By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer
The 2014 Draft was particularly strong at offensive tackle and wide receiver with those two positions making up 6 out of the first 12 selections. We also saw two blue chip defensive prospects in Jadaveon Clowney and Khalil Mack go in the top 5. Then of course was the notorious Johnny Football going to the dormant Browns late in the first. Most of the headlines were stolen by the magnetic but volatile former Aggie QB.
This year’s crop has a noticeably different feel, and while no one will top the attention of Manziel two big time talents will compete for the top quarterback slot. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota is a true duel threat and with some continued refinement in his passing skills could be the unanimous #1 overall prospect rather quickly. Then there is Jameis Winston who has been spectacular in leading his Florida St. squad to a BCS Title in his first year under center. His talent is evident and undeniable, but he narrowly skirted the law as his sexual assault charge was not pursued and all eyes were on Tallahassee in the led up to his Heisman selection for a variety of reasons. Not all were good.
Of course there are plenty of other prospects too with a lot to prove and at this point the landscape is still forming and will undergo massive change. However, there are some things we can already tell about the 2015 NFL Draft class.
Out goes an incredibly deep WR class with some big, power forward like possession receivers and in comes a group consisting of smaller but quicker flankers with the speed and agility to get open in space.
Potential First Round WR:
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Cooper looks to be the consensus top wide out prospect and while he’s been very productive in a run heavy offense and displays game breaking ability, I don’t think he’s even close to a Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans or even Odell Beckham Jr (all went in the top 12 picks this year). I just don’t see the elite level ball skills to go with his explosiveness.
Nelson Agholor, USC
A classic Trojan wide receiver with solid size, speed and smooth athleticism. Agholor was never as dominate as Marqise Lee but last year he did outperform Lee at stretches last year and has a pro style game. He isn’t as explosive as Cooper but might be the better pro prospect.
Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Despite two dominant seasons in College Park Diggs lacks the prototypical frame teams now crave in receiver prospects. He also doesn’t have the fastest top end speed or breath-taking athleticism but makes plays consistently and at the end of the day that’s really what you want in a receiver.
Jaelen Strong, Arizona St.
With the frame of a pro possession target Strong is an intriguing prospect for teams looking a bigger receiver. He’ll have to prove he has the ball skills to take advantage of that height because at this point he doesn’t have proven ability to simply out compete defenders for a “50-50″ ball at the level Mike Evans did the past two seasons.
Rashad Greene, Florida St.
Some draftniks feel Greene’s slight frame and speed are reminiscent of a Desean Jackson type player, but I don’t see the pure explosiveness Jackson has. That’s not saying Greene isn’t talented but it would be a stretch to call him a first rounder at this point.
Dorial Green-Beckham, Eastern Illinois
When you talk about high risk, high reward this is what you mean. Ever since high school DGB has been regarded as an elite receiver prospect and the former top recruit certainly fits the bill athletically. If he can pick himself up after off field issues led to him leaving his home town Missouri he has the size/speed profile of a top ten pick.
Dark horse: Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Goodley is next in the long line of speedy Baylor receivers to be drafted into the NFL of late. I’ll start by saying his hands are not consistent enough at this point and his hand eye coordination aren’t at a first round level, or even close. But put him, and his surprisingly sturdy frame, in space and he makes things happen.
No Clowney? No problem? This year’s class doesn’t have the freakish talent of the 2014 #1 overall pick but is loaded with a much deeper class.
Potential First Round DE:
Randy Gregory, Nebraska
A Juco transfer Gregory is just scratching the surface and could definitely become the best defensive prospect in this class. He will lead a contingent of defensive ends looking to restore some juice to the position after 2014 offered very little after Clowney.
Shilique Calhoun, Michigan St.
Mark Dantonio has built a defensive powerhouse in East Lansing and in the process a pipeline to the NFL. Calhoun has been a terrific player for the Spartans and with anther productive season could follow the first round foot steps of corner and former Spartan Darqueze Dennard.
Dante Fowler Jr., Florida
Watching Fowler explode off the line makes it tough to believe he carries more weight than Calhoun by almost 20 pounds. Still learning and refining his technique Fowler has next level ability the struggling Gators will attempt to harness.
Mario Edwards Jr., Florida St.
Edwards is another player who plays much faster than his build would suggest and is regarded as one of the most talented linemen in the country ever since being crowned as the #1 overall recruit out of high school.
Dark horse: Shawn Oakman, Baylor
This guy is an early favorite of mine and a true beast. His massive frame is powerful enough to set the edge but he brings a surprising combination of burst and quickness that could push him into the top 20 discussion. It will take some work to get there but the potential is evident.
While the last few draft’s have been stacked with high quality offensive tackle prospects this year features a host of potential first rounders waiting to continue the recent trend.
Potential First Round OT:
Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
Much like top picks Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews the another Aggie tackle will hear his name called on day one of the 2015 draft. Ogbuehi will have climbed much higher to get to this point than the previous tackles but could ultimately end up in the same spot.
Andrus Peat, Stanford
The big Stanford tackle was able to unseat current pro David Yankey at left tackle and proved his worth quickly. Given his size, strength and agility it will be no surprise if scouts place Peat first among all draft eligible tackles.
Cameron Erving, Florida St.
It’s well documented that Erving is a former defensive tackle but that fact does legitimately point to his athleticism and overall range of motion. The Seminole left tackle has all the athletic tools needed to be great and the FSU coaching staff has a track record of churning out top NFL talent.
Brandon Scherff, Iowa
A mauler with the prototypical frame of an NFL tackle Scherff has earned a reputation of being a road grader among Big 10 coaches and scouts. I need to see more evidence of him being able to shuffle his feet and hold up against elite pass rushers on the edge, but he already has the powerful base and lower body strength to jolt back smaller defenders.
Lael Collins, LSU
Collins started his career at guard but worked his way into the premium left tackle role and showed he belongs there, at least at the college level. Even if NFL GMs don’t feel comfortable placing him on the edge he will easily convert back inside to guard with success.
Dark Horse: Sean Hickey, Syracuse
In the mold of former Orange teammate and current Giants lineman Justin Pugh, Hickey doesn’t possess the bulk most scouts look for in a pro tackle but is effectiveness nonetheless with super quick feet and lateral agility. With another productive year in the ACC Hickey could possibly join Pugh as a first round selection.