NFL Draft

NFL Draft 2014: Breaking Down the Deepest Positions in First Round

Jan 3, 2014; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers wide receiver Sammy Watkins (2) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the first half of the 2014 Orange Bowl college football game at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2014

Until the NFL draft, we'll debate about which players are the best available, what team needs require filling, the types of trades teams should offer to move up in the draft and assess every nook and cranny of every single prospect.

In other words, a lot will change in the coming months, and a whole lot more will be left up for debate. But one thing we can probably correctly forecast more than anything else is what particular positions look the strongest at this year's draft, at least in the first round. 

Below, you'll find the three positions I feel are the deepest at the top of this year's draft.

 

Wide Receiver

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 21:  Marqise Lee #9 of the USC Trojans warms up before the game against the Utah State Aggies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 21, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Clemson's Sammy Watkins is the best prospect at the position since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Mike Evans of Texas A&M is a bit raw, but his upside is immense. Marqise Lee's stock took a hit this year, but that was largely due to a few battles with injury and the dysfunction at USC.

Those are the three clear leaders in the clubhouse, but there are several other players that will probably get snatched up in the first round.

Penn State's Allen Robinson is NFL-ready. Vanderbilt's Jordan Matthews finished 2013 with 112 receptions for 1,477 yards and seven touchdowns. Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State has excellent size and scored the game-winning touchdown against Auburn in the last BCS championship game. LSU's Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry are talented enough to sneak into the first round potentially.

This is a very, very good year to need a wide receiver.

 

The Secondary

Jan 3, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys cornerback Justin Gilbert (4) reacts during the game against the Missouri Tigers in the 2014 Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium. Missouri won 41-31. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

(Note: Yes, I lumped corner and safety together, in large part because a prospect or two could feasibly fill either role upon being drafted.) 

While there isn't that one elite cornerback in this year's draft class—and probably won't be one selected in the top 10—the second half of the first round should be littered with corners.

Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is a physical, lockdown corner. Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert has the ideal size and athleticism at the position. TCU's Jason Verrett isn't a household name, but opposing wide receivers certainly know whom he is. Bradley Roby of Ohio State is a boom-or-bust prospect, but the talent is tantalizing. 

Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a top-15 talent. Florida State's LaMarcus Joyner has the chops to play safety, though he may move to corner. Given his size, he would be ideal for the slot-corner role, a necessity for teams in the pass-heavy NFL. Louisville's Calvin Pryor could sneak into the first round.

Teams needing help against the pass should be able to find it early on.

 

Tight End

Dec 28, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron (85) tries to catch a pass during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

No, there aren't nearly as many first-round grades on tight ends as the above positions. But when you consider that many years pass with nary a first-round grade at the position, the fact that three players could be selected in the first round of this year's draft is noteworthy.

North Carolina's Eric Ebron could easily be a top-10 pick. His combination of size, athleticism and production (62 receptions for 973 yards and three touchdowns this season) is very appealing. Texas Tech's Jace Amaro had an insane season, catching 106 passes for 1,352 yards and seven touchdowns.

And Washington's Austin Seferian-Jenkins won the John Mackey Award as the best tight end in the country. That's quite the top three at the position.

 

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