2014 NFL Draft: Jadeveon Clowney and the top 25 SEC prospects

Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

The SEC is once again the place to find talent in the 2014 NFL Draft.

SEC! SEC! SEC!

Ok, I'm done. We all know the Southeastern Conference is the best conference in college football. In recent years, that has also translated to that conference producing some of the best NFL talent. So, it should come as no surprise that our preliminary 2014 NFL Draft top 64 big board is littered with players from the conference that has produced the last seven national champions.

For the 2014 NFL Draft, Jadeveon Clowney paces the conference. He's head and shoulders above any other player in the SEC and has a real shot to be the first player off the board next May. But after Clowney, how strong is this group?

As usual, Alabama figures to churn out multiple first round picks, depending on which players decide to declare. Meanwhile, Clowney and Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews crack the top five on our board.

But the talent isn't all stacked in the southeast. The Pac-12 should boast some of the nation's best players, and the Big 10 should make a comeback after a down year in 2013. The SEC will stay on top most likely, but the other power conferences are pushing back.

Top 25 SEC Prospects

1. Jadeveon Clowney | 6'6, 272 pounds | Defensive end | South Carolina * - Preseason Scouting Report

Clowney has essentially been ready for the NFL since he graduated high school. He's a massive human being who continues to get more explosive with every pound he gains. What he does on the football field is nothing short of spectacular. Clowney's length, quickness, first step and pass rushing technique would have made him the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He'll just have to delay that dream a year. Check out our preseason scouting report on Clowney to get an in-depth look at how he does what he does.

2. Jake Matthews | 6'5, 305 pounds | Offensive tackle | Texas A&M - Preseason scouting report

Luke Joeckel and Johnny Manziel stole the headline at Texas A&M this year, as Manziel won the Heisman Trophy and Joeckel was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. With Joeckel in Jacksonville, Matthews will have the chance to be the most popular member of the Aggies' offensive line. A technically sound Matthews will be making the transition from right tackle to left tackle this season, and how smoothly that transition goes will determine how high he gets drafted. If you take a look at our preseason scouting report on Matthews, we anticipate the change going quite well.

3. C.J. Mosley | 6'2, 232 pounds | Middle linebacker | Alabama

Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley made one of the most surprising decisions leading up to the 2013 NFL Draft when he opted to return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season. He would seem to have accomplished everything there is to accomplish in college and was on his way to being a top 15 pick. Instead, he will once again dominate the SEC on his way to being a high pick in the 2014 draft. He's an outstanding athlete

4. Cyrus Kouandjio | 6'5, 312 pounds | Offensive tackle | Alabama *

A few months ago, Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker was drafted with the No. 11 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Fluker spent last season as Alabama's right tackle, because Cyrus Kouandjio was busy locking down the left side of the line. He has his flaws as a tackle. He struggles a bit in space and tends to bend at the waist and lunge at pass rushers. All of those are bad habits. But it's tough to look past the size, strength and athleticism he has flashed early in his career. This ranking is based on projected development, not where Kouandijo is today. Right now, I wouldn't endorse him as a top-15 pick, but he has the upside to develop into that player.

5. Adrian Hubbard | 6'5, 260 pounds | Outside linebacker | Alabama

As noted in the introduction, the Crimson Tide should once again dominate draft rankings next season. Adrian Hubbard is one of the most intriguing players to watch in the SEC next season. A terrific athlete with the strength to match, Hubbard should wreak havoc on SEC backfields this season. He collected seven sacks during his junior season and should have a chance to increase that number in 2013.

6. Hasean "Haha" Clinton-Dix | 6'1, 208 pounds | Safety | Alabama *

Alabama has had no shortage of defensive backs turn pro in recent years, and Hasean Clinton-Dix appears to be the next in line. While he didn't receive a ton of playing time last season, Clinton-Dix was impressive when he was on the field, including in the National Championship Game against Notre Dame. He has the size and athleticism to make plays at safety, but he needs to work on taking better angles and show proper timing when playing passes in the air. Those will come with time.

7. A.J. Johnson | 6'2, 240 pounds | Outside linebacker | Tennessee

Surrounded by one of the worst defenses in college football, A.J. Johnson was easy to forget about. But Johnson flashed solid instincts. Unless he gets faster, Johnson may be limited to being a thumper in the NFL. He plays a physical brand of football and has plenty of size. Johnson is not a lock to get drafted in the first round by any means, but he has the ability to be a solid second day pick.

8. Jordan Matthews | 6'3, 205 pounds | Wide receiver | Vanderbilt - Preseason notes

Jordan Matthews emerged as a dangerous weapon in Vanderbilt's passing attack with Jordan Rodgers under center. He doesn't stack up to USC's Marqise Lee or Clemson's Sammy Watkins, but Matthews has a chance to be the best draft eligible wide receiver in the SEC. He's big and has the straight line speed to be a vertical threat. He's also shown the ability to make plays in the red zone when called upon.

9. Gabe Jackson | 6'4, 320 pounds | Guard | Mississippi State

The 2013 NFL Draft produced two guard in the first 10 picks. Gabe Jackson of Mississippi State may not be quite that caliber, but he could be the next first round guard. He has prototypical size for the position and is a mauler in the running game. He has als flashed some athleticism early in his career and should be in for a strong senior season.

10. Antonio Richardson | 6'6, 332 pounds | Offensive tackle | Tennessee *

Antonio Richardson has a chance to be the next big thing. He could very well creep into the top five of this list by the time the season is over. His length, quick feet and natural athleticism make him a high upside guy. In his second full season as a starter, Richardson will have to show some development, but if he does so, the sky is the limit.

11. LaDarius Perkins | 5'10, 190 pounds | Running back | Mississippi State

LaDarius Perkins flew under the radar last season, but he consistently turned in 100-yard rushing performances. He's not the biggest running back, but he has a lot of shiftiness to his game and can make plays out of the backfield. Despite his size, Perkins is a tough runner between the tackles and should have a strong finish to his career.

12. Dominique Easley | 6'2, 280 pounds | Defensive end | Florida

Florida has produced plenty of defensive line talent over the years, and Dominique Easley could be the next star. His best fit in the NFL will likely be as a 3-tech or a 5-tech. He doesn't possess a ton of natural speed or bend on the edge, but he has the quicks to shoot the gaps and get inside penetration.

13. A.J. McCarron | 6'2, 212 pounds | Quarterback | Alabama

A.J. McCarron's physical tools are going to hold him back from being a high draft pick. While he's accurate and generally makes good decisions with the football, he doesn't have enough size or arm strength to hold up as anything more low-end starter in the NFL. He has a high floor but a pretty low ceiling as well. Unless he shows a ton of improvement this season, he's a day two pick.

14. Ju'Wuan James | 6'6, 324 pounds | Offensive tackle | Tennessee

Tiny Richardson gets all of the attention, but Ju'Wuan James could make a name for himself this year as well. He's another big offensive tackle getting a chance to shine against some of the best competition in the country. With 37 starts under his belt, James will be among the most experienced players on Tennessee's roster this season.

15. Loucheiz Purifoy | 6'1, 190 pounds | Cornerback | Florida *

Louchiez Purifoy has plenty of work to do if he wants to live up to the first round hype he's been getting early in the 2014 NFL Draft process. He has the length and athleticism to be a major difference maker in the NFL, but the results haven't been there. He lacks strength and isn't all that fluid in his movement. Purifoy needs to clean up his game to live up to the hype.

16. Trey Depriest | 6'2, 245 pounds | Middle linebacker | Alabama *

Another year, another rock solid linebacker prospect from Alabama. Playing alongside C.J. Mosley shouldn't hurt Trey Depriest this year. He started 13 games for the Crimson a year ago, but suffered a foot fracture in spring practices. If he doesn't show too many ill effects from the injury, he could end up declaring for the draft early.

17. Anthony Johnson | 6'3, 304 pounds | Defensive tackle | LSU *

Potential is the buzzword that comes to mind when discussing Anthony Johnson. He's been a consistent cog in LSU's defensive line, but he needs to take his game to the next level in order to shoot up the board. He's shown he has the speed to close on ball carriers in the backfield, but doesn't he have the explosiveness that other first round defensive tackles have shown in recent years.

18. Damian Swann | 5'11, 189 pounds | Cornerback | Georgia *

Damian Swann was relegated to nickel back duties due to the talent in Georgia's secondary last year, but he should have a chance to shine as a junior. He's a smooth athlete with quick feet that isn't afraid to play physical at the line of scrimmage. He has a knack for attacking the ball in the air and should fill in for Sanders Commings nicely.

19. Aaron Murray | 6'1, 212 pounds | Quarterback | Georgia

Looking at just the numbers and competition he faces, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray looks like a surefire first-round pick. In three seasons as a starter, Murray has thrown for over 3,000 yards in each season and has thrown for 71 touchdowns in the last two years combined. However, on the field Murray's skills are mostly ordinary. His arm is solid but nothing special, he's undersized and has inconsistent accuracy at times.Murray made the right choice coming back to school, as he will get a chance to iron out some flaws in his game.

20. Marcus Roberson | 6'0, 186 pounds | Cornerback | Florida*

While Purifoy gets most of the attention in the Gators' secondary, Marcus Roberson may be the more talented player. He doesn't have the upside of Purifoy, but Roberson is more consistent in coverage and much more fluid in his movement.

21. Zach Mettenberger | 6'5, 230 pounds | Quarterback | LSU

Based on physical ability alone, Zach Mettenberger would be the top quarterback on this list. However, the last time I ranked based on expected development, Tyler Bray let me down. Mettengerger has a rocket for an arm and has the ideal size to play the position. Too often, though, Mettenberger doesn't recognize pressure pre-snap and doesn't have the escapability in the pocket to make up for it. The potential is there, but I'll believe it when I see it.

22. Chaz Sutton | 6'4, 248 pounds | Defensive End | South Carolina

Chaz Sutton has been overshadowed by the other talented players on South Carolina's defensive line, but he should get a chance to start this season. Playing opposite Jadeveon Clowney should give Sutton every opportunity to be productive.

23. Kony Ealy | 6'5, 260 pounds | Defensive End | Missouri*

A physically imposing presence on Missouri's defensive line, Kony Ealy needs to start producing to live up to his abilities. He's a raw player technically, but he has tons of strength and is athletic enough to be a terror off the edge. Depending on how he develops, Ealy may be best served to play out his senior year.

24. Daniel McCullers | 6'6, 377 pounds | Defensive Tackle | Tennessee

In college football, a man the size of Daniel McCullers with his quickness will dominate when he's on the field. The problem with McCullers is staying conditioned enough to be on the field consistently. He has all of the ability to be the next best nose tackle in the NFL if he can put it all together.

25. Andre Hal | 6'0, 183 pounds | Cornerback | Vanderbilt

In his first season as a starter for Vanderbilt, Andre Hal stepped up and became a leader for the Commodores. Earning second team All-SEC Honors, Hal showed the ability to close on the football and solid ball skills. He has the size and hip quickness to be a versatile cornerback prospect. He could get more recognition by midseason.

Redshirt sophomores to watch

Johnny Manziel | 6'1, 200 pounds | Quarterback | Texas A&M**

Few would doubt that Johnny Manziel is the most exciting player in college football. But how that translates to the NFL remains to be seen. His escapability is second to none, and he has the arm strength to make a lot of throws. He needs to get better at understanding coverages, keeping his eyes downfield and consistently delivering accurate passes. He has a ways to go, but Manziel is certainly off to a nice start.

Mike Evans | 6'5, 225 pounds | Wide Receiver | Texas A&M**

The Aggies have plenty of young talent flowing through the system, so they aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Mike Evans is a big-bodied wideout with the athleticism to make plays all over the field. With all of the big names on A&M's offense last season, he was easy to forget about. But don't sleep on him.

Donte Moncrief | 6'2, 215 pounds | Wide Receiver | Ole Miss**

People outside of Oxford, Miss. are starting to catch on to Donte Moncrief, myself included. He's a burner down the field and understands how to use his size to his advantage. While he has occasional lapses of focus and body catches once and a while, Moncrief should be in for a monster season in the SEC. He had 979 yards and 10 touchdowns a year ago.

Micah Eugene | 5'11, 190 pounds | Safety | LSU**

Micah Eugene's name may be familiar to you. He was one of the players called out by the LSU coaching staff for slacking in workouts. That's obviously something to monitor going forward, but Eugene is a big-time talent in the secondary. He only played in certain packages during his redshirt freshman season, but he flashed crazy athleticism and a nose for the football. He'll be a name to watch moving forward.

Transfers to watch

Tra Carson | 6'0, 227 pounds | Running back | Texas A&M**

-Transfer from Oregon

Johnny Manziel figures to be the main running threat in Texas A&M's offense, but Oregon transfer Tra Carson should play a key role as well. He's a bruising back that can churn out yards between the tackles. With such a small sample size to look at, it will be nice to see him get some touches this season.

Darious Cummings | 6'2, 301 pounds | Defensive Tackle | Florida

-Transfer from Florida State and JUCO

Every year a few players emerge from the JUCO ranks to make an impact in college football. Darious Cummings is a decent candidate to do so this season. Initially recruited to play at Florida State, Cummings transferred after just one season with the Noles. His size jumps of the page, but he has a bit of quickness too.

Under the radar player to watch

Avery Williamson | 6'1, 241 pounds | Linebacker | Kentucky

With 135 tackles as a junior, Avery Williamson was among the nation's leaders in that category. His instincts and burst are enough to put him on the NFL radar. If he manages another season like his last one, people will start to take notice. He has all of the tools to be a day two pick and an immediate starter in the NFL.


More Conference Previews

Preseason scouting Reports


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