Don't expect the Mid-American Conference to have consecutive No. 1 overall picks in the NFL Draft. Former Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher, the top pick in this year's draft, is an outlier.
But that's not to say the conference is down. For the MAC, the 2014 draft should be a little more like the 2009 draft. That year, three of the top 50 players picked were from the conference. For 2014, Buffalo pass rusher Khalil Mack looks to be a lock for that designation.
Kent State all-purpose star Dri Archer could as well if a team falls in love with him. Maybe another player will emerge as well. At this time last year, no one had Fisher rated so highly, so it's possible a player could break through. Just don't expect him to rise all the way to No. 1.
1. Khalil Mack | 6'3, 244 pounds | Outside linebacker | Buffalo
If any MAC player has a shot at the first round of the 2014 draft, it's Mack. He's a pro-ready 3-4 outside linebacker capable of rushing the passer and dropping in coverage. Buffalo can use him in a variety of ways and on both sides. He has a nice first step to burst into the backfield and the strength to hold his own against blockers. Mack's career stats – 18 sacks, 56 tackles for loss and 11 forced fumbles – are staggering.
2. Dri Archer | 5'8, 175 pounds | Running back | Kent State
Archer is a player without a position, and that's a good thing. While small in stature, Archer is electric on the field. He can break a big play at any moment, whether that's as a running back, wide receiver or special teams player. Archer's speed is legit and he has the shiftiness to go with it. An NFL team looking for a gadget player, or offensive weapon as Denard Robinson is being called, can find it in Archer.
3. Bernard Reedy | 5'9, 175 pounds | Wide receiver | Toledo
Reedy may not be quite the multi-purpose threat that Archer is for Kent Sate, but it's close. He's an all-conference player as a wide receiver, punt returner and kick returner. His 40-yard dash times have reportedly been clocked at less than 4.4 seconds, so the speed is legit. He'll just have to make his mark as a returner and fourth receiver.
4. David Fluellen | 6'0, 215 pounds | Running back | Toledo
Fluellen had a break-out junior season rushing for 1,498 yards and 13 touchdowns. A Doak Walker Award semifinalist, Fluellen hit 200 yards rushing in three games last season. He's not overtly fast, but he has a good mixture of size, enough speed and athleticism. He can pick up the blitz fairly well, and has serviceable hands as a pass catcher.
5. Roosevelt Nix | 5'11, 267 pounds | Defensive tackle| Kent State
Nix is an enigma because of his size. Is he a player who will ultimately have to make a position change? If Nix has any chance of succeeding inside in the NFL, he has to bulk up to 280 pounds. If not, he could be forced out to end or outside linebacker. He's quick enough for an end. You'll be hard pressed to find a better first step. With Nix, you wonder if we're seeing the next Elvis Dumervil.
6. Jonathan Newsome | 6'3, 236 pounds | Defensive end | Ball State
In his first year after transferring from Ohio State, Newsome stood out. In 11 games, he finished the season with 52 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. Newsome is a speed rusher who likes to beat blockers to the edge. He has to continuing developing his power game, but could be one of the conference's breakout players this season.
7. Zac Kerin | 6'5, 300 pounds | Center | Toledo
Kerin enters his third season as Toledo's starting center with his name on the watch lists for the Remington, Lombardi and Outland awards. He's an all-conference player on the field and in the classroom. He's strong at the point of attack, and has length for the position.
8. Jordan Hansel | 6'4, 326 pounds | Guard | Ball State
Hansel, the only starter back on Ball State's offensive line, is a good one. He's a powerhouse on the right side and can't be pushed around. He specializes in run blocking and doesn't need help pushing opposing defensive tackles around.
9. Jerry "BooBoo" Gates | 5'11, 213 pounds | Safety | Bowling Green
After Archer and Mack, Gates may be the most exciting player in the conference. He has a penchant for big plays, with three special teams touchdowns and five interceptions. He's still a little behind purely as a defensive back, but the athleticism and upside is there. By the end of the season, he should be much higher on a list like this.
10. Gabe Martin | 6'1, 224 pounds | Outside linebacker | Bowling Green *
In Bowling Green's defense, one of the best in the nation, Martin plays the important Rover position. Splitting time in pass coverage and run defense, Martin can make in impact in a variety of ways. Last year was his first as a starter, but the potential is there for Martin to become a good sleep linebacker in the 2015 draft.
11. Donald Celiscar | 5'11, 183 pounds | Cornerback | Western Michigan *
Celiscar is coming off a season of 14 pass breakups and two interceptions. He's a sound tackler, and flashed instincts in the games reviewed from last season (Toledo and Connecticut). Has also returns kicks.
12. Johnnie Simon | 6'0, 197 pounds | Outside linebacker | Western Michigan
Yes, you read that correctly. Despite being just 197 pounds, Simon will be playing linebacker for the Broncos as they move from a 3-3-5 defense to a 4-3 set. He previously played rover, which took advantage of his physical nature as a pass defender. As a prospect, he'll be viewed as a safety and special teams player.
13. Trayion Durham | 6'0, 248 pounds | Running back | Kent State *
Durham nicely contrast's Archer's flash and excitement. He's a class straight-forward bruising running back who is hard to stop near the goal line. Durham isn't much of a blocker or pass catcher, but if a team needs someone to turn out a few yards, he's a good fit.
14. Jake Olson | 6'8, 305 pounds | Offensive tackle | Central Michigan
A few years ago, it was Olson, not Fisher, who was supposed to be the top offensive tackle at CMU. But injuries the past three seasons have hampered Olson. He was granted a sixth season of eligibility because of injuries, but the health is going to be scrutinized. Still, Olson has length, and that will at least get him a look in an NFL training camp.
15. Jordan Lynch | 6'0, 214 pounds | Quarterback | Northern Illinois
Lynch is a legit Heisman Trophy contender. His numbers last season guarantee as much after he threw for 3,138 yards, ran for 1,815 yards and totaled 44 touchdowns. But he's not that much of an NFL prospect. He just doesn't have an NFL arm. Teams may take a look at him at another position, but it's impossible to know which before the postseason process begins. He's a fun college quarterback, and that's fine, but there's not a lot there to like as an NFL prospect.
Also worth watching:
Travis Carrie | Cornerback | Ohio
Greg Mancz | Guard | Toledo *
Dayonne Nunley | Cornerback | Miam (OH)
Branden Oliver | Running back | Buffalo
Terrance Owens | Quarterback | Ohio
Brian Schmiedebush | Punter | Bowling Green
Tyler Tettleton | Quarterback | Ohio
Jimmie Ward | Safety | Northern Illinois
Redshirt sophomores to watch:
Alonzo Russell | Wide receiver | Toledo
Where Reedy has height issues, Russell at 6-foot-4 makes up for opposite him. As a redshirt freshman, Russell showed promise with 56 receptions for 960 yards and five touchdowns. He's the future of the offense at Toledo and a possible NFL Draft pick in 2015 or 2016. He's mainly a vertical threat only at this point, but he has some athleticism and leaping ability to make tough catches.
Jaime Wilson | Wide receiver | Western Michigan
Wilson fits the classic slot receiver of a player who may not be a big-time vertical threat, but he's capable of generating consistent yards. There is some speed there, though. It was evident when Wilson would return punts (he led the conference in return average). Wilson was named the MAC freshman of the year a season ago after he finished with 67 receptions for 792 yards and six touchdowns.
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