Scout.com NFL Draft Top 100: 26-50
Scout.com NFL Draft Top 100: 51-75
Scout.com NFL Draft Top 100: 76-100
South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney remains the Scout.com No. 1 NFL Draft prospect and he leads our Top 100. While Clowney didn't post big numbers and have a productive 2013 campaign, his size, speed, athletic ability and upside are, quite frankly, off the charts. I said it before and I will say it again - Clowney is the best non-quarterback prospect to enter the draft is quite some time. The mystery is will he ever live up to his incredible ceiling?
Clowney posted some amazing numbers at the combine, like his 4.53 forty (10 yard split of 1.56), 37'5" vertical jump and 10'4" broad jump. He could very well be the next Derrick Thomas, an athletic and explosive pass rusher. But coaches, scouts and general managers are concerned that Clowney may never live up to his enormous potential, especially after his sub-par 2013 season. He posted poor numbers, battled some bone spurs (in foot) and was constantly double and even triple teamed. People have also questioned his passion and desire to play the game.
Still, how do you pass on a talent like Clowney, especially given the fact of the new pass happy NFL where elite pass rushers are such a premium?
Sticking with the pass rushers, Khalil Mack (Buffalo) checks in at No. 2 overall. Yes this mid-major prospect may be a small school guy but he has a ton of upside and athletic ability. Mack posted even better numbers than Clowney. He had a 40" vertical jump, 10'8" broad jump and 4.56 forty (10 yard split of 1.56). He also ran a blazing 4.18 short shuttle.
How good is this kid? Just ask Urban Meyer, as Mack destroyed the Buckeyes in August with 2.5 sacks, 9.5 tackles and a pick six. So what that he didn't play for a college football power.
Rounding out the top ten [in order] are outside linebacker Anthony Barr (UCLA), quarterbacks Blake Bortles (UCF) and Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), offensive tackle Taylor Lewan (Michigan) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville).
It's Bortles but…
Having said that, I do believe that Manziel and Bridgewater are better right now but their ceiling isn't quite as high as Bortles. This is where things get interesting as franchises with a huge quarterback need evaluate this trio as well as signal callers like Derek Carr (Fresno State), Jimmy Garropolo (Eastern Illinois), A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Aaron Murray (Georgia), Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and the rest of this quarterback class. What signal caller is the best fit where? What are these teams time horizon?
To me, the hot guy from the names listed above as we get closer and closer to draft day is Garropolo. Like Carr he put up video game like numbers. Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award given to the top player in FBS. In 14 games this past season he put up some big stats, throwing for 5,050 yards, 53 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Garoppolo completed 66% of his passes. He has seen his stock rise since January's East/West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. He has good [not great] size at 6-foot-2, 226-pounds. What Garoppolo does have is a very quick release and lots of arm talent. He's smart and knows where to go with the football quickly.
Carey falls from top spot
There wasn't a lot of change otherwise. For Auburn Tiger Tre Mason is now the top back. Mason was good in 2012 and sensational in 2013. This kid was Auburn's thoroughbred in their vaunted run game. Mason set a school record with 1,816 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns. He had an incredible SEC Championship Game versus Missouri, rushing for 304 yards and four scores on 46 carries. Mason performed well at NFL Combine, running a 4.5 forty. He has incredible balance and vision and runs with deceptive power for a smaller back. Mason's quick and can start and stop on a dime and then take off.
Two big backs follow Mason in Jeremy Hill (LSU) and Carlos Hyde (Ohio State). They both have some Eddie Lacey (Green Bay Packers) to their game and have tremendous upside. Rounding out the Top 100 running backs are Mason, Lache Seastrunk (Baylor), De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon), Bishop Sankey (Washington) and Andre Williams (Boston College).
The one player I am intrigued with the most out of this group is Thomas. He's one of the most explosive players in this draft. To be honest, he's this year's Tavon Austin who can help out a team in the run game, passing game and return game.
Lots and lots of pass catchers
Then you have Marqise Lee (USC) at No. 3 at this position. Like Watkins, Lee exploded on the seen as a true freshman for the Trojans. He finished that season with 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. His second season he posted even better numbers and won the Biletnikoff Award. He's explosive and has a terrific burst and quickness with the ball in his hands. Speaking of his hands, Lee's a natural ball catcher who snatches it out of the air. He's an excellent route runner and separates extremely well from defenders.
From this point there are a handful of wide receivers that will all have a chance to go in the top two rounds of this draft like Odell Beckham (LSU), Jarvis Landry (LSU), Brandin Cooks (Oregon State), Kelvin Benjamin (FSU), Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt), Davante Adams (Fresno State), Allen Robinson (Penn State), and Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss). This is a very good and deep group and there will be lots of value in round two and three for these guys.
Eric Ebron is the top tight end in this draft. I would certainly rank him ahead of last year's top two guys (Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz). He tested off the charts at the NFL Combine and had a big season in Chapel Hill. Ebron has good size at close to 6-foot-5, 250 pounds. He clocked back-to-back forties of 4.50, vertical jumped 32-inches and broad jumped 10 feet. Ebron also bench pressed 225 pound two dozen times. In 2013, he posted some big numbers, catching 62 passes for 973 yards (ACC record for tight end), and scored three touchdowns.
Checking in at No. 2 at tight end is Jace Amaro (Texas Tech). He earned All-American honors after posting a record setting season in which he had 106 receptions, 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns. He has very good size (6-5/265), runs well [4.74 forty, 4.30 short shuttle at NFL Combine]. Amaro primarily lined up flexed out or in the slot this past season for the Red Raiders.
Robinson, Matthews, lead good OL group
Robinson comes in at No. 3 overall and has an incredibly high ceiling. He helped pave the way for Auburn and their devastating rushing attack. At 332-pounds, he ran a super 10 yard split in the 40 [1.68] in Indy (only three OLs did better), has long arms, very athletic and good strength. Robinson gets off the ball very well and is a dominant run blocker. He's not as refined as Matthews and lacks his experience but his upside is as good as anyone in this draft. Robinson was only a starter for two seasons at Auburn.
Matthews has it all - size, experience and bloodlines to succeed in the NFL for a long time just like his father Bruce. He started in 46 of his 49 college games and got a ton of time at both right and left tackle. Matthews is 6-foot-5 and displays excellent lateral movement and short area quickness. He excels in both pass pro and in run blocking. Matthews uses his hands well and is much further along than Robinson at this stage of their respective careers. This kid is very intelligent, versatile and will likely be ready to play from day one.
Taylor Lewan (Michigan) raised a lot of eyebrows at the NFL combine with his performance, most notably his 4.89 forty. That's moving for a 309-pound offensive tackle. Lewan was also impressive last January in their 2013 Outback Bowl game against South Carolina and Jadeveon Clowney. He comes in at No. 3 at this position.
One of my favorite offensive line prospects in this class is Zach Martin (Notre Dame). Martin started his final 39 games for Notre Dame, mainly at left tackle. He showed at the Senior Bowl that he can excel at both positions and slide inside and be a dominant offensive guard. Martin gets off the ball well, shows good feet and the ability to bend and move. He is equally adept at run blocking and pass pro. Martin's only 6-foot-4 and his arm length of 32 7/8" is on the smaller side for a NFL offensive tackles. I love his versatility and he could move inside and be a very good guard in the pros.
The top offensive guard is David Yankey (Stanford), followed very closely by Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA) and Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State). This trio is all inside the top 50 overall. Yankey started every game over his final three seasons for the Cardinal. During the 2012 season he played four different positions across the offensive front as well as tight end. He checked in just under 6-foot-6 at the NFL Combine and weighed 315-pounds. He has tackle size and length [34"] playing the guard position.
What kind of tackle do you like?
These are all very different players and are pretty scheme specific. Jernigan is a very powerful interior defensive lineman that can play over the center or at the three-technique. He lacks ideal height (he's not quite 6-foot-2) and shorter arms (31 5/8) but is very strong at the point of attack. Jernigan possesses a thick lower body and plays with outstanding leverage. He has good lateral movement and short area quickness for a 300-pound man. Perhaps the best part of his game is his hands.
Donald has been a fast riser, after a stellar Senior Bowl week and an outstanding performance at the NFL Combine. This is coming off a big senior season. How big? Donald was the first Pitt player to be a unanimous All-American selection since linebacker Hugh Green (1980). He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award, Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award and was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. That's some serious hardware coming off a year in which Donald recorded 59 tackles, 28 tackles for a loss, 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and 16 quarterback hurries. Those are some huge numbers for a defensive tackle. Speaking of numbers how about the 4.68 forty he posted in Indy? His 10 yard split was almost identical to Clowney's. This is an ultra-quick tackle that plays with great leverage and an outstanding motor. Donald is on the small side (6-foot-0) but you can't overlook his outstanding production and other physical attributes. He would be an ideal three-technique in a 4-3 defense.
Hageman is a red-shirt senior that's a terrific big athlete that can play the three or five technique at the next level. Hageman has ideal size (6-6/310), long arms (34 ¼) and pretty darn explosive for a 300-plus pounder. He posted a 35.5" vertical jump and a board jump of 9'3" at the NFL Combine. Those are two impressive numbers. This kid is far from a complete player but has so many raw, physical traits that you just don't see with guys of his size. After watching him at the Senior Bowl I think he's best suited as a 3-4 defensive end (five-tech).
Then you have the ideal nose guard in a 34 defense in Nix. He's massive at 331-pounds and very strong at the point of attack. He can eat up space, play two gaps and occupy a double team to free up the ‘backers behind him. Nix is very good against the run. He gets off the ball pretty well, has good athletic ability and deceptive short area quickness for a big man.
Ealy, Ford, others
Ealy had a big season last fall, finishing first team All-SEC after recording 43 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss, nine sacks, one interception, six passes knocked down, 14 quarterback hurries and three forced fumbles. He has good size (6-4/273) and is long (34 ¼" arms), still having room to bulk up and gain strength. Ealy can get off the ball and up field well. He's also adept at staying home and playing the run. Ealy also shows the ability to play well in space.
Ford missed the first two Auburn games of the year because of a knee injury but still earned All-SEC honors after posting impressive numbers for the Tigers defense, finishing with 29 tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and 10.5 sacks. He plays hard and he plays fast. Ford gets off the ball and up field very quickly. He's at his best working the edge and playing in space. Can he be a complete defensive end in the NFL or will he just be a situational pass rush specialist? Or can Ford develop his game as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme? He's an intriguing prospect because of his outstanding ability to rush the passer.
Next up at defensive end is Stephon Tuitt (Notre Dame). Tuitt is a big, long and rangy defensive end prospect that is 6-foot-5, 304-pounds and has 34 ¾ inch long arms. He's ideal for the 3-4 scheme at the five-technique. Tuitt finished his career at Notre Dame with 21.5 sacks. He was probably a hotter prospect one year ago. Nevertheless, Tuitt should be one of the top ends taken in May. He's strong (31 reps of 225 at NFL Combine), can beat blockers and find and go get the ball. He's not quite as quick or athletic as Hageman.
More than just ‘Big Mack'
Many don't realize that Barr was a running back at UCLA until 2012. You could say he made a very easy and successful transition to the defensive side of the ball. That said, he lacks experience but in time has all the tools necessary to become an outstanding player on Sundays. Barr is a terrific athlete that is long and quick. He put up the identical 10 yard [forty] split that Clowney had [1.56] at the NFL combine which coincides to his outstanding closing speed once he identifies where the ball is.
Shazier is one of my favorite defensive players in this draft. He finished his three-year career in Columbus with 306 tackles, 44.5 tackles for a loss and 14 sacks. He posted some excellent numbers at the NFL Combine like his 42" vertical jump and 10'10" board jump. Those were the best among all the linebackers in Indy and better than most of the defensive backs. This kid is instinctive, explosive and I absolutely love the way he closes to the football. Shazier looks like an ideal ‘WILL' linebacker in a 4-3 scheme.
Mosley is a two-time All-American and won the Butkus Award after this past season, posting 108 tackles and nine tackles for a loss. He's terrific in the box, showcasing his downhill skills. Mosley can play inside-out and sideline to sideline. He has terrific closing speed and can pack a punch when tackling. He's a very smart and very instinctive player, especially against the run. Mosley also excels in coverage and could fit in any scheme.
Close race at the top
For his career Dennard posted some very nice stats, finishing with 167 tackles, 10 interceptions, and 20 pass breakups [44 games]. Dennard also became the first Spartan to win the Jim Thorpe Award. This is a physical cornerback with good size (5-11/199). He posted a solid forty of 4.51 at the NFL Combine. He excels in press coverage. Dennard breaks on the ball quickly and has loose hips. There are bigger cornerbacks in this draft and players that are faster but I think he's the best talent of this pretty strong group. He checks in at No. 15 overall and at the top spot just by a nose over Gilbert.
Many will see Gilbert as having more value than Dennard because of his outstanding special teams play. During his career at Oklahoma State, Gilbert has six kickoff returns for touchdowns. Certainly he will bring that big play ability to one NFL franchise. He's also an outstanding cornerback talent with very good size (6-0/202). Gilbert posted some eye popping numbers at NFL Combine like his 4.37 forty and a 10'6" board jump. This is a terrific man-cover guy with superior athletic ability, ball skills, and speed. He had seven picks this past season, returning two for scores. Gilbert is not as stout as Dennard in run support. He comes in at No. 17 overall, two spots behind Dennard.
Next up is Lamarcus Joyner (FSU). He is one of the best football players in this draft. He projects as a safety or slot cornerback in the NFL. Joyner is terrific in the box or playing near the line of scrimmage. He has outstanding instincts and hits like linebacker. Joyner is one of those guys that just has a knack for making big plays. He's tough against the run and good in coverage, although he's more of a zone guy. He reminds me a lot of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer great Ronde Barber. Joyner could be an ideal slot corner.
Coming in at No. 4 is Jason Verrett (TCU). What kind of 2013 season did Verrett have? He was the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He finished the season with two interceptions and 14 pass breakups despite teams throwing away from him most of the time. The season before Verrett had six interceptions and 16 pass breakups. This kid is fast [4.38], very explosive [39" vertical, 10'8" broad jump] and has short area quickness [4.00] short shuttle. Verrett showed a great burst in his 10 yard split [1.47] at the NFL combine. Only running back Dri Archer [1.46] was faster. The only thing Verrett lacks is ideal size [5-9/189].
It's a quality safety group led by HaHa Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville). Clinton-Dix finished his final season for the Crimson Tide with 52 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, and two interceptions in 11 games played [two game suspension]. In 2012, Clinton-Dix had five interceptions, which led the SEC. This is a very solid player in every area of the safety position. Clinton-Dix is solid in run support, showing range and good fundamentals. He possesses good coverage skills and has shown the ability to track the ball and cover a lot of ground from his safety spot.
Pryor was a plug and play guy at Louisville right out of high school. Over the last two seasons he has recorded 175 tackles. This past year he also had 5.5 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, and forced two fumbles. This is an exciting and hard hitting safety prospect. Pryor is instinctive, physical and very aggressive. He shows range against the run and in coverage.
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