May 5, 2014
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida State set a school record last year with 11 NFL draft picks and when the three-day 2014 version of the league's annual selection process kicks off Thursday night, another run on `Noles prospects will also begin.
Whether or not FSU can match last season's total number of picks depends entirely on a process that is defined by uncertainty. And while there are no guarantees about which Seminoles get picked, Timmy Jernigan, Kelvin Benjamin, Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks, Telvin Smith, Christian Jones, Devonta Freeman and Bryan Stork are widely considered sure-fire selections. James Wilder, Jr. and Kenny Shaw also have a good chance of being drafted while Jacobbi McDaniel, Demonte McAllister and Chad Abram could interest some NFL teams.
The Seminoles' record-setting 2013 draft was highlighted by the first-round selections of EJ Manuel, Bjoern Werner and Xavier Rhodes. This year, Jernigan or Benjamin are potential candidates to become the 40th player in program history to be picked in the opening round.
Since February's NFL Combine, Jernigan's name has been the most consistent `Noles first-rounder in many mock drafts with Benjamin making occasional appearances in these media-created guesses about how the draft will play out. The Chicago bears at No. 14 and the Dallas Cowboys at No. 16 have been popular rumored landing spots for Jernigan, who is battling Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman to become the first defensive tackle selected.
Benjamin will not be the first wide receiver picked (that distinction will be reserved for Clemson's Sammy Watkins or Texas A&M's Mike Evans) but that doesn't mean he can't be the first former `Nole off the board. Benjamin's stock has fluctuated quite a bit during the pre-draft process with his predicted draft slot ranging anywhere from the low teens to the middle part of the second round. In addition to Watkins and Evans, LSU's Odell Beckham, USC's Marquise Lee and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks are in the first-round conversation at wide receiver so a lot can happen Thursday night that directly relates to where Benjamin gets picked.
Receiver-needy teams like the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 22 and Kansas City Chiefs at No. 23 have been "mocked" Benjamin and the argument could be made that pick Nos. 28-32 each feature teams in need of a pass catcher with his 6-foot-5 and 240-pound frame.
Joyner might not be a first-round selection but ESPN draft insiders Todd McShay and Mel Kiper recently did a joint mock and they penciled in the do-it-all defensive back at No. 40 overall to the Minnesota Vikings, which actually made him the first FSU player selected in their mock. In a recent NFL.com mock, Joyner went No. 33. Teams recognize his playmaking ability despite his smaller frame. His versatility and experience playing cornerback, safety and nickel back at FSU also help his draft stock and make him a likely early second rounder.
Jernigan, Benjamin and Joyner are the most talked-about `Noles players at the top of this draft but Brooks has seen his stock rise the most among the reigning national champions.
The former three-star signee blossomed into one of Florida State's most trusted and important defenders under Mark Stoops and then capped of his career with a stellar senior campaign under Jeremy Pruitt. Brooks' ability to halt the run and his range on the back end as a center fielder is exactly what today's NFL teams covet in a safety. He also bolstered his stock by churning out a sub-4.5 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine.
Smith, Jones and Freeman will likely be the next `Noles off the board but where they are selected is anybody's guess. Jones' NFL-ready frame and the ability he showed as a senior to rush the passer is attractive to NFL teams while Smith's speed, athleticism and sideline-to-sideline ability makes up for his lack of bulk.
Running backs aren't valued the same way they used to be in the now pass-happy NFL but Freeman will provide a spark to his future team's backfield as a player who has shown ability to play all three downs but is not worn down thanks to sharing carries througohut his college career.
In Stork, the team that selects him will get a proven center with experience at both guard and tackle as well.
The immediate futures of Wilder and Shaw depend on the preferences of the professional squads in search of specific traits those former `Noles possess. In Wilder, he bring s a bruising running style and large body that teams may be intrigued to utilize as a battering ram in the run game. And Shaw is a proven route runner with great hands and uncanny toughness.
The NFL Draft begins May 8 at 8 p.m. on both ESPN and the NFL Network. The second round then begins May 9 at 7 p.m. and rounds 4-7 start Saturday at noon.