Competition Starting to Stiffen

We think we have this draft's top prospects pegged, but we'll learn a lot as some in our top 50 get ready to face off against each other in coming weeks

By
Andy Staples
· More from Andy·

The Big Board has a few big changes this week—welcome, Missouri defensive end Michael Sam—but it could be in for a major shakeup when it returns in two weeks.

Between now and then, some of next year’s best draft-eligible players will face some of their toughest competition. Just look at this list.

Saturday

• Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan will face Michigan State’s ferocious pass rush. In the same game, Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard will face a passing attack that features receiver Jeremy Gallon and tight end Devin Funchess.

• Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan will face an excellent Miami offensive line.

• Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray will face a Florida defense that includes cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.

Nov. 7

• Baylor guard Cyril Richardson will face Oklahoma’s defensive line.

• Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and De’Anthony Thomas will face a Stanford defense that includes linebacker Trent Murphy. When Stanford’s offense is on the field, guard David Yankey will protect for throws that could be broken up by Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

Nov. 9

• Alabama linebackers C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard will try to disrupt an LSU offense that features quarterback Zach Mettenberger throwing to receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. When Alabama has the ball, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio will block for quarterback AJ McCarron, who will try to avoid LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson.

2014 NFL Draft Big Board
1
teddy-bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater

QB; Junior; Louisville; 6-3, 196

(Last Week: 1) Bridgewater helped the Cardinals bounce back from their loss to UCF by throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns in an easy win at South Florida.

2
jadeveon-clowney

Jadeveon Clowney

DE; Junior; University of South Carolina; 6-6, 274

(Last week: 2) Clowney failing to tackle Missouri’s Marcus Murphy as Murphy ran for a touchdown will be the negative version of the Vincent Smith hit. Whenever a network needs to show that Clowney is having a down year compared to 2012, that will be the go-to replay. But Clowney proved quite disruptive in South Carolina’s double-overtime win—though Gamecocks defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles deserves as much or more credit.

3
anthony-carr

Anthony Barr

LB; Senior; UCLA; 6-4, 245

(Last Week: 3) Oregon’s offense has allowed only 10 sacks all year. Barr had one-fifth of those on Saturday.

4
taylor-lewan

Taylor Lewan

OT; Senior; Michigan; 6-8, 308

(Last Week: 4) Lewan will face the best defense he’ll see all season on Saturday when the Wolverines play Michigan State in East Lansing. Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is one of the top minds in the college game, so Lewan and his linemates will have to communicate well to keep Devin Gardner protected.

5
jake-matthews

Jake Matthews

OT; Senior; Texas A&M; 6-5, 305

(Last Week: 5) This Matthews interview with AggieSports.com is pretty illuminating. The best part? The son of Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews played quarterback until his “Matthews gene” turned on in high school.

6
marcus-mariota

Marcus Mariota

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Oregon; 6-4, 211

(Last Week: 23) Mariota kept it conservative against UCLA, but zero interceptions and a 21-for-28 passing day were what the Ducks needed against a team that feasts on opponents’ mistakes.

7
mike-evans

Mike Evans

WR; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-5, 225

(Last Week: 11) In his last two games, Evans has caught 16 passes for 364 yards and six touchdowns.

8
Cyrus-Kouandjio

Cyrus Kouandjio

OT; Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 310

(Last Week: 8) The tradition in the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry dictates that cigars are passed out in the winning locker room. Kouandjio’s take after getting his stogie? “Righteous,” he told reporters after Alabama’s win.

9
johnny-manziel

Johnny Manziel

QB; Redshirt Sophomore; Texas A&M; 6-1, 200

(Last Week: 9) Manziel injured his throwing shoulder against Auburn on Oct. 19, but the injury didn’t keep him from throwing four touchdown passes against Vanderbilt.

10
aj-mccarron

AJ McCarron

QB; Senior; Alabama; 6-4, 214

(Last Week: 10) McCarron threw for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Alabama’s win against Tennessee on Saturday.

11
deanthony-thomas

De'Anthony Thomas

RB; Junior; Oregon; 5-9, 176

(Last Week: 13) Thomas returned from an ankle injury against UCLA, but he carried only 10 times for 38 yards and a touchdown.

12
cj-mosley

C.J. Mosley

LB; Senior; Alabama; 6-2, 232

(Last Week: 14) Mosley had a quiet day against Tennessee, but his lone tackle went for a loss.

13
stephon-tuitt

Stephon Tuitt

DE; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-6, 303

(Last Week: 15) With two consecutive games against option teams (Air Force last week and Navy this week), Tuitt will get plenty of work against the run.

14
louis-nix

Louis Nix III

DT; Junior; Notre Dame; 6-3, 340

(Last Week: 19) Nix missed the Air Force game with a shoulder injury suffered against USC.

15
james-hurst

James Hurst

OT; Senior; North Carolina; 6-7, 305

(Last Week: 16) Hurst has been the bright spot on a young line during a frustrating season for the Tar Heels, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a win Saturday against Boston College.

16
aaron-murray

Aaron Murray

QB; Senior; Georgia; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 7) Murray won’t be trying to beat Florida by himself Saturday in Jacksonville. During a season marred by injuries to most of his best skill position teammates, Murray will finally get one of those teammates back. Tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) should be ready to play against the Gators.

17
sammy-watkins

Sammy Watkins

WR; Junior; Clemson; 6-1, 205

(Last Week: 18) Watkins caught 14 passes for 163 yards in Clemson’s win Saturday at Maryland.

18
tahj-boyd

Tajh Boyd

QB; Senior; Clemson; 6-1, 225

(Last Week: 12) Boyd’s stock took a hit with his performance against Florida State—a lot of quarterbacks are going to look bad when compared side-by-side to Seminoles redshirt freshman Jameis Winston—but Boyd bounced back nicely against Maryland.

19
michael-sam

Michael Sam

DE; Senior; Missouri; 6-2, 255

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Sam had three tackles for loss—including one sack—against South Carolina on Saturday. Sam leads the SEC in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (10).

20
ryan-shazier

Ryan Shazier

LB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 222

(Last Week: 20) Shazier piled up 10 tackles and a sack as the Buckeyes dominated Penn State on Saturday.

21
will-sutton

Will Sutton

DT; Senior; Arizona State; 6-1, 305

(Last Week: 21) Want a good look at Sutton? Watch him while you munch on your trick-or-treating haul Thursday when the Sun Devils face Washington State in Pullman.

22
kyle-van-noy

Kyle Van Noy

LB; Senior; BYU; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 22) Van Noy, one of the steadiest defensive playmakers in the country, now has a website devoted to tracking his every on-field exploit. Last week, BYU launched KVN3.com.

23
braxton-miller

Braxton Miller

QB; Junior; Ohio State; 6-2, 215

(Last Week: 23) Miller threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more in Ohio State’s win against Penn State.

24
jason-verrett

Jason Verrett

CB; Senior; TCU; 5-10, 176

(Last Week: 24) Verrett’s excellent season has been overshadowed by the Horned Frogs’ lack of offensive production. Against Texas, they only managed seven points.

25
david-yankey

David Yankey

OG; Senior; Stanford; 6-5, 311

(Last Week: 26) The Cardinal averaged 5.6 yards a carry against Oregon State, but Yankey and his linemates will have to be more dominant against Oregon next week if the Cardinal hope to pull the upset.

26
haha-clinton-dix

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

S; Junior; Alabama; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 27) Clinton-Dix returned from his NCAA suspension and snagged an interception against Arkansas. He also broke up a pass against Tennessee.

27
timmy-jernigan

Timmy Jernigan

DT; Junior; Florida State; 6-2, 298

(Last Week: 28) Jernigan had a tackle for loss Saturday against NC State, and he delivered a huge push a week earlier that helped the Seminoles’ defense dominate at Clemson.

28
cyril-richardson

Cyril Richardson

OG; Baylor; 6-5, 335

(Last Week: 29) Richardson helped pave the way for a seven-yard rushing average at Kansas, but his biggest test to date will come a week from Thursday when Oklahoma visits Waco.

29
zach-mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger

QB; Senior; LSU; 6-5, 235

(Last Week: 17) Mettenberger slipped back into 2012 mode with a three-interception nightmare at Ole Miss on Oct. 19. He’ll get a chance to redeem himself Nov. 9 when the Tigers face Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

30
loucheiz-purifoy

Loucheiz Purifoy

CB; Junior; Florida; 6-1, 189

(Last Week: 25) Purifoy, one of the few healthy Florida defensive backs, recovered a fumble in the Gators’ loss to Missouri on Oct. 19. Purifoy will need to lock down his man this week against Georgia. Considering the Bulldogs’ injury issues at receiver, this should be relatively easy for him.

31
derek-carr

Derek Carr

QB; Senior; Fresno State; 6-3, 218

(Last Week: 32) Carr completed 35 of 57 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns in the Bulldogs’ scare at San Diego State on Saturday.

32
ifo-ekpre-olomu

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

CB; Junior; Oregon; 5-10, 190

(Last Week: 31) Ekpre-Olomu and the Ducks held UCLA’s offense to a ridiculously low 3.4 yards per pass attempt Saturday.

33
jared-abbrederis

Jared Abbrederis

WR; Redshirt Senior; Wisconsin; 6-2, 190

(Last Week: 33) The Badgers were off this past weekend, but Abbrederis caught eight passes for 106 yards in Wisconsin’s win against Illinois on Oct. 19.

34
bradley-roby

Bradley Roby

CB; Redshirt Junior; Ohio State; 5-11, 192

(Last Week: 34) Roby—and pretty much anyone else who has ever played football—remains incredulous that he was ejected from the Iowa game on Oct. 19 for targeting after hitting tight end C.J. Fiedorwicz in the chest with his shoulder. Roby returned against Penn State to make five tackles and break up two passes.

35
marqise-lee

Marqise Lee

WR; Junior; USC; 6-0, 195

(Last Week: 35) Lee sat out USC’s win against Utah with a knee injury. Lee originally injured the knee against Arizona State on Sept. 28. He missed the Arizona game, but returned against Notre Dame and tweaked the knee again.

36
trent-murphy

Trent Murphy

LB; Redshirt Senior; Stanford; 6-6, 261

(Last Week: 42) Murphy had a monster night against Oregon State with 3.5 tackles for loss—including 2.5 sacks—and a pass deflection.

37
eric-ebron

Eric Ebron

TE; Junior; North Carolina; 6-4, 245

(Last Week: Not Ranked) I had Ebron on the list earlier in the season and dropped him off. That was a mistake. Against Miami on Oct. 17, Ebron caught eight passes for 199 yards. This included a 71-yard touchdown catch that showed off his wheels. Against Boston College, Ebron led the Tar Heels with four catches for 67 yards.

38
zack-martin

Zack Martin

OT; Senior; Notre Dame; 6-4, 304

(Last Week: 36) Martin has remained steady on a line suddenly besieged by injuries. Left guard Chris Watt strained his knee at Air Force—he is expected to play this week against Navy—putting pressure on a line already missing right guard Christian Lombard (back surgery). The injuries and shuffling make Martin’s reliable play even more critical.

39
adrian-hubbard

Adrian Hubbard

LB; Redshirt Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 252

(Last Week: 30) Hubbard looked active against Tennessee Saturday, but only wound up with two tackles and a hurry. Hubbard also appeared to have his hands heavily wrapped.

40
antonio-richardson

Antonio Richardson

OT; Junior; Tennessee; 6-6, 327

(Last Week: 37) Richardson had his hands full with Clowney on Oct. 19. In fact, Richardson probably had a better overall game against Clowney as a sophomore. But Richardson likely will remember the 2013 meeting more fondly. His team won.

41
khalil-mack

Khalil Mack

LB; Senior; Buffalo; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 38) So far, only Baylor has been able to neutralize Mack, and Baylor’s offense has neutralized everyone. In Saturday’s win against Kent State, Mack had 10 tackles, a sack and an interception that he returned 45 yards.

42
allen-robinson

Allen Robinson

WR; Junior; Penn State; 6-3, 210

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Penn State’s best receiver certainly has looked NFL-ready this season. Should Robinson choose to leave, plenty of teams will be thrilled to take a big, fast, physical specimen with exquisite body control.

43
anthony-johnson

Anthony Johnson

DT; Junior; LSU; 6-3, 294

(Last Week: 39) Johnson had a sack against Furman, but his biggest test of the season will come Nov. 9 in Tuscaloosa against Alabama’s offensive line.

44
melvin-gordon

Melvin Gordon

RB; Redshirt Sophomore; Wisconsin; 6-1, 207

(Last Week: 40) The Badgers had Saturday off, but Gordon is averaging an astounding 9.5 yards a carry this season.

45
jordan-matthews

Jordan Matthews

WR; Senior; Vanderbilt; 6-3, 205

(Last Week: 41) Matthews caught eight passes for 92 yards from a quarterback (Patton Robinette) making his first career start in a loss at Texas A&M.

46
ka'deem-carey

Ka'Deem Carey

RB; Junior; Arizona; 5-10, 207

(Last Week: 43) Carey rushed for 119 yards and scored four touchdowns Saturday against Colorado. And in case you missed any of his 39 carries against Utah a week earlier, here are all of them compressed into one video.

47
odell-beckham

Odell Beckham Jr.

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-0, 193

(Last Week: 45) Through nine games, Beckham is averaging 21 yards a catch.

48
ra'shede-hageman

Ra'Shede Hageman

DT; Redshirt Senior; Minnesota; 6-6, 311

(Last Week: Not Ranked) His two tackles for loss—including one sack—don’t do justice to the way Hageman terrorized Nebraska’s offensive line in the Golden Gophers’ win on Saturday.

49
jarvis-landry

Jarvis Landry

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-1, 195

(Last Week: 46) Beckham has been more explosive, but Landry is no slouch himself. He has 58 catches for 882 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

50
darqueze-dennard

Darqueze Dennard

CB; Senior; Michigan State; 5-11, 188

(Last Week: 44) Michigan receiver Jeremy Gallon caught 14 passes for 369 yards against Indiana on Oct. 19. It will be up to Dennard and his teammates to ensure that doesn’t happen Saturday.

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2 comments
RDerekP
RDerekP

Man, I wish we'd get another Matthews in Green Bay!

jamesbossman87
jamesbossman87

No Telvin Smith or Lamarcus Joyner? They are making plays non-stop and showing they clearly belong somewhere on this list.

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