The Mountain West is a quarterback league.
Look no further than San Jose State's David Fales, who comes into the season as one of the top senior quarterbacks in the country. He leads a high-powered San Jose State offense that will go toe-to-toe with the Fresno State and Derek Carr at the top of Mountain West Conference.
The Mountain West is far from rich with NFL talent, but there are a few prospects to keep an eye on.
1. David Fales, Quarterback, San Jose State
At the moment, Fales is the top prospect in the Mountain West Conference, and it's not really close. He's a bit undersized and some have questioned his arm strength, but Fales is advanced in his pocket movement and makes throws with anticipation. As discussed in our preseason scouting report, Fales needs to use his lower body more and his velocity could improve. He'll be in the running to be the first senior quarterback off the board in May.
2. Demarcus Lawrence, Defensive End/Linebacker, Boise State, Junior
Demarcus Lawrence comes in as the top defensive prospect in the Mountain West based on his upside as a pass rusher. Lawrence has the length and frame to add weight and play in a 4-3 scheme but also shows some athleticism in space to make him a 3-4 candidate as well. If he builds off a 2012 season in which he had 13 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks, Lawrence may be an early entrant into the 2014 draft.
3. Derek Carr, Quarterback, Fresno State, Senior
In terms of arm talent, there may not be a better quarterback eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft than Derek Carr. The issue with Carr is his ability to sense pressure and his sloppy footwork that leads to inaccurate passes. He has a rocket for an arm and plenty of size, but until he learns how to sense pressure and transfer weight to his front foot in the face of the rush, Carr has limited potential in the NFL. When the pocket is clean, Carr looks like a franchise quarterback, and thus he gets a high ranking.
4. Tyler Larsen, Center, Utah State, Senior
Flying under the radar at Utah State, Travis Swanson may be one of the top center prospects. He has the ideal build to play center in the NFL and has the athleticism and intelligence to excel in a zone blocking scheme.
5. Bene Benwikere, Cornerback, San Jose State, Senior
Bene Benwilkere has the physical tools to be a boundary cornerback but he plays more like a nickel back. He needs to improve his physicality at the line of scrimmage and show better hips he wants to make a living playing outside. As it stands, he has spent most of his time in the slot.
6. Noel Grigsby, Wide Receiver, San Jose State, Senior
Noel Grigsby isn't the biggest receiver, but he has the speed and quickness to be dangerous out of the slot. He shouldn't have any trouble racking up big numbers as a senior with David Fales tossing him the football, so Grigsby needs to make the most of his opportunity. If he continues to show the ability to get separation and attack the football, Grigsby should get drafted.
7. Robert Herron, Wide Receiver, Wyoming, Senior
Based on size alone, some might say Robert Herron is only a slot receiver in the NFL. But during his junior season at Wyoming, Herron showed the ability to beat press coverage and the deep speed to be a threat on the outside. Whether that translates to the NFL remains to be seen, but he has some impressive skills.
8. Marcel Jensen, Tight End, Fresno State, Senior
The first thing that stands out about Marcel Jensen is his size. He's a well balanced tight end that moves well given his 6'6'', 260-pound frame. Jensen uses his frame effectively to go up and snag jump balls over the defense. He may not have the agility and straight line speed that other tight ends have, but he can hold the edge as a blocker and present mismatches in the secondary.
9. Weston Richburg, Guard/Center, Colorado State, Senior
Another experienced interior offensive lineman coming out of the Mountain West in 2014 is Colorado State's Weston Richburg. Richburg tested the waters of the NFL Draft last spring but opted to return for his senior season. He's likely going to be a center at the next level and should have every opportunity to improve on the fifth-round projection he got prior to the 2013 NFL Draft.
10. Austin Wentworth, Tackle/Guard, Fresno State, Senior
Austin Wenworth has the size to play left tackle in the NFL, but in 2013 he needs to prove that he has the feet. Protecting Carr's blindside, Wentworth will be relied upon to keep Fresno State's star off the turf in 2013. Carr tends to struggle with a messy pocket, so his success could be directly tied to Wentworth's.
Redshirt sophomores to watch
Davante Adams, Wide Receiver, Fresno State
After an insanely productive season as a redshirt freshman, Davante Adams enters his sophomore year with high expectations. Carr is back for his senior season, so there is no reason to believe Adams will be any less productive during his second full season for the Bulldogs. If Adams puts together another impressive year, he may follow Carr to the NFL.
Jay Ajayi, Running Back, Boise State
Jay Ajayi has a solid build and presents a ton of upside as a draft-eligible sophomore heading into the 2013 season. He's a powerful runner and should be in for a bigger role in his second season. His 6.68 yards per carry average in 2012 was the best in school history.
Other prospects to watch
Gabe Linehan, Tight End, Boise State
Crockett Gillmore, Tight End, Colorado State
Andy Jennings, Defensive End, Fresno State
Nevin Lawson, Cornerback, Utah State
Bryce Quigley, Offensive Tackle, San Diego State
Joe Southwick, Quarterback, Boise State
Charles Leno, Offensive Tackle, Boise State
Matthew Paradis, Center, Boise State
Marqueston Huff, Safety, Wyoming
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