Tag Archives: football


Fresno State QB Derek Carr still has one glaring mechanical flaw that needs fixing.

Fresno State QB Derek Carr still has one glaring mechanical flaw that needs fixing.

Senior Writer

Derek Carr’s feet

Nobody in this year’s QB class made a bigger overall improvement between 2012 and 2013 than Carr, who clearly spent much of the off-season correcting multiple mechanical issues.  The result was a senior season in which he steamrolled the Mountain West Conference to the tune of 5,082 yards, 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.  And though there’s still the trusty “inferior competition” argument against his production, it’s not what concerns me most about his ability to translate to the next level.

For all of the mechanical fixes that Carr managed to make heading into his senior campaign, one area that still needs major attention is his footwork.  Carr routinely pulls the trigger without fully setting his base, causing his ball placement to be effected negatively on a consistent basis.  Especially on catch-and-shoot-type throws (screens, quick hitches, etc.), Carr doesn’t even look like he’s trying to set his feet before letting the ball go.  Getting the ball out quick is important, sure, but not at the expense of accuracy.  He may have been able to get away with it in the MWC, but the NFL won’t be nearly as forgiving.

A.J. McCarron’s ability to handle pressure

One of the biggest concerns about a quarterback in McCarron’s situation is, “Would he be as successful if he wasn’t surrounded by such superior talent?”.  Any NFL team looking at McCarron has to be afraid that he’s nothing more than the next Ken Dorsey, a mere shadow of his collegiate self without the best players in the country surrounding him at nearly every position.  Turns out we might have gotten an early peek at what that will look like in Alabama’s disappointing Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma, during which McCarron was pressured early and often, to a degree that he hadn’t seen in maybe his entire collegiate career.

Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive at the Shrine Game last week, but his small hands might be a concern.

Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo was impressive at the Shrine Game last week, but his small hands might be a concern.

McCarron looked incredibly uncomfortable any time the pocket began to break down, and he lacks the athleticism to make plays outside the pocket.  Even when the pressure came from the edges and the tackles did a decent job of carrying the rusher up the field, McCarron chose to leave the pocket anyway instead of stepping up.  This led to multiple passes being thrown away needlessly, including a costly intentional grounding penalty.  If McCarron is to succeed at the next level, he’ll either have to improve greatly in this area, or hope he gets drafted by a team with a superior offensive line.

Jimmy Garoppolo’s small hands

I love everything else about this guy.  I loved him on tape, loved what I heard coming out of the Shrine Game practices, and I was thrilled to see him earn a late invite to the Senior Bowl.  However, once in Mobile, Garoppolo’s hands measured in at just nine inches, and he reportedly had multiple issues handling the ball during the first day of practices.

His week of work at the Shrine Game had put him in the 2nd-round conversation, but he’ll have to finish out the Senior Bowl week strong, particularly when it comes to ball security, to convince scouts that his hands won’t be an issue.

The ACLs of Zach Mettenberger & Aaron Murray

Is Johnny Football worth the risk?

Is Johnny Football worth the risk?

Two of the most successful passers in the nation’s best conference suffered devastating blows late in the season, as both Mettenberger and Murray each tore an ACL.  They’ll be spending a good portion of the off-season rehabbing, and while players like Adrian Peterson have proved that returning to a high level of play is still possible after such an injury, for every one of him there is an RG3.  Teams will be paying close attention to the medical reports on these two, and depending on the outcome, both could end up being serious steals if a team can grab them late enough without risking too much.  But if a team gambles on Day 2 and gets damaged goods, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow.

The risk of missing – or missing out – on Johnny Manziel

He’s the ultimate risk/reward pick in this entire draft.  We’ve all marveled at his play-making ability over the past two seasons, both as a runner and a passer.  There are a million different reasons why every GM in the NFL should snatch him up as soon as possible, and a million more why doing so could put their head on a platter by season’s end.  Will his passing ability be enough to succeed at the next level?  Will his athleticism not be superior enough to allow him to make the splash plays that were a dime a dozen every Saturday in College Station?  Will any success at the highest level, combined with a huge payday, make him into an even worse off-field monster than we’ve seen so far?  Let’s just say I’m glad my job isn’t on the line when it comes to this decision, one way or the other.

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G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.

G Kyle Long has impressed so far in his rookie season.


We are eight games into the Marc Trestman era in the Windy City, and at 5-3, the Bears have had their share of ups and downs. The offense has vastly improved, while the aging defense has been bitten by the injury bug. Injuries and lack of depth at specific positions can be used as a clear indicator as to which positions the Chicago Bears need to draft next May. Lets start with the offensive draft needs.

Roberto Garza is the lone returning starter from the 2012 offensive line, and while he has been an effective at points in his career, his age is beginning to show clearer. Two rookies, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills, have held down the right side of the line efficiently, and now it’s time to complete the offensive line remodeling and grab a center through the draft, possibly even an undrafted free agent.

Don’t be alarmed, I’m just as big a fan of the “Black Unicorn” as everybody else. But Trestman’s offense requires more than one tight end to catch passes. The Bears need a versatile tight end similar to Tyler Eifert; someone that can line up in tight or split out and become a matchup nightmare for the defensive backs. Martellus Bennett has been incredible for the Bears, but adding a tight end that can be somewhat of a Swiss-Army knife would make this offense special.

Jay Cutler will return from a groin tear this week against the Lions, and his performance from this point on will go a long way in the Bears’ decision to extend him, franchise him, or let him walk. No matter what happens, the Bears need to pick up a developmental quarterback in the draft. Spending a mid-round pick on a developmental quarterback will give Trestman options moving forward, and they may not have to pay the market price for Cutler if Trestman can find his guy in the draft. Josh McCown’s performance in Lambeau on Monday night is a testament to the fact that Trestman can work with any QB that is willing to learn.

Now let’s take a look at the draft needs of the Chicago defense. This unit has been decimated by injuries and its lack of depth has been exposed.

Arizona State DT Will Sutton is one of a few solid options the Bears will have at DT in the 2014 Draft.

Season-ending injuries to Henry Melton and Nate Collins, along with a nagging turf toe injury to Stephen Paea have revealed the lack of depth on the interior of the defensive line. There are several strong prospects that fit the Bears 4-3 scheme in the college ranks that can be picked up via the draft. Players like Will Sutton (Arizona State), Dominique Easley (Florida), and Ra’Shede Hageman (Minnesota) would all be valuable pieces for this defensive line. The Bears should get Melton back for a bargain, as he was franchise-tagged this season and his market value will be significantly lower due to his injury. Collins will be back as well, but the Bears need depth at the DT position.

Major Wright and Chris Conte were serviceable starters at the safety positions when the Bears defensive line was healthy; the line created enough pressure to cover up their shortcomings. But with the depleted unit the Bears are putting out every Sunday, the safety play has been horrendous. Both have been caught out of position far too many times, and their lack of play-reading instincts has reared its ugly head this season. There will be several potential starters at the safety position available for Chicago through the draft.

Charles Tillman is getting old, and while Tim Jennings has been a solid CB, he is not the interception machine that he was in 2012. These two can be successful for maybe another season or two, but the Bears lack of depth at the corner position has been exposed, as well.  An injury to Kelvin Hayden in the preseason placed Isaiah Frey at the nickelback position. Frey has been successful, especially for a player who spent the 2012 season on the practice squad. In the NFL, you can never enough true coverage cornerbacks and the Bears will be in a better position defensively going into the 2014 season if they add another cover corner through the draft.

The Bears offense has made up for the defense’s shortcomings, but the Bears can strengthen that defensive unit and help Mel Tucker next season by adding some young impact players.

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2014 NFL Draft Power-less Rankings: Week 7



If the season ended today, your top 10 picks in the 2014 NFL Draft would be:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-7)

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6)

3. New York Giants (1-6)

4. Minnesota Vikings (1-5)

5. Houston Texans (2-5)

6. St. Louis Rams (from WAS, 2-4)

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4)

8. Atlanta Falcons (2-4)

9. Oakland Raiders (2-4)

10. Philadelphia Eagles (3-4)

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2014 NFL Draft Power-less Rankings: Week 1

chiefs gabbert

*Each week, TDR ranks the 10 worst teams in the league.  Hey, at least there’s that Clowney guy this year…

1. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1) – When scoring a safety is the best thing your team accomplished all day against the team that had the first overall pick in the last draft, it’s really hard for anyone to be worse than you.  Clowney would be tough to pass up, but the Jags need Teddy Bridgewater in the worst way.

2. Oakland Raiders (0-1) – Terrelle Pryor showed flashes, for sure, but this team is who we think they are.  And we think they are very, very bad.  Clowney would look great in Silver & Black, though.

3. Cleveland Browns (0-1) – So much for Norv Turner’s offense being exactly what Brandon Weeden needed to assert himself as the Browns’ rock-solid starting quarterback.  This team has some good pieces to build around, but expect another high pick next year.

4. Buffalo Bills (0-1) – E.J. Manuel looks like he might be the real deal, and there is plenty of young talent around him, but the Bills still need more to truly compete in the AFC East.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1) – Was there an uglier first quarter (and subsequent week of locker-room drama) than what we saw from the Bucs this week?  Schiano & Co. had better right this ship quick, which will be hard to do against the Saints and Pats over the next two weeks.

Josh Freeman, Greg Schiano

6. New York Jets (1-0) – The Bucs made the Jets look surprisingly functional for the most part on Sunday, but don’t let that fool you.  This team still has a slew of issues to sort out before they can get out of the bottom 10.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1) – This team is OLD, and they’re finding it out fast.  A season-opening loss to a seemingly inferior division opponent in the Titans, combined with multiple ACL tears (Pouncey, Stephens-Howling), has the Fighting Rooneys reeling.

8. Arizona Cardinals (0-1) – A lot to like about what Carson Palmer brings to this offense, and the defense has plenty of talent.  But without a solid offensive line or a reliable threat running behind them, this team will get exposed quickly.

9. San Diego Chargers (0-1) – The Chargers were are impressive in the first half as they were unimpressive in the second in their opening loss to Houston.  Rivers’ four touchdowns passes are encouraging, but the Bolts have very little depth and won’t stand for long once injuries start to creep in.

10. Carolina Panthers (0-1) – Seattle had to steal the game late from the Panthers (thanks in large part to a much-improved run defense), but Cam Newton must be more effective if the Black Cats hope to dig themselves out of the NFC South cellar.

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TDR Spotlight: Southern Miss WR Francisco Llanos


In our first installment of the TDR Spotlight series for the 2014 NFL Draft class, Southern Mississippi WR Francisco Llanos joined TDR’s Luke Easterling to talk about his upcoming senior season, the Golden Eagles’ attempt to rebound from last year’s disappointing season, and what it was like to play for a local legend in high school.

Check out the interview and post your thoughts!


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FANTASY FOCUS: Health Benefits

If Malcom Floyd misses significant time with his knee injury, Eddie Royal could rise to the occasion.

If Malcom Floyd misses significant time with his knee injury, Eddie Royal could rise to the occasion.

By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer

Injuries are a part of fantasy football, so as an owner, it is important to plan for them. Every season, you can count on at least two top-10 players missing part or most of the year because of a freak or nagging injury. And, it’s frustrating. The loss of one player has the power to knock a team out of the playoff hunt, cause them to lose a weekly matchup, or even alter the hopes of a fantasy championship. Ask any LeSean McCoy, Maurice Jones-Drew, Demarco Murray, Fred Jackson, Ryan Mathews, or Darren McFadden owner last season.  Each of those players were ranked in the top-25 of FOX Sports 2012 preseason fantasy rankings.

There are always going to be injuries, and I’ve learned that the best strategy is drafting backup players as a handcuff to the starter. Few things are worse than watching your starting running back tear his ACL, and while you are scrambling to find out who the backup is, you realize that another owner has already stashed that player on their bench. We’re only one week into the 2013 season, and already several players from each team have succumb to the injury bug. With that said, here are some under-the-radar players who have been thrust into fantasy circles because of injuries to starters.

Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers: The injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcolm Floyd open up the door for Royal to be Philip Rivers’ number one target. He’s been inconsistent since he left Denver, but this is still the guy who caught 91 balls as a rookie. And Mike McCoy – the offensive coordinator during his two seasons in Denver – is now in San Diego and wants to run a possession offense. Robert Meachem and rookie Keenan Allen will be in the mix for targets, but neither possess the experience or versatility of Royal. He is a great value pick in the last rounds.

Bills WR Robert Woods is already taking advantage of Steve Johnson's absence due to a hamstring injury.

Bills WR Robert Woods is already taking advantage of Steve Johnson’s absence due to a hamstring injury.

Robert Woods, WR, Bills: He is the favorite to start alongside Stevie Johnson, but Johnson’s hamstring injury is already forcing him to miss all of the preseason. Hamstring injuries are known to linger or flare up suddenly, so my guess is that he misses time in the regular season as well. Woods possesses good hands, a quick first move, and has been impressing coaches with his route-running skills in training camp. If he can develop good chemistry with the starting quarterback – likely E.J. Manuel – he has a solid chance to lead the Bills in receptions.

Knile Davis, RB, Chiefs: The fantasy world was given its first real jolt when it was reported that Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was forced from practice with a foot injury. It didn’t help matters that he was transported to the locker room on a cart. Coach Andy Reid said Charles’ injury isn’t serious, and that it is just a sprain. Even if that is the case – which I doubt it is – Charles is going to be sidelined for precautionary reasons at least the next few preseason games. His workload will also likely be cut. That opens the door for Davis, a bruising back with uncommon speed for a big man, but a runner who has dealt with a long list of injury problems himself. Still, he’s bypassed Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray on the depth chart, and handled the majority of first-team reps when Charles left practice. He isn’t fantasy relevant yet, but he is someone to keep an eye out for if Charles’ injury is more serious than everyone is letting on.

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Fantasy Focus: Rookies to Target

Bucs RB Doug Martin silenced fantasy doubters in 2012 with 1,926 total yards and and 12 touchdowns as a rookie.

Bucs RB Doug Martin silenced fantasy doubters in 2012 with 1,926 total yards and and 12 touchdowns as a rookie.

By James LoPresti
Lead Fantasy Writer

I took a gamble on him in the third round. Though being mocked by my draft buddies, I took another flyer in the fifth. They were risky picks. Despite what team sources were saying, the truth is that neither were assured a full-time role. If they succeeded, I knew I’d have a solid chance to compete for the fantasy playoffs. If they were a bust, I’d be hearing it from the league mates the rest of the year. For the last pick, I chose a wide receiver, just to fill depth, though I expected him to land on the waiver wire within a week.

Drafting rookies for fantasy is hit-or-miss. It’s similar to how the NFL works. Most fizzle, some provide depth, but nothing earth-shattering. A select few make a true impact. When I drafted Trent Richardson in the third, Doug Martin in the fifth, and T.Y. Hilton in the final round, I was drafting on faith…faith that how they played in college would translate well to the NFL.

Each year, April’s NFL draft (next year, May, ugh!) is one of the highlights of the offseason. After the top picks, the head-scratchers, and draft-day trades, just about everyone has an opinion on their teams’ picks and how they will impact rosters going forward. The same can be said for fantasy analysis. The players that are drafted into favorable situations are the ones on everyone’s fantasy radar. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III were obvious choices in 2012. But what about Russell Wilson, Alfred Morris, and Colin Kaepernick (who didn’t get his chance till week 10)?

There’s always going to be rookies who fly under the radar on draft day. All it takes is an injury to a starter (Kaepernick’s case), or a strong training camp for them to show coaches they offer more incentive than veteran players (Wilson, Morris). Here’s a list of guys to key an eye out for when drafting:

Broncos RB Montee Ball is a prime candidate for huge fantasy points in his rookie season.

Broncos RB Montee Ball is a prime candidate for huge fantasy points in his rookie season.

Montee Ball, RB, Denver Broncos: Of all the rookies, Ball is considered by most pundits to have the best chance to take over the starting running back job by week 1. With Willis McGahee gone, and Knowshon Moreno recovering from offseason knee surgery, only second-year speedster Ronnie Hillman is opposing Ball. However, Ball fits Denver’s smash-mouth style better than anyone else on the roster. The Doak Walker Award winner (nation’s top RB) carried the ball an average of 23 times a game during his senior season, amassing 1832 yards and 22 touchdowns. At worst, he’ll share carries, but because of his size and strength, he’ll likely receive most of the red zone touches. My prognosis: He’s in an ideal system with Peyton Manning at the helm. His durability and strong hands make him reliable, and his nose for the end zone leads me to believe he will have a strong rookie year. Draft him as early as round 3.

Tavon Austin, WR, St. Louis Rams: Barring a preseason injury, he’ll be starting in the slot week 1. The Rams traded up for him, so you can bet they’ll incorporate him into the offense as much as possible. However, his durability is an issue, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. He’s 5-foot-9, 174 pounds, and that’s probably being generous. His college numbers are also skewed – including screens, 78% of his receptions were within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.  Additionally, he’ll be competing for touches with speedy second-year receivers Chris Givens and Brian Quick, as well as newly acquired tight end Jared Cook. Austin is electric with the football in his hands, but temper your expectations. Forecast: 45 catches, 760 yards, four touchdowns.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert could present opposing defenses with serious matchup problems.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert could present opposing defenses with serious matchup problems.

Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Bell is the proto-typical bruising running back Steelers teams are known for using. He was a workhorse at Michigan State, but at times, had trouble hitting the hole and converting short third and fourth down attempts. Still, at 244 pounds, Steelers’ coaches are saying he is capable of being a three-down back. Isaac Redman and Jonathan Dwyer squandered chances to become the full-time starter, and though their below-average play could be attributed to a poor offensive line, Bell’s blocking skills and soft hands give him the advantage going into camp. Prediction: A healthy offensive line and a solid passing attack will open up holes for this grinder – 1,006 yards, nine touchdowns.

Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals: Cincinnati OC Jay Gruden has said he plans on using a two tight end offense with Jermaine Gresham and Eifert each being heavily involved. Two tight end systems have been effective recently, most notably Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, as well as the duo of Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. Be careful drafting Eifert as your starting tight end, but he should produce enough to warrant a roster spot. Projection: 55 catches, 670 yards, five touchdowns.

Eddie Lacy, RB, Green Bay Packers: Quick trivia – Who was Green Bay’s leading rusher last season? (The Packers used five over the course of the year) – If you guessed James Starks, (like me) you would be wrong. It’s former University of Hawaii running back Alex Green. Of the five backs the Packers used, Green was the only one to carry the ball more than 100 times! With Lacy, the Packers get a hard-nosed wrecking ball who has the size – 5-11, 230 pounds – to run between tackles and the stamina to be an every-down back. The knock on Lacy is that he doesn’t have break-away speed, and he fought hamstring issues his senior year at Alabama. He’ll also have to contend with fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, though he seems more fit in a third-down role. Observations: Lacy is in prime position to receive most of the carries, including those in goal-to-go situations, which in an offense as prolific as Green Bay’s, should be many, many opportunities. In early mock drafts, he’s being selected after Ball and Bell, and could prove to be a bigger steal come draft day.

With plenty of questions marks across the receiving unit, Aaron Dobson could be in line for a big year in New England.

With plenty of questions marks across the receiving unit, Aaron Dobson could be in line for a big year in New England.

Aaron Dobson, WR, New England Patriots: When you’ve got Tom Brady, it doesn’t matter who the receivers are. If Brady can have a Pro Bowl year with the likes of David Patten and Troy Brown at wide receiver, he can do it with anyone. New England brought in Danny Amendola to serve as a Wes Welker clone, and as of today, Dobson, Julian Edelman, Kamar Aiken, and Michael Jenkins are in the mix for the No. 2 role. Edelman has the most experience in New England’s system, but Dobson overmatches him in size and skill set. He stands 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, and he was clocked at 4.40 at the NFL Combine. The Boston Globe reported July 27 that Dobson began working with the first team during practice and saw time on the outside and in the slot. With the status of Rob Gronkowski up in the air for week 1, Dobson could be a viable fantasy option from the get-go. He’s looking like a great value pick late in drafts.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati Bengals: Bernard might be my favorite rookie to watch in the preseason. He’s assured a role in the offense, and he’ll be a PPR (points per reception) machine, but he’s stuck behind the law firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, for full-time carries. And, as crazy as it sounds, he shouldn’t be. He’s arguably the most versatile running back in this year’s class. At 5-foot-8, 202 pounds, he averaged 5.9 yards per carry over his two seasons at North Carolina, caught 92 passes, and returned two punts for touchdowns his senior season. He has burner speed, makes quick cuts, and has the size to run between the tackles. I expect Bernard to begin the year in a 60-40 split, with Green-Ellis nabbing most of the goal line carries, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he explodes off the scene and takes over the starting role by midseason. Prediction: He’s a must-grab handcuff to every Green-Ellis owner, and a solid flex play for players in PPR leagues.

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We've known it for months already: no matter who picks first, it'll be this guy.

We’ve known it for months already: no matter who picks first, it’ll be this guy.

Is it WAY too early?  Of course it is.  But let’s face it, we all love looking ahead to next year’s NFL Draft as soon as the previous one is wrapped up, so it’s time to take a look at our first-round projection for the 2014 NFL Draft.

The draft order is based on TDR’s current NFL predictions for the 2013 season, and as always, we don’t predict trades.

Check it out and give us your take in the comment section or on Twitter @NFLDraftReport!

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FEATURED POST: Could Austin Be a Dual Threat in the NFL?


TDR is proud to welcome FanDuel.com as a featured content partner.  Check out their site for great fantasy sports leagues!

When the St. Louis Rams moved up in the draft to take West Virginia standout Tavon Austin, many thought that they had secured a true #1 target for Sam Bradford. However, according to reports from practice, he might continue to get rushing touches as well. The Rams continue to give him reps in a variety of sets, making him possibly the most versatile rookie in 2013.

At West Virginia, his final season numbers resembled what you might find in video game land. He caught 114 passes for 1289 yards and 12 touchdowns, but he also carried the ball 72 times for 643 yards and three additional touchdowns. However, many thought that the versatility would have to come to an end once he reached the NFL level. The Rams, at least right now, think differently.

Speed is the name of the game for the smaller Austin, and the turf in St. Louis should allow him to cut up defenses. One of the biggest issues with the Rams the last few seasons is they simply did not have enough play-makers on offense to help out former #1 pick Sam Bradford. While some have been frustrated with Bradford up to this point in his career, this will be the first time he should not have any excuses as far as getting help goes.

The most common comparison to Austin at the NFL level is one of the favorites in fantasy football leagues, Percy Harvin.  The new Seattle Seahawk is a receiver who can also be a dual offensive threat. Injuries are always a concern when you work a player in so many ways, but the Rams feel as though they have the best skill player in the draft. If he can stay healthy, chances are he will have the opportunity to be the offensive rookie of the year as a big play-maker for the Rams.

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2014 Rankings NOW UP!

The prize of the 2014 NFL Draft? South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.

The prize of the 2014 NFL Draft? South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney.

Is it way too early?  Of course it is.  But the NFL Draft world never sleeps, and neither do we here at TDR!  That being the case, our TDR Top 50 and Top 5 By Position have now been updated for the 2014 NFL Draft!

Check out the rankings and give us YOUR take!  Follow us on Twitter (@NFLDraftReport) and let us know your thoughts on who the best players who for next year’s NFL Draft!

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