Consider this a jumping-off point, a starting line for the next eight or so months until the 2015 draft. The first SI Big Board of the draft year may not even look the same now as it does come Monday, after we finally get another chance to see most of these players in action again. As the college football season kicks off, though, the following 40 players stand out as legitimate NFL prospects.
The usual Big Board reminder applies: This is not a mock draft. In other words, where the players are positioned here is based more on their talent and not on where you should expect them to be drafted.
2014 College Football Predictions | Bowl projections | Preseason Top 25
With that, Big Board 1.0:
RS Senior, Texas A&M
Now that Luke Joeckel
and Jake Matthews
are in the pros, Ogbuehi inherits A&M's left tackle spot. He'll need to prove he can get the job done there without Johnny Manziel
's improvisational skills bailing him out when he falters. There really is no reason to doubt him. Ogbuehi plays with strength, good technique and the footwork of a tight end. Even a decent season should lock him into the top 10.
RS Senior, Iowa
In contrast to Ogbuehi, Scherff has started 20 straight games at LT. And if the team that lands the No. 1 overall pick next year wants to play a power-run style, Scherff might be hard to pass up. The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder consistently clobbers defenders at the point of attack.
RS Junior, Oregon
Not every quarterback's decision to hang around college works out (see: Matt Barkley
and Tajh Boyd). Right now, Mariota offers little reason to worry because of how advanced his game is. He has the size (6-4) and speed, makes smart decisions (four INTs last season) and can get the ball to all areas of the field. Cleaning up his footwork may be the lone task left.
RS Senior, Clemson
"Where's he going to play?" That's the question swirling around the 6-2, 235-pound Beasley as he heads into 2014 as a potential NFL DE/OLB tweener. Here's the answer: Anywhere you can find a spot for him. Just get him on the field and let his athleticism take over.
RS Junior, Michigan State
A defensive line version of former Spartans teammate Darqueze Dennard
, Calhoun seeks out contact and can be dominant when he lands the first blow. He needs to keep getting stronger -- transitioning that bully-like style to the NFL will be a challenge -- but he can be a three-down force.
Speaking of three-down forces ... Williams punished opponents as a DT two years ago, then repeated that showing as a DE last season. A 305-pounder with the talent to line up at several spots? Scouts will be drooling.
RS Sophomore, Florida State
The 2013 Heisman winner is more filled out than Mariota, at 6-4, 230, but he is not as far along as a passer or decision-maker. Teams also will have to stringently vet Winston's off-field behavior to make sure he is ready for the NFL jump.
Senior, Ohio State
Mentioned back in our way-too-early 2015 NFL mock draft
that Bennett is reminiscent of Rams
rookie Aaron Donald
, mainly because he shoots off the ball with incredible quickness. Bennett has similar upside as a pass-rushing tackle.
Ranked at the top of the 2014 draft's CB chart here (and several other places) before he opted to return to Oregon. I'm putting him right back on the throne for 2015. Ekpre-Olomu won't dial up any Richard Sherman
comps -- at 5-10, his game banks on speed and being sharp out of cuts to shut down receivers.
A perfect example of the whole "A Big Board is not a Mock Draft" mantra. While the days of the top-10 back may be gone, Gurley, when healthy (which is an issue to track this season), is as dominant as any skill-position player in college football. Rare is the 230-pound RB with sub-4.5 speed.
RS Junior, Nebraska
When Nebraska really turned it loose with the 6-6, 245-pound Gregory, it was something to see. He played left end, right end, stood up and blitzed from LB positioning -- just a nightmare for O-lines. Adding more strength is a must if Gregory wants to be more than a pass-rush specialist, because strong running teams were able to wipe him out on occasion.
RS Senior, Iowa
Essentially the Hawkeyes' version of Vince Wilfork
, in that the 315-pound Davis occupies space and blockers so his teammates can swarm the football. These sturdy, one-gap types are tough to find.
Really not much of a gap, if there is one at all, between Ogbuehi and Peat. The latter (6-6, 315) moves his feet just as well as Ogbuehi, using his weight well to pave the way. Peat has a few more moments of inconsistency than the tackles listed above, but he might erase those in 2014.
RS Junior, Arizona State
Can Strong, in his second season with Arizona State, take the leap from a high-upside prospect to a more complete receiver? It says here that he can. Already, Strong is a physical specimen -- 6-4 and willing to battle with corners for the football.
Junior, Florida State
Really liked Williams' one-time teammate, LaMarcus Joyner, in last year's class because of his versatility. Williams possesses that similar trait (he has played CB and S for the Seminoles), while also standing a few inches taller than Joyner and showing more of a knack for physical play.
Focus on Perryman's stature (listed at 6-0, likely smaller) if you must. Perryman is a rock at 240-plus pounds and throws that weight around aggressively. Ohio State's Ryan Shazier
faced matching criticisms heading into the 2014 draft ... and silenced most of it with his sideline-to-sideline play.
RS Junior, Wisconsin
The Badgers could ease one of the main worries about Gordon by throwing him the football -- he has three catches in three seasons. Even if Gordon is never utilized on passing downs, though, his big-play ability, inside and outside the tackles, will keep him locked into the Round 1 conversation.
Junior, Florida State
Now up to around 300 pounds, Edwards can be unblockable. Or if there is a blocker in his way, he'll just drive him back to get where he wants to go.
RS Junior, UCLA
The natural gifts are there, though Hundley does not quite have the cannon of a few others in this class. Hundley can lose his composure in the face of pressure, an area in which he must improve.
Junior, Ohio State
Mainly a DE for the Buckeyes, Spence could be headed for a 3-4 OLB role in the NFL. That's fine, because Ohio State has moved him around and he has the smooth quickness to develop into a weapon there.
Whereas Strong can tower over defenders when the ball is in the air, Cooper relies on more of a technical game. His route-running is not flawless but it's advanced, especially combined with his good size (6-1) and speed.
This might be the floor for the 6-3, 277-pound Fowler, who had 3.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss last season. What will ultimately determine his draft stock is how well he rounds out his game around his high-motor play.
RS Senior, Florida State
Erving can be a beast in both the run game and pass protection. A defensive tackle as of the 2011 season, Erving is still somewhat raw, despite starting at OT for two years. By the end of this year, he might be in the top-10 mix.
How NFL teams view Funchess will be fascinating to track. Michigan officially moved the 6-5, 230-pound junior to wide receiver this year. Can he carve out a career there or is he headed for a Jimmy Graham
-style hybrid role?
RS Junior, Baylor
has knocked down 27 passes in his three NFL seasons as a five-tech DE. Oakman, who may be destined for a similar role, stands three inches taller. If nothing else, he can get in passing lanes. There's much more to his game -- not enough to bring him to Watt's level, but enough to have the NFL paying attention.
By next May, Collins could be more hyped than Alabama's 2013 first-round pick, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. Collins made some mistakes last season, rather expected given that an injury to Vinnie Sunseri
bumped him into the lineup. The positive far outweighed the negative for a safety who can do it all.
27Benardrick McKinney, OLB
RS Junior, Mississippi State
Another player who thrived from multiple positions on the field, McKinney could intrigue teams as either an inside or outside backer. He made plays from both spots last season, and his 6-5, 245-pound frame is NFL-ready, thanks in no small part to 4.5 speed.
RS Senior, Baylor
Is this too high for Petty? Too low? Odds are, Baylor's QB will be one of the most divisive players in the 2015 class. Petty is stronger and faster than most give him credit for, with a quick release and accurate arm. Many of the counter-arguments will sound similar to those lobbed at Derek Carr
-- a too-QB-friendly college offense that limits the need for Petty to run through progressions.
RS Junior, Michigan State
Waynes is inheriting the Spartans' "boundary corner" position from Darqueze Dennard, which means he'll play on the short side of the field. As a result, he'll be asked to step up against the run more frequently, something he did not have to do all that much last season. We already know he can cover.
Agholor stepped up with Marqise Lee
ailing last season and led USC in receptions. The Trojans will look for him often again in 2014, a smart strategy given Agholor's impressive after-the-catch ability.
At 6-0, 220, he does not fit the mold of an NFL linebacker. But he also brings almost unmatched speed to the table from that position. Striker put that on display in Oklahoma's bowl game, running circles around Cyrus Kouandjio
. A defense that can put him in space and turn him loose will love the Sooners' junior.
Imagine a faster albeit less consistent Allen Robinson
, and that sort of paints the Montgomery picture. As Penn State did with Robinson, Stanford likes to get the ball in Montgomery's hands early and let him do his thing. With breakaway speed -- seen often when he return kicks -- Montgomery can turn those short passes into huge gains.
Senior, Florida State
Right now, Jackson is better as a run blocker than in pass protection, bringing a powerful punch to the interior of the Seminoles' line. That's not to say that he is a liability as a pass blocker, however. He moves well when he needs to, allowing him to drop and anchor.
Junior, South Carolina
His build (5-9, 225) is a little Ray Rice
-esque. Davis could carve out just as successful an NFL career in the right system. He can outrun defenders when he gets into the open, yet really thrives in tight quarters, never afraid to take on some contact.
35Dorial Green-Beckham, WR
RS Junior, Oklahoma
From strictly a talent perspective, Green-Beckham is a borderline top-10 guy. But between being booted from Missouri's team and then losing an appeal to play in 2014 at Oklahoma, there is ample cause for concern. Josh Gordon
entered the NFL under comparable circumstances -- suspended indefinitely at Baylor, he transferred to but never played for Utah, before entering the supplemental draft. The skill level here might be on par with Gordon, who led the league in receiving last season. But so are the red flags.
Will Thompson play linebacker or safety in the NFL? That huge conundrum looms over the aggressive, 6-2, 225-pound Huskies' star as he heads into 2014. The opinion here: Try to tack on some weight and let him chase the football from an OLB spot.
The interception total from last season (eight) points to Harris' ability to find and make plays on the football. It also might inflate his overall value beyond what he has displayed -- Harris can be somewhat inconsistent on the backend. That said, he's a playmaker, with enough physical traits to step up versus the run.
Yeldon can't compare to previous bruising Alabama backs, like Eddie Lacy
or Trent Richardson
. He still can break tackles, though, and his shiftiness makes it hard to wrap him up in the first place.
Shelton could have declared for the 2014 draft and done well for himself. He should be just fine in 2015, assuming he keeps his weight around where it is now (327) and doesn't balloon out of shape. The natural inclination will be to drop Shelton in as a nose tackle; he might be athletic enough to help in other ways.
One more running back for the road. Abdullah's style is reminiscent of LeSean McCoy's
-- quick jump cuts followed by acceleration and a strong kick on contact. He rushed for 1,690 yards last season, yet somehow it feels as if he is sliding under the radar.