NCAA Football News
With eight former Alabama stars finding new homes in the NFL over the weekend, the 2014 NFL draft once again served as a showcase for Nick Saban’s program and its ability to develop talent.
Its become an annual challenge for Saban and his staff to reload the roster quickly in an effort to replace NFL-bound stars every season.
On offense, replacing star quarterback AJ McCarron and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio take precedent. On the other side of the ball, sizable voids to fill include those left by linebacker C.J. Mosley and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Which players will be stepping into the positions vacated by former Tide stars taken in the draft?
The 2014 NFL Draft is complete and three members of the Texas A&M football team heard their name called. With three Aggies drafted in the first round there are going to be significant holes to fill on the 2014 team.
In 2014 Aggie fans will start to see some of the fruit of that labor as the team will be as deep as any time in recent memory. The talent, especially on the defensive line, will be as good as any Aggie team in 20 years.
The Aggies will need to replace the three players who left in the draft, but Sumlin has been accounting for those losses in his recruiting. The Aggies have the talent on campus to step in for the departed players without missing a beat on the field.
Johnny Manziel was a special player and you cannot replace what he brought with just one person. For this reason there will be more than one player who will be used to replace Manziel's production on the field.
This is a look at the players who will replace Manziel, Mike Evans and Jake Matthews.
Texas hasn't been a championship-caliber program for the last four years, but at least NFL talent has come through Austin.
Not in 2014.
As tweeted by Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and noted by other media outlets, zero Texas players were taken in this past weekend's NFL draft. The last time that happened? 1937.
That 76-year streak was the draft's longest, according to Chuck Carlton of The Dallas Morning News.
Meanwhile, Baylor, which won its first Big 12 championship in football this past season, led the conference with five players drafted. (Granted, all players were drafted in the final day, but were drafted nonetheless.)
Does first-year Texas head coach Charlie Strong have a lot of work ahead? Of course. He basically said as much when he told fans last month that there would be no championship for the Longhorns in 2014-15.
Even at a place like Texas, rebounds don't always happen overnight. Couple that with other schools undoubtedly using Texas' draft "absence" against it in recruiting, and Strong's job of elevating the program back to an elite level just got a bit harder.
Put simply, the Longhorns don't have a lot of momentum at the moment.
Strong can get it back, of course. He had three Louisville players—safety Calvin Pryor, defensive end Marcus Smith and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater—taken in the first round of the draft. That's something Strong can point to.
However, there's a distinct difference between getting recruited in college and getting drafted in the NFL. In college, the recruiting "star system" may be an inexact science, but there's some correlation between it and fielding a championship-caliber team. The same can't be said for the NFL.
Pro organizations want guys who grade out the highest. Period. What recruiting ranking, statistics or accolades a player had in college hardly matters.
Former Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack was drafted fifth overall on Thursday by the Oakland Raiders (and probably could have gone higher). Mack was a 2-star recruit out of high school with no major offers. He wore No. 46 in college because it reflected his rating on EA Sports' NCAA Football video game franchise.
Former Central Florida quarterback Blake Bortles, another player generally overlooked by bigger programs, was taken two spots ahead of Mack by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Bortles probably has the most work to do of any of the big-name quarterbacks who were drafted. But, because he's 6'5" and 230 pounds with a great skill set, he was the first quarterback off the board.
Also consider SMU and former Texas quarterback Garrett Gilbert, who was selected in the sixth round of the draft by the St. Louis Rams. Gilbert, who threw waves of interceptions with the Longhorns and was literally booed out of Austin, turned things around with the Mustangs.
Yes, Gilbert was a former 5-star recruit, but how many fans would say Gilbert played like a 5-star recruit for most of his college career? He was drafted late because of his potential.
Or, consider former Texas wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, whose whole college career could be summarized with the phrase "We’ve got to get the ball in his hands more." But Goodwin has world-class speed and was drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Buffalo Bills.
The examples could go on and on. In theory, Texas could recruit entire classes of 4- and 5-star players and compete for championships—and none could get drafted. That's quite unlikely to happen, of course, but recruiting and drafting are viewed through two different lenses.
Longhorns defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat, an All-American and Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year, was a force for the Horns in 2013. He went to the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. Jeffcoat was a 5-star member of the 2010 class, which was second nationally.
This may feel like rock bottom for Texas fans. And, yes, it's not a flattering look. However, the number of players drafted during any given year doesn't dictate, by itself, how successful a program is.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.
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This year's NFL draft is finally history. After all the mock drafts and media frenzy, the picks are finally locked into place. For teams that didn't find their preferred quarterback in 2014, they may have to look no further than 12 months down the road when Florida State's Jameis Winston is likely to take his chances at professional stardom.
Winston led the NCAA in passing yards per attempt (10.6) and passing efficiency rating (184.8) in 2013, according to Sports-reference.com. He went undefeated in his first year as a starter, won the BCS National Championship, the Heisman trophy, and he has even found time to play baseball for Florida State now that the season is over. He's also highly regarded for his leadership skills and intangibles, as this video demonstrates.
Despite his weekly heroics, Winston may not even be the top quarterback in the 2015 NFL draft. That honor could belong to Oregon's Marcus Mariota. According to Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated, one NFL scout would have taken Mariota over Johnny Manziel had he entered this year's draft. Via Thamel:
"I'd take him over [Johnny] Manziel. He's more accurate. He's bigger and I think he's faster, not as elusive, but more durable. A lot of upside there," said the NFL scout.
Mariota has an extra year of starting experience under his belt and his numbers are impressive, but they still fell short of Winston's in 2013.
One area where Mariota does outpace Winston is running the football. Mariota racked up 775 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013. Winston managed just 215 yards and four touchdowns on a 2.5 yards per carry average. Mariota may be a more effective runner, but Winston still has the mobility to move around in the pocket and buy time for his throws.
Unlike Mariota, Winston benefits from running a hybrid offense that contains elements of both spread and traditional offensive systems. Mariota will have to convince scouts that his numbers aren't the result of the unique, high-octane spread offense he runs at Oregon.
Winston's numbers aren't purely the result of a high volume passing attack that leaves quarterbacks ill-prepared for NFL schemes. In this way, Winston is unlikely to suffer the same fate as prolific college passers who played in gimmick offenses like Colt Brennan or Vince Young.
In fact, EJ Manuel, Winston's predecessor at Florida State, once stated the Buffalo Bills' offense is less complex than Florida State's. From a May 2013 interview with Sirius XM Radio, via ESPN.com's news services:
"I've done great. The learning curve for me is a lot shorter simply because of what I had at Florida State. [The Seminoles' offense is] more complex and a little bit harder to catch on and learn. This offense is very simple. I've done a great job with it."
This bodes well for Winston, who is working in a similar system under head coach Jimbo Fisher. In fact, Manuel did much more running than Winston in spread-option packages, which means Winston has likely spent more time working on pass plays that translate better to the NFL.
Of course, Winston may not even enter the 2015 NFL draft, according to Coach Fisher. Via Tim Linafelt of FloridaState.247sports.com:
“Everybody says he’s going to stay one year and leave,” Fisher said. “Which I don’t think that’s true. I think it will be two."
It would be interesting to see how Winston might justify coming back for a junior season barring an injury that keeps him sidelined for an extended period of time as a sophomore.
Winston is a likely top-10 draft pick should he continue his dominating performances and enter the draft after his sophomore season. He has the size, skills and intangibles to compete at a high-level in the NFL. His 2014 season should give him ample opportunity to prove to NFL scouts that he is capable of performing in a traditional NFL offense.
Another quarterback Winston may have to outperform ahead of the 2015 NFL draft is UCLA's Brett Hundley. The Bruins' signal-caller has performed well in Westwood and will have three years of starting experience under his belt should he declare for 2015 as well.
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