Underclassmen Analysis: Record-Shattering 102 Early Entrants into 2014 NFL Draft

Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel is one of the headliners of the 2014 NFL draft’s record-setting group of underclassmen. (Photo: Dale Zanine — USA Today Sports)

BBD Staff Writer: Joseph Curtis

With the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft elapsed, the draft class has finally taken shape.

Last year, a record 73 underclassmen declared. This year, the following 102 players, who announced they would forgo their collegiate eligibility and enter the 2014 NFL Draft, have shattered that record. (Note: The official count of players is 98, as Teddy Bridgewater, Dion Bailey, Adrian Hubbard and Carl Bradford did not need to be granted special eligibility because they had already graduated from their respective universities).

Quarterbacks

Blake Bortles, Central Florida (6’4”, 230 lbs)

While Bortles possesses a good skill set, it’s his presence and poise in the pocket that impresses teams. Bortles possesses true franchise quarterback material; he is the only player who should challenge Bridgewater to be the first quarterback off the board.

Current Projection: Top 10

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (6’3”, 205 lbs)

The current favorite to be the top pick, Bridgewater brings all skills expected from a franchise signal-caller. His size and ability to throw the ball deep will raise some questions, but it’ll be difficult to dethrone him as the top quarterback.

Current Projection: Top 3

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M (6’1”, 210 lbs.)

College football’s most dynamic player the past two seasons, Manziel has elite elusiveness and improvisational skills. However, there will be big questions about how he’ll be able to transition to the pros.

Current Projection: Top 20

Brett Smith, Wyoming (6’3”, 206 lbs)

An athletic quarterback with a knack for escaping pressure and improvising, Smith might be a sleeper in this class. He won’t be able to start right away, but he could develop into a dual-threat weapon under center.

Current Projection: Round 3

Running Backs

George Atkinson, Notre Dame (6’2″, 220 lbs)

Though he began the season as the starting running back, Atkinson eventually fell to third on the depth chart. Excellent speed is his best asset and he can be a good returner, but is too hesitant to run between the tackles.

Current Projection: Round 7-Undrafted

Kapri Bibbs, Colorado State (5’11”, 203 lbs)

After a season in which he was near the top of every rushing category at the FBS level, Bibbs will seek to take advantage. Bibbs has good burst, agility and toughness and could mature into a solid runner.

Current Projection: Round 6-Undrafted

Brendan Bigelow, California (5’10”, 180 lbs)

Issues with Bigelow’s knees have slowed down the once quick and elusive back. With health concerns and a disappointing junior season, it’s difficult to believe he’ll be drafted.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Alfred Blue, Louisiana State (6’2”, 222 lbs)

Sharing carries in a talented backfield, Blue rushed for 343 yards and one touchdown in 2013. While he doesn’t have a lot of wear on his tires, he has a history of injuries.

Current Projection: Round 6-Undrafted

Ka’Deem Carey, Arizona (5’10”, 207 lbs)

Despite leading the nation in rushing in 2012 followed by a solid 2013, Carey doesn’t seem to get the recognition that other backs in this class get. Displaying good vision, quick cuts and power, he could be the first running back off the board.

Current Projection: Round 2

Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State (5’11”, 190 lbs)

Most known for his freshman season at Georgia that earned him SEC Freshman of the Year honors, Crowell went on to have a good career at the FCS level. He’s an explosive runner, but questions about his character and his past off-field activities will bring his stock down.

Current Projection: Round 6-Undrafted

Devonta Freeman, Florida State (5’9”, 203 lbs)

Despite sharing the workload with two other backs, Freeman still managed to rush for 1,016 yards and 14 touchdowns. While he’ll have fresh legs, it does bring about concerns about how much workload he can handle.

Current Projection: Round 3-4

Jeremy Hill, Louisiana State (6’2”, 235 lbs)

A powerful runner that gets downfield with haste, Hill will punish any defender in his way. He doesn’t show the best vision and there are some characters concerns he’ll have to answer to.

Current Projection: Round 4

Storm Johnson, Central Florida (6’, 215 lbs)

In 2013, Johnson rushed for 1,139 yards and 14 touchdowns helping lead UCF to a Fiesta Bowl victory. While he’s not a top running back prospect, he gets downhill quickly and takes the yards he’s given and would be a good developmental player.

Current Projection: Round 6-7

Henry Josey, Missouri (5’10”, 190 lbs)

Coming back from a terrible knee injury suffered in 2011 that required three surgeries, Josey came back to rush for 1,166 yards and 16 touchdowns. Questions will be asked about the knee, but he has the speed and vision NFL teams covet.

Current Projection: Round 6-Undrafted

Tre Mason, Auburn (5’10”, 205 lbs)

With his short, stocky build, Mason maintains a low center-of-gravity and is difficult to take down. His vision is exceptional then quickly bursts through the hole and he can make defenders miss.

Current Projection: Round 2

Adam Muema, San Diego State (5’10”, 205 lbs)

Muema runs with a low center-of-gravity and is patient but lacks speed and agility to create separation. He is one of four Aztecs to rush for consecutive 1,000-yard season including Marshall Faulk and Ronnie Hillman.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Darrin Reaves, Alabama-Birmingham (5’10”, 210 lbs.)

With some shiftiness in his game and an excellent receiver, Reaves should garner some interest. Still, he runs upright and doesn’t show off top athleticism.

Current Projection: Round 7-Undrafted

Bishop Sankey, Washington (5’10”, 203 lbs)

A workhorse for the Huskies the past few seasons, Sankey showed off great vision and slippery quickness. Long-term durability may be a concern after carrying the ball 616 times the past couple seasons.

Current Projection: Round 2-3

Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (5’10”, 210 lbs)

With outstanding quickness and the ability to accelerate rapidly, Seastrunk has playmaker ability. He has good third-down skills and is best between the tackles, but has a tendency to bounce runs outside.

Current Projection: Round 2

Jerome Smith, Syracuse (6’, 226 lbs)

Smith is a big power back who gets quickly downhill between the tackles. But he lacks speed and doesn’t gain more yards than he’s given. Without good speed, he’ll need to work on finishing runs and his receiving skills to be drafted.

Current Projection: Undrafted

John Spooney, Brown (5’11″, 185 lbs)

Spooney averaged 130 yards per game on the ground and finished with 1,170 yards rushing. While he rushed well in the Ivy League, it’s unlikely that Brown gets drafted.

Current Projection: Undrafted

De’Anthony Thomas, Oregon (5’9”, 169 lbs)

With his elite athleticism, Thomas is a threat to take it all the way whenever he touches the ball. However, he really is an athlete rather than football player. He doesn’t have a true position and where he’ll fit is up in the air.

Current Projection: Round 4-5

Terrance West, Towson (5’11”, 223 lbs.)

West will look to capitalize on a record-setting junior season that included leading his team to the FCS Championship Game. A potential three-down back, he is quick to get momentum downhill adding to his already impressive power.

Current Projection: Round 3-4

James Wilder, Florida State (6’2”, 229 lbs)

Wilder’s 2013 season was hampered by a shoulder injury and concussion, and when he returned he had fallen to third on the depth chart. When he’s healthy he runs strong and explodes out of his cuts.

Current Projection: Round 4-5

See pages 2-3 for analysis of many more prospects!

Continue to Page: 1 2 3

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Blake Bortles, Early Entrants, Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins, Teddy Bridgewater, Underclassmen

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