The 2014 NFL Draft commences tonight, and it’s as wide open as any in recent memory. While the first few picks are often a somewhat foregone conclusion, this year’s draft has “experts” prognosticating wildly as to what may unfold tonight at 8 pm. Florida State factors largely into the mystery, touting several story lines into the selections to be made over the next three days.
FSU could factor prominently — or not at all — in tonight’s first round. Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan could be the first Seminole drafted. Once considered a first-round lock, his status has slid a bit recently due to a diluted urine sample at the NFL Combine’s drug testing. This didn’t combine well with the last image many have of Jernigan on the field– or, rather, gassed on the sidelines during Auburn’s go-ahead drive in the BCS title game. Jernigan’s ceiling is probably going 14th to the Bears or 16th to the Cowboys. Toward the end of the round, the 49ers are a possibility with the 30th pick, as are the defending champion Seahawks at #32. If Jernigan falls out of the first round he could have a bit of a wait, as there isn’t tremendous DT need for the teams at the front of the second round.
Kelvin Benjamin is a similarly tricky story. One thing is indisputable: nobody can question his imposing stature (6-5, 240), and while size is a plus at any position, it’s quickly becoming a prerequisite for star NFL receivers. Calvin Johnson, Josh Gordon, Dez Bryant, Larry Fitzgerald, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Demaryius Thomas– bigger receivers are necessary to compete with the increase in taller corners. Some have taken issue with Benjamin’s dropped passes, however, and he’s not a burner. There’s also maturity: Jimbo Fisher himself concedes that Benjamin’s still developing. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Texas A&M’s Mike Evans will come off the board first, and then there’s a murkier second tier of wideouts that includes players like Benjamin, LSU’s Odell Beckham, Jr., USC’s Marqise Lee, and Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks. There could be a run on receivers toward the end of the first round, as the last five teams to select (Carolina, New England, San Francisco, Denver, and Seattle) would all like to add at this position.
The real ‘Nole wildcard in this draft is safety Terrence Brooks. At 5-11, 198, he’s small for a safety, but he turned heads at the combine when he ran a 4.42 40, the fastest for a safety since Josh Barrett posted a 4.35 in 2008. He also tied for the best vertical leap among safeties (38 inches). This prompted many draft experts to debate his worth as a possible first-round prospect. Brooks has also been the beneficiary of the down period between the season and the draft: that period of time when players tend to negatively influence their own draft stock by creating unnecessary publicity (like failing a scheduled drug test). Brooks has kept his head down and stayed out of the spot light, basically letting others get in trouble and slide while he’s trended upward. Teams may see him as less of a risk. But this one really is a tough call– he could go anywhere between the middle of the first and the the third rounds.
Lamarcus Joyner will also be an interesting player to watch. The first thing many notice about Joyner is his size: at 5-8, he’s diminutive compared to his fellow Thorpe Award finalists, Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard, both of whom will be first-round selections. But he was nevertheless nominated right along with them, and that’s all anyone needs to know about Joyner. He plays bigger than his size, particularly in big games– and they’re all big on Sundays. He’s also deceptively longer than most think– his hands and wingspan are actually larger than Brooks’.
A pair of Florida State running backs will be drafted over the middle rounds. Devonta Freeman isn’t big, but he displayed lightning-fast feet at FSU’s pro day and is an adept pass catcher and an underrated blocker. James Wilder, Jr. ran a sluggish 4.86 40 at the combine, but bettered that considerably at pro day, claiming a time of 4.53. He also experienced an off-the-field issue, an April arrest for a missed court date. A pair of ‘Nole linebackers, Telvin Smith and Christian Jones, carry some unwanted baggage into the draft as well, as they failed the same drug test as Jernigan.
Look for quiet Rimington Trophy winning center Bryan Stork to be a mid-round pick. Receiver Kenny Shaw could go in the later rounds. Shaw carries a slight build, but his route running is impeccable. Fullback Chad Abram will also be hoping to hear his name announced at the podium.
FSU led all schools with 11 players taken in last year’s draft. That number seems unlikely again this time around, but double figures — and again having the most players drafted — is a distinct possibility.