Without delaying this any longer, I've decided to finally release some of my personal draft rankings for the 2014 NFL Draft. Originally I wanted to make this board three rounds, but found that it was too time consuming and decided to release my first round grades.
If I ever get an opportunity to finish the second and third round grades, I would consider shortening the first round grades to 24-26, so some of these players towards the bottom of the board would fall into that second round category.
Last year I changed my grading format and ranked players according to the Dallas Cowboys' needs. That was a big mistake and it forced me to window dress my board, I will never handcuff myself to ranking according to need and opted to go for straight talent this year. The ultimate drafting philosophy should consist of drafting for need and talent, but if you are assembling a draft board, grade and rank the players according to their talent level. This was a lesson learned last year and going forward I will be using the format that I used in 2011 and 2012.
|The Top 32|
|1.Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina*: Complete stud, but is the heart and desire there to become more than just a pass rushing specialist and actually become a the type of defensive end who excels in all areas of the game?|
2.Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo: Complete player with all the goods, but may be better in the 3-4. I thought Melvin Ingram would be a beast, but Mack is a superior prospect and could finally become the hybrid player who is the centerpiece of a defense. I nearly want to put him at #1 due to Clowney's lack of motivation. By the end of this process, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him overtake Clowney as my #1 ranked player.
|3.Greg Robinson OT Auburn*: Can completely take you out of the game and manhandle defensive lineman.|
|4.Sammy Watkins WR Clemson*: Top playmaker in the draft, there are concerns about his ability to become more than a short route runner.|
5.Blake Bortles QB Central Florida*: Safest QB in the draft, strong arm and athletic. May be the next Big Ben.
|6.Aaron Donald DT Pittsburgh: Been on this guy before the NFL Combine, absolute beast and his size is not a concern for my tastes.|
|7.Anthony Barr DE UCLA: Not exactly DeMarcus Ware, but similar player with high upside and scheme versatility.|
8.Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M: Safe offensive lineman, his limited left tackle experience is concerning and I would've rated Lewan over him but Matthews has no character concerns and is the safer prospect.
|9.Timmy Jernigan DT Florida State: Maybe just a one-technique DT, but a damn good one with the talent to be much more.|
10.Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville*: Rapidly falling down my board, has the form and mechanics, but mentally may not be a pro QB. From what I saw, he didn't have many weapons in college and really made whoever was around him look good.
|11.Mike Evans WR Texas A&M*: Reminds me of Vincent Jackson and will be a huge problem for cornerbacks in the NFL.|
12.Eric Ebron TE UNC*: Could be the next Antonio Gates, has the size and athleticism to be a monster and matchup nightmare.
|13.Justin Gilbert CB Oklahoma State: Not as complete as Dennard, but size, speed and ball skills are hard to come by.|
|14.Darqueze Dennard CB Michigan State: By far the most complete CB in the draft. Safe pick, but limited upside.|
|15.C.J. Mosley LB Alabama: One of the best football players in the draft, needs to stay healthy and could be a highly productive LB.|
|16.Taylor Lewan OT Michigan: If not for the character concerns, would be in my top ten. Serious red flags raised by the rumors circulating his college career.|
|17.Calvin Pryor S Louisville*: Best safety in the draft,a true thumper but with underrated range and ball skills. Reminds me of Dashon Goldson.|
18.Hasean Clinton-Dix S Alabama*: Has the range and cover skills to be the next Antrel Rolle, could also be a bust if not in the right defense, played around a lot of talent in college and needs to prove he can do it on his own.
|19.Kony Ealy DE Missouri*: Hard to figure out, but the skill set and athleticism is there to be a legit pass rusher.|
|20.Jason Verrett CB TCU: Undersized, but one of the better football players in the draft. A higher character Janoris Jenkins.|
|21.Zack Martin OT Notre Dame: Extremely safe pick, can play multiple positions on the line but has a low ceiling.|
|22.Dee Ford DE Auburn: Undersized pass rusher who may be limited to the 3-4, could also be another Dwight Freeney.|
|23.Louis Nix DT Notre Dame*: Strictly a physical space eater, but does have disruption ability due to his rare athleticism for man of his size.|
|24.RaShede Hageman DT Minnesota: Reminds me of Muhammad Wilkerson, tailor made for five-technique, needs to show more heart and dedication before he comes close to that comparison.|
|25.Ryan Shazier OLB Ohio State*: Speedy linebacker who could be the next Lavonte David, also could be a big bust this high in the draft.|
|26.Scott Crichton DE Oregon State*: Good size and speed, really good tape. Underrated player who could sneak into the late first round.|
|27.Marqise Lee WR USC*: Didn't run as well as I thought he would, but a silky smooth route runner with big play ability. Low on my board due to previous USC busts.|
|28.Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M*: Ultimate risk of the draft, but could become a franchise QB. Size concerns and arm strength. Love the college player, not sure he is an NFL QB.|
|29.Bradley Roby CB Ohio State*: Character concerns drop him here, if not he has the tools to become a #1 CB.|
|30.Jimmy Ward S Northern Illinois: Late riser, good tape and despite his size he looks the part of an NFL safety. Smooth athlete with range, could be the bargain of the draft.|
|31.Odell Beckham Jr WR LSU*: Has the athleticism to become a very dangerous playmaker in the NFL, but must become more consistent first.|
|32.Kelvin Benjamin WR Florida State*: Massive WR that could be the next Alshon Jeffery, bust potential too.|
Many feel this is the deepest draft class in recent memory, but I disagree with that. After the second round, there will not be the type of talent we saw in the last couple draft classes. This is an extremely weak defensive end class, but there are some true talents at defensive tackle. Cornerback and wide receiver may boast the most depth, if the opportunity presents itself Dallas should look to add another wide receiver.
After the signing of Henry Melton, some believe that defensive tackle is out of the running now. I strongly disagree with that sentiment because our new three-techinque is the only legitimate and established pass rusher at defensive tackle on the roster. If Donald or Jernigan fall to 16, Dallas could come away with a true strength on the interior of their defensive line.
Thanks to the NFL pushing back the draft until May, we still have a long time to discuss and analyze what the Cowboys can do. For now, I leave you with my top 32 players. Have at it in the comments and be sure to drop me a comment on what I got right and what I got wrong.
* It is extremely late and if you find any typos or grammatical errors, then I apologize in advance