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

Potential first-round Buffalo Bills target Sammy Watkins of Clemson is among a deep group of wide receivers to enter the draft early. (Photo: Joshua S. Kelly — USA Today Sports)

Wide Receivers

Davante Adams, Fresno State (6’2”, 216 lbs)

Possessing strong, soft hands and an instinct for going and getting the ball, Adams may be the best pure pass catcher in the draft. However, he lacks speed and any sort of burst which may lead to him sliding on draft day.

Current Projection: Round 2-3

Odell Beckham, Louisiana State (6’, 193 lbs)

Though he lacks top-notch speed, Beckham runs smoothly and accelerates well. He has a large catch radius and though he’s not a natural catcher, he’s improving.

Current Projection: Round 1-2

Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State (6’5”, 234 lbs)

Size stands out the most for Benjamin, but he also blends good speed with it. He has a huge catch radius and he’s a matchup nightmare, especially in the red zone.

Current Projection: Round 1-2

Chris Boyd, Vanderbilt (6’4”, 205 lbs)

Vanderbilt dismissed Boyd in September after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor accessory charge in a rape investigation. During his two seasons, Boyd caught 81 passes for 1,247 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Martavis Bryant, Clemson (6’5”, 200 lbs)

With a two-touchdown performance in the Orange Bowl, Bryant has some momentum heading into draft season. He showed big play ability in his first season as a starter and he’ll likely workout well, so his stock could surge during draft season.

Current Projection: Round 3-4

Brandon Coleman, Rutgers (6’6”, 220 lbs)

Coleman’s size will draw most of the attention. While he has solid hands, he doesn’t have a good feel to go up and get it and he does not accelerate quickly.

Current Projection: Round 4-5

Brandin Cooks, Oregon State (5’10”, 186 lbs)

The 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner, Cooks brings big-play potential whenever he gets the ball. While he lacks size and strength, his quickness and speed will make him a valuable receiver especially out of the slot.

Current Projection: Round 2

Bruce Ellington, South Carolina (5’9”, 196 lbs)

Solidly built and very athletic, Ellington has the ability to be a playmaker. Lacking size, he may not be able to play outside but should be an intriguing slot receiver option.

Current Projection: Round 3-4

Mike Evans, Texas A&M (6’5”, 225 lbs)

A very physical receiver that knows how to use his size to his advantage, Evans has been a big-play weapon for the Aggies. However, he lacks good burst and relies too much on his size.

Current Projection: First Round

Austin Franklin, New Mexico State (6’, 184 lbs)

After a four-game academic-related suspension to start the season, Franklin went on to catch 52 balls for 670 yards and seven touchdowns. He has plenty of speed, but the rest of his game needs work.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Jarvis Landry, Louisiana State (6’1”, 195 lbs)

Landry may not have top speed but he is a smooth athlete that runs solid routes and has a knack for finding holes against zone coverage. He does a good job of going up and using his strong hands to win contested throws.

Current Projection: Round 2

Cody Latimer, Indiana (6’3”, 215 lbs)

Possessing a big frame and flashing surprising athleticism to go with it, Latimer is still a raw prospect. He doesn’t use his size to his advantage well and doesn’t have the best hands.

Current Projection: Round 4-5

Marqise Lee, Southern California (6’, 195 lbs)

An athletic receiver with playmaking ability, Lee had a quiet junior season. He missed three games and portions of others with knee issues, so teams will be paying attention to that throughout the draft process.

Current Projection: Round 1

Donte Moncrief, Mississippi (6’3”, 226 lbs)

Bringing exceptional size and strength to the position, Moncrief can make plays after the catch. While he possesses strong hands, he will have a few concentration drops.

Current Projection: Round 2

Paul Richardson, Colorado (6’1”, 170 lbs)

After missing the 2012 season recovering from a torn ACL, Richardson came back with a career year with 1,343 yards and 10 touchdowns. He has good speed and route running skills, but needs to add bulk to stand up to NFL hits.

Current Projections: Round 2-3

Allen Robinson, Penn State (6’3”, 210 lbs)

Robinson has good agility and speed to create separation and make plays after the catch. He’s a fluid athlete who knows how to use his size and strength to make plays.

Current Projection Round 1-2

Willie Snead, Ball State (5’11”, 193 lbs)

Finishing third in the nation with 1,516 receiving yards, Snead helped lead Ball State to a 10-3 record. He’s a solid route runner with good hands, but lacks speed.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Josh Stewart, Oklahoma State (5’10”, 185 lbs)

While Stewart didn’t capitalize on his breakout sophomore season, he still finished his junior campaign with 703 yards and three touchdowns. He has the potential to be a dangerous slot receiver where he excelled in college.

Current Projection: Round 7-Undrafted

Sammy Watkins, Clemson (6’1”, 205 lbs)

Watkins topped off his collegiate career with a tremendous Orange Bowl performance. An extraordinarily smooth athlete with great hands, he’ll be the first receiver off the board.

Current Projection: Top 10

Tight Ends

Jace Amaro, Texas Tech (6’5”, 260 lbs)

A big athletic receiver, Amaro is a matchup nightmare that can make plays all over the field. More receiver than tight end, he’ll need to bulk up and work on his blocking to be a top all-around tight end.

Current Projection: Round 1

Eric Ebron, North Carolina (6’4”, 245 lbs)

Possibly the most polished tight end prospect in a while, Ebron possesses great athleticism and body control. He’ll have a few drops but he’ll be a receiving threat all over the field.

Current Projection: Top 20

Mike Flacco, New Haven (6’5”, 245 lbs)

After spending four years in minor league baseball, Flacco returned to football. He’s the 26-year-old brother of Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco. Name recognition might get him into an NFL camp.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Xavier Grimble, Southern California (6’5”, 250 lbs)

Grimble is a future starter in the NFL. He’s very athletic and flashes natural receiving abilities. With a year or two to develop as a receiver and blocker, he could be a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end.

Current Projection: Round 3

Nic Jacobs, McNeese State (6’5”, 260 lbs)

While not flashy and having limited upside, Jacobs has the size and the skills to develop into a decent contributor.

Current Projection: Round 7-Undrafted

A.C. Leonard, Tennessee State (6’4”, 245 lbs)

A February 2012 arrest and nolo contendere plead to a misdemeanor battery count ended his career at Florida. He was able to use his athleticism to do well at the FCS level but is otherwise flawed.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Colt Lyerla, Oregon (6’5”, 238 lbs)

An excellent physical specimen, Lyerla looked like a top pick before quitting the team. He later pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of cocaine.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Jake Murphy, Utah (6’4”, 252 lbs)

Limited to eight games in 2013 due to a wrist injury, Murphy caught 25 passes for 417 yards and five touchdowns. Despite being a junior, he’ll turn 25 in September after a two-year mission.

Current Projection: Round 5-6

Troy Niklas, Notre Dame (6’7”, 270 lbs)

A lineman recruit out of high school, Niklas shows excellent blocking and toughness in the trenches. As a receiver, he’s still learning but shows solid hands and creates mismatches with his size.

Current Projection: Round 2

Richard Rodgers, California (6’4”, 245 lbs)

Flashing natural receiving ability and athleticism, Rodgers has potential as a starting tight end. He played all over the formation and could be a matchup nightmare for defenses.

Current Projection: Round 4-5

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington (6’6”, 276 lbs)

Seferian-Jenkins’ size and strong hands are his greatest attributes and help create mismatches despite lacking exceptional speed. While he may not be a vertical threat, he’s a quality over-the-middle receiver and a red zone threat.

Current Projection: Round 2

Offensive Linemen

Russell Bodine, North Carolina (6’4”, 310lbs)

Bodine will reap the benefits of a weak center class. While he’s unlikely to hear his name called until the third day, his quickness and strength in the run game will help him make a roster.

Current Projection: Round 5-6

Cameron Fleming, Stanford (6’6”, 318 lbs)

A tough run blocker, Fleming fits well into a traditional right tackle role, and with his pass protection improving, he could become a quality NFL lineman.

Current Projection: Round 3

Terrence Hackney, Bethune-Cookman (6’6″, 310 lbs)

Hackney has the size teams look for in offensive tackles, but he’ll face an uphill battle to get drafted.

Current Projection: Undrafted

Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama (6’6”, 310 lbs)

Kouandjio looks like an NFL left tackle and his natural gifts will help him on draft day, but he is still quite raw. His lack of speed to defend the edge was exposed during the Sugar Bowl and he may be limited to right tackle at the next level.

Current Projection: Round 1

Marcus Martin, Southern California (6’3”, 310 lbs)

Switching to center his junior year after previous work at guard, Martin started 33 games at USC. Boasting good athleticism and size, he may emerge as the best interior lineman in this class.

Current Projection: Round 3-4

Antonio Richardson, Tennessee (6’6”, 327 lbs)

Richardson is a naturally gifted blocker: wide base, good bend and remarkable slide. He needs to work on his hands and his overaggressive nature will get him in trouble on occasion.

Current Projection: Round 1-2

Greg Robinson, Auburn (6’5”, 305 lbs)

While he’ll likely go through early growing pains, but Robinson’s top-notch athleticism will help him a great deal as he continues to learn the left tackle position. He’s raw but his upside could have him as the first offensive linemen taken.

Current Projection: Top 10

Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA (6’3”, 304 lbs)

The anchor of the UCLA offensive line, Su’a-Filo uses his good initial quickness and exceptional strength to drive defenders away from the point-of-attack.

Current Projection: Round 2-3

Trai Turner, Louisiana State (6’3”, 316 lbs)

Turner is a mauling run blocker but lacks natural athleticism. Size may become an issue and his pass blocking will need to be improved.

Current Projection: Round 5-6

David Yankey, Stanford (6’5”, 313 lbs)

A stalwart of the Stanford power run game, Yankey plays with good technique and is the best pulling lineman in college football. He’ll compete to be the first guard off the board, but he also has the ability to kick out to tackle in a pinch.

Current Projection: Round 2

See page 3 for a look at all the defensive prospects who declared for the draft as underclassmen.

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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