Game #1 this year will be Texas A&M vs South Carolina. Who knows what to expect from these two in 2014 — both are sporting new quarterbacks. Both have lost top ten picks this year (Clowney, Matthews, Evans).
Most of the focus will be on the two offensive lines. Cedric Ogbuehi could easily make it a hat-trick of top-10 O-line picks for the Aggies. He moves over from right to left tackle just like Jake Matthews a year ago. SCAR’s Corey Robinson isn’t going to be a top pick in a loaded tackle group but he could generate some second day interest with a good season. Guard’s Germain Ifedi (TAMU), Mike Matthews and A.J. Cann (SCAR) plus center Mike Matthews (TAMU) are worth keeping an eye on, as is running back Mike Davis (SCAR).
On Saturday I’ve got three games on the schedule — Virginia vs UCLA, West Virginia vs Alabama and Florida State vs Oklahoma State.
I’m quite interested to see which players emerge from the SEC. It’s not a conference loaded with obvious first round picks this year. Ogbuehi should be one, but after that you might be struggling.
Alabama receiver Amari Cooper is a natural talent but lacks size and has inconsistency issues. He could suffer the same fate as Robert Woods and Marqise Lee.
Markus Golden (DE, Missouri) has the potential to be a top pick as a former JUCO transfer — but he needs to fill the gap left by Michael Sam and Kony Ealy and deliver on his enormous potential.
Dante Fowler Jr (LB/DE, Florida) is an exciting athlete capable of playing anywhere on the line or dropping into space. He needs to make more big plays, however, and with the Gators hoping for a bounce back year he should be more of a consistent playmaker.
La’el Collins (T/G, LSU) could’ve been a first or second round pick this year but chose not to declare. Talented offensive linemen are popular in the early rounds but his stock will be impacted if teams see him as a guard and not a tackle.
Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia) gets a lot of unfair Marshawn Lynch comparisons. He’s not Marshawn Lynch. He’s a capable playmaker with decent speed for his size. But he tired quickly in some games last year. At his size you want to see him wear down a defense over three or four quarters.
Players can and will emerge from a still deeply competitive SEC. But there isn’t the big name draw of previous years. It could be a wide open conference in 2014.
The Big Ten has an interesting crop of potential first rounders. Brandon Scherff (T, Iowa) is a sure-fire lock to go in round one if he stays healthy while Melvin Gordon (RB, Nebraska) is by far the most intriguing skill-position player eligible for the 2015 draft.
Devin Funchess (TE, Michigan) has ideal size and speed for his position and is so fluid running down field but he most improve his catching (he’s set to switch to wide receiver this year, apparently). Randy Gregory (LB, Nebraska) struggles to get off blocks attacking the edge but when he works in space he’s an effective blitzer. Noah Spence (DE, Ohio State) is another one to monitor when he returns from suspension.
In the PAC 12 you’ve got Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) who should go on to be the top pick next year. Marcus Peters (CB, Washington), Leonard Williams (DT, USC), Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon), Andrus Peat (T, Stanford) and Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) have their admirers. The depth is perhaps more impressive with Hroniss Grasu (C, Oregon), Hayes Pullard (LB, USC), Austin Hill (WR, Arizona), Shaq Thompson (S/LB, Washington), Kasen Williams (WR, Washington),
Hau’Oli Kikaha (DE, Washington) and Jake Fisher (T, Oregon) making this a conference to watch. Jaelen Strong (WR, Arizona State) is a bit overrated for me while USC’s Williams and Stanford’s Peat need to prove their worthy of the pre-season hype.
The ACC will be dominated by Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State) talk. He has the skills and the talent to be an effective NFL quarterback — but he must make technical improvements (throwing motion, delivery) and stay out of trouble. He’ll be protected by likely high pick Cameron Erving at left tackle — a defensive line convert. Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson) is the real deal, despite a lack of size.