BBD Editor: Dan Hope
BBD Staff Writer: Joe Marino
As you would expect when the two best teams in college football play for a title, there will be no shortage of NFL talent on the field when Florida State (13-0) plays Auburn (12-1) in Monday’s BCS National Championship Game (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).
While Heisman Trophy-winning Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is not eligible for the 2014 NFL draft as he is only a redshirt freshman, the case could be made that every player in Florida State’s starting lineup has NFL potential, many of whom are seniors or potential early-round picks if they declare.
Auburn does not have as much talent headed to the upcoming draft as the Seminoles do, but they have had a number of breakout stars this year whose draft stocks have soared as the Tigers have re-emerged as a championship contender.
Florida State’s top prospects, which can be found on pages 1 and 2, were broken down by BBD editor Dan Hope. Auburn’s top prospects, on page 3, were scouted by BBD staff writer Joe Marino.
Cameron Erving, LT, Florida State, Jr. (6’6”, 320 lbs)
In a draft class projected to have plenty of top talent at the offensive tackle, Florida State’s Cameron Erving will be one of the position’s top prospects if he declares for the 2014 NFL draft.
Erving has only played offensive tackle for the past two seasons at FSU after starting his Seminoles career as a defensive tackle, but he is already one of college football’s left tackles. Erving has huge upside on the merits of an ideal combination of size and athleticism for an NFL offensive tackle, but he has translated those measurables to on-field success.
Winston’s ability to thrive in his first season leading the Seminoles offense has been aided by great pass protector, an effort led by Erving. Florida State often leaves its left tackle on an island on the edge in pass protection, and Erving has been largely dominant in that capacity.
Erving has quick feet and terrific length, and he uses both well. He is a natural mover who is light on his feet, while he does a great job of locking out opponents with his arms, then syncing his upper and lower body to navigate rushers away from the pocket.
As a run blocker, Erving shows similarly high upside but is less polished. He does a very good job of getting to the second level with his quick feet, but he often looks lost at that level, either failing to sustain blocks or not picking up a block altogether. He does a good job at the line of scrimmage of both downblocking inside of defensive tackles and turning defensive ends outside, but he does exhibit the power to consistently drive opponents off the line of scrimmage.
All in all, Erving is already one of the top offensive linemen in college football, and he has the potential to continue getting even better. He projects well to continuing to play left tackle at the next level, and should be a first-round pick if he enters the draft.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State, RS So. (6’5”, 234 lbs)
The X-factor of the Florida State offense, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin has emerged as a potential first-round pick should he declare for the 2014 NFL draft after his redshirt sophomore season.
Benjamin has tremendous size for a wide receiver, and he uses it well. A good athlete for his size, Benjamin has great body control and does a great job adjusting to the football to make challenging catches. He high-points the football well, and can bring the ball in over defensive backs with his verticality and through contact with his strength.
Benjamin might be the best jump-ball receiver in college football, which makes him an especially good target in the red zone. That said, he has also proved to be a difficult player to bring down in the open field, as he has shown the ability to break tackles with his size and strength to make big plays.
Benjamin is a good route runner at all levels, but he already has trouble separating from coverage at the collegiate level. He does not have great downfield speed or acceleration, but he makes up for it with his ability to make catches even when he is covered. His hands could come into question, however, as he tends to let passes into his body and has dropped some passes right out of his hands.
Benjamin can also be an asset to a team’s rushing offense, as he uses his size and strength well as a perimeter blocker.
Limited speed and change-of-direction quickness might make Benjamin less of a big-play threat at the next level, but his size and ability to make plays on the ball in the air create mismatches all over the field, especially in jump-ball situations. He has the potential to be a very productive NFL wide receiver as a result, and should be a first- or second-round pick if he goes pro.
Bryan Stork, C, Florida State, Sr. (6’4”, 300 lbs)
The senior leader of Florida State’s offensive line, Bryan Stork also won the Rimington Trophy award this season as the nation’s top center. He has a game that should translate to the NFL, and projects as one of the top three or four center prospect in the 2014 draft class as a result.
Stork has good measurables and athleticism for a center, and he uses his feet very well both along the line of scrimmage and getting to the second level. He does a very good job mirroring his opponent in pass protection, while he has good length for a center and plays with good pad level, allowing him to leverage defenders away from his body. He slides and switches between blocks effectively, while he is also a good pull blocker who can get to the outside and make plays.
Technically, Stork still has some areas for improvement in his game. Though he has a strong punch that can knock defenders back, he tends to catch defenders rather than being the aggressor at the line of scrimmage. Stork can be seen in too many plays not actually blocking anyone, while he does not exhibit the strength to consistently drive opponents off the line of scrimmage as a run blocker.
A likely mid-round draft pick, Stork’s stock is increased by not only the lack of talent projected to be in the 2014 class of centers, but also by his versatility demonstrated by the playing time he has also seen at guard and tackle in his FSU career.
Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida State, Jr. (5’9”, 203 lbs)
His teammate and fellow Florida State junior running back James Wilder, Jr. may be more well-known because of his father’s precedent as a great NFL running back, but FSU’s best running back is Devonta Freeman, who could be an intriguing mid-to-late round prospect if he declares for the 2014 draft.
There are nothing special about Freeman’s measurables, but he is a true downhill runner who attacks holes at the line of scrimmage and consistently fights through contact. He does not have great vision or burst out of the backfield, but he is a north-south runner who can bounce off of tackle attempts and who consistently stretches forward to gain extra yardage at the end of runs.
In addition to his strength as a runner, Freeman is a solid receiver out of the backfield while he is very solid for a running back in pass protection. With the ability to grind out tough yardge on rushing plays but also be an asset to a passing offense, Freeman should be able to see the field on any down at the next level without being a liability.
Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State, Jr. (6’, 180 lbs)
Though Benjamin has been a key playmaker in a terrific season for Florida State, he isn’t even the Seminoles’ leading receiver. That distinction, at least for the time being, goes to junior Rashad Greene, who has 67 receptions for 981 yards going into Monday’s game.
There is nothing that stands out about Greene’s game the way Benjamin’s size and ability to make contested catches does, but he might be the team’s most well-rounded receiver. At his best as an intermediate receiver, Greene is a fluid route-runner who has reliable hands and the quickness to extend plays in the open field.
Greene does not have great size or speed, but he projects well as a third or fourth playmaker out of the slot in an NFL offense. Given the strength and depth of the 2014 wide receiver class, Greene would be smart to return for his senior season to continue working to boost his draft stock, but he could turn out to be a Day 3 steal if he declares after this season.
For Florida State’s top defensive prospects, see page 2. For Auburn’s top prospects, see page 3.
Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Auburn, BCS National Championship Game, Bowl Games, Bowl Previews, Bryan Stork, Cameron Erving, Chris Davis, Christian Jones, Dee Ford, Devonta Freeman, Florida State, Game Preview, Greg Robinson, Kelvin Benjamin, Lamarcus Joyner, NFL Draft, Prospect Previews, Rashad Greene, Telvin Smith, Terrence Brooks, Timmy Jernigan, Tre Mason