FIVE TO WATCH
Next season’s class for the 2014 NFL draft is gearing up to produce the blockbuster athletic talent many felt was absent from the 2013 crop. Here are five college players who can expect to be highly coveted at the next level:
DT, South Carolina
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At 6-foot-6, 272 pounds, Clowney posses the physical tools needed to become a success in the NFL. If it weren’t for his age, his name would have been the first called this year. His ferocity on the field has made him a household name: The YouTube video of his hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl has more than 3.5 million views.
A two-year starter, “Teddy Ballgame” has been nothing short of impressive. Last season, he passed for 3,718 yards and 27 touchdowns while leading the Cardinals to their first BCS bowl victory since 2006. In each of his first two seasons, he has shown vast improvement — he’s only thrown 20 interceptions in 715 collegiate attempts.
QB, Texas A&M
With the NFL starting to embrace the read option, Manziel would be quite the catch. His amazing redshirt freshman season — 3,706 yards passing, 1,409 yards rushing and 47 touchdowns — earned him the Heisman Trophy and piqued the interest of those in the pro ranks. Johnny Football might leave college early for the NFL.
OT, Texas A&M
Matthews’ decision to return to school rather than join teammate Luke Joeckel in this year’s draft was a surprising move, but it could pay off. The 6-5, 305-pounder, who is the son of Hall of Fame father Bruce Matthews, moves to left tackle to protect Manziel. Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan could be the top offensive linemen taken in 2014.
WR, Southern Cal
Lee makes big plays that can change the direction of a game. At 6-1, Lee was one of the main targets for Matt Barkley. He led the team last season with 118 receptions for 1,721 yards and 14 receiving TDs and is a decent kick returner. Another standout season and he can guarantee himself a first-round selection in 2014.