The NCAA football season is over and it ended in thrilling fashion. Congratulations to the Florida State Seminoles for their dramatic win over the Auburn Tigers. But the celebration can’t last too long because its almost time to get right back to work. For some, its time to rest up, get back on the recruiting trail and bring in some more of the talent that made them successful in 2013. For others, its time to think about the future of their professional careers. Here are the top five players at each position going into the East-West Shrine Bowl and the Senior Bowl. I’ll be updating these rankings as we get closer and closer to the NFL Combine and ultimately, I’ll have my mock drafts ready to go.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
2. Blake Bortles, UCF
3. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
4. Derek Carr, Fresno State
5. AJ McCarron, Alabama
Positional Analysis – Coming into the season, this was considered a very deep class of signal callers but as we saw, a lot of guys didn’t live up to the hype and others decided to go back to school. If Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley had declared, this would look a little deeper but there is talent to be found beyond these five players. Clemson’s Tajh Boyd, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and North Carolina’s Bryn Renner are among some of the more intriguing names.
1. Tre Mason, Auburn
2. Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona
3. Bishop Sankey, Washington
4. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
5. Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Positional Analysis – As we’ve seen, the running back position isn’t as highly regarded as it once was. For the second straight year, there isn’t a great tailback that looks like a lock for the first round. NFL teams know that they can get talented backs later in the draft and spend less money on a player that will only eventually split time. The new rules of the NFL are killing the need for a feature back and a lot of talented guys are going to suffer.
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
2. Mike Evans, Texas A&M
3. Marqise Lee, USC
4. Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
5. Allen Robinson, Penn State
Positional Analysis – If the running back position is being phased out, then the wide receiver position is about to go through a renaissance. There are a lot of playmakers at this position entering the draft and with the direction the league is going in, I don’t see many changes. Look for a guy like Davante Adams from Fresno State to make a strong leap into the top five as well as Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews. Also, time will tell if Bruce Ellington from South Carolina is this year’s Tavon Austin.
1. Eric Ebron, North Carolina
2. Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
3. Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
4. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa
5. Rob Blanchflower, UMass
Positional Analysis – There aren’t many breakout stars just yet from the tight end position but there are some guys that, if they land in the right situation, could make some waves. Look for names like Xaver Grumble from USC and Colt Lyerla from Oregon in the combine. They might impress you. And you want a sleeper? My dude Rob Blanchflower gets no love coming out of UMass but the guy can ball.
1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2. Greg Robinson, Auburn
3. Cyrus Kouandijo, Alabama
4. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
5. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
Positional Analysis – This might be one of the best and more NFL ready group of tackles in recent memory. This is a solid group and all five of these guys should go in the first round. Look out for guys like Morgan Moses from Virginia and Miami’s Seantrel Henderson. Henderson was very highly touted tackle out of high school and drew comparisons to guys like Walter Jones.
1. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
2. Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA
3. Anthony Steen, Alabama
4. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
5. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
Positional Analysis – The guards didn’t show out this year as well as the tackles did (some of them due to injury) but this is a solid group as well. I think Brandon Linder from Miami has a chance to move up some draft boards. He was part of a pretty good offensive line that helped Duke Johnson rush for over 900 yards in eight games.
1. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
2. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
3. Bryan Stork, Florida State
4. Marcus Martin, USC
5. Tyler Larson, Utah State
Positional Analysis – I’d be surprised if any of these guys ended up in the first round and there won’t be very many drafted either.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina
2. Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame
3. Kony Ealy, Missouri
4. Trent Murphy, Stanford
5. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
Positional Analysis – I like a lot of names from this group and one guy in particular that has a chance to shoot up some draft boards is Louisville’s Marcus Smith. He can play both end and outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
1. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
2. Louis Nix, Notre Dame
3. RaShede Hageman, Minnesota
4. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
5. Will Sutton, Arizona State
Positional Analysis – These interior linemen are very good, even though the stats don’t necessarily show it. In his bowl game, Aaron Donald was such a physically imposing threat along the defensive line that it allowed his fellow linemen to get into the offensive backfield almost untouched and make plays.
1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
2. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
3. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State
4. Vic Beasley, Clemson
5. Dee Ford, Auburn
Positional Analysis – There are some other guys that can make an immediate impact in the league like Florida State’s Telvin Smith, Notre Dame’s Prince Shembo and Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu. Anthony Barr has the talent to be a very good linebacker at the next level.
1. CJ Mosley, Alabama
2. Shayne Skov, Stanford
3. Christian Jones, Florida State
4. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
5. Yawin, Smallwood, UConn
Positional Analysis – I feel like this group of linebackers is very top heavy even though there is talent to be found in the mid to later rounds. Expect a pair of Denzel’s to be in the mix next season when Miami’s Perryman and Nkemdiche from Ole Miss are presumed to be available.
1. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
2. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
3. Jason Verrett, TCU
4. Bradley Roby, Ohio State
5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
Positional Analysis – This is a very very deep class of cornerbacks. At one point, you could have made the case for a guy like Louchiez Purifoy out of Florida to be the top corner in the country. UF’s lackluster season probably didn’t help his cause. Kyle Fuller is another solid corner coming out of Virginia Tech as well as Purifoy’s teammate in the defensive backfield, Marcus Roberson. Look out for guys like Antone Exum from VT, the now famous (and infamous) Chris Davis from Auburn and Stanley Jean-Baptiste from Nebraska.
1. Calvin Pryor, Louisville
2. HaSean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, Alabama
3. Dion Bailey, USC
4. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
5. Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
Positional Analysis – I don’t think that this group is necessarily deep but there is some talent to be found. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might have the best name in the draft and is talented enough to be this year’s Kenny Vaccaro. He can line up all over the field and make plays. He just needs to land on the right team.
1. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
2. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
3. Craig Loston, LSU
4. Jimmy Ward, Northern Illinois
5. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
Positional Analysis – I think Lewis from Michigan State can be better than projected and Hakeem Smith from Louisville also has a chance to move up some boards but overall this class of safeties isn’t great. Its still very early so we’ll see who emerges from the pack.
Just kidding. Although, don’t sleep on my guy Pat O’Donnell from the U. Reminds me a lot of Steve Weatherford. Not just a punter…this guy is an athlete.