It's easy to grin, when your ship comes in...

2014 Matriculator Countdown

4,3,2,1, earth below us.  Drifting, falling , floating weightless.  Some people just don't get it.  Year after year they fail to heed to advice of their elders.  As with every year we've done the countdown, we have a number of players that no NFL team ranked as first rounders.  And they are the reason we tout ourselves as the greatest, hands down, NFL draft scouts on the planet.  In 2011 we had five players in our top 15 that didn't get drafted in the top fifteen.  They would finish, in a redraft, as five of the top ten players.  Remember that guy we had at #12?  He didn't get drafted until the second round.  He's played in 24 career games and led his team to an NFC Championship and a Super Bowl. Goes by CK.  And then there was the last pick in the second round who we had rated at #15, Randall Cobb.  2012 we had 4 guys in the first round that no scouting service, on the web or in the NFL had as first rounders.  T.Y. Hilton was the 13th receiver selected and went in the third round.  We had him as the 7th overall player.  We win again.  He's been the NFL's best receiver drafted in the past two years and is already in the top 15 in the entire NFL.  We also had 2nd round pick Lavonte David rated 10th overall.  He has outproduced every defensive player drafted in the last two years including his more ballyhooed top ten pick Luke Kuechly. We rated Keleche Osemele as a first rounder even though he wasn't taken until the second round.  He was the Ravens dominant offensive lineman in 2012 and yes, that was our rookie starting at guard and winning a Super Bowl.  Then there was this third round cat named Russell Wilson who we,and only we, had rated as a first rounder. You might know him as the NFL's best player.  The guy drafted in the third round who is the only quarterback in NFL history to post a 100+ passer rating in his first two years.  Not Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Joe Montana.  He also has the highest passer rating in Super Bowl history, for whatever that's worth.  Last year we raised some eyebrows when we, and only we, rated Sheldon Richardson as the top defensive player in the draft.  He finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting, but he was not only the best rookie, but one of the top five defensive players in the entire NFL.  Anyway, well stop beating a dead Bronco. This year we have at least 5 players not in anyone else's first round.  We'll be correct again we suspect, but who's counting.  So without further adieu, because we've already had a doo, here is the list every NFL GM now awaits with baited breath.  Since this is the deepest draft we've ever seen we are counting down not from 32, but from 40.

 

40.  Blake Bortles- QB, Central Florida

The most consistent comment we hear about Bortles is that he is "big" and "looks like an NFL quarterback."  There are about a half dozen guys in the last few years that fit that description, all of whom we said weren't first round picks and none of whom are starting any longer.  Remember Blame Gabbert?  How about Christian Ponder and Brandon Weeden and Jake Locker?  Oopsy daisy.  Bortles certainly looks the part and his best attribute is that when posing for a picture he bears a striking resemblance to Andrew Luck.  He's big and strong and should be durable, but Blame Gabbert was pretty durable.  So wereRyan Leaf and David Carr.  How did that work out?  Gabbert has an average arm and we don't like his mechanics or his ability to read safeties.  We agree he has plenty to work with but guys who are drafted in the top ten aren't given that time to develop, and he needs some time.  As a second rounder we're all for him.  As a top 10 pick, he's a franchise killer.


 



 



2014 Matriculator Countdown

           4,3,2,1, earth below us.  Drifting, falling, floating weightless. Some people just don't get it. Year after year they fail to heed to advice of their elders.  As with every year we've done the countdown, we have a number of players that no NFL team or pundit have ranked as first rounders.  And they are the reason we tout ourselves as the greatest, hands down, NFL draft scouts on the planet. People say we're conceited but we're just stating facts.  We can't help it.  We wish it were some other way, believe you me it ain't easy bein' cheesy.  People also get upset with us when we say Peyton Manning is the worst post-season quarterback in NFL history.  It's just a fact damnit!  If you don't want to hear the facts just turn on Fox "News".

           In 2011 we had five players in our top 15 that didn't get drafted in the top fifteen.  They would finish, in a redraft, as five of the top ten players. Remember that guy we had at #12?  He didn't get drafted until the second round.  He's played in 27 career games and led his team to an NFC Championship and a Super Bowl in back to back seasons. Goes by CK.  And then there was the last pick in the second round who we had rated at #15, Randall Cobb.  2012 we had 4 guys in the first round that no scouting service on the web or in the NFL had as first rounders.  Our ranking that year is the greatest single scouting analysis since the Steelers 1974 draft.  T.Y. Hilton was the 13th receiver selected and went in the third round.  We had him as the 7th overall player.  He's been the NFL's best receiver drafted in the past two years and is already one of the NFL's top 20 receivers.  We also had 2nd round pick Lavonte David rated 10th overall.  He has outproduced every defensive player drafted in the last two years including his more ballyhooed top ten pick Luke Kuechly. We rated 2nd round pick Keleche Osemele as a first rounder.  He was the Ravens dominant offensive lineman in 2012 and yes, that was him starting at guard and winning a Super Bowl as a rookie.  Then there was this third round cat named Russell Wilson who we, and only we, had rated as a first rounder. You might know him as the NFL's best player.  The guy drafted in the third round who is the only quarterback in NFL history to post a 100+ passer rating in his first two seasons.  Not Johnny Unitas or Peyton Manning or Drew Brees or Joe Montana.  He also has the highest passer rating in Super Bowl history, for whatever that's worth.  Last year we raised some eyebrows when we rated Sheldon Richardson as the top defensive player in the draft.  He finished second in the Defensive Rookie of the Year balloting though he was not only the best rookie, but one of the top five defensive players in the entire NFL.  We also had third round pick Tyrann Mathieu as a first rounder and he was playing like a superstar until an injury in week 14.  Anyway, we'll stop beating a dead Bronco. This year we have at least 5 players not in anyone else's first round.  We'll be correct again we suspect, but who's counting.  We wish we could just throw our analysis one year but it's not in our genes. So without further adieu, and we've already had a doo thank you, here is the list every NFL GM now awaits with baited breath.  Since this is the deepest draft we've ever seen we are counting down not from 32, but from 40.  We include in parantheses the player's ranking in the Sports Illustrated top 64, Daniel Jeremiah's top 50 list and CBS Draft Scout ranking.

The Matriculator's Top 32 Players in the 2013 NFL Draft

The Matriculator's Top 32 Players in the 2012 NFL Draft

The Matriculator's Top 15 Players in the 2011 NFL Draft

 

PLAYERS 40-21

20.  Cameron Fleming- OT, Stanford  (SI N/R, CBS 53, DJ N/R)

Every year it seems the scouts are loving on some mediocre Stanford lineman.  A few years ago it was Johnathan Martin and David Decastro, neither of whom we liked nearly as much as the other scouts and both of whom proved us correct.  This year nearly everyone has David Yankey as the top guard prospect and some are projecting him in the first round.  He's not very good.  He almost never locks onto a block at the second level which is sort of what guards are supposed to do. He's a 4th-5th rounder, if that.  Anyway, we've finally found a Stanford lineman we love and the other scouts don't have him in their top 50.  We have Fleming rated this highly even though he played right tackle in college.  We think he is one of the few players who could actually convert from right tackle to left tackle though with his size (6'5", 323) we wouldn't be surprised if a team moved him inside.  He left Stanford after his junior year (he's already graduated with a degree in aeronautics and astronautics) after starting all three years.  Unlike his mate Yankey, Fleming is brilliant at the second level.  He's not an elite athlete but we watched a number of games where he graded out nearly perfect in both pass and run blocking.

19.  Odell Beckham, Jr.- WR, LSU  (SI 22, CBS 18, DJ 17)

Beckham is a great athlete who tested well at the Combine but his numbers at LSU weren't eye popping.  He's the second coming of Chris Chambers with nearly identical measurables and a similar college career.  We don't think he will be an elite number one receiver in the NFL, but he should be a low end number one or a high end number two and he also provides elite return ability.

18.  Brandin Cooks- WR, Oregon State  (SI 32, CBS 20, DJ 21)

Explosive is the word for Cooks. He posted over 1,000 yards receiving the past two years and won the Biletnikoff Award in 2013 as the nation's top receiver.  The only thing he lacks is size as he goes 5'10", 189, but he's strong for his size (16 reps of 225 pounds) and comes with blazing (4.33) speed.  At times he flashes Steve Smith-like ability to fight for the ball and at a minimum we expect Cooks to make some game changing plays with a ceiling of a number one receiver.

17.  Justin Gilbert- CB, Oklahoma State  (SI 14, CBS 10, DJ 8)

Gilbert is a tremendous athlete who should excel in coverage but unlike Dennard and Verrett, he's not much on tackling.   In addition to being a ball hawk (12 career ints and 32 passes defensed) he provides an electric return game with 6 career touchdowns.  If he was more physical in the run game we'd have him in the top 10, but then again he's not getting paid to stop the run.

16.  Donte Moncrief- WR, Ole Miss   (SI N/R,  CBS 39, DJ N/R)

Moncrief is probably the most physically gifted athlete in this fantastic wide receiver class.  At 6'2", 225 pounds he ran a ridiculous 4.40 forty and jumped 39.5 inches. He also had the 3rd highest broad jump of anyone at the Combine.  He elected to come out after his junior year and will only be 21 when the season starts.  As a 20-year old sophomore he was selected First Team All-SEC and he has amassed 1,900 yards and 16 touchdowns in the past two years with Cindy Lou Who throwing to him. He's got some work but his top end is that of a top-10 NFL receiver and that is too much to pass up.

15.  Eric Ebron- TE, North Carolina  (SI 25, CBS 11, DJ 13)

Ebron is a tremendous athlete with 4.60 speed.  He can make incredible catches but he's shown inconsistent hands.  When we first viewed the tape on him we weren't that impressed and thought he was a late first round type.  We went back and watched more tape and there is clearly the potential to be an elite tight end.  The tape isn't what swayed us though, it was a review of his stats.  He's been consistently good and had his best games in the close games.  That's the trait we look for in a top 20 prospect.

14.  Kareem Martin- DE, North Carolina    (SI N/R,  CBS 55, DJ N/R)

Martin isn't ranked in the top 50 by anyone and we are debating whether to rank him ahead of Jadeveon Clowney?  Martin is the athlete and player scouts seem to be pretending Kony Ealy is.  He's 6'6", 272 so he is a little bigger than Clowney.  He ran a 4.72 and had a 35.5 inch vertical.  In the last two seasons Martin has the same number of sacks as Clowney, more tackles for loss, more passes defensed and more tackles, including 82 tackles in 2013 which tied for the most of any defensive lineman in college football.  He had 8 or more tackles in 6 games which is unheard of for a player who can get to the passer like Martin can.

13.  Jake Matthews- OT, Texas A&M  (SI 5, CBS 5, DJ 5)

Don't miscontrue this ranking to mean we don't like Matthews.  If we have a prospect in the top 20 in this draft we expect him to be a really good player.  We agree with everyone else that Matthews is perhaps the "safest" pick in this draft.  He doesn't have an injury history or off the field problems and he's had years of good tape.  His ceiling isn't that high however and that's the reason we have him ranked slightly lower than the other pundicators.

12. Jimmy Garoppolo- QB, E. Illinois  (SI 61, CBS 77, DJ N/R)

There have been two quarterbacks we've ever seen with a quick release comparable to Garopollo: Dan Marino and Aaron Rodgers.  It is the single most important trait for a quarterback to have, far more important than the "great size"  or "NFL arm" on which teams seem to focus.  He comes from a small school where he absolutely destroyed the competition throwing for nearly 9,000 yards and 84 touchdowns in the past two seasons.  We think he needs to be eased into the NFL a la Aaron Rodgers, but he is by far the best pure passer in this draft.

11.  Deone Bucannon- S, Washington State  (SI N/R,  CBS 82, DJ N/R)

Not only is Bucannon the best safety in this draft, he's the best safety we've scouted since about Troy Polamalu and nobody has him rated ahead of a guy named Ha Ha?  Well we suspect that the Matriculator and Deone will get the last laugh.  There isn't a single evaluation in which Clinton-Dix is as good as Bucannon.  None. Bucannon's 6'1", 215, so he's huge for a safety.  He ran faster than any relevant safety in the draft (4.49 to Clinton-Dix 4.58) and he also jumped 36.5 inches.  His career productivity is off the charts having logged 80 or more tackles four straight years.  To compare Clinton-Dix...well there is no comparison.  Clinton-Dix career high is 51.  In fact Bucannon had more tackles in the 2013 season than C-D had in his career.  And in the 2012 season he had more tackles than C-D had in his career.  He also has 15 more turnovers caused including a whopping 15 career interceptions.  On tape he reminds us of Ed Reed, pulling off his receiver to intercept balls.  So he's big, fast, has 4 years of great tape, has stats off the charts, has never been injured and...that's about it.

10.  Jackson Jeffcoat- DE, Texas  (SI 55, CBS 89, DJ N/R)

Another player not ranked in the top 50 by anyone else.  We debated whether to rank him ahead of Clowney and had Jeffcoat not had a few injuries he would have definitely been ranked ahead of Clowney.  Jeffcoat is a case study in how prospects pick up or lose momentum for reasons having nothing to do with reality.  The scouting report on him by one major network is that "he still seems to show more potential than production."  Seriously?  He's the most productive defensive lineman in college football but he's not shown production.  He's the only defensive lineman in the country to lead his team in tackles with 82.  He's 6'3", 250 so a little smaller than Clowney (6'5", 265) but he's also an elite athlete.  Jeffcoat ran a 4.68 forty and his vertical was one inch less than Clowney, but he destroyed Clowney in the football drills placing 1st among defensive lineman in the 20-yard shuttle and 2nd in the 3-cone drill while Clowney wasn't in the top ten in either.   Oh and back to the productivity thing.  Starting with his eighth game his sophomore year he had 24.5 sacks in 26 games.  That's Dwight Freeney like.  Clowney had less sacks (24) in his 38 career games.  Jeffcoat led his team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks on his way to earning Big-12 Player of the Year honors.  Jeffcoat has had two pectoral injuries which is why we don't have him ahead of Clowney.  Of course Jeffcoat once played with a torn pectoral which is why we want to rank him ahead of Clowney.

9.  Ryan Shazier- LB, Ohio State  (SI 34, CBS 23, DJ 25)

As with Deone Bucannon and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, we don't understand why everyone has C.J. Mosley ahead of Shazier.  Shazier is arguably the best pure linebacker prospect to come out in years.  He's 6'1", 237 so he's an ideal size in spite of some evaluators indicating he's undersized.  He's as athletic a linebacker prospect as has ever come out...ever.  He tested like the top cornerback prospect...of all-time. He had the Combine's highest vertical for any position at 42 inches.  His 4.38 forty is the fastest we've ever seen from a linebacker.  In terms of productivity he outshines Mosley, usually significantly, in every category but interceptions.  He's not only a high volume tackler (115 and 144 in the past two seasons), he makes big plays with 40 tackles for loss and 12 sacks in the past two years compared to 13 TFL's and 4 sacks for Mosley. Unlike Mosley, he's never been injured.  We don't ever say a linebacker drafted in the 20's is a steal, but Shazier will be if he falls that far.

8.  Sammy Watkins- WR, Clemson  (SI 5, CBS 9, DJ 2)

Watkins is a tremendous athlete with great speed and when we began scouting him we expected that speed to be his best asset; however, he's also a good route runner.  What surprised us the most was his great hands and physicality.  The only concern we have, and the reason we have him listed below Mike Evans, is that he was arrested for possession of a controlled substance and missed several games. 

7.  Teddy Bridgewater- QB, Louisville  (SI 1, CBS 9, DJ 11)

It was the best of careers, it was the worst of pro days. Bridgewater's quiet in a position where most people want a vocal leader.  But then there's Eli Manning and Russell Wilson.  But then there's Mike Glennon and Matt Cassell.  He didn't lead his team to many important victories, but he led them to a lot of victories. He's at the bottom of the barrel in terms of a 45 minute pro-day performance, but his tape for three years is spectacular.  In the end, always go with the tape.  Period.  He's a little on the slender side, we're not wild about his release, but he puts the ball where it needs to be.  Think Bernie Kosar.

6.  Mike Evans- WR, Texas A&M  (SI 8, CBS 6, DJ 7)

Evans exploded onto the scene as a Freshman in 2012 with 82 catches for 1105 yards.  As a sophomore last season he was a First Team All-American after posting nearly 1,400 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns.  He had over 200 yards receiving against Auburn and Alabama.  He 6'5" with 4.50 speed and an uncanny ability to win jump balls.  He looks like a Vincent Jackson clone and if he is as good as Jackson as a pro he will earn his top ten selection.

5.  Jadeveon Clowney- DE, South Carolina  (SI 2, CBS 1, DJ 1)

Everyone needs to remember when judging whether a draft pick was good or not, there are a number of factors.  One that people forget is that it is really only a 4 or 5 year window, but it is also an entire 4 or 5 year window.  Let's use Mario Williams as our example.  His first five years in the league he had two great seasons and three mediocre seasons.  He was drafted as a pass rusher but he only generated double digit sacks two years.  He was the number one pick so he has always been paid like a premier player, but is he worth that?  We say the answer is no.  In his two seasons in Buffalo he has produced double digits in sacks so in a generic sense over his career he has probably "earned" his status as the number one pick, but he didn't earn it while working for the team that drafted him which is all that matters when evaluating a pick.  We think Clowney's career will mirror Williams.  He will have some dominant seasons, but will he do enough in the first five years.  Our concern is obviously with him shutting down and producing pedestrian stats in 2013.  Of course he was double teamed regularly and we recognize that on talent alone he is the top edge rusher to come out in years.  If he has two years of 15 sacks but produces three years of less than double digits he's probably not worth a top 5 pick.  It should come down to a photo finish.

4.  Greg Robinson- OT, Auburn   (SI 3, CBS 2, DJ 3)

Robinson has the potential to be the best player in this draft at a premium position.  In other draft years he would be the number one overall prospect, but this draft is good enough that he slides in behind a few skill position players.  He's a mauler in the run game and a great athlete to boot but there is some projection involved in making him an elite pass protector since he didn't do much traditional pass blocking at Auburn.

3.  Khalil Mack- DE, Buffalo

Mack reminds us of Ray Lewis.  Need we say more?  He's huge, fast, instinctive and can cover and get to the passer with equal aplomb.

2.  Johnny Manziel- QB, Texas A&M

He's Electric. 

1.  Aaron Donald- DT, Pittsburgh

When we posted Don't Duck Donald in March, he wasn't in the top 20 on anybody's board.  He's now in the top 10 on everybody's board.