- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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With the NFL draft still fresh in our minds and numerous publications releasing 2014 mock drafts, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has jumped on board (that's a pun) and released his first Big Board of the top 25 players for next year’s draft.
The board features four players from the Pac-12, including two in the top five. Here's how they rank.
Kiper on Lee: That USC had several good weapons in the passing game last season didn't stop defenses from paying extra attention to Lee, but it didn't matter. He has the ability to separate with speed and as an effective route-runner. He's dropped a few easy ones, but makes most routine catches and can play bigger than his size. Dangerous after the catch. He's also physical and could've been a top safety if he'd chosen that direction.
UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr -- previously No. 10 on the 2013 Big Board before deciding to return to UCLA for another season -- checks in at No. 5
Kiper on Barr: For perspective on Barr, consider that he easily outperformed Dion Jordan last season, and not only did Jordan go No. 3 overall, but Barr was playing defense for the first time in college football. A former fullback, he has a powerful lower half, but has a long frame and reach. I was surprised to see him return to UCLA coming off his 2012 season, but another year of seasoning at the position is only going to make him a more attractive talent.
In a second Kiper link, he looked at "the next 25" players who received consideration for the Big Board. And there's plenty of Pac-12 talent.
No. 28 Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas
No. 29 Stanford's David Yankey
No. 31 Oregon State's Scott Crichton
No. 33 Oregon's Marcus Mariota
No. 37 Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey
No. 40 Stanford's Ed Reynolds
No. 42 USC's Morgan Breslin
No. 46 California's Deandre Coleman
Finally from Kiper, a fun little story about how the draft might have gone had Clowney, Bridgewater, Lee, Barr and a few other offensive linemen been eligible in 2013.
On Lee: I could have seen Lee go as high as No. 3 overall to Oakland. The Raiders were smart to deal down, but WR is a pretty big need for them, and Lee is ready to play. Another spot he could have landed in is No. 5 with the Lions. Joke all you want about Detroit's history of drafting wideouts, but with the injury to Ryan Broyles and the dismissal of Titus Young, the Lions are actually thin at the position beyond Megatron. I'm a big fan of Tavon Austin, but he's not the prospect Lee is.
On Barr: All you need to know about Barr is that he was far more productive than Dion Jordan last year, and while Jordan is probably a better player in space right now, he was drafted to rush the passer, and Barr -- with only one year of experience -- is arguably already better. I think he and Jordan would have been neck and neck, and that obviously means that he could have gone in the top five. There's certainly the possibility he beats out Barkevious Mingo as the No. 6 pick to Cleveland.
4dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller