Bowl season is in the books for another season and my soul dies a little bit every year on this day. But, there’s so much work to do to get ready for the Senior Bowl, the Combine, Pro Days and the Draft that there’s no time to sit and mope. We first posted our TSV Big Board back in December just following the end of the CFB regular season. From that date going forward, we’ve done a ton of work, watching bowl games, watching games we missed during the season and watching key players that caught our eye during the season that we needed to see more of in this process. Furthermore, some players decided to stay in school…looking right at you Mr. Mariota, so the board needed to be adjusted appropriately.
So it is. Here are some of the players that got a “lotta love” over the last month from TSV crew. But…
First things first, literally, Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel moved to the top of our Big Board. Back healthy after a difficult pair of games to finish the regular season, Manziel put on a show in his final game as an Aggie in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl v. Duke. I flirted often with whether to put Manziel at the top of the board throughout the season and settled on Alabama LT Cyrus Kouandjio. The Crimson Tide star struggled in the Sugar Bowl, especially with speed off the edge, a crack in the armor no one really had exploited. His technique broke down, unlike any other time I’ve watched him over the past two years. But, back to Manziel, he was back to showing the full gamut of his “game” and after watching a few other games during the break and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, I’m going with my gut on this one…for now. There’s always more film to watch, ya know?
Auburn DE/OLB Dee Ford jumped off the screen during the A&M game when he faced top tackles Jake Matthews and Cedric Ogbuehi. He showed a mix of power, quickness, toughness and play making skills against the Aggie duo. In the National Championship game, he showed his quickness and burst on a couple of inside moves and, generally, created mayhem for FSU’s solid tackles. I think his size may keep him from being completely scheme 4-3/3-4 versatile, but he can wreck shop in a hurry, hence his spot at No. 33.
Last year, UCLA’s Datone Jones was one of my favorite players in the entire draft due to his ability to play any position in any scheme. When I finally sat down to study Missouri’s DE Kony Ealy, he reminded me instantly of Jones. Now, I do think Jones was more disruptive inside, but Ealy’s getting there. This guy’s 6-5, 275 lb. He can bump to the 3 technique in pass rush situations, excellent first step and, like Jones, can play up and down the defensive line.
Michigan State CB Darqueze Dennard didn’t rise much on the board but enough to push to be the top CB on our board (Oklahoma State CB Justin Gilbert is one spot ahead; FSU’s Lamarcus Joyner is also above him but it’s not ultimately clear what position he plays - slot CB, perimeter CB or safety). Either way, Dennard continues to move up the board given his consistent performance this year and he played exceptionally well against Ohio State and Stanford. He’s been a favorite of mine for a couple years and he’ll be a favorite of an NFL team soon.
North Dakota State LT Billy Turner caught my eye in last year’s FCS Championship game but more so in the opener this year at Kansas State. Everyone wants to see FCS players against FBS competition and Turner dominated the FBS competition. I told everyone I could about him, on TSV or on the radio, and I don’t think even I gave him enough credit. I watched his final three games in the FCS playoffs and it was easy. He combo blocked like no other, he buried linemen at the point of attack and made himself a focal point at the Senior Bowl.
From midseason on, no RB was better than Auburn’s Tre Mason. But, it really hit me watching the All-22 film on BCS National Championship Monday night. The end zone view really gave me an idea of his vision, quickness, jump cut, burst and power. FSU true freshman S Jalen Ramsey found out all about his power. Mason is legit and the more I watch the more it hits me that he may be the most complete RB in this class.
I have not been on the Timmy Jernigan train this year. The past two years I thought the former five star player was no better than average and in 2013 hadn’t really been tested. I still don’t think he’s been tested but damn he can win with some leverage. He completely eviscerated Auburn C Reese Dismukes, thought to be one of the top centers in the country. Strong, compact and mobile in small spaces, wow. I just always fear players that do little then have tremendous final season like Minnesota Viking Sharrif Floyd. Regardless, this is a weak DT class and Jernigan may ultimately be the best of the bunch. Not sure how he’s going to fit in a traditional 3-4, but in a one gap 3-4, he might be a much more athletic version of Jay Ratlif. Well, when Ratliff was dominating in Dallas as a one gap NT for Wade Phillips. He may be best suited to be an even front 3 technique.
Speaking of undersized defensive linemen, Pitt’s Aaron Donald was as disruptive as any defensive lineman has been since Ndamukong Suh. Now, Suh is 6-3 and 305. Donald is lucky to be 6-0 and only 285. That doesn’t look like much, but it’s the difference in Suh being the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft and Donald potentially being drafted on day two. But, I’ve always been a “production over potential” guy and Donald is that. If a guy can play, he can play. He’ll find a way.
Underclassmen that have declared - WILL BE added to our Big Board
Clemson WR Martavis Bryant
LSU DT Ego Ferguson
South Carolina WR Bruce Ellington
Oregon S Terrance Mitchell (didn’t get great draft advisory grade but declared anyway - “It wasn’t a fair evaluation”)
Cal LB Khairi Fortt - transferred from PSU
Cal WR/TE Richard Rodgers
Louisville WR Damian Copeland
USC DL George Uko
Louisville S Calvin Pryor
North Carolina C Russell Bodine
USC C Marcus Martin
Colorado State RB Kapri Bibbs
Utah TE Jake Murphy
Cal CB Kameron Jackson
Ball State WR Wille Snead
Western Kentucky S Jonathan Dowling