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Now that the 2014 NFL Draft has come and gone, rookie minicamps, OTAs and training camp are all that stand in the way for next season’s action.
Looking ahead, there is a lot for fans to be excited about and all of this year’s upcoming college match ups will hold more than enough good competition to enjoy. Conferences like the Pac 12 and the SEC will bolster loads of talented players who will be looking to either make a name for themselves or add to their already impressive resumes.
Whether or not they plan on continuing to play football at the next level, all of the big name college stars will essentially be playing towards their potential future occupations. Here is an early list of my top ten overall players for next season.
1. Marcus Mariota: QB, Oregon: 6’4″, 211 lbs
Since taking over the starting duties two years ago at Oregon, Marcus Mariota has been nothing but sensational for his team and looks to build on his already highly touted collegiate career. Heading into the end of last season, scouts and teams around the league were anticipating Mariota to make the leap to the NFL, but he elected to stay in school another year to essentially work on his game. With his poise in the pocket, arm strength, accuracy and decision making, there is no doubt that he will be in serous contention for the first overall pick by season’s end.
2. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: CB, Oregon: 5′ 10″, 195 lbs
Like Mariota, many thought that Ifo Ekpre-Olomu would take his talents to the next level, but he instead returned to Oregon for the 2014 season. He will enter this next year as the top player at the position in the nation and will more than likely end up as the best cornerback in the next draft. His ability to play press, off man and zone coverage, along with great instincts and aggressiveness all add to his already high draft stock.
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3. Brandon Scherff: OT, Iowa: 6′ 5″, 315 lbs
Looking at Brandon Scherff’s physical traits, it is not hard to see why so many teams would have been bummed out that he decided to not enter into this year’s draft. Standing at 6’5″ and weighing in at around 315 lbs, Scherff has the ideal size needed to succeed at the next level with the technique and strength to consistently fend off defenders. With another year of college under his belt, Scherff will be able to really polish a lot of aspects of his game.
4. Vic Beasley: DE/OLB, Clemson: 6′ 3″, 225 lbs
Another well known college player who was highly regarded as a potential top prospect for this year’s draft, Vic Beasley will be looking to make a big impact for the Clemson Tigers in 2014. He is able to use his explosiveness and quickness off of the snap to beat lineman and is also efficient with his hands and knows how to play with leverage. Should he continue to refine his pass rushing moves, look for Beasley to generate a lot of buzz during next season.
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5. Andrus Peat: OT, Stanford: 6′ 7″, 312 lbs
A mammoth of an offensive tackle, Andrus Peat stands at 6’7″ and weighs over 310 lbs. In a ground and pound offense like Stanford’s, it is safe to think that Peat has had plenty of practice in regards to his ability to effectively run block and pave the way for his running backs. He is also impressive in his pass protection, as he shows good natural talent and can move well when standing up. Like this year, there are several tackles who could make a strong case to be the top player at that position for the 2015 class.
6. Cedric Ogbuehi: OT, Texas A&M: 6′ 5″, 300 lbs
Heading into the 2014 college football season, there will be plenty of attention on how Texas A&M adjusts to life after Johnny Manziel and Mike Evans. Luckily for whoever ends up being the new quarterback of the Aggies, they will have an excellent blind side protector in Cedric Ogbuehi. Over the course of his career at College Station, Ogbuehi has played all over the offensive line and offers a lot of versatility, but looks to be best suited at left tackle. His size, strength and footwork make up a solid foundation for him to work with while transitioning to the left side of the line.
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7. Amari Cooper: WR, Alabama: 6′ 1″, 202 lbs
It will be hard for any receiver class to live up to this year’s group, but that shouldn’t take away from next year’s crop of wide outs. At the top of next year’s group is Alabama wide receiver, Amari Cooper. Though A.J. McCarron is now in the NFL and head coach Nick Saban is still looking for his next star quarterback, the transition shouldn’t be too difficult for whoever wins that battle, especially with Amari Cooper there to catch passes for them. Cooper’s speed, agility and size all add to his playmaking ability and he is a threat to score from just about anywhere on the field.
8. Jamies Winston: QB, Florida State: 6′ 4″, 227 lbs
Last season’s Heisman Trophy winner and leader of the national champion Florida State Seminoles, Jamies Winston, will hold some of the highest expectations of all of the collegiate football players. Not only will he be playing to get back to the big game, but he also will be showing teams and scouts what he can bring to the table for the NFL. Though his throwing motion needs some work, Winston has great leadership, accuracy and touch on the ball, which are several key attributes that will be huge in transitioning to the next level.
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9. Michael Bennett: DT/DE, Ohio State: 6′ 2″, 288 lbs
There is a lot to like about Ohio State’s Michael Bennett and all that he has to offer. As of now, Bennett looks to be on his way to making a huge impact for the Buckeye’s defense and has a very good chance of posting some impressive numbers. His physicality, motor and strength, are all very good and he offers a lot of versatility to the defensive front, lining up in several different positions for his team last season. In a 4-3 defensive scheme, Bennett could thrive at the defensive tackle position.
10. Randy Gregory: DE/OLB, Nebraska: 6′ 6″, 245 lbs
In terms of upside and potential, Randy Gregory has plenty of that. Playing at defensive end in Nebraska’s 4-3 front, Gregory gets a lot of practice rushing the quarterback with his hand in the dirt, but that may not be where he is best suited to make an impact. With his athletic ability and quickness, there is a very good chance that he could make the transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 base defense and really become effective. There is no doubt that Gregory has the physical tools and traits to succeed as either a 4-3 end or a 3-4 edge rusher.