The strength of a particular NFL draft class will always primarily depend on which top underclassmen prospects choose to declare.
The 2014 draft class is no different.
Many of the 2014 class’ big-name headliners are underclassmen prospects such as Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, Oregon QB Marcus Mariota and South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney. Still, this year’s group of senior prospects seems to be unusually strong, even though the group experienced plenty of defectors when a record number of underclassmen opted to declare for the 2013 draft.
Premier prospects such as UCLA LB Anthony Barr, Texas A&M OT Jake Matthews and Michigan OT Taylor Lewan all bypassed the chance to be first-round picks in the 2013 draft in order to return to school for one last year.
Seniors like Barr, Matthews and Lewan are all cream-of-the-crop prospects, who appear destined to be high picks in the 2014 draft. However, there are plenty of other seniors who belong in the first-round conversation as well.
As the 2013 college football regular season now heads into the home-stretch, this is a good time to assess the stock of the sport’s top senior prospects.
Though a lot is bound to change between now and May 8, here’s a look at how I feel the top 25 overall senior prospects stack up at this point in time, along with rankings for the top 25 senior prospects at each individual position.
1. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
Anthony Barr could have left UCLA after his breakout campaign last year and likely been a top-15 pick in the 2013 draft. But Barr’s decision to stay for his final season has turned out to be the right one. He’s now ready to challenge to be a top-five pick and potentially the first defensive player taken in 2014.
After totaling 13 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles in 2012—his first season after switching from offense to outside linebacker—Barr has once again been a disruptive force this year. The 6’4”, 248-pound senior has totaled seven sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, forced five fumbles, and he’s displayed the type of power, explosiveness and tenacity that is reminiscent of a young Shawne Merriman.
Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports recently quoted one NFL scout who said “Barr’s only continued to get better and play faster. It probably won’t take him that long to make an impact when he gets to our level.” The big, athletic former running back should be an immediate defensive difference-maker in the pros.
2. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
Jake Matthews is used to dealing with pressure and he’s used to having big shoes to fill. Growing up as the son of legendary hall-of-fame tackle Bruce Matthews and the cousin of Packers pro-bowl linebacker Clay Matthews, Jake has always had to deal with all the expectations that came along with having his famous last name.
This year, he’s now faced the new challenge of replacing former teammate Luke Joeckel—last year’s Outland Trophy winner and the No. 2 overall pick of the 2013 draft. He’s slid over from right tackle to the all-important left side to protect QB Johnny Manziel’s blind side, and he’s managed to handle the switch without a hitch. The 6’5”, 305-pound senior has been the leader and the linchpin of an Aggies offensive line, which has allowed just 16 sacks in 10 games.
Matthews appears destined to follow in Joeckel’s footsteps and earn All-American honors and eventually be a top-10 draft pick. According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, there are even some personnel evaluators who prefer the Aggies’ current left tackle over his highly touted former teammate. Jeremiah quoted one scout who said, “I’ll give the slight edge to Matthews. He’s got more twitch and snap, and he’s more aggressive. I think he’ll be an excellent left tackle. Joeckel was steady, but Matthews excites me a little bit more.”
3. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
Considering he was all but assured of being a top-20 pick in the 2013 draft, it was certainly surprising that Taylor Lewan decided to return to Michigan for his senior year. Unfortunately, the choice to come back hasn’t seemed to pay off for Lewan. Michigan has been one of the most disappointing teams of 2013, and the talented tackle has been criticized for foolish penalties and the Wolverines’ lack of a rushing attack.
While this obviously hasn’t been the type of banner year that the 2012 Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year was hoping for, there’s still a lot to like about what Lewan brings to the table.
The 6’8”, 315-pound veteran four-year starter is a physically imposing tackle, who knows how to use his size and strength to his advantage as a run-blocker. Just like former Wolverine tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2008 draft, Lewan also has impressive agility and footwork for his immense size.
Obviously, scouts may be a bit disappointed by his 2013 performance, but Lewan still has many of the traits that you look for in a franchise left tackle prospect.
4. CJ Mosley, ILB, Alabama
CJ Mosley was anointed the leader and centerpiece of Alabama’s loaded defense at the start of the 2012 season. Since then, he’s been one of the top impact defenders in college football.
After leading the Tide’s top-ranked defense last year with 107 tackles, including 66 solo stops and four sacks, Mosley has once again been a sturdy rock in the middle of the unit in 2013, totaling 79 tackles in 10 games.
The 6’2”, 232-pound senior has displayed top-notch instincts, toughness and tackling ability, and he’s shown that he can stand out, even when surrounded by other stars.
Mosley is a fundamentally sound and disciplined defender, who has the versatile skill-set to fit into a variety of different roles and defensive schemes at the next level. Scouting legend Gil Brandt has compared the highly instinctive inside linebacker to former perennial pro-bowler Derrick Brooks. While it’s certainly high praise, Mosley definitely deserves it. He’s an outstanding defensive playmaker, who has a bright future ahead of him in the pros.
5. Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
Coming into the 2013 season, everyone already knew that Derek Carr had one of the strongest arms in college football, following a 2012 campaign, in which he led the nation with 64 passes of over 20 yards. This year, though, Carr has shown that he’s truly a complete franchise-caliber quarterback prospect.
The 6’3”, 218-pound senior has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, and thrown for over 3,400 yards and 32 touchdowns, while tossing just four interceptions. Most importantly, he’s guided Fresno State to a perfect 9-0 record and a top-15 national ranking, and he’s led the Bulldogs into contention to be a potential BCS buster.
The younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr is more than just a big, strong-armed pro-style pocket passer. The two-time team captain is also a tremendous leader, who possesses the personality, mental makeup and intangibles to be the leader of an NFL locker room. One scout told NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah that “he’s everything you want from your quarterback from a character standpoint.”
Former Eagles scout John Middlekauff has tweeted that he would be “shocked if Carr isn’t a top-10 pick.” Recently, CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler echoed that sentiment, saying “not only is he a strong candidate to be the top senior quarterback drafted, but the top-10 is a real possibility.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that if Carr keeps playing at the level we’ve seen from him during his senior year, he may ultimately challenge top prospects such as Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney to be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2014 draft.
6. Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
John Rosengren’s fascinating story entitled “Ra’Shede’s Road” gives an in-depth look at the type of adversity and tough times that Ra’Shede Hageman has had to endure throughout his life. Though Hageman may come from a troubled past, his future looks incredibly bright. That’s because he’s been blessed with all the physical gifts to develop into a destructive defensive lineman in the NFL.
The 6’6”, 311-pound senior is a massive, monster-sized tackle, who possesses unbelievable athleticism and agility for someone his size. The former 4-star-rated tight end recruit boasts a 36-inch vertical, can bench press 465 pounds and he’s been clocked at 1.57 seconds in the 10-yard dash. He’s the type of physical marvel who will likely generate plenty of buzz at the Combine if he tests as well as expected.
Hageman may not dominate and take over games in the same fashion that recent top tackle prospects such as Ndamukong Suh, Sheldon Richardson and Nick Fairley did during their final collegiate campaigns. However, he’s still put together an impressive senior season, totaling seven pass breakups, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and 17 solo tackles in 10 games.
The raw, yet exceptionally talented tackle clearly possesses all the physical tools that scouts want to see. He’s a player whose stock will only continue to climb with a big showing in workouts.
7. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
In today’s pass-happy NFL, teams are desperately searching for explosive playmaking receivers who can create big plays in the passing game. That’s why there’s also such a premium placed on finding highly athletic cornerbacks who can keep pace with those speedy pass-catchers.
The most explosive and athletic cornerback prospect in the 2014 draft class is undoubtedly Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert.
During his first few years in Stillwater, Gilbert gained a reputation as one of the most dangerous returners in the country, but his play in the defensive backfield was spotty to say the least. This season, though, he’s finally elevated his game on defense and become one of the top cover corners in college football.
The speedy 6’0”, 200-pound senior has been the leader of a Cowboys secondary, which is currently tied for eighth in the country, allowing an average of just 5.8 yards per pass. In 10 games of action, he’s picked off six passes, broken up another five throws and totaled 30 solo tackles.
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah recently reported that a scout told him that Gilbert “has the size and athletic ability to be a dominant press corner at our level. He should be a lock to go in the first round.”
8. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
Over the course of his first three seasons at Buffalo, Khalil Mack gained a reputation as one of the most feared defenders in the MAC. This year, though, Mack has finally managed to make a name for himself on the national scene.
The 6’3”, 248-pound senior has yet again been one of the most fierce and disruptive edge-rushers in the country. He’s totaled 7.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups and three interceptions, and he’s constantly harassed opposing quarterbacks.
Some may question the type of competition that Mack’s been beating up on throughout his career. Nevertheless, it’s still clear that he’s got the talent it takes to become a dynamic rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense in the NFL. CBS Sports’ Bruce Feldman recently talked with an NFL scout, who said that Mack is “so explosive and there’s so much he can do for you. He’s got it all—he’s athletic, quick, fast and instinctive.”
The former unheralded 2-star recruit from Florida, who received no other scholarships from FBS schools besides Buffalo, has been one of college football’s biggest success stories. Now, it looks like Mack should challenge for a spot in the top 20 of the 2014 draft.
9. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
Michigan State currently ranks first in the nation in total defense and fourth in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 228 yards and 13 points per game. The Spartans defense features plenty of notable playmakers such as DE Shilique Calhoun, linebackers Max Bullough and Denicos Allen and safety Isaiah Lewis. However, the prospect that scouts have surely been the most impressed with this season is CB Darqueze Dennard.
Though quarterbacks have been hesitant to test the 5’11”, 197-pound senior, Dennard has still managed to pick off three passes, break up another seven throws and total 19 solo tackles this year. He’s also played a critical role in helping Michigan State limit opposing offenses to an average of just 5.1 yards per pass attempt, which ranks second in the country.
Dennard, who is the cousin of Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard, is a physical, aggressive and fearless corner, who possesses the type of coverage awareness, instincts and ball skills to develop into a No. 1 corner for an NFL defense.
While Justin Gilbert may be the better overall athlete, Dennard is the more refined and polished prospect, and he certainly has the potential to challenge to be the first cornerback taken in the 2014 draft.
10. Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford
Shayne Skov may be the celebrated star of Stanford’s stingy defense, but fellow LB Trent Murphy is just as important to the unit’s success. After putting together an eye-opening breakout campaign in 2012, in which he totaled 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss, Murphy has managed to take his game to an even higher level in 2013.
In 10 games of action, the 6’6”, 261-pound senior has already totaled 12 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and three pass breakups. His constant disruptive presence has also been one of the main reasons why the Cardinal currently rank fourth in the nation in run defense.
Murphy has been making a steady ascension up draft boards as the season progresses. Now, he firmly belongs in the first-round conversation. The versatile edge-rusher has the size, quickness, strength and non-stop motor to excel as either a 4-3 defensive end or an outside linebacker in a 3-4 front at the next level.
11. Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
You won’t find many offensive lineman in the collegiate ranks this year that are as talented and as well-rounded as Cyril Richardson. Possessing the size and strength of a guard, and the natural agility of a tackle, the massive, powerful and imposing Richardson is a complete lineman, who has dominated and overwhelmed opposing defenders since becoming a full-time starter in 2011.
During his time in Waco, the 6’5”, 340-pound senior has shown that he can flourish both inside at guard and out on the edge at left tackle. After earning the Big 12 Lineman of the Year award and numerous All-American honors last season, Richardson has looked just as good in 2013, as he’s been the unsung standout in the trenches for the Bears’ high-powered offensive attack.
Richardson may be just a notch below the two top guard prospects of the 2013 draft class, Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack, who were both top-10 picks. However, the big, physical and nasty mauler is still one of the rare guard prospects who is worthy of a first-round grade.
12. Trevor Reilly, DE/OLB, Utah
After an encouraging 4-2 start to the season, which included a huge upset victory over Stanford, Utah has deteriorated, losing its last four games. The Utes’ struggles this season could be the reason why the team’s top defender—versatile hybrid DE/OLB Trevor Reilly—hasn’t received more national attention.
Though Reilly may be overshadowed by his more talked-about conference counterparts such as UCLA’s Anthony Barr and Stanford’s Shayne Skov, he’s put together just as an impressive 2013 campaign as his fellow Pac-12 linebackers. The 6’5”, 255-pound senior has totaled nine sacks and 83 total tackles, including 53 solo stops and 15.5 tackles for loss.
After deferring most of the attention to former teammate—DT Star Lotulelei—for the past two years, Reilly has really stepped up his game as a senior and emerged as one of college football’s most disruptive defenders in 2013. The highly productive and consistent edge-rusher will eventually end up being one of the most coveted 3-4 rush linebacker prospects in the 2014 draft class.
13. Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
At this point, Cyril Richardson should be considered the top offensive guard prospect in the 2014 draft class. However, Richardson is going to face some stiff competition for that title from Gabe Jackson.
According to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah, “Jackson is one interior lineman generating a lot of buzz in the scouting community. He has outstanding size, strength and awareness. He has a very firm anchor in pass protection, and he can create movement at the point of attack in the run game.”
The 6’4”, 340-pound senior is still a noticeably better run-blocker than he is a pass-blocker at this point in his development. However, Jackson has the physical tools to grow into a well-balanced and complete guard in the pros.
The more scouts watch of him on film, the more they’re going to like what they see from the mammoth four-year starter. Jackson has a natural nasty demeanor, and he loves to battle and get physical.
14. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Ezekiel Ansah may have been the BYU defender that scouts were fawning over this past spring. But the Cougar pass-rusher that they all have their eye on now is Ansah’s former roommate and close friend: Kyle Van Noy.
After making a name for himself on the national scene with a huge breakout performance in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl, Van Noy entered the 2013 season with plenty of momentum and plenty of buzz. Though his sack total has taken a bit of a dip this year, the highly athletic 6’3”, 245-pound senior has still been a valuable game-changer for the BYU defense. In 10 games, he’s totaled four sacks, 14.5 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, seven pass breakups and he’s picked off two passes.
The former 4-star recruit from Nevada, who chose BYU over scholarship offers from Pac-12 schools such as Arizona State, Cal and UCLA, has the speed and natural playmaking instincts to flourish as either a rush linebacker in a 3-4 system or a strong side ‘backer in a 4-3 scheme in the pros. If the former high-school track star tests as well as expected during workouts, there’s no reason he shouldn’t ultimately be in the first-round conversation.
15. AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
Few other prospects in the 2014 draft class will be as heavily-debated about as Alabama’s AJ McCarron will surely be. McCarron is one of the true “love ’em or hate ’em” prospects, who will surely spawn plenty of dissenting opinions about his pro potential.
McCarron’s backers will cite his poise in pressure-packed spotlight games, leadership, passing prowess and incredible success as a reason why he’ll be a solid starter in the pros, while his critics will point to his lack of elite physical skills, and say that his success is just a product of playing for the most powerful program in college football.
Admittedly, the 6’4”, 214-pound senior may not possess a true rocket for an arm, and he may not make the highlight-reel plays that some of college football’s other star quarterbacks do. However, the highly successful signal-caller has the intangibles, decision-making skills and passing ability it takes to become a solid starting QB in the NFL.
If McCarron can lead the Tide to a third-straight national championship, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him ultimately end up being a first-round pick in the 2014 draft.
16. Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
After experiencing a serious knee injury that limited his 2011 season to just four games, Shayne Skov returned to the field and put together a solid bounce-back season in 2012, leading the Stanford defense with 80 tackles. Still, it was clear that Skov was not fully 100 percent recovered from the injury last year.
This season, however, the 6’3”, 244-pound senior has once again looked like the ferocious and intimidating inside linebacker that we were used to seeing before the injury. ESPN’s Kevin Weidl has called Skov’s range and agility this year “night and day” from last season.
In just 10 games of action, Stanford’s defensive leader has already eclipsed his numbers from last year, totaling 81 tackles, including 44 solo stops, nine tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Skov’s dominant performance in the Cardinal’s huge upset victory over Oregon in front of an abundance of NFL scouts has certainly helped to boost his already climbing stock. Though 3-4 inside linebackers may not be very highly regarded in today’s NFL, Stanford’s savage defensive warrior is clearly a prospect who has the potential to become an impact defender at the next level.
17. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
Gary Patterson couldn’t dream up a more perfect leader for the TCU secondary than CB Jason Verrett. After drawing relatively no interest from BCS schools coming out of high school, Verrett was able to put together a solid showing during his one season at Santa Rosa Junior College. However, the big-time programs still didn’t come calling, so he had to settle on the Horned Frogs.
It’s turned out to be a blessing in disguise, though, as Verret has blossomed in Patterson’s unique 4-2-5 defensive scheme. After earning All-American honors for his 2012 campaign, in which he totaled six interceptions, 16 pass breakups and 63 total tackles, the 5’10”, 176-pound senior has once again looked outstanding in 2013.
Verrett may not have great size, and he may not possess the type of athleticism and speed as some of his fellow prospects in the absolutely loaded 2014 corner class. Nevertheless, scouts will definitely appreciate what the veteran corner has been able to accomplish throughout his collegiate career. The instinctive ball-hawk should develop into a solid stalwart starter for an NFL secondary.
18. Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU
“Inconsistent” would be a good word to summarize Zach Mettenberger’s first season as LSU’s starting quarterback. Mettenberger showed some intriguing flashes of his prodigious potential in 2012—most notably his 298-passing-yard performance in a 21-17 loss to Alabama. However, overall, his first campaign left a lot to be desired.
This year, Mettenberger has shown considerable improvement under the tutelage of former NFL offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. The 6’5”, 230-pound senior has come up short in losses to Georgia, Ole Miss and Alabama. Overall, though, he’s given scouts a lot to like with his performance. He’s completed 65 percent of his throws, averaged over 10 yards per pass, thrown 20 touchdowns and compiled a 176 passer rating, which currently ranks fifth in the nation.
The big strong-armed signal-caller does have a checkered past. He was booted from the Georgia program in 2010 after being arrested for underage drinking, and he subsequently pleaded guilty to sexual battery charges which stemmed from the night of the arrest. Obviously, that’s an incident that reveals some character concerns that will stir up some serious scrutiny from scouts.
Still, Mettenberger has been able to turn his career around since his embarrassing departure from the Bulldogs, and he’s been able to show the skills that it takes to be a successful starting quarterback in the NFL.
19. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh is a program that hasn’t had a defensive tackle selected in the NFL draft in over 20 years. However, that will change next May, because not only has current DT Aaron Donald proven that he’s worthy or being drafted; he’s proven that he’s worthy of being a high pick in the 2014 draft.
Though some may characterize the 6’0”, 285-pound senior as being small for the tackle position by NFL standards, few other tackles in the country have made as big of an impact as Donald has in 2013. The disruptive defender has been a one-man wrecking crew this season, totaling 10 sacks, 22.5 tackles for loss, 14 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles in the Panthers’ first 10 games.
Size concerns aside, Donald has proven that he can be a high-impact interior presence. There’s no question that he’s substantially lifted his draft stock with a sensational senior season.
20. Robert Herron, WR, Wyoming
Since he plays for a 4-6 Wyoming team that is about as far off the national radar as you can get, Robert Herron has received basically zero national publicity and attention this season. However, that will change once the season ends, and Herron sets scouts’ stopwatches ablaze.
The super-speedy wide out has displayed the type of explosiveness and second-gear that scouts look for in a starting slot receiver. This year, the 5’10”, 187-pound senior has hauled in 57 passes for 788 yards and caught five touchdowns, but Herron’s stats don’t quite tell the full story of what he’s truly capable of.
Herron can absolutely fly, and he’s shown that he’s capable of creating a big game-changing play any time he gets the ball in his hands.
It may be a bit too early to start calling the emerging playmaker the next DeSean Jackson just yet. However, if Herron runs a sub 4.4 40-yard dash as expected, you may start hearing that comparison quite often during the offseason.
21. Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
CJ Mosley may be the bona fide star of Alabama’s defense, but the player that’s been doing all the dirty work for the Tide’s “D’ this year has been DE Ed Stinson. Though he hasn’t come close to filling up the stat sheet quite like Mosley has, Stinson has been a steady and solid presence in the trenches.
The 6’4”, 292-pound senior has been a stout run-stuffer. He’s a major reason why the Tide currently rank third in the nation in run defense, allowing just 91 yards on the ground per game.
Stinson is a tall, long and strong end, who has only just begun to tap into his true potential. Though he hasn’t made a ton of flash plays during his time in Tuscaloosa, it’s easy to see that the talented former 4-star recruit possesses the potential to develop into a dynamic defensive end in a 3-4 front in the NFL.
22. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Tajh Boyd failed to capitalize on his one big opportunity to prove to scouts that he can handle big-game pressure, when Clemson got rocked by Florida State 51-14 at home earlier this season. Boyd’s disappointing lackluster performance in the spotlight showdown with the Seminoles likely left a sour taste in many scouts’ mouths.
Still, a college quarterback should never be judged solely based on just one game, especially a signal-caller who possesses the type of intriguing skill-set that Boyd has to offer. With the exception of the disastrous loss to Florida State, the athletic 6’1”, 225-pound senior has put together another strong outing in 2013, completing 66 percent of his passes, averaging over nine yards per pass and accounting for 32 total touchdowns.
Boyd hasn’t shown the consistency that scouts want to see from a potential “franchise quarterback.” However, he’s a mobile quarterback, who has displayed impressive accuracy and playmaking ability in the passing game.
The 2012 ACC Offensive Player of the Year will have the chance to redeem himself in the eyes of scouts, when the Tigers square off with South Carolina on Nov. 30. If Boyd performs at a high level against the Jadeveon Clowney-led Gamecocks, it should help to boost his sliding stock.
23. Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
When NFL scouts ask Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops what he thinks about the Sooners’ top pro prospect: CB Aaron Colvin, they’ll likely hear plenty of praise.
Stoops has already called Colvin “truly one of the best defensive backs we’ve ever had. He’s a very special player. He’s having a fantastic year. Absolutely a great cover guy, but very smart. A great leader.”
After lining up at safety earlier in his career, the 6’0”, 192-pound senior has made a seamless transition to the outside at corner, since making the switch before the start of the 2012 season. After picking off four passes and totaling 11 pass breakups last year, Colvin hasn’t put up quite as impressive numbers this year, but that’s mostly due to the fact that quarterbacks are afraid of attacking him.
Not only does he have great size for the position, Colvin also has the toughness, instincts and coverage awareness that you would expect to see from a former safety.
24. Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
Stats certainly aren’t the only things that scouts use to judge a prospect’s pro potential. However, it’s hard to ignore the type of consistent production that Jordan Matthews has had throughout his collegiate career. After leading the SEC with 94 catches in 2012, Matthews has been the main focus of opposing defenses this season, yet he’s still been able to haul in 83 catches for 1,076 yards and five touchdowns.
The 6’3”, 206-pound senior may lack blazing deep speed, but that hasn’t stopped him from making big plays in the passing game this season. Matthews currently is tied for 17th nationally with 15 catches of over 20 yards.
The former lightly-recruited 2-star prospect hasn’t played with type of quality quarterback that many of the other top receivers in the 2014 draft class have been blessed with. However, he’s still managed to produce at a high level against some of the best competition that college football has to offer.
Though he’ll likely never be the main No. 1 receiver in an NFL offense, Matthews should develop into a solid No. 2 option at the next level.
25. Lamarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
This offseason, Florida State’s defense had to replace seven players who were selected in the 2013 NFL draft, including three top-40 picks: defensive ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine and CB Xavier Rhodes. Luckily, the Seminoles have an experienced veteran leader like Lamarcus Joyner, who has been able to take charge and guide the unit—which currently ranks first nationally in pass defense—to another highly successful season.
After making the switch from strong safety to cornerback during the offseason, it was expected that Joyner would take some time to get acclimated to his new position. But that hasn’t been the case at all. The 5’8”, 190-pound senior has proven to be a natural fit on the edge.
Joyner may not scare any receivers with his size or stature, but he’s still shown that he’s the type of savvy cover man who can shut down and contain some of the nation’s most dangerous pass-catchers such as Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. This year, the undersized corner has consistently made game-changing impact plays, as he’s totaled 51 tackles, including 36 solo stops and five sacks and forced three fumbles.
The versatile defensive back may not have the size to be a a No. 1 corner at the next level. Still, Joyner should end up being a similar type of playmaker in the secondary as the Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu.
And now for the updated individual position rankings…
The Top 25 Senior Quarterbacks
1. Derek Carr, Fresno State
2. AJ McCarron, Alabama
3. Zach Mettenberger, LSU
4. Tajh Boyd, Clemson
5. Stephen Morris, Miami
6. Aaron Murray, Georgia
7. David Fales, San Jose State
8. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
9. Jimmy Garoppolo, Eastern Illinois
10. Jeff Mathews, Cornell
11. Bryn Renner, North Carolina
12. Tom Savage, Pittsburgh
13. Jordan Lynch, Northern Illinois
14. Connor Shaw, South Carolina
15. Keith Price, Washington
16. Derek Thompson, North Texas
17. Keith Wenning, Ball State
18. James Franklin, Missouri
19. Denarius McGhee, Montana
20. Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
21. Brendon Kay, Cincinnati
22. Chase Rettig, Boston College
23. Jamal Londry-Jackson, Appalachian State
24. Casey Pachall, TCU
25. Tyler Russell, Mississippi State
The Top 25 Senior Running Backs
1. Carlos Hye, Ohio State
2. Charles Sims, West Virginia
3. Marion Grice, Arizona State
4. Rajion Neal, Tennessee
5. James White, Wisconsin
6. Silas Redd, USC
7. Dri Archer, Kent State
8. Andre Williams, Boston College
9. Antonio Andrews, Western Kentucky
10. Damien Williams, Oklahoma
11. Jeff Scott, Ole Miss
12. (FB) Trey Millard, Oklahoma
13. Alfred Blue, LSU
14. Terrance Cobb, Cumberlands
15. Ben Malena, Texas A&M
16. Stephen Houston, Indiana
17. Jordan Hall, Ohio State
18. Roderick McDowell, Clemson
19. Tyler Gaffney, Stanford
20. David Fluellen, Toledo
21. Tim Flanders, Sam Houston State
22. James Sims, Kansas
23. David Oku, Arkansas State
24. (QB) Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern
25. Tim Cornett, UNLV
The Top 25 Senior Wide Receivers
1. Robert Herron, Wyoming
2. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt
3. Mike Davis, Texas
4. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
5. Jalen Saunders, Oklahoma
6. Cody Hoffman, BYU
7. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
8. Eric Ward, Texas Tech
9. Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State
10. Tevin Reese, Baylor
11. L’Damian Washington, Missouri
12. Ryan Grant, Tulane
13. Shaq Evans, UCLA
14. Josh Huff, Oregon
15. TJ Jones, Notre Dame
16. Jeremy Gallon, Michigan
17. Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
18. Kevin Norwood, Alabama
19. Quincy Enunwa, Nebraska
20. (QB) Kain Colter, Northwestern
21. Isaiah Burse, Fresno State
22. Chandler Jones, San Jose State
23. Ryan Lankford, Illinois
24. Jeremy Butler, Tennessee-Martin
25. Kofi Hughes, Indiana
The Top 25 Senior Tight Ends
1. CJ Fiedorowicz, Iowa
2. Marcel Jensen, Fresno State
3. Arthur Lynch, Georgia
4. Chris Coyle, Arizona State
5. Ted Bolser, Indiana
6. Asa Watson, NC State
7. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
8. Justin Jones, East Carolina
9. Trey Burton, Florida
10. Crockett Gillmore, Colorado State
11. Rob Blanchflower, UMass
12. Kaneakua Friel, BYU
13. Jerod Monk, Baylor
14. Justin Perillo, Maine
15. Gabe Holmes, Purdue
16. Zane Fakes, Ball State
17. Blake Jackson, Oklahoma State
18. Gabe Linehan, Boise State
19. Nexon Dorvilus, Florida Atlantic
20. Nehemiah Hicks, Texas A&M
21. Jordan Najvar, Baylor
22. Joe Don Duncan, Dixie State
23. Alex Bayer, Bowling Green
24. Gator Hoskins, Marshall
25. Cameron Brate, Harvard
The Top 25 Senior Offensive Tackles
1. Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
2. Taylor Lewan, Michigan
3. James Hurst, North Carolina
4. Morgan Moses, Virginia
5. Cornelius Lucas, Kansas State
6. Charles Leno, Boise State
7. Zack Martin, Notre Dame
8. Billy Turner, North Dakota State
9. Ja’Wuan James, Tennessee
10. Seantrel Henderson, Miami
11. Michael Schofield, Michigan
12. Joel Bitonio, Nevada
13. Jack Mewhort, Ohio State
14. Wesley Johnson, Vanderbilt
15. Brandon Thomas, Clemson
16. Austin Wentworth, Fresno State
17. Kevin Graf, USC
18. Rob Crisp, NC State
19. Jared Biard, Colorado State
20. Donald Hawkins, Texas
21. Matt Hall, Belhaven
22. Kenarious Gates, Georgia
23. Jeremiah Sirles, Nebraska
24. Bryce Quigley, San Diego State
25. David Born, Old Dominion
The Top 25 Senior Interior Linemen
1. Cyril Richardson, Baylor
2. Gabe Jackson, Mississippi State
3. Weston Richburg, Colorado State
4. Gabe Ikard, Oklahoma
5. Anthony Steen, Alabama
6. Tyler Larsen, Utah State
7. Chris Burnette, Georgia
8. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
9. Antwan Lowery, Rutgers
10. Spencer Long, Nebraska
11. John Urschel, Penn State
12. Chris Watt, Notre Dame
13. Ryan Groy, Wisconsin
14. Jonotthan Harrison, Florida
15. Zach Fulton, Tennessee
16. Brandon Linder, Miami
17. Bryan Stork, Florida State
18. Kadeem Edwards, Tennessee State
19. Jon Halapio, Florida
20. James Stone, Tennessee
21. Dakota Dozier, Furman
22. Andrew Norwell, Ohio State
23. Kevin Danser, Stanford
24. Chris Elkins, Youngstown State
25. Zac Kerin, Toledo
The Top 25 Senior Defensive Tackles
1. Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota
2. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh
3. DaQuan Jones, Penn State
4. Will Sutton, Arizona State
5. Daniel McCullers, Tennessee
6. Dominique Easley, Florida
7. DeAndre Coleman, California
8. Ryan Carrethers, Arkansas State
9. Calvin Barnett, Oklahoma State
10. Brent Urban, Virginia
11. Caraun Reid, Princeton
12. Bruce Gaston, Purdue
13. Kerry Hyder, Texas Tech
14. Demonte McAllister, Florida State
15. Khyri Thornton, Southern Miss
16. Jay Bromley, Syracuse
17. Byran Jones, Arkansas
18. Levi Brown, Temple
19. Eathyn Manumaleuna, BYU
20. Robert Thomas, Arkansas
21. Shamar Stephen, Connecticut
22. Justin Ellis, Louisiana Tech
23. Zach Kerr, Delaware
24. Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
25. Luke Sager, South Florida
The Top 25 Senior Defensive Ends
1. Ed Stinson, Alabama
2. Chris Smith, Arkansas
3. Kareem Martin, North Carolina
4. Michael Sam, Missouri
5. Dee Ford, Auburn
6. Jackson Jeffcoat, Texas
7. Chaz Sutton, South Carolina
8. Josh Mauro, Stanford
9. James Gayle, Virginia Tech
10. Jonathan Newsome, Ball State
11. Taylor Hart, Oregon
12. Ben Gardner, Stanford
13. Kasim Edebali, Boston College
14. Cassius Marsh, UCLA
15. Ethan Westbrooks, West Texas A&M
16. Marcus Smith, Louisville
17. Denico Autry, Mississippi State
18. Will Clarke, West Virginia
19. Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
20. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, UCLA
21. J.R. Collins, Virginia Tech
22. Roosevelt Nix, Kent State
23. Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Colorado
24. Andy Jennings, Fresno State
25. Darryl Cato-Bishop, NC State
The Top 25 Senior Linebackers
1. Anthony Barr, UCLA
2. CJ Mosley, Alabama
3. Khalil Mack, Buffalo
4. Trent Murphy, Stanford
5. Trevor Reilly, Utah
6. Kyle Van Noy, BYU
7. Shayne Skov, Stanford
8. Christian Jones, Florida State
9. Chris Borland, Wisconsin
10. Morgan Breslin, USC
11. Telvin Smith, Florida State
12. Jonathan Brown, Illinois
13. (DE) Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
14. Max Bullough, Michigan State
15. Jordan Zumwalt, UCLA
16. Jamal Merrell, Rutgers
17. Devon Kennard, USC
18. Prince Shembo, Notre Dame
19. Andrew Jackson, Western Kentucky
20. Lamin Barrow, LSU
21. Chris Young, Arizona State
22. James Morris, Iowa
23. Denicos Allen, Michigan State
24. Shaquil Barrett, Colorado State
25. Steven Jenkins, Texas A&M
The Top 25 Senior Cornerbacks
1. Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
2. Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State
3. Jason Verrett, TCU
4. Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma
5. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
6. Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
7. Jaylen Watkins, Florida
8. Andre Hal, Vanderbilt
9. Carrington Byndom, Texas
10. Deion Belue, Alabama
11. Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State
12. Bennett Jackson, Notre Dame
13. Pierre Desir, Lindenwood
14. Ricardo Allen, Purdue
15. E.J. Gaines, Missouri
16. Osahon Irabor, Arizona State
17. Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
18. Bene Benwikere, San Jose State
19. Nevin Lawson, Utah State
20. Ross Cockrell, Duke
21. Keith McGill, Utah
22. Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech
23. Travis Carrie, Ohio
24. Marcus Williams, North Dakota State
25. Dexter McDougle, Maryland
The Top 25 Safeties
1. Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
2. Craig Loston, LSU
3. Terrence Brooks, Florida State
4. (CB) Antone Exum, Virginia Tech
5. Nickoe Whitley, Mississippi State
6. Marqueston Huff, Wyoming
7. Christian Bryant, Ohio State
8. Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State
9. Hakeem Smith, Louisville
10. Tre Boston, North Carolina
11. Deone Bucannon, Washington State
12. Ty Zimmerman, Kansas State
13. Daniel Sorensen, BYU
14. Julien David, Howard
15. Alden Darby, Arizona State
16. Richard Spencer, UTEP
17. C.J. Barnett, Ohio State
18. Sean Parker, Washington
19. Kenny Ladler, Vanderbilt
20. Jeremy Deering, Rutgers
21. Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
22. Nat Berhe, San Diego State
23. Dezmen Southward, Wisconsin
24. Daytawion Lowe, Oklahoma State
25. Parker Orms, Colorado