There may not be an Aaron Rodgers or a Geno Smith in every NFL draft class, but the early part of the first round of the 2014 NFL draft from May 8-10 is shaping up to be a painful one for a select few prospects.
Whether it's a handful of poor offseason workouts or simply just other prospects at their positions jumping them, these players, who were all considered either top-five-to-15 picks, are now hoping to see their names called on the first night of the draft at all.
While there's a good chance these players get taken in the opening 32 picks, these prospects have been seeing their name tank down mock draft boards as of late. Look for them to slide considerably further than most expected when things get kicked off Thursday night in New York City.
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
It was once thought of as a race between Anthony Barr and Khalil Mack for the spot of second-best defensive player in the draft behind Jadeveon Clowney.
Now, it might be Mack vs. Clowney for overall supremacy. Barr is out of the picture entirely, to the point that he could be jumped by a few more defensive players as well and see his name fall to the mid-to-late first round.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay (subscription required) has Barr as low as No. 25 overall, a far cry from CBS Sports' Rob Rang, which has him at No. 11. But each of these are still lower than what I had him at back in early January—No. 5 overall. That just shows how far he has slid.
Barr is a prototypical 3-4 linebacker with the speed to rush the passer, along with vision to drop back into coverage. At 6'5", 255 pounds, he has the athleticism to pretty much do it all.
And, as former NFL player and B/R's own Ryan Riddle dug up, Barr's talents are on par with the best in the class:
Barr might not be strong enough to handle the trenches and plug up run lanes, and that is certainly playing a big part in his slide down draft boards. But given his peak talent and abilities, it's hard to see a team in the middle of the first round passing up on his vast potential.
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
When Jameis Winston and Florida State won college football's national title, and the season came to a close, there was little doubt that Teddy Bridgewater was the draft's top quarterback. At the least, he would be a top-four or -five pick.
Since then, Bridgewater has opted not to throw at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine and posted a poor pro day performance, among more criticism. Quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel and Blake Bortles have seemingly jumped Bridgewater, as have many of the top position players.
The knocks on Bridgewater have been far and wide. He played against inferior competition in the American Athletic Conference. He doesn't have the demanding leadership qualities that some of the other prospects have.
All of this has plummeted Bridgewater so far that NFL Network's Mike Mayock, per NFL.com's Bryan Fischer, said he wouldn't even pick the Louisville product in the first round.
B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has remained high on Bridgewater throughout the criticism and still has him as his top QB in the class, noting that the noise has gotten to a ridiculous level:
At the end of the day, Bridgewater threw 31 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his 2013 season. His game film jumps off the screen, and he can make practically every throw.
Bridgewater shouldn't fall out of the top 15 or 20, but even that will be enough to label it as a massive slide considering his stock a few months ago. At that point, only time will tell if the knocks on him were real or fabricated.
C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Pairing up C.J. Mosley with both Bridgewater and Barr might not be fair. Mosley has never been a mainstay at the top of a mock draft like those two have.
But there's no doubt that the product of Alabama has been sliding from his perch of a top-10 pick in recent weeks and months.
The consensus on Mosley after the season was that he would come off the board around the top-10 range. He was in an echelon behind players like Clowney, Barr and Mack, but probably in that next wave of defensive players.
With the best players separating themselves from the pack in the pre-draft process, though, it looks like Mosley has struggled to create his identity in the class despite his obvious talent. Miller alluded to that on Twitter:
Mosley is an incredibly smart player and could captain a defense as an interior linebacker. He has experience leading Alabama's defense, which is nothing to scoff at, and most people in NFL circles know that.
But he's shown waves of inconsistency as a tackler in his techniques—something that will need to be improved upon drastically in order to take the next step.
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