Sophomores worthy of the draft
Clowney leads list of underclassmen who would be in first-round mix this year
Before I get into this list -- the five true sophomores who have shown the potential and ability to be first-round picks in this year's draft, were they eligible -- I need to add a couple of qualifications:
1. I haven't watched anywhere close to the amount of tape on these five players as I have on seniors and draft-eligible upperclassmen, so I'm operating off a much smaller sample size in slotting their approximate draft position in this current draft class.
2. The draft process is a marathon, and there are many, many variables that cause a player to elevate or drop. So just because I'm mentioning these players now does not mean they're first-round locks when they do become draft eligible.
But the fact is that these five players are a lot closer than normal for their age to be ready to play in the NFL. They appear to be well on their way to becoming high NFL draft picks in the near future -- and for there to be this many that fit the bill this early in the season is extremely rare.
Here are the five non-draft-eligible players who would make my Top 32 prospects ranking for the 2013 draft right now.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
Right now, of all the players I've studied on tape, I have not seen a more consistently disruptive defender than Clowney, and that includes LSU's Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery, Georgia's Jarvis Jones and Utah's Star Lotulelei. Those are all great players in their own right, and most of them are more advanced in their skills than Clowney is. But Clowney has been more disruptive. And these are all first-half-of-the-first-round draft prospects we're talking about.
To read more from Todd McShay on Jadeveon Clowney and the four other true sophomores who would be in the first-round conversation for this year's draft, you must be an ESPN Insider.