Football

15 Of The Best 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

15 Of The Best 2014 NFL Draft Prospects

Last Sunday, the 48th Super Bowl took place at MetLife Stadium in New York, signalling the end of our beloved 2013-2014 NFL season.

The Seattle Seahawks came away with the victory, routing the Denver Broncos 43-8.

While, for many, the end is a saddening realization for many to overcome, there are even more of those out there who can not wait for next season to begin. Teams will get to hit the redo button and try to turn things around for the franchise and fanbase, giving all those who love the NFL off-season something to look forward to.

Players will be evaluated on their collegiate careers and the potential that they offer with their size, strength, mentality, skills and how they fit into certain teams systems. There is so much that goes into the preparation and process for each team’s off-season, and each individual player’s resume, which makes for a truly exciting period for the NFL.

One of the most important and vital tools at a scout’s disposal is game film. Hours upon hours are spent studying and picking apart hundreds of prospects. Game film is the most accurate depiction of how a player handles themselves during live action and is really what helps define and shed light on a certain prospect. And while there are still so many pro day workouts and the NFL Combine to be held, and those are also vital, they can not essentially make or break a player.

It’s the time of year for mock drafts (I am currently working on my own) and player rankings, such as this one, to give fans an idea of what their team could do on draft day or who they might be targeting.

Here is an updated version of my very own power rankings, with a look at five new prospects.

By Dillon Smith – Lead NFL Draft Writer – @DillonSmithNFL

Prospects that have been moved up or down since my last update will be shown in parenthesis.

1. Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina

2. Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville

3. Jake Matthews OT Texas A&M

4. Sammy Watkins WR Clemson

5. Khalil Mack OLB Buffalo

6. (10) Derek Carr QB Fresno State

7. Anthony Barr OLB UCLA

8. Greg Robinson OT Auburn

9. Kony Ealy DE Missouri

10. (6) CJ Mosley ILB Alabama

 Smith1

11. Mike Evans WR – Texas A&M

Standing at 6ft 5in and weighing 225lbs, Mike Evans has all the physical attributes coaches look for in a wide receiver.

Evans produced quite an impressive collegiate career at A&M, grabbing a dozen touchdown receptions and raking up over 1300 yards receiving.

Playing with a quarterback like Johnny Manziel helps out a little bit but Evans is more than capable of holding his own. He’s a physical and aggressive receiver and uses his long arms, athleticism, and size to win jump ball battles and haul in tough catches.

While he may not have the speed or agility to beat defensive backs deep on a consistent basis, he could become a deadly red zone threat for the right team.

Smith2

12. Taylor Lewan OT – Michigan

With a lot of attention aimed towards Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews after the conclusion of the 2013-2014 college football season, Taylor Lewan seems to have lost a little bit of thunder but do not let this take away from his pro potential.

Lewan has the size and experience that help endorse his high draft stock. At 6ft 8in and 310lbs there is not much else to be desired from him physically.

Starting for the past several years for such a decorated program like Michigan reinforces that Lewan has played, and proven himself, against some of the best defenses in the country.

Smith3

13. Justin Gilbert CB – Oklahoma State

With Seattle having so much success with All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, teams are starting to take notice of bigger and more physically gifted defensive backs.

Justin Gilbert fits that mold of a stronger and bigger corner but is not limited to just having ideal size. Gilbert has been a playmaker for the Cowboys defense the past couple of years, shutting down receivers and causing turnovers frequently.

He had six interceptions over the course of the regular season and one in the AT&T Cotton Bowl against Missouri, returning two of those interceptions for touchdowns.

Size, athleticism, and the ability to create turnovers will have scouts and teams fighting for his services come draft day.

 Smith4

14. Jordan Matthews WR – Vanderbilt

Jordan Matthews has been a late riser for me recently, as further film study, combined with his performance during Senior Bowl week, having led me to believe that he is the real deal.

This is not to say that I wasn’t high on Matthews to begin with, as I had him within my Top 75 previous to the end of the season.

Matthews excels at locating the ball in the air and keeping his concentration in tight coverage to make the grab, using his strong hands and discipline to catch the ball away from his body and still bring it in. His route running needs a little more fine tuning but should get fixed with good coaching.

Size matchups tend to normally favour Matthews, who stands at 6ft 3in and, a slightly underweight, 205 lbs. While I said “slightly underweight”, I do not mean that he can’t be successful with his current weight – more that it would just be more beneficial if he got heavier.

Regardless, Matthews seems to be the most pro ready receiver in this years deep class at the position and should get taken off the board very early.

 Manziel

15. Johnny Manziel QB – Texas A&M

Johnny Football has been a sensation since arriving at College Station out of high school. Winning the Heisman his freshman year and jump starting the Aggies football program into a powerhouse are just a few of Manziel’s impressive accomplishments on his resume.

Manziel is known for his sporadic play and improvisation during live action that turn into huge and miraculous plays – but he won’t be able to get away with that at the next level.

A big concern for teams is his ability to properly control and manage games. We all know the Manziel can make the big plays but coaches want to see a quarterback who can steady their team and lead them down the field to make the score.

Also, Manziel’s mechanics are still a bit unrefined but he is making significant progress in that area, spending the past couple off seasons with quarterback guru George Whitfield.

Personally, I believe Johnny Manziel will continue to improve on his weaknesses and end up being a great quarterback in the NFL for years to come but whether or not it plays out that way will come down to how hard he works at his craft.

Look for Manziel to be drafted within the Top 10 of this year’s draft.

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