I wanted to do a big board and give my opinion who I believe are the top prospects in the draft. This is not a mock draft, or a projection of where players will be drafted. It's simply the players I rate as the top 32 players in the 2014 Draft. This ended up taking me waaay longer than I thought it would. Please enjoy.
1. Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina- No shock here. It was rumored before the season that Clowney was thinking about sitting out the season and not subjecting himself to a possible injury. He ended up playing, but his production numbers dropped off the proverbial cliff. In my opinion, I think Clowney didn't feel challenged week in and week out to play hard. Maybe that speaks to his character, but one this is for sure, he will be challenged every week in the NFL and I believe he will shine.
Comparable player- Julius Peppers with more burst around the edge.
2. Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo- A player once thought to be dominant because of the level of competition in the MAC, Mack changed his narrative by nearly beating Ohio State by himself.
Comparable Player- DeMarcus Ware with better coverage skills.
3. Greg Robinson OT Auburn- The "Dancing Bear" is an appropriate description of Robinson. Big, quick, agile, and physical. 6'5 330 with long arms and a nasty disposition. As the "spread" offense has become the staple for most offensive schemes across the country, it's unusual in this day and age to find a true mauler in the run game. Robinson might have a small adjustment period in pass protection, as he works on his "vertical" set.
Comparable Player- Walter Jones
4. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson- Explosive WR who plays much bigger than his 6'1" height. You don't find a lot of big play speed WR's who also do the little things well. Watkins has polish coming in and out of his breaks and makes it difficult for opposing DB's to get a read on the route. Watkins has tremendous "wiggle" in the quick screen game, great burst and explosiveness in his hips.The kid is just a playmaker.
Comparable player- A 6'1" version of Julio Jones.
5. Aaron Donald DT Pitt- His 4.68 40 time at the combine is just as much of a "wow" factor as Clowney's time. 6'1 285 is a little less than idea height, but Donald's reach at 32.5" inches is less than one inch shorter than Jake Mathews (6'5 1/2" ) 33.25" reach. This is important in the trenches, whomever strikes viciously for pad control wins. His reach will allow him to win more of those battles. He can probably put on another 10 pounds of weight on without sacrificing his quickness advantage. 35 reps at 225 and his unusually long reach are major plus factors for Donald. Also, his production cannot be ignored.
Comparable player- Warren Sapp.
6. Jake Mathews OT Texas A&M- Solid safe pick. Will play in the NFL for a very long time.
Comparable player- Joe Staley.
7. Louis Nix III NT Notre Dame- Might not be a great fit for Dallas, but thankfully for Nix, most of the league runs the 3-4 and everyone needs a NT that can hold down 'A' gap. He played a little inconsistent this year, but was an absolute beast during Notre Dame's 2012 run. I look for him to have a great pro career.
Comparable player- Vince Wilfork
8. Justin Gilbert CB OK State- Never gets hurt (cough, couch MoClay) and has top end speed. I believe he is scheme versatile, but probably not an idea Cover 2 guy. NFL ready and will be one of the better CB's in the NFL in 2-3 years.
Comparable Player- Sam Shields
9. Eric Ebron TE North Carolina- It will be interesting to see where he is selected. I love his frame and ability to stress coverages with his speed. I think he is the closest prospect to Vernon Davis that we have seen in a long time. Creative offensive coordinators will flex him out and create mismatches that give opposing DC's headaches. He is not Dustin Keller, who was a bit of a workout warrior at the combine. Ebron actually plays faster on tape than his 40 time would indicate.
Comparable Player- Duh, Vernon Davis
10. Marqise Lee WR USC- What a difference a year makes. If he had been in last years draft, he would have been a lock to go in the top 5. Desean Jackson type player (minus the attitude), but 3 inches taller, Displays the polish of a 6 year veteran on the route tree. He can take the top off a defense and also kill you in the quick screen game. He will be a very productive NFL player. One of the safest picks in the draft.
Comparable Players- Victor Cruz/DeSean Jackson
11. Zach Martin OT Notre Dame- Ironman player who rarely is on the ground and never gets hurt. As I mentioned in my earlier FanPost, he could be a sleeper for Dallas at 16. He can play OG and OT. Great technique, power, intelligence, and bend. I've heard him compared to Logan Mankins and I don't agree with that. Mankins is a nasty player. Martin is more cerebral and relies on his technique and athleticism instead of brute force.
Comparable Player- Evan Mathis
12. Dee Ford DE Auburn- I love his confidence and production. His most productive games came against the best competition. 2 Sacks against Texas A&M, 2 sacks in a close game vs Ole Miss, and 2 sacks in the National Title game. There is a place in the NFL for 6'2" 240 defensive ends who can bend around the edge and go get the QB. Let the debate on Dee Ford as a potential selection for Dallas at 16 commence.
Comparable Players - Robert Mathis/ Dwight Freeney
13. Mike Evans WR Texas A&M- Everyone on this blog is more than familiar with Evans. His height/speed ratio is off the charts. Not a lot of 6'5" 230 pound men can run in the low 4.5's. He also displays tremendous body control and is a natural going after the ball at it's highest point. I'd have him ranked higher, but his sideline demeanor in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl gave me some doubts. I didn't like how he went in the tank at the first sign of adversity. I'm hoping that was a one time thing, but he looked completely checked out.
Comparable Players- Plaxico Burress/ Vincent Jackson
14. Ra'shede HagemanDE Minnesota- Top 5 talent who didn't receive a lot of attention playing in obscurity up in Minnesota. I do agree with the national consensus that he is a Richard Seymour (6th overall pick) clone. Same height, same build, same 40 yard dash time. Time will tell if he finds the mental fortitude to play at a high level on every snap. His talent is undeniable and that is why I have him in the top 15. Hageman is the prototypical 3-4 DE (5 or 4i technique) and also a great fit as the 5 technique in the 4-3 Under.
Comparable Player- Richard Seymour
15. Tyler Lewan OT Michigan- Has top 10 talent based on size and athletic ability. After reading Dawn's article on Lewan, it appears character concerns are an issue. Nobody likes a guy who bully's a woman. However, the NFL has plenty of players who have done worse. Ben Rotherlisberger comes to mind...."allegedly"
Comparable Player- Jared Veldheer
16. Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State- Good size and loves to play physical football. Dennard was timed at 4.42 seconds on his first 40, a very good time for a 5'11" 200 pound CB. I love Mark Dantonio's style of defense. Dennard should be a plug n' play CB.
Comparable Player- Aqib Talib without the baggage.
17. Timmy Jernigan DT Florida State- Run stuffer who plays with great leverage and has an above average motor. As I mentioned in my original FanPost, he could be this years Sharif Floyd who was not a great fit for our current defense.
Comparable Player- Kevin Williams
18. CJ Moseley LB Roll Tide- I'm not crazy about Alabama players, but this kid could be the real deal. Great feet, smart disciplined player. Alabama LB's are sort of like LSU DT's. You think they are going to be world beaters, but they just never pan out. I'm thinking Moseley could be exception to the trend.
Comparable Player- Lavonte David
19. Stephon Tuitt DE Notre Dame- Another player that would have been selected higher if he had been in last years draft. A bit of an underachiever at times, but dominant when focused. A 3-4 DE (5 or 4i technique) or a 4-3 Under, 5 technique. I believe Tuitt will revert back to his 2012 play when he was virtually un-blockable.
Comparable Player- JJ Watt
20. Jimmy Garoppolo QB Eastern Illinois- The first QB on my board and I believe Jimmy will have the best career out of any QB in this draft. The low hanging fruit comparison is Tony Romo because they both played at EIU, but I believe Garoppolo is more in the mold of a Kurt Warner (you heard that comparison here first). Garoppolo carved up 1-A and 1-AA competition alike to the tune of 5,000 yards and 53 TD's in Baylor's no huddle- fast break offense. He can make all the throws and plays with nice confidence and moxy. Goes through his progression quickly and has pinpoint accuracy.
Comparable Players- Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers with less mobility in the pocket.
21. Calvin Pryor S Louisville- Biiiig let down after finding out he measured 3 inches shorter than listed height. That is not to say he can't eventually be elite like aJairus Byrd or Earl Thomas, but it knocks him down a few slots on my big board. I feel a little deceived, but is certainly the best Safety in very weak class .
Comparable Player- TJ Ward
22. Anthony Barr DE/OLB UCLA- Long and athletic. A few months ago was believed to give Clowney a run for the #1 overall pick. I believe he has been dinged because there isn't an obvious position for him. Barr had good production and ran well enough at the combine. I think he would be tremendous value in the low 20's.
Comparable Player- Jason Taylor
23. Hilarious Clinton Dix S Roll Tide- He has the 5 Star High School pedigree and played well at Alabama. Most of his big hits came against WR's and that doesn't make you a tough guy. We will see if he is as aggressive filling the hole with the Marshawn Lynch's of the world. Good coverage guy, but I just don't ever see him being elite.
Comparable Player- Malcolm Jenkins
24. Blake Bortles QB UCF- He will have a tough time fitting the ball in tight windows at the NFL level. His ball placement is erratic at times. I also thought he would run better at the combine. He ran a 4.93, which means he couldn't outrun most NFL defensive tackles. By comparison, Joe Flacco and Peyton Manning ran in the 4.8's and they are both traditional pocket passers. I only have him this high because I kind of feel the kid COULD be a winner in the right system. I don't believe he is ready to step in immediately and win at the NFL level.
Comparable Player- Jake Locker
25. Bradley Roby CB ThE Ohio State University- On pure athleticism, Roby has all the tools to be an elite shutdown corner. He needs to work on his eye discipline and technique, but he can flip his hips and run with anyone in coverage. Good size at nearly 6' 200.
Comparable Player- Joe Haden
26. Brandin Cooks WR Oregon State- Lit up the combine with a 4.33 40 yard dash and lit up opposing defenses the last 2 seasons in the PAC 12. Cooks is an Biletnikoff Award winner, who can hurt you in a number of different ways. This is turning out to be an exceptionally deep draft at WR. The Oregon State wideout set a Pac-12 single season record with 1,730 receiving yards in 2013. Cooks is a full 2 inches taller than Tavon Austin and has the same burst with better ball skills.
Comparable Player- Steve 'Might Mouse' Smith
27. Jordan Mathews WR Vanderbilt- 6'3 215 and ran a 4.46 at combine. Just like Mike Evans, I was shocked at the time he ran. I watched Mathews several times during the season and he absolutely dominated games, but I was concerned with his top-end speed and if he would be able to get separation at the NFL level. He answered that question and now his tape justifies him being taken in the 1st round.
Comparable Player- Brandon Marshall
28. Ryan Shazier WLB ThE Ohio State- I think Shazier could be a terror off the edge. A little light for the Will position, but has excellent speed and was very productive. Should be a very productive player in the NFL for many years.
Comparable Player- Donald Butler
28. Jerry Attaochu OLB Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech- An attacking up field OLB that is at his best getting after the QB (12 sacks). I believe his 1st year he will be used primarily as a situational player (2nd and long & 3rd and medium +). By his second season, he will be a force to be reckoned with as he gets coached up and the game slows down for him.
Comparable Player- Clay Mathews
29. Kony Ealy DE Missouri- Prototypical 4-3 DE who is tough against the run. He battles well with his hands and shows good initial burst. I don't ever think he will be an elite pass rusher, but he is a guy you can win with.
Comparable Player- Michael Bennett
30. Xavier Su'a-Filo OG UCLA- Played 40 games as a starter in the PAC 12 at multiple positions along the OL. Battle tested and durable. Has great burst coming out of his stance and plays with violent hands.
Comparable Player- Mike Iupati
31. Cyrus Kouandjio OT Roll Tide- A mountain of a man who plays a little top heavy at times. He does have a very high ceiling and could be a Pro Bowl talent down the road. Needs to clean up his technique.
Comparable Player- Brandon Albert
32. Chris Borland MLB Wisonson - Gets dinged for his size, but a very productive player. Didn't run very well at the combine, but I don't think his speed will be a liability at the next level because his recognition skills are excellent.
Comparable Player- Sean Lee