Skill players still struggling
Geno Smith had trouble with the weather, Barkley almost out and more
Through the New Year's Day bowl games, we've had 15 of our new top 32 take the field in bowl games, eight on winning teams, seven on losing teams. We have eight players yet to play in their scheduled games and nine more played on teams that either didn't make a bowl or were ineligible to do so.
Our top-rated quarterback -- West Virginia's Geno Smith -- didn't have a great game. Smith and the Mountaineers found the going tough against Syracuse, losing 38-14 in the Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 29. Smith had two TD passes, but if anything, he didn't play well. The conditions in the Pinstripe Bowl weren't good and he was mostly ineffective.
It raises concerns. He didn't play well against Texas Tech in October because of the wind and you could see his accuracy was affected by it. Teams like the New York Jets, who play in bad weather occasionally, will use that information in their evaluations. It's a small part of the evaluations, but teams take it into account.
I wanted to see him finish on a better note, because it's really been an up-and-down season for Smith.
It was also an up-and-down season for USC QB Matt Barkley, who didn't play in the Sun Bowl because of injury. Barkley, who started the season at No. 1, is now at No. 32. It's been a slow and steady fall. He'll still probably wind up getting drafted in the first round. Right now, when you compare his grade to others, though, he's on the cusp of falling out of the top 32.
And it's not necessarily a sign of Barkley's ability, but it's about other players rising up the list. More so than anything, I think we've seen Barkley's weaknesses exposed more for a lack of protection up front. What concerns me is his ability to make plays and make things happen when things aren't clean around him because of his lack of athleticism and lack of ideal arm strength and accuracy down the field.
Finally, one of our biggest movers this time was Florida's Sharrif Floyd, who jumps five spots from No. 29 to No. 24. I've seen a little more tape of Florida now, and I think Floyd is playing smarter this year. The more he's playing inside, the more I like his game. He still brings versatility as a guy who can play a five-technique defensive end and can play defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. He's been a lot more consistent in terms of making plays and getting off blocks. And his technique and discipline have improved.
But nothing is settled. It's a long way until April 25. Until then, here is the order for the first 20 picks.
Here is a look at the Top 32, with draft-eligible non-seniors noted with an asterisk:
Analysis: Lotulelei is the most complete defensive lineman in the class in terms of physical tools. He dominates interior offensive linemen with his blend of quickness and power. He shows strong hands, nimble feet and the ability to quickly discard blockers, and he has impressive lateral range. Lotulelei needs some polish as a pass-rusher, but his natural gifts are clearly a cut above.
AFC West blog: What will Chiefs do with No. 1? Bowl result: No bowl game Previously: 1
Analysis: He is a versatile prospect who can play outside linebacker in a 3-4, right or left end in a 4-3 and even move inside to rush the passer from the interior. Moore is quick and fluid as a pass-rusher, is able to hold up against the run and plays hard.
News: Moore declares for draft | GigEm Nation blog Bowl result: AT&T Cotton Bowl -- Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 4 Previously: 2
Analysis: Warmack is a big, strong, nasty lineman with good smarts and athleticism. He shows awareness, is an easy mover in pass protection and has power as a run-blocker. The best guard I've evaluated in the past decade, Warmack is the rare interior lineman worthy of a top-10 overall pick.
Blog: Tide O-line built to perform | Tide Nation blog Bowl result: BCS Championship, No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama, 8 p.m. ET, Jan. 7 Previously: 3
Analysis: Joeckel has fared well against the likes of Alabama and LSU this season. His balance and ability to recover in pass protection stand out, and he takes good angles and is able to get to the second level in the run game.
News: Draft-eligible juniors face decisions | GigEm Nation blog Bowl result: AT&T Cotton Bowl -- Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma, Jan. 4 Previously: 4
Analysis: Mingo's production has not been as high as expected, but he has still been disruptive. His long frame, elite first step and outstanding speed for his size make him a major weapon off the edge. He also has great range and closing burst against the run, and shows plenty of upside.
Bowl result: Chik-fil-A Bowl -- Clemson 25, LSU 24 Previously: 6
To see the rest of Todd McShay's rankings, you must be an ESPN Insider.
MORE NFL HEADLINES
- Sources: Bears 'confused' at coach's discipline
- Sources: Bears to start Clausen over Cutler
- 49ers' Harbaugh 'considering' Michigan job
- Gruden: My RG III quotes always get twisted