The annual “My Guys” watchlist is here. It has become a favorite of readers as it has featured some breakout stars (Robert Griffin, Russell Wilson). This isn’t a ranking of any sort – just a list of players at each position that I like for one reason or another.
Without further ado, here’s our 2014 NFL Draft defensive “My Guys” watchlist.
First Team: Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
It goes without saying that Jadeveon Clowney is first team on every list but I wanted to avoid the obvious. As a true freshman at Notre Dame, I thought Lynch was a sure-fire top five pick whenever he opted to enter the draft. It seems like forever since we’ve seen Lynch on the field and I can’t wait to see him this fall at South Florida. A slimmed down Lynch (listed at 270 at ND, listed at 244 at USF) could be in the mix for a top selection in May with another solid season under his belt.
Second Team: Deandre Coleman, DE/DT, Cal
Coleman’s versatility will make him intriguing for all 32 teams come May. He will have a shot to shine early as a senior – with contests against Ohio State and Oregon looming in the first month. Coleman flashes a unique blend of size, strength, and quickness.
Honorable Mention: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington
Shelton was a guy that got better as the season progressed. In the beginning of the 2012 season he would flash, then disappear for long stretches. Towards the end of the year, you could see things click for the Washington nose. Shelton has the ideal frame for a nose (6’1”, 317) and has better than advertised quickness out of the blocks. Look for Shelton to progress as a junior and work his way towards the top of the 2014 DT class.
First Team: Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
Bradford consistently caught my eye when watching William Sutton. Bradford possesses explosive closing speed which allows him to track the quarterback and chase down backs. He’s an ideal fit for a 3-4 OLB and should be a coveted prospect when it’s all said and done.
Second Team: Avery Williamson, ILB, Kentucky
Williamson isn’t going to stand out as an athlete but his instincts and propensity to rack up tackles in bunches make up for it. He’s a 3-4 ILB with the ability to take on blocks, shed, and make a slew of tackles. His strength at the point of attack, combined with leadership/football smarts should have him rising up draft boards this fall and winter.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
The NFL will continue to covet linebackers that can cover and run with athletes in space. Shazier is an undersized athlete that turned it on as a sophomore in 2012. He will be asked to step up as a leader this season and could take steps towards being a top 20 prospect come May.
First Team: Lamarcus Joyner, CB/S, Florida State
Joyner isn’t going to win in the eyeball test – checking in at 5-foot-8 but don’t let that fool you. Joyner is a physical player that will be asked to play more corner this season. Whether his NFL future resides at corner or safety – he’s a player.
Second Team: Ross Cockrell, CB, Duke
Cockrell is the leader of the Blue Devils defense. His blend of size, speed, and instincts should make him a coveted prospect at the CB position. Cockrell has the ball skills (9 career picks, 38 PBU’s) to rise up draft boards with a solid senior season.
Honorable Mention: Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
Dixon timed at 4.39 in the 40-yard dash this spring. While that may not stand at the Combine – he plays with that type of athleticism. He’s an experienced starter (will have near 40 starts after this season) that has proved versatile enough to line up at safety or nickel. Dixon doesn’t have great ball skills but he impacts the game in so many other ways.