The rest of the country is trying to keep up with the Southeastern Conference when it comes to producing NFL talent, and the Pac-12 may be able to close the gap with a strong 2014 class.
In recent years, the Pac-12 has fallen considerably far behind the SEC
1. Anthony Barr, Outside Linebacker, UCLA, Senior - Preseason notes
After Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan was the shining start of the Pac-12 in the 2013 NFL Draft, UCLA pass rusher Anthony Barr figures to take the torch in 2014. A former running back, Barr is still learning how to play linebacker. He's a high-upside athletic talent with room to grow into a dominant player. He may have been a top 10 pick in the 2013 draft if he had declared and has the upside to go that high next May. His speed and length are intriguing.
2. Marqise Lee, Wide Receiver, USC, Junior - Preseason notes
Marqise Lee won't blow anyone away with his height and weight, and his speed isn't in the 4.4-second range. But Lee is explosive in and out of his breaks and is a fluid athlete in space. A dangerous vertical threat, Lee needs to improve at beating press coverage as a junior, but another productive season should cement his status as a first-round pick.
3. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Tight end, Washington, Junior - Preseason notes
The last of the top tier Pac-12 prospects is Washington tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. His combination of size and athleticism has caught the attention of the NFL Draft community, especially with the changing role of the tight end position. He's a prime candidate to become the NFL's next dominant tight end. The only thing holding him back in 2013? A possible suspension for a DUI arrest in the spring. If he keeps his head on straight, Seferian-Jenkins is a top 20 pick.
4. David Yankey, Offensive lineman, Stanford, Senior - Preseason notes
Stanford's offensive line will be one of the best in the country this season, and David Yankey is a key reason why. Yankey has experience and both tackle and guard and will kick back inside for his senior season. He's athletic enough to pull and is an effective cut blocker. Yankey would seem to be an ideal fit for a zone-blocking scheme.
5. De'Anthony Thomas, Offensive Weapon, Oregon, Junior
Trying to peg De'anthony Thomas to specific positon in the NFL is fruitless. His skill set is too diverse and his playmaking ability too great to be confined to a single position. He's going to play a hybrid of running back and receiver at the next level, but his agility and skills in space are what will make him a true weapon on offense. The success of players like Tavon Austin and Denard Robinson in the NFL this season could determine Thomas' draft stock.
6. Morgan Breslin, Outside Linebacker, USC, Senior - Preseason notes
USC's most productive defensive player in 2012 was a bit of surprise. Morgan Breslin provided a spark off the edge for the Trojans after transferring from junior college. The team is planning to deploy Breslin at outside linebacker instead of defensive end as USC transitions to a 3-4 defense. Breslin is mostly a speed rusher and will need to develop a more diverse set of pass rush moves to be considered among the best edge rushers in the 2014 NFL Draft.
7. Ka'Deem Carey, Running back, Arizona, Junior
Ka'Deem Carey burst onto the scene in 2012, leading the NCAA in rushing with just over 1,900 yards and scoring 23 touchdowns on the ground. He's a laterally explosive player with game-breaking speed. He has the capability to be a dual-threat back but needs to add size to play on all three downs. With a bit more bulk on his 196-pound frame, Carey could be a first-round pick.
8. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Cornerback, Oregon, Junior
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu checks in as a top 10 prospect in the PAC-12 with the ability to climb even higher on the list. He's a physical man-to-man corner with the athleticism to turn and run with faster receivers. Ekpre-Olomu has some issues turning his head to locate the football in the air, but he's still just a junior. His physical talent is impressive.
9. Colt Lyerla, Tight End, Oregon, Junior
The PAC-12 is the place to find tight ends in the 2014 NFL Draft. Oregon's Colt Lyerla has a chance to close the gap on Seferian-Jenkins in 2013. He's a dynamic talent with the ability to play h-back in the NFL. He's probably a bit more explosive and diverse than Seferian-Jenkins. He's one to watch this fall.
10. Will Sutton, Defensive Tackle, Arizona State, Senior
Between now and next May, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton will get plenty of criticism for his size. He's listed at 280 pounds, which most consider far too light a weight to effectively play defensive tackle in the NFL. However, what Sutton lacks in size, he makes up for in quickness and technique. The Geno Atkins comparisons will continue if he builds off the success he had as a junior for the Sun Devils.
11. Scott Crichton, Defensive End, Oregon State, Junior
While a lot of PAC-12 pass rushers win on speed, Oregon State's Scott Crichton gets after the quarterback with his strength and hand use. He's a powerful player with the ability to hold the point of attack and utilize a bull rush to get after the quarterback. If he is able to develop the ability to beat offensive tackles on the edge, watch out.
12. Trent Murphy, Outside linebacker, Stanford, Senior
Trent Murphy does not possess the same upside as other pass rushers in his conference, but he's shown consistent effort at Stanford and is a scheme versatile player. NFL teams will take notice of those qualities. Has he reached his ceiling or can Murphy find another gear as a senior? The answers to that question could determine where Murphy gets drafted next May.
13. Shayne Skov, Linebacker, Stanford, Senior
The leader of Stanford's defense in 2013 will be inside linebacker Shayne Skov. Everything checks out in terms of him being able to transition to the NFL. He has the size, athleticism, instincts and mentality. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL last season. With limited lateral agility before the injury, his knee is a concern going into 2013.
14. Kasen Williams, Wide Receiver, Washington, Junior
Kasen Williams recently ran into legal trouble, which is never a good sign, but his talent is undeniable. A big, athletic receiver with all of the tools to dominate in the red zone, Williams will be relying on improvement from Washington's offense in 2013. Poor offensive line play and inconsistent accuracy from quarterback Keith Price limited Williams during his sophomore season. But he flashed the ability to be a game changer last season and will be expected to build on that as a junior.
15. Xavier Su'a-Filo, Guard, UCLA, Junior
Few players eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft have the impeccable character that UCLA guard Xavier Su'a-Filo displays. After completing a two-year Mormon mission, Su'a-Filo returned to UCLA as a team captain and made a smooth transition to guard. His athleticism paid dividends, and he enters his junior season with a shot at being an All-American.
16. Ed Reynolds, Free Safety, Stanford, Senior
Ed Reynolds is a turnover machine. He has sticky fingers and the range to cover a ton of ground in the secondary. Reynolds will have to prove he can play in the box and improve his tackling technique. Right now, he appears to be confined to being a free safety in the NFL.
17. Dion Bailey, Safety/Linebacker, USC, Junior
Dion Bailey has been a playmaker on USC's defense, but the question remains how he will translate to the NFL. He's undersized for a linebacker, at 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. But does he have the athleticism to play safety? Bailey's hips are fluid in coverage and he has the body control to make plays on the ball. He's a bit of a tweener, but in today's NFL, a creative defensive coordinator could find a spot for him.
18. Bishop Sankey, Running back, Washington, Junior
Bishop Sankey is flying under the radar entering his junior season, but he has the potential to emerge as one of the best running backs in the 2014 NFL Draft. Sankey is a stocky runner that plays with good pad level and can play on all three downs.
19. Brendan Bigelow, Running back, California, Junior
De'Anthony Thomas and Dri Archer get all of the attention as the versatile offensive weapons in this draft class, but California's Brendan Bigelow presents a lot of the same problems for defenses. He's explosive and can change direction on a dime. He's still just a junior, but he's worth watching this season.
20. Cassius Marsh, Defensive lineman, UCLA
Cassius Marsh is the type of player that flies under the radar until the pre-draft process gets underway. He's a rock solid defensive end for UCLA who can play in various roles along the defensive line. He is quick off the ball and uses his hands well to shed blocks.
Redshirt sophomores to watch
1. Brett Hundley, Quarterback, UCLA
Brett Hundley is getting tons of love from folks in the NFL Draft community. He has the size, athleticism and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. With only one season under his belt, there is plenty to learn about Hundley in 2013 and likely 2014.
2. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
Marcus Mariota is an intriguing option for NFL teams trying to run the read option in the NFL. He has quick release and excellent passing mechanics. His arm strength is often called into question, but he shows enough velocity to make most throws at the next level. How he responds to losing Chip Kelly could determine the path his career takes.
3. Kevin Hogan, Quarterback, Stanford
Could Stanford have another great NFL quarterback on its hands? Possibly. Kevin Hogan has the size and arm to make some noise in NFL Draft circles down the road. He's an impressive athlete who is willing to stand tough in the pocket and deliver the ball downfield.
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