By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
It was a wild ride and before we transition to 2015 let’s take a look back at the 2014 NFL Draft. All rankings and opinions are mine not necessarily of NEPD.
My Final Big Board:
1. Jadaveon Clowney, DE South Carolina
2. Sammy Watkins, WR Clemson
3. Greg Robinson, OT Auburn
4. Khalil Mack, OLB Buffalo
5. Jake Matthews, OT Texas A&M
6. Odell Beckham Jr., WR LSU
7. Blake Bortles, QB UCF
8. Mike Evans, WR Texas A&M
9. Aaron Donald, DT Pitt
10. Jason Verrett, CB TCU
11. Taylor Lewan, OT Michigan
12. Lamarcus Joyner, DB FSU
13. Justin Gilbert, CB OK St.
14. CJ Mosley, ILB Alabama
15. Anthony Barr, OLB UCLA
16. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S Alabama
17. Kyle Fuller, CB Virginia Tech
18. Ryan Shazier, OLB Ohio St
19. Darqueze Dennard, CB Michigan St.
20. Brandin Cooks, WR Oregon St.
21. Marqise Lee, WR USC
22. Jimmie Ward, S Northern Illinois
23. Zack Martin, OL Notre Dame
24. Eric Ebron, TE UNC
25. Teddy Bridgewater, QB Louisville
26. Kelvin Benjamin, WR FSU
27. Jarvis Landry, WR LSU
28. Calvin Pryor, S Louisviille
29. Louis Nix III, DT Notre Dame
30. Stephon Tuitt, DL Notre Dame
31. Derek Carr, QB Fresno St.
32. Joel Bitonio, OL Nevada
33. JaWuan James, OT Tennessee
34. Jordan Matthews, WR Vanderbilt
35. Cody Latimer, WR Indiana
36. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB Georgia Tech
37. Dee Ford, Edge Rusher Auburn
38. Xavier Sua’-Filo, OG UCLA
39. Demarcus Lawrence, OLB Boise St.
40. Troy Niklas, TE Notre Dame
41. Jace Amaro, TE Texas A&M
42. Devante Adams, WR Fresno St.
43. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT Alabama
44. Kareem Martin, DE UNC
45. Morgan Moses, OT Virginia
46. Paul Richardson, WR Colorado
47. Kony Ealy, Edge Rusher Mizzou
48. Gabe Jackson, OG Miss St.
49. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington
50. Johnny Manziel, QB Texas A&M
51. Will Sutton, DT ASU
52. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Eastern Illinois
53. Bradley Roby, CB Ohio St.
54. Marcus Smith, Edge Rusher Louisville
55. Kyle Van Noy, OLB BYU
56. Bishop Sankey, RB Washington
57. Telvin Smith, OLB FSU
58. Carlos Hyde, RB Ohio St.
59. Jeremy Hill, RB LSU
60. RaShede Hageman, DL Minnesota
1. Jadaveon Clowney, DE South Carolina – Texans
Once in a generation type talent.
4. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson – Bills
The reason I like this pick so much is because the Bills recognized Watkins is a premium talent and a bona fide offensive threat and wanted to secure that caliber player to build with. So often we over-analyze and make definitive statement about prospects when its honestly all a crap shoot. Assistant GM for the Ravens Eric DeCosta said “We look at the draft as, in some respects, a luck-driven process. The more picks you have, the more chances you have to get a good player,” Although it seems counter intuitive in this case a dynamic player maker is actually a very safe pick and in today’s NFL you need guys to catch the ball and stress the defense. You know what you get with Watkins and its pretty darn good. Giving up what some would consider a lot to get one player you know will contribute is a smart philosophy, because the Bills really didn’t do what most people feel is smart and package more, lower quality picks for one premium pick. Not to get too off track but that approach has been labeled as illogical by most analytics as the above article references. The reason this situation is different is all opinion. In my opinion, and obviously Doug Whaley and company’s, is that Watkins is a can’t miss prospect who will impact the team’s performance. The grade of A+ is more indicative of the value Buffalo received picking Sammy Watkins at #4 and much less of what they gave up to get there. Is Odell Beckham, the #6 player on my board, so far behind Watkins to require losing a first rounder next year? Probably not, but if you feel 98% confident that Watkins will be a play-maker at the next level (and I know I do) then its hard to argue.
41. Lamarcus Joyner, S/CB, Florida State – Rams
I’m a huge fan of Joyner who, despite clear limitations, makes plays on the football field. He doesn’t have the smooth athleticism to flip his hips effortlessly or the raw speed to chase faster receivers down the field. And of course he is only 5’8 which makes covering bigger possession receivers a tough task. All of that being said, I think Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com said it perfectly: he has “good competitive playing speed — runs as fast as he needs to”. So while all of the measureables aren’t what evaluators would call prototypical, he plays hard and understands the game to a point where he is a step ahead of the play. Joyner has great range, the versatility to play as a nickleback over slot receivers, an outside corner against smaller receivers and as both a deep centerfielding safety or in the box.
63. Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU – Dolphins
How does a productive, tough, and reliable receiver who has excellent hand eye coordination (see any number of his highlight reel catches), huge hands (10 1/4”), quick feet and runs nuanced routes go #63 overall? Running a 4.77 40 will do that. Posting a 28.5 inch vertical doesn’t help either. That is the effect combine numbers can have on a prospect’s value. I’m as big on using how well athletes test to determine their value as anyone, but you need to know when to keep it in perspective. If a prospect doesn’t have the fundamentals down, then yes how athletic, strong and big they are is important because if they ever get the little details mastered they have the talent to excel. But when a player’s position related skills are top notch, does it really matter how high they jump or fast they run if those attributes are not directly related to excelling at the position?
83. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame – Texans
It’s awfully tough to find a man the size of Nix (331 lb) move so smoothly but that size does come with a risk. That risk is conditioning and the main reason (since I can’t find any other) Nix slipped to the third round. When he’s on the field and with a full tank he’s disruptive, splitting the gaps between linemen and also anchoring in the run game just like an elite defensive tackle. Against Alabama in the 2013 National Championship Nix manhandled a Bama line full of future pros and looked borderline unblockable but like his line mate Stephon Tuitt, he failed to transfer his terrific play in 2012-13 to his final season. Not only is his talent at a top 15 level, but the minimal risk associated with a third rounder makes this selection tremendous.
84. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina – Arizona
Martin has always intrigued scouts with his long frame and overall athleticism but after he competed in Indy his potential was certified. His 35” arms were expected but at 6’6 272 lb pound frame showed good speed (4.72) and great burst and explosiveness (35.5” vert, and 10’9” broad) that didn’t always seem to show up on the tape. Part of the issues could be due to fixable habits like how he loses leverage quickly off the snap and fails to use his length when battling hand to hand. If those technique lapses are corrected defensive coordinators will have themselves a long, rangy 4-3 end with a whole lot of untapped talent to work with.
97. Dri Archer, RB/OW, Kent St – Steelers
The Steelers had a terrific draft, picking up players who fit their system on defense (Stephon Tuitt, Daniel McCullers) and low risk high reward selections (Martavis Bryant) but snagging the fastest player in the draft who was a proven play-maker, albeit at a mid major, will instantly boost an offense still looking for a new Mike Wallace type weapon. Does Archer have deficiencies with a limited skill set? Sure, but a player with that explosive potential gives an offense the juice it needs to stretch the defense.
153. Cyril Richardson, G, Baylor – Bills
After successfully protecting RGIII’s blindside as a sophomore ultimately being taken in the 5th round might be disappointing. Richardson was a potential first round guard prospect going into 2013 but the added weight he put on put a damper on his stock. By most accounts, including the esteemed Gil Brandt, he shed considerable weight before his pro day and looks much more athletic. As a big, powerful lineman with surprising foot speed he could step right in at guard and become a major upgrade over last years ensemble.
169. Ronald Powell, OLB, Florida – Saints
A former blue chip recruit, Powell has gone through plenty of setbacks from injuries to maturity/reality checks while finding himself in Gainesville. By most accounts he’s matured and ready to be a pro which is a great sign for the Saints. As an edge defender Powell lacks the instincts and awareness to overcome his short arms and average functional strength, but his athleticism is apparent. Blessed with elite agility he can change directions in a flash to stunt across the line, pull an inside move past an offensive tackle and track down backs trying to weave their way through traffic. There is some risk as his motor and dedication are not ideal, but there is very raw talent to work with, and if Rob Ryan can use his own high intensity level to set a fire under Powell New Orleans might just find a Pro Bowler.
175. John Urschel, G, Penn State – Ravens
Urschel tested very well athletically despite a slow 40 (see my combine analysis) and is probably the smartest dude in the draft winning the “Academic Heisman”. There is a big difference between playing athletically and testing out well, which is most likely why he fell so far, but the tape is pretty solid overall. The 4.0 student with a Master’s Degree in Mathematics moves well laterally and with more coaching could more effectively utilize good length (33” arms) and huge hands (10 3/8”) to control his opponents on the interior. To get one of the better players in space among the interior linemen is great, but when you know his proven study habits will rub off and he could literally coach the team from the field it’s a safe and prudent selection.
186. Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor – Redskins
This year’s running back class is a tough one to pin down. You have talented bigger backs like Jeremy Hill and Carlos Hyde, do it all smaller backs like Ka’Deem Carey and Bishop Sankey and workhorses like Tre Mason and Andre Williams. But are any of them as explosive as Seastrunk? His 4.51 was average but his ridiculous 41.5” vertical and 11.2” broad jumps were far better than any other running back in Indy. Nowadays teams look for running backs with a defined skill set to use in a rotation. Any team that wants an element of speed, explosiveness and burst to complement a bigger back, say Alfred Morris, has just what they are looking for.
206. Jemea Thomas, CB, Georgia Tech – Patriots
Thomas has some intriguing skills and the versatility of a typical Belichik selection and could be used much the way Devin McCourty was playing both corner and safety. The undersized former Yellow Jacket hits with the thunder of an in the box safety and is a solid turnover producer. He won’t be an every down outside corner with his limited frame becoming a mismatch (5’9 192 lb) but deployed strategically across the defense, mostly as a nickle corner and hybrid safety, he can help throw different looks at the offense without tipping your hand.
213. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson – Jets
It’s been a long, long time since those foolish, misinformed draftniks thought Boyd was a first round selection. Some even more crazy ones had him as a potential top 10 talent. Okay, so maybe that guy was me but has his talent level really taken that big of a nose dive? I understand he has problems with accuracy, but at #213 you get a four year starter, a great leader with a strong arm, big and durable frame and more than enough athleticism to make plays on the run. If Boyd was taller (he stands just over 6’1) I’m not sure that there would be much difference in potential between him and Logan Thomas. I’d actually prefer Boyd, who unlike Thomas has actually made NFL caliber throws rather consistently and was tremendously productive (ACC record 133 total TD, ACC record 107 passing TD). A valid counterargument would that he played in a gimmicky spread attack with two top tier NFL receivers (plus Charone Peak who will also play on Sundays when he’s through). Still I think he has all the physical tools you can’t teach, except of course height, and all the intangibles you want. He’s the type of QB I’d take a chance on.
215. Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee – Steelers
A truly massive human being (6’7 352 lb,) with unheard of length (36 5/8” arms, and 11” hands) who is capable of controlling the trenches when he plays with proper technique. As is to be expected for a man so big he tends to struggle with conditioning but has been incredibly durable not missing a single game due to injury. To pick up such a rare athlete who fits their system perfectly at 215 overall is nothing short of a steal.
216. Andre Hal, CB, Vanderbilt – Texans
Hal lacks ideal length and is not a true burner (4.50) but plays the game of football better than his measureables would indicate. He fights hard and shows the awareness and recognition to break on balls early enough to force incompletions (SEC leading 18 passes defended). Hal is a former basketball player who can cut and change direction like a slashing guard. Again, he is not a #1 or even #2 starter but I’m confident he’ll stick as a special teams asset who will compete when you give him playing time as a backup. Not bad for a 7th rounder.
218. Mike Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest – Ravens
You hear the term “football player” used as a (often backhanded) compliment when players go hard and “get it”. That term would certainly describe prospects like Campanaro who lack the ideal size scouts look for but while the 5’9 192 pound slot receiver is not big or strong he shows great awareness and actually is an above average athlete. He ran a 4.46 40, 11.31 60 yard shuttle, benched a receiver best 20 reps, as well as a 39” vertical. So while he has major durability concerns his proven ability to find the soft spot in zones and compete at a high level are very valuable as a slot receiver. Just look at Wes Welker.
S Craig Loston, LSU
DT/FB Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
WR Corey Brown, Ohio State
G Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
DL Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama
QB Stephen Morris, Miami
TE Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
DL DeAndre Coleman, California
C Tyler Larsen, Utah State
RB Damien Williams, Oklahoma
OT Antonio Richardson, Tennessee
S Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
TE A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State
WR Brandon Coleman, Rutgers
DL Kelcy Quarles, South Carolina
TE Xavier Grimble, USC
S C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
WR Mike Davis, Texas
RB George Atkinson, Notre Dame
DE Josh Mauro, Stanford
DE Morgan Breslin, USC
LB Shayne Skov, Stanford
S Dion Bailey, USC
DE Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
DE Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M
DE Chaz Sutton, South Carolina
DE James Gayle, Virginia Tech
C Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
RB Silas Redd, USC
WR Cody Hoffman, BYU