The 2014 NFL Draft was talent-rich. 34 Draft-eligible players went on to earn Pro Bowls. A whopping seven of those pro-bowlers were actually undrafted free agents. To call the draft an exact science would be a disservice to any scientific method. Nevertheless, we persist.
When comparing analytics gathered from the 2014 class with the 2020 group, a few standouts emerge along with one colossal outlier. And a couple of smaller outliers, albeit still very large, fast men.
The Outlier in 2014 NFL Draft
Khalil Mack has no comparable in this draft class. And perhaps anywhere on a football field. Despite being traded by the Raiders a few years back, Mack is the very definition of an outlier. He is wreaking havoc all over the field with unbelievable measurables—a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Quarterbacks are the Future
The biggest and most scrutinized decisions are always the quarterbacks. And this year’s draft class appears to be one to avoid if you are looking for that superstar. But recall that the 2014 NFL Draft Class has not necessarily been a great quarterback crop. Only Derek Carr ever made a Pro Bowl while Jimmy G did make it to the Super Bowl last year.
The three draftable quarterbacks this year and who they most look like from 2014:
- Joe Burrow | Jimmy Garoppolo
- Tua Tagovailoa | Derek Carr
- Jake Fromm | Teddy Bridgewater
Running Backs are the Past
Roosevelt Nix would go on to make a Pro Bowl as an undrafted free agent and perpetuates the growing belief that running backs are devalued in the current NFL.
Wide Receivers Aplenty
Odell Beckham is another outlier in the Khalil Mack vein. Measurables off the chart. But coming in very close is Justin Jefferson. And late in the 1st round, Jefferson could be a steal. He belongs closer to the mid-first round.
The most significant reach amongst the wide receivers would be taking Jarvis Landry’s doppelganger Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb. Subpar defenses in the Big 12 make Lamb look like a mid-first-rounder, and running with Odell made Landry appear more like a 3rd round talent. Perception is reality.
Of equal value would be speedsters Henry Ruggs III and Brandin Cooks. Grab Ruggs in the mid-first round for a talent that might explode in the NFL. Very high upside if the immeasurables and scheme are a fit for Ruggs’ prodigious abilities.
But the most exceptional value of all would be taking Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool in the 3rd round. Claypool projects as a near clone of perennial pro-bowler Mike Evans. And Evans went 7th overall!
Offensive Line Stalwarts
If your team is looking for the next Zack Martin, two options emerge. Ceasar Ruiz (C) out of Michigan and Jedrick Willis (OT) from Alabama. Martin played offensive tackle at Notre Dame before becoming a perennial All-Pro at Guard for the Cowboys. Both Ruiz and Willis have the measurables to be great at the current positions as well. But a move on the line could yield similar gains at the next level.
Martin went 16th in the first round, and given predraft grades, Ruiz would be the better value pick late first/early second. And Willis grades out mid-first round.
Two future Pro Bowl tackles went in the 2014 NFL Draft first round. Taylor Lewan and Jake Matthews. And good value can be found in their 2020 counterparts—Tristan Wilfs and Mekhi Becton, respectively. Either in the early to mid-first round would be solid selections.
Defensive Line Explosion
Looking across the line for Becton and Wilfs will be another nearly incomparable player in Aaron Donald. Donald is headed to the Hall with Mack, but one of the tremendous values in the 2020 NFL draft might be Justin Madubuike from Texas A&M. Madubuike is the rare Defensive Tackle with an interception and a blocked kick.
On the EDGE, Chase Young and Jadaveon Clowney might be twins. Both men were highly ranked out of high school and surpassed the hype in college. Were Young a quarterback, he would be the 1st overall pick in 2020.
The 2014 NFL Draft class has the three highest-paid players on the defensive side of the ball – Mack, Donald, and Demarcus Lawrence. The most recent to the group, Lawrence might have his twin in fellow Boise State alumnus Curtis Weaver. A value selection in the middle of the 3rd round with excellent upside.
Another value on the EDGE is Jabari Zuniga. Out of Florida, Zuniga is another freakish talent like fellow former SEC (Auburn) standout, Dee Ford.
With no linebackers from 2020 matching up with Anthony Barr or Mack, we head to the secondary and Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah. Okudah compares very favorably to another Chicago Bear – Kyle Fuller. Okudah should be a mainstay for whoever selects him in the Top 10.
In retrospect, the amazing part is the journey after the 2020 NFL Draft wraps. So many of these 2014 players were drafted by one team, only to be traded before their first contract expired. And some leave to find their best selves and greatest riches elsewhere.