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ICYMI: What we learned about top NFL draft prospects this week

  • By Mike Huguenin and Chase Goodbread
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While the first wave of free agency dominated the NFL headlines this week, there was no shortage of draft news worthy of your attention. So in case you were wrapped up in following where the top tier of veteran free agents landed, we're here to bring you up to speed with our top 10 takeaways on 2014 draft prospects from the week:

1. Barr is really, really fast

UCLA coach Jim Mora told reporters that Anthony Barr was clocked in 4.45 seconds in the 40 at the Bruins' pro day -- and that it was an electronic timing. Barr always was considered fast -- especially for a 6-5, 255-pounder -- but some pointed to his 4.66 timing at the NFL Scouting Combine and reacted to the 4.45 with immense skepticism. Perhaps his official pro day time, reported by NFL Media senior analyst Gil Brandt, was enough to quiet the doubters. No matter the timing, he is going to be a first-round pick; the question is how early he is selected.

2. Who is going to go No. 1?

Gil Brandt says there are nine players worthy of being the No. 1 pick -- three quarterbacks, three offensive tackles, a wide receiver, a defensive end and an outside linebacker. OK, Texans front office: Who do you like best?

3. The top cornerback in the draft is ...

This is a "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" kind of thing. Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard had a solid pro day and laid claim to being the best corner; thing is, so did Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert. Both should go between picks 10 and 20 -- but the order in which they are picked almost certainly will remain a mystery until May 8.

4. The troubling saga of Muema might be over

Adam Muema, the 1,000-yard running back from San Diego State, inarguably has received more attention in the past three weeks than he did in his three seasons with the Aztecs. He left the NFL Scouting Combine because he said God told him to. This week, a tweet of his hinted that he thought the world was coming to an end soon. A day later, he tweeted that he was giving up football. Hopefully he gets some help for his issues.

5. Silver & Black quarterback track

The notion that the draft's top three quarterbacks -- Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater-- will be gobbled up early in the first round by three QB-hungry clubs is losing steam among analyst projections. The Oakland Raiders, one such club with the No. 5 overall pick, might be more inclined to draft a first-round offensive lineman this week than last, given the Rodger Saffold fiasco. Good news for the likes of Jake Matthews, but not what the quarterbacks want to see. That's among several potential draft-impacting free agency happenings.

6. Don't overthink it

General managers often speak of the "paralysis by analysis" factor, and the danger of overlooking the obvious in draft evaluations while overly focused on hair-splitting details. One might argue that's the case with concerns about the pass-rushing skills of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Such is the norm, however, for potential No. 1 overall draft picks. The microscope that is fixed on Clowney is of the high-powered variety.

7. Open-book test

It doesn't take a genius to assess what the New York Jets' biggest draft need is, and coach Rex Ryan didn't bother to hide it last week when he joked about the impossibility of Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins being available at pick No. 18. So with Mike Evans' stock trending up and him perhaps out of the Jets' reach as well, alarm bells sounded this week on the club's reported interest in Southern Cal receiver Marqise Lee. Despite the signing of free agent Eric Decker, the Lee-to-Jets mock projection will be a common one for the next couple of months.

2014 NFL Draft Winds
College Football 24/7 takes a look at the rumors connecting draft prospects with NFL teams leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

» AFC East | North | South | West
» NFC East | North | South | West

More:
» Tracking teams' interest in top prospects

8. Bearing down

Speaking of common mock projections, the Chicago Bears seem to be linked to a defensive lineman with the No. 14 overall pick just about anywhere you turn. But while the Bears' need for a defensive lineman may be plain enough, it's less plain whether the club will invest a first-rounder in one. Enter Kelcy Quarles, the talented defensive tackle from South Carolina, projected as a second-day pick, who revealed this week that he and the Bears made a mutually strong impression on each other at the combine.

9. Tide tough

Two of Alabama's top three draft prospects, offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and linebacker C.J. Mosley, fielded questions Wednesday at the Alabama pro day about the health of their knees and their combine medical reports. But it's not as though their injury histories are similar in any way. Kouandjio tore an ACL as a freshman. As for Mosley, knees were the least of his injury problems in a four-year career that included hip and elbow dislocations. The senior said he checked out fine from head to toe.

10. Watkins continues to daydream

There is little doubt in anyone's mind that Sammy Watkins will be the first wide receiver drafted on May 8. After an outstanding pro day last week, his position in the top 10 of the first round was pretty much cemented. Watkins has been active on Instagram imagining how he will look in his future uniform, posting images of himself in the team colors of the Browns, Buccaneers, Rams and Lions.

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