New QB rising in Top 32
Updating prospect rankings based on Mariota's decision, Bortles' rise
Any time a potential No. 1 overall pick decides to return to school, it has an impact on NFL draft boards. That is the case this week with the news that QB Marcus Mariota is going back to Oregon for his redshirt junior season.
Mariota would have been No. 4 in this edition of the Top 32, and his departure will not only affect the entire board but also the pecking order among the top quarterback prospects, as well.
His departure from the draft field isn't the only big move this week, as a fast-rising QB prospect cracks the top 15 and two other new names join the mix.
Here is our updated ranking of the Top 32 prospects for the 2014 NFL draft.
(Note: The scouting reports will largely stay the same for each edition of these rankings, but we'll update as needed based on recent performances and upcoming matchups. Draft-eligible non-seniors are noted with an asterisk.)
Analysis: There have been times this season when Clowney's effort has been up and down, more later in the season than earlier, and his production is nowhere near what was expected of him coming into the year (just three sacks in the regular season). But he is still the most talented player in the 2014 draft class, regardless of position. He has a rare blend of size, athleticism, strength and speed. He can beat opponents just as easily with his speed rush as he can with his bull rush.
Analysis: Barr capped off a dominant regular season with five tackles and two sacks in UCLA's win over crosstown rival USC. He has closed the gap between him and Clowney to the point that I think some teams, especially those with 3-4 defensive alignments, will have a serious debate over whether to take him over Clowney. Barr may be a notch below in pure ability, but his production speaks for itself, and every report I've gotten regarding him is that he is exceptional in terms of football character and work ethic. He has very good first-step quickness and elite closing burst as a pass-rusher and a run defender. He also possesses ideal size, length and versatility for his position.
Analysis: Matthews is just a stud. He has the pedigree, he's durable, he's versatile (he played right tackle last season and left tackle this season and is good in both run and pass blocking) and he's a high-character player. Matthews is the best offensive tackle prospect in this class right now, and depending on which team ends up with the top overall pick, he could go No. 1 overall.
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