Two weeks ago, I released my big board for the offensive positions for the 2014 NFL Draft. The pool for the 2014 NFL Draft is extremely deep on the defensive side of the ball, much more so than the offense. If the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks have taught us anything, it is that there are quality players at every position in every round that can be found. The key to success is finding the right players for the right team just like Malcolm Smith, Kam Chancellor and many other stars from the Super Bowl champions.
The draft board is extremely deep in pass rushers and defensive backs, but there is depth everywhere. At least ten players from the front seven could go in the first round along with at least five cornerbacks. The NFL is changing and the importance of secondary players can not be overstated. A breed of larger and more physical players is emerging in the back end and this draft class will show that.
The following is my positional break down on the defensive side of the ball. An overall big board followed by my first mock draft will be coming soon.
South Carolina Defensive End Jadaveon Clowney has been the number one player on almost every big board in America all year and he remains the top of his position. Clowney may still be the most talented player in the class, but he is not alone at his position. Stanford DE Trent Murphy and Notre Dame DE Stephon Tuitt are both terrific Defensive Ends that could go in the first round. Several edge rushers could move up similiar to the way Ziggy Ansah and Dion Jordan did last year, but the combine will be the true opportunity for those players.
1. Jadaveon Clowney – South Carolina
2. Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame
3. Trent Murphy – Stanford
4. Kony Ealy – Missouri
5. Michael Sam – Missouri
6. Scott Chrichton – Oregon State
7. Jackson Jeffcoat – Texas
8. Chris Smith – Arkansas
9. Aaron Lynch – USF
10. James Gayle – Virginia Tech
11. Cassius Marsh – UCLA
12. Ed Stinson – Alabama
13. Trevor Reilly – Utah
The Defensive Tackle class is extremely deep and has at least four players that could be going in the first round. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan is the most talented and should go first, but there is plenty of depth including Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald and Arizona State DT Will Sutton who were the most productive interior linemen in the country last year. A real sleeper will be Princeton DT Caraun Reid who has shot up boards of late and will only continue to do so as the process continues.
1. Timmy Jernigan – Florida State
2. Ra’Shede Hageman – Minnesota
3. Louis Nix III – Notre Dame
4. Aaron Donald – Pittsburgh
5. Will Sutton – Arizona State
6. Caraun Reid – Princeton
7. Dominique Easley – Florida
8. Ego Ferguson – LSU
9. Anthony Johnson – LSU
10. Kelcy Quarles – South Carolina
11. George Uko – USC
12. Daniel McCullers – Tennessee
UCLA OLB Anthony Barr and Buffalo OLB Khalil Mack have been atop draft boards all year, but I have Auburn OLB Dee Ford as my top player in the position come draft day. Ford is an elite pass rusher that can get around the edge better than any player in the country. Barr is the prototype, but Ford has produced for years and will continue to do so at the next level. BYU OLB Kyle Van Noy is another player I have higher than most and is again because of his production over measurables. All four of my top OLB should go in the first round and several others could shoot up the draft boards when teams put their film on including Attaochu from Georgia Tech and Jordan Tripp from Montana.
1. Dee Ford – Auburn
2. Anthony Barr – UCLA
3. Kyle Van Noy – BYU
4. Khalil Mack – Buffalo
5. Jeremiah Attaochu – Georgia Tech
6. Ryan Shazier – Ohio State
7. Telvin Smith – Florida State
8. Christian Kirksey – Iowa
9. Jordan Tripp – Montana
10. Adrian Hubbard – Alabama
11. Carl Bradford – Arizona State
The inside linebacker class is not one of the better positions of this years draft, but an inside linebacker can emerge as the most important player of the defense. Last year Kiko Alonso emerged from nowhere to become one of the better players in the AFC and this year that player will be Shayne Skov of Stanford. Skov is an elite playmaker that flies around the field more than any other player in the country. He will step right in and become the captain of whatever team takes the chance on him and could be a special player if he can stay healthy.
1. Shayne Skov – Stanford
2. CJ Mosley – Alabama
3. Chris Borland – Wisconsin
4. Yawin Smallwood – Connecticut
5. Jordan Zumwalt – UCLA
6. DeDe Lattimore – USF
7. Max Bullough – Michigan State
8. Christian Jones – Florida State
On the defensive side of the ball, cornerback may be the deepest position. At least eight of these players could end up sneaking into the first round and every draft guru seems to prognosticate a different group. Marcus Gilbert of Oklahoma State is the consensus top player, but after that everyone seems to disagree on the order. Virginia Tech Corner Kyle Fuller and Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard were the two most productive corners in college football over the last few years. LaMarcus Joyner of Florida State probably has the best value due to his ability to contribute on special teams right away. Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska and Walt Aikens of Liberty could benefit from the recent change in the NFL moving towards bigger and more physical corners.
1. Marcus Gilbert – Oklahoma State
2. Darqueze Dennard – Michigan State
3. LaMarcus Joyner – Florida State
4. Kyle Fuller – Virginia Tech
5. Stanley Jean-Baptiste – Nebraska
6. Bradley Roby – Ohio State
7. Louicheiz Purifoy – Florida
8. Jason Verett – TCU
9. Walt Aikens – Liberty
10. Aaron Colvin – Oklahoma
11. Chris Davis – Auburn
12. Marcus Roberson – Florida
13. Pierre DeSir – Lindenwood
14. Keith McGill – Utah
15. E.J. Gaines – Missouri
16. Jaylen Watkins – Florida
17. Antone Exum – Virginia Tech
18. Vic Hampton – South Carolina
The Safety class is not one of the stronger parts of the NFL Draft pool, but as always there is value to be found. Alabama Safety Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix should step right in as a starter after being a contributor and star in his entire career at Alabama. Northern Illinois Safety Jimmie Ward should be a sleeper to step right in and contribute on special teams.
1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Alabama
2. Calvin Pryor – Louisville
3. Jimmie Ward – Northern Illinois
4. Terrence Brooks – Florida State
5. Dion Bailey – USC
Just like the Free Safety draft pool, the strong safety pool is weak. Washington State Safety Deone Bucannon has shot up draft boards towards the end of the season thanks to his physicality. LSU Safety Craig Loston has been a contributor for years and should step in quickly at the next level.
1. Deone Bucannon – Washington State
2. Craig Loston – LSU
3. Ahmad Dixon – Baylor
4. Hakeem Smith – Louisville
5. Vinnie Sunseri – Alabama
6. Isaiah Lewis – Michigan State