Khalil Mack, Will Sutton among rookies on road to greatness

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At the 2014 NFL Draft, 256 prospects were selected. Some will become serviceable pros, others will fail to stick with a team -- and a special few will leave their mark on history. While only time can truly reveal the stars of the rising rookie class, here are seven players -- one for each round of the draft -- to track as they attempt to forge a successful path down the road to greatness.

Khalil Mack, outside linebacker

Drafted: First round (No. 5 overall)
College: Buffalo
Team: Oakland Raiders

Most draft analysts predicted the Jacksonville Jaguars would select Mack with the third overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but when the Jags opted for quarterback Blake Bortles instead, the door was opened for the Oakland Raiders to snag the defender at No. 5. Mack's draft stock surged in recent months, but he wasn't always so highly desired. The outside linebacker from Westwood High School in Florida -- who only started playing football his senior year -- received scholarship offers from just two programs: Liberty and Buffalo. He ultimately selected Buffalo, where he spent five years after red-shirting as a freshman. In his senior season, Mack was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and received the Jack Lambert Award, which recognizes the top linebacker in the country. After transforming from a small-school player into a top-five pick, Mack has the potential to be an instant contributor for the Silver and Black.

Xavier Su'a-Filo, offensive guard

Drafted: Second round (No. 33 overall)
College: UCLA
Team: Houston Texans

The first interior lineman selected in the draft, Su'a-Filo will be expected to make an immediate impact for the Texans. The offensive guard was a consensus All-American coming out of Provo Timpview High School in Utah and contributed early for UCLA; in 2009, he became the first offensive Bruin player to start a season opener as a true freshman. After that season, Su'a-Filo served on a two-year Mormon mission, re-enrolling at the school in 2012 and picking up where he left off. He started all 14 games that year and all 13 his junior season before winning the Morris Trophy for being the Pac-12's most outstanding offensive lineman.

Will Sutton, defensive tackle

Drafted: Third round (No. 82 overall)
College: Arizona State
Team: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears focused heavily on defense in the draft. Four of their first five picks were used on defensive players, including Sutton. The three-technique tackle is the son of former NFL defensive back Mickey Sutton, who played with the Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers and Buffalo Bills in the late 1980s. The former Sun Devil dominated in 2012, recording 23.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks and three forced fumbles, and was voted Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. His play fell off a bit in '13 after he tried to put on weight. Still, he again was voted Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Bruce Ellington, wide receiver

Drafted: Fourth round (No. 106 overall)
College: South Carolina
Team: San Francisco 49ers

A former starting point guard for South Carolina's basketball team, Ellington adds a much-needed speed element to the San Francisco 49ers' offense. The 5-foot-9 Ellington didn't play football for the Gamecocks his freshman year, despite leading Berkeley High School (South Carolina) to the Division II-AAAA state championship the previous year as the team's quarterback. He joined coach Steve Spurrier's squad in 2011, playing all 13 games and earning Freshman All-SEC honors. Two years later, Ellington led South Carolina in receptions (49), receiving yards (775) and touchdown catches (eight). The highlight of his final season came in a dominant performance against Wisconsin at the Capital One Bowl, where he caught six passes for 140 yards and two scores.

Aaron Lynch, defensive end

Drafted: Fifth round (No. 150 overall)
College: South Florida
Team: San Francisco 49ers

Lynch was a highly recruited prep star out of Island Coast High School (Florida), rated the 28th best player overall by After starring as a true freshman at Notre Dame (his 5.5 sacks led the team), Lynch transferred to South Florida to be closer to home. Due to the transfer, Lynch was forced to sit out his sophomore year. The following season, the 6-5 defender led the Bulls with six sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 12 games. Lynch has huge upside at the next level and will join a San Francisco 49ers defense that is already considered one of the NFL's best.

Zach Mettenberger, quarterback

Drafted: Sixth round (No. 178 overall)
College: LSU
Team: Tennessee Titans

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The Tennessee Titans traded up on Day 3 to select Mettenberger, ending the wait for a player many draft analysts thought could go as high as the second round. The quarterback began his collegiate career at Georgia, where he red-shirted as a freshman. But after an off-the-field issue, he was dismissed from the team, playing the 2010 season with Butler Community College (Kansas). After guiding the Grizzlies to the JUCO National Championship Game that season, he transferred to LSU, where he went 19-6 as a starter. The 6-5, 224-pound Mettenberger was viewed as having ideal size for the position while possessing one of the strongest arms in this draft class. However, along with praise for his frame came caution over health issues -- most notably a back condition called spondylolysis and his recovery from a torn ACL he suffered in late November.

Jeremy Gallon, wide receiver

Drafted: Seventh round (No. 244 overall)
College: Michigan
Team: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots took a chance on the undersized receiver, who had an outstanding career at Michigan. The 5-7 wideout earned four varsity letters with the Wolverines, finishing his final season with 1,373 yards -- a single-season Michigan record and second-most in the Big Ten. Gallon's history of production and route-running skills helped take the focus away from his average 4.49-second 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine. Despite his seventh-round spot, Gallon will have an opportunity to learn and play with one of the NFL's best quarterbacks in Tom Brady.



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