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ACE IN THE ROLE

May 05, 2014
May 05, 2014

Table of Contents
May 5, 2014

SI.com
THE MAIL
2014 NFL DRAFT PREVIEW
STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS
  • The playoff beard is a cute badge of honor, its thickness a measure of how deep a team goes into the postseason. Those two dozen stitches in the mug, that four-tooth gap, that broken leg you finish out your shift with? Those are the badges of courage by which the NHL measures itself come spring

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ACE IN THE ROLE

AS TRENDS EVOLVE, SO DO PERSONNEL NEEDS. HERE ARE FOUR SKILL SETS OF CRUCIAL IMPORTANCE IN 2014—AND THE PROSPECTS WHO CAN FILL THEM BEST

Mobile Franchise Quarterback

This is an article from the May 5, 2014 issue Original Layout

The NFL still values a stationary QB with a golden arm, but a fleet-footed one who can extend plays and split coverages on the run is favored.

PROTOTYPE: Andrew Luck, Colts

Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville

He knows you can't always make plays out of structure, but he runs to throw, always keeping his eyes downfield on his WRs.

Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M

Sometimes transcendent, occasionally incomprehensible—that's Manziel. But like Russell Wilson, he has a sense of how to stay alive while coverages split.

Blake Bortles, UCF

The best of both worlds: He has ideal size (6'5", 230 pounds), a great arm and sneaky mobility when he needs it.

Three-down Linebacker

Today's complex D's rotate personnel more than ever, making the every-down LB who can stuff the run and cover the pass a real standout.

PROTOTYPE: NaVorro Bowman, 49ers

C.J. Mosley, Alabama

Few college LBs are smarter or take better angles all over the field. His ability to smack ballcarriers evokes the great Derrick Brooks.

Khalil Mack, Buffalo

He's primarily a blitzer; that's where he'll make his money. But he can force the issue against the run, and he's a surprise in coverage.

Ryan Shazier, Ohio State

Today's coaches prefer a lighter LB with burning speed—that's Shazier. He's not an intimidator, but he moves with great quickness.

Shutdown Press Cornerback

The dominant boundary cornerback who can erase an opponent's best receiver is perhaps the rarest entity of all.

PROTOTYPE: Richard Sherman, Seahawks

Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State

Aggressive and with sub-4.4 speed, Gilbert has the tools to be a shutdown guy: He makes receivers work to earn their openings.

Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

The best technician available at his position; it's hard to find his flaws. He's special because he plays off-coverage as well as he presses.

Bradley Roby, Ohio State

He can be too grabby in coverage, but he'll be drafted high because he sticks to receivers like glue, similar to a shorter Sherman.

Coverage Safety

Free safeties must excel at everything from defending the slot to deep centerfield coverage. One who can contain a WR all the way upfield will thrive in the NFL.

PROTOTYPE: Earl Thomas, Seahawks

Calvin Pryor, Louisville

A fast, violent player whose game is based on explosion over anticipation. He has a knack for jumping routes, as the best covermen do.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Like most Nick Saban--taught pass defenders, he flashes down to help stop the run, but he can also backpedal and stay with any receiver.

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

You can question the strength of his MAC competition but not his raw skills. He covers from outside to the deep middle with aggression and speed.

PHOTOANDREW HANCOCK FOR SI (LUCK)PHOTOMICHAEL ZAGARIS/SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS/GETTY IMAGES (BOWMAN)PHOTOROBERT BECK/SI (SHERMAN)PHOTOSCOTT BOEHM/AP (THOMAS)PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO/SI (BRIDGEWATER)PHOTOERICH SCHLEGEL FOR SI (MANZIEL)TWO PHOTOSTOMASSO DEROSA/AP (BORTLES, PRYOR)PHOTOKEVIN C. COX/GETTY IMAGES (MOSLEY)PHOTOOTTO KITSINGER/AP (MACK)PHOTODAVID DUROCHIK/AP (SHAZIER)PHOTOJOHN WILLIAMSON/AP (GILBERT)PHOTOVICTOR CALZADA/AP (FULLER)PHOTOROB HOLT/AP (ROBY)PHOTOKEVIN LILES/USA TODAY SPORTS (CLINTON-DIX)PHOTOMATTHEW HOLST/GETTY IMAGES (WARD)