So much can change between now and April '14 that this exercise has a significant futility factor. But it helps provide a framework for the personnel we'll see next season.
For instance: The majority of the league's high-end talent will reside in the junior class (both true and redshirt). Expect a slew of early entries next January.
A scan of the top-tier personnel also indicates the conference of quarterbacks will likely have just one upperclassman on NFL draft boards: Washington's Keith Price. The rankings are based on player talent and position value, because obviously we have no idea about the draft order and team needs. I have included numerous third-year (draft-eligible) juniors, but two notable third-year sophomores are not listed: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. Hard to see them turning pro eight months from now. It goes without saying that players who have made little impact to date will emerge as high-round playmakers this fall and that some of the players listed below will underperform in '13 and slide down the draft boards.
Top 15 prospects for 2014 NFL draft 1. USC WR Marqise Lee -- Yes, there will be some very good players available at positions that carry as much, if not more value than receiver. But nobody else does this stuff. 2. UCLA LB Anthony Barr -- Would have been a high-round pick this year. Potentially the top linebacker available. 3. Arizona State DL Will Sutton: Listed generically as a lineman because he likely projects as an end in the NFL. Inside or outside, he's fabulous. 4. Stanford OG David Yankey -- Was an All-American in '12 at left tackle, but his natural position is guard. Arguably one of the two or three best offensive linemen in the country. 5. Oregon CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu -- The lockdown corner is a better prospect than Washington's Desmond Trufant, who went No. 22 last week. 6. Washington TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins -- An amazing talent, but tight ends rarely go in the first half of the first round. he could be the exception. 7. Oregon AP De'Anthony Thomas -- Will NFL scouts peg the 180-pounder as an every-down receiver, spot-use tailback or a slash? The answer will determine where he gets drafted. 8. USC DE Morgan Breslin -- The JC transfer has 13.5 sacks for USC last season. But his draft position could hinge on whether scouts believe he projects as an 4-3 end or 3-4 outside linebacker ... or vice versa. 9. Washington QB Keith Price -- Because of the position, Price has the potential to climb into the first round. But he'll need a stellar season. 10. Cal DT. Deandre Coleman -- Unless he has a stellar '13, Coleman will be classic example of a player whose positional value in the NFL is greater than his college production. 11. Stanford FS Ed Reynolds -- His ability to read QBs/anticipate throws is as good as it gets -- hence the six INTs and three Pick 6s last season. 12. Arizona State TE Chris Coyle -- Good size and athleticism. But when it comes to the draft, tight ends are at the mercy of numerous factors beyond their control. 13. Oregon State DE Scott Crichton -- High-motor, athletic player at a prized position. 14. Stanford LB Shayne Skov -- Has everything you want in an inside linebacker. Draft position will hinge on his surgically-repaired knee remaining stable and his 40 time. 15. UCLA OG Xavier Su'a-Filo -- Probably a better talent than this ranking indicates, but centers and guards aren't usually picked as high as tackles. Just missed the cut (i.e., potential mid-round selections) -- Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey, Stanford DE Ben Gardner, Oregon C Hroniss Grasu, Washington LB Josh Shirley, USC LB/S Dion Bailey, Oregon WR Josh Huff, WSU OT John Fullington, Stanford LB Trent Murphy, Oregon TE Colt Lyerla, Utah S Brian Blechen, USC RB Silas Redd, Oregon DL Taylor Hart, Stanford DE Henry Anderson, USC DT. George Uko, Washington RB Bishop Sankey, Stanford SS Jordan Richards, USC TE Xavier Grimble. (Arizona WR Austin Hill and Colorado WR Paul Richardson not included for medical reasons.)