2014 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Alabama vs. Texas A&M

Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews will be facing his first major test as a left tackle against Alabama on Saturday. (Photo: Thomas Campbell — USA Today Sports)

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama, Jr. (6’6’’, 310) 

Kouandjio was heavily recruited out of high school as he reportedly had more than 60 scholarship offers. The Crimson Tide entrusted him to take over as their blindside protector as a sophomore in 2012. He started 13 games and fared very well.

Two of the first traits to stand out about Kouandjio are his huge frame and extremely long arms. He has the body type that NFL teams are looking for in offensive tackles.

Run blocking is a major area of strength for Kouandjio. He creates a lot of movement in the run game and can move defenders at will. He finishes blocks extremely well.

Kouandjio is a solid pass blocker, but this is where his game can use some refinement. While Kouandjio can get into his pass set quickly and doesn’t usually allow pressure, there are some technique issues that need to be addressed. Inconsistent hand placement and waist-bending can get him in trouble and cause balance issues. As a result of these balance issues, Kouandjio is susceptible to getting beat by inside moves.

I would not put Kouandjio on the level of Taylor Lewan or Jake Matthews as the top offensive tackles eligible for the 2014 draft class, but he has a higher ceiling than both of those players. Kouandjio is absolutely a first-round prospect in my view.

Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M, Jr. (6’5’’, 305lbs) 

Jake Matthews, son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Bruce Matthews, has been a starter on the Texas A&M offensive line since roughly halfway through his freshman season. He has developed steadily and was named as a first team All-SEC and third-team AP All-American player in his junior year.  Matthews is primed to cap off his collegiate career as an extremely decorated player.

When you watch Matthews on tape, you see a solid all-around player. From a technical standpoint, Matthews plays with good pad level, great hand placement and good knee bend. He is a smooth, natural pass blocker who looks effortless. As a run blocker, Matthews has become a good finisher and is a true technician. He plays with good pad level, and is truly a plug-and-play type prospect.

The concern with Matthews is that he may be tapped out in his development. It’s uncertain how much more he can improve and he seems like a finished product. That said, he is a low-risk player who will solidify and anchor a team’s offensive line for years to come. I expect Matthews to be drafted in the top half of the first round.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama, Jr. (6’1’’, 208lbs) 

Solidifying the back end of the excellent Crimson Tide defense is junior safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He is a playmaker in the secondary, who amassed five interceptions last season to go along with 37 tackles. Clinton-Dix has good size and athleticism for his position.

I love what I see from Clinton-Dix in run support. He has a nose for the football and is always around the play. His willingness to fly to the football, strong tackling skills and good tackling angles make Clinton-Dix a very sound safety in run support. You can also see him frequently blitzing from the secondary and make plays near the line of scrimmage.

Clinton-Dix does a good job of keeping things in front of him in pass defense and is aggressive pursuing the ball. Alabama plays single-high safety defenses often, which leaves Clinton-Dix with a lot of ground to cover. Some of his instincts in pass defense can improve, but overall, he can be trusted as a center fielder in the secondary.

With another solid campaign as a junior, Clinton-Dix has a good chance of hearing his name called in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft should he declare.

C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama, Sr. (6’2’’, 232 lbs) 

Entering his senior year, Mosley has been a true playmaker in his time at Alabama. He has five career interceptions, including three that were returned for touchdowns. He also has 6.5 career sacks and led the Crimson Tide in tackles last season.

Mosley is an all-around talent. In the run game, Mosley is an instinctive player who trusts his eyes and makes tackles all over the field. Shedding blockers and shifting through traffic are concerns for most linebackers, but not for Mosley.

Mosley looks very natural when dropping into pass coverage. He stays connected with his man and do a great job of reading quarterbacks’ eyes. There is no reason to take him off the field in nickel packages.

When he isn’t dropping into coverage, Mosley can pressure the quarterback, as he is an effective blitzer. Mosley truly is an every-down linebacker.

I rarely give consideration to inside linebacker as top-10 draft selections, but Mosley could be a player who ranks very high on my draft board for 2014.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, AJ McCarron, Alabama, C.J. Mosley, Cyrus Kouandjio, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Jake Matthews, Johnny Manziel, Prospect Previews, Prospects to Watch, SEC, Texas A&M

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