2014 NFL Draft

2014 NFL Draft: Final Offensive Positional Rankings

Curt PopejoyContributor IApril 13, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Final Offensive Positional Rankings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Who is your favorite quarterback? Which wide receiver is a lock for rookie of the year? Is the next Jonathan Ogden among these tackles? These are the questions draft analysts weigh for months leading up to the draft.

    And how those questions are answered can vary depending on whom you ask. Obviously, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to prospects, so ranking them must be based purely on talent and NFL potential. Things like the team that drafts a player, current state of the depth chart or proper scheme fit all can be the difference between a talented player excelling in the league and simply treading water.

    Here is a look at some final offensive positional rankings as the 2014 NFL draft fast approaches. These rankings have no bearing on the order these player will be selected in. If the draft has taught us anything it is that franchises are unpredictable.  

    These rankings haven’t changed a great deal during the season, and short of some sort of injury or off-the-field breakthrough, these rankings won’t change.

Quarterbacks

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    This quarterback class is as polarizing as any in recent memory. All of the media types and draft analysts seem to agree that there are four top prospects. Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel and UCF’s Blake Bortles seem to be the consensus best quarterbacks, but asking for an order is a total crapshoot.

    All of these quarterbacks have things they do very well, however all of them have flaws that vary in significance, depending on who you ask. The key to ranking these young men is by taking all those positives and negatives and ranking which are most important to you and which aren’t.

    Most experts have all four of these quarterbacks being drafted in the first round. Don’t be shocked if one or more of them end up falling into the second round.

    Last season, there were four or five quarterbacks pegged as first-round picks at one point or another, and only one ended up actually being drafted there.

    1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
    2. Derek Carr, Fresno State
    3. Blake Bortles, UCF
    4. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
    5. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
    6. A.J. McCarron, Alabama
    7. Aaron Murray, Georgia
    8. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
    9. David Fales, San Jose State
    10. Brett Smith, Wyoming

     

Running Backs

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    Running back remains the most underappreciated position in the draft. Heck, it might be the most underappreciated position in all of the NFL.

    Teams take the attitude that they can just discard an older back and replace him with a younger one. Most teams also shrug off the notion of a workhorse running back, instead opting for more of a running back-by-committee approach.

    Fortunately, this running back class is going to give teams plenty of options to consider. If your favorite team favors the one-back approach, there are plenty of players on this list to choose from. However, if your favorite team needs a complementary or change-of-pace back, there are plenty of them here as well.

    The top of this list is Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey. Carey isn’t the biggest back in the draft. He’s not the fastest, either. However, Carey is as complete a set of skills as there is in this group and has a promising NFL future. Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere will hate this, but Carey’s game reminds one a great deal of Emmitt Smith— smooth, almost gliding through the hole without great top-end speed, an excellent pass-catcher and blocker who can finish runs like a back much bigger than him.

    Beyond Carey there is still plenty to love about this class. Some team is going to snatch up Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas early on the third day and will have a dynamic weapon who can impact a team in multiple ways. Same goes for a player like West Virginia’s Charles Sims, who might be the best receiving weapon at running back in the entire draft.

    1. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona
    2. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
    3. Bishop Sankey, Washington
    4. Devonta Freeman, FSU
    5. Jeremy Hill, LSU
    6. Tre Mason, Auburn
    7. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
    8. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon
    9. Charles Sims, West Virginia
    10. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford

Wide Receiver

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    Following what we’ve already seen, this wide receiver class is all about diversity. Who your favorite is, likely has a lot to do with what type of receiver your team is looking for. There are wide outs who can attack a defense with dominating size as well as blinding speed. Some guys even give you a little of both.

    Another trend among this class is its ability to make the big play. Most of this list have rather large highlight reels, showing off their ability to create momentum-changing plays. These are the kinds of player the NFL loves. The other side of this coin is with so many great players at the position, do teams need to select one early?

    Depends on who it is. If your team needs a wide receiver, and they are picking at the top of the first round, Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans are nearly impossible to pass on. While both players are very different, and neither will be perfect for every team (Watkins is very close), there is enough teams who are hungry for a playmaker, that both should be gone early.

    After these two come off the board, it is going to be a mad dash as to which teams will want which of these players. Maybe it is the elite quickness of Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks your team craves. Or perhaps they favor the dominating physical advantage of FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin. Don’t be shocked if all 10 of these wide receivers are gone by the middle of the second round. However, the order they are going to come off the board is anyone’s guess.

    1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
    2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
    3. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
    4. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU
    5. Davante Adams, Fresno State
    6. Marqise Lee, USC
    7. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
    8. Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
    9. Allen Robinson, Penn State
    10. Donte Moncrief, Mississippi 

     

Tight Ends

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    The role of the tight end in the NFL has changed so much in recent seasons. What used to be an additional blocker and occasional pass-catcher has become so much more. Now, teams expect their tight ends to not only attack the middle of opposing defenses in the passing game, but be able to split out wide and work outside the hashes as well.

    This group of tight ends is something of a mixed back. North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is the near-consensus top player, and a true weapon in the passing game. However, if you are looking at potential. Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins has flashed the type of game that no other player in this group can match.

    Questions start to present themselves after these top players. The level of athleticism dips some, and the polish to their games as pass-catchers is less refined. There are some great project players in this group, including Oregon’s Colt Lyerla and Colorado State’s Crockett Gillmore. However, if your team needs a tight end to come in and contribute now, it would be best to draft one early, or not at all.

    1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
    2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
    3. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
    4. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa
    5. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
    6. Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
    7. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
    8. Arthur Lynch, Georgia
    9. Colt Lyerla, Oregon
    10. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State

     

Offensive Tackles

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    There is no tenet in football older than that you win by winning in the trenches. Great talent at skill positions cannot do their jobs if the offensive linemen doesn’t do theirs. That’s why every year, the elite tackles are the hottest commodities in the draft.

    This year is really no different.

    Most pundits feel that Auburn’s Greg Robinson is a transcendent athlete at tackle and has the kind of power/athleticism combination to dominate the league. This sort of praise lauded on a young man with 24 career college games under his belt might be a bit premature.

    If a team wants a player who can come in player right away at a high level, you must consider Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews. With double the career starts as Robinson in the same conference, Matthew’s resume is beyond impressive.

    Beyond the top players, an interesting feature of many of the tackles on this list is that they could be projected to play multiple spots along the offensive line. A player like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin or Nevada’s Joel Bitonio are valued highly because of that versatility. Getting a player who can come in and play multiple positions at a high level will really help teams needing offensive line depth.

     

    1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
    2. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
    3. Greg Robinson, Auburn
    4. Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama
    5. Morgan Moses, Virginia
    6. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
    7. Ja'Wuan James, Tennessee
    8. Joel Bitonio, Nevada
    9. Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
    10. Billy Turner, North Dakota State

     

Guards/Centers

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    Interior offensive line is often overlooked, and typically underrated by most. However, putting together an efficient and productive offense requires that middle to be strong and consistent. The guards are the foundation to a physical run game and the center is often the leader of the line, making all the protection calls.

    So, is this class of interior offensive linemen up to the task? The answer is a resounding yes. If you are a fan of the big uglies, this group is for you. Of the 15 names on these two lists, don’t be surprised if 10 or 12 of them are starting in the league within two seasons.

    The top guard here is UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo, but any of the top five could end up being the best of this group. Some are stronger in man-blocking schemes, while others are stronger in a zone-blocking scheme. It is more about picking the player that fits best as opposed to who might have the most pure talent.

    Same goes for center. All five of these centers have NFL-starter potential on the right teams. They are all experienced and physical players who bring a nasty attitude and solid leadership. It is hard to say how early a team is going to roll the dice on either a guard or a tackle in this draft, but don’t be shocked if they start coming off the board early in the second round.

     

    1. Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA
    2. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
    3. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
    4. David Yankey, Stanford
    5. Dakota Dozier, Furman
    6. Brandon Thomas, Clemson
    7. Trai Turner, LSU
    8. Anthony Steen, Alabama
    9. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
    10. Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State

     

    1. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
    2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
    3. Marcus Martin, USC
    4. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
    5. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma

     

     

     

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