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Aug 29, 2013; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) jogs off the field following their win over the North Carolina Tar Heels at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Mel Kiper Jr. 2014 Big Board: Jadeveon Clowney rated best player in draft

It is still early in the college football season, but that doesn’t stop draftniks from looking ahead at the 2014 NFL Draft and discussing who could be the top player selected next year. ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. released his most recent Big Board for the upcoming draft, which featured few updates from his previous version near the top.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to see who Clowney has at the top of his board, but there are some surprises later down the rankings.

As for the controversial quarterback that everyone is discussing, Kiper decided to leave Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel out of his top 25 rankings. Kiper doesn’t seem to trust Manziel off the field, which is not the concern you would like to have for a potential franchise quarterback.

Kiper’s Big Board requires ESPN Insider access — you can view the entire rankings here — but for now let’s take a look at the top three:

1. Jadeveon Clowney, defensive end, South Carolina

He didn’t appear to be 100 percent in Week 1, and I thought he was a little tentative in the game against Georgia, though the Dawgs ran everything away from him. I’m looking forward to seeing him against Vanderbilt this week. Clowney combines exceptional strength and quickness, as well as strong hands to quickly shed blocks, and the result is a terrifying defensive talent. He’s not just an edge-bender, as he does a great job of beating tackles inside. He can occasionally play a little high, which allows teams to run at him, but he has improved there and is nowhere near a liability.

2. Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback, Louisville

There’s nothing to complain about regarding his performances, but is there going to be one game all year before a bowl where we’ll be able to say he was truly tested? Bridgewater rarely looks overwhelmed, and comfortably works his eyes across the field. When he sees a target — or more likely, a receiver who will come open — he has a quick release, plenty of arm strength and good ball placement. I really like how he calibrates his throws, not using too much arm when he doesn’t need to.

3. Louis Nix III, defensive tackle, Notre Dame

Just an OK game against Michigan, as the young Wolverines on the interior of that offensive line occupied Nix pretty effectively. At his best, Nix has the rare size and skills to handle a zero-technique role — Nix can keep multiple blockers occupied and make life easy for linebackers cleaning up against the run — but he’s not limited to that because he can really move, at least a lot better than you’d expect from a guy who can play at 340 pounds.

Who do you think is the best college football player in the nation? Sound off in the comments section and share your thoughts.

Tags: Football Jadeveon Clowney Louisville Cardinals NFL Draft Notre Dame Fighting Irish South Carolina Gamecocks Teddy Bridgewater

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