The 2014 NFL Draft is just weeks away but our evaluation sites have been turned to the 2015 class. “The hay has been in the barn” for a couple of weeks on 2014, so now is the perfect time to begin to preview the 2015 NFL Draft.
The 2014 NFL Draft is talent-ridden from top to bottom and the 2015 class appears to be fairly similar in regards to the overall talent. First up we’ll preview the offensive skill guys with the brutes on the offensive and defensive line next week.
1. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan St.
I was burned by another preseason ranking of a state of Michigan QB last offseason. I don’t think I made the same mistake on Cook. Cook emerged last season as one of, if not the best QB in the conference. He put himself on the national stage with his stellar performance against the vaunted Stanford Cardinal defense. Another season like the last and he’ll be moving on up quickly.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
There’s little question that Mariota is a top athlete at the QB position. That said, I wasn’t in love of his some of decisions or accuracy last year. If Mariota can prove he can win consistently with his arm in 2014, he’ll be my top quarterback but as of today he’s behind Cook.
3. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida St.
Winston has some special qualities about him. There’s little question about his arm talent, despite many picking apart his shoddy mechanics. I’m less concerned about his mechanics as a passer and more about the questionable decisions made off-the-field. He’s a kid that can’t seem to get out of his own way, so I worry about his ability to mature in time to take on the glaring NFL spotlight.
4. Bryce Petty, QB, Baylor
Petty wisely stayed in school after some serious thought on entering the 2014 NFL Draft. His numbers are eye-popping and he has the build and athleticism to intrigue teams early on day one. Petty could be a guy we watch rise to the top of the draft with another solid season in Waco.
5. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Hundley has all the physical tools to be a special one. Gifted with size, athleticism, and arm strength Hundley will look to improve on spotty accuracy in 2013. If Hundley can make improvements in the accuracy department, he’s a top 15 talent.
One to watch: Travis Wilson, QB, Utah – has the size and arm strength to warrant a close look this season. The big question will be how he returns from a concussion that cost him a chunk of last season and his continued durability.
1. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
It was touch and go on whether Gordon would declare this year or not. He opted to come back for his junior season and test the waters of a talented and deep running back class. I maintain that despite the talent in this class, he’s the top guy.
2. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Gurley is a brute that has the feet to an every down back in the NFL. It really was down to a 2A, 2B situation with Gurley and Yeldon. Gurley gets the nod because of his incredible balance at 230+ pounds.
3. T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama
Yeldon will have to fight off the stigma of Alabama backs not succeeding in the NFL. For what it’s worth, Yeldon appears to be more Eddie Lacy that Trent Richardson or Mark Ingram – not in terms of style but in terms of future success. Yeldon can do a little bit of everything and does a lot really well. Teams are going to struggle to not pull the trigger on anyone of these top three guys early on day one.
4. Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina
Mike Davis emerged last season out of the shadows of Marcus Lattimore to have a spectacular season. He ran for nearly 1,200 yards and caught 32 passes in 2013 and figures to be the focal point of the Gamecocks offense this season.
5. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Abdullah doesn’t have the punishing size of a Gurley or Yeldon but he’s as complete a back as anyone on this list. Abdullah opted to return to Nebraska for his senior season and will be the focal point of the Huskers offense this season. His combination of quickness, balance, and vision should make him an intriguing option on day two of next year’s draft.
One to watch: Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas – Brown was one of the most highly recruited backs out of high school but hasn’t lived up to his enormous billing. This season he’ll look to pick up where he left off last season and prove he was worthy of all the hype.
1. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Agholor emerged last year as Cody Kessler’s top target after Marqise Lee was hampered by injuries. Agholor doesn’t have the elite size that NFL teams covet but the rest of the tools are there for him to be a first round lock in 2015.
2. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper was spectacular as a freshman but injuries slowed down his production last season. I expect Cooper to return to his 2012 form and emerge as the draft’s top receiving target. Right now, I’m leaning a bit more towards Agholor but I can be swayed very easily on this one.
3. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona St.
Strong has the size that NFL teams covet at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds but has only one year of big-time collegiate film. With another great year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him surpass the top two on this board.
4. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida St.
Rashad Greene was largely overshadowed by Kelvin Benjamin last year despite being the better of the two. Benjamin has a significant size advantage over Greene but Greene is a superior overall receiver to Benjamin.
5. Antwan Goodley, WR, Baylor
I have to say that I might be the only one this high on Goodley but I’m quickly beginning to form my first draft crush on the 2015 NFL Draft. Watching Petty, my attention was turned to Goodley who looks like a RB and runs like a deer. Goodley is special after the catch and should be primed for a huge year in 2014.
One to watch: Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland – Diggs is one of the best playmakers in all of college football. There some Tavon Austin to his game with a little more size, so if he can get past the nagging injuries expect him to rise quickly up draft boards.
1. Devin Funchess, TE, Michigan
Lord help us if Funchess learns to catch the ball more consistently. Funchess is a big play waiting to happen but his hands are so inconsistent. He will be moved all around the Michigan offense to create matchup problems, so expect him to get plenty of opportunities this season.
2. Nick O’Leary, TE, Florida St.
If not for his size O’Leary would be the top tight end. He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 244 pounds but may measure a shade under 6-foot-3. If he does, teams will have some caution despite posting huge numbers at FSU.
3. Pharaoh Brown, TE, Oregon
Brown has an enormous amount of talent but hasn’t lived up to that talent level due to a combination of injuries and maturity questions (see: roll in snowball fight). Brown has the size and athleticism that teams covet at the next level.
4. Clive Walford, TE, Miami
I hyped Clive Walford up last offseason after seeing him in spring practice. Walford had a very solid year last season but lacks the elite athleticism to warrant consideration as a first round TE.
5. Jake McGee, TE, Virginia
The former quarterback is a long athlete with enough athleticism make teams take notice of him down the seam. With another solid season, don’t be surprised if he’s not a Mackey award finalist and moving up the national radar.
One to watch: Ben Koyack, TE, Notre Dame – A ND tight end seems to emerge every year. Koyack could be the latest to jump on NFL radars. Koyack has the size and enough speed but lacks the experience of the others on this list. With a solid junior season, don’t be surprised if he’s not the latest in line of ND TE’s taken high in the NFL Draft.