With Mock Draft 5.0 in the books, we turn our attention to the fourth 2014 NFL draft Big Board.
There was some movement, especially toward the bottom half of the latest Big Board. There also was a decent amount of stability in spots: the top five is the same as a month ago, and everyone in the top 15 was there back in January, too. The combine helped provide a little more clarity on the entire situation, as we begin the turn for home with the draft a little more than two months away.
Whereas the mock draft attempts to pinpoint where players may be selected based on team needs, the Big Board highlights the top 40 prospects in this class as things stand right now. The latest list:
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (↔): Questioning Clowney's work ethic has become rather run of the mill over the past few months, and he did nothing to cease those questions at the combine, sitting out several drills. That talking point somehow has clouded the impact Clowney actually had on the field this year. He was sensational, even though his numbers dipped.
Perhaps his eye-popping 40 time (4.53 seconds) and an equally impressive 10-yard split (1.56) will remind NFL folks what they could be getting at the top of the draft.
2. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville (↔): Sure, it would have been nice to see Bridgewater throw at the combine (or to run the 40 after he told reporters he was going to run the 40). Should his decision to sit out change Bridgewater's status? Not one bit. He has been the top Big Board QB all season, and barring an injury or off-field incident nothing will drop him before the draft.
3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (↔): The combine made clear that Watkins has plenty of company as a Round 1 receiver. The Clemson star still stands above the rest, though. The MMQB's Peter King named Watkins as one of three players (along with Khalil Mack and Greg Robinson) who received "universal love at the combine" from NFL minds.
4. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (↔): Auburn tackle Greg Robinson threw down the gauntlet at the combine, with 32 bench reps and a 4.92 40. There is no question -- none -- that Robinson has a high NFL ceiling, and he may wind up the first tackle off the board. Overlooking Matthews, though, would be a mistake. Whereas Robinson must continue to develop, Matthews is advanced enough as both a run- and pass-blocker to step right into a starting spot on either side of the offensive line as a rookie.
5. Khalil Mack, LB, Buffalo (↔): "My versatility helps me in a lot of ways," Mack said at the combine. "If you have a guy who can rush the passer, as well as drop in coverage, that covers two of the big issues on the defense."
After measuring in at 6-foot-2 1/2 and a 251 pounds, Mack told the media that he'd be fine playing with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 or at outside linebacker. He also revealed he would sometimes work out with Buffalo's defensive backs "just to stay fresh." Top-10 linebackers are rare. So are three-down talents like Mack.
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6. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (↑, Previous: No. 10): Robinson's 40 was like watching Shaq run a fast break. He carries 330 pounds like it's nothing and looked extremely fit in Indianapolis. Because of the Texans' needs, Robinson may not be able to climb to the No. 1 pick (though Houston coach Bill O'Brien talked about the importance of strong tackle play), but No. 2 definitely looks feasible.
7. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (↑, No. 9): An official 40 of 4.53 (same as Clowney) may have been a touch quicker than most anticipated for Evans, but that's mainly because his long-stride ability can make him appear slower than he actually is. With fears about Evans' ability to stretch the field sufficiently squashed, it is increasingly tough to see him dropping out of the top 10.
8. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (↔): Justin Gilbert had a better combine. Dennard has better tape. As I tweeted over the weekend, Dennard could average a holding penalty per game in the NFL and it does not bother me in the slightest -- his aggressive, in-your-face play will frustrate plenty of receivers.
Like Evans, one of the main worries here had to do with speed. Dennard's official 4.51 was plenty fast for his style of play.
9. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (↓, No. 6): A 40 time in the 4.6s with a 10-yard split of 1.56 reiterated that the former running back is an athletic marvel. Do teams want to wait on him to develop a more reliable repertoire as a pass-rusher and coverage linebacker? The answer to that question will determine whether he lands in the top 10 or if he slides into the middle of Round 1.
10. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (↑, No. 11): At the combine, Ebron compared himself to Vernon Davis. His 4.60 40 (which is fast in its own right) did not challenge Davis' incredible 4.38 time, but physically the 6-4, 250-pound Ebron matches up well with Davis. The former Tar Heel insisted that he's a better blocker than he has been given credit for thus far. Even if scouts do not feel the same way, Ebron's ability as a pass-catcher will make him a highly coveted option.
11. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan (↑, No. 12): Were it not for the Greg Robinson Show, there would have been a lot more chatter about Lewan at the combine. He actually topped the O-line group with a 4.87 40, perhaps offering proof to back his argument that either a man- or zone-blocking scheme would fit his skillset.
12. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama (↓, No. 7): Mosley is the first of a few prospects here to slide down a couple spots merely because of the talent prevalent in this class as opposed to any stumbles. Barr and Mack bring the most off the edge for the "linebacker" designation; Mosley is the best all-around defender out of that wide-ranging group. He can do anything asked of him and fits every defensive scheme.
13. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (↔): Manziel holds steady as the No. 2 QB and a very legitimate Round 1 pick. It may not be worth much in the grand scheme of things, but several of the other combine quarterbacks spoke highly of Manziel.
"Manziel is a great guy," said Fresno State's Derek Carr. "I had never met him until I got here. You hear a lot of things before you get here, but he is very humble. He’s very genuine and very kind. He’s walking around and he’s just one of the guys. He’s been great since we’ve been here."
14. Marqise Lee, WR, USC (↔): Watkins and Evans may not be in jeopardy of being passed in the WR pecking order by Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks and others. Is Lee? His official 40 time of 4.52 was disappointing for a player who is at his best making people miss. That said, Lee has shown off plenty of in-game potential when he has been healthy.
15. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama (↔): Several teams holding top-20 picks in May need safety help, and, unlike receiver, there is not a boatload of topflight depth at the position. Clinton-Dix is, without question, the best of the free safety types.
16. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State (↑, No. 24): It's all there. Gilbert hit the 6-foot mark, 200-plus pounds, with room to grow, and ran the best DB 40 time at 4.37. Oh yeah, and he can return kicks if a team so desires.
"I think I'm a dangerous return man with the ball in my hands," Gilbert said. "And on an interception, there is always a possibility for me to take it back to the house."
17. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh (↑, No. 25): Donald weighs 285 pounds ... and he ran a 4.68 40. That legitimately might be more impressive that what Clowney pulled off at the combine. The Pitt product is not going to get any bigger (at 6-1, he's pretty maxed out at 285), and he doesn't need to if he can continue to be as disruptive a force as he was in college.
18. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF (↓, No. 16): Bortles steps back two spots to make room for Gilbert and Donald in the top 20. He stayed in the range -- 15 to 20 -- that he should maintain throughout the Audibles Big Board process. Of course, he might be drafted well above that spot, particularly if Houston falls in love.
19. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (↔): The 5-9 Verrett was asked at the combine if he can cover taller receivers. His response: "Just look at the film, man."
A fair suggestion considering how well Verrett held his own against guys 6-0 and above throughout the 2013 season. Verrett may be best-suited for a slot corner job (of which there are many available across the NFL), yet that should not eliminate him as a potential top-two CB somewhere.
20. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech (↓, No. 17): Again, no knock on Amaro with bumping him down a couple spots. In fact, his 27 bench-press reps stood out as one of the more meaningful numbers of the entire combine -- Amaro's blocking proficiency has been a worry for scouts, so that bench-press performance indicates he may be able to handle more there than Texas Tech asked of him.
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21. Louis Nix III, OT, Notre Dame (↔): There is little doubt that the man known as "Irish Chocolate" will be a popular guy wherever he lands, as evidenced by a hilarious combine press conference in which he discussed how he feels "sexier" after dropping a few pounds. A slimmer (but still 330-pound) Nix ought to be better equipped to stand his ground inside at the NFL level.
22. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU (↑, No. 38): Placed Beckham at No. 38 on my January Big Board, with the caveat that he could be a top-20 pick before all was said and done. I'm feeling more inclined to stake Beckham nearer that projected draft position after his blazing 4.31 40 time.
23. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State (↓, No. 20): Shazier did not run at the combine after tweaking his hamstring, a tough momentary setback for a player still working to lock himself into Round 1. (Plus, he still put up a nearly 40-inch vertical.) At 6-1, 237, Shazier falls shy of the traditional linebacker build. However, his athleticism plus the speed he'll eventually flash for scouts allows him to be a significant impact player in spite of that.
24. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt (↑, No. 27): Matthews turned in a spectacular 2013 season; he has maintained that momentum through both the Senior Bowl and now the combine. A 4.46 40 time on top of Matthews' proven production could bring him off the board on Day 1.
"Hey, there is nothing wrong with being under the radar," said Matthews of the hype being tossed elsewhere at his position. "At the end of the day I only compete with myself."
25. Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (↑, No. 30): The gifted Roby admitted at the combine that his one-game suspension to start 2013 threw him off for a huge chunk of the season. An up-and-down effort from there on out backs his claim. On the other hand, his 4.39 40 and solid measurements (5-11 1/4, 194 pounds) served notice that the one-time potential top-10 pick still has plenty to offer.
26. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State (↑, No. 36): An extremely intriguing talent, though he's behind Donald as a probable three-technique DT, and his size (298) might make teams shy away from him as a straight nose tackle. Others have differing opinions -- Jernigan was No. 5 overall on the Big Board of ESPN's Todd McShay earlier in February.
27. Zack Martin, G/T, Notre Dame (*): Once the top three tackles (Robinson, Matthews and Lewan) are off the board, Martin will stand out as a viable option for most teams headed to the podium. The debate about his better NFL position -- guard or tackle -- is ongoing. Being able to envision him succeeding in either spot amplifies his standing.
28. Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville (↑, No. 34): You know how announcers love to speculate that receivers "heard footsteps" when they short-arm a catch attempt with a defender bearing down? Pryor is the type of guy that can make WRs do that. He flies around the field just looking for someone to clobber.
29. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State (↑, No. 32): Take it away, Brandin ...
"I’m a playmaker," he said at the combine. "I’m able to create plays from nothing -- catch a 3-yard ball, I’ll take it the distance. ... Speed kills and I feel like that’s what I’m going to bring to the game."
A 40 in the 4.3s and a combine-record time of 10.72 in the 60-yard shuttle offers some evidence that Cooks is correct.
30. Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama (↓, No. 22): A combine that may prove costly for Kouandjio, who appeared out of sorts during workouts and reportedly was scrapped from multiple draft boards due to medical concerns. Fortunately for him, there is too much ability and experience here for the league to bail entirely.
31. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (↔): Maintaining that this placement -- end of Round 1, early Round 2 -- is where Hageman belongs, because he has not shown the consistency or technique to be a star but he has the ability to dominate.
32. Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State (↓, No. 23): Did I overshoot with Robinson as the 23rd-ranked prospect on Big Board 3.0? Maybe. I still expect him to be a solid receiver in the NFL, an opinion unchanged by his 4.6 40 time and 39-inch vertical. Robinson's game relies on his hands and ability to go up for the football, not his speed.
33. Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State (↓, No. 29): How Benjamin is viewed heading into the draft may vary wildly by team. Those hoping to swipe a potentially unstoppable, big-bodied force could grade him out highly. Those that prefer their skill-position guys to be more proven heading into the league will dock Benjamin for his inability to take over regularly.
34. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (*): Fuller belongs in the Round 1 conversation, even if his fate ultimately may be tied to what happens with Dennard, Gilbert, Verrett and Roby. The former Hokie measured in just under 6-feet tall, then ran a sub-4.5 40. The gap between him and those above him on this board is minimal, if it's there at all.
35. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State (↔): The odds on a running back being drafted in Round 1 seem to be growing worse by the day. Hyde was the first RB taken in Mock 5.0, at No. 42 overall. His running style is on par with what it takes to pile up yards in the NFL, and at 230-plus pounds, he's built to last.
36. Kony Ealy, DE/OLB, Missouri (↑, No. 37): CBSSports' Will Brinson pointed out last weekend that Ealy's 6.83 three-cone time nearly matched the 6.82 recorded a few years back by none other than LeSean McCoy, one of the shiftiest, quickest players in the league. Ealy's 40 time (4.92) was nothing to write home about, and I'm not sold that he can do his thing against physical NFL blockers. Yet, anyone can see why he has at least some scouts excited.
37. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn (*): Ford said -- twice -- at the combine that he is a better pass-rusher than Jadeveon Clowney. To which I respond: Easy, big fella.
Ford's inability to work out at the combine because of an old back issue throws up a red flag, though Ford maintained that he's perfectly fine now. The bigger issue in that Ford-vs.-Clowney comparison is that Ford is not as adept at stopping the run or forcing plays away from him. He might be a Round 1 choice (and a really good pro) nonetheless.
38. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (↓, No. 28): Kind of painful to keep moving Seferian-Jenkins down the board, because I'd still argue that he can be as effective as any other tight end in this class. He agrees.
"I think I have showed I'm very capable of being a playmaker down the seam ... and I've shown the capability of being a blocker," he said. "I'm an every-down guy who can get out there immediately on the field."
The blocking ability he displayed during his Washington career does set him apart from the likes of Ebron and Amaro, who were not asked to do nearly as much in that department.
39. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State (↔): Carr's 15 or so minutes with the media was one of the highlights of combine week. Mentally and emotionally, he may be more ready for the NFL jump than any of his QB peers, thanks in no small part to what brother David went through in Houston.
His demonstrated skills -- and more specifically, weaknesses -- make him more of a Round 2 prospect. Will a team seeking a quarterback nab him far earlier?
40. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State (*): Just spent a few minutes reading back through Big Boards 1-3 as I could have sworn I'd included Joyner in the top 40 previously. Apparently, I did not, which I'm ready to chalk up as an oversight. NFL teams may exclude him on height alone: Joyner stands a mere 5-8. But that size hardly proved a problem at Florida State, and Joyner's dual cornerback/safety experience will be tempting.
Dropped out: Trent Murphy; Cyril Richardson; Stephon Tuitt; Kyle Van Noy.Next 10 Van Noy; Tuitt; Richardson; Xavier Su'a-Filo; Murphy; Dominique Easley; Ka'Deem Carey; Davante Adams; Gabe Jackson; Jimmie Ward; Troy Niklas.