Radio City Music Hall has recently become overrun with linemen come NFL draft season. The “Big Uglies” once again are very predominant in the 2014 as similar numbers of linemen are expected to come off the board early.
The overwhelming top prospect is defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney out of South Carolina. His accolades and talents speak for themselves, but he is not alone as a first round defensive line talent. Anthony Johnson (LSU), Trent Murphy (Stanford), Timmy Jernigan (Florida St.), Jackson Jeffcoat (Texas), Morgan Breslin (USC), and Will Sutton (Arizona) along with a few others are first round caliber prospects on the defensive line. Elite athletes are moving to defensive line, and it is translating to a higher demand of linemen. Thus, these prospects are very high on NFL draft boards and will be hot commodities in 2014.
On the offensive line, a strong concentration of prospects is expecting to be taken in the first round. They include Cyrus Kouandjio (Ala.), Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Cyril Richardson (Baylor), Seantrel Henderson (Miami), James Hurst (UNC), Gabe Ikard (Okla.), and Cam Erving (Florida St.) among others. By season’s end, offensive linemen could challenge for as many as 10 selections in the first round. Expect linemen, offensive and defensive alike, to hear their names called early and often next May.
Over the past three drafts, about 52 percent of the players selected in the first round have been either offensive or defensive linemen. This is compared to ten years ago when only nine linemen were selected in the first of the 2003 draft. NFL teams are placing a higher value on controlling the line of scrimmage, making linemen the second most esteemed position in the league. This trend will continue into 2014 and beyond, as this class will rival last year as one of the deepest linemen drafts in recent memory.