2014 NFL Draft: Players Who Will Need Redshirt Rookie Years
Traditionally, redshirting players is an art mainly used at the collegiate level to give younger players a chance to develop.
But that ideology can also be extremely beneficial when it comes to rookies entering the National Football League.
Taking at look at the 2014 NFL draft class, there are plenty of talented prospects who could use a year to ride the bench and learn the nuances of their respective positions.
From guys coming off of serious injuries to players who need to refine their game, redshirting these individuals is a sound strategy that could ultimately lead to long-term success.
So without further delay, it's time to start the slideshow and find out who made the cut.
QB Zach Mettenberger, LSU
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is the first player to make this list because of an injury.
At 6'5", 224 pounds, Mettenberger has the size NFL teams want when drafting a "prototypical" pocket passer.
On film, the LSU signal-caller can spray the football across the field thanks to his robust arm strength and ideal mechanics.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) went into extensive detail about what makes Mettenberger's game so appealing:
Tall, strong frame and looks the part. Good downfield vision with his stature. Strong arm to plant and fire, possessing rocket arm strength and plus velocity to deliver frozen ropes. Makes throws to the opposite hash look easy and trusts his arm. Balanced with good weight distribution in his release. Stands tall in the pocket and stares down the gun barrel. Keeps his eyes elevated and downfield to deliver in the face of pressure. Quicker eyes and timing to work through his progressions and make the best read.
In a quarterback class that has been deemed weak by many draft pundits, including ESPN's Ron Jaworski (Insider subscription required), a strong-armed guy like Mettenberger, who's projected to be selected in Round 3, becomes a compelling option for teams.
However, no matter where he ends up landing in May, Mettenberger still needs to redshirt his rookie year if he wants to have a bright future in this league.
The LSU QB is coming off of an ACL injury he suffered at the end of his 2013 season.
The good news is, a torn ACL isn't always a career-ending injury like it was in the past.
Talking about some recent players who have recovered from the injury at an accelerated rate, Bleacher Report's own Dr. Dave Siebert wrote:
A very unscientific survey of recent injuries comes up with an average of about nine to 10 months.
Though he is set to throw for scouts at his pro day on April 9, Mettenberger would be best served learning the nuances of the position for a full season while letting his knee completely heal.
Anything less would be a disservice to the 22-year-old signal-caller.
DT Dominique Easley, Florida
One of the most talented prospects in this year's class is defensive tackle Dominique Easley out of the University of Florida.
At 6'2", 288 pounds, Easley can explode off the line of scrimmage with force and incredible quickness. When you turn on the tape, you'll see Easley use his hands to maneuver past blockers and penetrate into the backfield.
Durability is the one major issue that has hurt Easley's draft stock.
Despite being one of the most versatile interior defensive lineman in this year's class, recovering from a second ACL injury may scare some NFL teams away.
Projected right now to be a second-round pick, Easley would greatly benefit from being able to redshirt his rookie year.
Sports on Earth's Mike Tanier pieced together a fantastic article talking about the upside this young man has.
In it, he went on to say:
Easley would be getting Ndamukong Suh-caliber attention right now if not two ACL tears, one on each knee, during his college career. Instead of earning mention among the top five picks, Easley is the draft's painful secret: the potential superstar teams will be wary to take too great a risk on.
If Easley can land with a team that gives him enough time to put his injury woes behind him, he could turn out to be one of the most dominant players to emerge from a deep 2014 draft class.
QB Blake Bortles, UCF
From a scouting perspective, it's easy to become enamored with UCF quarterback Blake Bortles.
He's a tall, well-built prospect who has a nice blend of arm strength and mobility to his game.
Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) wrote about some of the positives that make this 6'5" quarterback worth taking a chance on:
Climbs well and keeps his eyes downfield. Good set up and delivery with a balanced base and quick eyes to survey his reads and take what is there. Terrific peripheral vision and feel to see the entire field. Above average poise and accuracy under pressure. Efficient decisions and always under control of the situation.
Because of the upside and grit he displayed throughout the course of his collegiate career, Bortles has been linked to the to the Houston Texans with the No. 1 overall pick by pundits like ESPN's Todd McShay (Insider subscription required).
However, if you study the tape and watch Bortles operate out there on the field, his elongated delivery and sloppy footwork are two of the biggest deterrents you'll pick up on right away.
If you dive a little deeper, another thing that Bortles struggles with is his ball placement.
In this day and age, the pressures that come with being drafted early in the first round makes quarterbacks privy to starting right away.
Though he may be able to step in and contribute in a positive fashion from Day 1, Bortles is a still a player who would best be served sitting out a season while he refines his game.
WR Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State
One of the deepest wide receiver classes we've seen in years makes a guy like Saginaw Valley State's Jeff Janis a luxury pick later in the draft.
Janis was a relatively unknown commodity from a Division II school before he came in and blew the roof off of the NFL combine.
Running a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, the 6'3" Janis has an outstanding blend of size and speed that make him an enticing offensive prospect for any NFL franchise.
Playing in a Division II setting breeds a bevy of questions that Janis has to answer.
You can have all of the size, speed and athletic ability in the world, but until you line up against stout competition, you are always going to be considered more of an athlete than a football player.
B/R's Ryan McCrystal wrote about Janis and what to expect from the Saginaw Valley State product when he gets to the pros:
Janis' measurables and combine performance are hard to ignore, but he's far from a finished product. He wasn't tested at the DII level, and it showed during his week at the Senior Bowl. His physical tools give him a high ceiling, but he is very much a developmental prospect and will struggle to get on the field early in his career.
Redshirting his rookie year and absorbing everything he can is great way for Janis to properly develop into a quality option for whoever picks him up in the upcoming draft.
QB Aaron Murray, Georgia
The second quarterback on this list who suffered a season-ending knee injury is Georgia's Aaron Murray.
Murray may not have the biggest arm on tape, but his ability to operate on the move and place the football where it needs to be are two qualities NFL teams will love.
Another concern about Murray's NFL future revolves around his height—or lack thereof.
At just 6'0", Murray doesn't boast the monstrous frame that a guy like Zach Mettenberger or Blake Bortles does.
Addressing questions about his height, Murray told Tom Reed of The Plain Dealer:
I really haven't had any trouble at all. I think it was two or three years ago we had, on paper, the biggest offensive line in the world. We had the biggest offensive line in college and pro. We averaged like 6-4, 6-5, like 320 pounds, and I threw for like 35 or 36 touchdowns that year. So, no problems at all. So, it's not any. As a quarterback you're not really looking over offensive linemen, you're looking through throwing lanes. You just have to be able to use your feet, maneuver around the pocket, be able to stay in the position and throw the ball accurately and deliver the strike.
Completing 64.8 percent of his passes for 3,075 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2013 shows his height wasn't much of an issue going up against talented SEC defenses.
The ultimate reason for Murray redshirting his rookie year comes down to getting his health back in order and learning how to put his skill set to good use at the next level.
If everything comes together for Murray and he can find an offense that adjusts to his style of play, this young man could wind up having a productive career.
DE/OLB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
From a measurables standpoint, Alabama's Adrian Hubbard has everything you'd want in a prospect.
His great length and ability to get after the quarterback is a big reason why NFL teams could fall in love with this young man.
In his pro comparison video, B/R's Matt Miller said Hubbard reminds him of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks.
Hubbard is a physical marvel, there's no doubt about it. But being blessed with natural size and ability is half of the battle.
Talking about the Alabama Crimson Tide pass-rusher, B/R's Darren Page said:
Hubbard’s ceiling as a prospect leaves something to be desired, though. His limitations athletically, especially the stiffness with which he moves, will always hold him back. At this point in his development, he’s a run-stopper only. Those kind of edge defenders aren’t highly valued in today’s NFL. Tack on concerns with what his true position will be at the next level, and the question marks start to add up.
Struggling to make an impact at the Senior Bowl didn't help Hubbard's cause.
NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks was left discouraged by his performance, saying, "After watching Hubbard closely this week, I believe he might be a man without a true position at the next level."
Physically, he has a lot to offer, but with a level of rawness to his game, Hubbard would be best suited to redshirt his rookie year and find a way to carve out a role for himself.
QB Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
Great speed, solid arm strength and fantastic size.
Those are some of the best qualities Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas brings with him to the NFL.
But for all of the potential Thomas has been blessed with, there are some considerable discrepancies that pollute his game.
Put on the tape, and what you see at times is an erratic quarterback who has problems reading coverage and anticipating routes.
During his final year at Virginia Tech, those issues were constantly put on display.
Completing just 56.6 percent of his passes, the 6'6" QB threw 16 touchdowns and a concerning 13 interceptions.
"Thomas isn't a "project," as he will be called by some scouts. He's almost a complete rebuild," B/R's Tyler Conway said about the Virginia Tech QB.
Still, thanks to his a strapping arm and good mobility, Thomas is a player teams will consider going after on draft day.
Showing a level of interest in the young man from Lynchburg Va., according to Virginia Tech assistant coach Bryan Stiney, Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians went down and held a private workout with Thomas.
Sitting out a season or two and getting a feel for what makes quarterbacks successful is going to be the only way Thomas will have a chance to enjoy a fulfilling career as starter in the National Football League.
All CFB stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise.
All 2014 draft projections provided by NFLDraftScout.com (h/t CBSSports.com) unless noted otherwise.