The 2013 college football season is just beginning, and the 2014 NFL Draft is still more than half a year away, but the scouting of prospects is a year-round process, even for ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. The legendary draft analyst released his first “Big Board” this week, listing his top 40 draft eligible players in college football this season. Offensive linemen dominate the list, with seven found in the top 25. The defensive line was also well-represented along with the strong receiver class. It’s his first look ahead, but every analyst starts somewhere.
The top contain no surprises, with Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater occupying the top two spots, followed by stud defensive tackle Louis Nix and talented tackle Jake Matthews. Massive Alabama tackle Cyrus Kouandijo rounds out the top five. The nation’s top receiver, and dangerous return man, Marquise Lee comes in at number six, and UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is seventh. Offensive tackle Taylor Lewan, Ole Miss receiver Donte Montcrief, and Cameron Erving, Florida State tackle, fill out the top ten.
The second ten start with the second defensive lineman from Notre Dame in the person of Stephen Tuitt. Loucheiz Purifoy is the first cornerback on the list at number 12, and linebacker CJ mosely is lucky 13. Redshirt sophomore Aaron Lynch and UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley are 14 and 15 respectively. Antonio Richardson is the next offensive lineman on the list, followed by Timmy Jernigan and Sammy Watkins, who could skyrocket up the list by the end of the season. Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is just ahead of LSU defensive tackle Anthony Johnson in finishing off the top 20.
The electrifying De’Anthony Thomas comes in at 21st, while 22 through 25 is made up of guard David Yankey, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, guard Gabe Jackson, and linebacker Khalil Mack. Kiper’s list from 26-40 isn’t ordered, but includes Bradley Roby of Ohio State, Clemson’s Taj Boyd, and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
Kiper’s top 40 players are, for the most part, similar to that of other draft analysts, but there are some differences. One immediately noticeable break from the norm is the placement of Roby. The Ohio State cornerback is considered by many to be a top ten pick, yet Kiper has him outside of his top 25 and behind at least two other corners. He similarly has Clemson’s Boyd ranked lower than most, and UCLA’s Hundley much higher. Another difference lies in the ordering of a deep and talented wide receiver class. While most analysts have Lee and Watkins as the top two, Kiper has Montcrief in the top ten and ahead of Watkins.
Obviously, with the season just beginning, these rankings won’t be static. Some players will impress, while others will disappoint, leaving the list to change accordingly. The offensive linemen and wide receivers could see the most change with so much talent available at those spots. By the end of 2013, Kiper’s top 40 could look very different from this list, although it seems unlikely that anybody not named Clowney will be at the top.