By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
This is the cream of the crop. The most talented offensive prospects eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft. But that doesn’t necessarily make them the best overall.
Potential can be a like a mirage. An illusion that mystifies and intrigues but often leaves us with nothing. So is it purely a show to distract us from the prospects’ real value? Maybe, but isn’t it fun? Rarely does an elite athlete clearly also possess all the necessary intangibles to be great.
QB Braxton Miller, Ohio St.
It’s a reasonably tough argument to make given the guy is “listed” at 6’2, is currently dealing with injuries, and has never had a completion percentage better than 58% for a season. But again, this is about potential. The leap from talented college athlete to successful pro is in a lot of cases a big one. In a lot of cases its never made.
Guys like JaMarcus Russell, Akili Smith and Vince Young would have made this list in some capacity but as NFL quarterbacks they were or are major disappointments. I hope Braxton doesn’t end up down a similar path, but lets be more optimistic. That’s the point of this whole list anyways.
From a talent perspective I think Miller is special. He has already shown he can rip apart a defense on the ground, showing the power and agility of a running back. He is a 4.4 guy, and clearly one of the fastest and most athletic quarterbacks eligible for the 2014 Draft. But his arm is elite as well. He can fire it with velocity to all levels and unleashes a nice deep ball at times too. Put it together and the sky is the limit, with some major work to be done as well to make it happen.
RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Talk about the whole package, Seastrunk has burner speed (nfldraftscout.com gives him a projected 4.45, but I’ve seen 4.3 rumors too), great vision and strength to power arm tackles. Oh, and add to that confidence. Steve Greenberg of the Sporting News heard him say “I feel like there’s no back who can do what I do. I know I’m the fastest back in the country. I know I’m the best back in the country. Nobody’s going to work harder.”
The former Blue Chip Oregon recruit has a bright future ahead of him. He seems to be aptly named as his legs look like tree trunks, and they allow him to explode into high gear and also bull over smaller defensive backs. That also gives him big upside as a blocker. While he only caught 9 balls last year he has some natural receiving skills. If he’s being sincere about his work ethic, this guy could become an All-Pro with time.
WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
When you rack up over 1,400 yards from scrimmage, and provide some of the most electric returns in college football you get noticed. When you do it as a true freshman you’re Sammy Watkins. Sure he’s regressed (although that sounds a bit harsh) since that breakout campaign, but he didn’t lose the explosiveness or the attention of pro scouts. Blessed with soft hands and super quick feet, the 6’1 frame he boasts makes him more than a “speed” guy limited to bubble screens and return duties. Watkins will draw some maturity questions marks, but he’s a top five overall talent.
WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
“He’s as talented a wide receiver as we’ve got. He’s the fastest guy on the team. He’s big, he provides mismatches.” When that comment comes from offensive guru Chad Morris, who has fellow First Teamer and athletic freak Sammy Watkins on the roster, you know the talent is big time. Faster than Watkins? Watkins is one of the fastest players in the nation and Bryant is 6’5. Yes, 6’5! Of course that leap from potential to production is vast, but someone 6’5 with a 35 inch vertical has a chance to make it successfully.
WR Charone Peake, Clemson
Really, I’m not a Clemson fan. But when you have talent like this its hard to comprehend. Of course Peake is out with an ACL injury but imagine how potent the Tigers offense would have been had the rising Junior been healthy. I would have easily went with another player to avoid a Clemson monopoly but not only is Peake fast, 4.4 speed, 6’3 and long but also a solid 205 pounds.
OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
Richardson is a big man with quick feet, which for an offensive tackle is everything you could ask for. I think he has better feet and therefore more upside than the heralded Cyrus Kouandjo of Alabama. So far this year he’s been able to overwhelm his opponents and looks every bit of a potential franchise left tackle. Time will tell, but consistency and technique can be taught. Richardson’s size and athleticism can’t.
OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor
Quick enough to be an effective blindside protector for RGIII Richardson is more suited to play his current guard position at the next level. Richardson has the massive frame to move defenders off the ball and the borderline or average tackle athleticism that translates into elite guard athleticism. He also plays with great balance and could be a future first round pick if he continues to develop.
C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
I would be shocked if Ikard made a Lane Johnson like jump to the top ten, but Sooners coaches seem to think that a similar (but surely less meteoric) rise through the process is possible. Ikard is big enough for the center position and has great mobility to play in a zone blocking scheme. I’m a fan of pulling the center in the run game and Ikard would be an ideal candidate to do that while also handling bigger defenders with his strength.
OG La’el Collins, LSU
Guards need to be big, physical and able to move tackles off the line of scrimmage. But for them to be elite it requires athleticism to be able pull and function in a variety of schemes. The reason converted college tackles are often the best guard prospects is precisely for that reason. Collins isn’t the most light footed guy out there, but he’s done a splendid job protecting Zach Mettenberger’s blind side as the starting left tackle for the Tigers. So with that combination of tackle quickness and movement skills yet the bulk and strength of a guard Collins makes it on the first team.
OT Seantrel Henderson, Miami
It’s immediately evident when watching Henderson why he was a five star recruit out of high school. A man that big and strong shouldn’t move so effortlessly. There are plenty of questions about maturity, health and work ethic but the tools are darn near elite status. The best case scenario is that he becomes a do it all tackle both neutralizing edge rushers in the passing game and paving the way for big gains on the ground. If he gets to that level he really, truly does have All-Pro level potential.
TE Eric Ebron, UNC
Ebron has the build and athleticism of a receiver but surprisingly shows huge upside not only as a pass catching threat but as a blocker. That makes him highly coveted as that combination is as elusive as any and something scouts crave in an every down tight end. That being said he needs to improve his consistency in catching the ball as he drops far too many passes at this point. The potential to be great is there, and if the work is put in he become a first round pick and what many scouts are calling a Vernon Davis 2.0.