Next year's draft crop

With all the talk about whether we should resign Bryant McKinnie, one of the arguments is that he is just a stop gap for the position. A stop gap would require there to be depth at the position in the next draft or two, since we usually pick in the later half of the round. Therefore I decided to delve into who might come out of college next year, and what other positions would have depth in order to see if it was likely that a starting caliber Left Tackle might slip to the second half of the round, since this year all 3 starting caliber LT's went in the top-4 picks.

My conclusion, based on some early 2014 draft previews, was very promising. Obviously it is very early to be trying to project next year's draft, but my resources were draft previews from Todd McShay and Chris Burke:

There are an abundance of currently ranked top-35 players at left tackle, and many top players at both quarterback and wide receiver, in addition to some top defensive prospects. Therefore, I would think it would be hopeful we could get a top LT prospect in the mid to late 1st round next year.

Here are the top names :

Top left tackles

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M: Because the talent elsewhere will be better at the 2014 draft, offensive tackles will not dominate as they did this year. It’s still a loaded position, and expect Matthews to be right at the top. He might be even better than 2013 No. 2 pick Luke Joeckel.

Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan: Lewan might have leapfrogged Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel to be the No. 1 pick in 2013, if he had entered his name in the draft rather than returned to Michigan. He’s a clear high first-round prospect and, with Devin Gardner under center rather than Denard Robinson, will get a full year in a pro-style system.

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama: Kouandjio could climb much higher than this. He was the starting left tackle last season for Alabama’s dominant line, and he could climb into the top five with another standout season.

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee: Richardson is a massive left tackle who forced 2012 third-round pick Dallas Thomas (Miami Dolphins) inside to guard last season. Richardson is still developing his footwork and hand placement but has the size, natural mobility and strength potential to emerge as a first-round pick in 2014.

David Yankey, OT, Stanford: Yankey slid out to tackle from guard for 2012. His NFL future might be back on the interior of the line. Either way, that versatility will only serve to drive up his draft stock. Tennessee’s Antonio Richardson is another tackle to watch.

Top Quarterbacks

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville: We’re still four months from the college football season, but Bridgewater is the clear top QB prospect for 2014. That’s not to say that the QB crop is weak — several could justify first-round picks (assuming they don’t flop in 2013) and the class could have several players off the board on Day 1 or 2. But there is very little not to like about Bridgewater’s game, and the Cardinals would love to have him.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: As a guest analyst on the NFL Network’s draft coverage, LSU head coach absolutely raved about Boyd. Miles’ Tigers fell to Boyd’s … well, Tigers in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl last year, and Boyd threw for 346 yards and accounted for three touchdowns. Miles said his team tried everything and just couldn’t stop the assault. Boyd has now had back-to-back sensational years, and he is the type of dual-threat QB teams are clamoring for right now.

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA: Renowned QB guru Steve Clarkson said that Hundley would have been the top pick in the 2013 draft, had he been eligible. It’s hard to argue, given the skills on this 6-3 QB. Another year like his freshman campaign (3,745 yards passing, 38 total touchdowns) should push Hundley to the draft.

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M: Manziel’s a tough one to peg. He doesn’t have great size or an elite arm, and his live-it-up lifestyle might scare some teams away. And yet, if he dominates the SEC for a second straight year, it would be tough to drop him very far. And Minnesota, barring a Christian Ponder breakthrough, could be ready for another change at QB.

Top wide receivers

Marqise Lee, WR, USC: Lee is just 6-feet tall, so we’re not talking about a Calvin Johnson-type that’s going to win jump balls consistently. What Lee will do, though, is get open and make plays. He caught a whopping 118 passes last season for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. You’re looking at a Heisman frontrunner for 2013 and a player that could dramatically improve an NFL offense.

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: The Jets again miss out on the top receiver, this imaginary draft matching 2013 reality. Watkins would be a terrific consolation prize. He split top duties with DeAndre Hopkins as a sophomore and still put up 57 catches for 708 yards. Given a full year to shine as the No. 1 target for Boyd, Watkins should soar.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington: Seferian-Jenkins’ situation bears monitoring — he’s currently suspended from Washington for an offseason DUI arrest. If he gets things in order, the rising junior is a definite Round 1 pick. Think Tyler Eifert with even more athleticism.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt: Taking a stab at the WR spot here. Matthews, 6-3 and 205 pounds, flirted with the 2013 draft following a 94-catch year. He opted to return to Vandy for his senior year, which should help him polish up his game. He’s not a burner but, like a Keenan Allen, exploits weaknesses in defenses.

Brandon Coleman, WR, Rutgers: Coleman emerged in 2012 with 43 catches and 10 touchdowns. A strong follow-up season for the developing 6-6 receiver would put Coleman on a lot of radars.

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: Thanks to a 2011 redshirt, Evans, like Manziel, could enter next year’s draft after playing just two college seasons. He should go, too, if he can improve on an 82-catch, 1,105-yard debut. At 6-5, 225, Evans would intrigue any team looking at Coleman.

DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville: Another potential underclassman, I’m guessing Parker would declare for the draft if he and Bridgewater dominated again. Parker stepped up as Louisville’s top option in 2012 (40 catches, 10 TDs) and brings a tantalizing mix of speed and size to the table.

Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon: Lyeria made headlines this offseason by suggesting on Twitter that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a government conspiracy. So, maturity could be an issue. His numbers won’t leap off the page — 25 catches for 392 yards and six scores last season — but Lyeria (6-5, 240) is perfectly built to be an option in a creative offense.

Top defensive players

Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Whichever team winds up picking No. 1 overall will be faced with quite the dilemma. Does that team nab a potential franchise quarterback or Clowney, the country’s best defender and a player that may have been taken first in the 2013 draft had he been eligible? I’ll stick with Clowney here, for now, because he’s the best 2014 prospect. Also, it’s a deep QB draft, so the Raiders (hypothetically) could land Clowney early, then possibly turn around with a QB like A.J. McCarron, Braxton Miller, Derek Carr or David Fales atop Round 2.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama: Oh, look, an elite player from Alabama. Mosley can do it all — he had 107 tackles and a pair of interceptions last season — and would give Buffalo another dynamite young player to pair with 2013 second-rounder Kiko Alonso.

Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame: Nix is a bit like Star Lotulelei, in that he’s massive (6-foot-3, 330) and yet still nimble enough to beat blockers at the line. Kansas City could drop him right in at nose tackle, but he could play DT in a 4-3 or slide out to DE in a 3-4 if needed.

Morgan Breslin, DE, USC: Breslin racked up 13.0 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in his first season following a transfer from junior college. He could be the premier pass rusher in the 2014 class.

Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State: Maybe another year of getting torched by Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and others will convince Detroit to draft a CB in Round 1. And Roby looks like the best of the bunch. Like Dee Milliner (6-0), Roby is a bit small (5-11); also like Milliner, he has speed and just loves attacking the football.

Stephon Tuitt, DT, Notre Dame: The yin to Nix’s yang, Tuitt dominated at DE in the Irish’s 3-4, chalking up 12.0 sacks and making life miserable for offensive linemen.

Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State: Sutton’s cut from the mold of Sharrif Floyd (a 2013 first-rounder for Minnesota) — undersized for DT (listed at 6-1, 288 and smaller than that), but a guy who continually makes plays.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon: The Oregon defense is easy to overlook because of the dominance of its offense. Should you do so, however, you risk missing Ekpre-Olomu, who picked off four passes and batted down 20 more last season. Even at 5-10, he has lock-down corner potential.

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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