Projecting the 10 Best Rookies from the 2014 NFL Draft

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIMay 15, 2014

Projecting the 10 Best Rookies from the 2014 NFL Draft

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    The most anticipated event of the NFL offseason, the draft, is finally over. Finally. That means mock drafts and speculation about which player will be taken where can finally end. 

    As football fans, we know. We have seen all 32 teams select a number of players in an effort to improve their roster for the following season (and beyond). 

    It's impossible to judge a draft class for at least three seasons, although my rule of thumb is waiting until the end of a player's rookie contract and assessing whether he is worth a lucrative contract extension. The few that are, and yes it's well under half, are the cream of the crop from the draft class. 

    The following slides will predict the 10 best players from the 2014 draft class. It's total speculation, so don't take it too seriously. After all, these players won't even step onto the football field for another four months. 

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Houston Texans

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    There's no denying that Jadeveon Clowney is going to be a star. The number one overall draft pick by the Houston Texans has all the skill set to become one of the most dominant defensive linemen in the history of the NFL. 

    That's not an exaggeration at all. 

    Clowney is big, strong, extremely quick and powerful enough to consistently overpower defenders. Pair him next to J.J. Watt for the next decade (hopefully) and it's easy to love the Texans' future. 

    He has the potential to collect double-digit sacks every year for the next decade. He really should end up as one of the all-time greats. 

Greg Robinson, OT/OG, St. Louis Rams

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    Anybody left out there who doesn't think Greg Robinson is going to become a legitimate star in the National Football League?

    Throw in a tremendous combine and a stellar college career and you have the makings of the next great run-blocking offensive tackle in this league. 

    Not coincidentally, that's exactly how the Rams have designed their team, with Robinson as one of the lead dogs blocking for last year's breakout running back Zac Stacy. 

Khalil Mack, DE, Oakland Raiders

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    We may be seeing the beginning of a new generation for the Oakland Raiders. A franchise that continually finds ways to screw up their draft picks year after year looks like it might have gotten one of the best value picks in the entire draft. 

    Taken fifth overall, defensive end Khalil Mack has the potential to become one of the game's top pass-rushers. He had been rumored to go as high as first overall to the Houston Texans. 

    Mack should earn a starting job for Oakland by the end of the 2014 season. If everything goes according to plan, he will be competing for the league lead in sacks for the next decade. 

Jake Matthews, OT, Atlanta Falcons

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    It's impossible to predict, but Atlanta Falcons tackle Jake Matthews might have the highest ceiling of any offensive tackle in the draft. 

    Matthews was built for football. His father is Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, his uncle is former Pro Bowl linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. and his cousin is current Pro Bowl linebacker Casey Matthews. 

    The former Texas A&M superstar should be able to start for the next decade or more protecting Matt Ryan

    He has Hall of Fame potential like the rest of his family. 

     

Eric Ebron, TE, Detroit Lions

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    As far as winning football games is concerned, I really don't understand what the Detroit Lions were thinking when they selected tight end Eric Ebron 10th overall. 

    The Lions are already stacked at tight end, with Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria, and they could have really used an upgrade in the secondary. 

    But as far as playing fantasy football is concerned, Ebron is in a perfect place to succeed. 

    He has Matthew Stafford, a quarterback who could easily average 4500 passing yards per season for the next decade, throwing him passes. That's really all you need to know that Ebron is not going to turn into a bust. 

Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis Rams

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    One of the draft's most athletic football players, defensive tackle Aaron Donald fell to the 13th pick before the Rams scooped him up with their second first-round selection. 

    Donald was probably the MVP of the Scouting Combine. He's a freak athlete who will be surrounded by talent on the Rams defensive line, particularly defensive ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long. 

    It's going to be almost impossible for Donald to turn into a bust. He should be a Pro Bowler within three years. 

Brandin Cooks, WR, New Orleans Saints

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    A big-play home run threat at wide receiver with Drew Brees throwing him passes? Playing in Sean Payton's offense?

    Brandin Cooks is going to be a flat-out star. 

    The Saints agree too, as New Orleans traded up from the 27th pick to the 20th pick to snag the multi-talented receiving threat. 

    Cooks isn't the most talented of the first-round receivers, but given quarterback situations, he might have the most success as a rookie. 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

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    I don't necessarily think Teddy Bridgewater is going to be a star quarterback, but I do think he'll end up being the best from the 2014 draft class.

    Blake Bortles is too raw at this point and Johnny Manziel is a classic boom-or-bust player.

    But Bridgewater had the best college career, and he has offensive genius Norv Turner helping to develop him. 

     

Jordan Matthews, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Eagles second-round pick has a legitimate chance to end up as a better player than any of the talented playmakers drafted ahead of him in the first round. 

    Matthews was drafted into the perfect system. He's big, strong, fast, very intelligent and should be ready to take over as the Eagles number one receiver by 2015. 

    A cousin of Jerry Rice, Matthews caught a higher percentage of his team's passes than any other college receiver in 2013. He's already used to being the focal point of his team's offense. 

    Expect greatness from Matthews and expect it quickly. 

Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

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    Talk about the perfect situation for a rookie running back.

    There's not a ton of pressure on Carlos Hyde but don't be surprised if the late second-round pick steps in and turns in the best career of any running back in the draft. 

    Currently, the 49ers have veteran Frank Gore and some unproven talent on their roster, notably Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore. 

    Hunter is best suited as a backup. James is the subject of trade talks. And Lattimore may never recover from his devastating injury in college. 

    Behind a dominant offensive line, the 49ers could be Hyde's team by the middle of the 2014 season.