Marc’s Final Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Draft: Big Board, A+ Picks & Best UDFAs

 

The Patriots 6th round pick was Jemea Thomas from Georgia Tech and his versatility and hard hitting will be on display on defense and special teams (Photo: US Presswire)

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

 

A+ Picks:

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.

Best UDFAs:

No order

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

Tags: 2014 Big Board, 2014 NFL Draft, 2014 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings, Jemea Thomas

10 Responses to “Marc’s Final Thoughts on the 2014 NFL Draft: Big Board, A+ Picks & Best UDFAs”

  1. Matt says:

    Still not sure of the Easley pick. He has two bad knees and seems to have questionable mental health. The guy carried around a Chucky doll like it was his child or something. I think that there is a 55% chance he might work out as well as the Pats think. I do hope i’m wrong though.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    Marc Sluis nice final thought. The pandora’s box has been opened for a couple of positions on the Patriots team this year namely at WR, CB, DL based on who they brought in to camp and the competition at the position. WR is going to be one of the most competitive positions in camp in years, with a total of 12 WR in camp. If anyone thinks that Amendola and Edelman position are locks they maybe mistaken. 7 WR ( R.Dunn, J.Gallon, D. Johnson, R.Wiggins, W. Van Hooser, J. Boyce, K. Thompkins are vying for those spots and the big receiver battle will be an interesting one between Dobson, Lafell and Harrison.
    At DB we brought in 3 talented guys J. Thomas, and UDFA that look special on tape Travis Hawkins and Malcolm Butler, blessed with KR ability and core special teamers. Last but not least is the DLine, the one thing i noticed is this defense is going to have a lot of speed, the drafting of Easley and Moore paired with Armstead and DT L.T Tuipuloto, camp will be fierce.

  3. Alex (freemanator) says:

    Nice article Mark. A great idea to leave a bit of time and then do a draft retrospective.

    Not sure where you are getting the idea that Nix dominated against Bama in the BCS though. Even though he was being single blocked by Jones (almost?) every snap, his actual influence was minimal. Jones despite being repeatedly pushed backwards, always got Nix to run himself out of the play. Hence the domination in the run and pass game. It is less clear that Nix could have had the same push if the guy opposite him was trying to block him and not guide him elsewhere.

    That game showed his clear physical gifts, but Barrett Jones schooled him in the mental side of the game that day. Tuitt was the guy the Bama O-line keyed in on stopping.

    • MarcSluis says:

      Very good point and well said. You’re right about being drawn out of the play vs ‘Bama, I guess I’m a sucker for defensive tackles who can pressure interior linemen and penetrate the pocket even if it’s not controlled. Overall I just like Nix’s physical talent and athleticism at 331 pounds because you can’t teach it.

      • Alex (freemanator) says:

        I know the feeling. And if one was to watch highlights of that matchup, you could get very excited. But then you check the score and the rushing totals, and a different story emerges.

        I do agree that Nix is a very exciting possibility for that Wilfork role if he can stay healthy and improve his fundamentals. Houston are set up to have a heck of a scary defense this year if him and Clowney can have the kind of impact most expect.

  4. Jim Keddy says:

    It’s not a case of money either because all teams are allotted the same money.
    Maybe the Patriots will claim one or two of these guys when teams cut to 53 players.
    They did this last year with Barker and Cave.

  5. Jim Keddy says:

    I agree with both of you. Last year was the complete opposite. They ended
    up with quite a few highly ranked UDFAs. Barker, Cave, Devey, Kline, Harrison,
    Allen, Thompkins and Vellano are still on the roster.

  6. Jim R says:

    A little disappointing that the Pats could not land a couple of these names on the list. Loston, Hubbard,Richardson,Coleman,Breslin,Skov,Jeffcoat Westbrooks,Sutton and Hoffman. Pretty good list of UDFA’s to pick from.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Disappointing is a word I’d say aptly describes the entirety of this draft effort.

      • steve earle says:

        I hear you Dan and notice Easley isn’t mentioned here on Marc’s list at all. Still concerned about the knees. Someone a couple pages back thinks he’s running and cutting, fine but not against any resistance. Plus the idea that if he hasn’t had a problem so fat none is now likely is pure wishful thinking. There is no such rule in medical just like the idea that a repaired knee is stronger. Just isn’t so.
        As for the bottom half of the draft the values and skill levels throughout are close enough that though it didn’t go the way I wanted it may work out. I’ll just wait and see though I was disappointed too.
        About the 2nd rd QB maybe in two or three years the pick will pay off or if he comes in and blows the doors off allowing BB to trade Mallett when some starter goes down this fall then he’s no help now.






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