Best pure players in 2014 NFL draft

Forget about projections -- these 20 players display a complete game

Updated: May 1, 2014, 1:54 PM ET
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider

Johnny ManzielWesley Hitt/Getty ImagesJohnny Manziel's pure football skills are reflected in AQ-high completion numbers.

The truth about the NFL draft is the best pure football players don't just go to the top. That's not unfair, it's just the business of building an NFL team. You're not just drafting what you know about a player, you're drafting the hope of what he can become with further development on your team.

The best pure football players may not run as fast or jump as high or do as many reps. But for whatever they lack in physical talent, they perform because of their football instincts. Whenever I go on radio with Colin Cowherd, he's always talking about the distinction between prospects and guys who "simply know how to play."

For this, I picked 20 total -- 10 on offense, 10 on defense. I could certainly go deeper, but these are the guys who truly stand out when I go through my rankings. I've also added a current draft projection.


Offense

Johnny Manziel QB, Texas A&M 
Go ahead and call Manziel merely a football genius for his scrambling and wizardry in extending plays. But he's a great pure player because he balances that with this: He completed an AQ-high 73.5 percent of his passes from inside the pocket last season. Manziel isn't just a freelancer, he's a very good pure football player.

Projection: Early Round 1

Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
A bigger arm would push Murray higher up on draft boards, but if he can add some strength there -- and it happens often -- he can be an NFL starter, because he'll work to get there. He's accurate short and can run an offense but just isn't a great athlete for a player his size, and that matters.

Projection: Rounds 4-5

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst