NFL Draft 2014: The year in Gems

ODB, go get your money - Stacy Revere

A summary of the 2013-2014 year of draft prospects from the series of Jared's Gems, featuring some of the best finds.

On the eve of the 2014 NFL Draft, I wanted to take a look back at the players I’ve highlighted throughout the college season, where they began when I first featured them, and where they stand heading into the draft tomorrow.

I began my 2014 draft scouting May 13, 2013…less than a month after the 2013 draft. The players I wrote about that day included Dri Archer, Lache Seastrunk, Bishop Sankey, Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron, Taylor Lewan, Jake Matthews, Cyrus Kouandjio, Sammy Watkins, and the first appearance of Jordan Matthews.

My favorite line, while talking about Matthews, was this guess about his trajectory: "Matthews (will) project late 1st round all year, then at the combine he will run a sub 4.50 forty, post insane jump numbers, and then become a top-10 pick." In actuality, Matthews has gone more like early 2nd all year, and he may bump up into the 1st, but I did get the sub 4.5 speed part right.

The other WR prediction I made last May that I completely nailed was ranking Sammy Watkins in front of Marqise Lee (which wasn’t common belief right after Lee finished 2nd in receiving in 2012). Watkins currently sits at draftscout’s #4 overall prospect, while Lee has fallen to the 5th WR and the 27th overall player. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lee falls out of the 1st round altogether.

At RB, I did well to point out Seastrunk and Sankey…two of the guys that came out of their combine/pro days in the top 5 in their position group for SPARQ. Dri Archer, the 3rd running back I mentioned in that piece (that was draft eligible) finished just below both of them in 8th place. But more importantly, as I predicted ("listed at 5’8"/175 and, I’m estimating, 4.2 speed"), Archer put up a 4.26 in the forty yard dash.

On August 27, 2013 I wrote this piece just prior to the college season giving a dozen players to keep an eye on all year. The piece de resistance from that story was the player I opened with: Khalil Mack. Even before a single snap of the 2013 season, I knew Khalil Mack was a special player, and that "He will NOT make it out of the first round". At the time I wrote that, Mack was ranked 42nd overall by nfldraftscout.com. As it stands now, Mack is a top 5 player with a legitimate shot at #1 overall.

That preseason piece was also the debut of Ja’Wuan James. I wish I had included James’ draft projection from that time so I could quote it specifically, but I promise you this…it was lower than the 3rd round. Today…James is being mentioned as a target of the Miami Dolphins at #19 overall. So that’s a thing.

Other guys that I mentioned that day, but wish I had talked up more: Arthur Lynch, Dontae Johnson, and Deone Bucannon. Especially Bucannon. I liked him all year, but never really returned to give a scouting report on him after that mention. Today, it will be a shock if Deone falls out of the 2nd round:

…and it wouldn’t surprise myself, or a few respected others, if he were taken in the 1st.

On September 2nd, 2013 I published the inaugural installment of "Jared’s Gems". It was an abbreviated piece that didn’t feature many names that I hadn’t written about in the prior preseason pieces, but it did feature one important name: Blake Bortles. At that time, Bortles was an unheralded junior quarterback with no buzz who I didn’t expect would declare. I didn’t write much on him…I just liked the tape. Today Bortles is the #1 QB on draftscout’s board, has an overall rank of #6, and has been in the conversation to be drafted by Houston at #1 overall at various times.

September 12th, 2013: the premiere of Rashede Hageman. Predominantly, at that point, considered a 2nd round player, Hageman than proceeded to step up into the 1st round conversation, where he has stayed pretty much all year…until like the last week when suddenly he’s back "down into the 2nd". I’m assuming the 2nd round talk is a result of this being the lying season.

In the same story, I talked about DT Dominique Easley. Even before Easley tore his second ACL, draftscout had Easley ranked 35th overall, and I specifically thought he was a player that I "would need to see fall into the 50-60 range to consider for the Hawks." Again, that’s pre-ACL #2. I still can’t really consider Easley in the 1st for Seattle, and I’m not even real psyched about him at #64. But, at the same time, I kinda think he’ll get picked mid-2nd.

Week 2 of the gems also brought Field Gulls its first views of TE Jace Amaro, OT Michael Schofield, and OT Billy Turner. About 8 months later, and Schofield has jumped from the 7th round projection he had then, all the way up to a 3rd-4th round projection today. Part of that jump came from his 13th placement on the Tackle SPARQ chart. At 6’6"/301 and 105.1 pSparq, Schofield looks more like a very comparable Breno Giacomini replacement than many people realize. 34" arms too…which is way harder to find in an OT than you may think. Even Breno didn’t have 34" arms.

But you know who else DOES have 34" arms? The aforementioned Billy Turner. First featured in the Gems in September as the 536th overall ranked player…Turner has ridden the wave of success of his 3rd consecutive FCS national championship all the way up to a 2nd-3rd round projection. This one I’m pretty proud of.

September 18th, 2013: oh my heavens, it’s Mike Evans. Only three weeks into the season and I was already postulating of the redshirt sophomore, "if he keeps putting up these Calvin Johnson numbers…he may just take his chances going pro." Well, he did keep putting up those Mega numbers, and he has taken his chances going pro…to the tune of probable #2 WR off the board, and certainly a top 10 selection. Probably top 5.

Another WR featured that week was Allen Robinson. As the tape told me then, "Robinson is 6’3"/210 and really quick for his size." Cut to; after his pro day and Robinson stands as the #1 WR in the draft in SPARQ with the 4th fastest 3-cone time in his position group. I didn’t list Robinson’s draft projection at that time, but if memory serves he has been top 3 rounds all year. And I think Allen is a wildcard possibility to sneak into the 1st round on Thursday. I've been saying Panthers for weeks, maybe months.

Lastly in the WR group after week 3, getting a "mention" but not getting any tape to evaluate, was Brandin Cooks. He was another guy I didn’t list a round projection, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t a 1st round projection like it is today.

At RB, I put Bishop Sankey back into this edition of the Gems but this time I gave some actual predictions. Not only did I predict that the Junior, Sankey, would declare this year, I also went out on a limb and predicted he would be one of the first two running backs to come off the board. Wow. After finishing 4th in the country in rushing yards per game, and testing as the 5th best RB on the SPARQ calculator, Sankey is currently listed as draftscout’s #2 running back, with a 2nd round projection.

But that isn’t even the coolest thing I did in that week’s Gems. You see, that was the week that I wrote about the player "Draftscout currently lists as their 624th overall prospect". That same player today is ranked as draftscout’s 92nd overall prospect. So that’s kind of an improvement, right? Ladies and gentlemen…I’m pretty sure that qualifies as me calling "dibs" on Stanley Jean-Baptiste.

September 25th, 2013: I opened with the debut of OT Wesley Johnson. I can’t claim that Wesley has made as large of a jump up the draftscout board as SJB, but he has gone from #316 up to #167. He also has gone from an OT to an OG to now being listed as an OC. I predicted the move to OG, but I specifically didn’t foresee the move to center. But after seeing him there in the Senior Bowl, it makes a ton of sense. Plus he has the intelligence to be calling protection changes.

The only other notable debut in week 4 was OG Ryan Groy. At that time, Groy had 5th round projection. At this time, Groy has UDFA projection. So this currently looks like a whiff. BUT…Groy actually has top 4 SPARQ on the OG chart. I think maybe draft media is still sleeping on this one, but, as a Wisconsin guy, I sincerely doubt John Schneider is.

October 2nd 2013: I talk a little bit about Ryan Shazier in this one, but he was a guy that began and ended the year in the same place…in the 1st round…out of the reach of the Seahawks.

More importantly, this was the debut of OT Zack Martin. I cite Martin as a possible mid-2nd round guy at that point, and Martin has now made a full level-up to mid-1st consideration. Even more than the fact I liked Martin early, I really like that I wrote this:

"It’s worth noting that, for some reason, some draft outlets are projecting that Martin will be forced to move inside to Guard in the pros. It seems odd conjecture and I’m not sure I see cause for that. Right tackle? Maybe. I don’t know that I’d need to make him a guard though."

I think the rest of the league has more or less caught on, and agreed, to this sentiment. The only real reason to move Martin inside is because of his arm length. But half of the most highly-touted OT in this draft (including Jake Matthews and Taylor Lewan) have less-than ideal arm length. The tape says leave Martin at Tackle.

October 9, 2013: three words…Odell Beckham Junior. We join the ODB show in week 6 when he has a 3rd round projection. My specific thought: "We’re giving Beckham two asterisks…one for being a junior, and the other is a bullet for his stock being on the rise." Yep. Risen all the way to #3 WR and a top 15 overall projection from draftscout.

October 16, 2013: this was a pretty poor week tape-wise. The most notable thing was my discussion of Michael Sam. It’s a pretty fair assessment too…pointing out he didn’t show any great skillset(s), he was simply just getting results and production from want-to.

October 23, 2013: we open with SS Calvin Pryor. It’s weird that I doubted that Pryor was truly 6’2" as listed by Louisville, and instead specifically mention being okay with him at 6’0"…which is where Pryor ended up measuring. At that point, because of his underclassmen status, Pryor wasn’t listed in the draftscout rankings. So I just projected him as a 2015 1st rounder. Fast forward to May, and Pryor is the 22nd overall prospect…aka: 2014 FIRST ROUNDER.

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Photo credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

Even with debuting a likely 1st rounder, the week 8 Gems would not mean nearly as much to me if not for DE Marcus Smith. That is when he premiered, and he opened as draftscout’s 378th overall player and ranked 30th amongst DE’s. Today…try 6th rated DE and draftscout’s 61st overall player. From UDFA to 2nd round. And I had him even before draftbreakdown.com had any tape cut on him. I spotted him while watching Calvin Pryor. THIS is the single gem I am most prideful of unearthing this year.

Oh, and by the way…October 23 was also the week I debuted DE Demarcus Lawrence. Lawrence himself has climbed from 5th round projection back then, to a late 1st round spot today (#32 overall). But it’s still not as cool going from 5th to 1st, as it is going from UDFA to 2nd. In my humble opinion.

Tomorrow I will publish my second and final Seahawk mock draft for 2014, and today we’ll close out this retrospective at the point when I published my first Seahawk mock draft…October 30, 2013. From the top:

#32- WR Jordan Matthews

I had him since the preseason and he’s almost always vacillated between the 1st and 2nd rounds. Drafting Matthews (or any WR) in the 1st is no longer my desire, but it will always be a welcome possibility.

#64- DT Aaron Donald

I had been sitting on my love for Aaron Donald for some time before I published him as my 2nd round pick. At that time, I was already scratching my head at questions like, "why is he projecting to get drafted in the 3rd-4th round range?" Today, I am only wondering, "why did it take so long for him to get his due?" Tomorrow, my only question will be, "how high will he end up going?" I think we may see a top 10 finish.

#127 (which became #132 after comp picks added)- OT Ja’Wuan James

Even in October I knew "I think James is a steal in the 4th." And now that it looks like James won’t fall out of the 2nd round, getting him in the 4th clearly would have been theft.

#140- TE Marcel Jensen

At some point I completely lost interest in drafting a TE this year. It was probably the point Zach Miller signed a reduced contract. Or maybe it was when this class of TE’s tested at combine and pro days and came away looking pretty unathletic. If I were still interested in drafting a TE, I think the 5th round still sounds right, but I probably no longer go with Jensen. He feels more like a 6th now.

#159- OT Billy Turner

Even then I was doubling down on OL. Clearly Billy Turner will not still be available in the 5th round. But if you see him anywhere in the 3rd (and have a pick in the 3rd) Turner is a guy you consider.

#191- DE Marcus Smith

And then I woke up.

#223- FS Jimmie Ward

Much like Donald, Ward was a player I had been a fan of since 2012, but being at a smaller school, he had yet to catch the draft spotlight. Things changed in the college off-season. Where once Jimmie Ward could be had in the 7th round per draftscout, today he isn’t even found in the 2nd. This, my friends, is another worst to first player. Draftscout currently lists Ward in the 1st round and their #31 overall player.

In summation of my October 30th piece…where once we were drafting players that would be available in round 1, 2, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7 according to draftscout; today those same players would have equated to values of round 2, 1, 2, 5, 2, 2, 1. Mmhmm. I would take that draft. In fact, anyone should want to take even half of that draft. Better yet…let’s go with Olympic ice skating rules: eliminate the high score, eliminate the low score, keep the rest.

This isn’t the entire snapshot of my scouting this year…there were misses. But scouting is not too different from hitting in the MLB…hitting on one of three is actually pretty good. Even teams that have drafted as well as Seattle still have their Mark Legree’s.

This also isn’t the entire snapshot of players I’ve stepped out on early…there were others prior to bowl games, all star gamesthe combine, and pro days (see: Cody Latimer, Walt Aikens, etc.), but the gems found in-season are the ones I’m most proud of.

Hopefully this recap buys me a little bit of cred heading into the mock draft that I will publish tomorrow. I hope I do Field Gulls, the Hawks, and the 12s proud. And I really hope we get some of my players!

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