Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Top 100 NFL draft prospects
A familiar face at No. 1, with some big-name QBs rounding out the list
April 22, 2014
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
As many who have ordered my draft guide over the past 35 years know, I go well past the Big Board when it comes to lining up prospects. That's why, when the draft is over, I'll still have best available options scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen.
I still have more work to do deeper in my rankings, but in the meantime, I wanted to share an initial top 100 as the draft approaches. I'll have another update of this list shortly before the draft.
A few quick notes:
• I've limited the analysis on each guy so it's a little easier to consume.
• An asterisk denotes a junior at the time of draft entry; two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore.
With that, here are the top 100 draft prospects:
1. *Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Question his raw productivity stats, but the tape tells another story. Not a lock at No. 1, but I think he belongs there.
2. *Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The more I watch him, the more I see a special difference-maker on Sundays.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Still wouldn't shock me if he went No. 1. His athleticism and versatility limit questions about his competition level.
4. **Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn: The top tackle prospect in a class that isn't short on them. If he continues to improve, he could be really special.
5. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Long and athletic, he's also a good run-blocker. Would he have gone No. 1 last year? It's possible.
6. **Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: As dominating in the air and at the (high) catch point as any receiver we've seen in recent years.
7. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Over the past two seasons, he has mostly dominated at both left and right tackle. That's a high floor.
8. *Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: Value is up in my opinion because this type of talent is so coveted, and he's clearly the best version in the draft.
9. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama: Special in coverage with great instincts and range. Could dip a bit due to his injury history.
10. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame: Lacks ideal length at left tackle, but his athleticism makes up for it.
11. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh: Donald's ability to disrupt from the interior with quickness, power and violent hands is unmatched in this draft.
12. *Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State:Athletically, he's a mirror of Tavon Austin from last season, and he's a little bigger. Super productive.
13. *Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU: Explosive runner with short-area quickness and an ability to create space but also make plays in traffic.
14. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State: Superior athlete with good size. He can allow too much separation at times, but he's fast enough that it rarely matters.
15. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State: The most versatile cornerback in the draft, Dennard brings a physical edge.
16. *Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: Just ahead of the other top quarterbacks because of his ability to anticipate and deliver with accuracy. Durability concerns are there, though.
17. *Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida: I certainly buy into his ceiling as a superior athlete with great pocket instincts, but will the ball accuracy improve?
18. **Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Electrifying playmaker who loves the game and competes. His game translates, but he'll need to protect himself better.
19. *Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: A fluid mover with very good range, he can cover a lot of ground and should be the top safety taken.
20. *Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: One of my favorite players in the draft, Shazier has superior instincts and is a perfect fit as a 4-3 WLB.
21. *Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville: A playmaker from the safety position, Pryor can cover but also come downhill with force and make the big hit.
22. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Has dropped some because the instincts don't match the production, but hey, it's a lot of production.
23. *Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Hampered by a sore knee and inconsistency in catching the ball in 2013, but Lee is still a first-round talent.
24. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU: Jumped up my board after I spent more time watching him on tape. Just looks like he's playing faster than everyone else.
25. Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin: He doesn't pass the eye test for some, but put a helmet on him and you see an immediate NFL starter.
26. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State: A quick release and the ability to hit his targets quickly and accurately underneath and on intermediate throws stand out.
27. **Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State: Still more of a physical talent than a refined football player, but Benjamin is a wide receiver in a tight end's body and can cause matchup problems.
28. *Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame: Inconsistency was an issue in 2013, but so was a nagging injury that slowed him down. When healthy, he can thrive.
29. *Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana: I'm with the rest of the market on Latimer, as I didn't have him high enough based on what he showed in 2013.
30. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State: I don't think this reflects his draft position, but early in Round 2 wouldn't offend me for the best running back in the draft.
31. **Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State: A bigger frame than some realize, Adams does a good job of snatching the ball away from his body, and he wins battles for the ball.
32. *Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Has the potential to be great if he can be consistent, and consistently healthy.
33. *Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State: I love Jernigan after he gets started, but he can be oddly slow off the snap. Very good and still developing.
34. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State: Effective as both a run- and pass-blocker, and 52 starts offers plenty of certainty about what you're getting.
35. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: He can dominate and then disappear, but he's a high-end athlete at this size and can get better as a convert to defense.
36. *David Yankey, G, Stanford: Not a dominating guard but an effective one who moves well for his size and can pull effectively. Fit matters.
37. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU: An explosive mover who doesn't let a lack of length keep him from being consistently effective.
38. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia: Has great length for the position and creates a long road around him, but only intermittently dominant.
39. *Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Explosive and feisty, Roby is a better athlete than he is a technician, but the potential is enticing.
40. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Wouldn't surprise me at all if he goes in Round 1. A bigger player at a position seemingly every team needs.
41. *Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame: He's close to unique in this draft given his frame. Just hope he can put it all together consistently.
42. *Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA: Have seem him unfairly maligned as sluggish; he moves well and creates movement.
43. *Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri: Gains some value because of positional scarcity. Ealy has the frame to play 4-3 defensive end.
44. *Marcus Martin, C, USC: Have projected him as high as late Round 1, but likelier a Round 2 fit as the draft's top center on the board.
45. Dee Ford, OLB, Auburn: Explosive off the edge, Ford can turn the corner on some pretty good tackles. A first-round possibility.
46. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois: I'd be shocked if he's around past Round 2. Not a certain starter, but he could develop into one.
47. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: More explosive than many believed, Matthews is a reliable hands-catcher who can hit another gear after the catch.
48. *Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: A shifty runner who uses good vision to find small seams and keep his weight headed downhill. Good hands.
49. *Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State: One of the better pure pass-rushers in the class, but he's a tweener in terms of system fit.
50. Jimmie Ward, S, Northern Illinois: I'm not sure there's a better cover safety in the draft in terms of instincts and breaking quickly on the ball path.
51. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama: Really accurate underneath with success in throwing the deep ball even if the big arm isn't there. Underrated mover outside the pocket too.
52. Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee: His teammate got a lot of the press this season, but James was more consistent and was rarely beaten at right tackle.
53. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech: He can really close when he gets a path to the passer. I see him as a second-round pick.
54. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State: A versatile defender, Joyner can handle the slot or drop to safety. What he lacks in size he makes up for with instincts.
55. *Tre Mason, RB, Auburn: Runs low, bounces off contact and has a good eye for the seam. Isn't afraid to protect his quarterback.
56. *Bruce Ellington, WR, South Carolina: Ellington isn't big at 5-foot-9, but he eats up space with his speed and will work through contact.
57. Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State: Could be the top center taken, as there's a split on him and Martin. Richburg also could be an effective guard. Moves very well.
58. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford: Has the full repertoire as a pass-rusher; the question is ceiling for this experienced edge rusher.
59. Dri Archer, RB, Kent State: The fastest player in the draft, the pint-sized Archer will getDarren Sproles comps, as he'll be used all over.
60. *Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU: He doesn't bring the speed element, but Landry has fantastic hands, makes contested catches and will throw a mean block.
61. *Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: Still more of a physical specimen than a refined talent, Richardson can be sloppy, but he could be a steal if he cleans it up.
62. Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh: The onetime Rutgers starter had his ups and downs behind some bad blocking in 2013, but he has a strong arm and starting upside.
63. *Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Huge at 6-5 and 260-plus pounds, he can make catches down the field but isn't explosive enough to separate consistently.
64. Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State: Could be a steal because he's a better player than he is an athlete at a position where measurables matter.
65. *Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson: Hidden somewhat behind the dominance of Watkins, Bryant has great length and has shined in workouts.
66. *Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame: Has the size to be an effective blocker, not merely a tight end who splits out and doesn't block much, but he needs work as a pass-catcher.
67. Joel Bitonio, G, Nevada: Moves up on versatility, as he can play pretty much anywhere you need, and has a mean streak as a run-blocker.
68. Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State: Has good instincts and will absolutely light up a ball carrier (legally). Not great in coverage, but doesn't get beat a lot.
69. **Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU: At 230-plus pounds, he can get up to speed quickly, bounce off contact and has a spin move to avoid tackles.
70. Keith McGill, CB, Utah: Could see a draft-day boost based on big size for a corner (6-3), but he needs work on the technique side.
71. Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia: A versatile performer, Sims may have the best hands in the draft coming out of the backfield. I'd put him in Round 3.
72. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska: The onetime receiver has elite length at 6-3 but could use work in his ability to mirror and move with receivers.
73. *Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers: Height/weight/speed alert: Coleman is a full 6-6 and 225-plus pounds and can still run away from people.
74. *Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech: A good athlete for the position, he's best used split out because there's no real experience as a blocker. Good length at 6-5.
75. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon: Not as explosive as some others in this draft, but Huff fights through contact and will make contested catches.
76. *Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi: He had an inconsistent year, but Moncrief is a major physical talent with 4.40 speed at 220-plus pounds.
77. Billy Turner, OT, North Dakota State: Was dominant on his level but will need technical work. Still, he's a potential steal on Day 3.
78. Telvin Smith, OLB, Florida State: His tape should have him higher, but Smith played linebacker at less than 220 pounds. Not quite a Lavonte David, but it's a fair size comp.
79. Brandon Thomas, G, Clemson: A knee injury during workouts could keep him from contributing in 2014. Could be a great guard, though he has good tape at tackle.
80. Terrence Brooks, S, Florida State: Reads the game well and has both good instincts and a quick route to the ball; he just needs to wrap up more consistently.
81. *De'Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon: Elite explosiveness when the pads are on; it's just a matter of how many touches a team can give him.
82. Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming: Lost a bit in a deep wide receiver class, Herron has a second gear with the ball in his hands, but he lacks size.
83. *Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State: Not explosive, but capable of going up and making the tough catch through defenders.
84. Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville: A nice third-down pass-rush option, Smith creates disruption with his quickness off the edge. Had 14.5 sacks last season.
85. Lamin Barrow, OLB, LSU: Isn't a big linebacker, but he moves well through traffic and has a good sense of spacing when he's in zone.
86. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma: He tore his ACL at the Senior Bowl but is already moving well and could be playing for someone late in 2014.
87. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Has the physical traits of an elite tight end prospect, but despite a couple of so-so years at quarterback, he's worth a look there.
88. Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama: Could be a sleeper. Has good length and above-average speed.
89. Brent Urban, DL, Virginia: Has great length at 6-5 with 34-inch arms; he can jolt defenders and both penetrate and disrupt passing lanes.
90. Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana: Explodes to the ball when he sees the route as the play develops in front of him. Lacks ideal size.
91. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood: A small-college sleeper now quite well-known to most, Desir has good length in a time when that's coveted at cornerback.
92. Andre Williams, RB, Boston College: Highly productive and offers good size at 230-plus pounds, but doesn't do much to make people miss.
93. *Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado: A playmaker who can eat up space with his acceleration, he is just lacking in bulk and could struggle with the NFL's brand of corner.
94. *Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina: Isn't a great mover, but he has exceptional strength to turn defenders and get to the linebackers.
95. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State: A wide body who can hold up at the point and does a good job of flowing to the ball.
96. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: Accuracy and intangibles are there, even if arm strength and ceiling questions exist. Wouldn't surprise me if he finds a way to a starting job at some point.
97. *Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor: An explosive athlete, he can spend too much time looking for the big play and needs to play more north and south.
98. *Dominique Easley, DT, Florida: Has the tape of a high first-round pick, but the injury history is too significant not to push him well down the board. He'll be tempting in Round 2 if you believe he can stay on the field. Special potential.
99. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU: Doesn't move well, but has maybe the best arm strength in the draft and could succeed in a good system (with good blocking).
100. Terrance Mitchell, CB, Oregon: Has good quickness and a playmaker's instincts; dropped a little due to average top-end speed. Now a potential steal.