2014 NFL Draft: Playmakers Who Will Make Instant Impact at Next Level

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistDecember 2, 2013

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 24: Quarterback Devin Gardner #12 of the Michigan Wolverines tries to elude the tackle attempt of Ryan Shazier #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 24, 2012 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Like it or not, it’s that time of year again in the NFL.

While plenty of teams are still in striking distance for a playoff spot, especially in the muddled AFC, others are looking ahead to the 2014 NFL draft with future playmakers in mind. Prepare yourself, because the mock drafts are right around the corner, and they are charging hard.

In today’s NFL, headliner draft picks are expected to make an impact right away, especially if they are early picks from some of the poorer teams in the league. This year, the likes of Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota and Jadeveon Clowney will be called early and likely start immediately. 

But what about some of the first-round picks outside the top five? Let’s dig into a few that will make instant impacts at the next level.

Jace Amaro

Between Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron and Rob Gronkowski, freak athletes at the tight end position are making plays and determining games across the NFL (and fantasy leagues). 

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 16:  Jace Amaro #22 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders celebrates a touchdown against the Baylor Bears at AT&T Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Whichever team lands Jace Amaro from Texas Tech will be getting itself the next game-changer from the tight end position. Amaro has stuffed the stat sheet with 1,240 receiving yards and seven touchdowns for the Red Raiders. The yardage is tops in the nation for tight ends, and Amaro is a perfect fit for Texas Tech’s high-octane passing attack.

The Texas coaching staff, which recently had to deal with Amaro on Thanksgiving, recently told Dan Greenspan of NFL.com that he reminds them of Gronkowski and Jermichael Finley. He will make a similar impact as soon as he cracks an NFL roster.

Sammy Watkins

Wide receivers that can stretch the field will always be in high demand in the pass-happy NFL, but Clemson’s Sammy Watkins will give whichever team that drafts him multiple dimensions to utilize. 

He has the speed to line up outside and beat corners or simply destroy linebackers in the slot, he can return kickoffs as effectively as almost anyone in the college game and could even run a variation of the wildcat offense if called upon.

He has absolutely torn apart ACC defenses this season (1,237 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns) and will continue to do so at the next level. If he is paired with another dynamic receiver to draw some defensive attention, Watkins will have his way with opposing secondaries right away.

Ryan Shazier

Ryan Shazier is almost single-handedly carrying a mediocre-at-best Ohio State defense squarely into the national championship picture.

He is a Butkus Award finalist, which is given to the best linebacker in college football, flies all over the field and is a near lock to record double-digit tackles every time he laces it up. His speed allows him to get to the ball-carrier and shed blocks with ease, and he rarely misses a tackle when he gets there.

For a better idea about Shazier’s speed, look at what Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com reported:

With the combination of speed and power that Shazier presents, he will be starting at linebacker for an NFL team immediately.