The Maxwell Football Club has officially announced the college football stars who've earned consideration on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award.
The Bednarik Award has been given to the best defensive player dating back to 1995. Notable past winners include Charles Woodson, LaVar Arrington, Julius Peppers, Ndamukong Suh, Manti Te'o and Patrick Peterson.
The honor isn't a guarantee of pro success, but most of those players have gone on to have productive NFL careers, while Te'o and last year's winner, Aaron Donald, look primed for strong 2014 seasons.
This year's watch list features plenty of defensive standouts who will likely hear their name called on draft day very soon.
Here's a look at the full 2014 Bednarik watch list.
|Henry Anderson||DE||Stanford||Myles Jack||LB||UCLA|
|Stephone Anthony||LB||Clemson||Grady Jarrett||DT||Clemson|
|Vic Beasley||DE||Clemson||Jordan Jenkins||LB||Georgia|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Ohio State||A.J. Johnson||LB||Tennessee|
|Joey Bosa||DE||Ohio State||Karl Joseph||S||West Virginia|
|Kelby Brown||LB||Duke||Eric Kendricks||LB||UCLA|
|Malcom Brown||DT||Texas||Hau'oli Kikaha||LB||Washington|
|Shilique Calhoun||DE||Michigan State||Jordan Lucas||CB||Penn State|
|Alex Carter||CB||Stanford||Luther Maddy||DT||Virginia Tech|
|Sam Carter||S||TCU||Tyler Matakevich||LB||Temple|
|Jeremy Cash||S||Duke||Lorenzo Mauldin||LB||Louisvile|
|Frank Clark||DE||Michigan||Benardrick McKinney||LB||Mississippi State|
|Landon Collins||S||Alabama||Ryan Mueller||DE||Kansas State|
|Christian Covington||DT||Rice||Shawn Oakman||DE||Baylor|
|Su'a Cravens||S||USC||Norkeithus Otis||DE||North Carolina|
|Carl Davis||DT||Iowa||Denzel Perryman||LB||Miami|
|Trey DePriest||LB||Alabama||Terrance Plummer||LB||UCF|
|Quandre Diggs||CB||Texas||Cody Prewitt||S||Ole Miss|
|Lorenzo Doss||CB||Tulane||Hayes Pullard||LB||USC|
|Kurtis Drummond||S||Michigan State||Cedric Reed||DE||Texas|
|Alvin Dupree||DE||Kentucky||Jordan Richards||S||Stanford|
|Mario Edwards||DE||Florida State||A'Shawn Robinson||DE||Alabama|
|Ifo Ekpre-Olomu||CB||Oregon||James Rouse||DT||Marshall|
|Kyler Fackrell||LB||Utah State||KeiVarae Russell||CB||Notre Dame|
|Devonte Fields||DE||TCU||Jake Ryan||LB||Michigan|
|Trey Flowers||DE||Arkansas||Frank Shannon||LB||Oklahoma|
|Leonard Floyd||LB||Georgia||Danny Shelton||DT||Washington|
|Dante Fowler||DE||Florida||Derron Smith||S||Fresno State|
|Kendall Fuller||CB||Virginia Tech||Jaylon Smith||LB||Notre Dame|
|Markus Golden||DE||Missouri||Eric Striker||LB||Oklahoma|
|Randy Gregory||DE||Nebraska||Charles Tapper||DE||Oklahoma|
|Bryce Hager||LB||Baylor||A.J. Tarpley||LB||Stanford|
|Vernon Hargreaves III||CB||Florida||Robenson Therezie||S||Auburn|
|Eli Harold||DE||Virginia||Shaq Thompson||LB||Washington|
|Anthony Harris||S||Virginia||Trae Waynes||CB||Michigan State|
|Ben Heeney||LB||Kansas||Leonard Williams||DE||USC|
|Chucky Hunter||DT||TCU||P.J. Williams||CB||Florida State|
|Martin Ifedi||DE||Memphis||Ramik Wilson||LB||Georgia|
Stars to Watch
Leonard Williams, DL, USC
Leonard Williams was one of the best defensive linemen in the country last year, and he wasn't even 100 percent. In fact, he may have been closer to "65 to 70 percent" in 2013, according to Rahshaun Haylock of FoxSportsWest.com after surgery for a torn labrum.
"I'm just expecting to just be a lot better than I was last year," Williams said. "My last season was a lot better than my freshman season so I just want to gradually continue to get better."
The USC junior is equally capable of playing on the inside or outside of the defensive line. In his two years as a Trojan, he's compiled 13 sacks and 26 tackles for loss.
Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
It's always scary when a freshman establishes himself as the best at a certain position. You can only wonder where he might go from there.
Vernon Hargreaves III needed only one season to emerge as one of the best lockdown cornerbacks in the country. In his first year at Gainesville, he intercepted three passes and broke up another 11. Those 11 breakups tied Janoris Jenkins' school record for a freshman.
Teams may be a bit more wary of throwing Hargreaves' way, which could lead to a drop in production. His talent will never be in doubt, but if he doesn't have the numbers, Bednarik voters might not look his way, either.
Devonte Fields, DE, TCU
Devonte Fields' freshman season couldn't have gone much better. He was named Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and earned a first-team selection on the All-Big 12 team.
It wasn't hard to see why Fields earned so many plaudits, as he racked up 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss and forced two fumbles.
Injury derailed Fields' sophomore campaign, though, so the hype train has slowly idled into station for 2014.
NFL.com's Bryan Fischer believes that with a clean bill of health, the TCU star will get back to the player he was in 2012:
Whether you want to call it a breakout season or a comeback year, Fields is primed to return to form after a disappointing 2013 campaign. Injuries and a few off-the-field issues limited him, and he was barely present when he was on the field. He's had a good spring and looks to be even stronger than he was when he had a terrific freshman year. If he's 100 percent, he's a nightmare for opposing offenses.
The Horned Frogs should be a title contender in the Big 12, and Fields' performance will go a long way toward getting them near the top.
Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Myles Jack may be considered a two-way player, but he's a much better linebacker than he is a running back.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora said that Jack will get touches in the backfield, but he sounded far from committed to the idea, per Pac-12 Networks:
.@Mike_Yam: Will Jack be on offense this year? Mora: "He’s gonna touch the ball on offense. Don’t know how many times, but he’ll touch it."— Pac-12 Networks (@Pac12Networks) April 28, 2014
The Bruins sophomore was named to Phil Steele's preseason All-American team, via ESPN.com, and the college football writer believes that Jack may be destined for New York:
Last year Jack became the first player in Pac-12 history to be named the conference's freshman of the year on both the offensive and defensive sides. His 75 tackles were the second-most by a UCLA true freshman in school history and on offense he scored seven rushing touchdowns. If he exceeds that type of production this year, he could be a dark horse candidate to get an invite to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
In a way, being a two-way player may benefit Jack in the Bednarik discussion, much Tyrann Mathieu's prolific punt returns helped him in 2011.
The more attention drawn to Jack's snaps on offense will invariably lead to more voters seeing him on defense and truly appreciating how great a player he is.
Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
Expectations were high for Vic Beasley last season, yet he somehow managed to exceed them, registering 13 sacks, 23 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and six defended passes.
The Clemson senior could've easily entered last year's draft and made a good account of himself. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller tweeted back in January that Beasley could've earned a first-round grade:
Vic Beasley looks like a first round lock if he enters this draft. Surprised he's having trouble deciding, but can't fault him.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 13, 2014
Instead, he returned to school for his senior season and enters 2014 as one of the premier pass-rushers in the country. The Tigers lost a ton of offensive talent last year, but with Beasley leading the defense, they may be all right after all.
The only potential snag for Beasley's Bednarik campaign may be that constant double teams will lead to a drop in stats.