The pre-draft process is almost over, with pro days set to wrap up in a few weeks. As a result, scouts and coaches are spending extra time in the film room to see if the production and performance displayed on tape matches the athletic feats shown in workouts. Although the character assessment and medical evaluation will play a major role in the process, the heated debates between scouts and coaches on talent and long-term potential will ultimately determine the pecking order on draft boards on draft day.
Thus, the process remains fluid. With that in mind, I thought I would release my Big Board 3.0 based on information gathered from talking to scouts and watching film over the past few weeks. While I know my subtle changes will lead to a few interesting comments on Twitter (@BuckyBrooks), I'm more than happy to explain my rankings in greater detail.
Here are my thoughts about six weeks away from draft day:
1. Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina, DE
The freakishly talented pass rusher is an athletic marvel with the potential to wreak havoc on the NFL. Clowney has a rare set of physical tools that should allow him to dominate the league from Day 1. Scouts will continue to question his motor and maturity based on his final season at South Carolina, but Clowney has all of the physical characteristics to be a transcendent superstar early in his career.
2. Greg Robinson, Auburn, OT
The Tigers' punishing running game was fueled by the dominance of Robinson on the edge. The 6-5, 320-pounder is an impressive athlete with a nasty disposition. Most important, he is a technician with the body control and agility to neutralize elite rushers in pass protection.
3. Sammy Watkins, Clemson, WR
There are some scouts who believe Watkins is an exceptional playmaker on par with Julio Jones and A.J. Green at this stage of their respective careers. While that is lofty praise for the Tigers standout, the numbers suggest that Watkins could be a difference maker for an offense in need of a classic No.1 receiver.
4. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M, OT
It's hard to find a better technician than Matthews in the college game. He plays with exceptional balance, body control and patience, displaying a strong punch and active hands. With Matthews surprising coaches with his athleticism in workouts, it's easy to see why most evaluators expect Matthews to come off the board early on draft day.
5. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, QB
The 2012 Heisman Trophy winner created quite a buzz in NFL circles with a spectacular pro day workout, showcasing his impressive skills and showmanship as a franchise quarterback candidate. A remarkable workout conducted in a T-shirt and shorts must be kept in perspective, but Manziel's play on tape suggests that the NFL game will not be too big for him when he makes the leap to the next level.
6. Anthony Barr, UCLA, OLB
Pass rushers with speed, athleticism and high motors are coveted at the top of the draft. Although he has spent only two seasons on the defensive side of the ball, Barr is one of the most disruptive defenders in the 2014 class.
7. Khalil Mack, Buffalo, OLB
There is a growing faction of NFL scouts who feel Mack could be a top-five pick. The Bulls' star is an explosive "plug and play" defender with a knack for creating disruption off the edge.
8. Taylor Lewan, Michigan, OT
The momentum is building around Lewan's name after scouts were blown away by his impressive performance at the NFL combine. After consulting the tape to see if Lewan's skills match his athleticism, scouts are beginning to view the Michigan standout as one of the elite prospects in this draft.
9. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State, CB
Gilbert is a talented cover corner/kick returner with size, speed, athleticism and ball skills. He bounced back from a mediocre junior campaign to re-emerge as the top lockdown defender in college football. With long, rangy defenders coveted in today's NFL, Gilbert will not experience a long wait before hearing his name called.
10. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville, QB
Bridgewater is on a bit of a slide since failing to impress evaluators at his pro day. His disappointing workout has led to questions about his accuracy, mechanics and overall talent. While astute evaluators will continue to trust their eyes and what appears on the tape, the shaky performance will have some observers second-guessing their original evaluations of him.
11. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh, DT
The 6-1, 288-pounder is one of the hottest prospects in the draft after dominating the pre-draft process. Donald had exceptional production as a senior and showcased his remarkable skills during an impressive week of practice at the Senior Bowl. With a strong showing at the NFL combine capping the process, it's very likely that he will be the first defensive tackle taken off the board on draft day.
12. Mike Evans, Texas A&M, WR
Big-bodied receivers with size, speed and athleticism are dominating the NFL. Evans could be the next big, athletic playmaker to take the league by storm based on his surprising speed (4.53 at combine) and ball skills.
13. Timmy Jernigan, Florida State, DT
Once a prized recruit for the Seminoles, Jernigan has blossomed into a versatile interior defender capable of stopping the run or getting after the passer. The 6-2, 298-pounder plays with a relentless motor and shows exceptional body control battling blockers at the point of attack. Although Jernigan has been a full-time starter for only a season, he has shown enough potential to warrant serious consideration at the top of the draft.
14. Eric Ebron, North Carolina, TE
Ebron is the most dynamic athlete at the position in the 2014 draft class, exhibiting explosive speed, quickness and leaping ability. He has all of the traits to dominate as a "move" tight end, yet possesses the frame to become an effective blocker at the end of the line. While there are some questions about his maturity and focus, there's no denying his immense talent and potential at the next level.
15. Ryan Shazier, Ohio State, OLB
The 6-2, 222-pound junior notched 15 sacks and 45.5 tackles for loss in three seasons, while serving as a "jack of all trades" for the Buckeyes. He is a sideline-to-sideline playmaker with the speed, quickness and burst defensive coaches covet at the second level. Size could be an issue based on his slender frame, but production and playmaking ability could outweigh those concerns on draft day.
16. Blake Bortles, Central Florida, QB
The momentum is building behind Bortles as a franchise quarterback because of his prototypical physical dimensions, arm talent and athleticism. He has checks on all of the boxes in those areas, but remains a work in progress as a playmaker in the pocket. Some coaches believe those traits can be developed on the practice field, making Bortles a candidate to go much higher than his film suggests.
17. Zack Martin, Notre Dame, OL
Martin's versatility will make him a hot commodity in draft rooms when scouts reconvene in a few weeks. He has the potential to develop into a Pro Bowl-caliber guard if he moves inside as a pro. However, Martin is so solid on the edges that a team in desperate need of an offensive tackle could view him as a viable solution on draft day.
18. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, S
The safety position is growing in importance around the NFL, with teams looking for athletic defenders capable of locking down tight ends and punishing running backs in the hole. Clinton-Dix fits the bill as a headhunting rover with solid ball skills. If he performs well at the NFL combine, he should be the first safety off the board on draft day.
19. Calvin Pryor, Louisville, S
Scouts have been lauding Pryor's play and potential since the fall. He is a punishing tackler with superb anticipation, awareness and timing. Additionally, Pryor displays enough athleticism and range to make plays from the deep middle.
20. Marqise Lee, USC, WR
The 6-0, 195-pound junior is an electrifying playmaker capable of scoring from anywhere on the field. He excels on "catch-and-run" plays where he can take advantage of his explosive quickness and running skills in the open field. While there are some concerns about his route running and concentration (drops), Lee is such an explosive weapon that teams in need of a playmaker will find it hard to bypass him if he is on the board.
21. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State, CB
Dennard is arguably the most polished and pro-ready cornerback in this class, exhibiting sound technique, ball skills and toughness. He excels at cutting off receiver's release angles, making it tough for the quarterbacks to squeeze the ball into tight windows. While there are still concerns about Dennard's overall athleticism and top-end speed after a so-so combine workout, the fact that he is so solid in his play will prompt defensive coaches to fall in love with his game.
22. Brandin Cooks, Oregon State, WR
After putting on a spectacular performance at the NFL combine, Cooks has emerged as one of the top candidates at the position after winning the Biletnikoff Award last season. He is a polished receiver with the kind of speed and explosiveness offensive coordinators covet in slot receivers.
23. Odell Beckham Jr., LSU, WR
It's hard to find a more dangerous playmaker in the open field than Beckham. He is a speedster with exceptional quickness and burst, yet he has the body control to run every route in the book. Factor in his skills as a dynamic return man, and it's not a surprise that his name is moving up on draft boards across the league.
24. Dee Ford, Auburn, DE
An energetic pass rusher, Ford has been on the rise since terrorizing the competition at the Senior Bowl. Ford shows rare first-step quickness and a relentless motor that produces sacks on extra effort. While some teams will view him as a 3-4 rush linebacker based on his height, he plays with strength, tenacity and toughness, which could make him a fit for some 4-3 teams willing to use an Elephant end.
25. Bradley Roby, Ohio State, CB
There are few corners in the 2014 class capable of matching Roby's athletic talent. He is a gifted defender who makes the game look easy on the edge. Although scouts would like to see him play with more urgency and focus, it's hard to question his production and effectiveness as a lockdown corner at Ohio State.
On the bubble:
» Ra'Shede Hagemen, Minnesota, DT
» C.J. Mosley, Alabama, LB
» Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech, CB
» Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame, DT
» Justin Verrett, TCU, CB
» Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA, OG
» Kyle Van Noy, BYU, OLB
» Kelvin Benjamin, Florida State, WR
» Kony Ealy, Missouri, DE
» Morgan Moses, Virginia, OT
» Cyrus Kouandjio, Alabama, OT
» AJ McCarron, Alabama, QB
» Carlos Hyde, Ohio State, RB
» Derek Carr, Fresno State, QB
» Travis Swanson, Arkansas, C/OG