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2014 NFL Draft: Draft Phantom's Top 40

A look at the top 40 players on the Draft Phantom's Board.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Draft Phantom's Mid-Season Still Too Early Top 40 Board

Many of us are gazing at the 2014 Draft as the next best thing for six months, aside from firing Schiano. With that in mind I figured I would post the "DP Top 40" in honor of Casey Kasem who was always an interesting voice on the radio. Feel free to debate, ridicule, and question but please try to be respectful of each other even if you "HATE" that persons opinion.

In a league of their own

1. Teddy Bridgewater. 6'2", 220 lbs. QB, Louisville(JR) - It's getting pretty ridiculous how precise Teddy Bridgewater is in terms of ball placement. He can read defenses and place the ball exactly where he wants to even under the tremendous pressure given up by a very anemic Louisville offensive line. He doesn't have quite the football IQ as Andrew Luck but he's playing in the same ballpark at this point which I didn't expect to see from him this season. Most of the arguments against Bridgewater are build and level of competition. The level of competition argument tends to come from the same crew that argued Robert Griffin III would be a bust because he played in the Big 12. Rather than look at the individual player and his attributes it comes from a guilt by association basis. If you pressed me right now, I'd have to place him somewhere between the grade I gave RGIII and the one given to Andrew Luck which is rarified air.

2. Jadeveon Clowney. 6'5", 275lbs. DE, S. Carolina(SO-RS) - Clowney is either dogging it right now or the rib injury is much worse than reported. Right now, provisionally, I've got to keep him on here because he's physically more talented than anyone he's going to line up against. Julius Peppers really is the best comparison at this point in time and Clowney certainly has that sort of upside, perhaps even a tad more given some of his explosiveness but he either needs to get healthy or get his head in the game.

3. Anthony Barr. 6'4", 244lbs. OLB, UCLA(SR) - Really a one man wrecking crew right now with too much foot speed for offensive tackles and too much power to be stopped by a TE or RB. He's disruptive and attacks upfield pretty consistently. I've been impressed with how well he's picked up coverage responsibilities so far. I'm always leery of taking linebackers this high in the draft but Barr has the elite athleticism and production to merit being considered unique. He'll make some 3-4 scheme team happy.

4. Marcus Mariota. 6'4", 212lbs. QB, Oregon(SO-RS) - He's still got some risk and still has the highest ceiling. Right now he is starting to mitigate some of the downside risk. From a single read scheme there is always the concern he may not be able to go through a pro progression but Mariota, even when limited by UCLA's scheme Saturday to checkdowns, shows patience and that counts for a lot. I'm still worried about his ball placement a little bit and think it will be a longer adjustment, but I'd say a team with a solid running game could mitigate some of the risk and give Mariota the time to develop. If you can run the ball while you wait for his eyes to speed up to pro speed he'll make someone very happy.

5. Jake Matthews. 6'5", 310lbs. OT, Texas A&M(SR) - About as clean as it gets in terms of pass protection. Really smooth transitions while dropping back and better than good though not devastating as a run blocker. Excellent durability and comes with the nastiness necessary to finish a block. Really exceptional recovery skills which you don't see from too many offensive linemen. Probably the best offensive lineman I've seen since Jake Long came out of Michigan.

6. Eric Ebron. 6'4", 240lbs. TE, North Carolina(JR) - After alligator-arming some passes early in the season Ebron has really become the hands down best TE in the nation. Breakaway speed from a tight end is something we don't see too often. He's starting to look like he may be that rare special athlete at TE that might threaten the top 10 of the draft which no one has done since Vernon Davis.

7. Mike Evans. 6'5", 220lbs. WR, Texas A&M(SO-RS) - Really nasty all around playmaker who comes with a good deal more upside. Only a redshirt sophomore he's still developing as a route runner but his ability to elevate is simply in elite territory. His hands are also big and strong meaning he will take the ball away from defenders. He screams potential #1 WR on a team and those guys don't come around too often.

8. Taylor Lewan. 6'7", 315lbs. OT, Michigan (SR) - Probably the nastiest OT in this draft. Lewan really finishes blocks. He's "on the bubble" for this spot because of penalties. He needs to stay under control in order to maintain elite status otherwise the negatives will outweigh some of the other things he does.

Clear First Round Talent & Productivity

9. C.J. Mosley. 6'2", 235lbs. LB, Alabama (SR) - Could play inside in a 34 or on the outside at the weak linebacker spot in a 43. Doesn't have quite the durability or take on ability of Luke Kuechly but he's pretty close in terms of being able to attack both the run and the pass. Really solid and smooth all around prospect. Not a big striker but that's highly overrated.

10. Sammy Watkins. 6'0", 205lbs. WR, Clemson (JR) - Love the play. Really solid all around WR both before and after the catch. I love how he accelerates after the catch. If he were taller or faster he might be with the top crew but his acceleration and secondary separation ability are really unqiue.

11. Louis Nix III. 6'3", 340lbs. NT, Notre Dame (SR) - Mammoth interior lineman who creates havoc in the run game and has better upfield mobility than he's credited with.

12. Brett Hundley. 6'3", 222lbs. QB, UCLA (SO-RS) - Hundley takes a tumble after back to back bad weeks. No shame in that against Stanford and Oregon but to me he's yielded his chance to challenge the top 2 spots by being inconsistent. My actual, biggest concern, is pocket awareness. He reads fine downfield (there were not a lot of open receivers in either game) and he was under pressure but he has to do a better job protecting the ball in the pocket. He still has the best footwork around and throws a nice catchable ball. He'll improve as all those UCLA freshmen do but Hundley needs to step it back up. He has talent but needs to get back to basics.

13. Cyrus Kouandjio. 6'5", 310lbs. OT, Alabama (JR) - Cyrus is incredibly physically talented but amazingly for an Alabma player still looks quite raw from a pass blocking point of view. He has great lateral quickness and power but has been fooled by some double moves and doesn't pick up the blitz quick enough. Right now is an instant right tackle starter who could transition to the left side with training.

14. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. 5'10", 190lbs. CB, Oregon(JR) - Veteran corner who plays more physical than his size would indicate. Adept in pass coverage and sealing the edge. Durable, really "clean" prospect who figures to be a stretch #1 very good #2 CB at the NFL level. High floor.

15. Marqise Lee. 6'0", 195lbs. WR, USC (JR) - Currently hurt and USC has terrible QB play this season. Still, Lee is the kind of after the catch playmaker teams covet. Will probably stay behind Evans and Watkins but I don't see him falling further.

16. Antonio Richardson. 6'6", 330lbs. OT, Tennessee(JR) - Some injury red flags and I have concerns about how long he'll be able to maintain the lateral agility to play left tackle. What he does on the field, though, is dominate smaller players physically and he shows good technique. Aside from the injury concern an impact guy as a starter on the left or right side.

17. Stephon Truitt. 6'6", 315lbs. DE, Notre Dame(JR) - Could shift inside in a 43 but seems born to be a 34 DE and probably goes in the 20s on draft day. Some injury concerns but nothing overwhelming and will probably be a starting 34 DE for a number of years.

18. Timmy Jernigan. 6'2", 298lbs. DT, Florida St(JR) - One of the better interior linemen in the country. He's not lightning fast off the snap but fairly relentless. Could be an ideal fit as 43 DT which will hurt his value some, but I wouldn't expect him to last all the way through round 1 if he declares.

Probable First Round Talent & Productivity

19. Khalil Mack. 6'3", 248lbs. OLB, Buffalo(SR) - More talented than Steven Means and can really bring the pass rush. I have concerns about his maturity, major concerns, but as a pure talent he's likely to draw interest from 34 teams looking for a pass rushing edge.

20. Ra'Shede Hageman. 6'6", 311lbs. DT, Minnesota(SR) - This is a classic good player/bad team, but Hageman has enough length to be productive as either a 43 DT or 34 DE. Would like to see a better motor but still limited sample size from me.

21. Cameron Erving. 6'5", 320lbs. OT, Florida St. (JR) - Excellent athleticism but really sloppy technique. Would be a bit of a project to move to the left side. This one comes down to interviews with the coaches, if you think you can fix the issues.

22. Johnny Manziel. 5'11", 210lbs. QB, Texas A&M (SO-RS) - I wouldn't have him anywhere near this high based on what he did last season. He is still incredibly raw and will need to change his playing style in the pros. His arm strength is below average. That said, he's doing a much better job going through his read progression. He's making reads and delivering some balls in stride. Mike Evans clearly helps him out on the outside but I'm beginning to think there may be more to him than hype. His instincts for the game also can't be argued with.

23. Gabe Jackson. 6'3", 330lbs. OG, Mississippi St. (SR) - My choice to be the #1 guard to come off the board. Handles some of the best interior linemen in the country on a regular basis. Jumps out from the screen for more with some really mauling blocks. This guy can make your running back better and I really like that.

First or Second Round Territory

24. Jason Verrett. 5'10", 180lbs. CB, TCU (SR) - I can't believe this is the same guy I was watching get torched 3 seasons ago. He's probably the most improved guy in this draft. He's smooth and size-wise probably never a #1 CB but he factors as a good #2 and elite slot CB when teams decide to spread the field. In today's NFL that's a rare commodity.

25. Ryan Shazier. 6'2", 230lbs. LB, Ohio St. (JR) - Highly productive but my concern with Shazier goes to size I'm concerned he could get swallowed up if not in the right system (43) and that hurts him on value.

26. Cyril Richardson. 6'5", 340lbs. OG, Baylor(SR) - Veteran offensive lineman with some upside. Should be a mauler at the pro level. Doesn't appear to have top notch conditioning though.

27. David Yankey. 6'5", 311lbs. OT-OG, Stanford (SR) - Plays tackle at Stanford but probably kicks inside to guard at the NFL level. Top notch tactician who is not physically overpowering but highly mobile and should be coveted by zone blocking teams.

28. Anthony Johnson. 6'3", 304lbs. DT, LSU(JR) - Should be more dominant than he is but has some sloppy technique right now and tends to get lost at times. Still very powerful at the point of attack and comes with plenty of upside.

29. Louchiez Purifoy. 6'0", 190lbs. DB Florida (JR) - Inconsistency. Talent wise he's the top DB in this draft. However, talent without production is ..not good. Its not that he has no production but some pretty glaring mental lapses so far this season that scare me when projecting him as a pro corner.

30. Vic Beasley, 6'2" 235lbs. ??, Clemson (JR) - Beasley is an athletic freak but the question no one can answer yet is where do you play him? He's vastly undersized as a 43 DE and still undersized as a 34 OLB. My concern is he could get swallowed up at the pro level. He also doesn't look like he has a frame you can add a bunch of weight to. I'm worried he's a permanent tweener. That might make him a pass rush specialist or if you're a 43 team perhaps you can teach him to play Strong Side linebacker and slide him down in pass rushing situations.

31. Melvin Gordon. 6'0", 207lbs. RB, Wisconsin (SO-RS) - Too early to tell on Gordon but looks like a back with a rare mix of balance, acceleration and power that could threaten the first round.

32. Bishop Sankey. 5'10", 203lbs. RB, Washington (JR) - Tremendous balance and is keeping more runs between the tackles. Has breakaway speed and improving hands. Blocks well for his size and should factor as a primary back in a rotation.

33. Will Sutton. 6'0", 284lbs. DT, Arizona St.(SR) - Undersized but really good all around production and effort. Factors as a disruptive 43 tackle and if his mind is right could be a guy who changes the dynamics.

34. Odell Beckham Jr. 5'11", 193lbs. WR, LSU (JR) - Gets better every time I watch him play. More powerful than he appears and better acceleration.

Made it from Bubble Territory

35. Jordan Matthews. 6'3", 205lbs. WR, Vanderbilt(SR) - Nice big body receiver with good hands but could struggle to get consistent separation at the next level.

36. Ha-sean Clinton Dix. 6'1", 208lbs. FS, Alabama (JR) - Talent is clearly there. Not sure he's put it together yet and translated it into consistent on field play.

37. Dominique Easley. 6'3", 285lbs. DT/DE Florida (JR) - Injured right now. Could factor as a 34 DE at the pro level. Bit of a tweener at this point.

38. DeAnthony Thomas. 5'9", 170lbs. RB, Oregon (JR) - Durability issues with his frame and history. Lightning in a bottle and should be a good playmaker/when healthy for someone.

39. Marcus Roberson. 6'0", 195lbs. CB, Florida (JR) - Nice all around cornerback skill set. Not an elite athlete but very good. Certainly not a shutdown corner but who is?

40. Jace Amaro. 6''5", 257lbs. TE, Texas Tech(JR) - Will present matchup problems at the NFL level. Fundamentally unsound blocker who gives effort but hasn't worked enough lining up next to the tackle. A very high ceiling project for someone.

Also "On the Bubble"

QBs Blake Bortles (UCF), Bryce Petty (Baylor), Aaron Murray (Georgia). RB Lache Seastrunk (Baylor). WRs Donte Moncrift (Ole Miss), Allen Robinson (Penn St.). TEs Austin-Sefarian Jenkins (Washington), Rob Branchflower (UMASS). OTs Seantel Henderson (Miami(FL)), James Hurst (North Carolina), Morgan Moses (Virginia), Jack Mewhort (Ohio St.). DT Ego Ferguson (LSU). DE Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas). ILBs Max Bullough (Michigan St).. Christian Jones (Florida St.). OLBs Kyle Van Noy (BYU), Adrian Hubbard (Alabama). CBs Darqueze Dennard (Michigan St.), Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tec)h.

Not "On the Bubble" (Guys I didn't forget but who are not threatening the top 50 at this point)

QBs AJ McCarron (Alabama), Stephon Morris (Miami(FL)), Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Zach Mettenberger (LSU), Derek Carr (Fresno St.), Bryn Renner (North Carolina), Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech), Braxton Miller (Ohio St.). RBs Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) , Carlos Hyde (Ohio St.), Silas Redd (USC). WRs Devante Parker (Louisville), Brandon Coleman (Rutgers), Mike Davis (Texas), Jared Abbrederis (Wisconsin), Kenny Shaw (Florida St.), Shaq Evans (UCLA). TEs C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa), Colt Lyerla (Oregon), Asa Watson (NC St.), Zack Martin (Notre Dame), C Travis Swanson (Arkansas), DT Dan McCullers (Tennessee). DE Aaron Lynch (South Florida). ILB Trey DePriest (Alabama). CBs Bradley Roby (Ohio St.), Antone Exum (Virginia Tech), Rashaad Reynolds (Oregon St.), Damian Swann (Georgia). S Lamarcus Joyner (FSU), Tre Boston (North Carolina).