- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Continuing with his look at the top prospects for the 2014 draft by position, ESPN's Mel Kiper ranked the tight ends, outside linebackers and inside linebackers. The Pac-12 is well-represented at all three position groups.
Kiper on Seferian-Jenkins: This is the definition of a matchup problem: a tight end with the size (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) to block and the hands and athleticism to be split out, where he can overwhelm smaller corners. Extremely productive, Seferian-Jenkins had 109 catches in his first two years in college, and he already holds the school record for catches, touchdowns and receiving yards by a tight end.
Kiper on Lyerla: Don't mistake Lyerla's lack of catches for lack of talent. The one-time star high school running back and linebacker might be the best athlete in this group, and Oregon was eager to find ways to get him the ball. He even rushed the ball 13 times last season, to go along with his 25 catches.
Kiper on Grimble: What I like about Grimble is that he can make catches in traffic, and when he has the ball in his hands, he seems to enjoy looking for people he can run over. The USC offense should see more of him in 2013.
Moving to the other side of the ball, the Pac-12 claims the top spot here as well with UCLA's Anthony Barr ranking first among all outside linebacker prospects. Per usual, Kiper ranks the top five and then has an "up next" section of five more players. This includes ASU's Carl Bradford, Stanford's Trent Murphy and USC's Hayes Pullard.
Kiper on Barr: Barr has a long frame and reach, has a great initial burst and often beats blockers with quickness. He can close fast and shows some decent instincts in space. He needs to work on counters and getting free of blockers who get their hands on him. He'll need to become stronger against the run. But the tools are there, and he's not your typical senior given his limited time at the position.
As I noted in the post about defensive ends, I was waiting to see how Kiper categorized USC's Morgan Breslin, who is making the move to outside linebacker this season. He doesn't show up on either the DE or OLB list -- which is quite surprising to me. I think that changes once the season gets going because my guess is he'll blow up in USC's new odd-front scheme.
Moving to the inside linebackers, no Pac-12 players appear in the top five, but three are in the "next up" portion, including UCLA's Eric Kendricks -- who led the Pac-12 in tackles last season by a very wide margin, and the Stanford duo of A.J. Tarpley and Shayne Skov.
Finally, Insider Travis Haney ranks the top 10 teams nationally in terms of talent -- taking into account preseason rankings, the number of potential prospects and the four-year average rank of the recruiting classes. Oregon checks in at No. 6 and Stanford is No. 9.
Haney on Oregon: The Ducks' recruiting ranks are often dinged by class depth, but they always seem to have a few elite prospects mixed in. If De'Anthony Thomas can approach Tavon Austin's impact -- he might, now that dependable backs Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James have departed -- he could rise from where he is now, just outside Kiper's top 25. In fact, KC Joyner recently listed Thomas as a prospect who could put up huge numbers in 2013.
Haney on Stanford: Stanford can recruit nationally on the backbone of its academic prowess -- and now because of its ability to make prospects into NFL-grade players. Even with all of the talent that has passed through in the past couple of years -- what's the record for tight ends drafted in a two-year span? -- the Cardinal still have all-conference-type players such as linebackers Trent Murphy and Shayne Skov. The offensive line again could be a force, and Kiper has [Kevin] Hogan listed behind only [Johnny] Manziel and [Marcus] Mariota in the 2016 class; his development will be intriguing to watch.
2dChantel Jennings and Ted Miller