2014 NFL Draft: Prospects Making Biggest Pre-Draft Pushes

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistApril 30, 2014

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 02:  Tom Savage #7 of the Pittsburgh Panthers looks to pass against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Stadium on November 2, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Time has served as a trustworthy ally to some of this year's NFL draft prospects.

People change their minds all the time. When one person in a position of authority makes that opinion known, others follow suit. Before you know it, public perceptions of players have taken a radical turn without the aid of any actual games.

Had the draft taken place four months ago, Teddy Bridgewater probably would've gone No. 1. Now, the Louisville quarterback is fighting for a spot in the top 10 after a lackluster pro day showing.

Combine results change opinions, but some players just grab everyone's attention, or at least the focus of people who matter. With draft day around the corner, look for these guys to earn prominent placement during the proceedings.


Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh

DURHAM, NC - SEPTEMBER 21:  Tom Savage #7 of the Pittsburgh Panthers during their game at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

As the draft's top quarterbacks are questioned at every turn, Tom Savage is riding in the opposite direction.

The Pittsburgh signal-caller was not initially considered a first-round candidate, yet alone a top-10 quarterback. B/R's Matt Miller still doesn't rank him among the draft's 10 best passers.

Yet Miller's fighting a growing sentiment of scouts who are swooning over the 24-year-old quarterback. NFL Media Analyst Gil Brandt said the buzz around Savage is rapidly growing.

Sports on Earth's Mike Tanier even took the bold measure of slotting Savage to the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16 in his latest mock draft. 

...They also have a maverick owner who a) is not afraid of radical draft selections; and b) is extremely susceptible to the pre-draft "rise and fall" hysteria. Drafting a live-armed project in the first round may be foolish, but Jones has built his empire on bedrock of foolish, and it would represent the first evidence of long-range planning we have seen in Dallas since roughly 2010.

After two unimpressive seasons at Rutgers, Savage found a spot in Pittsburgh after a two-year layaway. In his only season with the Panthers, he had a 61.2 completion percentage with 21 passing touchdowns.

Given his unusual journey to the NFL, it's surprising to see his stock rise so much. If not for the long break between the college football season and draft day, he'd make a great mid-round bargain. Now, it looks like an interested franchise at least must be willing to cough up a second-rounder.


Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo

Although Khalil Mack's draft stock has little room remaining to ascend, he could rise to the pinnacle as the No. 1 selection.

Months ago, the thought of the Mid-American Conference linebacker going first overall would have sounded crazy. Now he looks like the top candidate after Jadeveon Clowney. To make matters more interesting, a friend of Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith told Monday Morning Quarterback's Peter King that the GM "likes Khalil Mack over Clowney."

In his four years at Buffalo, Mack set an NCAA record with 16 forced fumbles while tying the career best with 75 tackles for losses. He also collected 28.5 sacks for good measure.

Grantland's Robert Mays went into further detail about what makes Mack so special.

Every single play is ruined before it starts. Mack is destruction incarnate. He doesn’t have a position, and he doesn’t really need one. Put him anywhere on defense and watch the wreckage pile up. He’s the Division I career leader in tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He lives in backfields. He’s Von Miller all over again — a pass-rushing terror worth building an entire defense around.

There are some people who think Mack is the best player in an absolutely loaded draft, and he’s done nothing to prove them wrong so far.

It won't, or at least shouldn't, surprise anyone if his name is called first on May 8. At the absolute latest, he'll go to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 6, but it's more likely the Jacksonville Jaguars snatch him up at No. 3.


Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

There's no easy pick for this year's top cornerback draftee. Justin Gilbert is a strong candidate, Darqueze Dennard is not far behind, and Bradley Roby and Jason Verrett also warrant consideration. 

Add Kyle Fuller's name to the list of corners poised to get selected in the first round.

As NJ.com's Jordan Raanan pointed out on Twitter, NFL Media Analyst Mike Mayock labeled the Virginia Tech alum as his top corner, and he's not the only one.

Count CBS Sports' Pete Prisco among Fuller's fan club. In a mock draft published in beginning of April, he had the Detroit Lions grabbing him at pick No. 10. His pristine technique and superb route recognition may not notch him such a high selection, but he won't wait too long.

Somewhere in the 20s is a safer projection for the cornerback, although the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 15) or New York Jets (No. 18) could ruin that forecast if they value him favorably among the class's corners. Wherever he goes, don't expect him to slip past Round 1.