Everybody knows who are the first round guarantees in the 2014 NFL draft. What is going to make it interesting are those players who sit on the cusp. Which ones stand the best chance to making the cut?
A.J. McCarron – QB – Alabama – First Rounder: Yes
On accomplishments alone, A.J. McCarron deserves to go in the first round of the draft. He has two national titles to his credit and one of the best touchdown-to-interception ratios in college football. He’s a leader, big, mobile and plays the game on a cerebral level. Initially though his chances of cracking the first round weren’t good. However, after Marcus Mariota and Brett Hundley both chose to return to school, the pool of top quarterbacks thinned. That opens the door for McCarron who could see his value spike due to certain teams hoping to grab him late in the first to prevent others from doing the same early in the second. Either way, the perennial winner gets the recognition he deserves.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins – TE – Washington – First Rounder: No
Physically there probably isn’t a more imposing force than Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The tight end out of Washington is arguably the best dual threat in 2014 class. Not only does he have the size-speed combination to create mismatches down the field, but he’s also a proven in-line blocker. His big problem is a lack of production for the Huskies, nowhere near counterparts Jace Amaro and Eric Ebron. Given the lack of needs at tight end for a number of teams in the first round, it’s hard to see Jenkins making a push unless he really impresses during the Senior Bowl and scouting combine.
Jordan Matthews – WR – Vanderbilt – First Rounder: No
Nowadays it’s all about the athletes, which is why Jordan Matthews might slip to Day 2. Athletically speaking he doesn’t quite measure up with the other top receivers in the 2014 NFL draft class despite his production and highly polished game. Technically, there isn’t a receiver more prepared to go pro, and he has the big body and hands to make his share of plays. The problem is first round receiver tend to be game changers, the explosively fast or really big types who create obvious problems for a defense. Matthews will make some quarterback very happy, but doesn’t have a great shot at cracking the first round.
LaMarcus Joyner – FS – Florida State – First Rounder: Yes
The safety class of 2014 is nothing compared to the one this past April. In fact pundits are convinced only one player at the position has a chance to go in the first round, and he just had knee surgery. It’s really unfortunate because LeMarcus Joyner has proved all season long he can play. The FloridaState safety not only leads his team with five sacks, he also has two interceptions and has over 60 tackles. He’s fast, quick and instinctive. There really isn’t anything he can’t do on the field. The only thing holding him back is the fact he only stands 5’8″. Being so short would afford defenses a really mismatch they could choose to exploit. That discounts the fact that Joyner captains the #1 pass defense in the league. For his one real drawback, the kid is a playmaker and some coach or GM will recognize that.
Will Sutton – DT – Arizona State – First Round: No
Defensive tackle is a rather clouded position in the 2014 NFL draft. There is plenty of talent but for one reason or another players just aren’t making it fully into the first round conversation. Will Sutton out of ArizonaState is a perfect example. He’s very active around the line of scrimmage, able to make tackles and get up the field to rush the passer (four sacks in 2013). His big issue is size. At 6’1″, 288 lbs he lacks the ideal length or bulk to anchor the middle of a defense. This despite clear cut skills as a pass rusher. His status may come down to how much bigger he can get, but at present his lighter weight makes him a liability against the run, and thus not complete enough to make the first round.