Obviously it's a long, long ways away from the 2014 NFL Draft, but one of the most fun things about the college and NFL seasons is thinking about where NFL teams are going to end up in the draft and how that will affect when college football players are going to get drafted. We are getting an early start this year and will be updating every few weeks until the draft approaches.
Since of course, all we care about is the Pac-12, we will specifically be highlighting where and why Pac-12 players will be selected. With that in mind, I will note right away that I think Marcus Mariota would be the first player taken in 2014 if he declares, but I don't think he will as he is only 20 and doesn't seem like the kind of guy who is in a hurry to go to the NFL. I also don't think Brett Hundley will declare, even though supposedly his camp was in touch with Jay-Z's agency. I think he could easily go in the Top three if he declared, but I think recent struggles against Stanford and Oregon have shown that he needs to stay in another year and polish his game before going to the league.
I will also note that I base the draft order on how I think the rest of the NFL season will play out.
1. Jacksonville - Teddy Bridgewater QB Louisville *Jr
2. Tampa Bay - Jadeveon Clowney DE South Carolina *Jr
3. Minnesota - Anthony Barr LB UCLA
One of my favorite prospects to ever come out of the Pac-12, Barr is a dream pass-rushing, LB/DE hybrid player that can get after the quarterback, move sideline-to-sideline, make big hits and take on linemen. I think the Vikings would love to have a guy like Mariota or Hundley (Or a QB of equal value) here, but I don't think one will so I think they will either trade down from here, take one in a later round or try to get one in free agency. If they stay with this pick, the Vikings will probably take the top overall player on the table and I think Barr would be that guy.
4. Atlanta - Khalil Mack LB Buffalo
5. St. Louis - Jake Matthews T Texas A&M
6. Oakland - Sammy Watkins WR Clemson *Jr
7. Pittsburgh - Taylor Lewan T Michigan
8. NYGiants - Cyrus Kouandijo T Alabama *Jr
9. Houston - C.J. Mosley LB Alabama
10. Cleveland - Tajh Boyd QB Clemson
11. Miami - Cameron Erving T Florida State *Jr
12. Arizona - Zach Mettenberger QB LSU
13. St. Louis (From Washington) - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S Alabama *Jr
14. Buffalo - Vic Beasley DE Clemson *Jr
15. Tennessee - Zack Martin G Notre Dame
16. Philadelphia - Johnny Manziel QB Texas A&M *So.
17. San Diego - Ifo Ekpre-Olomu CB Oregon *Jr
Ekpre-Olomu doesn't have great size or speed, but is about as physical of a cornerback as you will ever find in college and has impeccable ball skills, he's also so good in run support that he's almost like having a third safety out there. Ekpre-Olomu is only a junior but would be very smart to declare this year as it is an incredibly soft class for cornerback this year and he would almost assuredly be guaranteed to be a first rounder. The Chargers have a struggling defense and shoring up their pass defense would be a great place to start, so I think they will take to the top cornerback available.
18. NYJets - Mike Evans WR Texas A&M *So
19. Green Bay - Eric Ebron TE North Carolina *Jr
20. Carolina - Bradley Roby CB Ohio State *Jr
21. Baltimore - Marqise Lee WR USC *Jr
It's unfortunate, but due to USC's quarterback and general struggles, along with Lee's injury problems, Lee has dropped about 10-15 spots in the draft. But, if you go back to last year and take a look at what Lee can do with a stable team around him, a good quarterback and his health, you will see one of the five best overall players eligible for this draft which I think he will declare early for. The Ravens desperately need a receiver or tight end, so I think they will take the top one availability and they would be very fortunate to get Lee this far down in the draft.
22. New England - Louis Nix III DT Notre Dame *Jr
23. Dallas - Ra'Shede Hageman DT Minnesota
24. Chicago - Kyle Van Noy LB BYU
25. Cleveland (From Indianapolis) - De'Anthony Thonas RB Oregon *Jr
Thomas might be the hardest to peg draft prospect I can ever remember to come out of the Pac-12 in that I wouldn't be surprised to see him go in the Top 10, but also wouldn't be surprised to see him slip into the third round. He has out-of-this-world athleticism, but is also about 5'9 175 and doesn't play a defined position for the NFL. I think Thomas' sheer athleticism will get him taken in the first round and he will declare early since he can't afford to risk injuries with his size. I think the Browns will address their quarterback issue with their first pick in the first round, but desperately need skill position playmakers, and Thomas would address that at possibly at running back and receiver.
26. Detroit - Jason Verrett CB TCU
27. Kansas City - Derek Carr QB Fresno State
28. San Francisco - Trent Murphy LB Stanford
Murphy is kind of like a bigger, but less athletic version of Barr with maybe a little bit more nasty. He is another guy who can play that hybrid position, but isn't a Top 10 type player because he might be a little slow to play linebacker and a little small to play defensive end if he can put on more weight. Still, I think Murphy's pure football player abilities, penchant for knocking down passes and intimidation factor will raise his stock as the draft approaches. I think if Murphy is still around, the guy that recruited him, Jim Harbaugh would snatch him up as he is the kind of player that he loves and another skilled pass-rusher to add to his arsenal.
29. Cincinnati - Ryan Shazier LB Ohio State *Jr
30. Seattle - Antonio Richardson T Tennessee *Jr
31. New Orleans - Stephon Tuitt DE Notre Dame *Jr
32. Denver - Cyril Richardson G Baylor