The wait is almost over and the NFL draft is near. Thursday night starts off the three day event which is the most covered sports event of the year. The NFL draft is not just the three day affair, but it is talked, written about and scrutinized 52 weeks and 365 days a year.
The New Orleans Saints pick 27th overall in Round One and speculation is rampant on what will occur draft night.
I really do believe that the Saints will seriously explore the possibility of moving up in Round One to acquire one of the top “speed” receivers in the draft in either USC’s Marqise Lee or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks, but the guy most “Who Dat” followers want, LSU’s Odell Beckham, will be long gone before the 20th overall selection.
Matter of fact Beckham could surpass Michael Clayton as the highest drafted Tiger wide receiver in the modern era of the NFL draft. Clayton was the 15th overall selection in the 2004 NFL draft.
A trade back in Round One for extra picks later in this very rich draft class is also a possibility.
But I really believe the target wide receiver for the Saints in Round One is USC’s Marqise Lee. Lee has had a very tough journey to the NFL.
Lee’s parents are both deaf and he communicates with them via sign language. He had a very difficult childhood and he moved a number of times throughout his childhood staying with his mother and grandparents.
His father was not regularly involved in his life and both of his brothers were involved in gangs. One of his brothers was murdered in a gang-related shooting and his other brother was in jail in Arizona on an attempted murder charge.
He started high school living in a foster home before a high school friend’s family took him in. Lee blossomed into one of the best prep receivers and track athletes in the country when he came out of Serra High School in California.
Marqise was not just a good player as a freshman and sophomore, but a dominant player in the PAC-12 and the best receiver in the conference.
Headed into the 2013 college football season I ranked Lee as the 7th best player available for the 2014 NFL draft and now there is a strong chance he could be available at the #20 spot in Round One.
Despite being derailed by injuries as a junior Lee owns or shares 22 USC records and he caught 191 passes for 2,864 yards, averaged 15.0 yards per catch and scored 24 touchdowns for USC.
He also averaged 28.5 yards per runback on 40 kickoffs and he returned 2 back for scores. In three seasons Lee accounted for 4,144 all-purpose yards and scored 27 touchdowns.
Lee was such a great athlete that he competed on the Trojan track team as a long-jumper and sprinter.
Former USC defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator and interim head coach Ed Orgeron is a huge fan of Marqise Lee.
“As a person Marqise is a fine young man, very polite and very respectful,” said Orgeron. “He grew up in the inner city and had a tough childhood, but he is someone that you really pull for. As a player he was terrific for us at USC, but he still has plenty of untapped potential. If he is there in the 20’s in Round One he is a steal of a pick for whoever gets him.”
Stanford head coach David Shaw says that Lee is one of the best wide receivers he has ever seen.
“Marqise Lee is the best college wide receiver I’ve seen since I scouted Randy Moss,” Shaw said.
He is a value pickup for whatever team selects him if gets further than the 18h overall selection, he’s that good. In my opinion, if the Saints decide to trade up for a wide receiver, the choice is USC’s Marqise Lee.
If the Saints decide not to trade upward in Round One there are three players to watch for late in opening round. Ohio State outside linebacker Ryan Shazier, Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller and Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley are three that could be on the board when the Saints pick at #27.
Shazier was a prep defensive end at Plantation High School in Florida. He originally decided to verbally commit to Florida, but when head coach Urban Meyer decided to retire due to health reasons he took recruiting trips to LSU and Ohio State before he changed his mind and became a Buckeye
The 6-1 ½, 238 pounder has led the Buckeyes in tackles the past two seasons and recorded 306 tackles over the last three seasons.
Shazier ran an eye-catching (4.36) 40-yard dash time at the NFL Combine, but what was impressive over the past two seasons was watching the big plays generated by the super-quick flow linebacker.
Over the past two seasons Shazier has recorded 39 ½ tackles for losses, 11 quarterback sacks and 7 forced fumbles.
And he is also a very good cover-linebacker and this is so important in a league that stresses matches downfield.
His speed, ability to create negative plays and his top of the line coverage skills and foot speed make him an inviting target late in Round One.
Like Shazier, one of the most underrated players in the draft class of 2014 is Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller comes from a very athletic family.
His older brother, Vincent Fuller, was a standout at Virginia Tech and he played safety for the Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots.
Another brother, Corey Fuller, played wide receiver at Virginia Tech and he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2013 draft by the Detroit Lions.
His younger brother, Kendall, is a standout cornerback for the Hokies.
Fuller started 7 games as a true freshman for the Hokies and has been a fulltime starter the past three seasons.
The fleet footed Fuller has recorded 32 pass deflections and 6 pass interceptions the past three seasons and he has also been a strong run defender racking up 141 tackles despite missing time late in the 2013 season due to a sports hernia injury.
The 6-0, 192 pounder has very good one-on-one coverage skills and excellent ball reaction skills.
He is also very effective coming off the edge as a blitzer and he has been a standout on special teams.
Fuller would be a quality selection at the #27 position.
One player that I think has an outside shot to still be hanging around at the #27 spot would be Alabama inside linebacker C.J. Mosley. Like what happened to current Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan in 2011 I could see a scenario that occurs that has Mosley falling to the Saints’ pick.
While it is not the most likely event to occur no one thought Deuce McAllister, Will Smith and Cameron Jordan would last as long as they did in Round One.
I have Mosley rated the 23rd best overall player and he has lived up to his high school press clippings at linebacker. In high school Mosley recorded over 500 tackles.
To be honest, if you are not a great pass rusher, the linebacker position has been devalued in some quarters similar to that of the halfback spot.
But over the past two seasons the 6-2, 235 pound Mosley had been quite a force in the SEC totaling 215 tackles and 23 tackles for losses.
Watching Mosley closely since he left Theodore High School he is one of the most instinctive defensive players in this draft class and also one of the top cover-linebackers available in 2014.
During his Alabama career Mosley had 19 pass break-ups and 5 pass interceptions.
Mosley is a quality athlete who rarely takes a false step to the football, he is a 1st class openfield tackler and he is a physical player at the point of attack.
In the best draft class I have ever done from a depth standpoint in 27 years and the window of opportunity there for the Saints to make a serious run to the Super Bowl in 2014 who they select and how quickly they can contribute will help them get that down that tough road.
Just remember on a very good 2013 New Orleans Saints team the contributions of the rookies in Kenny Vaccaro, Kenny Stills, John Jenkins, Terron Armstead and Khiry Robinson, and the potential of offensive center Tim Lelito, tight end Josh Hill, outside linebacker Rufus Johnson, cornerback Rod Sweeting, quarterback Ryan Griffin and defensive tackle Glenn Foster.
This shapes up as one of the most intriguing draft days I have ever done.
Here is my take on Round One
1. Houston Texans- Jadeveon Clowney-DE. South Carolina
2. St. Louis Rams (from Wash. R.)- Greg Robinson-OT. Auburn
3. Jacksonville Jaguars- Khalil Mack-OLB. Buffalo
4. Cleveland Browns- Sammy Watkins-WR. Clemson
5. Oakland Raiders- Johnny Manziel-QB. Texas A&M
6. Atlanta Falcons- Jake Matthews-OT. Texas A&M
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Mike Evans-WR. Texas A&M
8. Minnesota Vikings- Blake Bortles-QB. Central Florida
9. Buffalo Bills- Eric Ebron-TE. North Carolina
10. Detroit Lions- Taylor Lewan-OT. Michigan
11. Tennessee Titans- Justin Gilbert-CB. Oklahoma State
12. New York Giants- Anthony Barr-OLB./DE. UCLA
13. St. Louis Rams- Odell Beckham, Jr.-WR. LSU
14. Chicago Bears- Aaron Donald-DT. Pittsburgh
15. Pittsburgh Steelers- Darqueze Dennard-CB. Michigan State
16. Dallas Cowboys- Ha Ha Clinton Dix-S. Alabama
17. Baltimore Ravens- Zack Martin-OT./OG. Notre Dame
18. New York Jets- Brandin Cooks-WR. Oregon State
19. Miami Dolphins- C.J. Mosley-ILB. Alabama
20. Arizona Cardinals- Teddy Bridgewater-QB. Louisville
21. Green Bay Packers- Timmy Jernigan-DT. Florida State
22. Philadelphia Eagles- Marqise Lee-WR. USC
23. Kansas City Chiefs- Calvin Pryor-FS. Louisville
24. Cincinnati Bengals- Bradley Roby-CB. Ohio State
25. San Diego Chargers- Dee Ford-DE./OLB. Auburn
26. Cleveland Browns(from Indy Colts)- Derek Carr-QB. Fresno State
27. New Orleans Saints- Ryan Shazier-OLB. Ohio State
28. Carolina Panthers- Kyle Fuller-CB. Virginia Tech
29. New England Patriots- RaShede Hageman-DT. Minnesota
30. San Francisco 49ers- Louis Nix III-DT. Notre Dame
31. Denver Broncos- Jason Verrett-CB. TCU
32. Seattle Seahawks- Austin Seferian-Jenkins-TE. Washington
Watch for the Centers
In the draft class of 2014 there are two centers, Colorado State’s Weston Richburg and USC’s Marcus Martin that rate as solid second round pick selections.
Richburg, 6-3, 300, played quarterback as a freshman at Bushland High School in Texas before growing out of the position.
His durability is a strong point to his game as he has started 49 times for Colorado State which is a school record. What jumps out about Richburg is how athletic he is for a 300-pounder and he plays the game with excellent leverage skills.
At the 2014 Senior Bowl Richburg was one of the few offensive linemen who won his fair share of battles with the most dominant player on the field in Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald. While he still needs some work on his pass protection techniques Richburg excels as a run blocker and he gets a strong initial surge up the field.
Marcus Martin was considered one of the elite offensive linemen on the West Coast when he came out of Crenshaw High School in California.
As a true freshman he started the final 10 games of the 2011 season and became the first Trojan true freshman to start at offensive guard since 2004.
Martin started again at offensive guard in 2012 before being moved to the offensive center spot in 2013. He earned 1st team All-PAC-12 honors as a junior and started all 13 regular season games for the Trojans before dislocating his kneecap in the season finale and he did not play in the Las Vegas Bowl. Martin announced after the season that he was giving up his senior season of college football to turn pro early.
The 6-3, 320 pounder has made the rounds to a number of teams including the New Orleans Saints lately as they put a final look in on his kneecap injury from the 2013 season.
In watching film on Martin is a very good technician as both a run blocker and pass protector and a very alert player out on the field. He fires off the snap quickly and does a nice job controlling the man in front of him and he did a very good job in his only season at center for the Trojans.
Martin still needs to become a more physical player at the point of attack with defenders, but he is smart, explosive in firing off the snap, technically sound and he has good quickness/agility skills in adjusting to movement upfront.
Both these young men have seen work at both guard and center in college and their versatility is a huge plus. In one of the toughest positions you will find on the field to start as a rookie in my opinion both Martin and Richburg look like good starting offensive centers in the NFL, but they may both start their NFL careers at the guard spot.
1. Jadeveon Clowney-Defensive End South Carolina
2. Khalil Mack-Outside Linebacker Buffalo
3. Greg Robinson-Offensive Tackle Auburn
4. Sammy Watkins-Wide Receiver Clemson
5. Jake Matthews-Offensive Tackle Texas A&M
6. Taylor Lewan-Offensive Tackle Michigan
7. Johnny Manziel-Quarterback Texas A&M
8. Mike Evans-Wide Receiver Texas A&M
9. Eric Ebron-Tight End North Carolina
10. Anthony Barr-Outside Linebacker UCLA
11. Zack Martin-Offensive Tackle Notre Dame
12. Aaron Donald-Defensive Tackle Pittsburgh
13. Odell Beckham, Jr.-Wide Receiver LSU
14. Blake Bortles-Quarterback Central Florida
15. Justin Gilbert-Cornerback Oklahoma State
16. Darqueze Dennard-Cornerback Michigan State
17. Ha Ha Clinton Dix- Free Safety Alabama
18. Teddy Bridgewater-Quarterback Louisville
19. Marqise Lee-Wide Receiver USC
20. Brandin Cooks-Wide Receiver Oregon State
21. Ryan Shazier-Outside Linebacker Ohio State
22. Dee Ford-Defensive End/OLB. Auburn
23. Kyle Fuller-Cornerback Virginia Tech
24. C.J. Mosley-Inside Linebacker Alabama
25. Calvin Pryor-Free Safety Louisville
26. Louis Nix III-Defensive Tackle Notre Dame
27. Timmy Jernigan-Defensive Tackle Florida State
28. Derek Carr-Quarterback Fresno State
29. Ra’Shede Hageman-Defensive Tackle Minnesota
30. Bradley Roby-Cornerback Ohio State
31. Kony Ealy-Defensive End Missouri
32. Xavier Su’a-Filo-Offensive Guard UCLA
33. Jason Verrett-Cornerback TCU
34. Kelvin Benjamin-Wide Receiver Florida State
35. Austin Seferian Jenkins-Tight End Washington
36. Jace Amaro-Tight End Texas Tech
37. Jordan Matthews-Wide Receiver Vanderbilt
38. Cody Latimer-Wide Receiver Indiana
39. Stanley Jean Baptiste-Cornerback Nebraska
40. Morgan Moses-Offensive Tackle Virginia
41. Kyle Van Noy-Outside Linebacker Brigham Young
42. Cyrus Kouandjio-Offensive Tackle Alabama
43. Jimmy Garoppolo-Quarterback Eastern Illinois
44. Stephon Tuitt-Defensive End Notre Dame
45. Jimmy Ward- Strong Safety Northern Illinois
46. Joel Bitonio-Offensive Tackle Nevada
47. Terrence Brooks-Free Safety Florida State
48. Davante Adams-Wide Receiver Fresno State
49. Allen Robinson III-Wide Receiver Penn State
50. Jarvis Landry-Wide Receiver LSU
51. Chris Borland-Inside Linebacker Wisconsin
52. Dominque Easley-Defensive Tackle Florida
53. Scott Crichton-Defensive End Oregon State
54. Donte Moncrief-Wide Receiver Mississippi
55. Pierre Desir-Cornerback Lindenwood
56. Jack Mewhort-Offensive Tackle Ohio State
57. Zach Mettenberger-Quarterback LSU
58. Gabe Jackson-Offensive Guard Mississippi State
59. Jaylen Watkins-Cornerback Florida
60. Marcus Martin-Offensive Center USC
61. Martavis Bryant-Wide Receiver Clemson
62. Marcus Roberson-Cornerback Florida
63. AJ McCarron-Quarterback Alabama
64. Tre Mason-Halfback Auburn
65. Carlos Hyde-Halfback Ohio State
66. Trent Murphy-Outside Linebacker Stanford
67. Keith McGill-Cornerback Utah
68. Troy Niklas-Tight End Notre Dame
69. Jeremiah Attaochu-Outside Linebacker Georgia Tech
70. DeMarcus Lawrence-Defensive End/OLB. Boise State
71. Weston Richburg-Offensive Center Colorado State
72. Bishop Sankey-Halfback Washington
73. Lamarcus Joyner-Strong Safety Florida State
74. David Yankey-Offensive Guard Stanford
75. Ja’Wuan James-Offensive Tackle Tennessee
76. Kelcy Quarles-Defensive Tackle South Carolina
77. Carl Bradford-Outside Linebacker Arizona State
78. Marcus Smith-Defensive End Louisville
79. Ed Reynolds-Free Safety Stanford
80. Dakota Dozier-Offensive Guard Furman
81. Antonio Richardson-Offensive Tackle Tennessee
82. Bashaud Breeland-Cornerback Clemson
83. Deone Bucannon-Strong Safety Washington State
84. Jeremy Hill-Halfback LSU
85. Will Sutton-Defensive Tackle Arizona State
When either Ego Ferguson or Anthony Johnson get drafted during the May NFL draft it will mark the 11th straight year the LSU Tigers have provided a defensive lineman to the NFL via the draft.
No other school in college football can make that statement today and the Tigers have in my opinion the next breakout star defensive lineman in Danielle Hunter.
The 6-5, 255 pound defensive end was the most dominant defensive player in the spring for the Tigers and the former Morton Ranch High School in Texas standout has many admirers on the team.
“Danielle had a super spring,” said LSU offensive tackle La’el Collins. “He is just a terrific athlete with real long arms and he is explosive off the snap. He has gotten stronger and he is just not beating people with speed, but with “power” moves also. I’m glad he is on our side and we don’t have to play against him. He’s a special talent.”
Last season Hunter recorded 57 tackles, 8 tackles for losses, 3 quarterback sacks and 5 quarterback hurries.
Watch out for #94 in 2014.
Former Thibodaux High School and Auburn star offensive tackle Greg Robinson will go down as the highest drafted offensive lineman from the state of Louisiana in the modern day era of the NFL draft.
Robinson could go as high as the second overall pick, and if he is drafted within the top 5 choices he will join an elite group of players that either played high school football in Louisiana or went to a Louisiana college and was a top-5 pick since the leagues merged their drafts back in 1967.
Robinson would join:
One player making major strides on draft boards across the NFL scene is Rice University cornerback Phillip Gaines. I have Gaines rated as the 13th best cornerback and a late 3rd round selection and the scouts are starting to see just how good of a cover cornerback the speedy 6-0 ¼, 193 pounder is.
Gaines set a new Rice record by recording 38 pass break-ups throughout his college career. In 2013 the former track star allowed only 13 catches in 40 targeted throws.
While he has good size, tremendous leaping skills and excellent speed Gaines has missed time due to multiple injuries in college and he needs to spend more time in the weightroom to physically get stronger, but he has the size and recovery speed that would make him an excellent pick-up in the third round.
Coaches at Rice University told me last week that the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers, and the New England Patriots have shown the most interest in Gaines.
Since 2000 there have been just 2 NFL drafts that we have seen 5 wide receivers selected within the first 25 selections. This year may be the third draft since 2000 with 5 wide receivers picked within the top 25 picks.
One play that has become a “red hot” commodity has been LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham.
Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M end Mike Evans look to have secured spots in the top 10 selections for 2014 and Beckham has steadily moved up the draft boards throughout his junior campaign.
While I have never scouted a Tiger wide receiver who could run better routes and has better hands than Tiger teammate Jarvis Landry, Beckham has emerged as the clear-cut third best receiver in the Class of 2014 and there are a few teams that have a major interest in acquiring the speedy wide receiver/return specialist.
There is a lot of speculation that the San Francisco 49ers with 6 selections in the top-100 have a keen interest in moving up to add Texas A&M king-size wide receiver Mike Evans to the lineup, but they would have to move to a top 10 spot to select him and many teams in that spot don’t want to trade down that far, despite getting extra picks.
Speculation is that the 49ers have a great deal of interest in moving to a teens pick in Round One to select the former Tiger star end and he would be the 49ers version of what the Seattle Seahawks have in Percy Harvin at wide receiver.
Right now the 49ers are trying to match the NFL version of the “Jones” in the Seattle Seahawks.
If that occurs that could well affect what the New Orleans Saints may do also in Round One.
Two weeks ago in this spot I wrote that the Saints would have to move up in Round One to select either Beckham-really move up for that choice or make a short run up the draft board to select either Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks or USC end Marquise Lee.
Two general managers who have teams that pick before the Saints do at #27 told me this week they believe the Saints will try and move up in Round One to get either Cooks or Lee.
“There is still some draft board shuffling to happen between now and May 8th, but as a team we speculate that those 5 receivers will be gone before the Saints pick at 27,” the NFC general manager said. “The Saints are looking for that deep threat. It would add so much to what Sean Payton already has and he is really one of the few brilliant offensive minds in the game. There will be a good linebacker or cornerback there for them to pick if they stay put, but either Cooks or Lee could add that “over the top” speed guy that could make that offense special. Marques Colston healthy is still a very effective player due to his great size and his ability to work the inside routes. Kenny Stills was a steal for the Saints. He is going to be a very good player, especially in the slot position. That “speed” element teamed up with Jimmy Graham could be lethal for opposing teams to match up against and to be honest late in the draft I really think they will pick a speed/all-purpose halfback to take Darren Sproles’ spot. Payton works the backs just so well as receivers and it’s tough to match up against those type guys. The New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs all need wide receivers. I really think Mickey ( Loomis), with some encouragement I should say from Sean, will try to trade up to get one of those two big-play elements. If not, I could see them trading back and I agree with you 100% that one player as a second round pick that would be great for them would be Mississippi’s Donte Moncrief, but he may not be there late in Round 2 either. I could see 15 wide receivers selected within the first 65 picks. To be honest I see as many as 15 wide receivers picks in the top 65 and probably 12 cornerbacks too. It’s just a great class of wide outs and cornerbacks.”
With the May 8th NFL draft approaching quickly here is my take at Round One.
1st Round Projections
1. Houston Texans — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
2. St. Louis Rams (from Wash. R.) — Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
3. Jacksonville Jaguars — Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
4. Cleveland Browns — Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
5. Oakland Raiders — Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
6. Atlanta Falcons — Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
8. Minnesota Vikings — Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
9. Buffalo Bills — Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
10. Detroit Lions — Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
11. Tennessee Titans — Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
12. New York Giants — Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
13. St. Louis Rams — Odell Beckham, WR, LSU
14. Chicago Bears — Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
15. Pittsburgh Steelers — Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
16. Dallas Cowboys — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama
17. Baltimore Ravens —Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
18. New York Jets — Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
19. Miami Dolphins — Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
20. Arizona Cardinals — Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
21. Green Bay Packers — Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
22. Philadelphia Eagles — Marqise Lee, WR, USC
23. Kansas City Chiefs — Calvin Pryor, FS, Louisville
24. Cincinnati Bengals — Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
25. San Diego Chargers — Dee Ford, DE./OLB, Auburn
26. Cleveland Browns(from Indy Colts) — Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
27. New Orleans Saints — C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
28. Carolina Panthers — Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
29. New England Patriots — Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
30. San Francisco 49ers — Jason Verrett, CB., TCU
31. Denver Broncos — Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State
32. Seattle Seahawks — Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
It is less than a month before the NFL draft and for at least one team what they do in the three-day event in May will lead them to a Super Bowl title.
For the 2014 New Orleans Saints the reach is close. The Saints , along with the Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs and the Indianapolis Colts, are the clear-cut top teams in the league today and the right choices in May could well be the catalyst to put them in the Big Show.
The Saints have addressed some obvious needs in free agency in acquiring one of the elite free safeties in the game in Jairus Byrd, one of the all-time great cornerbacks in Champ Bailey-who at 36 years old will most likely be the #3 or nickel cornerback for the squad and a heavy duty lead blocker/H-back in Eric Lorig.
The holes on this football team are depth at the center spot with second-year center/guard Tim Lelito the likely starter, a “stretch the field” wide receiver, another cover cornerback or two and another starter type at linebacker, if he were available.
In Round One most would love to see LSU’s Odell Beckham, USC’s Marqise Lee or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks on the board for the Saints, but it is highly unlikely any of the three will be there.
There is no center in this draft class that will be picked in Round One.
So that could well mean that the Saints go the route of a linebacker or cornerback in the opening round, if they stay pat at #27 spot.
With five receivers likely off the board in Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Beckham, Cooks and Lee and tight end Eric Ebron that means a defensive player will be pushed to late first round pick status.
Many of the top seniors decided not to play in the 2014 Senior Bowl either because of injury or advice from agents to work out on their own turf in a sterile environment, but it was two juniors who do not play quarterback that was also the buzz in Mobile.
Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins and former Thibodaux High School and Auburn left offensive tackle Greg Robinson were talked about quite a bit in Mobile.
One AFC general manager told me that Watkins was a player that could well turn out to be the top player on their draft board and the one non-quarterback that teams will be trying to trade up to acquire.
"Sammy has great size, sprinter's type foot speed and he really improved his route running skills this season and with DeAndre Hopkins in the NFL with the Houston Texans he showed he could take on and beat constant double coverage and he is also a force in the return game. I really believe his versatility, like what we saw last season with West Virginia's Tavon Austin (St. Louis Rams)will make him a top-5 pick in 2014 and that will also upgrade the draft status of Marqise Lee (USC), Odell Beckham, Jr. (LSU) and Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)."
Robinson, the 6-5, 315 pound left tackle has been one of the "hot" players to watch since the start of November and NFL scouts can't wait to watch him work out at the Combine and also at Auburn's Pro Day.
Texas A&M left tackle Jake Matthews is the highest ranked offensive lineman in the 2014 draft class, but Robinson is not far behind him and he will be a top-10 pick in 2014.
The quick-footed left tackle prospect may well press former Hahnville High School and LSU safety LaRon Landry in being the highest drafted player from the Bayou/River Parish areas. Landry was the 6th overall selection in 2007.
Wide Receiver Frank Lewis, who went to Southdown High School in Terrebonne Parish and attended Grambling University, was the 8th overall pick in the 1971 draft.
Every year there are a handful of players that elevate their draft stock with a strong performance in the practice sessions leading to the Senior Bowl. Here is my take on the seven "Run Up the Board" players in the practice sessions for 2014.
1. Aaron Donald — Defensive Tackle — Pittsburgh
Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman put on a fine performance in Mobile and he looks like a first round pick talent at defensive tackle, but the 6-0 1/4, 290 pound Donald was the eye-catcher during the practice sessions.
Despite not having ideal height and weight Donald used great leverage skills and hand-usage to defeat would-be blockers on a consistent basis and the scouts loved his hustle, desire and quick diagnostic skills.
In 2013 the Lombardi, Bronko Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Outland Trophy award winner totaled 28 1/2 tackles for losses, 11 quarterback sacks and he forced four fumbles.
In many ways he looks like a composite of Geno Atkins (Cincinnati Bengals) and former New Orleans Saints/Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle La'Roi Glover.
If there were any question marks about his play and his talent it was put away this week and Donald looks to be an early second round selection.
2. Morgan Moses — Offensive Tackle — Virginia
Left tackles that can pass block well are in high demand by NFL teams. This week in Mobile one player who caught everyone's attention with his size, 6-6, 330, quick feet and his physicality as a run blocker was Morgan Moses from Virginia.
While Moses may need to lose a little weight to keep his unique quickness skills and movement ability as a pass blocker as a high level he certainly displayed all the physical traits scouts are looking for as a left tackle prospect.
His long arms and his work at both right and left tackle are huge plusses for him as a player and what I liked from him was his ability to finish off a block.
Right now Moses is pressing the envelope as a late first round pick or a very early second round choice in May.
3. Chris Borland — Inside Linebacker — Wisconsin
Borland is 5-11 and 245 pounds, but he made quite an impact all week in Mobile. Borland displayed excellent hand-usage in getting away from blockers, quick read skills and the ability to flow quickly to the ballcarrier.
Borland is also pretty good dropping back into his pass coverage area of the field. The Badger thumper in the middle looks like a third round pick.
4. Dee Ford — Outside Linebacker/Defensive End — Auburn
Every NFL team is looking for pass rushers and Ford displayed the edge foot speed and quickness that he had flashed throughout his college career for Auburn.
The 6-2 1/4, 242 pounder has really upgraded his ability to use his quick hands and long arms to get around blockers and he has terrific closing speed to the quarterback.
Pass rushers rarely last long on draft day and I look for Ford to be an early second round selection.
5. Gabe Jackson — Offensive Guard — Mississippi State
Notre Dame's Zack Martin was the top offensive lineman in Mobile, but the 6-3 1/4, 340 pound Jackson put on a real show for the scouts and coaches.
Despite his massive frame he was able to move his body around with great ease on the pitch plays and getting to the second level. He also displayed quick feet, good body balance and improved pass blocking techniques during the practice sessions.
Jackson will press Baylor's Cyril Richardson in being the top pure guard off the board in 2014 and he projects as an early second round choice.
6. Josh Huff — Wide Receiver — Oregon
The speedy Huff was not the name on the marquee for the Ducks’ offense, but he did catch 62 passes for an average of 18.4 yards per catch and scored 12 touchdowns.
Huff was impressive in his route-running tree and his ability to make sharp cuts downfield. He has excellent eye-hand coordination and his (4.43) 40-yard dash speed got him away from defenders in a flash.
He can also help out in the return game and the coaches in Mobile praised his skills as a downfield blocker also.
Huff has moved into being a top-100 pick in 2014.
7. Kyle Van Noy — Outside Linebacker — Brigham Young
Last year in this same space I wrote about how the most impressive player in Mobile was Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher.
That honor this year should have went to Buffalo University outside linebacker Khalil Mack, but his absence left one of the most underrated football players in the country, Kyle Van Noy, an opportunity to seize the moment
The 6-2 1/2, 235 pounder displayed good pass rush skills off the edge and very good closing speed to the quarterback.
But what jumped out was his ability to run the field from sideline to sideline. His lateral movement skills and his athleticism showed up strong all week long.
Van Noy lacks great size and bulk strength and in many ways looks like an outside linebacker version of middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (St. Louis Rams) when he came out of Ohio State. His quick football instincts, toughness in run support and his ability to consistently get around would be blockers will have him going very early in the second round.
Van Noy is someone with 1st rate trackdown skills and also very sure openfield tackler.
While Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo made his
move to try and catch Fresno State’s Derek Carr for the 4th overall quarterback spot Van Noy made his move to try and squeeze into Round One.
One thing to watch for is that Buffalo’s Khalil Mack will push UCLA's Anthony Barr for being the top outside linebacker off the board in May.