1. Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
With all eyes on his every move, Clowney hasn’t fully lived up to the media’s expectations. But as far as his NFL Draft stock is concerned, Clowney’s performance has been more than adequate. He’s an elite prospect and remains a heavy favorite to be the first non-quarterback off the draft board.
2. Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
I’m still somewhat skeptical of Bridgewater because we’ve only seen him tested once (in the Sugar Bowl against Florida). But he deserves credit for stepping up to every challenge that has been thrown at him thus far. I wish Louisville had a more difficult schedule, but regardless, Bridegwater looks like a top-10 lock.
3. C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
Nick Saban has sent a steady stream of linebackers to the NFL since arriving in Alabama, but Mosley may be the best of the bunch. He isn’t the most physically gifted linebacker in this year’s class, but he’s intelligent and well rounded and ready to be a defensive leader as a rookie.
4. Anthony Barr – LB – UCLA
Barr, a former receiver/tight end, is still learning the nuances of playing on the defensive side of the ball. His raw athleticism, however, has already made him a dominant force and he will be a top-10 pick. Barr is essentially this year’s Dion Jordan or Barkevious Mingo – a freak athlete that may need a year to develop.
5. Jake Matthews – OT – Texas A&M
Matthews isn’t the biggest, strongest or most athletic lineman in this year’s class but he is the most technically sound and virtually a top-10 lock. Some teams may view Matthews as a right tackle, but the 2013 draft proved that teams are now willing to take the best available player, regardless of the perceived positional value.
6. Taylor Lewan – OT – Michigan
This is a tight battle for the top spot among the offensive linemen. Lewan probably has more potential than Matthews, and is better suited as a prototypical left tackle, but he’s slightly more inconsistent. It may be a 50-50 split as to who teams prefer right now.
7. Cyrus Kouandjio – OT – Alabama
Kouandjio is right on the tail of Matthews and Lewan, but clearly third on the list in my opinion. While his potential is on par with the other two elite tackles in this class, he lacks the technique at this stage of his career. I wouldn’t trust him on the left side right now, but he could immediately be a quality right tackle.
8. Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame
Nix is a rare nose tackle who can take on multiple blockers and eat up space, but also get into the backfield and be a disruptive force as a pass-rusher. He hasn’t been quite as dominant thus far in 2013, but you can’t teach size. Nix’s physical tools will land him in the early portion of the first round.
9. Mike Evans – WR – Texas A&M
I was hesitant to put Evans in the rankings early in the year as a redshirt sophomore, but his performance can’t be ignored any longer. Evans looks like the premier draft-eligible receiver and, assuming Johnny Manziel bolts for the NFL, Evans will likely follow.
10. Khalil Mack – LB – Buffalo
Typically, NFL teams prefer size over speed but I wonder if that will begin to change as offenses evolve. Mack is similar to recent undersized linebackers such as Arthur Brown and Lavonte David, but Mack’s pass-rushing ability sets him apart. He is a legitimate early first-round prospect.
11. Cameron Erving – OT – Florida State
Erving is a former defensive tackle who is entering just his second year on the offensive line. But he’s off to a fantastic start protecting Jameis Winston on the left side, and looks as though he’s ready for the pros. He isn’t quite at the level of Matthews/Lewan just yet, but he has the raw skills to reach that level by year’s end.
12. Brett Hundley – QB – UCLA
Hundley has established himself as the No. 2 quarterback in this class, but I’m not ready to buy into him as a top-10 prospect just yet. As dominant as he looked in the second half against Nebraska, he was terribly inconsistent in the first half. The potential is obvious, but he needs to remain steady.
13. Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
Shazier is a tackling machine who is probably going to be ranked higher on most media draft boards than NFL draft boards. He’s slightly undersized and won’t be a great fit in every system which will likely cause him to slide on draft day. However, Shazier is one of the safer bets in the draft and should be a quality starter from day one.
14. Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Watkins is a big play waiting to happen and will be in the conversation to be the first receiver off the board if he puts together a consistent junior year. While the talent is obvious, his up-and-down sophomore campaign raised some doubts, and he must prove that he’s back.
15. Bradley Roby – CB – Ohio State
Roby struggled against California, a team that really shouldn’t give him any issues. The tools are there for Roby to be a shutdown corner, but can he stay focused and patient on the field? He’s one of the few top preseason prospects to struggle early in 2013.
17. Marqise Lee – WR – USC
I see the obvious potential with Lee, but I have a really hard time buying in on him as an elite prospect. A huge percentage of his receptions are at or behind the line of scrimmage and I simply haven’t seen enough of his ability to get open down the field. He’s a potential first rounder, but I don’t see him as a top-10 guy.
18. Timmy Jernigan – DT – Florida State
Jernigan is in his first year as a starter, so this ranking is based primarily on potential. He is just so athletic for an interior lineman that it’s tough to envision a scenario where a team doesn’t gamble on him in the first round. He could be an elite interior pass-rusher.
19. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – CB – Oregon
While he’s slightly undersized, Ekore-Olomu plays physical and has the raw athleticism to match up with just about any receiver in man coverage. He’s in the mix to be the first corner off the board.
20. Loucheiz Purifoy – CB – Florida
Purifoy has the height (he’s listed at 6’1″) but he’s terribly skinny and doesn’t consistently play a physical style. He may have more potential than either Roby or Ekpre-Olomu, but right now he’s the third corner on my board until he can prove that he’s willing to do the little things to become elite.
21. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – S – Alabama
Clinton-Dix isn’t special in terms of physical tools, but I love the way he reads the quarterback in coverage. He’s a true center fielder and covers a ton of ground in the secondary.
22. Dominique Easley – DT – Florida
Easley is now two years removed from his ACL injury and finally appears to be fully back. He was dominant against Miami earlier this season and should continue to gain attention as the season goes on.
23. Aaron Lynch – DE – South Florida
Lynch is clearly still cleaning off the rust from sitting out the 2012 season, but he remains on the big board based on potential alone. He has the raw tools of an elite pass-rusher and if he turns it around within the next few weeks, he will jump back into the conversation as a potential top-10 pick.
24. Will Sutton – DT – Arizona State
From a production standpoint, Sutton looks like a first-round pick but there will be serious questions about his size. He’s listed at 6’0″ but could very well measure in below the 6″ mark at the combine and probably doesn’t tip the scales at more than 290 pounds. The measurables are questionable, but I’m cautiously optimistic that he can be an effective three-technique pass-rusher.
25. Kyle Van Noy – LB – BYU
I’m on the Kyle Van Noy bandwagon based on his consistent play. He isn’t a physical specimen, but he is consistent and puts himself in position to make plays. The upside may be limited, but he will be a quality starter at the next level.