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2015 NFL DRAFT

How do the major college football award winners project to NFL?

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com

Years ago, scouts could often look at the list of college football's major award winners and point out a few whose production far outweighed their prospects for the NFL.

The 2014 class of award winners is a virtual Who's Who of highly regarded NFL prospects -- though you might be surprised with the projected round scouts anticipate some of college football's biggest stars may wind up.

From an NFL perspective, did the committees make the right choices? Which award winner will ultimately be selected first in 2014? Who will be selected last? Does Jameis Winston winning the Heisman impact his chances at becoming the No. 1 overall pick next year?

We break down every major award winner and project their NFL future, below.

Heisman Trophy, Davey O'Brien, Walter Camp Awards: Jameis Winston, Florida State

Reaction: Well deserved. Winston has proven himself to be the best player on the country's most talented team all season long. Projecting him as the No. 1 overall pick a year from now is premature, however. Athletic and accurate, there's no denying Winston's talent but scouts want to see how he'll handle the pressure of the BCS title game this year. Subsequent to his final game this season, NFL teams will be evaluating Winston's poise on and off the field under the extreme spotlight he'll face as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

Unitas, Maxwell Awards: AJ McCarron, Alabama

Reaction: From a talent perspective, McCarron doesn't match up with Winston and Johnny Manziel, the other Maxwell finalists and frankly, my vote (if they asked for it) for the Unitas Award for the nation's top quarterback would have gone to Fresno State's Derek Carr, a senior and first round pick, rather than McCarron, who I view as more of a second day selection. McCarron is not a future All-Pro but I believe he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. Accurate to the short and intermediate levels and athletic enough for rolling out, McCarron projects best in a timing-based offense with West Coast principles.

Nagurski Award, Outland Trophy: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh

Reaction: The popular scouting phrase, "bowling ball of butcher knives" accurately describes the frenzied style in which Donald attacked gaps in 2013, making him a logical winner for these two awards for disruptive defenders. At just 6-foot, 285-pounds, Donald lacks the size scouts are looking for in a first round pick but his projection (51 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, eight sacks, four forced fumbles) is undeniable. Don't be surprised if Donald falls in the draft only to ultimately prove a steal, like former playmaking defensive tackles Geno Atkins (fourth round) and Jurrell Casey (third round), also deemed to small for the NFL.

Thorpe Award: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State

Reaction: Dennard's fluidity and awareness in coverage played a huge role in Michigan State's dominating defense this season. Want proof? Opponents completed just three of 31 attempts of 15+ yards against Dennard in 2013. NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated cornerback available in 2014, Dennard is the closest competition to Lott IMPACT Trophy winner Anthony Barr to be the first major award winner drafted this May.

Doak Walker Award: Andre Williams, Boston College

Reaction: It is impossible to argue with Williams' pick here based on his gaudy yardage (2,102 yards and 17 TDs) and the tough, determined running style with which he plays projects well to the NFL. He lacks the breakaway speed to earn a first or perhaps even second day pick, however, and could find himself on the board after fellow finalists Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) and Bishop Sankey (Washington) are drafted; assuming the underclassmen enter the 2014 draft early, as expected.

Biletnikof Award: Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

Reaction: As the country's leading receiver (1,670 yards), Cooks' selection was no surprise. Blessed with the frame and game to earn comparisons to Percy Harvin, the junior projects very well to the next level, ranking among the top 32 prospects in the country, on my Board.

Mackey Award: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington

Reaction: From a statistical standpoint, Seferian-Jenkins wasn't nearly as productive in 2013 (33-413-seven) as earlier in his career (69-852-seven in 2012) but a change in philosophy on offense had more to do with ASJ's lower numbers than poor play from the 6-foot-6, 276-pound junior, whose ability to impact the game as a blocker earned him kudos with Mackey Award voters and will with NFL scouts, as well. The junior is thought to be leaning towards entering the draft.

Hendricks Award: Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas

Reaction: As the Hendricks Award proudly notes on its official website, tedhendricks.com, each winner since 2002 has either gone on to be a first round pick in the NFL draft or - as in the case of 2012 winner Jadeveon Clowney - will be soon. Jeffcoat, while talented, could end the streak, however. Much of his production came down the stretch (five of his 12 sacks coming in the last two games) this year and some question his durability, as he's torn his biceps twice. NFLDraftScout.com currently projects Jeffcoat, recently named the AP's Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, as a second round pick.

Lott IMPACT Trophy: Anthony Barr, UCLA

Reaction: Barr's production (62 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles) is staggering and so is his talent. A running back for the Bruins just two years ago, Barr (6-foot-4, 248 pounds) checks in as NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior defender (and No. 3 overall) and is in a dead heat with South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney as the top-rated defensive prospect for some.

 
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