2014 way too early watch list

April 28th, 2013 | Written by Rob Staton

USC's Marqise Lee should be a top five pick

It’s far too soon to consider who might go in the first round of next years draft — and players will always emerge (or sink) during a season. Nobody called out Eric Fisher as a prospective #1 pick twelve months ago, so a lot can change. Even so, there’s no harm in having a quick look. And hey, it’ll be fun to see how this list adapts during the course of the next year.

#1 Jadaveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
Generational talent at defensive end. As long as he avoids injury, he’s virtually a lock to go first overall.

#2 Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Unflappable. Willing to play through the pain barrier. Strong arm, accurate, has won big games in his career. The only player likely to challenge Clowney to go first overall.

#3 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Doesn’t have elite size but neither does Alabama’s incredible sophomore Amari Cooper. Within the next few years both should be top-five picks.

#4 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
Would’ve been a top-12 pick this year had he declared. Will boost his stock even more if he performs well at left tackle. Might be better than Luke Joeckel.

#5 Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
The next great defensive back off the production line for Nick Saban. Tremendous talent.

#6 Cyrus Kouandijo (T, Alabama)
Kept D.J. Fluker at right tackle and he went #11 overall. Should be a top ten pick.

# 7 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Monster of a receiver. Could be hurt by a lack of good quarterback play. 6-6 with deep speed and YAC ability.

#8 Austin Seferian Jenkings (TE, Washington)
Potentially the next great athletic tight end.

#9 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
Had a terrific season in 2012 after transitioning from full back (of all positions). Pure speed off the edge.

#10 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Another player who could’ve easily been a top-15 pick this year. No reason why he won’t maintain that grade.

#11 Kyle Van Noy (DE, BYU)
Explosive playmaker. Size may be an issue for some but you can’t argue with 19 sacks in the last two years.

#12 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
Looked average against Alabama in the BCS title game but had a very good 2012 overall. Scheme diverse.

#13 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Tall, strong hands and enough speed to be a difference maker. A bit like Brandon Coleman (he’s 6-5, 218lbs) he has limitless potential. If Manziel stays productive, Evans could become a star too.

#14 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
Missed time last year and ceded his role as Clemson’s best playmaker to DeAndre Hopkins. Even so, with Hopkins in the NFL now Watkins has a chance to shine.

#15 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
Big nose tackle. Another player who didn’t look great against Alabama. But who did on the night for Notre Dame?

#16 De’Anthony Thomas (WR, Oregon)
The way the NFL is going, Thomas has a shot to be an early pick.

#17 Ed Reynolds (S, Stanford)
Playmaking safety, seemed to be doing something every week in the PAC-12.

#18 Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)
15 sacks in two years so far for the Beevers. He’s shown a lot of promise and I’m looking forward to seeing more in 2013.

#19 Lache Seastrunk (RB, Baylor)
Ended the year on fire and he’s already making statement’s about challenging for the Heisman. It’s not unrealistic.

#20 Timmy Jernigan (DT, Florida State)
Limitless upside but like a lot of FSU defensive players, hasn’t dominated to this point. Big year in 2013.

#21 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
Surprised a few by not declaring this year. Simply put, he makes plays. He has a nose for the ball.

#22 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Great corner who could’ve been a high pick this year (round two at worst?). Plays on a winning team and should continue to prosper.

#23 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
He pretty much wings it. I’ve put him on the list, but I need to see more. Huge question marks here on just how effective he may or may not be at the next level.

#24 Austin Hill (WR, Arizona)
Bailed Matt Scott out a few times last year before a bad ACL injury. Amazing hands. Not a burner but so reliable.

#25 Ra’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
Caught a little bit of a hype during the off-season before choosing not to declare. He has potential, but I need to see more production in 2013.

Honourable mentions: Chaz Green (T, Florida) — may move to left tackle, has the athletic upside to make the switch. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) — anticipates the ball, times his hits well. Decent upside. Daniel McCullers (DT, Tennessee) — huge defensive tackle but moves so well for the size. Colt Lyerla (TE, Oregon) — I’ve heard great things about Lyerla, I look forward to watching him next year.

If you think I missed anyone out let me know in the comments section.

I also want to touch on the quarterback group briefly. This year I feel like the NFL almost talked itself into disliking the bunch available. While the media waxed lyrical about what a bad class it was, it really wasn’t any worse than previous years where guys like Tim Tebow somehow found a home in round one. Colt McCoy was a third round pick, when he probably should’ve been a sixth rounder. Jimmy Clausen went in round two and Christian Ponder at #12 (!!!) overall. Now either the league is learning to not overvalue the position, or they went a bit over the top this year. If Russell Wilson hadn’t happened in 2012, there are at least 3-4 guys I would’ve thrown my weight behind as possible long term starters in Seattle.

Chip Kelly admitted he had a top-50 grade on Matt Barkley, which is why he traded up in round four to get him. It wouldn’t surprise me if Barkley starts for Philadelphia this year. Stranger things have happened. But why on earth was he (and others) still lurking on day three?

It might be a similar case next year. Teddy Bridgewater looks like a shoe-in to be the top quarterback taken. But after that there’s a cluster of other ‘big names’ who are going to get talked up a lot, but probably don’t match up even to Barkley, Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib and Tyler Wilson.

Johnny Manziel is a big hit after winning the Heisman, but I’m sceptical about his pro-prospects. Very sceptical. Which is why he’s only at #23 here. Some are suggesting he’ll be a top five pick. A lot of his game is playing in chaos, running around to extend plays and improvising. It’s fun to watch, but completely unorthodox. If he has another amazing year at Texas A&M, perhaps a team will believe in the guy enough to take him early? But for me he’s going to be one of those players that really divides opinion.

Logan Thomas had a miserable 2012 season but the appearance of E.J. Manuel in round one will give him hope. If Manuel succeeds, that probably helps Thomas’ case. But he really needs to improve because last year was car crash at times. The play calling didn’t help, and it hasn’t helped at Virginia Tech for years.

Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and Georgia’s Aaron Murray will likely go at it again in the SEC, but neither has the necessary physical tools to warrant much interest until later in the process. Tajh Boyd had a great Bowl game against LSU to end last season, but he lacks the consistency and physical tools to get you excited about much more than a mid round grade.

David Fales has almost a hipster style following on the internet and has some nice tape out there for San Jose State. And yet there’s still something so ‘meh’ about him. He’s one to keep an eye on, though. He looked good against Stanford last year. Derek Carr on the other hand has never really done anything for me and I thought he was poor against SMU in Fresno State’s bowl game to end the season.

While this year’s class was pilloried for its lack of quality, we could see a very similar story in 2014. A lot of teams have invested in young quarterbacks during the boom years of the passing football in the NFL. We might see a little lull as some succeed and others fail, while other ageing quarterbacks approach retirement. Then the craze starts all over again.

68 Responses to “2014 way too early watch list”

  1. Colin says:

    It’s a wonder Manziel didn’t break in half playing in the SEC this year. He took a ton of hits and needs to learn to avoid that. Actually, he needs to learn how to play QB period if he wants to move on.

  2. SHawn says:

    At least there is one RB on the list. I am pretty high on Carlos Hyde RB Ohio St.

    Is there some defieciency in his game tha tI dont know about? I like him as a runner even more than the kid from Baylor, although its easy to fall in love with a name like Lache Seastrunk.

    • SHawn says:

      I wish I would have spellchecked…

      • drewdawg11 says:

        I watched Carlos a lot when he was in high school in Naples, FL. He is a really fun back to watch. He’s just a physically bruising kid with a little wiggle. I’m always excited to catch Ohio State play just to see how he’s progressing. He isn’t going to be a first round pick, but he will get a shot with some team. Seastrunk is a completely different animal. Lache is a homerun waiting to happen, and he also possesses some underrated power. Lache has a legitimate shot to be a high draft choice. It’s all about your preference, really. However, Lache’s speed is what sets him apart in this comparison.

        • A. Simmons says:

          I can’t even imagine what we’ll be looking for next year. It may be all luxury picks. Maybe a need at LB and WR if we cut Rice and no one takes the WLB job. Maybe some TE competition. This roster is so stacked with talent it’s hard to determine what we’ll need.

  3. Cameron says:

    I couldn’t possibly agree anymore with you regarding Manziel. I need to see more of him from within the confines of a pro style offense. Unless the RO/Pistol becomes a staple that NFL teams base their offense around (and I don’t) then I don’t see a place for Manziel in the NFL.

  4. Cameron says:

    Rob, did you do one of these last year? If so it would be fun to re-visit.

  5. peter says:

    Barkeley is going to start this year. Maybe not first gem or even frist four, but when Vick turns on the “turnover machince apparatus,” Barkeley is going in regardless of ESPN saying he’s behind Nick Foles. Kelly has no allegiance ot Foles and it seems that there was a QB who played against Oregon last year and nearly toppled their machine, despite the absence of a defense…Matt Barkeley. Chip Kelley has had a few years to game plan for that guy, and with philly’s weapons, Barkeley doesn’t ever need to be as fast as Grifffin/Wilson, he just needs to dissect and disseminate defenses and make big things happen out east. Heck if 35 year old Tom Brady can run the no huddle for 80 plus plays in a game, I’m pretty sure Barkelely can handle the work load. I hate the love for the NFC east, but those teams need to watch out I believe next year.

    • jr says:

      Actually if you are going off of games against Oregon Nick Foles had a real shoot out with the Ducks 2 years ago throwing for 400 yards and 3 TDs. And the Duck D was better in 11 then it was in 12

  6. Aaron says:

    Rob,

    I agree with you on Seferian Jenkins. But I was a little surprised not to see the Ducks’ Colt Lyerla in your top 25. Are you familiar with him? Do you think he’ll enter the draft next year? What’s your assessment of him as an NFL prospect?

    • Rob Staton says:

      I’ve heard really good things about Lyerla but just haven’t seen enough of him yet. One I can’t wait to look at more.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Lyerla is a boss. Great blocker. A little gronk and a little miller. Love him as a prosepct. Haven’t broken him down specifically, but he stands out on tape.

    • Glor says:

      It’s pretty coo, Austin is my nephew’s cousin.

  7. Brandon O. says:

    Admittedly a homer, but I think UW has a crop of players who will be picked next year after ASJ. Perhaps higher than we expect.

    Kasen Williams, Sean Parker, Bishop Sankey and even Keith Price.

    I mean, Tru was a first rounder…

    • Brian says:

      Watching Austin Jenkings reminds of Keith Price. In 2011 he looked like a future first round pick. Maybe it all comes down to the injuries that ravaged the O-line this year. I hope Price bounces back next year, because he is talented enough to make it in the NFL.

      • mjkleko says:

        Have an incredibly hard time seeing Price garner significant interest as a starter in the NFL. He’ll get a look, no doubt, but he lacks consistency in both his throwing mechanics/accuracy and his reads. The passing game in today’s NFL is based so much upon repeating performance and adapting offensive gameplans to a variety of different defensive looks. I struggle to project Price succeeding in the NFL. Could be a great college QB, but at this point he has not put it together to be a viable option at the next level.

        • Michael says:

          I didn’t watch the Huskies much this year, but I did the year before and never saw Keith Price as a future NFL starter. As far as I can remember, he looked great against poor competition, and looked average to bad against teams with a decent defense. He’s also listed at 6’1″ 200 lbs, which is not really “ideal”, especially if that height ends up being a little generous.

          • Michael says:

            Kasen Williams could be interesting though…

          • Brian says:

            He was only a sophomore in 2011, though. Jake Locker completed 47% of his passes as a sophomore (he redshirted his first year) and was a top 10 pick eventually.

            I agree that this year he did not progress much at all (or even regressed.) At this point I agree that he won’t be an NFL starter. I was just pointing out that I was sad for him this year because he looked like he could have been a first round pick in a couple of years had he developed correctly.

  8. Trudy Beekman says:

    Will Sutton DT Arizona State
    Ka’Deem Carey RB Arizona

    Both consensus all-Americans this year. Both looked like the real deal.

    • Rob Staton says:

      I left Sutton off on purpose. I want to see him do it again this year. Tape was one of the hardest to judge in 2012.

      • Trudy Beekman says:

        Oh man I thought he looked like a great 3-down lineman with elite upside. Just re-watched him vs Oregon State, and he looks a combo of Sly Williams and Sheldon Richardson. Great penetration and closing speed, but can also hold up and 2-gap. Also looked pretty intelligent sniffing out that screen early on in that game. He will be one of my favorites going into next year for sure.

        Same with Carey after watching him in the bowl game this year. Thinking about it more he probably won’t go first round because he’s about 15lbs light, isn’t a physical closer and looks like he only runs about a 4.5. Guy has some serious make-ya-miss and fluidity though and battles for every last yard.

    • Kip Earlywine says:

      Yeah, I think Sutton’s probably a 2nd rounder. (A 2nd round steal).

  9. James says:

    To save time and energy, let’s remember going into next year what Pete stated emphatically in his presser… the Will LBs did not meet their template; ie, if he isn’t a legit 4.5, don’t even bother mocking him to the Seahawks. They might consider 4.6 for a Sam, but for the Will, fuh-gid-about-it.

    • Rob Staton says:

      With all the will in the world, James, I’m still not going to rule anything out with this team. If a guy is ‘that’ good but only runs a 4.6 I’m not going to say this team just strikes him off the board. Every case on its own merit and all that.

      • James says:

        I hear you Rob. I love CJ Moseley for next year, same as you did with Khaseem Greene, but he is not a 4.5 guy and I will have to suffer through it if the Seahawks pass over him.

        Rob and Kip, you guys have the very best draft blog out there. I look at a lot of them, and yours is the tops. Not just that you guys are the most honest and knowledgeable in your appraisals and projections, but also in the tone you maintain on the site, where people can respectfully disagree, but you never let it descend into anonymous name-calling. Not sure how you do it, and a lot of the credit goes to your loyal readers, but the tone on your site is unique, thank goodness!

    • Ben says:

      Don’t forget about Karey Toomer. I don’t know why, but I feel that he’s going to end up starting and making a very large impact, and if that’s true, we will have the best defense in the league.

    • A. Simmons says:

      I’m interested to see what they try with Cliff Avril, Clemons, and Irvin at the Leo and WLB. If they start using the WLB and Leo interchangeably that will cause a change in how they draft for those two positions. They’ll start looking for tweeners usually taken by 3-4 teams. I thought they intended to do this when Pete Carroll started using the Leo position because this is how it worked at USC from what I understand. It was using a 3-4 pass rushing principle on a 4-3 defense. I felt like we didn’t use it because Leroy Hill didn’t have the speed Carroll was looking for. Now Carroll has players at that position with the speed and mix of coverage, tackling, and pass rushing skills to use WLB and Leo in a variety of ways to confuse opponents when rushing the passer.

  10. Fletcher says:

    Is Manziel eligible for the draft next year? I though he was a true freshman this year, which means he won’t be eligible until after his junior year.

  11. Kip Earlywine says:

    I wonder how Austin Seferian Jenkins recent DUI and “indefinite” suspension for the 2013 season will effect his draft stock next year?

    IMO, ASJ deserves to go as high as a TE can possibly go in the draft. He’s the Andrew Luck of tight end prospects: an extremely rare collection of physical tools combined with outstanding tape.

  12. Kip Earlywine says:

    Regarding the QBs, 2014 has 2012 type potential depending on who declares.

    Bridgewater is legit, and I’m a believer in Boyd.

    Manziel has stuff you can nitpick him on and it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up in the middle rounds, but I think he’ll be a HoF NFL QB. Manziel is unique in a similar fashion to Russell Wilson or Fran Tarkenton, who were mid round picks themselves.

    I’ve barely watched David Fales but he looked very polished and NFL ready. I’m a fan, based on what I’ve seen so far.

    I’m guessing Aaron Murray will be a mid round pick, but I think he has what it takes to be a good starter in the NFL.

    • James says:

      Kip, I am an Alabama guy and I have never seen a QB do to a Nick Saban defense what Manziel did. You are exactly right, he has the Fran Tarkenton/Russell Wilson magic. Maybe not as strong of an arm, nor as great of a leader (I hear his personality rubs a lot of people the wrong way), but he is a winner.

    • Colin says:

      I’d feel better about Manziel if he didn’t run so much. The running around in circles doesn’t bother me too much, but it’s the one read and take off that I think he needs to improve on. I’m also concerned with how he’ll do without the best offensive line in the league in front of him. He also needs to add some muscle. Things were pretty simple for him in 2012 and he made the most of it. It will be fascinating to see how 2013 unfolds.

      • mjkleko says:

        I wouldn’t be so sure the offensive line drops off considerably without Joekel. A&M has had banner recruiting classes past few years and as Rob mentioned above, Jake Matthews is the real deal.

        That said, I’ve always had caution in taking a QBs college performance at face value when he is playing behind a top O-line. You look at a guy like Jeff Tuel who mind baffingly ended his WSU career with the highest completion % all-time and you wonder how he might have looked playing with a pair of book end tackles and size on the interior. Probably not much better, but at least he wouldn’t have absorbed so many sacks.

        I do however know one thing- Manziel will easily be the most polarizing college football prospect since Tebow, and I think he eclipses the Florida jump-passer in that regard. Some will blindly believe he deserves #1 in any draft, while others will pick up on facets of his game the just CAN’T translate. There may be fist fights on the Radio City set. I can’t wait.

        • Colin says:

          I was thinking more along the lines of when he reaches the NFL. A&M will have another fantastic line in front of him for certain.

          You are absolutely right that he’ll be polarizing. He can be a franchise QB if he’s willing to learn. He’s got all the tools.

    • Ben says:

      Manziel is too run happy, he might end up on a hospital bed before he realizes that.

    • A. Simmons says:

      After Wilson’s success, you know Manziel’s draft stock rose by leaps and bounds. That guy has Russell Wilson-hype written all over him.

  13. James says:

    I am happy to predict that the Seahawks will have the last pick in R1 in 2014, and they will go either ROT or FS/nickelCB-type DB.

  14. James says:

    Rob & Kip, here’s a guy to add to the Seahawks prospect list: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin, 6-2, 190. Great hands, good speed, returns punts, and he has a unique skill — he and Russell Wilson can read each other’s minds.

  15. Jon says:

    And with the 32nd pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Seattle Seahawks… trade back 3 spots to the 3rd pick of the second round. In the trade they recieve a 5th round pick.

    • Jon says:

      you just know they want 3 5th round picks every year. Heck, we allready know they have the 1st pick in the 5th round from the Raiders (QB who must not be named trade). The first and third pick in the 5th round isnt all that bad.

    • A. Simmons says:

      If John’s 5th round picks work out this year, he might as well trade as many picks as he can to collect more 5th round picks. They’ll be his money round.

  16. Don says:

    Keep an eye on Univ. of Oregon’s QB Marcus Mariota. He was just as effective as Manziel with great statistics (if not better). Very talented. He should get more recognition next season, and may declare for the draft. Being a U of O grad, I would like to see him stay as a Duck as long as possible.

  17. Aaron L says:

    Kip, what about Tajh Boyd, Clemson QB?

  18. Carl says:

    It makes me sad to think that this could be Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ last season as a Husky.

    • Michael says:

      Well let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the Seahawks somehow get him, and then we can root for him for another 10-15 years.

  19. Michael says:

    If a genie gives me three wishes at any time between now and the 2014 NFL draft, ASJ and Brandon Coleman will both be Seahawks. You would think I would use the third wish to get Clowney, but trading up from #32 to #1-2 would be a little too expensive for my taste. Plus everyone knows you should use the last wish to get unlimited wishes… That’s rookie.

  20. CHawk Talker Eric says:

    Hey Rob, Mike Sando at ESPN.com has a link to your Seahawks post draft analysis (“The draft is over… final thoughts”) on his NFC West Blog this morning. Some well deserved recognition I’d say.

    http://espn.go.com/blog/nfcwest/post/_/id/98335/around-the-nfc-west-message-received

  21. MarkinSeattle says:

    An observation, Tuitt (DE, from ND) played the second half of the season including the national championship game with a hernia. He had surgery this spring and sat out spring practice recovering. He was leading the country in sacks the first half of the year, with 8.5 in the first 6 games, before suffering the hernia and finishing out the year with 3.5 sacks in the last 7 games.

    Incidentally, Kelly indicated that his natural playing weight is 315 lbs (although he was up to 322 lbs during the spring due to the weightlifting limitations after the surgery). If you watch him outrun the Navy QB and RB for a 77 yard TD run last year, I would be surprised if his 40 wasn’t at least a 4.8 at 306 lbs. Don’t be shocked if he ends up being a top 5 pick next year if he maintains that speed at 315 lbs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgB8R07_x4k

  22. Rainier Hawk says:

    Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix?

    My driver’s license says I turn 31 this year; my reaction to the above says the inverse.

  23. MarkinSeattle says:

    A second follow up, this time on Nix (NT, Notre Dame). The Pitt game he had been out all week with the flu and was not supposed to play that game, throwing up immediately prior to the game. After the first couple series where Pitt was able to move effectively and score a TD or two, they suited him up and he played the rest of the game (I think the backup NT was also hurt in the first series). I only mention this as that may not be the best game to review for highlights.

  24. Ben says:

    Surprised DT Anthony “The Freak” Johnson out of LSU isn’t even considered a Top 10 pick let alone on this list I’ve seen every LSU game the last 4 years. You’re going to love Simon and Ware. I was literally jumping up and down when I saw that we picked up the pair. Simon does sometimes often get beat in college, but the dude straight up makes plays and is constantly around the ball. He DOES remind me of Richard Sherman!!!!! He’s hard to get beat over! LSU’s secondary has been sick over the years with my boys, Craig Steltz, Tyrann Matheiu, Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, LaRon Landry, Corey Webster, and Eric Reid among a few. We’ve been renowned for our plethora of secondaries like our Seahawks. He will be a very bad ass addition to the new regime of the Legion of Boom!!! And watching Spencer Ware run the football is like watching a shit brick house ram a solid wall over and over again. He one cuts and just goes!!! He can break tackles and make guys miss but be doesn’t have break away speed. He’s got excellent hands, even if he’s downfield he’s practically like another receiver on the field!! He’s gonna be awesome to watch. He’s very very valuable in short yardage situations and most often manages to find the hole. Simon isn’t the greatest cornerback to come out of LSU, but he’s been a damned good player on a damned good team!!

  25. Ralphy says:

    Justin Gilbert CB (Ok State) is a likely first round pick. Had a down year last year but was great in 2011. 6 feet tall and a good return man. Could be on the Hawks radar at pick.