October 12, 2013; Pasadena, CA, USA; UCLA Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr (11) defends against the California Golden Bears during the first half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dion Jordan and Tavon Austin were one of several major trade targets during the first round of the 2013 draft. With the 2014 NFL draft expected to be considerably stronger in quarterbacks, how will that impact the trade market?
Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Like this past April the 2014 class expects a very strong crop of offensive linemen in the first round. However, they likely won’t be all bunched at the top. The only unquestionable left tackle of a franchise caliber in the nation is Jake Matthews of Texas A&M. He has all the physical tools to play the position at its highest level and his family history of success playing offensive line means he will come in polished and experienced. Based on the current outlook of the top ten there is a host of teams who would kill to have him as their mainstay. Not the least of which is the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders. Matthews won’t just help in pass protection, but should provide a boost in the run game as well.
Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
Nobody thought any other defender could touch Jadeveon Clowney heading towards the 2014 NFL draft. Clearly they didn’t tell UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr. Unlike Clowney, his effort level and durability are not in question. He is routinely in the opponents’ backfield and adept at either rushing the passer or making tackles. His length and powerful lower body make him the best 3-4 linebacker of his class. Considering how hard those can be to find, teams are certain target him early in the first round. Among the top candidate to make an aggressive push for him is the New York Giants with their 31st ranked pass rush, the San Diego Chargers and perhaps even the Cleveland Browns or New York Jets.
Tajh Boyd – QB – Clemson
Much of the value of Tajh Boyd is tied to the decisions of the powerhouse underclass quarterbacks currently playing. The Clemson star is easily the best senior quarterback on the board. Teddy Bridgewater is a junior and expected to go to the Jacksonville Jaguars first overall. Boyd’s value at that point is tied directly to what players like Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Johnny Manziel decide to do. If they return to college for their junior seasons, Boyd instantly becomes the second best quarterback in the 2014 class. Quarterback needy teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans would feel a strong compulsion to jump up to the top five or ten to secure his services. They wouldn’t be disappointed either. Height concerns aside he is a tough, strong-armed and mobile threat who has matured into a team leader who can win games by himself.
Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Boyd’s Clemson teammate ironically may have gotten a recent boost to his draft stock thanks both to his consistently solid play and some other developments. Sammy Watkins was already in the running for best receiver of the 2014 class but now may stand alone atop that heap. His only real challenger at the start of the season was Marqise Lee out of USC. A knee injury and upheaval with the coaching staff has turned his season upside down. Watkins meanwhile continues to prove his worth as a go-to guy for Boyd, showcasing his ability to make plays after the catch. That kind of talent is something teams love. While his trade may come later in the first round, keep an eye on teams like the Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Baltimore Ravens who have all had issues at wide receiver in 2013.
Louis Nix III – NT – Notre Dame
His stats may not blow anybody away but out of all the 2014 NFL draft first round prospect, none is more rare or more suited for his job than Louis Nix. Next to an athletic outside linebacker, the next thing a 3-4 defense needs is a massive nose tackle up front to command double teams and stop the run. Not only is Nix the best in his class, but he’s the only one who is a surefire first round talent. That means a host of teams that play the 3-4 scheme will want to add him up front. After losing Vince Wilfork the New England Patriots might become a player, as will the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans who have bottom ten run defenses in the league.