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2014 NFL Draft: Ranking the Top 10 Prospects through Week 8

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Top 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Through Week 8

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

In only seven short months, the 2014 NFL Draft will get under way as another year of football goes into the books. With seven weeks already passed in the current NFL season, there are a number of elite college prospects who have stood out above the rest.

From high-flying quarterbacks to dominant defensive linemen, these top-tier talents have handled their competition with ease through the first couple of months of the college football season. While some have suffered their fair share of setbacks – such as off games or untimely injuries – they’ve still managed to let their natural talent shine through when they hit the field.

While most of you have heard of South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who is obviously on this list due to his ridiculous natural talent and elite athleticism, there are several other names in the Top 10 that deserve recognition regardless of their position, school or class. These players have consistently dominated their opponents on a weekly basis, and scouts from around the league have taken notice.

Until these players prove otherwise, their names are worth knowing as the 2014 NFL Draft draws closer. They’ve proven throughout the current season that they deserve a high draft status, and should continue to float around the Top 10 as bowl season comes within view.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft through eight weeks of action in the NFL and what they’re doing to keep themselves atop the list at this point in the season.

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10. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo

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An all-around sensational linebacker, Mack is putting Buffalo on the map as a small school capable of producing NFL talent. Displaying the ability to defend the run as well as the pass, he does an outstanding job of flying around the field. If he can hone his abilities as an edge rusher, there’s no telling just how high Mack can go when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around.

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9. Marqise Lee, WR, USC

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If it wasn’t for some health issues and the drama surrounding the USC football program, Lee would be closer to the top of this list. Instead, the electrifying receiver is sitting near the bottom of the Top 10. Still, Lee has the playmaking abilities that will make offensive coordinators drool and is a sparkplug with the ball in his hands. As part of a stable offense, Lee will shine at the next level.

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8. Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame

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So far this season, Nix has lived up to the hype as a disruptive nose tackle who can be an anchor in the middle of the Notre Dame defensive line. Not only does he get off the line much quicker than a typical 340-pound defensive tackle, but he gets easy penetration because of his strength and excels in pursuit. If a Top 10 team is looking for a massive nose tackle in May, they need look no further than Nix.

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7. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

The rest of his teammates may have struggled against Florida State last weekend, but Watkins was still a star. A touchdown waiting to happen whenever the ball is in his hands, the electrifying pass-catcher uses his elite athleticism and game-breaking speed to victimize defenses. The Tigers will bounce back before the regular season is over, and Watkins will be a big part of their resurgence.

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6. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

While many considered him one of the top defensive tackles of the 2014 class, Jernigan took his place atop the list last weekend with a dominant performance against Clemson. The anchor of the Seminoles’ outstanding defensive line, Jernigan is an explosive athlete who uses tremendous strength, quickness off the line and a never-ceasing motor to consistently blow up plays in the backfield.

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5. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M

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Arguably the best all-around blocker in the 2014 class, Matthews has spent the last two years making a name for himself as a top-tier NFL prospect. He’s proven that he can handle the left side this year, and has solidified himself as the top candidate to be the first tackle off the board in May. Matthews has the bloodlines and physical tools to be a dominant blindside blocker at the next level.

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4. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville

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Bridgewater is still playing like the top-flight quarterback everyone thought he was, but there have been a few questionable performances that are making analysts wonder if he really is the top quarterback of the class. Especially while playing against average competition, Bridgewater has struggled a couple of time this season, but there’s no doubt the physical tools and mental toughness are there.

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3. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

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There aren’t many defenders in the nation better than Barr, who is coming off another outstanding showing against Stanford. With elite athleticism, outstanding pass rushing abilities and the instincts you look for in a playmaking linebacker, the UCLA stud is quietly pushing Clowney for the right to be called the top defender of the 2014 draft class.

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2. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

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The current leader in the race for the 2013 Heisman Trophy, Mariota has been superb all season long. Despite his classification as a running quarterback, he has vastly improved from a throwing standpoint and has become a passer first and a scrambler second. The best part of the whole deal is he has yet to throw a single interception, proving that he can be smart with the football.

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1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina

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As disappointing as his 2013 campaign has been, there’s no denying that Clowney is still the top prospect for the 2014 NFL Draft. With elite physical tools and rare athleticism for his size, the Gamecocks’ superstar is still shining bright. Clowney had a good game against Tennessee last week, which could start to convince some of his doubters that he’s still willing to play hard.