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Published: July 18, 2013 at 05:36 p.m.

2014 NFL Draft: Top 30 college football players to watch this fall

The ink is barely dry on the 2013 NFL Draft sheets, but already scouts are looking ahead to the 2014 NFL Draft. While it is too early to make hard assessments on the depth and talent of the overall class, it appears teams looking for quarterbacks, skill players and pass rushers will have plenty of options at their disposal next year. Here is an early look at the top draft-eligible prospects scouts will study over the summer to prep for another intriguing fall of college football.

31 Photos Total

  • To observers not already familiar with the best pure passer in college football, the Sugar Bowl served as Bridgewater's coming-out party. He displays elite arm strength, touch and accuracy, but is most impressive as the unquestioned leader of the Cardinals. 31

    Bill Haber/Associated Press

    1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

    To observers not already familiar with the best pure passer in college football, the Sugar Bowl served as Bridgewater's coming-out party. He displays elite arm strength, touch and accuracy, but is most impressive as the unquestioned leader of the Cardinals.

  • Clowney's ferocious hit on Michigan RB Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl made the South Carolina beast an internet sensation, but astute followers of college football were already quite familiar with one of the most dominant defenders in the country. Clowney's freakish combination of size, strength and athleticism is rare, and his natural rush skills have NFL scout salivating about his pro potential. 30

    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

    Clowney's ferocious hit on Michigan RB Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl made the South Carolina beast an internet sensation, but astute followers of college football were already quite familiar with one of the most dominant defenders in the country. Clowney's freakish combination of size, strength and athleticism is rare, and his natural rush skills have NFL scout salivating about his pro potential.

  • After playing in the shadow of Robert Woods for a season, Lee emerged as the most explosive receiver in college football as a sophomore. He is a speedster with remarkable burst and ball skills. Lee is a dangerous open-field runner with the capacity to turn short passes into big gains. With speed and playmaking coveted at a premium in the NFL, Lee's electric game is already creating a buzz in scouting circles. 29

    Johnny Vy/NFL

    3. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

    After playing in the shadow of Robert Woods for a season, Lee emerged as the most explosive receiver in college football as a sophomore. He is a speedster with remarkable burst and ball skills. Lee is a dangerous open-field runner with the capacity to turn short passes into big gains. With speed and playmaking coveted at a premium in the NFL, Lee's electric game is already creating a buzz in scouting circles.

  • It is quite possible Lewan bypassed a top-five selection by electing to return to Michigan for his senior season. However, another year of development could vault him into consideration as the top prospect in the 2014 class. Lewan is big, physical and athletic on the edges, making him a natural fit at left tackle in the NFL. 28

    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    4. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan

    It is quite possible Lewan bypassed a top-five selection by electing to return to Michigan for his senior season. However, another year of development could vault him into consideration as the top prospect in the 2014 class. Lewan is big, physical and athletic on the edges, making him a natural fit at left tackle in the NFL.

  • Matthews possesses the game and bloodlines (his father, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Famer) to develop into a perennial Pro Bowler at the next level. The Texas A&M standout has spent the past three seasons capably manning the right tackle spot, but he'll get a chance to showcase his skills as a blind-side blocker when he moves to Luke Joeckel's old position as a senior. If he continues to shine against SEC competition, he'll make it tough on NFL evaluators to bypass him at the top of the charts. 27

    Tim Heitman/USA TODAY Sports

    5. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

    Matthews possesses the game and bloodlines (his father, Bruce, is an NFL Hall of Famer) to develop into a perennial Pro Bowler at the next level. The Texas A&M standout has spent the past three seasons capably manning the right tackle spot, but he'll get a chance to showcase his skills as a blind-side blocker when he moves to Luke Joeckel's old position as a senior. If he continues to shine against SEC competition, he'll make it tough on NFL evaluators to bypass him at the top of the charts.

  • A season-ending injury prevented Jeffcoat from exploring a jump to the pros in 2013, but the extra season in Austin could give him an opportunity to refine his skills as an explosive edge rusher. Additionally, Jeffcoat will get a chance to add a few pounds to a frame that is ready-made for the pro game. 26

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    6. Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas

    A season-ending injury prevented Jeffcoat from exploring a jump to the pros in 2013, but the extra season in Austin could give him an opportunity to refine his skills as an explosive edge rusher. Additionally, Jeffcoat will get a chance to add a few pounds to a frame that is ready-made for the pro game.

  • In his first season on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, Barr instantly became one of the top pass rushers in college football. The Bruin led the Pac-12 with 13.5 sacks and amassed 21.5 tackles for loss, while undergoing on-the-job training from Jim Mora and Co. Given another season to master the tricks of the trade, Barr could make a case as the top defender in college football and become a legitimate top-10 pick. 25

    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    7. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

    In his first season on the defensive side of the ball in 2012, Barr instantly became one of the top pass rushers in college football. The Bruin led the Pac-12 with 13.5 sacks and amassed 21.5 tackles for loss, while undergoing on-the-job training from Jim Mora and Co. Given another season to master the tricks of the trade, Barr could make a case as the top defender in college football and become a legitimate top-10 pick.

  • McCarron doesn't get enough credit for the Crimson Tide's back-to-back national titles, but scouts are starting to recognize his pro-ready game. McCarron is capable of making every throw in the book and could enter the NFL with 40 college starts under his belt. 24

    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    8. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama

    McCarron doesn't get enough credit for the Crimson Tide's back-to-back national titles, but scouts are starting to recognize his pro-ready game. McCarron is capable of making every throw in the book and could enter the NFL with 40 college starts under his belt.

  • Though he is coming off of a disappointing sophomore season, Watkins remains one of the top playmakers in college football, a dynamic receiver with speed, quickness and burst. Additionally, Watkins is an electrifying runner with outstanding vision, instinct and awareness. If Watkins can return to the form he showed in 2011 (when he had 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns), he'll push Marqise Lee for the top spot at his position. 23

    Chuck Burton/Associated Press

    9. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

    Though he is coming off of a disappointing sophomore season, Watkins remains one of the top playmakers in college football, a dynamic receiver with speed, quickness and burst. Additionally, Watkins is an electrifying runner with outstanding vision, instinct and awareness. If Watkins can return to the form he showed in 2011 (when he had 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns), he'll push Marqise Lee for the top spot at his position.

  • Murray contemplated making the jump to the NFL after a solid junior season, but he returned to refine the finer point of his game. As a pocket passer, Murray shows exceptional awareness and anticipation, routinely leading receivers into open areas. While he lacks a big arm, he makes up for this deficiency with impeccable timing from the pocket. If Murray consistently displays the ability to deliver pinpoint throws in the short/intermediate range, he could convince a quarterback-needy team that he is capable of thriving in a quick-rhythm passing attack at the next level. 22

    John Amis/Associated press

    10. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

    Murray contemplated making the jump to the NFL after a solid junior season, but he returned to refine the finer point of his game. As a pocket passer, Murray shows exceptional awareness and anticipation, routinely leading receivers into open areas. While he lacks a big arm, he makes up for this deficiency with impeccable timing from the pocket. If Murray consistently displays the ability to deliver pinpoint throws in the short/intermediate range, he could convince a quarterback-needy team that he is capable of thriving in a quick-rhythm passing attack at the next level.

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    11. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    12. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt

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    Paul Abell/USA TODAY Sports

    13. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    14. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    15. C.J. Mosley, OLB, Alabama

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    16. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    17. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    18. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma

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    Johnny Vy/NFL

    19. Silas Redd, RB, USC

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    20. Daniel McCullers, DT, Tennessee

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    21. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU

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    Stephen Morton/Associated Press

    22. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    23. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    24. Damien Williams, RB, Oklahoma

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    Richard Rowe/USA TODAY Sports

    25. Calvin Barnett, DT, Oklahoma State

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    26. Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    27. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina

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    Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

    28. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU

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    Johnny Vy/NFL

    29. Morgan Breslin, DE, USC

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    Ralph Freso/Associated Press

    30. Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State

  • Notably absent from my top-30 list is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. While I certainly believe he is one of the best football players in college football, I'm not convinced that his game translates well to the NFL. He is an undersized quarterback with a slightly below-average arm. While Manziel's scrambling ability and improvisational skills make him a fun guy to watch, I don't believe you can build a pro offense around a "sandlot" game. If he displays a more consistent approach from the pocket in the fall, he could enter the discussion at a later time. 1

    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    No Johnny Football?

    Notably absent from my top-30 list is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Johnny Manziel. While I certainly believe he is one of the best football players in college football, I'm not convinced that his game translates well to the NFL. He is an undersized quarterback with a slightly below-average arm. While Manziel's scrambling ability and improvisational skills make him a fun guy to watch, I don't believe you can build a pro offense around a "sandlot" game. If he displays a more consistent approach from the pocket in the fall, he could enter the discussion at a later time.

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