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Top Underclassmen by position

Posted Jan 20, 2014

They're not all considered the top prospects at their position in this year's draft class, but here are the non-seniors who are ranked highest by most scouting media.

A record number of underclassmen declared themselves eligible for the 2014 NFL draft. Here’s a look at some of the top non-senior prospects by position.

Quarterback

Blake Bortles – Central Florida – 6’3” 227 – A signal caller that knew how to win the close games for UCF and stage comebacks as evidenced by the Knights win over then 10th-ranked Louisville and Tedy Bridgewater as he helped to erase a 21-point deficit.

Tedy Bridgewater – Louisville – 6’3” 205 – Won 12 games this past season with 31 touchdown passes while completing 71 percent of his throws. He has a 68.3 completion percentage for his college career.

Johnny Manziel – Texas A&M – 6’0” 210 – A modern day Doug Flutie with a much better arm, the former Heisman trophy winner became the first sophomore in FBS history to throw for more than 7,000 yards and rush for more than 2,000. He had a strong career completion percentage of 69.9%.

Running backs

Ka’Deem Carey – Arizona – 5’10” 207  (4.53) – Led the nation in rushing in 2012 with 1,929 yards, and fell just shy of those numbers again in 2013. Finished his career with 16 straight games of at least 119 rushing yards. A two-time Walter Camp 1st team All-American.

Bishop Sankey – Washington – 5’10” 200 (4.49) – He broke Corey Dillon’s school rushing record in 2013, with 1,870 yards and 20 touchdowns for the Huskies. Has 3,299 yards rushing over last two seasons.

Lache Seastrunk – Baylor – 5’9” 210 (4.45) – A low to the ground athletic talent, who darts in and out of holes to avoid tacklers. He has the burst to pull away from defenders as well as evidenced by his 1,777 rushing yards in 2013 along with 11 touchdowns despite missing most of three games with an injury.

Wide receivers

Mike Evans – Texas A&M – 6’5” 225 (4.58) – A big, physical receiver who uses his size and strength better than most in the draft class. He improved on his redshirt freshman receiving yardage and touchdown totals despite making 17 fewer receptions with 1,322 yards and 12 TDs.

Marqise Lee – USC – 6’0” 195 (4.49) – The Biletnikoff award winner in 2012 following a 1,721-yard 14-touchdown season was curbed by injuries in 2013 registering just 791 yards on 57 receptions.

Sammy Watkins – Clemson – 6’1” 205 (4.47) – Set Clemson single-season records with 101 receptions for 1,464 yards. A dominant force in the passing game, who is widely considered the best receiving prospect in the class.

Tight ends

Jace Amaro – Texas Tech – 6’5” 257 (4.67) – His six 100-yard receiving games in 2013 led the nation among tight ends. He broke the NCAA record for most receiving yards in a single-season by a tight end with 1,352.

Eric Ebron – North Carolina – 6’4” 245 (4.67) – Improved his receiving numbers every year and set UNC single-season receptions (62), single-season receiving yards (973), career receptions (112) and career receiving yards (1,805) for a tight end.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins - Washington – 6’6” 266 (4.75) – The John Mackey award winner holds all Washington receiving marks for a tight end and finished his Huskies career with 21 touchdowns and 146 catches for 1,840 yards.

Offensive tackles

Cyrus Kouandjio - Alabama – 6’5” 310 – The Cameroon native has a well-proportioned frame with long arms and good feet. Naturally strong and a powerful run blocker with pass protection assets as well. Plays nasty. Could come off board in first 20 picks.

Antonio Richardson – Tennessee – 6’6” 330 – Massive linemen who mashes in the run game and can handle speed rushers off the edge. A student of the game, who works to know his opponents. A two-year starter at left tackle for the Vols.

Greg Robinson – Auburn – 6’5” 320 – A starter at left tackle since his redshirt freshman season Robinson’s game has grown and progressed each year. He showed improved strength this year, which helped his run blocking. Rarely loses a leverage battle in pass protection. Could be top 15 pick.

Guards-Centers

Marcus Martin – USC – 6’3” 325 – A center-guard prospect, who manned the pivot for the Trojans in 2013 after previously playing guard. Earned 1st-Team All-Pac 12 honors this past season.

Xavier Su’a Filo – UCLA – 6’3” 305 – Thickly built guard with solid upper body strength. Good hands and anchor ability against power rushers. Capable fit for any kind of blocking scheme at NFL level.

David Yankey - Stanford – 6’5” 311 – An experienced lineman who projects to guard. Has good fundamentals when it comes to leverage and locking out. He has above average strength, which should help against bigger defensive tackles. There are some durability concerns.

Defensive end

Ja’Deveon Clowney – South Carolina – 6’5” 268 – Has the full package when it comes to size, speed, strength, explosion and technique. His burst off the line is his calling card and his length allows him to rarely let quarterbacks or ball carriers in the offensive backfield to escape. A consensus top five selection.

Scott Crichton – Oregon State – 6’3” 260 – Another explosive player off the snap, but does not possess the flexibility in his frame as that of Clowney or other elite pass rushers. A motor player with solid chop and rip moves, who won’t leave a coach wondering what they’re going to get every week.

Kony Ealy – Missouri – 6’5” 275 – Elite athleticism and physical tools, but still a bit green with only two seasons as a starter. Has pass rush and run stopping ability, but he will be drafted high based on his potential and high ceiling.

Defensive tackle

Timmy Jernigan – Florida State – 6’2” 298 – An athletic defensive tackle despite being a low to the ground plugger. Jernigan is capable of working up and down the line of scrimmage, but is just a one-year starter and has to work on his burst off the ball.

Louis Nix III – Notre Dame – 6’2” 345 – A true two-gap nose tackle with uncommon athleticism despite his massive frame. Has elite strength and a motor rarely seen in players his size. Medical will be important after knee injury in 2013.

Stephon Tuitt – Notre Dame – 6’6” 312 – Seen by some as a defensive tackle, but tailor made as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 system. Great size and athletic combination gives him a lot of upside in the eyes of scouts.

Linebackers

Adrian Hubbard – Alabama – 6’5” 252 – (4.76) – Long edge pass rusher that is well-rounded when it comes to defending the run and dropping off the line into coverage. Just lacks elite explosion off the snap.

Ryan Shazier – Ohio State – 6’2” 238 - (4.58) – An outside backer with three down potential due to his range and coverage skills. He will need to add bulk and strength for NFL level, but a productive tackler for the Buckeyes.

Yawin Smallwood – UCONN – 6’2” 244 - (4.68) – UCONN’s Defensive Player of Year is the quintessential team player, who bring a lot of leadership potential to the NFL. He has good instincts having played inside and outside, but is considered a better run defender than in coverage and thus projects inside.

Defensive backs

Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix – 6’1” 208 – (4.54) – Great centerfield awareness, Clinton-Dix diagnoses plays quickly and reads quarterbacks well. The free safety is among the best in the class.

Louchiez Purifoy – Florida – 6’0” 190 - (4.47) – Playmaking talent who made plays on the ball besides just interceptions. Also had a blocked punt, forced fumble, fumble recovery and a pair of sacks in his final collegiate season.

Marcus Roberson – Florida  - 6’0” 192 - (4.52) – Long and lanky cornerback who has a great feel for coverage assignments. Aggressively battles for the ball and has punt return experience. Needs to sharpen up discipline with technique in coverage.