynch and Grimble all have ideal size and strength for the position but aren't big receiving threats and don't have as high a ceiling as the first five guys on this list.

Offensive Tackle

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M

    2. Greg Robinson, Auburn

    3. Taylor Lewan, Michigan

    4. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee

    5. Morgan Moses, Virginia

    6. Zack Martin, Notre Dame

    7. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State

    8. Billy Turner, North Dakota State

    9. Seantrel Henderson, Miami

    10. James Hurst, North Carolina

     

    This group has had a lot of shaking up over the past few months, with Robinson flying up many boards because of his outstanding size and athleticism. He and Matthews are both top-five overall talents, and Lewan made a strong case as a top-10 guy with a great combine.

    Richardson and Moses are both massive blockers who will need some more polish at the next level, but have first-round grades. Martin is very polished, but is a bit shorter and still might have to play at guard, although with his collegiate success I'd give him a shot outside.

    Mewhort and Hurst are lower-upside players who had solid but unspectacular college careers. Hurst fell off the radar completely after breaking his leg in the Belk Bowl and could be a nice value.

    Turner is an intriguing small-school talent who looked athletic at the combine. He will have to start out on the right and adjust to NFL speed. Henderson is the classic boom-or-bust prospect who has all the ability in the world but needs to get his head straight and put it all together.

    You may notice a certain big name is missing, which will be explained on the next slide.

Interior Offensive Line

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    Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

    Guard

    1. Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA

    2. David Yankey, Stanford

    3. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi

    4. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama

    5. Cyril Richardson, Baylor

    6. Joel Bitonio, Nevada

    7. Brandon Thomas, Clemson

     

    Center

    1. Marcus Martin, Southern California

    2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State

    3. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

    4. Travis Swanson, Arkansas

     

    This guard class is intriguing, with Su'a-Filo being a long-time favorite of mine because of his incredible athleticism. Yankey is a polished player with limited upside, while Jackson is a massive mauler in the mold of Chance Warmack.

    Then comes Kouandjio, who had a horrendous combine. He looked slow and out of shape, which is concerning considering his only job the past couple months was to train to not be slow and out of shape. He's enormous, and he looked like he belongs on the inside. I think he could dominate in the NFL as a guard.

    Richardson is a solid player who needs to keep his weight down or else he won't be quick enough to compete. Bitonio and Thomas are both guys with experience at tackle (Bitonio was a full-time starter on the blind side) who are very athletic and could end up rising up the board.

    The center class is very underwhelming, and these four guys are the only ones worth drafting. Martin and Richburg are fringe top 100 players, and none have the ability to step in and be impact players right away.

Defensive Tackle

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    1. Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

    2. Louis Nix III, Notre Dame

    3. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State

    4. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

    5. Dominique Easley, Florida

    6. DaQuan Jones, Penn State

    7. Anthony Johnson, LSU

    7. Jay Bromley, Syracuse

    8. Will Sutton, Arizona State

    10. Ego Ferguson, LSU

    11. Caraun Reid, Princeton (scouting report)

    12. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee

     

    The interesting thing about this class is how close that top tier is. The first five guys on this list are all different, but are all somewhat interchangeable from a talent standpoint.

    Hageman has the highest upside, while Easley's multiple ACL injuries carry risk (but his raw talent is probably top-20 in the class). Nix is a prototypical nose tackle, while Jernigan and Donald both rely a little more on quickness and can be moved around on the line.

    Don't sleep on Jones and Johnson. They were impressive at the combine and passed Sutton on my board, who continued his 2013 trend of being overweight and disappointing. Bromley is still an unknown but has a lot of explosiveness and can be a great pass-rushing inside presence.

    LSU's Ferguson is a good but unspectacular player who is a more low-risk option. Reid, a Princeton grad, is one of the best small-school talents in the draft and showed off his athleticism and surprisingly impressive frame at the combine. 

    At roughly 6'7", 350 pounds, McCullers is an absolute mountain of a man who will tempt some teams merely because of his incredible size. This isn't the deepest position in the draft, but it's up there. 

Defensive End

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    1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina

    2. Kony Ealy, Missouri

    3. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

    4. Brent Urban, Virginia

    5. Marcus Smith, Louisville

    6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

    7. Demarcus Lawrence, Boise State

    8. Trevor Reilly, Utah

     

    People (unsurprisingly) overreacted to Clowney at the combine both positively and negatively. His 21 bench reps were more than adequate for a guy with his length, and his 4.53 40 is impressive but shouldn't suddenly cement his status as a top player in the draft. That happened over a year ago.

    Ealy, Smith, Jeffcoat and Lawrence are all 4-3 pass-rushing specialists, and the latter three could all possibly get moved to outside linebacker in some schemes. Ealy has the most upside and is ranked accordingly.

    Tuitt and Urban are both better fits as 3-4 defensive ends with their big frames. Tuitt had a foot fracture that kept him out of the combine, which was certainly disappointing for NFL teams wanting to get a look at his mobility.

    Urban still hasn't gotten much hype, and I can't figure out why. The Canada native is 6'7", 295 pounds with long arms (34 1/4"), which he used to break up nine passes in eight games in 2013. He has to get stronger and more violent with his hands, but his upside is immense.

Outside Linebacker

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    1. Khalil Mack, Buffalo

    2. Anthony Barr, UCLA

    3. Kyle Van Noy, Brigham Young

    4. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

    5. Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

    6. Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State

    7. Dee Ford, Auburn

    8. Trent Murphy, Stanford

    9. Ronald Powell, Florida

    10. Aaron Lynch, South Florida

     

    Mack is the clear No. 1 outside linebacker in my book after an outstanding combine that showcased his unique blend of size, strength and quickness. He's a phenomenal talent who could play in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense.

    Barr is essentially a less refined and stiffer version of Mack. He's an exceptional athlete but is just a tick below Mack in every category. Van Noy may actually be quicker than both of those two, although he's more exclusively a 3-4 guy who needs space to make plays. All three carry top-15 grades for me.

    Shazier is the best true 4-3 linebacker in this class. He is a lot like Tampa Bay's Lavonte David in that he isn't physically imposing or flashy on the field, but is very quick and instinctive and makes plays. Smith is an undersized version of those two as well.

    Attaochu is an exceptional athlete who had a good combine, while Ford made some interesting comments and then couldn't even participate. Both could end up as late first-round picks.

    The bottom three all have potential but are lacking key attributes. Murphy isn't very fluid, Powell isn't very refined, and Lynch has a host of concerns ranging from weight to character problems.

Inside Linebacker

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    1. C.J. Mosley, Alabama

    2. Shayne Skov, Stanford (scouting report)

    3. Yawin Smallwood, Connecticut

    4. Chris Borland, Wisconsin

    5. Christian Jones, Florida State

    6. Max Bullough, Michigan State

    7. Avery Williamson, Kentucky

     

    Some may say that inside linebacker is becoming less important in today's NFL, but tell that to the Seahawks, 49ers and Panthers, all of whom owe a ton of success to their defensive leaders in the middle of the field.

    This isn't a particularly deep class, with 'Bama's Mosley carrying the only first-round grade. Skov is an instinctive, hard-hitting leader, but lacks elite agility.

    Same goes for Smallwood, who is less animated than Skov but still every bit the intimidating force. Both are more suited as two-down 4-3 middle linebackers, which limits their stock somewhat.

    Borland is a polarizing prospect because people love his tenacity and "nose for the ball" but are concerned with his small frame. It'll be interesting to see where teams fall on that spectrum come draft day.

    Jones and Williams are both high-upside players with a lot of athleticism who will fit best in 3-4 defenses. Bullough lacks range and has been suspended multiple times by Michigan State, but he was a tackling machine and defensive leader for the Spartans.

     

Cornerback

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    1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

    2. Jason Verrett, Texas Christian

    3. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

    4. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

    5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

    6. Bradley Roby, Ohio State

    7. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska

    8. Marcus Roberson, Florida

    9. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt

    10. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood

    11. Bashaud Breeland, Clemson

    12. Victor Hampton, South Carolina

     

    A good case can be made for cornerback being the second-deepest position in the draft. The gap between the top and bottom half of this list isn't huge, and each of the first five guys could be first-round picks.

    Dennard is my favorite in this class because of his incredible ball skills and physicality. Greg Peshek of Rotoworld has a great series of advanced metrics for prospects, and Dennard unsurprisingly dominates the "burn rate" stat, the most important for a cornerback according to Peshek's metrics.

    Verrett, Gilbert, Fuller, Joyner and Roby are all very fast and athletic and bring a lot to the table. Verrett and Joyner will have to battle the notion that they're too small, although they play plenty big on tape.

    Jean-Baptiste, a recent convert from receiver, is a physical freak. He measured in at 6'3" and had a vertical of 41.5". His 40-time of 4.61 is his only downside. Desir and Breeland are two other big, rangy corners who could be second-round values.

    While Roberson and Hall are solid players, they both underwhelmed at the combine. Hampton is a better athlete than those two but also ran slow (4.69 40-time) and has some character concerns which could push him down the boards of some teams.

Safety

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    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

    2. Calvin Pryor, Louisville

    3. Deone Bucannon, Washington State

    4. Jimmie Ward, Northern ILlinois

    5. Dion Bailey, Southern California

    6. Tre Boston, North Carolina

    7. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor

    8. Terrence Brooks, Florida State

     

    After Clinton-Dix, I think the No. 2 safety spot is firmly up for grabs, despite common discourse that Pryor has it wrapped up.

    Bucannon, a favorite of mine, put on a show at the combine. The big hitter is one of the best athletes at any position. After showing off a chiseled 6'1", 211-pound frame, he was one of the best performers in the 40 (4.49), bench press (19 reps), vertical (36.5"), broad (125.0") and three-cone (6.96).

    Ward is continuing to make a name for himself, and is a very complete player. Dixon is trending the other way after a really disappointing bowl game and combine.

    Bailey, Boston and Brooks are all names to keep an eye on in the coming months. They were among the best in many of the combine drills and have some significant upside. They're looking like fringe Day 2 picks as of now.

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