Top 32 prospects: Clowney headlines class that lacks 'wow' at QB position
The NFL is all about star quarterbacks, but you won't see one headlining this list of top 32 draft prospects. That honor belongs to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
It's killing me. It really is.
I do not have a quarterback at No. 1 on my list of the top 32 players in this year's NFL Draft heading into this week's scouting combine. And I hate it.
Even if Seattle showed you could win a Super Bowl with defense, this is still a star quarterback league. They sustain success.
But this quarterback class lacks the guy with the certain "wow" factor for me. That could change in the next few weeks, but I doubt it. I like a lot of the quarterbacks, but I don't love them.
I love South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. He is an impact player at an impact position, and we saw what pass rush means to a team when Seattle shut down Denver's offense in the Super Bowl. Clowney could be the next great edge rusher.
There are some concerns. In talking with scouts and personnel men, they wonder about some off-the-field issues, but nothing major. Some wonder if he loves the game. But last season should have no bearing at all.
He was playing, even if he didn't need to do so. The kid was a lock to be a top-10 pick no matter what. I am not saying he will go first. Houston, the team picking in that spot, might opt to take a quarterback.
But Clowney is the top player on my board for now. Sammy Watkins, the Clemson receiver, is a close second with Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack third. The process can change this list, but for now it's a defensive end at the top.
And I hate it.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina -- He is the best pure pass rusher to enter the league in a long time. Yes, there are questions about his attitude and other things. But he is a value player at a value position.
2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson -- Explosive plays are huge in the NFL. Watkins has that type of speed. I see star written all over him.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo -- He is a power edge rusher who did some really good things against some big-time competition. Watch his Ohio State game.
4. Greg Robinson, T, Auburn -- Watch the way he moves. He moves like he weighs 220 pounds, but he's 320. He lacks some technique, but that can be coached.
5. Jake Matthews, T, Texas A&M -- He could be higher than Robinson on some boards and might be a better prospect than former teammate Luke Joeckel, who went second overall last year.
6. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA -- He has more edge speed than Mack, but I think he's a bit behind him. Barr is still learning the position though.
7. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State -- He is the top corner in a class that features some good ones. He has good size and played a ton of man at Michigan State.
8. C.J. Mosley, LB, Alabama -- Linebackers who can run are valuable. Just ask Seattle. Mosley can fly.
9. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville -- He has a good command of the offense, and he can make all the throws. But why am I still not wowed?
10. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State -- He is not as big as some inside players, but he is strong and quick. He is tough to block in one-on-one situations.
11. Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan -- Some killed him for the bowl game against Clowney two years ago, but he did some good things against him. He could be a top-10 pick.
12. Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida -- He is big at 6-5 1/2 and 240 pounds -- bigger than listed -- and he has a Ben Roethlisberger quality about him, without the big arm.
13. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame -- I see Vince Wilfork in him. He has battled some weight and knee issues, especially last season, but his 2012 tape is impressive.
14. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina -- There are reports he's added too much weight, but he played like a tight end who could get down the field at North Carolina. He's what every team wants now from the tight end spot.
15. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M -- He is big and strong and can handle being jammed at the line. I wonder about his 40 time.
16. Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State -- Here's another speed linebacker. Shazier can really move at 222 pounds. Think Lavonte David.
17. Marqise Lee, WR, USC -- He has been picked apart for his play last season, but injuries slowed him and I think he pressed too much to do too much. The quarterback play wasn't great either.
18. Zack Martin, T-G, Notre Dame -- He proved at the Senior Bowl that he could play tackle, but at lot of teams think he's a guard.
19. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M -- I am really intrigued by what he does. But there are so many limitations as it relates to the passing tree. Can he overcome them?
20. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama -- He can run and cover and with the success of Earl Thomas in Seattle, everybody is looking for that from a safety.
21. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota -- At 6-6, 315 pounds, he is a huge lineman who can play in a variety of systems. I see him inside in a 4-3 like Leon Lett did for the Cowboys back in the day.
22. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU -- He is small at 5-11, 200 pounds, but he made a ton of plays in a tough league. He can also help in the return game. I like him more than most I think.
23. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh -- When you watch him on tape, he reminds me of Geno Atkins. I am not saying he's that good, but he's impressive.
24. Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame -- He got hurt, got heavy and didn't play as well in 2013 as he did the year before. But he has big-time skills.
25. Cyrus Kouandijo, T, Alabama -- He had a bad Sugar Bowl, so he's getting killed for it. But he played a lot of good football at Alabama.
26. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State -- He has good size and has the tools to play man coverage outside. He did give up some plays at times, but don't they all?
27. A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama -- He is much more than just a game manager like some of the other Alabama quarterbacks. I see some Matt Ryan in his game.
28. Dominique Easley, DT, Florida -- He suffered a knee injury last season, or else he'd be mentioned in the top-10. He has the same type of ability as Sheldon Richardson, who won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors last season.
29. LaMarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State -- He is small at 5-8, but he is a playmaker. I think he can play free safety or nickel corner.
30. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TE, Washington -- After a great 2012 season, he tailed off some last season. But he has size and speed. He's one of my pet guys in this draft.
31. Jimmie Ward, FS, Northern Illinois -- Everybody is looking for those safeties who can cover. Ward, who has played some corner, is that type of player. I like him more than most.
32. Morgan Moses, T, Virginia -- He is an athletic 320-pounder who helped his stock at the Senior Bowl.
Just missed: Dee Ford, DE, Auburn; Kelvin Benjamin, WR, FSU; Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State; Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri; Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State; Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State; Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State; Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech; David Yankey, G, Stanford; Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville; Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU.
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