The deadline for eligible underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft has come and gone and the non-seniors threaten to dominate the first round.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. released the first draft of his first-round mockup, as did Todd McShay one month ago. While both agree the Houston Texans will draft a quarterback with the first overall pick, they disagree which one.
Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater are two of the highly talented college football players that decided to go pro with remaining years of NCAA eligibility. Several others at skill positions like Blake Bortles, Mike Evans and Marquise Lee join them.
Here are the top 10 skill position (non-linemen) underclassmen to declare for the NFL Draft.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Junior, Louisville
McShay projected him first overall and Kiper went with eighth overall, but both agree he has NFL-ready skills and seems physically and mentally prepared for the pro game.
2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Junior, South Carolina
McShay placed him fifth, going to the Atlanta Falcons and Kiper predicted third to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Technically a lineman, Clowney is hands-down the best pass rusher in the draft and Scouts Inc. has him ranked first overall with a grade of 96 and the Texans have said they will not rule him out for a number-one pick.
3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Junior, Clemson
In McShay’s mock draft, Watkins goes to the Jets, but Kiper predicted the Oakland Raiders would take the receiver fifth overall thanks to his elite skillset outweighing the team’s need for a QB upgrade.
4. Blake Bortles, QB, Junior, UCF
He has ideal size for an NFL pocket passer and both McShay and Kiper agree he should go within the first five selections. He has all the physical tools a team could want, plus a six-foot-four, 230-pound frame.
5. Johnny Manziel, QB, Sophomore, Texas A&M
There is some debate as to whether some teams will not like his slender build, but both draft experts agree he too will be a top-five pick thanks to his inangibles and ability to keep plays alive.
6. Marquise Lee, WR, Junior, USC
Kiper sees Lee being selected by the Jets, around the same range McShay sees him getting taken. Both agree, the wideout graded a 93 by Scouts Inc. will be a top-three receiver.
7. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Junior, Alabama
Kiper, McShay and Scouts Inc. (grade: 91) all believe he is the top underclassmen defensive back. Both draft experts see him as a lock for first-round selection.
8. Mike Evans, WR, Sophomore, Texas A&M
Despite not being the athlete Lee or Watkins are, Evans is the largest, strongest receiver in the draft. At 6-5, 225 pounds, he will be a nightmare to cover as talented receivers this size do not come around often.
9. Marcus Roberson, CB, Junior, Florida
Roberson is Scout Inc.’s highest-graded underclassmen cornerback at 89 and, while Kiper may not think so, McShay slotted him as a late-first-round selection.
10. Eric Ebron, TE, Junior, North Carolina
While tight end may not be a traditional skill position, the likes of Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham beg to differ. Both Kiper and McShay agree Ebron will be the only tight end taken in the first round and Scouts Inc. graded him a 92 for having speed and strength, as well as solid receiver traits.
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