This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The 2014 NFL Draft is already in the bag, yet in this attention span of nano seconds culture we live in, fans are already looking ahead past the 2014 NFL season.
Whether it’s because they hated the players their team drafted this year or they simply can’t rid themselves of draft fever, people want to know more and more about each successive crop of highly touted draft prospects.
The insanity is going to likely ensue longer than it did even this year, too, as the NFL is already discussing plans to push the league’s biggest event back even further.
That sounds crazy, but it at the very least will give us all ample time to take a good, hard look at the top prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft.
Last year guys like Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater were popular picks to go number one overall. Clowney ended up doing just that, while Bridgewater went just 32nd overall. In fact, he was the third player taken at the quarterback position.
Needless to say, sometimes the guys we start hyping up just weeks after the draft really are who we make them out to be. Other times, the hype is just that – hype.
In an early effort to separate hype from reality, although it should prove to be futile, let’s break down the top five prospects for the 2015 NFL Draft:
1. Leonard Williams, DT, USC
It’s not every day that an imposing defensive tackle falls to a team in the draft. In the case of USC’s Leonard Williams, that “fall” might not last much longer past the first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. That pick is normally reserved for franchise passers, but we’ve seen otherwise in recent years and Williams is the special type of talent that could have a non-quarterback going #1 overall for the second year in a row, depending on who is selecting at the top spot.
Blessed with excellent size, strength, length and athleticism, Williams projects to be a dominant force at the next level, whether it be on the inside of a 4-3 or as a defensive end in a 3-4 system. He has the tools and physical ability to be an immediate impact player in either system. Williams has an exceptional burst off the line and is extremely hot in pursuit, making him a force against the run and a threat to chase down the quarterback on a routine basis.
While not everyone will value Williams as a potential #1 pick, it’d be a surprise to see him fall outside of the top five selections in the 2015 NFL Draft.
2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota may not be the top overall player, but if a team needs a quarterback and they’re sitting at the top overall spot in the 2015 NFL Draft, he’s going to be the pick. With that said, he barely misses out for our top spot, as he is a very gifted player physically, thanks to an excellent combination of size, arm strength and elite athleticism for the position.
Some will see Mariota as a limited player due to his playing style within Oregon’s offense, but there’s no reason to think his physical ability and high football IQ can’t translate into any system at the next level. Mariota comes with little risk and is a very high upside prospect. Even if he doesn’t go number one in next year’s draft, he’s a near lock to go inside the top-five.
3. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
If we’ve learned nothing else over the years, the league values elite offensive tackles quite highly. Tackles with the ability to lock down the left (blind side) of the line are being held in higher regard with each passing year, and 2015 will be no different. That should vault stud tackle Cedric Ogbuehi into discussion for the top overall pick, or at least a spot inside the top five picks.
Ogbuehi has been overshadowed the past two years by guys like Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, but manned the right side of the line at an elite level last year and will enter his senior season in 2014 with the chance to show he is at their level of play.
Ogbuehi doesn’t exactly have ideal height for the left side and has displayed an inability to effectively dominate speed rushers on the outside on a consistent basis, but he does appear to have the physicality, athleticism and natural tools to eventually get the job done. He’ll have to prove that to be true in 2014, and if he can he could challenge for the top pick in the draft.
4. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Another potential Cam Newton in the making, Winston has a size and athleticism package that has scouts drooling. He’s also showed remarkable poise and decision-making despite being very young. Unfortunately, his youth certainly has showed off the field, as numerous mistakes could see his overall value taking a hit. There is also the issue of Winston’s throwing mechanics, as his release is a big slow and elongated.
With all that being said, even Mariota doesn’t really touch Winston’s pure talent and upside. He’s not nearly the pocket passer Mariota is and is a much bigger risk, but his physical ability and potential jumps off the tape. His off field issues could potentially scare some teams away, but there is little doubt he’s a top-five prospect on talent alone.
5. Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Did we say tackle had value? Instead of putting a stud pass rusher like Vic Beasley or Randy Gregory here, it makes more sense to pump up the value of Peat, arguably the second rated offensive tackle going into next year’s draft.
NFL teams love their tackles and Peat is an exceptional athlete with terrific size and strength for the position. He actually has better overall size than Ogbuehi, too. He should rival Ogbuehi throughout the process, and it’s quite likely we won’t know who NFL teams prefer until after the 2015 NFL Combine.
For now, he’s a fantastic talent who has proven his worth on the field and appears to have the athletic ability to translate to being an elite tackle in the NFL. A solid showing in his 2014 college season with Stanford should help solidify that line of thinking.