Shutdown Corner is ranking the top 50 players for the 2014 NFL draft in groups of 10 leading up to the draft on May 8-10.
This list, the previous ones or the ones that follow, are not predictors of where players will be drafted but rather how we think they eventually will perform as prospects. You might see some of the 15 players above (or the 10 below) be drafted in the first round on May 8. Based on study, sources and other factors, we won't agree with all those picks.
Here are Nos. 30-21 of our Top 50 for the 2014 NFL draft:
30. Auburn DE-OLB Dee Ford
There was one player at the Senior Bowl practices who was consistently befuddling tackles with his edge speed, and it was Ford. No matter how much they prepared, Ford always seemed to set blockers up by mixing up his pass-rush moves: speed the first snap, counter-stepping on the second attempt and constantly keeping them guessing. Although his frame is lean and he doesn't play with a lot of power — which suggests he might be best in a stand-up linebacker's role — Ford has the off-the-snap quickness, tenacity and work ethic to make it as a pas-rush specialist. Where he could be limited is if a team asks him to do too much in reverse or laterally to the line of scrimmage; it's not where he's best.
NFL comparison: Similar to Bruce Irvin, Darryl Tapp, Elvis Dumervil and Cliff Avril
Draft range: Late first, early second round
29. Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks
We saw that he was no flash in the pan in 2013, when (following the departure of third-rounder Markus Wheaton) Cooks set Pac-12 records for catches (128) and yards (1,730) while catching 12 touchdowns for the Beavers. The team captain, only 21 years old, possesses an enticing blend of speed, athleticism and fearlessness. (Read a great Q&A with Cooks here.) He was one of the fastest men and best testers at the combine, and he impressed teams with his confidence and determination. Cooks' production was terrific at OSU despite some uneven play, and him being the primary target last season, and he instantly will change an NFL offense with his speed. Some have compared Cooks to Steve Smith or DeSean Jackson, but we think we have a more apt equivalent.
NFL comparison: T.Y. Hilton
Draft range: Late Round 1
28. Florida State WR-H-Back Kelvin Benjamin
One of the more roundly discussed and divergent prospects in this year's class, the late-developing Benjamin is built like no other pass catcher available for the draft. He has 35-inch arms, massive hands (10.25 inches) to give him a condor-like wingspan (83 inches) that make him the best fade-ball/red-zone prospect. If you watched the Seminoles last-minute national title victory, you saw Benjamin outleap Auburn's Chris Davis for the game-winning catch in traffic. Ben Benjamin has his detractors because of shaky hands (three drops vs. Florida), a lack of elite speed, some sloppy route running and some hip stiffness. That said, Benjamin could be a rare mismatch piece, and he has the size to be almost a pseudo tight end the way the Patriots, Saints and other teams use their "F" receiver.
NFL comparison: He can lose eight pounds and be Plaxico Burress or gain eight and be Jermichael Finley.
Draft range: There's a huge range of opinions on him, so Benjamin could go anywhere from No. 17 to No. 46
27. Fresno State QB Derek Carr
The younger brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr (younger by 12 years), Derek is a strong-armed, highly productive passer who possesses good athleticism and movement skills in the pocket. He operated a wide-open offense for the Bulldogs and was not afraid to channel his inner gunslinger in the process, which led to ups and downs, but Carr cut his fumbles down from 12 total as a sophomore and junior to only once as a senior and averaged an INT only every 67.9 throws — an excellent ratio. Carr also stood tall at the Senior Bowl and won over evaluators by doing extra work on the side after every practice before he spoke to scouts or media. His stock has been on the rise since a disappointing performance in the bowl loss to USC.
NFL comparison: A less mistake-prone Andy Dalton
Draft range: The Browns could take him at No. 4, but a more likely range would be somewhere between 20 and 32, projecting a trade up from another team to a playoff contender's pick
26. Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard
A cousin of Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the Spartans' confident cover man wins matchups with good athleticism, strength, field speed and positional instincts. Dennard also is highly confident, but not in a way that rubs teammates or coaches the wrong way. Injuries have held him back a bit — including a hamstring injury that prevented him from working out at the combine — and there are times on tape where Dennard appears to pick and choose when he decides to tackle. But he's a man-cover corner who will fit in well for a team with an aggressive scheme such as the Lions, Bears, Titans, Cardinals, Rams or Saints.
NFL comparison: Vontae Davis
Draft range: Late first round
25. Ohio State CB Bradley Roby
Although Roby's junior season got off to a bad start with a suspension after an altercation at a bar and getting absolutely torched by Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis, Roby found back to have a solid season and put himself in the discussion of being the best cover corner in the draft. He's a bit inconsistent and can be outmanned against longer, taller receivers, but Roby has terrific explosion and athleticism, carries a chip on his shoulder and displays great playmaking ability in spurts. He also could be a great slot blitzer and isn't afraid to mix it up against the run, which could appeal him to a certain kind of defensive coordinator. Character questions can't be overlooked, however.
NFL comparison: Johnathan Joseph
Draft range: Late first round but could leak into the early second
24. UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo
Although Su'a-Filo started six games at left tackle out of necessity as a junior, he projects best as a guard in the NFL. He's quick, active, powerful and smart and has acquitted himself much better inside than out. Su'a-Filo can project to both man- and zone-blocking schemes and has good quickness out of his stance and a punch to stun defensive linemen. Although he labors a bit and isn't the prettiest girl at the dance, Su'a-Filo often gets the job done and he has acquitted himself in well, per sources, in team meetings.
NFL comparison: Su'a-Filo compared himself to Logan Mankins at the combine, but we see a lot of Andy Levitre in his play
Draft range: Late Round 1
23. Alabama S HaSean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix
In a safety class that looks rather thin to us, Clinton-Dix should go very high — and he could be the first at the position off the board. Although his sophomore tape featured more playmaking than as a junior in 2013, Clinton-Dix is the type of rangy, instinctive and fluid safety that NFL teams are looking for these days. He can run the alley, make plays against the pass and run and time his arrival well with good hitting ability. Clinton-Dix isn't as naturally gifted as fellow Crimson Tide safety (and possible 2015 top-10 pick) Landon Collins, he has the ability to enter a starting lineup as a rookie and use his all-around skill set to be an impact defender.
NFL comparison: Michael Griffin, but perhaps not quite as fast
Draft range: Round 1 — and he even could sneak into the top 10
22. Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III
Nix has battled weight problems since high school and will have to answer questions about his stamina and whether he's an effective three-down defender. But he is a stout nose tackle who shows off surprising quickness off the snap and could be the ideal centerpiece up front for a 3-4 defense. Nix is coming off season-ending knee surgery but was in playing shape and looked leaner at his pro day. His personality is big and engaging, but one team mentioned that he was a bit too playful in his meeting with them, so he might not fit with every coach. Still, there's a lot to like.
NFL comparison: B.J. Raji and Vince Wilfork
Draft range: Late first to early second round
21. Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
Despite missing the final four games of his college career with a sports hernia, Fuller showed at the combine that he's fully healthy and extremely athletic. This do-it-all corner might have the best pure coverage skills in the draft class and the frame (including nearly 33-inch arms) to match up with almost any type of receiver. Fuller sticks his nose in against the run, hall good ball skills and has been a very strong special-teams contributor. He projects well to a man-coverage scheme and will contribute in some form right away in the NFL.
NFL comparison: Tramon Williams
Draft range: Mid to late first round
Nos. 41-50: 50. Notre Dame TE Troy Niklas; 49. Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo; 48. Washington State S Deone Bucannon; 47. Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief; 46. Tennessee OT Ja'Wuan James; 45. Washington RB Bishop Sankey; 44. Auburn RB Tre Mason; 43. Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson; 42. Texas Tech TE Jace Amaro; 41. Oregon State DE Scott Crichton
Nos. 31-40: 40. Alabama OT Cyrus Kouandjio; 39. Nevada OG-OT-C Joel Bitonio; 38. Fresno State WR Davante Adams; 37. Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan; 36. Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde; 35. Notre Dame DE-DT Stephon Tuitt; 34. Missouri DE-OLB-DT Kony Ealy; 33. Minnesota DT Ra'Shede Hageman; 32. Boise State DE-OLB Demarcus Lawrence; 31. TCU CB Jason Verrett
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