Big Board has close call at No. 1

Louisville QB falls from top five while Gilbert and Dennard enter Mel's ranks

Updated: December 11, 2013, 11:41 AM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

Big BoardGetty ImagesOklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard are on the rise.

The regular season is behind us, and while prospects at or near the top of the rankings may feel pretty good about their draft position, they can be assured that making it through the college football season is just half the battle. For those who choose to enter the draft, the postseason evaluation process begins now. Preparation for the combine, pro days, interviews with numerous teams -- it's all about to get going. And it's crucial.

Look at last year's draft. By my count, four of the top five picks in the draft made dramatic strides after the season was over. Some guys shined in the Senior Bowl, while others put on a show at the combine and then backed it up at a pro day. But it's rare to see a guy near the top of the draft who disappointed in those settings. As I've said, the videotape from the season matters a great deal, but so do environments where you can be judged objectively next to your peers. For the NFL draft class of 2014, that begins soon.

As always, scouting reports remain similar week to week, with updates on matchups. Asterisks denote juniors; two asterisks denote redshirt sophomores.

1
Jadeveon Clowney *
AGE: 20
DOB: 2/14/93
HT: 6-6
WT: 265
POS: DE
Tkl 36
Sack 3.0
Int 0

His stock is still in good shape even after a disappointing season in terms of production. That's because the gifts are so obvious. Clowney has the quickness to beat people at the point of attack, the power to run through blockers, and the speed to pursue all over. He's not just an edge rusher looking to quickly turn the corner -- he doesn't even bend that well. He beats average tackles both inside and outside with his first step. Now, greater scrutiny arrives.

PREVIOUS RANK: No. 1 | PLAYER CARD

2
Anthony Barr
AGE: 21
DOB: 3/18/92
HT: 6-4
WT: 244
POS: OLB
Tkl 63
Sack 10.0
Int 0

A true challenge to Clowney as the top defender, and could be preferred to him depending on the scheme. A disruptive force even with added attention, Barr has become a better and more complete player. He's a good pass-rusher, using quick feet and hands to free himself, and he's disciplined. I love his pursuit when the play runs away from him. A former fullback, he has a powerful lower half and has a long frame and reach.  

PREVIOUS RANK: No. 2 | PLAYER CARD

3
Jake Matthews
AGE: 21
DOB: 2/11/92
HT: 6-5
WT: 305
POS: OT
GP 12
GS 12

The top left tackle on the board, but he'll have competition to hold on to this spot. Matthews has a ton of experience and a feisty, competitive nature. He's an intense worker and has great NFL bloodlines; his father, brother and two cousins have played in the league. Has strong skills as both a pass-protector and a finisher in the run game, where you can see a nasty streak.  

PREVIOUS RANK: No. 3 | PLAYER CARD

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst