NFL Draft: Players to Keep Your Eye On

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There should be quite a few quarterbacks and wide receivers drafted in the first round, but what is also surprising is the number of tight ends that many are speculating as first round selections. Normally one tight end is drafted in the primary round at the most, but this year it looks as though three are going to be available. This list starts with quarterbacks then will move to wide receivers and finally tight ends.

 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (6-3, 220)

This is the best quarterback in the 2014 class. Bridgewater has shown time and again what he is capable off and on the field. Teddy has pro-caliber accuracy as he completed 71% of his throws and finished the season with 31 touchdowns on only four interceptions.  The level of offense at Louisville forced him to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage, and he can complete NFL style throws.

 

Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (5-11, 210).

Vision, elusiveness and accuracy on the move are all part of “Johnny Football” repertoire. He has played great when needed, rescuing Texas A+M from disaster against Duke for example, but has played subpar against teams such as LSU and Missouri.  Because of his height he has struggled to find the open receiver when contained in the pocket, and because of this he will be the number two quarterback taken.

 

Blake Bortles, QB, UCF (6-4, 229)

Bortles is the man of the hour in draft circles, with his Fiesta Bowl win putting the capper on a brilliant season.  He will have some growing to do, as he struggles with his progression and ball placement, and can also be rigid with his mechanics, but there is no reason why he won’t start in the NFL. He finished his career with the Knights by completing 585 passes for 7,598 yards with 56 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

 

Which of these three future NFL rookies would you want on your team? Photo credit: Michael Conroy, AP

Which of these three future NFL rookies would you want on your team?
Photo credit: Michael Conroy, AP

Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (6-3, 215).

Even with a 68.2 passer rating and a 50 to 8 TD:INT ratio, many are projecting that Carr’s numbers are over inflated because of the offense he was in at Fresno State, and the fact that the wide receivers are first class.  He has plenty of talent and can zip the ball. The Vegas Bowl undoubtedly hurt his stock, because he demonstrated happy feet, and continuously misfired on his piasses, which has led to many to doubt his ability to withstand the rigors of the NFL. He will need to play well in the Senior Bowl to begin to upgrade his stock.

 

Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (6-1, 200). 

Watkins is an explosive athlete who finished the season with 85 receptions for 1,235 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He has awesome body control and natural hands.  He played well against quality opponets especially in the bowl game.

 

Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (6-5, 223).

Evans is a redshirt sophomore, but dominated the SEC. He is deceptively fast and has great body control.  He could be a great number one receiver, and be a huge target in the red zone.

 

Marqise Lee, WR, USC (6-0, 195).

He played with a knee injury for most of this past season, and was the Biletnikoff award winner for his elusiveness and acceleration. He has home-run potential whenever he catches the football, plus advanced capabilities as a route-runner. In the Vegas Bowl he caught seven passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns.  His slight frame could cause durability issues, but he is a prototypical slot receiver.

Expect Marqise Lee to impress in the combine, but will that be enough to improve his draft stock? Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports

Expect Marqise Lee to impress in the combine, but will that be enough to improve his draft stock?
Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, USA Today Sports

Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (6-3, 205).

Matthews is a polished prospect with a productive college career behind him. Matthews will be capable of starting from the get-go next season. Matthews had a great second half to his season, as he went from just five receptions for 63 yards to 36 receptions for 715 and five touchdowns. He went over 100 yards in a three game stretch and scored a touchdown in each one. He was named All-SEC second team.  A cousin of legendary Jerry Rice, he averaged 19.0 yards per catch over the season and has good but not great speed, but does have great size. His eye-hand coordination is also first rate, as he has been seen to haul in tough passes, including the one-handed variety.

 

Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (6-5, 234).

NFL scouts will not love seeing the moments of inconsistency from Benjamin. What they will love is how he uses his 6-5 frame to box out defenders, as he did on the game-winning catch in the BCS title game.  He decided to ditch his last two seasons of college to enter the NFL, as he finished the season with 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 15 touchdowns. The 15 touchdowns are wonderful, but the 54-1,011 is not something that will catch a scout’s eye. Benjamin has that rare combination of size and athletic ability that can improve any team looking for an offensive weapon.

 

Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State (6-3, 209).

He’s similar in size to Keenan Allen, the Chargers’ star rookie. He will arrive in the NFL having a well-progressed skill set, as Allen did. He is fluid and flexible for a large frame, and can be a catch and go receiver Robinson has a knack for finding room off screens and short passes. Good with the jump ball situation, and is a willing blocker.  Not great vertical speed, and needs to sell his route patterns better. Was suspended for the 2013 opener because of “disciplinary issues.” He is an early entry into the NFL draft but after finishing the season with 97 receptions for 1,432 yards and six touchdowns.

 

Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (6-4, 245).

With his combination of size and athleticism, he’s been compared to Vernon Davis, including the inconsistency issues, when he relies too much on his athleticism and not the techniques of the position.  He should be a great red zone target with his massive frame

 

Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech (6-6, 260).

Amaro has bamboozled defenses as a matchup problem all season, and finished the season recording eight catches for 112 yards in his last game, which helped him land in the record books for most yards in a season as he recorded 1,352 of them. That’s 23 more than Rice tight end James Casey in 2008.

 

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (6-7, 270).

Won the John Mackey award for tight end as he holds school career records for receptions yards receiving and touchdown catches.  He decided to not return for his senior year to enter the NFL.  He was suspended after being charged with DUI on March 9, but returned to record 36 receptions for 450 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.  He is broad-shouldered, long armed and a definite mismatch.  He has great body control and soft hands for a man his size, with quickness off the snap, and strong hands to break realese at the line of scrimmage.  He is a reliable route runner, and can adjust to the ball either high or low. Can break arm tackles easily, and has improved his blocking technique. He should be more dominating for a man his size, but is more finesse oriented, does not have much straight line speed, or is someone who can elude tacklers.  He compares to a Marcedes Lewis type.  He has shown to be almost impossible to cover, especially in the red zone, who should be viewed more as a security blanket and less like a seem runner such as Jimmy Graham.

 

Austin Seferian Jenkins is a name you're going to want to know heading into the draft this year. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Austin Seferian Jenkins is a name you’re going to want to know heading into the draft this year.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Michael Valverde is one of Fakepigskin’s draft experts. If you have any questions or comments for Michael, feel free to leave a comment below, or you can find him on Twitter @RFLRedZone

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