Nolan Nawrocki's top 50 2014 NFL Draft prospects big board
By Nolan Nawrocki NFL.com
Published: April 21, 2014 at 06:40 p.m.
Updated: April 21, 2014 at 07:25 p.m.
Through game-film study; results from all-star games, the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days; as well as interviews with NFL team sources, Nolan Nawrocki has compiled 500 prospect profiles for this year's draft, all of which can be found inNFL.com's Draft Tracker.
His draft board, which consists of his 50 highest-rated players, is below. Players are graded accordingly:
9.00-10 -- Once-in-lifetime player
8.00-8.99 -- Perennial All-Pro
7.50-7.99 -- Future All-Pro
7.00-7.49 -- Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.50-6.99 -- Chance to become Pro Bowl-caliber player
6.00-6.49 -- Should become instant starter
5.50-5.99 -- Chance to become NFL starter
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
A physical specimen with a rare size-speed combination, Clowney was not as impactful as a junior while playing through injuries and being forced to deal with opposing offenses that fully accounted for him with extra chip protection. Was a 20-year-old junior affected by turnover on the defensive coaching staff. Could benefit tremendously from a stable positional coach and strong, veteran mentor on the defensive line who will hold him accountable, show him the way and serve as a father figure. Is one of the most unique talents in the draft and could easily be a double-digit sack producer in the pros from either end. Is every bit worthy of the first overall pick and will immediately upgrade a defensive line and improve the production of those around him.
Grade: 7.5 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
2. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
Big, strong, athletic, overpowering OT with the raw potential to become a premiere, franchise left tackle. Is only a third-year sophomore and two-year starter and still must improve his hand use, footwork and technique. However, he is undeniably gifted and capable of walking into a starting left tackle job in the pros and paving the way in the run game.
Grade: 7.45 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
A legitimate No. 1-caliber receiver who stepped onto the field as a true freshman and made an immediate, game-changing impact. Was slowed by injuries as a sophomore, but responded with a strong junior season and capped his career as one of the most impactful receivers in school history. Has rare speed, soft hands and the big-play ability to challenge NFL defensive backs as a rookie.
Grade: 7.3 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Smart, tough, versatile franchise left tackle capable of playing all five positions on the line. Can plug into a starting lineup immediately and will play a long time at a consistently high level. One of the safest picks in the draft, Matthews' best position might even be center.
Grade: 7.25 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
5. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
A havoc-wreaking rush linebacker with the burst and acceleration to excel as a right defensive end in a "40" front, Mack has demonstrated the instincts, toughness, athletic ability and explosive power to line up at any linebacker position in an even or odd front and factor readily. Is a four-year starter who made an immediate impact upon his arrival and is well primed for the NFL game. Looks every bit the part, comes from a humble, grounded family and offers the full package to become an impact performer in the pros.
Grade: 7.2 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
6. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
A highly disruptive, athletic specimen with the pass-rush potential to effortlessly emerge as a double-digit sack producer. Is far from a finished product, and his best football is still ahead of him.
Grade: 6.52 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 10)
7. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
Evans is a big, physical, strong-handed, West Coast possession receiver with playmaking ability who projects as a No. 2 in the pros, where he will make his money as a chain mover and red-zone target.
Grade: 6.42 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 15)
8. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Smart, instinctive, fast-flowing, every-down linebacker capable of manning any position in a "40" front or steering a defense from the weak side in a "30" front, where he starred for a national-championship defense as a junior and carried the Tide as a senior.
Grade: 6.42 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 15)
9. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
The most talented cover corner in this year's draft class, Gilbert has size, speed and flexibility to blanket receivers at the next level. Also brings impact ability as a kick returner.
Grade: 6.38 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 15)
10. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Short, scrappy, instinctive, highly productive defensive penetrator who does not look the part, but inspires confidence he can be an exception to the rule. Is the type you root for and has the first-step quickness, athleticism and motor to emerge as a havoc-wreaking three-technique in a fast-flowing 4-3 scheme.
Grade: 6.34 | Draft projection: Round 1
11. Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
Perhaps the most explosive hitter in this year's crop of safeties, Pryor is a big, physical hammer in the run game, bringing the ability to intimidate and erase. Factor in his instincts and range, and Pryor has the ability to start as a rookie.
Grade: 6.32 | Draft projection: Round 1 (top 15)
12. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
An experienced, finesse left tackle with the length, agility and temperament to hold down a starting job for a long time. Is nuanced in pass protection and would fit best in a slide-lateral movement, bucket-stepping, zone-based blocking scheme.
Grade: 6.31 | Draft projection: Round 1
13. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
Shazier offers a tremendous combination of speed, tackling and coverage skills to become a playmaker as a run-and-hit 4-3 Will or perhaps a 3-4 weakside 'backer if protected by a block-occupying nose tackle. Value is increased by the fact that he will not have to come off the field.
Grade: 6.3 | Draft projection: Round 1
14. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Highly athletic, highly productive "F" tight end loaded with upside and mismatch capability. Possesses the speed, movement skills, hands and run-after-catch skills to emerge as a playmaking weapon in the pros, though he has room to continue developing as a blocker.
Grade: 6.29 | Draft projection: Round 1
15. Marqise Lee, WR, USC
An extremely motivated, dynamic, playmaking receiver, Lee's junior season was plagued by shoulder, knee and leg injuries and a revolving door at head coach, of which he cycled through three.
Grade: 6.26 | Draft projection: Round 1
16. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Athletic, smart, competitive, dependable college left tackle whose length dictates a move inside, where he has plug-and-play ability in a zone-blocking scheme. One of the cleanest prospects in this year's draft.
Grade: 6.23 | Draft projection: Round 1
17. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
Possesses ideal size, athletic ability, intangibles and enough arm strength to develop into an upper-echelon quarterback. Is not yet a franchise quarterback, but has all the physical ingredients to become an outstanding NFL starter, and his arrow is very clearly ascending.
Grade: 6.22 | Draft projection: Round 1
18. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
Urgent, confident, competitive athlete with an intriguing combination of speed, suddenness, ball skills and tackling ability. Has broad appeal, given his scheme versatility, and should be able to contribute readily as nickel slot defender and special-teams contributor.
Grade: 6.18 | Draft projection: Round 1
19. Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
Talented, competitive, productive, inconsistent college split end who projects as a big-play receiver in the pros. Offers versatility to toggle between "X," "Z" and slot, given his ability to stretch the field and run after the catch.
Grade: 6.16 | Draft projection: Round 1
20. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
A calculated, football-smart, precision-matchup rhythm passer, Bridgewater would be best suited entering a warm-weather or dome environment, such as those most common in the South divisions. Would stand to benefit heavily from operating a short, dink-and-dunk rhythm passing game.
Grade: 6.15 | Draft projection: Round 1
21. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
A big, strong, powerful, NFL feature back who carried the Buckeyes' offense as a senior and proved he can be a workhorse. Solid all-around, chunk runner well-built for the physicality of the AFC North.
Grade: 6.15 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2
22. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Solidly built, athletic, instinctive, press-man cover man who took his game to another level as a senior. Brings intensity, confidence and competitiveness to the corner. Offers size to lock horns with bigger receivers, and has a ceiling as a No. 2 cover man.
Grade: 6.14 | Draft projection: Round 1
23. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Athletic, tough, instinctive, strong-armed, highly competitive quarterback who will impress in workouts, interviews and on the board, and improved his draft standing with those skills in the postseason. Will be a starter sooner rather than later, and the degree to which he's able to make those around him better will determine his ceiling.
Grade: 6.14 | Draft projection: Round 1
24. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
Hulking, long-armed, physically gifted defensive lineman with desirable size, strength, athleticism and versatility to appeal as a five-technique or as a defensive tackle or base end in a 4-3.
Grade: 6.14 | Draft projection: Round 1
25. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
A tight end-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver with a rare wingspan, Benjamin has the overall strength, length and wide catching radius that will demand extra coverage be rolled his way. A very intriguing mismatch weapon with ascending talent.
Grade: 6.13 | Draft projection: Round 1
26. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
A once-in-a-generation, run-around, ad-lib, sandlot-style quarterback who consistently won games playing a brand of fast-paced, jailbreak football that often goes off script and can be difficult to game plan with and against. Has defied the odds and proved to be a great college-system quarterback, but still must prove he is willing to work to be great, adjust his hard-partying, Hollywood lifestyle and be able to inspire his teammates by more than his playmaking ability.
Grade: 6.12 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2
27. Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
A loose, explosive, long-limbed athlete, Lawrence consistently pressurizes the edge and harasses quarterbacks. Lacks ideal stoutness at the point of attack, but could thrive as a 4-3 right end or 3-4 rush linebacker, and should contribute readily on passing downs.
Grade: 6.06 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
28. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
A raw, converted tight end with a basketball background, Hageman is a big, athletic, finesse three-technique with intriguing dimensions and movement skills who fits best in an aggressive, one-gap scheme where he could fire into gaps.
Grade: 6.04 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
29. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
Hype exceeded his performance in Tuscaloosa, but Clinton-Dix offers starter-caliber instincts, range, coverage skills and tackling ability as a free safety. Should be a Day 1 starter.
Grade: 5.99 | Draft projection: Round 1
30. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
Short, speedy, nifty-footed receiver who was unaffected by the departure of Steelers 2013 third-rounder Markus Wheaton, establishing himself as a playmaker in his own right by leading the nation with 133 yards per contest as a junior.
Grade: 5.99 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
31. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
Narrow-framed, confident, competitive off-man/zone corner with nice length, field speed and awareness. Is capable of contributing early on special teams and in sub packages.
Grade: 5.97 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2
32. Louis Nix, NT, Notre Dame
Nix does not enter the NFL with momentum, having coped with knee tendinitis before season-ending surgery to repair a torn left meniscus, and too often his gregarious personality and media hype overshadowed his performance.
Grade: 5.94 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
33. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
A tough, scrappy, undersized nickel back with potential to ascend to a No. 2 CB if he can stay in one piece. Is not the physical prototype for the position, but compensates with outstanding athleticism, blazing speed and a tenacious temperament.
Grade: 5.92 | Draft projection: Round 2
34. Donte Moncrief, WR, Mississippi
Big, physically gifted "X" receiver with deep speed, leaping potential and playmaking ability. Could emerge as a No. 1 or No. 2 receiver in a vertical passing offense. Solid combine showing and pro day workout have ascended his draft standing.
Grade: 5.92 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2
35. Xavier Su'a-Filo, G, UCLA
Does not look the part and was miscast when forced to play left tackle for the Bruins, but Su'a-Filo is more effective than he is pretty. Projects best at left guard, where he has starter-caliber ability in a power scheme, though he is athletic enough to appeal to zone teams, too.
Grade: 5.92 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2
36. Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
Mason is a compactly built, nifty-footed runner with a balanced skill set to merit 20 touches per game at the next level. Fits in multiple schemes and has the chops to make an impact as a rookie.
Grade: 5.88 | Draft projection: Round 2
37. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
Attaochu is a young, heady, disruptive, relentless edge rusher who profiles as a 3-4 right outside linebacker. Interviewed well and has the look of a trustworthy, long-term starter, given his pass-rush ability, motor and makeup.
Grade: 5.88 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
38. Joel Bitonio, OT, Nevada
An undersized college left tackle who projects best to the inside in the pros. Displays the tenacity, leg drive and mean streak that is highly coveted by OL coaches and could drive up his draft status.
Grade: 5.84 | Draft projection: Round 2
39. Timmy Jernigan, NT, Florida State
Slightly undersized, stoutly built, country-strong run stopper with the ability to drop anchor inside an odd front and develop into a solid, 3-4 movement nose tackle.
Grade: 5.84 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
40. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
Big, athletic, ascending pass-rush talent with the size, burst and flexibility to pressurize the edge as a right defensive end. Is not a finished product, but should only become more disruptive as his strength, technique and savvy catch up with his natural physical ability.
Grade: 5.82 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
41. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Possesses the physical tools to eventually earn an NFL starting job in a rhythm passing game with continued refinement but is more of a caretaker than a game changer and will require some patience adapting to the NFL game.
Grade: 5.82 | Draft projection: Round 2
42. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
Massive, long-limbed, inconsistent, overhyped college left tackle whose sheer dimensions, raw tools and high ceiling are far more appealing than his snap-to-snap performance at this stage of his development.
Grade: 5.82 | Draft projection: Rounds 1-2 (top 50)
43. Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
A rangy, sure-handed possession receiver with starter-caliber, positional traits. Lacks top-end speed and strength. As a 21-year-old, third-year sophomore entering the draft early, is still growing into his body and developing core strength.
Grade: 5.78 | Draft projection: Round 2
44. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
An efficient game-managing quarterback who has shown he can carry an offense at times throughout his career, but more often is dependent on a terrific supporting cast. Grades out most highly for his intangibles and decision-making.
Grade: 5.76 | Draft projection: Round 2
45. Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
Big, strong, heavy pass protector with good balance, anchor strength and hand use to handle power and speed. Does not affect the run game the same way and almost appears more destined for the left side in the pros.
Grade: 5.76 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
46. Dee Ford, DE, Auburn
High-motor college left defensive end perhaps suited for a rush linebacker role in the pros. Has demonstrated the desire, work habits and competitiveness to develop into a productive edge rusher if he can stay healthy and is programmed to go get the quarterback only.
Grade: 5.75 | Draft projection: Top 50
47. Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
Good-sized, athletic, physical safety who stands out as a straight-line striker on tape and sets the tone. Has coverage limitations, but brings aggressiveness and intensity to carve a niche as a downhill box defender and core special-teams player.
Grade: 5.74 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
48. Gabe Jackson, G, Mississippi State
Big, thickly built, relatively nuanced blocker who brings a steadying presence to the interior offensive line. Dependability and effectiveness blocking for pass and run combined with sterling intangibles, make him capable of starting as a rookie and holding down a position for years to come.
Grade: 5.72 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
49. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Matthews is a tall, narrow-framed, West Coast possession receiver with soft hands, a professional approach and the versatility to line up inside or outside and become a solid No. 2 or No. 3.
Grade: 5.7 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
50. Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Sankey is an instinctive, competitive and shifty, low-to-the-ground hard runner. Can be effective as a complementary zone runner capable of moving the chains and picking up chunk yards.
Grade: 5.69 | Draft projection: Rounds 2-3
"what if there were no hypothetical situations?"