2014 NFL Draft: An Early Look at the Top 5 Players at Every Position

BJ Kissel@bkissel7Contributor IMay 26, 2013

2014 NFL Draft: An Early Look at the Top 5 Players at Every Position

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    It's never too early to look towards the next NFL draft, right?

    Well if you're an NFL draft enthusiast this will be a good checklist for you to look over as you get prepared for some college football this fall. Obviously many of these players will either rise or fall based on how they play in 2014, but a few of these guys will become household names by the time Christmas rolls around.

    Some of these guys like Jadeveon Clowney, they're already well known. The rest of these players are guys you should keep an eye on this fall. Some juniors are listed but it's tough this early in the process to determine which underclassman will declare. 

    The information for these lists came from CBS SportsWalter Football and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. The players are listed in no particular order. 

    Let us know in the comments if you see any other players having breakout seasons that should be on this list. 

Teddy Bridgewater and the Top 5 Quarterbacks

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    While much had been said about the crop of 2013 quarterback prospects being underwhelming, it turned out to be true based on how the draft played out. The same can't be said for the 2014 class, at least not this early in the process.  

    Here are the top five quarterbacks you should watch for this fall. 

    1. Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater. Key game - Thursday, December 5th @ Cincinnati

    Bridgewater is at the top of this class right now. Obviously that can change between now and next April, but if you're looking for the guy with the target on him to watch this fall, it's him. 

    Bridgewater led a surprising Louisville (11-2) team to a Sugar Bowl victory over the heavily favored Florida Gators (11-2) by a score of 33-23 last season. He finished that game 20-32 for 266 yards, including two touchdowns and one interception. 

    2. Clemson's Tajh Boyd. Key game - Saturday, August 31st vs Georgia

    Boyd will be one of the most interesting players to keep an eye on this fall. He's shown flashes of being an elite player but inconsistency has been his down fall. 

    Boyd has an opportunity to capture the nation's attention right off the bat in a key week one matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs. He also has the fortune of playing with one of the biggest offensive playmakers in the country in wide receiver Sammy Watkins. 

    3. San Jose State's David Fales. Key game - Saturday, September 7th @ Stanford

    Fales doesn't have the notoriety that some of these high profile quarterbacks do because he plays in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). While he doesn't face the same level of competition each week as some of these other guys, that hasn't stopped Fales from turning some heads already.

    A junior college transfer, Fales led the nation in completion percentage at San Jose State last season at 72.5 percent while also throwing 33 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. Because he doesn't face stiff competition each week, Fales needs to capitalize in their non-conference game against Stanford early in the season. 

    4. Georgia's Aaron Murray. Key game - Saturday, September 7th vs South Carolina

    Murray is going to be the most debated player leading up to next year's draft among any of these quarterbacks listed. Some people really like him while others don't like him at all. Think Matt Barkley from this past season in terms of differing opinions. 

    Murray will get a chance early in the year to avenge last seasons embarrassing 35-7 loss to South Carolina. Murray finished that game 11-31 for 109 yards and an interception. He'll need to be much better against top competition this season. The good news is that Georgia plays South Carolina, LSU and Florida all at home this year.

    5. Alabama's AJ McCarron - Key game - Saturday, September 14th @ Texas A&M

    McCarron is both blessed and cursed at the same time in terms of his NFL projectability by playing quarterback for Alabama. He's not in a position where he's consistently having to make plays and show NFL-type throws for Alabama's offense. He's also been fortunate to play behind a dominant offensive line.

    He's blessed because he'll have a lot of focus on him as the focus shines directly on Alabama's team as a whole. He's cursed in that there will always be question marks about his ability to do different things offensively because of Alabama's overall dominance. The Alabama defense only gave up more than 17 points twice last season, and they lost one of those games to Texas A&M, 29-24.  

Silas Redd, De'Anthony Thomas Lead the Top 5 Running Backs

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    Although he's just a junior, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas will be the most exciting player to watch next fall and one of the most interesting draft discussions heading into next April's draft. 

    Here are the top five running backs to keep an eye on next fall. 

    1. Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas - Key game - Thursday, November 7th @ Stanford

    Anyone who has watched college football recently has seen and heard of Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas. He's an electrifying talent that is a legitimate threat to score any time he touches the football. He ran the ball 92 times for Oregon last season and picked up 701 yards rushing, good for a 7.6 yards per carry average. He caught 45 passes for 445 yards, which was good for 9.9 yards per reception. 

    He's a dynamic athlete that's going to benefit, or not, from however successful St. Louis Rams rookie, Tavon Austin, is in his first NFL season. Thomas, much like Austin, is more of an offensive weapon than he is a running back or wide receiver. Finding a role for him in the NFL won't be hard, but using a top pick on a possible situational player might be. 

    2. Southern California's Silas Redd - Key game - Saturday, October 19th @ Notre Dame

    After transferring from Penn State, Redd carried the ball just 167 times in 2013 for USC picking up 905 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    With new quarterback Max Wittek taking over for the Trojans we'll see more emphasis on the run game with Redd. Redd had a knee injury this spring, but is expected to be ready for their training camp in July. He'll have an opportunity to be the focus of the offense while Wittek gains some experience, at least early in the season. 

    3. Oklahoma's Damien Williams - Key game - Saturday, September 28th @ Notre Dame

    Williams had a fantastic 2013 season for Oklahoma as he finished the season with 946 yards rushing on just 176 carries and picked up 11 touchdowns. 

    4. Ohio State's Carlos Hyde - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ Michigan

    Much of the focus of Ohio State's offense will center around their stud quarterback, Braxton Miller. But Carlos Hyde isn't a player to sleep-on having picked up 970 yards rushing last season on just 185 carries, also picking up 16 rushing touchdowns as well. 

    Hyde has good size at 6'1, 235 pounds and will get an opportunity surrounded by a great Ohio State team to consistently show what he can do on the national stage. 

    5. Louisiana State's Alfred Blue - Key game - Saturday, November 9th @ Alabama

    Blue played in just three games for LSU last season after going down with a knee injury during their September 15th game against Idaho. Before the injury Blue was averaging 6.8 yards per carry and had a couple of touchdowns.

    Obviously besides being healthy enough to get on the field, Blue needs to come back and show that he can run with power and explode out of his cuts to solidify his draft stock.   

Marqise Lee Leads the Top 5 Wide Receivers

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    The top two wide receivers in the 2014 draft are both underclassman. It would be a surprise if Marqise Lee and Sammy Watkins both don't declare for the NFL draft next April. Obviously things can happen but as we stand today it would be a surprise if 2013 isn't their last season as collegiate players. 

    1. Southern California's Marqise Lee - Key game - Saturday, November 16th vs Stanford

    Lee is a name that most college football fans are already familiar with. He finished an outstanding Sophomore season with 1,721 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. That included a ridiculous day against Arizona where he had 345 yards receiving. 

    Lee will be working with a new quarterback this year in Sophomore, Max Wittek, as Matt Barkley has moved on to the Philadelphia Eagles. Without Robert Woods playing opposite Lee, he'll have an opportunity to show he can still produce at a high level with a new quarterback and an even bigger focus of USC's offense. 

    2. Clemson's Sammy Watkins - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ South Carolina

    Watkins is a play-maker that has the fortunate situation over Lee in that he has his quarterback, Tajh Boyd, returning next season. 

    Watkins needs to be that big time playmaker for the Clemson Tigers as they lost DeAndre Hopkins, who was their leading receiver from last season. He's one of the most explosive players in the country that needs to show he can be a chains-mover as well as a big-play threat. 

    3. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews - Key game - Saturday, November 9th @ Florida

    Matthews had a breakout season in 2013 when he caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and nine touchdowns. 

    Matthews will have a chance to show what he can do against a talented lineup of SEC defenses, but his matchup against Florida on November 9th, and their talented group of cornerbacks will be Matthews' time to shine on the big stage against the best competition. 

    4. Texas A&M's Mike Evans - Key game - Saturday, September 14th vs Alabama

    Evans was the top target last season for quarterback Johnny Manziel. Evans finished the season with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns. With the Aggies No. 2 receiver, Ryan Swope, moving on to the NFL, look for Evans to up his production even more as he helps Manziel try and repeat his Heisman campaign. 

    5. BYU's Cody Hoffman - Key game - Saturday, November 23rd @ Notre Dame

    Hoffman was literally the only legitimate threat at wide receiver for BYU last season. He caught 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's got great size at 6'3", 215 pounds and uses it well.

    Despite playing at BYU, Hoffman has a chance to show what he can do against good competition next season as BYU takes on Texas, Georgia Tech, Boise State, Wisconsin and Notre Dame. 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins Leads the Top 5 Tight Ends

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    This tight end class is led by the 6'6", 267-pound Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington. If you're looking for the guy that's currently the head of this tight end class right now, he's the guy. 

    1. Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Key game - Saturday, October 5th @ Stanford

    Seferian-Jenkins finished the 2013 season with 852 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. His combination of size and athletic ability will make him a viable first-round pick in 2014. 

    2. Wisconsin's Jacob Pederson - Key game - Saturday, September 28th @ Ohio State

    Pederson was a first-team all Big 10 selection from the coaches after picking up 355 yards receiving and four touchdowns. 

    Pederson doesn't have the prototypical size at just 6'4" and 238 pounds, but he shows good athleticism and could be used in a variety of ways in the NFL, including H-back. 

    3. Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz - Key game - Saturday, November 23rd vs Michigan

    Fiedorowicz doesn't have the numbers that are going to blow you away, but at 6'6" and 265 pounds he has the size and blocking ability to rise in the draft process if he has a good 2014 season. He's definitely a guy to keep an eye on for a struggling Iowa program. 

    4. Georgia's Arthur Lynch - Key game - Saturday, November 2nd vs Florida

    Lynch had 431 yards on 24 receptions last season for the Bulldogs, also pulling in three touchdowns. Georgia lost two of its top receiving threats from last season in Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, which means Lynch will need to step up his production in 2014. 

Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan Lead the Top 5 Offensive Tackles

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    We saw a run on offensive lineman, and tackles specifically, at the top of the 2013 draft. Eric Fisher went No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs, Luke Joeckel went No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Lane Johnson went No. 4 to the Philadelphia Eagles. 

    There looks to be some talent coming through the pipeline at offensive tackle again in the 2014 draft. 

    1. Texas A&M's Jake Matthews - Key game - Saturday, September 14th vs Alabama

    Matthews will slide over to left tackle now that former teammate and left tackle, Luke Joeckel, has moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Matthews will have the chance to show NFL teams that he's versatile enough to play both tackle positions and that he can pick up a new position quickly. 

    2. Michigan's Taylor Lewan - Key game - Saturday, September 7th vs Notre Dame

    It was a bit of a surprise that Lewan decided to go back to school for his Senior year and not declare for the 2013 draft. Michigan has a big matchup in week two against Notre Dame, so we'll get an early look at Lewan and how he'll start the narrative of his Senior campaign. 

    3. Alabama's Cyrus Kouandjio - Key game - Saturday, November 9th vs LSU

    Kouandjio held down the left tackle spot for a talented Alabama offensive line last season. That included former starting left tackle turned center Barrett Jones, guard Chance Warmack and right tackle D.J. Fluker. Kouandjio needs to show more athleticism from his left tackle spot in 2014 to show talent evaluators that he doesn't need to be moved inside once he gets to the NFL. 

    4. North Carolina's James Hurst - Key game - Thursday, August 29th @ South Carolina

    Hurst gets the fortune of opening up his 2013 season against Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina. It gives him the opportunity to show what he can do against one of the best defensive end prospects in recent history. 

    5. Miami (FL) Seantrel Henderson - Key game - Saturday, September 7th vs Florida

    Henderson has phenomenal size at 6'8" and 340 pounds, and he will start again on the right side of the offensive line for Miami. Henderson has the potential to be a star but he's been inconsistent in his career thus far and hasn't lived up to the expectations he had coming in as a top recruit. He's got a chance to really help himself with a great Senior year. 

Cyril Richardson Leads the Top 5 Interior Offensive Lineman

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    For this section we're going to combine guards and centers and just go with the interior offensive line. Many interior offensive line spots are interchangeable and top prospects are often versatile enough to play both of these positions. Especially when we're talking about centers that could move to guard, but we're even dealing with many tackles being moved to the inside to play guard. 

    Here are the top five interior offensive line prospects heading into the 2013 college football season. 

    1. Baylor's Cyril Richardson - Key game - Saturday, November 23rd @ Oklahoma State

    Richardson is one of the bigger guard prospects at 6'5" 335 pounds and will have an opportunity to go up against some of the better defensive tackle prospects this season. He'll face Calvin Barnett and Oklahoma State late in the season before facing Texas to finish out the regular season. 

    2. Notre Dame's Zack Martin - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ Stanford

    Martin is a tackle that's projected to play guard in the NFL. Dane Brugler of CBS Sports believes he has the "raw nastiness to develop into a pro blocker."

    3. Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson - Key game - Saturday, November 2nd @ South Carolina

    Jackson returns again for his third year at left guard for the Bulldogs. He was named to the Phil Steele All-American team after last season and with the tough schedule that Mississippi State plays this season, there's going to be a good amount of tape that can evaluate the kind of player Jackson can be at the NFL level. 

    4. Arkansas' Travis Swanson - Key game - Saturday, October 19th @ Alabama

    Swanson comes back to an Arkansas team that really needs to rebound after a down-year in 2012. With new head coach Bret Bielema taking over the program, expectations will be high for an Arkansas team that finished 4-8 last season. Swanson comes in as the top ranked center in the country according to CBS Sports.

    5. Alabama's Anthony Steen - Key game - Saturday, November 9th vs LSU

    It's hard to think that an Alabama offensive lineman could fly under the radar, but that seems to be the case with Steen who won't be off the radar anymore. Steen finished the 2012 season without a single penalty, or sack, committed or given up the entire season. 

Louis Nix Leads the Top 5 Defensive Tackles

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    The top ranked defensive tackle heading into the 2014 draft is an underclassman. Notre Dame's Louis Nix is at the head of the class right now. 

    1. Notre Dame's Louis Nix - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ Stanford

    Nix was fantastic last season for Notre Dame as he finished the season with 50 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble. At 6'3" and 340 pounds Nix has an opportunity in 2013 to solidify himself as the top defensive tackle in this draft and a first round pick. 

    2. Arizona State's Will Sutton - Key game - Saturday, September 28th vs USC

    Sutton is an undersized defensive tackle that will use his quickness to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He'll need to show an ability to anchor against the run during the 2013 season to improve his draft stock. 

    3. Tennessee's Daniel McCullers - Key game - Saturday, September 14th @ Oregon

    McClullers is a mountain of a man at 6'6" and 377 pounds. He'll need to show how his impressive size translates to making plays for the Volunteers defense to help his draft stock. All eyes will be on him next season for Tennessee. Hopefully he can show an understanding of leverage in run defense as his size can work against him against better offensive lineman. 

    4. Oklahoma State's Calvin Barnett - Key game - Saturday, October 19th vs TCU

    Barnett was a first team All-Big 12 selection last season for the Cowboys. He finished the 2012 season with 30 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and one sack. 

    5. Louisiana State's Anthony Johnson - Key game - Saturday, November 9th @ Alabama

    Johnson is an underclassman that had a breakout year in 2012 after not getting a lot of playing time as a freshman behind a talented LSU defense. Johnson finished the 2012 season with 30 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. He's demonstrated enough athletic ability that he could be really be a force for LSU's defense in 2013 which would help his draft stock as well. 

Anthony Barr and the Top 5 Outside Linebackers

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    Anthony Barr leads a talented group of outside linebackers heading into the 2013 college football season. 

    1. UCLA's Anthony Barr - Key game - Saturday, October 19th @ Stanford

    Barr is one of the best defensive players in college football right now. He finished the 2012 season with 83 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks, five passes defensed and four forced fumbles. With a solid 2013 season for UCLA, Barr should be a top-half of the first round NFL selection next April. 

    2. BYU's Kyle Van Noy - Key game - Saturday, November 23rd @ Notre Dame

    Van Noy has the prototypical size for an outside linebacker at 6'3" and 235 pounds. He finished the 2012 season with 53 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, two interceptions and six forced fumbles. Along with Barr, Van Noy could solidify himself as a first round pick with a solid 2013 season. 

    3. Alabama's CJ Mosley - Key game - Saturday, September 14th vs Texas A&M

    Mosley is a fantastic athlete that sticks out any time you watch Alabama's defense. He flies around the field and makes plays from sideline to sideline. He finished the 2012 season with a team-leading 107 tackles, eight tackles for loss, four sacks, two interceptions and a forced fumble. 

    4. Florida State's Christian Jones - Key game - Saturday, October 19th @ Clemson

    Jones has played both the weak-side and strong-side linebacker positions for Florida State's defense. He led the Seminoles last season with 95 tackles, with seven tackles for loss. He's a great athlete that's shown the versatility to play different spots and should become a well-known draft prospect before the college season is over. 

    5. USC's Morgan Breslin - Key game - Saturday, October 19th @ Notre Dame

    Breslin is defensive end that will eventually convert to outside linebacker. He finished the 2012 season with 62 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. At just 6'2"  and 250 pounds Breslin will need to show an ability to play vs the run inside the box, but he also has the athletic ability to make the transition to outside linebacker. 

Andrew Jackson and the Top 5 Inside Linebackers

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    Despite playing at Western Kentucky, a smaller school, Andrew Jackson is at or near the top of most lists for top inside linebacker prospects heading into the 2013 season. 

    1. Western Kentucky's Andrew Jackson - Key game - Saturday, November 30th vs Arkansas State

    Jackson is a thumper in the middle of the Hilltoppers defense as he stands at 6'1" and 261 pounds. Jackson finished the season 1 with 22 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and four forced fumbles. 

    2. Stanford's Shayne Skov - Key game - Thursday, November 7th vs Oregon

    Skov came back healthy last season after an ACL injury caused him to miss most of the 2011 season. Skov finished as Stanford's leading tackler with 81 tackles, nine tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He's a great fit as an inside linebacker for a 3-4 defense and shows the physicality at the point of attack that will serve him well in the draft process. 

    3. Michigan State's Max Bullough - Key game - Saturday, November 2nd vs Michigan

    Bullough is a third generation Michigan State football player and has started at middle linebacker for the Spartans for the last two seasons. Bullough had 111 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks last season for Michigan State. 

    4. Wisconsin's Chris Borland - Key game - Saturday, September 28th @ Ohio State

    Borland returns to the Badgers defense as an ultra-productive linebacker that's made an impact throughout his career thus far for Wisconsin. He picked up 104 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, six passes defensed and four forced fumbles last season for Wisconsin. 

    5. LSU's A.J. Johnson - Key game - Saturday, October 19th vs South Carolina

    Johnson comes back to Tennessee after being one of the most productive linebackers in the country in 2012. The Junior-to-be had 138 tackles with 8.5 tackles for loss last season. He's listed as Walter Football's top inside linebacking prospect. 

Bradley Roby and the Top 5 Cornerbacks

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    An early look at the 2014 cornerback class looks to be a very deep group of players. There a number of good Juniors that will make this an even deeper class if they declare for the draft next April. 

    1. Ohio State's Bradley Roby - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ Michigan

    Roby looks to be the head of this class at this point. The talented Junior-to-be had 63 tackles, 19 passes defensed, two tackles for loss and two interceptions last season for the Buckeyes defense. He possesses good size at 5'11" and 190 pounds. 

    2. TCU's Jason Verrett - Key game - Saturday, October 26th vs Texas

    Verrett returns to the Horned Frogs after a fantastic Junior season where he had 63 tackles, five tackles for loss, 22 passes defensed and six interceptions. He was the Big 12 leader in interceptions and passes defensed. He's listed as CBS Sports top cornerback available (Their rankings do not include underclassman)

    3. Alabama's Deion Belue - Key game - Saturday, September 14th @ Texas A&M

    Beleue seems to be the next man in line to uphold the recent success of first-round cornerbacks coming from Alabama. Kareem Jackson, Dre Kirkpatrick and Dee Milliner all recently became first round picks after playing for defensive-back minded Alabama head coach Nick Saban. Beleue picked up 40 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions last season playing cornerback opposite Milliner. 

    4. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert - Key game - Saturday, November 16th @ Texas

    After a disappointing Junior season, the 6'0", 194-pound Gilbert decided to come back for his Senior season for the Cowboys. He possesses ideal size and athletic ability for a NFL cornerback but will need to show more play-making ability as a Senior to reclaim that optimism people were talking about following his impressive Sophomore season in Stillwater. 

    5. Oklahoma's Aaron Colvin - Key game - Saturday, September 28th @ Notre Dame

    Colvin finished off an impressive Junior season at Oklahoma with 61 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, four interceptions and 15 passes defensed. He was a first team All-Big 12 selection in 2012. 

Ty Zimmerman and the Top 5 Safeties

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    We saw three safeties drafted in the first round of the 2013 draft. Kenny Vaccaro went to the New Orleans Saints, Eric Reid went to the San Francisco 49ers and Matt Elam went to the Baltimore Ravens. We'll need to see a few breakout seasons from the class of 2014 to match that next April. 

    1. Kansas State's Ty Zimmerman - Key game - Saturday, October 5th @ Oklahoma State

    It wasn't hard to see what Zimmerman meant to the Kansas State defense when he missed two games due to injury during the 2012 season. He missed the Baylor game in which the Wildcats defense was burned for 52 points. Zimmerman had 50 tackles, three tackles for loss and five interceptions in 2012. He doesn't possess elite speed or athleticism but good instincts and a high football IQ seem to always put him in the right spot at the right time. 

    2. Alabama's Haha Clinton-Dix - Key game - Saturday, September 14th @ Texas A&M

    Clinton-Dix had a great Sophomore season for Alabama where he notched 37 tackles, picked up five interceptions and had nine passes defensed. Clinton-Dix follows up former Alabama safeties Mark Barron and Robert Lester who have both moved on to the NFL. 

    3. LSU's Craig Loston - Key game - Saturday, September 28th @ Georgia

    Loston will be counted on to lead an LSU defense that will have to overcome the losses of Eric Reid, Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, Bennie Logan, Lavar Edwards, Kevin Minter and Tharold Simon, who all moved on to the NFL. Loston finished last season with 55 tackles, three tackles for loss, three interceptions and four passes defensed. 

    4. Louisville's Hakeem Smith - Key game - Thursday, December 5th @ Cincinnati 

    Smith was a force for the surprising Louisville defense last season as he notched 73 tackles, which was third-best for the Cardinals defense, also throwing in seven passes defensed and a forced fumble. 

    5. Ohio State's C.J. Barnett - Key game - Saturday, November 30th @ Michigan

    Barnett is listed as the top free safety prospect in the nation according to CBS Sports. He finished the 2012 season with 56 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions and five passes defensed. 

Jadeveon Clowney and the Top 5 Defensive Ends

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    Unless you haven't been watching college football any time in the last two years then you've probably heard of the top defensive end prospect in the country, South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney.

    He's basically playing the 2013 season as a farewell tour to college football and hopefully avoiding any kind of major injury. But here are the top five defensive end prospects heading into the 2013 college football season. 

    1. South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney - Key game - Show begins Thursday, August 29th vs North Carolina

    Clowney is going to be one of the most hyped prospects in recent NFL history. In case you haven't already figured that out. South Carolina head coach, Steve Spurrier, hasn't done anything to try and dissuade that kind of talk either, via Pro Football Talk. 

    “He could’ve come out of high school, probably, and gone straight to the NFL and played,” Spurrier said. “He’s just one of those rare guys who has tremendous strength and quickness and explosiveness. And he likes playing. He’s a good guy, he’s really a good teammate also.”

    Clowney finished the 2012 season with 54 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks two passes defensed and three forced fumbles.  

    2. Notre Dame's Stephen Tuitt - Key game - Saturday, September 7th @ Michigan

    Tuitt was one of the key defenders that led Notre Dame to the National Championship game a year ago against Alabama. Tuitt finished the season with 47 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and three forced fumbles. Tuitt stands at 6'6" and 303 pounds and has the versatility to play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. 

    3. Texas' Jackson Jeffcoat - Key game - Saturday, November 16th vs Oklahoma State

    Jeffcoat needs to show that he can stay healthy throughout the entire 2013 season after playing in just six games last season. When he's on the field, Jeffcoat is a force to deal with for opposing offenses. In just six games in 2012 Jeffcoat picked up 31 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. 

    4. South Florida's Aaron Lynch - Key game - Saturday, October 26th vs Louisville

    The former Notre Dame defensive end was forced to sit out the entire 2012 season after transferring from South Bend to South Florida. Lynch was a freshman All-American at Notre Dame in 2011 by notching 33 tackles and 5.5 sacks. The 6'6" 262-pound Lynch should make a difference right away and become a force Big East next season, even after sitting out 2012.

    5. Stanford's Trent Murphy - Key game - Thursday, November 7th vs Oregon

    Murphy had a standout 2012 season on a very talented Stanford defense. He picked up 56 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, one interception and a forced fumble. He led the Cardinal defense in sacks and tackles for loss. Murphy stands at 6'6" and 261 pounds and has lined up all over the defensive line in the Stanford 3-4 scheme. With a solid 2013 season Murphy could solidify a first-round selection. 


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