This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.
PLAYERS WITH THE MOST TO LOSE OR GAIN BEFORE 2014 DRAFT
NO. 4, JAKE MATTHEWS AND ANTHONY BARR
This list could have gone 10 or 20 deep, so yes, sticking Jake Matthews and Anthony Barr together at the fourth spot is cheating a bit.
But, they did take similar risks this offseason.
Matthews could have come out after a very good season at Texas A&M and been a high first-round pick, even in a draft full of good offensive tackles. Barr was dominant at times at outside linebacker for UCLA last year, and he would have been a high pick, too. There were a lot of pass rushers selected high with less production than Barr had last season.
But both came back and can work on their games, in different ways.
For Matthews, this is his chance to play left tackle. He was at right tackle last year, but that's because the Aggies had a pretty good left tackle already, Luke Joeckel. He went second overall in the draft.
Matthews had a few reasons for coming back. He wanted to play with his younger brother Mike, a sophomore. He thought Texas A&M has a chance at a special 2013 season, and he might be right. It's also an important year because if he struggles on the left side, it will hurt his draft stock.
Last year, he made All-American teams at right tackle and everyone assumed (correctly) he could have started at left tackle for pretty much any other team in the nation. He presumably would have been drafted very high this year with the thought that he could make the transition. This year will give NFL scouts a full season to see for themselves if he can play left tackle, and either be reassured that he made the switch seamlessly or pick apart his game film if he has any problems with SEC pass rushers.
Barr isn't changing positions, but he also will put another season on film to either impress teams or get picked apart.
Barr is a great athlete who moved from offense to defense last spring and had 13.5 sacks, second all-time for any UCLA player in a season. His inexperience might be a knock, but it wasn't for BYU's Ziggy Ansah, an athletic defensive end who went fifth overall despite being pretty raw. It's hard to believe, with such a premium on pass rushers, that Barr wouldn't have been a high pick last week.
He stayed, citing the connection he has with his teammates and coaches. He can also improve a ton with a second year of experience at outside linebacker. The risk is that sacks can be fickle. Opponents will be ready to chip and double team him from Week 1 on. NFL teams will look at more than just the number of sacks – they certainly did for some players in this draft who went high despite incredible production – but a big dip will leave NFL teams wondering if he caught opposing offenses by surprise last season and failed to maintain his level of play when they adjusted As some players found out this season, another year in college sometimes just gives NFL teams more time to talk themselves out of drafting you.
Both players should be fine after returning. Matthews is a physical force who is athletic enough to dominate at left tackle and Barr has the talent to be a top pass rusher once again. Both of those things are in high demand on the next level. But anytime a player passes up a chance to be a high draft pick to return to school, there's always a risk involved.
Previously on the "Doc Five"
5. Sammy Watkins