As the 2013 college football season looms on the not-too-distant horizon, here is a look at the top seniors to watch this fall with the 2014 NFL Draft in mind.
1. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
The 6-foot-5 1/2, 310-pound Matthews is the son of Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews. Matthews, the son, elected to stay in school rather than leave early for the NFL draft. This decision can help his professional prospects tremendously. Matthews -- a good athlete with long arms, quick feet and a 5.1-second 40-yard dash time -- will play left tackle this season (assuming the spot vacated by No. 2 overall draft pick Luke Joeckel). The position switch will help increase Matthews' draft value.
» Watch: Matthews highlights
2. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Lewan (6-7 1/2, 315) is another player who opted to stay in school rather than leave for the NFL a season early. Lewan runs the 40-yard dash in 5.2 seconds, and while he doesn't have real long arms (33 1/2 inches), he is very smart and athletic. When Lewan fell on a fumble in the end zone in a game against Massachusetts last season, he became the first Wolverine lineman to score a touchdown since 1948.
3. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Barr (6-4, 240) came to UCLA as a running back, but converted to outside linebacker in the spring of 2012. Barr -- who runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash -- was UCLA's second-leading tackler in 2012 with 83, and he led the Pac-12 with 13.5 sacks. He has long arms and a very good burst off the edge. Barr also seems to have very good instincts.
» Watch: Barr highlights
4. Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee
McCullers (6-6, 350) makes most big guys look small. Despite his mass, McCullers is very fast for his size (5.15 in the 40). He is also very strong and possesses very good movement skills. His nickname is "Shade Tree," which should give you an idea of his size.
» Watch: McCullers highlights
5. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Murphy (6-5, 260) is a big, strong and explosive player who recorded 11 sacks in 2012. Murphy (who runs the 40 in 4.75 seconds) has long arms, and can play with his hand in the ground or in space. With Murphy on the outside and Shayne Skov manning the middle, Stanford might have the best group of linebackers in college football. Also notable: Murphy's younger brother is a 14-year-old high school freshman who is 6-foot-3 and has already been offered a scholarship from Stanford.
6. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
The 6-3 1/4, 331-pound Jackson runs the 40-yard dash in 5.25 seconds, has started 36 games over three seasons and was a first-team all-SEC pick in 2012. Jackson is a first-round possibility and should have a long NFL career. He isn't at the same level as Chance Warmack (the 2013 first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans), who was exceptional.
» Watch: Jackson highlights
7. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama
Mosley (6-2 3/8, 230) led the Crimson Tide in tackles in 2012 with 107, which was 48 more than the next highest total on the team. He also had two interceptions. As a young player, Mosley played in all 13 games as a true freshman at Alabama. Mosley -- who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds -- is a very good leader and should be a long-time starter in the NFL. Mosley mans the weakside linebacker spot for the Crimson Tide, but projects as an inside linebacker in the pros.
» Watch: Mosley highlights
8. DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
The play of Jones (6-3 1/2, 330) was a big reason why the Nittany Lions won eight games during the 2012 season. He is a strong player with good speed (5.15 seconds in the 40-yard dash) for the position.
9. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Mack (6-2 5/8, 245) will most likely be the highest draft pick in the history of University of Buffalo football. Defensive end Gerry Philbin was a third-round selection, No. 19 overall, by the New York Jets in the 1964 AFL Draft. In the modern era, the New England Patriots made offensive tackle Ed Ellis a fourth-round pick (No. 125 overall) in the 1997 NFL Draft. In 2012, Mack led the Bulls in tackles (94), tackles for loss (21) and sacks (eight). He is coached by Lou Tepper, who has coached three Butkus Award winners in the past: Colorado's Alfred Williams and Illinois' Dana Howard and Kevin Hardy.
10. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
Richardson (6-4 1/2, 335) runs a 5.35-second 40-yard dash. He is a three-year starter who played left tackle as a freshman, but has started the last three seasons at left guard. He is very strong with long arms.
11. Antone Exum, CB, Virginia Tech
Exum (5-10 5/8, 218) decided to stay in school for his senior season, but tore his ACL in January while playing pick-up basketball. He would have cracked the top five on this list if it wasn't for that injury. Exum -- who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash -- finished 2012 with five interceptions and 16 pass breakups.
12. Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
The 6-0, 213-pound running back previously played at the University of Houston, but transferred to West Virginia for his final season of eligibility (he graduated from UH in May, so he won't have to sit out a season). This guy can run like the wind, having run a 4.46-second 40-yard dash. He should be great in the West Virginia system, and could be like St. Louis Rams first-round draft pick Tavon Austin, who played some running back against Oklahoma and rushed for a school single-game record 344 yards.
13. Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah
Reilly (6-4 1/2, 244) moved from safety to defensive end for the Utes, but projects as an outside linebacker in the NFL. Reilly was Utah's leading tackler in 2012 and also had 4.5 sacks. He is very athletic with good speed, having posted a 40 time of 4.65 seconds.
14. Marion Grice, RB, Arizona State
Last season was Grice's first at ASU after two seasons playing junior college ball. Grice (6-0, 204) had 19 touchdowns as a runner (11) and receiver (eight) despite sharing time with two other running backs in a rotational situation.
15. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
McCarron has the height (6-4) and speed (clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds during Alabama's spring junior day) necessary for the position. He completed 67 percent of his passes in 2012 for 30 touchdowns and only three interceptions. This guy is a winner.
» Watch: McCarron highlights
16. Demonte McAllister, DT, Florida State
McAllister (6-2 1/8, 288) is a strong inside player who had 3.5 sacks and 33 tackles last season.
17. Stephen Morris, QB, Miami (Fla.)
Morris stands 6-foot-2 and has run a 4.67-second 40-yard dash on grass (which produces slower times than artificial turf). He has above-average arm strength. He was to be redshirted in his true freshman season of 2010 but was thrust into action late in the season, making four starts and going 2-2 in those games. Morris has good upside and could easily move up to the No. 1 quarterback prospect spot before the 2013 season is over.
18. Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State
Jones (6-3 5/8, 235) runs the 40 in 4.65 seconds. He was the Seminoles' leading tackler in 2012. This is a player with tremendous upside whose best position in the NFL might be as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
19. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Verrett (5-9 3/8, 175) lacks the ideal height and weight for the position, but he makes up for it with great ball skills and very good speed (timed at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He led the Horned Frogs with six interceptions and 16 pass breakups in 2012, and was also the team's fourth-leading tackler with 63 total tackles. Watch his play against West Virginia and quarterback Geno Smith last season to get an idea of how good Verrett is (he picked off a pass, and then blocked a field goal that helped TCU defeat WVU in double overtime).
20. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
The 6-foot-4 1/2, 255-pound Jeffcoat is the son of of former Dallas Cowboys and Buffalo Bills defensive end Jim Jeffcoat. When I was with the Cowboys, we selected Jeffcoat in the first round and he turned into a player who performed at a high level for a long time, finishing his career with more than 100 sacks. Jim's son Jackson has the same traits. Jackson is a competitive player with speed (4.75 seconds in the 40-yard dash), quickness and athletic ability.
21. Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami (Fla.)
The 6-7, 340-pound Henderson plays right tackle and improved greatly over the last half of the 2012 season, not allowing a single sack in the Hurricanes' final eight games. Henderson -- who runs the 40-yard dash in 5.0 seconds -- was a highly touted high school player from Minnesota, earning high school lineman of the year honors. He had originally committed to USC before deciding to attend Miami.
22. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
Sutton (6-0 1/2, 285) is undersized for the position, but did have 13 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss in 2012 despite missing two games (he was hurt on the first play of the Oregon game and missed the UCLA game). He has great quickness (4.85 in the 40) and strength for his size. Sutton is also a great competitor.
» Watch: Sutton highlights
23. Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
The 6-6, 305-pound Mewhort runs the 40-yard dash in 5.25 seconds and is a solid player. He's a good run blocker with high character and intelligence. Mewhort plays left tackle and started at guard for the Buckeyes as a true freshman.
24. Dee Ford, Auburn, OLB
Ford (6-2 1/2, 240) was injured in 2012 and missed the Ole Miss game. He did have six sacks. Ford lacks size, but he boasts good speed (4.7 in the 40) and might be better as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
25. James Stone, C, Tennessee
Stone (6-3, 293) boasts a 5.2 40 time. He is a part of a very experienced Volunteers offensive line (combined 123 starts, the second most of any team at the FBS level).
26. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame
Martin (6-4 1/2, 316) has played both left tackle and right tackle at Notre Dame. Martin -- a three-year starter for the Fighting Irish -- runs the 40-yard dash in 5.25 seconds, has long arms and good feet. His father, a lawyer, works for the NCAA.
27. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
Martin (6-5 1/2, 265) has been a three-year starter for the Tar Heels (full-time starter for past two seasons; made three starts as a freshman). He is a very good pass rusher, possessing the speed (4.85 in the 40) and athleticism that NFL teams look for in a 4-3 defensive end. Martin opted to stay in school for his senior season despite a good report for the 2013 NFL Draft which indicated he could go as high as the first two rounds.
28. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
Stinson (6-3 1/4, 280) had only three sacks in 2012, but look for his sack numbers to increase this fall. Stinson has a lot of upside. He brings very good quickness (4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and athletic ability.
29. Mike Davis, WR, Texas
Davis (6-2, 200) runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. He considered leaving school after last season, during which he averaged 16.5 yards per catch and had seven touchdowns. He is a big-play receiver with the size and speed necessary to compete in the NFL. Davis possesses a lot of upside.
30. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
A stalwart on UNC's offensive line, Hurst (6-6 1/2, 310) has made 36 starts. Hurst runs the 40 in 5.3 seconds and has long arms. While he plays left tackle for the Tar Heels, his best position in the NFL might be at right tackle.
31. Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Skov (6-2 1/4, 250) was Stanford's leading tackler last year after missing most of the 2011 season with a knee injury. Skov (who sports a 4.85 40 time) is good against the run, but there are some questions about his pass-coverage abilities.
32. Max Bullough, ILB, Michigan State
The Bullough name has been a part of Spartan football for many years, with Max as a third-generation player at Michigan State. Bullough (6-3, 250) was the leading tackler on his team with 112 stops in 2012. He is very good at taking on blockers and anticipating plays. Bullough -- who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds -- has started 27 consecutive games.
33. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Boyd is not tall (6-0 3/4), but has been successful over the past two seasons (winning 19 regular-season games). He plays in a quarterback-friendly offense. He had a very good statistical season in 2012, completing 67.2 percent of his passes with 36 touchdowns. Boyd displays good arm strength and likes to roll out and throw.
» Watch: Boyd highlights
34. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray is not real tall (standing at 6-1), but he had a higher passer rating as a junior (174.82) than former No. 1 overall NFL draft picks Matthew Stafford (153.5) and Andrew Luck (170.2). Murray finished 2012 with 3,893 yards passing, 36 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. However, he isn't much of a runner (0.9 yards per attempt in college career).
35. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Thomas (6-5 5/8, 256) looks the part of an NFL quarterback. He has 4.67 40 speed and a great arm. However, he is very inconsistent. After a sophomore season with 3,013 yards passing for 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a completion percentage of 59.8, Thomas' production dropped off in 2012 (2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 51.3 completion percentage).
36. Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU
Barrow (6-1, 230) was the Tigers' second-leading tackler in 2012 with 104 tackles. He is entering his third year as a starter. Barrow, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.8 seconds, is a very competitive player with good instincts. He plays a lot like former LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, the Arizona Cardinals' second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
37. Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
Herron (5-9, 187) runs a 4.39-second 40-yard dash. He has outstanding speed and quickness, and also possesses very good hands. He averaged 21.2 yards per reception in 2012, and added eight touchdowns. A lot of scouts will be going to Laramie, Wyo. to watch this kid from California.
38. Chris Watt, OG, Notre Dame
The 6-3, 318-pound Watt is entering his third season as a starter for the Fighting Irish (he's currently the team's left guard). He runs a 5.3-second 40-yard dash, has the strength necessary to play guard and is a good run blocker.
39. Craig Loston, S, LSU
Loston (6-0 5/8, 207) tied a school record with a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown last season. He finished the 2012 season with 55 tackles and three interceptions. Loston -- who sports a 40-yard dash time of 4.55 seconds -- has the necessary cover skills and toughness for the position.
40. Trey Millard, FB, Oklahoma
Millard (6-2, 259) is fast for a fullback, sporting a 4.65-second 40-yard dash time. He is a big back with speed, receiving ability and is an outstanding blocker. Despite playing fullback for the Sooners, Millard has the potential to be a tailback in the NFL.
41. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU
Hoffman (6-3, 216) runs a 4.58-second 40-yard dash. He does not have great speed, but runs precise routes. Hoffman will catch everything thrown to him. A better passer at quarterback this season (sophomore Taysom Hill is set to take over at the position) should help with Hoffman's production, which was outstanding last season (100 catches for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns).
42. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Dennard (5-11 3/4, 190) was a first-team, All-Big Ten selection in 2012. Dennard -- who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash -- had three interceptions and seven pass breakups in 2012. Dennard registered two interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown -- in the Spartans' 33-30 triple-overtime win over Georgia in the 2012 Outback Bowl. He has very good ball skills and will become a big-time player.
43. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
Colvin (6-0 1/2, 185) played and started at safety in 2011 before moving to cornerback for the 2012 season. He was the third-leading tackler on the team, and recorded four interceptions and 11 pass breakups. Colvin -- who sports a 4.5-second 40-yard dash -- has good cover skills and is a physical player.
44. Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
Joyner's size (5-8 1/4, 187) is a concern. Still, he was a first-team All-ACC selection in 2012 after recording 51 tackles and an interception. Joyner has enough speed (40 time of 4.5 seconds) that he can play cornerback, a position he is expected to see more time at this season.
45. C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Fiedorowicz (6-5 3/8, 264) runs the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds. He changed his mind about entering the 2013 NFL Draft after coming on strong late last season. Fiedorowicz is a very good blocker, and a big target with good hands.
46. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
Gilbert (6-0 1/2, 200) was an outstanding kickoff returner last season, averaging 25.8 yards per return with a touchdown. Gilbert -- who runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds -- is a very physical cornerback who had 60 tackles and nine pass breakups last season. However, he did not have an interception, so NFL teams are left wondering if Gilbert lacks the ball skills necessary for the position.
47. David Fales, QB, San Jose State
Fales (6-1 3/8, 219) was a backup to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick while the two were at the University of Nevada. Fales ultimately decided to transfer to San Jose State, where he has displayed really good accuracy and movement. He doesn't possess a cannon for an arm, but has enough arm strength to be a factor in the NFL.
48. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, Eastern Illinois
Garoppolo (6-2 1/4, 222) has a real strong arm and is athletic (he has a 40 time of 4.8 seconds). He hails from the same school that produced Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
49. Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
Lynch (6-4 3/4, 246) had 24 catches for 431 yards and three touchdowns in 2012. Lynch, who has a 40 time of 4.9 seconds, is a good blocker as well as a good receiver. That combination is vital for his NFL hopes -- teams are looking for tight ends that can both block and catch so their presence doesn't tip off opponents as to who you're throwing the ball to when there are two tight ends in the game.
50. DeAndre Coleman, DT, California
The 6-4 7/8, 316-pound Coleman is a big, strong player with good feet and the ability to get off blockers. Coleman -- who runs the 40-yard dash in 5.15 seconds -- is a developing player with a lot of upside.
51. Silas Redd, RB, USC
52. Ja'Wuan James, OT, Tennessee
53. James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech
54. John Urschel, OG, Penn State
55. Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia
56. Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama
57. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
58. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
59. Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
60. Rashaad Reynolds, CB, Oregon State
61. Casey Pachall, QB, TCU
62. Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
63. Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
64. James White, RB, Wisconsin
65. Tyler Larsen, C, Utah State
66. Weston Richburg, C, Colorado State
67. Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
68. Eric Ward, WR, Texas Tech
69. Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska
70. Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh
Gil Brandt's top senior WRsDevin Street rates among Gil Brandt's top five college football senior wide receivers.
71. Zach Fulton, OG, Tennessee
72. Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
73. Josh Huff, WR, Oregon
74. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
75. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood
76. Todd Washington, CB, SE Louisiana
77. Taylor Hart, DE, Oregon
78. Ryan Lankford, WR, Illinois
79. Jeremiah Attaochu, OLB, Georgia Tech
80. Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
81. Deion Belue, CB, Alabama
82. Ryan Groy, OT, Wisconsin
83. Carrington Byndom, CB, Texas
84. Brandon Thomas, OG, Clemson
85. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, UCLA
86. Marcel Jensen, TE, Fresno State
87. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
88. Bennett Jackson, CB, Notre Dame
89. David Born, OG, Old Dominion
90. Tevin Reese, WR, Baylor
91. Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
92. Dontae Johnson, CB, North Carolina State
93. Ethan Westbrooks, DE, West Texas A&M
94. Rob Blanchflower, TE, Massachusetts
95. Dri Archer, RB, Kent State
96. Sean Hickey, OT, Syracuse
97. Jordan Zumwalt, OLB, UCLA
98. Jay Prosch, RB, Auburn
99. Jeff Janis, WR, Saginaw Valley State
100. Matt Hall, OT, Belhaven
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