I've underestimated him before, but after showing something against the legit Washington defense, it's no longer possible to ignore the surging Ducks QB

By Andy Staples
October 15, 2013

This is not a mock draft. This doesn't take into account NFL teams or positions of need. This is a list of college football players—made by someone who covers college football—who, based on their skills and success at the college level, project well to the next level. This list exists so you don't fall in love in March with some guy who was mediocre for three or four years and then ran fast in his underwear one time.


The Jadeveon Clowney gametime scratch story wasn’t nearly as interesting once all the facts came out, but that didn’t stop we media types from ginning it up into debate on the South Carolina defensive end’s motivation and—in a more macro sense—whether obvious top NFL picks should even play their junior seasons in college. That second topic is actually a legitimate discussion point, but it probably was framed improperly considering an angry Steve Spurrier press conference following the Gamecocks’ way-too-close win against Kentucky was the basis.


Spurrier was mad about Clowney’s poor communication with South Carolina’s medical staff—not Clowney’s willingness to play. Spurrier tried hard in the days after that game to make that point clear, but the story had already taken on a life of its own. There will be people who believe Clowney is an overhyped ESPN creation spun out of a million replays of a hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith that came to be because a backup tight end didn’t hear tackle Taylor Lewan change a blocking call. Those people haven’t been paying attention. Clowney was the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft as a junior in high school. NFL folks have known about him for a long, long time. This less productive season probably is causing them to re-evaluate Clowney, but don’t expect him to slide down draft boards. Clowney may make for a juicy First Take debate topic, but not many people in a draft room would argue against his selection.


2014 NFL Draft Big Board

Teddy Bridgewater

QB; Junior; Louisville; 6-3, 196

(Last Week: 1) Bridgewater didn’t throw for a million yards in the one game most people will watch him play this regular season. Does that mean he’s overrated here? Nope. Besides, you’ll have a chance to see him again Friday against Central Florida, which is as good or better than Rutgers.


Jadeveon Clowney

DE; Junior; University of South Carolina; 6-6, 274

(Last week: 2) Clowney only had two tackles, but he did play. And funny how a 52-7 win quiets all that talk about motivation.


Anthony Barr

LB; Senior; UCLA; 6-4, 245

(Last Week: 3) Barr had two tackles for loss—one of them a sack—and a fumble recovery against Cal.


Taylor Lewan

OT; Senior; Michigan; 6-8, 308

(Last Week: 4) Lewan missed the second half of the Penn State game because of what Michigan coach Brady Hoke termed “a hip deal.” Lewan is expected to play Saturday against Indiana.


Jake Matthews

OT; Senior; Texas A&M; 6-5, 305

(Last Week: 5) Keep an eye on Matthews this week against Auburn freshman defensive end Carl Lawson. Lawson has a lightning quick first step, and he’ll be on this list in two years. But Matthews may teach the youngster a few things.


Marcus Mariota

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Oregon; 6-4, 211

(Last Week: 23) In his first game against a good defense, Mariota continued to make everything look easy. Against Washington, Mariota threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 88 yards and a touchdown. I had him ranked way too low before.


Aaron Murray

QB; Senior; Georgia; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 8) Murray will be working with skill position players who started the season as third- and fourth-stringers, so adjust expectations accordingly. If he can will the Bulldogs to an SEC East title under these circumstances, wow.


Cyrus Kouandjio

OT; Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 310

(Last Week: 9) Alabama coach Nick Saban tried to temper the hype about Kouandjio earlier this month. “I think a lot of expectations are created with these guys,” Saban told reporters. “I hate it that Mel Kiper and all these guys say this is the No. 1 guy at his position. They don’t even have an idea.” He’s probably right. We have no idea. But Kouandjio is very good, and he’s going to remain high on these lists.


Johnny Manziel

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-1, 200

(Last Week: 10) Manziel pulled another rabbit out of his hat at Ole Miss. His habit of dangling the ball like a loaf of bread got him in trouble in the fourth quarter, but as usual, he bailed himself—and the Aggies—out of trouble in a come-from-behind win.


AJ McCarron

QB; Senior; Alabama; 6-4, 214

(Last Week: 11) McCarron threw for 359 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions at Kentucky.


Mike Evans

WR; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-5, 225

(Last Week: 6) Evans caught four passes for only 46 yards at Ole Miss, but the attention paid to him opened things up for former walk-on Travis Labhart.


Tajh Boyd

QB; Senior; Clemson; 6-1, 225

(Last Week: 12) Boyd will get his toughest test to date when Florida State visits Death Valley on Saturday. A big game against the Seminoles would help Boyd’s stock tremendously.


De'Anthony Thomas

RB; Junior; Oregon; 5-9, 176

(Last Week: 7) Thomas missed his second consecutive game with an ankle injury. Don’t expect him to push it to get back on the field against Washington State on Saturday, but if he’s healthy, expect to see Thomas against UCLA on Oct. 26.


C.J. Mosley

LB; Senior; Alabama; 6-2, 232

(Last Week: 13) Mosley led Alabama with seven tackles at Kentucky, and the Crimson Tide held the Wildcats to 170 yards and seven points.


Stephon Tuitt

DE; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-6, 303

(Last Week: 14) After a bye week, Tuitt and company will be back in action against USC on Saturday.


James Hurst

OT; Senior; North Carolina; 6-7, 305

(Last Week: 15) Want a close look at Hurst? He’ll be on ESPN Thursday against some raw-but-talented Miami defenders.


Zach Mettenberger

QB; Senior; LSU; 6-5, 235

(Last Week: 16) Considering what Florida’s defense usually does to opposing quarterbacks, there’s probably no need to be too hard on Mettenberger for his 152-yard, zero-touchdown day. The key stats are zero interceptions and a W.


Sammy Watkins

WR; Junior; Clemson; 6-1, 205

(Last Week: 17) Watkins averages 16.2 yards a catch, and he’ll have to play one of his best games to help the Tigers beat Florida State.


Louis Nix III

DT; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-3, 340

(Last Week: 18) USC’s ability to run set up play-action against Arizona. It will be interesting to see if Nix can clog the middle and force the Trojans to become one-dimensional.


Ryan Shazier

LB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 222

(Last Week: 19) Shazier should have a big day against a less-than-dynamic Iowa offense on Saturday.


Will Sutton

DT; Senior; Arizona State; 6-1, 305

(Last Week: 20) Sutton had a quiet game against Colorado, but the Sun Devils will need him to harass Washington quarterback Keith Price on Saturday.


Kyle Van Noy

LB; Senior; BYU; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 25) Van Noy had three tackles for loss—including two sacks—on Saturday against Georgia Tech. Consider for a second how difficult it is to make two sacks against an option team.


Braxton Miller

QB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 215

(Last Week: 21) The bye week was probably good for Miller, who missed two games before coming back in the Buckeyes’ win against Northwestern.


Jason Verrett

CB; Senior; TCU; 5-10, 176

(Last Week: 22) TCU’s lackluster offense is making life tough for defenders such as Verrett, but he’ll have to help pick up the slack. That’s especially true with Oklahoma State’s receiving corps up next.


Loucheiz Purifoy

CB; Junior; Florida; 6-1, 189

(Last Week: 26) Purifoy had a sack-forced fumble and a pick-6 against Arkansas, but he couldn’t help much against an LSU offense content to keep the ball on the ground.


David Yankey

OG; Senior; Stanford; 6-5, 311

(Last Week: 24) Yankey and the Cardinal offensive line will get a big test with Barr and the Bruins coming to Palo Alto.


Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

S; Junior; Alabama; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 27) Clinton-Dix remains suspended for taking an improper loan from an Alabama assistant strength coach who had ties to an agent. He’s missed two games, and he’s playing on the scout team again this week.


Timmy Jernigan

DT; Junior; Florida State; 6-2, 298

(Last Week: 28) The Seminoles will need Jernigan to be strong against the run to keep Clemson from being able to freeze Florida State’s secondary with play action.


Cyril Richardson

OG; Baylor; 6-5, 335

(Last Week: 29) Go to >the 2:52 mark of this video to watch Richardson destroy a Kansas State defender to spring Glasco Martin for the win-sealing touchdown Saturday.


Adrian Hubbard

LB; Redshirt Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 252

(Last Week: 30) Hubbard had three tackles at Kentucky.


Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

CB; Junior; Oregon; 5-10, 190

(Last Week: 37) Washington coach Steve Sarkisian called Ekpre-Olomu the best defensive player he’s seen this season.


Derek Carr

QB; Senior; Fresno State; 6-3, 218

(Last Week: 31) Check out how Carr spent his bye week in this Fresno Bee story. If Carr wants to rise on this list, he needs to man up and handle those poopy diapers.


Jared Abbrederis

WR; Redshirt Senior; Wisconsin; 6-2, 190

(Last Week: 32) Abbrederis only had two catches against Northwestern, but one was a 63-yard touchdown.


Bradley Roby

CB; Redshirt Junior; Ohio State; 5-11, 192

(Last Week: 33) LandGrantHolyLand.com has >an excellent breakdown of Roby’s past two games.


Marqise Lee

WR; Junior; USC; 6-0, 195

(Last Week: 34) Lee remains questionable for the Notre Dame game. He injured his knee at Arizona State, and missed the Trojans’ win against Arizona.


Zack Martin

OT; Senior; Notre Dame; 6-4, 304

(Last Week: 35) Martin and company did a good job protecting Tommy Rees against Arizona State, but expect USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast to bring the heat to try to force some interceptions. Martin could be challenged by Devon Kennard, but Morgan Breslin—another quality USC pass rusher—is questionable.


Antonio Richardson

OT; Junior; Tennessee; 6-6, 327

(Last Week: 36) Richardson will get his rematch against Clowney on Saturday.


Khalil Mack

LB; Senior; Buffalo; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 38) Mack had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Western Michigan.


Anthony Johnson

DT; Junior; LSU; 6-3, 294

(Last Week: 39) Johnson had a sack and a hurry in Saturday’s win against Florida.


Melvin Gordon

RB; Redshirt Sophomore; Wisconsin; 6-1, 207

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Gordon carried 22 times for 172 yards and a touchdown against Northwestern.


Jordan Matthews

WR; Senior; Vanderbilt; 6-3, 205

(Last Week: 40) If the Commodores want to crack the win column in the SEC, they’ll need Matthews to abuse a suspect Georgia secondary on Saturday.


Trent Murphy

LB; Redshirt Senior; Stanford; 6-6, 261

(Last Week: 41) Murphy’s deflection—which led to an A.J. Tarpley interception—may have saved the Cardinal against Washington. His two tackles for loss did not save the Cardinal at Utah.


Ka'Deem Carey

RB; Junior; Arizona; 5-10, 207

(Last Week: 42) Carey carried 21 times for 138 yards at USC in Arizona’s loss last Thursday.


Darqueze Dennard

CB; Senior; Michigan State; 5-11, 188

(Last Week: 45) Dennard and the Spartans slowed the Big Ten’s most productive offense in a surprisingly easy win against Indiana.


Odell Beckham Jr.

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-0, 193

(Last Week: 43) Beckham leads LSU with 733 receiving yards and a 19.8-yard average.


Jarvis Landry

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-1, 195

(Last Week: 44) But Landry isn’t far behind with 46 catches for 674 yards.


Xavier Su’a-Filo

OG; Junior; UCLA; 6-3, 304

(Last Week: 46) Su’a-Filo will get his biggest test to date Saturday against Stanford’s ferocious pass rush.


Jackson Jeffcoat

DE; Senior; Texas; 6-5, 250

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Jeffcoat had two sacks in the Longhorns’ 36-20 win against Oklahoma in Dallas.


Travis Swanson

C; Senior; Arkansas; 6-5, 315

(Last Week: 47) Swanson doesn’t have much help around him. Unfortunately, he’s got to deal with Alabama’s defensive line Saturday.


Scott Crichton

DE; Redshirt Junior; Oregon State; 6-3, 265

(Last Week: 49) Crichton had just two tackles against Washington State on Saturday.

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