2014 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: Clemson vs. Florida State

Telvin Smith is one of numerous seniors on the Florida State defense with NFL potential. (Photo: Melina Vastola — USA Today Sports)

Florida State (Joe Marino)

James Wilder, Jr., RB, Jr. (6’2’’, 229lbs) 

The son of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back James Wilder, Wilder Jr., entered Florida State ranked as the No. 11 recruit in the nation by Rivals. Through his first two seasons on the Seminoles, he has emerged into a steady contributor in a crowded backfield. Despite being part of a three-back rotation in 2012, Wilder led the team in rushing touchdowns with 11 while rushing for 635 yards and averaging 5.8 yards per attempt. He is part of a three-back rotation again this season, but still stands out as a solid prospect, having run for 214 yards and two touchdowns on just 36 rushing attempts.

Wilder is a big, decisive, downhill runner who thrives off contact and is tough to bring down, especially on first contact. This was particularly true against Clemson last season, when the Tigers defense wanted no part of tackling Wilder in thefourth quarter of a 49-37 Seminoles victory.

Although he is a larger back, Wilder runs with good pad level and behind his pads. He is a very well-balanced athlete who physically finishes runs. He hits the hole hard with great burst and is a good athlete overall. He has also flashed the ability to contribute as a receiver out of the backfield.

What may be keeping Wilder from more playing time is that he struggles in pass protection. In the times he is asked to protect, he is frequently seen whiffing on blocks and predictably attempting to unsuccessfully cut block.

If Wilder declares for the draft, he will do so with low mileage on his tires, which I like. He has displayed himself as a talented back that can come in and complement in the NFL right away. I see him as afourth-round prospect at this point.

Cameron Erving, OT, Jr. (6’6’’, 320lbs)

Erving started off his career with the Seminoles as a defensive tackle, where he played in 13 games during his redshirt freshman season in 2011. During the spring of 2012, Erving made the switch to left offensive tackle, and has started every game at the position since then while emerging as a potential first- or second-round draft pick.

Erving has the ideal frame and length that you look for in an offensive tackle. He has good movement skills and is a very solid athlete. Overall, he doesn’t appear to be as raw as you would think for someone who recently switched to the position.

As a pass blocker, Erving is a knee-bender who is able to get his arms extended and control his man. He has quick feet and no issues getting into his kick step naturally. He appears to still be learning some of the nuances of pass-blocking schemes and his awareness needs improvement, but he can get the job done from a physical standpoint.

The area of concern I have with Erving as a pass blocker is that at times, when dealing with speed off the edge, he can get his legs crossed and open his hips. He needs to start utilizing his length and quick feet to fan the rusher past the quarterback as opposed to turning and running with him.

When run blocking, Erving plays with very good pad level while displaying an aggressive demeanor. He isn’t overly powerful, but is technically sound in creating movement in the run game. He flashes the ability to make blocks in space and at the second level.

Erving is an emerging prospect at a valuable position, and he has a high ceiling as he is still learning the position. I currently like Erving as a Day 2 pick, but he has the upside to go much higher.

Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Sr. (5’8’’, 190lbs)

Rated as a five-star recruit out of high school by both Rivals and Scout, Joyner has appeared in every game during his Florida State career and has started 32 consecutive games. He started his career at cornerback and switched to safety for his sophomore and junior seasons, but is back at cornerback for his senior season, which is where he fits best as a prospect.

Joyner is a very solid, physical and aggressive tackler who looks to make big hits. He is consistent with his ability to square up on ballcarriers and bring them down. In addition to being a solid tackler, Joyner takes good, smart angles to the ball. With the emergence of spread offenses, teams have to be able to stop the run while having extra defensive backs on the field, which increases Joyner’s value.

Joyner is good in coverage and extremely athletic. He has explosive quickness and good instincts which show up in coverage. He flashes the ability to get a good jam at the line in press coverage.

Given his size, Joyner likely projects as a slot defender.

His ball skills are good but not great.

Joyner has shown the ability this year to successfully blitz and apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He times his blitzes well and is extremely quick, making him difficult to block. He also brings additional value as a return man.

While Joyner does not have ideal height, he does many things that make him a valuable and intriguing prospect. His versatility and experience project him as a third-to-fourth round prospect.

Christian Jones, LB, Sr. (6’4’’, 235 lbs) 

Christian Jones is one of the most athletic players in all of college football. This athleticism has had him on the field for Florida State since he was a true freshman, mostly as a contributor on special teams with some looks as a linebacker as a freshman in 2010, but as a starter ever since.

Jones is tremendous is pass coverage. He has extremely fluid hips, can run with backs and receivers and is long enough to cover tight ends. He has excellent awareness in zone and can blanket players in man. He has great ability to track the ball in the air and make plays on it. He is close to former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly in terms of being the best coverage linebacker I have watched on film.

Jones has above average instincts and is always around the ball. He is not often fooled and has good awareness. He flies around the field from sideline to sideline and has terrific range. From an athletic standpoint, he should test well at the NFL Scouting Combine.

One area of concern with Jones is that he does not take on blockers well. He doesn’t get enough separation from them and can easily be blocked out of plays. He is not physical when taking on blockers. When he is able to run freely, he is great, but he struggles when there is traffic in his way.

He regularly takes poor angles to ballcarriers and rarely takes the best course to get them down. Even his tremendous athleticism does not mask his bad pursuit angles.

In general, Jones is neither a great tackler nor a very physical player. He doesn’t drive his hips to bring down ball carriers, but is more of a grab and attempt to drag down type tackler.

You can see Jones’ upside in many ways, but I have a fourth-round grade on him based on the film I have studied. Perhaps that grade is a little high given the weaknesses I have outlined, but at a minimum, you get an amazingly athletic player who can cover tremendously well from the linebacker position. He projects as a core special teams player, and that should keep him on an NFL roster until he develops the ability to be an every-down player.

Timmy Jernigan, DT, Jr. (6’2’’, 292lbs) 

Like Lamarcus Joyner, Jernigan has played in every game for Florida State since his true freshman season, though Jernigan is only a junior and in his first year as a starter.

To this point in 2013, it is apparent that Jernigan’s overall strength and instincts have improved since last season. He had read blockers more effectively and has been much more stout at the point of attack. He continues to display quick and active hands to win battles with blockers, while he has flashed more ability to penetrate and make plays behind the line of scrimmage. His motor has also been more consistent in 2013.

The area that continues to plague Jernigan is the frog-like four-point stance that he gets into. He loses significant quickness and explosion out of his stance because of it. Before he can shoot his very quick hands, he has to gain his balance which renders him less effective. With some coaching in this area, his impact could be far greater.

Jernigan projects formidably as a 3-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme, and his impact has increased nicely in 2013. If Jernigan declares for the 2013 draft, he should be valued as a third-round prospect. Much like a lot of these Florida State prospects, there is plenty of upside to Jernigan.

Telvin Smith, LB, Sr. (6’3’’, 218lbs)

Smith is another player who has appeared in every game at Florida State since his true freshman season. Despite being a very productive player off the bench in his first three seasons, his senior year is his first as a full-time starter. After producing 64 tackles at 9.5 tackles for loss in 2012, Smith has 32 tackles with four for loss in the first five games of this season.

He is an excellent football player who stands out while studying the Florida State defense. He has tremendous instincts and makes plays all over the field. He is a downhill, physical linebacker and a great tackler. He appears to be extremely quick with good athleticism and great range.

The biggest concern with Smith is that he is listed at only 218 pounds. This primarily shows up when he is dealing with blockers. Even though he is extremely physical taking on blocks, he doesn’t have the weight to firmly hold his ground. Fortunately for Smith, his 6’3’’ frame does not appear maxed out and should be able to add 12-15 pounds. That said, I don’t foresee any NFL linebacker having success at such a light weight. If he stays at 218 pounds, he will be limited to a nickel linebacker or safety role, and unable to play downhill where he most succeeds.

Smith also has some wasted movement as he dissects plays. He needs to eliminate a brief “hop” in his movements before fulfilling his assignment. He can fully capitalize on his already solid instincts by correcting this.

If Smith were already playing at 230 pounds, I think people would be talking about him in the second round. Unless he proves larger in an official measurement, however, he gets a mid-third round grade.

Bryan Stork, C, Sr. (6’4’’, 300lbs) 

I did not originally intend on including Stork in this breakdown but when watching other prospects this week, my eyes kept drifting to Stork. Primarily playing center, Stork has started 32 games for the Seminoles and has been part of the most productive offenses in the history of the school.

Stork is an athletic, physical lineman who has excellent hand placement and very good feet, key elements to playing center considering your blocking has to coincide with snapping the ball. He creates a lot of movement in the run game and has a nasty demeanor. You will frequently see Stork’s opponent on the ground as he is an excellent finisher.

Another way Stork shows off his athletic ability is how well he gets to the second level and seals off linebackers. He also has a very strong anchor when pass blocking, and firmly holds his ground, which proves his strength.

Stork has been extremely consistent over the past two seasons, and he looks like he could be a plug-and-play type center in the NFL.

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Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, ACC, Brandon Thomas, Bryan Stork, Cameron Erving, Christian Jones, Clemson, Florida State, Game Previews, James Wilder, Lamarcus Joyner, Prospects to Watch, Sammy Watkins, Stephone Anthony, Tajh Boyd, Telvin Smith, Timmy Jernigan, Vic Beasley

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