By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
Each NFL prospect will be examined fully before Roger Goodell reads their names. The Senior Bowl and Combine help scouts get a complete picture of a prospect’s ability to play football as well as his character and professionalism off the field. Until then, all we can go on is tape. Based on their performances to date as well as how their skill sets project at the next level I’ve ranked the top two offensive prospects at each position.
#1 QB Derek Carr, Fresno St.
Yes, I’m sure this ranking will surprise some people. Probably not because its Derek Carr but because its not Teddy Bridgewater (who comes in at #2). Clearly a tough call as both signal callers are poised to go in the top ten, Carr gets the slight edge because of his arm strength and Bridgewater’s slender frame. The Fresno St. quarterback has the biggest arm in the class unleashing both a potent deep ball and the velocity on intermediate routes necessary at the next level. His mobility isn’t at the level of Bridgewater but he’s not a stationary target for the defense either. While arm strength can be overvalued his maturity and character cannot.
#2 QB Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
One of the very few holes you can poke in his game is the lack of strength on his barely 200 pound frame (I don’t care what the program says). Will he be able to hold up against defenders far superior to what he’s seeing in the American Athletic Conference? We’ve seen RGIII set the league on fire and then struggle with injuries as well as the Rams Sam Bradford never reach his potential because of durability issues. What Teddy does boast is a will to win, more than enough arm strength, a fluid throwing motion, tremendous accuracy and the athleticism outside of the pocket to beat teams playing man coverage.
#1 RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
The former five star recruit has been passed on most running back rankings, but no other back has his combination of speed and power. Not only can he plant his foot and explode up field but his massive lower body allows him to power through arm tackles with ease. The one question is whether he can become a better receiver out of the backfield given his 9 career receptions.
#2 RB Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
It’s a very close race between Washington’s Bishop Sankey, Ohio St.’s Carlos Hyde, Arizona’s Kadeem Carey but the explosive Gordon has the most big play ability. Averaging over 8 yards per carry the speedy Badger has proven to be capable of providing that dynamic change of pace ability so valued in today’s two back league.
#1 WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
The electric Watkins is lethal in the open field showing sharp change of direction ability, quick acceleration and the elite top end speed to break away from a defense. Not only that but he has the size and ball skills to line up at split end, flanker and in the slot.
#2 WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
When you watch the 6’5 Evans track the ball and out jump defenders you can’t help but picture a power forward reaching up to snatch a rebound. His combination of long arms and tremendous strength reminds some of the Bucs Vincent Jackson. Lack of speed and the struggle to separate from defenders is concerning but he still projects as a dangerous red zone weapon. Plus, his blocking ability and core strength make him a versatile enough to play a hybrid tight end role as well.
#1 OT Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
Matthews has been able to move to the left side and impressively fill the void left by #2 overall selection Luke Joeckel. When you look for a potential franchise left tackle attributes like strength, length and quick feet are at a premium and Matthews has them all. It’s the mastery of his technique and overall consistency that gives him the edge over bigger and slightly more athletic prospects. His outstanding work ethic and pedigree are just the icing on the first round cake.
#2 OT Cameron Erving, Florida St.
Erving was a defensive tackle just a few years ago and is making a seamless transition to the offensive line. He has the requisite size and strength but its his quick feet and smooth athleticism for his size that stands out the most to scouts.
#1 OG Cyril Richardson, Baylor
During his Heisman winning season RGIII’s blindside was protected by the massive 330 pound Cyril Richardson. Bringing that tackle athleticism inside to pair with his guard worthy strength and bulk makes Richardson a potentially elite guard prospect.
#2 OG David Yankey, Stanford
Another former tackle for a top 2012 draft pick in Andrew Luck Yankey, like Richardson, goes from a decent tackle prospect to an elite guard prospect. Yankey doesn’t have the sheer bulk of Richardson but is extremely mobile and would fit perfectly in an up tempo zone blocking scheme due to his versatility.
#1 C Travis Swanson, Arkansas
The Razorback’s center has enough athletic ability and strength to warrant a first round look but is more of day two talent. Last year he was named Second-Team All-SEC selection in 2012 and could very well earn First Team honors as a senior this year.
#2 C Bryan Stork, Florida St.
Stork is another blocker who has improved each year and has the strength and run blocking prowess to get a look at guard as well as center.
#1 TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
The NFL is a passing league and Amaro is the prototype receiving tight end so in vogue. With his long arms and soft hands he’s able reel in passes outside his frame and his athletic ability and speed is evident in his ability to get open like a receiver. When you add to the equation his solid blocking skills Amaro looks like an immediate difference maker and top 15 selection.
#2 TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
There should be a quick disclaimer before bringing on the praise. Ebron drops far too many easy catches. If he can improve on that the sky is the limit. The Tar Heel tight end runs like a receiver and uses his tight end frame to high point the ball and brings in some really tough catches. His body control is incredible and has all the ability to be a dynamic receiving threat and really attack defenses up the seam. He is still developing as a blocker but the natural strength and understanding of leverage points to him having all the tools to be great.