2014 Draft Unique Due to Elite Talent and Overall Depth
Typically an NFL Draft is defined as either a draft loaded with top end talent, or very good depth, as rarely is a draft considered to not have either or both to offer NFL teams. Last year was probably a weaker draft overall in both top end talent and depth, but it's made up for quite nicely this year as this draft class is teaming with impact talent to go along with extremely good depth. What makes this draft even more unique is that every position is considered strong at the top. Typically in other top draft classes, you have a couple positions that are are particularly weak, but that isn't the case this time around. Here is a break down of the talent and depth at each position and how it relates to some recent draft classes and top prospects:
-This is a strong class despite the fact that there isn't a "sure thing" at the top in an Andre Luck or Matt Ryan type of prospect. Despite the lack of that elite QB prospect, there are four quarterbacks with strong first round grades in Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Derek Carr. All four have the ability and potential to quickly become quality starters or more at the next level. In addition two other quarterbacks (Jimmy Garoppolo and Zach Mettenberger) appear to be decent early round options as well. Other quarterbacks like Tom Savage, A.J. McCarron and Brett Smith potentially could wind up as starters as well. Few drafts have 4 QB's worthy of first round grades (much less 1st round picks), and those that do typically don't have quarterbacks in that 2nd and 3rd tier as well.
-There won't be a first round running back selected this year and there might not even be a top 50 pick, but a lot of that has to do with how the position is viewed overall in the league and the overall depth of this draft. This class could still see 6 or 7 backs taken in the top 100 picks, and a number of later round guys with nice upside or potential. It's not a great running back class, but it is still pretty good and should bear a couple quality starters out of it. The depth of this class is really strong as the later rounds could be littered with guys who have the potential to develop into more. Now many won't make it, but there are a lot of intriguing late round running backs for teams looking to bolster their depth at the position.
-This is the deepest position in the draft and probably the most talented receiver group in the last decade. There are two top stars in this deep class in Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, but even beyond them there are really interesting prospects. There could be 5 or 6 receivers taken in the first round, but you can still find more value beyond that. There are about 20 receivers worthy of a top 3 round grade, and typically there aren't more than 15 receivers taken in the first three rounds, so there will be a lot of talent in this group leading into the 4th round. Even in the later rounds of the draft there are a number of intriguing receivers to keep an eye on.
-Eric Ebron is a top 15 talent in any draft class, yet it's possible he slides out of the top 20 given the overall depth of this class. In addition to Ebron Jace Amaro and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are top 50 talents and capable of starting for any team in the league. Typically there are no more than 1 or 2 tight ends drafted that high, and there isn't much behind the top couple of guys at the position. Even after the top three tight ends are off the board there are other potential starting options for teams to find in the draft.
-Last year saw three offensive tackles selected in the top 4 picks, yet none of those three from a year ago are as highly rated as the top three OT's in this draft: Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, and Taylor Lewan. Even in this deep draft you could still have 10-12 offensive tackles (some guys may be viewed more as interior OL) taken in the top 100 picks. That is on par or greater than the deepest OT drafts of the past and rarely have there been three top prospects like this.
Interior Offensive Linemen:
-Now some of the potential offensive tackles could end up switching to guard depending on the team that drafts them. In fact Zack Martin from Notre Dame is a guy who could be the 4th tackle selected or the first guard off the board depending on who ends up taking him. Whatever position he's at he's a safe bet to be a top 20 selection. Of the "pure" interior offensive linemen you could have 5-6 guards and 3 centers taken in the top 100 picks, add that to the 12 tackles (including the guys who might shift to guard) and you have 20 plus offensive linemen in the top 100 picks. That's not typical by any stretch, and even more impressive considering the overall depth of the draft.
Defensive Ends/Rush Linebackers:
-These positions are added together since they are basically the same thing just depending on what a particular team runs. Now not everyone can play in either scheme, but they are basically part of the same pool of players. Even having this wider group there are some guys who could possibly be considered options here, but are considered more for the non-pass rushing LB's below. In this group of guys you have legitimately 15-18 top 100 prospects, and three major impact players at the top in Clowney, Mack and Barr. Very few drafts can match that impact talent at the top, much less the ability to get quality pass rushers beyond the top round. There is a bit of a gap in talent from the top 3 to the guys in the next group, but overall this is a very talented and deep group. Even later in the draft there are some high upside small school guys or high motor guys who could develop into nice situational pass rushers.
Defensive Tackles/3-4 Defensive Ends:
-There is probably only one real impact talent in this group in Aaron Donald, but he has the potential to be a very special player. He's a little under the radar due to his size, but he dominated college football and was one of the most impressive prospects during the offseason circuit. He has the potential to be one of the best disruptors in the NFL and could have an immediate impact. Beyond him you have 3-4 other guys who could be considered for the first round and a total of 11-13 guys worthy of top 3 round consideration. There is a nice balance of pass rushing guys and run stoppers in this group, including a couple players capable of doing everything. Regardless of your scheme if you need help at these positions you should be able to find quality options in this draft.
Non-Pass Rushing Linebackers:
-This is probably one of the thinner groups overall, but even saying that you have some quality talent at the top of this class with guys like C.J. Mosley, Ryan Shazier, Carl Bradford, Chris Borland and Christian Jones. These guys are very scheme diverse allowing them to play inside or outside depending on the scheme and all have the potential to be early quality starters at the next level.
-This may be the 2nd deepest position in this draft with 4-5 first round talents and 15-20 guys worthy for top 100 pick consideration. Even beyond that initial group of 20 prospects you have a number of really intriguing guys later in the draft, win nice size and speed, but just unrefined overall. Now a couple of the guys could end up being converted to safety, which thins out these rankings some, but bolsters the safety rankings. Either way there is a lot of interesting talent in this class that could make an early impact in the NFL.
-As mentioned above the depth of this class is somewhat dependent on if some corners are viewed more as safeties by some teams, but even without some of those possible conversion guys, this is a good group. There isn't great depth in the safety group, but you have two top 25 talents in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor and two other safeties Jimmie Ward and Deone Bucannon considered worthy of top 50 selections. Having potentially four top 50 safeties is as good as most of the top classes. The issue is that beyond the top four guys, only Terrance Brooks (who should go in the top 75) is really the only other guy considered a potential early starter. There are some intriguing later round guys who could possibly develop, but they aren't guys you can count on. Even without any corners, having 5 safeties in potentially the top 75 picks is very good and enough to consider this a strong group at the top.