2014 NFL Draft Rookie Rankings FINAL Pre-Draft Edition
1. WR Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Verdict: Vertically explosive receiver with a rare size/speed ratio. Not the tallest guy around, but he's very heavy for his size. Can do some possession stuff, but can also hit the home run on deep passes or catch-and-runs. He's a bit straight-line in his movement and his lower body fluidity/sideways quickness leaves a little bit to be desired. He's not the smoothest athlete in this WR class, but what he has is sheer height/weight/speed/explosiveness. I see him being a relatively safe 1.01 pick. A notch down from the mega elite WR prospects like Calvin, but roughly on par in talent/outlook compared with Crabtree and Blackmon coming out of college (much different playing style though). He may not be the top player in this group when the dust settles, but he seems like he'll be a multi year 1000+ yard NFL WR.
NFL Comparison: Love child of Torrey Smith and Julio Jones.
2. WR Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Verdict: Tall and aggressive with long arms and soft hands. Immense production in college. Not sudden, but has good built-up speed. Stiff and upright. Not the athlete that Vincent Jackson is despite the frequency of that comparison. He is a long-strider with limited ability to sink his hips, drive off his plants, and make people miss. The million dollar question is whether or not he'll able to succeed in the NFL with his sub par separation skills. If yes, he could be a big star. If not, he could be a big flop. I think he's a riskier prospect than his reputation would indicate, but you can't overlook the fact that everyone and their brother has him as a top 10-15 pick in the draft.
NFL Comparison: Bigger, slower Michael Floyd.
3. RB Tre Mason, Auburn
Verdict: Compact with good bulk for his height. Tested well at the combine and looked good in the drills. Given his lack of height, he's still somewhat small overall despite his thickness. Not as crafty as other short, squatty backs like Ray Rice, Gio Bernard, and Brian Westbrook. He's not a great juker. More of a north-south power runner with a little bit of quickness trapped in a slightly shorter than typical frame for that type of back. There's a little bit of a tweener vibe here, but he's talented enough and versatile enough that he should find a decent amount of success.
NFL Comparison: Less creative Ray Rice.
4. RB Carlos Hyde, Ohio State
Verdict: Ideal frame with good quickness, loose hips, and light feet behind the line of scrimmage. He can be a serviceable workhorse starter from day one. He lacks special traits though. No second gear, no explosiveness, and no long run potential. He'll get what's there, but he's not going to add a lot of value above the average replacement level runner. His FF value will always mirror his opportunity, as he's not necessarily so talented that he can emerge as a starter everywhere. Provided that he lands in a good spot, you're drafting the situation more than the talent. He is nowhere near the 4th best NFL talent in this class of skill players. It's all about being a three down RB with opportunity.
NFL Comparison: LeVeon Bell meets Eddie Lacy.
5. TE Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Verdict: The proverbial WR in a TE's body. Very clean movement skills with good speed, agility, and footwork. Great potential as a route runner. He may be the safest skill position prospect in this draft. There are some negatives though. While fast and athletic, he doesn't really have that next level freakish Jimmy Graham or Vernon Davis type of athletic ability. He drops too many passes and seems to lack focus in general. Talent-wise, he's close to a sure thing for a solid career though. A much better NFL prospect than the likes of Mason and Hyde.
NFL Comparison: Kellen Winslow Jr. pre-injuries
6. WR Marqise Lee, USC
Verdict: Excellent athlete who separates with ease. His ability on the field is greater than the sum of his measurables. Very dangerous route runner who can create space for himself routinely when matched up 1-on-1. Elusive with the ball in his hands. Not a burner, but can get vertical. On the downside, he's simply not very tall or thick. He may not hold up to the beating of the pro game. He will drop passes here and there. I think he'll find a way to make an impact, but that he's best viewed as an explosive complementary piece rather than a potential top flight #1 target.
NFL Comparison: Greg Jennings, Santonio Holmes, and Kendall Wright in a blender.
7. WR Odell Beckham, LSU
Verdict: Maybe the best overall athlete at WR in the draft. Good speed. Fluid movement with crisp route running ability and great suddenness. He shows some aggressiveness with the ball in the air. I think he's a can't-miss NFL talent, but his value in FF may be limited by his small frame. He will not outmuscle anyone in the NFL and while he's fast, that may not be enough.
NFL Comparison: Rich man's Andre Roberts with a Derrick Mason ceiling.
8. WR Allen Robinson, Penn State
Verdict: My favorite WR in the draft on film, but there are some tweener qualities that warrant a little bit of caution. He's extremely fluid and elastic. One of the best WRs in this class with the ball in his hands. Natural elusiveness. As a route runner, he easily generates separation with his fluid change of direction and explosive first step quickness. On the downside, he has no second gear. Despite showing up at the combine with a high height/weight, he has very limited lower body strength and is really a finesse player in style. He is not a slam dunk #1 NFL WR, but he's an athlete and a gamer who should find a way to produce, even if it's ultimately as a #2 target.
NFL Comparison: The body of AJ Green + Reggie Wayne with a Keenan Allen playing style.
9. WR Cody Latimer, Indiana
Verdict: Late riser who could go as high as the first round. Tall frame with good upper body strength. Looks the part "on the hoof" and shows good athletic ability with the ball in the air. Not a true deep threat, but he can run a bit. Biggest question for me is route running and small-window athleticism, as in the games I've seen he telegraphed routes and didn't show the consistent ability to create separation driving out of his breaks. Could be a tough jack-of-all-trades possesion WR.
NFL Comparison: Eric Decker with a thin layer of Devin Thomas risk.
10. RB Jeremy Hill, LSU
Verdict: A risky prospect due to his horrendous workout numbers. Did the system at LSU and the amateur competition hide his flaws? He looks better on tape than he did at the combine with nimble feet and just enough cutting ability. He can catch the ball and has a high FF ceiling as a potential workhorse back. He's also a riskier NFL prospect than many of the WR/TE options here. I'll ultimately rank him wherever his draft slot/situation warrant. Could be higher or lower than this.
NFL Comparison: LenDale White meets LeVeon Bell.
11. RB Lache Seastrunk, Baylor
Verdict: A boom-or-bust prospect whose high ceiling makes him a tempting pick over more highly-regarded NFL prospects. Vertically explosive and stronger than he looks, but suspect cutting ability in tight spaces and inside running potential raise questions over how he'll pan out. The potential is alluring, but the flipside is that you're more likely to crap out than with a WR/TE here.
NFL Comparison: I can't think of an obvious one.
12. TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Verdict: BIG athlete with nimble feet and imposing size/hands at the catch point. Lacks elite fast-twitch explosiveness, but is a fluid mover with excellent potential as a red zone/possession target. A boring FF proposition because of his position, but he's one of the better NFL prospects in this class.
NFL Comparison: Better version of Martellus Bennett.
13. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Verdict: Cooks is another tricky player to gauge. He clearly has a special athletic quality with his elite speed/acceleration that shows up both on the field and in workouts. He was massively productive in college and he's projected to be a first round pick. At the same time, he looks and plays very small without the conventional frame of a #1 target. He also has a bit of a stiff, jerky quality in his movement as opposed to the smoothness of guys like Lee and Beckham. There is a chance that his rare explosiveness and speed will see him become a star at the next level, but in my view he's much more likely to end up as an explosive complementary piece. Tavon Austin was a similar player last year (a little bit smaller, but also a little bit smoother) and while it's too early to judge his career, he looks like a reach in hindsight. I am somewhat lukewarm on Cooks as an FF commodity.
NFL Comparison: Bigger, less fluid Tavon Austin
14. WR Donte Moncrief, Mississippi
Verdict: A height/weight/speed/explosiveness dynamo. Apart from Sammy Watkins, I consider Moncrief to be the preeminent deep threat in this draft. He has instant acceleration and good top speed to separate downfield. While his lateral movement is somewhere between below average to average, he is a dangerous route runner on vertical routes such as the comeback and post. He can also make things happen after the catch due to his size and straight line speed. However, there are plenty of negatives as well. He drops too many passes. He cradle catches constantly, only extending his hands from his frame when absolutely necessary. He shows limited "it" factor when it comes to improvisation and he's not very good at operating in tight windows. He is not a great possession receiver. In the NFL, expect him to be a maddeningly inconsistent home run threat who earns his paycheck with big plays, but frustrates those who expect him to polish the edges and become the total package. He would be an excellent fit for a team like Pittsburgh or Philadelphia where he can run under bombs all day without the pressure of having to be the main man in the passing game.
NFL Comparison: Bigger cross between Torrey Smith and Mike Wallace
15. WR Davante Adams, Fresno State
Verdict: Adams is a tough possession WR with a big frame and pretty good overall athleticism. Though he's not a truly fluid mover, he remains effective because he has a sharp initial burst. He is an excellent leaper who can consistently win contested catches. He lacks great top speed to beat NFL DBs vertically, but he will earn his keep as a gritty catch-and-run possession WR with good potential in the red zone. If he were a little more elastic and elusive he would have a case for being a first round prospect ala Hakeem Nicks, Michael Crabtree, and Justin Blackmon. As it stands right now, expect him to be a 2nd round pick who contributes in the NFL as a solid complementary #2 target.
NFL Comparison: A less fluid Hakeem Nicks
16. RB Andre Williams, Boston College
Verdict: A somewhat misunderstood prospect. There's a widely held belief that Williams is a plodder, but that's not really accurate. He has deceptively good athleticism, which he showed at the combine with some excellent results in the sprints and jumps. He is actually quite athletic, with surprising speed and a monstrous frame. However, he's a long strider who lacks the compact movement and cutting skills to operate in tight spaces. He is not great at weaving through his blockers and when he gets into the open field he struggles to elude defenders at the second level. He is never going to be great in space and his potential as a receiver will be limited accordingly. All that said, he has some genuine wow qualities as a straight-line runner and may actually be an underrated athlete/talent. He looks the part of an NFL RB from a physique standpoint and could be a pleasant surprise in a one-cut scheme that showcases his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses. Given his long strider build and his corresponding lack of avoidance skills, expect him to be frequently injured and banged up.
NFL Comparison: A hybrid of Brandon Jacobs and Andre Brown with a little bit of Alfred Morris
17. RB Devonta Freeman, Florida State
Verdict: Didn't test very well at the combine and doesn't have any standout athletic traits on paper, but he's a tough and versatile back who should find some kind of role in the NFL. He runs with good lower body strength and power. Though not a burner, he has a decent initial burst with adequate speed. He's an okay inside runner with pretty decent cutting ability. He can catch passes out of the backfield and is a high effort player who gives 100%. Most observers project him to be a solid backup/change of pace option in the NFL. That's the most likely outcome, but he has just a little bit of Ray Rice potential and that slim probability is enough to pump up his value compared to some WR/QB/TE options who will be drafted higher by the NFL.
NFL Comparison: Ahmad Bradshaw
18. RB Bishop Sankey, Washington
Verdict: One of the most overrated players in this FF crop, IMO. Although he had a good college career and tested well at the combine, I've consistently found him to be a pretty mediocre player on tape. He's not bad. He just doesn't have any special qualities. Average size with minimal power. Average playing speed. He's versatile and he can be somebody's starter for a year or two in a pinch, but absent a great opportunity I think he's just a backup at the next level.
NFL Comparisons: Tashard Choice and Chester Taylor
19. QB Blake Bortles, Central Florida
Verdict: Bortles has a lot of the qualities that you look for in an NFL starter. He has a big frame with adequate arm strength. He's a confident personality who won't be rattled by big moments. He was productive in college and showed good improvement over the course of his career. Though not a great athlete, he's not a total statue either. He can move around just enough. I think he has all of the tools needed to develop into a mid-level NFL starter like Joe Flacco. Whether or not he can reach higher rungs of excellence is more questionable. His vision and anticipation are just average from what I can tell. He often waits too long to release the ball. It caused a lot of deflections at the college level and at the NFL it will be exponentially more problematic. He's also inconsistent throwing over the middle of the field, raising questions about his vision in traffic. Overall, I think he's an average mental talent with solid physical skills who can develop into a capable player, but might not have a mega star ceiling. I consider him a pretty solid proposition in 2QB or super flex formats, but would otherwise be inclined to let him slide into the late 2nd round range based on the low value of the QB position and the seemingly low probability of him ever becoming a top 5 type of guy.
NFL Comparison: A very poor man's Andrew Luck
20. WR Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State
Verdict: A bit of an enigma. Benjamin is a huge target who flashes great skills on jump balls, using his size to shield off helplessly overmatched defenders. There are times when he looks dominant. On the other hand, he is an inconsistent receiver with suspect focus and intensity on the field. He moves okay given how big he is, but all the same he is not a particularly crisp or sudden receiver. When he attacks the ball, he usually does well, but he will let it get into his body and drop passes. He's also old for a rookie prospect, meaning there's very little growth potential. He has deceptive downfield speed because of his long strides, but he's not a threat to elude after the catch. There are some WR-TE tweener qualities that bring to mind former USC/Detroit draft bust Mike Williams. On the other hand, there are times when he looks very impressive and if someone can figure out how to use him then there's probably a higher ceiling than with several of the other WRs in this range:
NFL Comparison: Mike Williams (USC)
21. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
Verdict: One of the most controversial and scrutinized prospects to enter the draft in years. Manziel is a fantastic athlete with great mobility in and out of the pocket. He is a natural runner with great quickness. Mentally, he's a courageous player who never gets rattled. At the same time, a lot of what he does in college is gimmicky stuff that won't work in the NFL. He's so desperate to make things happen that he'll occasionally throw the ball up for grabs. He seems a little too quick to abandon the play and take off, preferring to improvise rather than trusting the play. Although he is a legitimate athlete, he will not be a Mike Vick/RG3/Newton caliber runner in the NFL. He's also not a big guy who can hold up to a lot of hits. He'll need to play a more controlled, disciplined game than he did at A&M. It may take years for him to adapt, but the pressure on him will be enormous and if he isn't successful right away then there could be a huge backlash. Overall, he's a gimmicky project with enough athletic tools and innate football ability to make you think he might just be able to pull it off. Huge boom-or-bust pick.
NFL Comparison: A more gifted Jeff Garcia
22. TE Jace Amaro, Texas Tech
Verdict: A receiving TE who put up gaudy stats last season in Texas Tech's pass-happy offense. He's a tall target, with long arms, and good hands. However, he's not a very smooth athlete. Very sloppy lower body movement. He is not a good route runner or very nifty after the catch. His stats were very impressive in college, but the system was a huge contributing variable. Texas Tech had a huge amount of pass attempts last season and Amaro played as a de facto slot WR much of the time. There's a chance that he could go into the NFL and make a big FF impact by virtue of being a WR with TE eligibility, but this is not Jordan Reed or Aaron Hernandez. He's a limited athlete with poor YAC skills. It wouldn't be unprecedented for him to find some success. Rob Gronkowski is a sloppy athlete, but he has been tremendously effective when healthy with his straight-line speed and size. I can't rule out the possibility of Amaro following suit. However, he's certainly not someone that I'll be investing in. I clearly prefer Ebron and ASJ in this TE class and I think Amaro owes much of his hype to his friendly college system.
NFL Comparison: Travis Kelce
23. WR Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
Verdict: Immensely productive in college, Matthews showed himself to be an underrated pure athlete with some solid marks in the February combine testing. He's a tall, linear receiver who could offer value as a complementary vertical threat running a lot of intermediate-deep routes. However, I don't think he has any real chance of being a #1 and his upside may be limited. Though tall, he has a slender build without great playing strength. He's not particularly elusive with the ball in his hands and doesn't project as a great possession receiver due to his lack of initial quickness, strength, and RAC ability. He's a hard worker and he'll find a way to contribute in the NFL, but I don't see him as a strong FF prospect.
NFL Comparison: Taller, more productive version of Tavarres King
24. WR Martavis Bryant, Clemson
Verdict: He didn't have great college stats, but you can't totally blame him considering that Hopkins and Watkins were around to steal targets. Bryant is a tall receiver with good vertical speed. Though not as thick as Donte Moncrief, he is similar in the sense that his deep threat potential will likely appeal to teams and see him drafted a little higher than his production and overall skill set warrant. Bryant has wiry strength, but is still slender overall. He's not a bad athlete, but his possession game and route running are very much a work in progress. At his best, he is a devastating deep threat with good jump ball ability. Whether or not someone can mold him into a consistent and well-rounded WR is a major question mark though. Overall, he's a classic boom-or-bust proposition.
NFL Comparison: A faster Limas Sweed
Bridgewater would be 25th with mostly the same comments I made in my initial list. Crowell, West, and McKinnon would be some of the next names to go.
And my All-Sleeper/Day3/UDFA team below:
QB - David Fales, San Jose State
RB - Isaiah Crowell, Alabama State
RB - Branden Oliver, Buffalo
WR - Bruce Ellington, South Carolina
WR - Eric Thomas, Troy
TE - Colt Lyerla, ex-Oregon
Tell me what you think on the Toolbox Message Board.