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 one that follows, 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. 20-11 of our Top 50 for the 2014 NFL draft:
20. Notre Dame OG-OT Zack Martin
The two-time Irish captain started a school-record 52 games — 50 at left tackle and two at right (as a freshman). He has been a rock on a solid offensive line the past four years, and though Martin typically has manned the important left side, he very well could move inside or to right tackle in the NFL. He lacks ideal height and reach, but Martin moves exceptionally well, gets to the second level, finishes blocks and is always smart and prepared according to his coaches. Martin also has taken practice snaps at center and has no gaping holes in his game other than his sheer lack of mass. Scouts love players like this.
NFL comparison: Ben Grubbs
Draft range: Top half of Round 1
19. USC WR Marqise Lee
One of the more polarizing players in this year's crop, Lee went from one of the best players in the country in 2012 to a question mark following a huge production dip — from 1,721 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns to 791 and 4 scores — in 2013. Why the massive dropoff? Well, USC's quarterback play fell off, and Lee was fighting through a litany of injuries, plus teams were determined not to get beat by him. Still, there were opportunities to make plays that he missed this past season, such as concentration drops, that scouts have noticed. So what do we make of Lee overall? He might not time fast, but he plays to that speed and is very shifty and dangerous, even in traffic. Lee might not be your typical No. 1 receiver because of his build, but he has good route-running skills, can run past defenders and has overcome a lot in his life.
NFL comparison: Jeremy Maclin, although one respected scout told Shutdown Corner he thinks Lee possesses some "poor man's Marvin Harrison" like ability — high praise indeed
Draft range: Late Round 1, early Round 2
18. LSU WR Odell Beckham Jr.
It's possible that Beckham and teammate Jarvis Landry had the two best sets of hands in the country last season in college football, and though we might rate Landry's as the best, it's clear that Beckham has the more explosive ability of the two. He sinks into his breaks fluidly, runs great routes, finds creases with ease and is a threat after the catch. Beckham was not asked to run a full route tree his whole time at LSU, but he has the ability to play all three receiver spots and also contribute as a punt returner. If he was an inch or two taller, it's possible he'd be in the discussion for best receiver in this draft class. A few teams held Beckham down in college, but we think he's going to be a very good pro.
NFL comparison: Not quite as explosive or versatile as Percy Harvin but maybe somewhere between Harvin and Kendall Wright
Draft range: It's doubtful he'll make it past picks Nos. 17 or 18, and teams (Eagles? 49ers?) likely will look to trade up for him
17. Ohio State LB Ryan Shazier
Off-the-line linebackers have seen their draft stocks fall in recent years with teams favoring pass rushers and nickel cornerbacks. But what about three-down linebackers who can do it all? Shazier is an exceptional athlete for the position who can make plays in the backfield (39.5 tackles for loss the past two seasons), blitz off the edge (11 sacks in that same time), cover backs and tight ends and deliver big hits against the run. Although Shazier doesn't have a filled-out frame and might wear down at some point, he could be a great three-down defender who racks up tackles in a fast-flowing scheme (and could fit in almost any role in a 4-3 scheme), as well as being a special-teams contributor. This is a great all-around football player who will outperform his draft position.
NFL comparison: Bobby Wagner or Lavonte David
Draft range: Could start being in play in the early 20s but could last into early Round 2
16. Louisville S Calvin Pryor
How hard does Pryor hit? Well, he had a three-game streak this season of knocking out an opposing player. But can he cover? Witness the acrobatic interception he made against UCF's Blake Bortles.
With plus range, great instincts and that lights-out hitting ability, Pryor is our top-ranked safety in a draft class that is weak at the position. He plays out of control at times and too often looks to deliver the knockout blow, but with a patient coach and smart, disciplined players around him Pryor could be special. He's not great matching up in man coverage against faster tight ends, but Pryor otherwise can play almost any role in the back half of the defense and can be a tone setter with his style. The NFL's stricter enforcement of big hits could restrict him somewhat.
NFL comparison: Perhaps we're overreaching here, but there is some serious Rodney Harrison to Pryor's game
Draft range: Mid first round to early second
15. Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
With outstanding size, a plus arm, good athleticism and all the tools to be a classic NFL quarterback, Bortles has risen up the ladder into the top-10 discussion. He has stood tall against pressure and engineered some clutch performances in compiling a 22-5 record the past two seasons, including wins at Penn State, Louisville and over Baylor in the bowl game. Bortles needs to speed up his clock, work on ball security (9 fumbles, 9 INTs last season), tighten up his throws, prove he can go through his progressions and clean up his footwork a little. But many scouts absolutely believe he is capable of doing so with the right coaching. He might go high in the draft, but Bortles likely would be best serve not starting right out of the chute.
NFL comparison: Bortles possesses some qualities of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck body-wise and athletically speaking but isn't as good (yet) as either one — and might never be
Draft range: Possible top-10 pick who almost certainly won't last beyond No. 20
14. Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
One of the most fascinating and divisive prospects in recent years, the undersized Manziel goes against the grain in so many ways but is almost certain to captivate the imagination of a creative and open-minded coaching staff high in the draft. Manziel's smallish frame and his penchant for scrambling open him up to injury possibilities, and his off-the-script style and faulty mechanics could drive some coaches crazy. But no play is dead when the ball is in his hands, and the entire field is in play, making him incredibly hard to defend. Manziel has a good enough arm to make it in the NFL, and his ability to throw on the move is unlike any other quarterback in this class. Some worry about Manziel's off-the-field distractions and his magnetic personality detracting from a team dynamic, but he has on-field leadership skills and the kind of follow-me guts of a combat soldier to win a team over. It's impossible to box Manziel, and though he's not for everyone, it absolutely will be fascinating to chart his career arc, which is sure to both thrill and frustrate in the early going.
NFL comparison: We've compiled a list of worthy comps — including Tony Romo, Doug Flutie and, yes, even Fran Tarkenton — but Manziel reminds us a lot of Jeff Garcia, physically and style-wise
Draft range: Somewhere between the 4th and 16th pick
13. North Carolina TE Eric Ebron
If we're strictly drafting athletes, Ebron might be one of the first picks in this draft class, and as it is he stands to go very high for his mismatch speed, body control and upside. The 21-year-old junior has special receiving skills for the position and could transform the offense he is added to. Ebron catches very naturally and in stride and can run routes like a wide receiver. Although his blocking is not where you'd want it for an in-line player, with his strength and technique both in need of improvement, Ebron has the kind of difference-making receiving ability that will make it hard on defenses to decide how to check him. You need a seam splitter and safety beater? This is your guy.
NFL comparison: He's not quite Vernon Davis but very close
Draft range: Between picks 7 and 18
12. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
It has been a rough pre-draft experience for Bridgewater, who has fallen from the chic No. 1 pick in the draft through much of the college football season to now a borderline first-rounder. Why? A poor pro-day session in which his accuracy really wavered badly got the ball rolling. Then came the talk of his sub-standard size (he bulked up to 214 at the combine after playing the season in the 190s) and his OK but hardly great arm. Then some critics have chimed in about Bridgewater's ability to be the face of a franchise. The latter is almost certainly guff, and the first two points likely are overblown. Bridgewater might never be truly special, but he works at his craft, performs well in big situations and has the skills to be a very good pro who can make others around him better. There are fewer questions about him than there are about any of the other top-rated quarterbacks, including Bortles and Manziel.
NFL comparison: A poor man's melding of Matt Ryan (precision, touch, intangibles) and Aaron Rodgers (poise vs. pressure, throwing on the move), although Bridgewater is not as good as either
Draft range: Although some still think he has a chance to go to a QB-needy team at the top of the draft, we feel he will slide into the 20s and be there for a team wanting to trade up for him
11. Michigan OT Taylor Lewan
With great length, super athleticism and four years of strong tape, Lewan has the look of a top-10 pick. He put on a show at the combine, reminding people of just how gifted he is athletically, especially for a player of his height. Lewan plays through pain and with intensity, and though it occasionally can boil over on the field, that style more often than not will appeal to NFL teams that are seeking to add a dose of vinegar into their lineup. Lewan can handle either tackle spot effectively from Day 1, and though he might not be the finisher in the run game the Auburn's Greg Robinson is or the clean pass protector that Texas A&M's Jake Matthews is, there is a lot to feel good about with Lewan.
NFL comparison: Similar to Tyron Smith and Nate Solder
Draft range: Picks No. 6 to 13
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
Nos. 21-30: 30. Auburn DE-OLB Dee Ford; 29. Oregon State WR Brandin Cooks; 28. Florida State WR Kelvin Benjamin; 27. Fresno State QB Derek Carr; 26. Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard; 25. Ohio State CB Bradley Roby; 24. UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo; 23. Alabama S HaSean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix; 22. Notre Dame NT Louis Nix III; 21. Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller
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