Settling In, or Saying Goodbye?

Senior Day festivities open a window into who could be leaving school early. For those players, chances to impress NFL scouts in actual game action are running out

By
Andy Staples
· More from Andy·

This is not a mock draft. This doesn’t take into account NFL teams or positions of need. This is a list of college football players—made by someone who covers college football—who, based on their skills and success at the college level, project well to the next level. This list exists so you don’t fall in love in March with some guy who was mediocre for three or four years and then ran fast in his underwear one time.

With the regular season wrapping up, several teams are hosting Senior Day festivities for their final home games. These pre-game ceremonies can occasionally be informative in terms of figuring out whether a junior is staying in school or turning pro.

For example, Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III is participating in Senior Day before Saturday’s BYU game. This isn’t much of a surprise. Nix would have been a high draft pick had he left Notre Dame after last season. He’s a fourth-year student at Notre Dame. But Nix could play another year in college if he wanted. Obviously, he isn’t going to.

One of the challenges of making this list is predicting which players will turn pro. I’ve left UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley off all year because I think he’ll return to Westwood for his redshirt junior season. I could be completely wrong about that, just as I could be wrong about some of the juniors and redshirt sophomores that I’ve included on this list who may ultimately decide to return to school.

So maybe we’ll get some more clarity as the regular season concludes. Or maybe we won’t. Read on to find out who isn’t getting honored on Saturday even though he’s most likely gone …

2014 NFL Draft Big Board
1
teddy-bridgewater

Teddy Bridgewater

QB; Junior; Louisville; 6-3, 196

(Last Week: 1) Louisville coach Charlie Strong said Bridgewater would not go through the Cardinals’ Senior Day festivities prior to Saturday’s game against Memphis because Bridgewater has another year of eligibility. Don’t read too much into that. He’s probably headed to the NFL.

2
jadeveon-clowney

Jadeveon Clowney

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

(Last week: 2) Clowney had five tackles—including two for loss—this past Saturday against Florida. When the Gamecocks face Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Clowney should ask Chanticleers coach Joe Moglia, the former Ameritrade CEO, for some tips on investing his NFL signing bonus.

3
anthony-carr

Anthony Barr

LB; Senior; UCLA; 6-4, 245

(Last Week: 3) Barr had seven tackles and a sack this past Friday against Washington. The Bruins will need plenty of production from him this week against Arizona State and touchdown-creation machine Marion Grice.

4
jake-matthews

Jake Matthews

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

(Last Week: 5) Matthews won’t be facing the LSU defensive line of recent years on Saturday in Baton Rouge, but he will get challenged.

5
mike-evans

Mike Evans

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

(Last Week: 5) Ole Miss receiver Donte Moncrief went for 107 yards on five catches against LSU’s defense. Evans is bigger, faster and just as physical. He could have a big day.

6
Cyrus-Kouandjio

Cyrus Kouandjio

OT; Junior; Alabama; 6-6, 310

(Last Week: 6) Alabama didn’t play its best game at Mississippi State, but Kouandjio had another solid night.

7
marcus-mariota

Marcus Mariota

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

(Last Week: 7) Yes, Mariota is limited by a knee injury. But he hasn’t allowed his knee to affect his arm. He still hasn’t thrown an interception all season, and he threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns in a 44-21 win against Utah this past Saturday.

8
taylor-lewan

Taylor Lewan

OT; Senior; Michigan; 6-8, 308

(Last Week: 8) Lewan helped the Wolverines to a 3.2 yard rushing average on Saturday at Northwestern. That doesn’t sound good? At least it wasn’t negative like the previous two games.

9
cj-mosley

C.J. Mosley

LB; Senior; Alabama; 6-2, 232

(Last Week: 9) Alabama’s Heisman candidate made eight tackles, forced a fumble and covered a receiver in the end zone to deny Mississippi State a touchdown at a critical juncture.

10
johnny-manziel

Johnny Manziel

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

(Last Week: 10) After a week off that included a Drake concert in San Antonio, Manziel will make his first—and probably only—visit to LSU’s Tiger Stadium on Saturday.

11
aaron-murray

Aaron Murray

QB; Senior; Georgia; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 15) The Bulldogs may have lost on a miracle throw—or because safety Josh Harvey-Clemons tried to catch the miracle throw instead of knocking it down—but they nearly won because of a furious comeback led by Murray. The senior threw for 415 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another two touchdowns.

12
deanthony-thomas

De'Anthony Thomas

RB; Junior; Oregon; 5-9, 176

(Last Week: 12) Thomas bolstered a pedestrian rushing and receiving day against Utah with an 86-yard kickoff return.

13
stephon-tuitt

Stephon Tuitt

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

(Last Week: 13) The Fighting Irish will need a good game from Tuitt on Saturday to contain BYU quarterback Taysom Hill.

14
sammy-watkins

Sammy Watkins

WR; Junior; Clemson; 6-1, 205

(Last Week: 16) Watkins caught five passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia Tech this past Thursday.

15
aj-mccarron

AJ McCarron

QB; Senior; Alabama; 6-4, 214

(Last Week: 11) McCarron’s visit to Starkville wasn’t his finest hour. He threw for 187 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and the Crimson Tide won ugly.

16
james-hurst

James Hurst

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

(Last Week: 14) Hurst has helped the Tar Heels to four consecutive wins. After a 1-5 start, North Carolina probably will still make a bowl game.

17
louis-nix

Louis Nix III

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

(Last Week: 17) Saturday is a big day for Nix. His mother had to work through his Senior Night at Raines High in Jacksonville, Fla. When Nix opted to return to South Bend this season, he did it with an eye on the day his mother would be able to greet him on the field at Notre Dame Stadium. Saturday is that day.

18
tahj-boyd

Tajh Boyd

QB; Senior; Clemson; 6-1, 225

(Last Week: 19) Boyd completed 20 of 26 passes for 340 yards with four touchdowns and an interception last week against Georgia Tech.

19
zach-mettenberger

Zach Mettenberger

QB; Senior; LSU; 6-5, 235

(Last Week: 18) Texas A&M’s defense is allowing 6.7 yards a play in SEC play. Expect Mettenberger to put up big numbers Saturday.

20
michael-sam

Michael Sam

DE; Senior; Missouri; 6-2, 255

(Last Week: 20) Sam and the Tigers were off this past weekend. They’ll try to lock down the SEC East title by winning their final two games.

21
ryan-shazier

Ryan Shazier

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

(Last Week: 21) Shazier piled up 16 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss this past Saturday against Illinois.

22
david-yankey

David Yankey

OG; Senior; Stanford; 6-5, 311

(Last Week: 22) Yankey and the Cardinal offensive line paved the way for six yards a carry at USC, but a blocked field goal and a costly late interception doomed Stanford.

23
will-sutton

Will Sutton

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

(Last Week: 23) Sutton had one tackle for loss in Arizona State’s win against Oregon State. He’ll be relied upon to pressure Brett Hundley on Saturday at UCLA.

24
cyril-richardson

Cyril Richardson

OG; Baylor; 6-5, 335

(Last Week: 24) Richardson helped the Bears average six yards a carry and score five rushing touchdowns.

25
kyle-van-noy

Kyle Van Noy

LB; Senior; BYU; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 25) Van Noy had two tackles for loss and two hurries against Idaho State. This week, he’ll get a test from Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin.

26
braxton-miller

Braxton Miller

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

(Last Week: 26) Miller hasn’t been challenged much lately. In Ohio State’s last game—a blowout of Purdue on Nov. 2—he completed 19 of 23 passes for 233 yards with four touchdowns and an interception.

27
jason-verrett

Jason Verrett

CB; Senior; TCU; 5-10, 176

(Last Week: 27) Verrett’s number got the Horned Frogs in trouble in last Saturday’s fourth quarter. He and TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin both wear No. 2, and both were sent out to play on the punt return team. Playing two guys wearing the same number is a no-no. Fourth-and-6 became 4th-and-1, and Kansas State converted to continue a seemingly endless drive that ended in a field goal. The Horned Frogs wound up losing by two.

28
haha-clinton-dix

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

S; Junior; Alabama; 6-1, 208

(Last Week: 28) Clinton-Dix made four tackles and intercepted a pass in Alabama’s win at Mississippi State.

29
trent-murphy

Trent Murphy

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

(Last Week: 30) Murphy had four tackles for loss—including two sacks—but none of his teammates got to USC quarterback Cody Kessler in Stanford’s loss.

30
timmy-jernigan

Timmy Jernigan

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

(Last Week: 29) Jernigan had six tackles—including a tackle for loss—in Florida State’s win against Syracuse.

31
vic-beasley

Vic Beasley

DE; Redshirt Junior; Clemson; 6-2, 235

(Last Week: 31) Beasley had two tackles for loss against Georgia Tech. Neither was a sack, but those are hard to come by against an option team.

32
marqise-lee

Marqise Lee

WR; Junior; USC; 6-0, 195

(Last Week: 35) One of the indelible images of USC’s win against Stanford was Lee smiling while limping off the field after making a fourth-down catch on the Trojans’ game-winning field goal drive. Lee had been kicked in the shin, and he couldn’t put any weight on his left leg, but he had helped his team pull off a huge upset. He finished the night with six catches for 83 yards.

33
loucheiz-purifoy

Loucheiz Purifoy

CB; Junior; Florida; 6-1, 189

(Last Week: 32) Purifoy and the remaining healthy players on Florida’s defense allowed the Gators to compete Saturday at South Carolina, but with the offense completely shut down in the second half, the defense couldn’t hold forever and South Carolina rallied for the win.

34
derek-carr

Derek Carr

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

(Last Week: 33) After a week off, Carr returns to action Saturday against New Mexico.

35
bradley-roby

Bradley Roby

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

(Last Week: 37) In the Buckeyes’ win at Illinois, Roby intercepted a Nathan Scheelhaase pass and returned it 63 yards for a touchdown.

36
eric-ebron

Eric Ebron

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

(Last Week: 34) Ebron caught three passes for 73 yards—including a 58-yarder—in the Tar Heels’ win against Pittsburgh.

37
jared-abbrederis

Jared Abbrederis

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

(Last Week: 36) Abbrederis didn’t catch a pass in the Badgers’ win against Indiana, but he did carry three times for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

38
zack-martin

Zack Martin

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

(Last Week: 38) Martin can raise his stock with a good game Saturday against a BYU defense led by Van Noy.

39
ifo-ekpre-olomu

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

CB; Junior; Oregon; 5-10, 190

(Last Week: 39) Ekpre-Olomu and the Ducks’ defense allowed Utah to complete only 13 of 30 passes for 181 yards on Saturday.

40
adrian-hubbard

Adrian Hubbard

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

(Last Week: 40) Hubbard’s only tackle against Mississippi State was a sack.

41
antonio-richardson

Antonio Richardson

OT; Junior; Tennessee; 6-6, 327

(Last Week: 41) If the Volunteers want to play in a bowl game, Richardson and his linemates will have to control the line of scrimmage Saturday against Vanderbilt. Tennessee needs to win its final two to be bowl eligible, and for recruiting purposes, the Vols need to avoid a second consecutive humiliation at the hands of the Commodores.

42
khalil-mack

Khalil Mack

LB; Senior; Buffalo; 6-3, 245

(Last Week: 42) Mack made 15 tackles—including two for loss—in the Bulls’ loss to Toledo last week.

43
aaron-donald

Aaron Donald

DT; Senior; Pittsburgh; 6-0, 285

(Last Week: 45) Donald had three tackles for loss—including a sack—and five hurries in the Panthers’ loss to North Carolina.

44
allen-robinson

Allen Robinson

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

(Last Week: 43) Robinson had eight catches for 98 yards in Penn State’s win against Purdue.

45
melvin-gordon

Melvin Gordon

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

(Last Week: 44) Gordon carried 13 times for 146 yards and a touchdown in Wisconsin’s win against Purdue.

46
cam-erving

Cam Erving

OT; Redshirt Junior; Florida State; 6-6, 320

(Last Week: 46) Erving continued to help Jameis Winston and company make offense look easy in Florida State’s win against Syracuse.

47
carlos-hyde

Carlos Hyde

RB; Senior; Ohio State; 6-0, 235

(Last Week: Not Ranked) Hyde ran for a whopping 246 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries against Illinois.

48
jordan-matthews

Jordan Matthews

WR; Senior; Vanderbilt; 6-3, 205

(Last Week: 47) Matthews caught 12 passes for 141 yards in Vanderbilt’s win against Kentucky on Saturday.

49
ka'deem-carey

Ka'Deem Carey

RB; Junior; Arizona; 5-10, 207

(Last Week: 48) Carey carried 26 times for 132 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Washington State. He also caught six passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.

50
odell-beckham

Odell Beckham Jr.

WR; Junior; LSU; 6-0, 193

(Last Week: 49) If you read what I wrote about Mettenberger, then you know Beckham must also be excited about Saturday.

More from The MMQB
12 comments
rwaeger614
rwaeger614

So who was #4 last week? Did he completely drop off?

Ray1950
Ray1950

Andre Williams ... Boston College running back. Anyone who rushes for over 2,000 yards in a season (and he will this year) is worthy of consideration in the Top 50.

gary41
gary41

Been watching QB's carefully for many, many years.  I could add another 8 to this list real easy.  This may be the best class and the next class also looks good.  Huge interest developing in QB's.  This year a lot of clubs should be adding a QB in the later rounds.  Some clubs may draft one early and one late, the choices are so good.    

youngnorth77
youngnorth77

7 QB's all in the first three rounds who care's the only one I would look at is AJ Mccarron the others are all system guys this system tells you nothing he has Mike Evans as a top 5 guy really no Marquis Lee come on now, I'm a Raiders fan and they have Matt Magloin starting at QB these experts don't know much he was'nt even drafted and Brady was drafted in the 6th. the experts and writers don't know much

Matt74
Matt74

Your comment about Louis Nix is completely wrong.  All 4th year players at Notre Dame participate in the Senior day festivities regardless of whether or not they plan on coming back the next year.  Zack Martin, Dan Fox, Tyler Stockton, etc. all participated last year as a 4th year player and then came back to school and will participate again this year.  Way to research.  I think he will leave too, but your reasoning that him participating in senior day is some kind of statement is ridiculous.

Matt74
Matt74

@rwaeger614 Mike Evans I assume - he has 2 people listed as #5 last week.

Keats1821
Keats1821

Should he reach that mark it would be difficult to say he isn't worthy. Of the 13 RBs to eclipse 2k yards in college, about 8-9 were at least solid pros. His stats at comparable to the 2k years of Matt Forte, Ray Rice, Ricky Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson - with better YPC. Not that stats translate into success, but he is in good company.

doghockey
doghockey

@youngnorth77 Every QB is a system QB, or aren't you aware that every team has an offensive system?

SportPage
SportPage

@youngnorth77 First paragraph of the article: This is not a mock draft. This doesn’t take into account NFL teams or positions of need. This is a list of college football players—made by someone who covers college football—who, based on their skills and success at the college level, project well to the next level. This list exists so you don’t fall in love in March with some guy who was mediocre for three or four years and then ran fast in his underwear one time.

Read the entire article and you would know that the writer isn't predicting there will be 7 QBs taken in the first 3 rounds.The writer clearly knows more than you if you think AJ McCarron is the best QB prospect. He's a product of great talent around him and rarely has to do anything more than manage the game.

ll316
ll316

@SportPage @youngnorth77 Mccarron will be a great NFL player...if he can get far more talent around him than any of the teams he plays against.  Otherwise, he'll be a career 3rd stringer.

Matt74
Matt74

@Bubba_deHubbada @Matt74  I have read it, and heard that story many times.  Nix has said repeatedly that he has yet to make a decision.  Staples statement that he obviously isn't coming back because he is participating is stupid.  Like I said, I think he will leave, but this is not even remotely a sign of that.

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