NFL draft prospects who’ve started well in 2014

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon)
Nothing has changed here — he will be the #1 pick in 2015. He’s yet to throw an interception this season, he’s showing technical progression and he has the potential to be Kaepernick-plus. It’s hard to imagine the team picking first overall passing on Mariota. Why would you? He’s the real deal.

Eric Striker (LB, Oklahoma)
He’s an athletic playmaker and the perfect compliment to Oklahoma’s pro-ready D-line. The Sooners have plenty of beef up front and Striker flies around. He rushes the passer from the edge, he moves sideline-to-sideline. He just makes plays. He doesn’t have ideal size but if you keep him in space, he’ll impact games.

Jacoby Brissett (QB, NC State)
He had to leave Florida to get his shot — but he’s making up for lost time at the start of 2014. He can move around for a big unit, he’s throwing well downfield. You don’t need to be Russell Wilson, you just need to be elusive. Brissett might not declare for the next draft but he’s one to monitor.

Shaq Thompson (LB, Washington)
Few players have done more than Shaq Thompson to boost their stock. He already has three touchdowns on defense, he’s taking snaps on offense. The scary thing is he can get better. Thompson’s athleticism will appeal to teams picking in the top-25. He can feature in any scheme. He’s a modern day defensive playmaker.

Kevin White (WR, West Virginia)
Big, competitive and productive. White is enjoying a break-out year. He high points the ball, he knows how to get open. He’s a definite Biletnikoff candidate. In a year without a lot of quality receivers turning pro, White could go earlier than expected.

Shawn Oakman (DE, Baylor)
He’s a freak of nature. The NFL loves freaks of nature. Is there another man on the planet who is this tall (anywhere from 6-7 to 6-9) who carries 280lbs this well with such brilliant athleticism? He’s destined to go in the top-10. He’s a better prospect than Ziggy Ansah.

Markus Golden (DE, Missouri)
He has four sacks so far despite missing a game with a hamstring strain. He has it all — ideal size to set the edge, a brilliant speed rush and the ability to disengage a blocker and make splash plays. Golden is incredibly underrated and destined for the first round if he tests well. He should do.

Shane Ray (DE, Missouri)
Golden’s team-mate is the sack leader in the NCAA with eight so far. He was unstoppable in the first half against South Carolina. He’s not the biggest but he’s still effective stunting inside and working through blockers. He’s gritty, he plays with an attitude. Could we see two Missouri pass rushers in round one next year?

Jordan Phillips (DT, Oklahoma)
339lbs nose tackles who run back fumbles for 69-yard touchdowns are a rarity. Chapman isn’t just a big body who wears you down in the run — he can act as a pass rusher too. He plays on a terrific defensive line filled with NFL talent, but he’s that rare athletic big man who nearly always goes early. Missed last year with an injury waiver and is listed as a redshirt sophomore.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson)
He has 27 sacks in his last 24 games. He terrorised potential first round left tackle Cameron Erving. Speed kills in the modern NFL and Beasley has plenty. There will be concerns about his size and length, but expect a super-fast forty time and ten-yard split. He could be a high pick.

Damian Swann (CB, Georgia)
Georgia changed defensive coordinators this year, hiring FSU’s Jeremy Pruitt. They needed to make a change — their defense was a disorganised mess last year. Swann regressed more than anyone but he’s back with a bang in 2014. With the right guidance he can develop into a fine NFL corner. Goes after the football.

Arik Armstead (DE, Oregon)
Like Oakman, he has a rare combination of size (6-7, around 295lbs) and athleticism. He’s exactly the type of player the NFL is willing to take a chance on in round one. He’s been inconsistent at Oregon but a dominating performance against Michigan State was very encouraging. I’m eager to see the Washington State tape.

Notable mentions:

I didn’t want to include too many obvious candidates here. Clearly Todd Gurley (RB, Georgia) and Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) have delivered on their promise and could be first or second round picks next year. Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama) is back to his technical best. He’ll get marked down for a lack of elite size/speed, but like A.J. Green he’s such a natural receiver. Dante Fowler Jr (DE, Florida) continues to make plays on a struggling Gators defense. Randy Gregory has 4.5 sacks in his last two games and could be the best 3-4 linebacker eligible for the draft. Denzel Perryman (LB, Miami) is having another big season while Devin Funchess (WR, Michigan) has made a solid adjustment from tight end to receiver. All of the big name tackles have prospered and we could see 6-7 first round offensive linemen again. Ty Montgomery (WR, Stanford) always seems to make plays.

Players I’m not totally sold on yet:

Leonard Williams (DE, USC) — is he a special enough athlete to play 4-3 defensive end? If he has to kick inside or act as a five-technique, does that limit his stock? Danny Shelton (DT, Washington) is having a massive year in terms of statistics but does it translate? Is he enough of an athlete to warrant early pick status? To me he looks like a mid-rounder. Can anyone justify putting the future of their franchise in the hands of Jameis Winston (QB, Florida State)? Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) hasn’t had a great start to the new season and Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State) just looks like the player who struggled badly in last years Big-10 Championship game. Marcus Peters (CB, Washington) has the potential to be excellent, but can he be trusted and can he become more consistent?

Several teams will be in the QB market next year. Right now, Mariota might be the only viable prospect to go in the first frame. Unless you want to gamble on Winston. And it would be one heck of a gamble. Brett Hundley (QB, UCLA) is too boom or bust and lacks technique. Connor Cook (QB, Michigan State) is being touted as a potential first round pick by some. Why, exactly?


  1. bigDhawk

    There is a tremendous amount of NFL-ready talent on that Sooners roster, many of them seniors. The whole starting OL except the center are seniors and they are all road graders. Any one of them could step right in for Carp at LG next year if we lose him to FA. Their LT #71 Tyrus Thompson could literally be Carp’s twin. Seriously. Look at his bio picture on the Sooners roster page. Some other seniors on that Roster to be aware of:

    #2 CB Julian Wilson
    #74 OG Adam Shead
    #79 OT Daryl Williams
    #98 DT Chuka Ndulue
    #77 OG Dionte Savage
    #85 OLB Geneo Grissom

    I had yet to catch a WVU game this year, which is odd since I live in big 12 country, so Kevin White came a a bit of a revelation….WOW! I posted a link on the thread of his spotlight post a few days back to an interview he did where he comes off as a player that, to me, seems like he is tailor-made for our locker room. He’s taken some lumps in life, appreciates where he is now, has totally bought in to the program at WVU, and is an absolute monster on the field. He reminds me of Dez Bryant with more between the ears. You may be right, Rob, that he will go early in 2015, but I will be watching him close the rest of the season.

    Great info as always, Rob. Much thanks.

  2. Michael M.

    Has Michael Bennett (Ohio State – DT) done anything this year? I like what I saw from him last season.

    • Rob Staton

      I’ve seen Ohio State once this season and he was anonymous.

  3. dave crockett

    I still like Leonard Floyd more than you. I think he’s still trying to figure it out, and may be a mid-round prospect. But I think he’s got real upside as a 3-4 OLB.

  4. dave crockett

    As I watch Shane Ray play, is he not a viable LEO candidate?

    • Rob Staton

      Hard to say until we see his 10-yard.

      • Arias

        What’s an acceptable 10 yard range for a LEO?

        • Rob Staton

          Cliff Avril had a 1.50, Bruce Irvin had a 1.55.

  5. Josh

    I’d love for the hawks to get Oakman. Great write up thanks Rob.

  6. rowdy

    I been saying it every week but I want Melvin Gordon on the hawks if lynch is cut for money reasons. Gurley is a bad man too but gorden just tilts the field as pc/js would say. The only problem I see is he doesn’t fit the rb build they like and they might have to change the offense a little. Does anyone else see him as a dynamic game changer? Or is this just my college crush for the year that I’m overlooking his flaws?

  7. Arias

    So who would be in on the Mariotta sweepstakes anyway? I’m thinking the Texans and Rams will definitely be in the market, but if the 1st pick were to fall to the Bills, Jets, Titans, or even the Redskins I don’t see any of those teams passing up the chance on drafting Mariotta either.

    Actually I’ve been reading whispers about Mariotta being the reason the Titans didn’t bother with securing a backup better than Clipboard Jesus. That way if Locker went down again they could naturally fall into the pole position to select Mariotta.

    • Rob Staton

      I think whoever gets the #1 pick has to take Mariota.

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