- Deshaun Watson – Clemson
Deshaun Watson was my top quarterback prospect before the combine, and during the combine he increased the separation between himself and the field. Watson isn’t the perfect prospect, but he has a high floor and has enough upside to be a top tier NFL quarterback. He has been prone to throwing interceptions, but so were Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan in college. As a passer, Watson is accurate and usually makes good decisions. Both these areas can and should be improved once he receives NFL coaching. Watson is a great athlete with the ability to run for yards or scramble to buy time before completing a pass. What separates Watson is his mentality and ability to make his teammates better. Watson is a winner and is as clutch as they come. I want my quarterback to be at his best in the biggest moments, and Watson has played his best ball in his two national championship games. I don’t think Watson is the best player in the draft, but if I needed a quarterback I’d take him in the top ten.
- Mitchell Trubisky – North Carolina
Mitchell Trubisky looks like a safe quarterback prospect on tape. He has decent size, good athleticism, and is an accurate passer. He was the most consistent draft eligible quarterback this season. The biggest issue with Trubisky is his lack of experience. He was only a one year starter at North Carolina. Why couldn’t he beat out Marquise Williams (a nice college quarterback but couldn’t make it to the NFL) and why was the team worse this season under Trubisky’s leadership? I think leadership and winning are two important characteristics of a quarterback, and I question whether Trubisky has what it takes to lead an NFL team. He looked like a potential #1 overall pick when he led North Carolina to a victory on the road against Florida State, but he didn’t consistently play up to that level. He struggled in a few key moments when his team needed him most, which makes me question his clutch gene. I think he could use a season to sit and watch, but he has the potential to be a good NFL starter. I think Trubisky should be a late first round pick.
- DeShone Kizer – Notre Dame
DeShone Kizer looks like an NFL quarterback. He’s got the size and athletic ability to be an upper echelon starter in the NFL. But sometimes Kizer looks like Tarzan and plays like Jane. I think Kizer has the highest ceiling of all the quarterbacks in this draft. If he figures out how to be a consistent player, he could be a top 10 NFL quarterback. But Kizer also has a low floor and needs a lot of work to maximize his potential. I think he needs at least a full season on the bench before he’ll be ready to play. He is one of the top four quarterbacks in this draft class, and was by far the worst of the four at the scouting combine. He didn’t look comfortable and missed a ton of throws. I want my quarterbacks to be winners. Kizer led Notre Dame to a 4-8 season and was benched on a few occasions. Why is a team with that much talent not able to make a bowl game? I think Kizer is a big reason for Notre Dame’s struggles. His decision making and accuracy are poor at times, and he doesn’t seem to have the leadership qualities to get his teammates to rally behind him. I think Kizer will be drafted in the first round, but I wouldn’t take him until the second round.
- Patrick Mahomes – Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes is one of the most exciting players to watch on tape in this year’s draft class. He makes most plays look chaotic and unscripted before rifling a pass downfield to an open receiver. It’s amazing that a player with that much talent can make things look so difficult. But Mahomes thrives in chaos. He has a cannon for an arm but hasn’t learned to play in the structure of an offense. If he can learn to play within the structure of an offense, he has the skills to be a top tier quarterback. I don’t believe he’ll ever make that leap. He thrives too much playing backyard football and running around like a madman. He plays like a combination of Johnny Manziel and Brett Favre. Although his arm is arguably the strongest in this draft class, he doesn’t have the gun that Brett Favre had. Both Manziel and Favre were fun to watch, so if anything Mahomes should be entertaining. But there’s a difference between entertaining and effective. I think Mahomes could use a couple years on the bench. He will be drafted in the first round, but I wouldn’t draft him until day two of the draft.
- Davis Webb – California
There is a bit of a gap between the top four quarterbacks and the next tier. I have Davis Webb as the top quarterback of the second tier. I think this fifth spot is between Webb, Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs. Peterman is the classic high floor and low ceiling quarterback that will likely be a lifelong backup. He’s a safe player and might become a solid starter, but doesn’t have the upside of Davis Webb. Dobbs is an extremely intelligent quarterback with great athleticism, but needs to improve his accuracy if he wants to become an NFL starter. Webb has a lower floor than Peterman and could potentially bust at the next level, but he also has traits that could make him a starter if he puts everything together. He started his collegiate career at Texas Tech before getting injured and losing his job to Patrick Mahomes. He then transferred to California and immediately became a team captain. I think this speaks volumes about his leadership qualities. He has a strong arm with the ability to push the ball down the field, but this aspect of his game was underutilized at California. He threw a lot of bubble screens, which was aggravating to watch due to his extremely strong arm. He comes from a gimmicky offense and still needs to improve his footwork, but I think he could become a starter after a season on the bench. I think Webb should be drafted in the third round, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he went in the second round.
- Leonard Fournette – LSU
There has been a lot of talk in the draft community before the combine about Dalvin Cook potentially passing Leonard Fournette as the top running back in this draft, but those talks were put to rest when Fournette dominated Cook in Indianapolis. People were initially freaking out that Fournette weighed in at 240 pounds and struggled in the vertical jump, but those concerns were put to rest once Fournette ran the 40 yard dash. Fournette claimed that the extra weight was “water weight” and that he isn’t a jumper. The jumping tests are done to show explosion, which is an important trait in a running back. But watching Fournette’s tape proves that he has the skills to be a top tier running back in the NFL. He’s a classic height-weight-speed athlete who has been praised as a future star since high school. He often gets compared to Adrian Peterson, although I don’t think he’s quite that level of prospect. My only concerns with Fournette are his hands and ability to run out of the shotgun, but I think he has enough talent to overcome these minor flaws and become a star.
- Dalvin Cook – Florida State
Before the combine, people were talking about Cook being the number one running back in this year’s draft. Now the narrative has changed. Some draft experts think he has fallen below Christian McCaffrey and might not be a first round pick. I think this shift in Cook’s stock is ludicrous. I think it’s a lot easier for a good athlete to have a bad day at the combine than a bad athlete to have a good day. These players are exhausted by the time they start their athletic testing and drills, so it’s understandable if they don’t live up to the expectations that the draft community puts on them. I am a bit worried about Cook’s slow change-of-direction times, but that doesn’t match what I see on tape. I put more stock in a player’s tape than I do their combine results. I still think Cook is a valuable prospect with the ability to play on all three downs. He’s got speed, power, and the ability to catch the ball. As long as teams are okay with his medical checks and off-field issues, I think he’ll be a first round pick.
- Joe Mixon – Oklahoma
Joe Mixon is the most controversial player in this year’s draft for obvious reasons. He wasn’t allowed to participate at the combine due to the heinous video of him knocking out a female student at Oklahoma. My rankings are only taking into account a player’s abilities on the field and their injury history. It’s clear on tape that Mixon has first round abilities. I would compare his potential to be a top tier runner and receiver out of the backfield with the likes of David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell. At the combine, Daniel Jeremiah raised an interesting proposal regarding players like Joe Mixon with shady pasts. Since teams want the chance to interview these types of players to find out more about them, why not let these players go to the combine for interviews only? That way the teams that are interested in Mixon have the ability to interview him without giving him the publicity of doing the workout seen on the NFL Network. Although Mixon is a first round talent, I think the earliest he could be drafted would be in the second round. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him fall to day three in the draft. With this amount of talent I’d be surprised if he goes undrafted, but he wouldn’t have anyone to blame for that but himself.
- Christian McCaffrey – Stanford
With the exception of the bench press in which he had only ten reps, Christian McCaffrey dominated the NFL scouting combine. He put up good numbers across the board, but his greatest work was in the drills. He looked natural going through running back drills before putting on a show running routes as a receiver. McCaffrey will be used primarily as a running back at the next level, but his ability to work out of the slot as a receiver shouldn’t be understated. He could be viewed as a Reggie Bush lite at the next level, and would be a perfect fit with any creative offensive coordinator. He is an electric returner and should dominate there at the next level. I worry about his ability to run between the tackles, but he should be a good player if utilized properly. I can’t imagine McCaffrey getting out of the first round.
- Jamaal Williams – BYU
Jamaal Williams has the potential to be one of the best day three gems in this year’s draft. I’m admittedly higher on Williams than most people in the draft community, but I could see him becoming a workhorse back at the next level. This year’s draft class is extremely deep at the running back position, so teams will draft the type of player they want to fit their system. Williams isn’t an elite athlete and would likely fit best in a zone blocking scheme, but I think he’s instinctive enough to become an all-around running back if a team uses his skill set correctly. The top four running backs in this draft class are almost universally agreed upon by draft experts, so the fifth best running back prospect will be a debated topic until draft day. Many believe that Alvin Kamara is the fifth best prospect, but he rarely carried the ball in college. I can’t imagine him being more than a change-of-pace back at the next level. Other experts like Marlon Mack, D’Onta Foreman, Kareem Hunt, Wayne Gallman, Brian Hill, or Samaje Perine, but I don’t think they have the skill set between the tackles that Williams possesses. I think all of these running backs could be selected on day two of the draft and I wouldn’t be shocked if they are all selected before Williams. If I had to bet on a running back becoming an All-Pro outside of the top four prospects in this draft, I would bet on Jamaal Williams. Williams will likely be drafted in rounds three or four of the draft.
- Mike Williams – Clemson
Another draft, and another wide receiver named Mike Williams joining the NFL. Hopefully this Mike Williams will actually live up to the hype. Clemson’s Mike Williams has received a lot of criticism from the draft community due to him not running at the NFL combine. Although his deep speed has been a concern, I still believe he’s the best wide receiver on tape. Williams has the size and ball skills to be a #1 outside receiver in any NFL offense. After breaking his neck on the first drive of the season two years ago, Williams came back last season and proved he is a first round prospect. He recently ran a decent 40 yard dash at his pro day, but pro day numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. Given Clemson’s track record of putting receivers into the NFL (DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant, Adam Humphries, and Jaron Brown), I’d bet on Williams producing at a high level. If I was a team needing a wide receiver, I’d gladly draft Mike Williams in the first round.
- Corey Davis – Western Michigan
Corey Davis could arguably be the best receiver in this year’s draft. Although I have Williams slightly ahead of him, I think Davis will be a #1 receiver in the NFL. Williams and Davis are two different types of receivers, and teams will have to decide what type of receiver they want. Williams typically gains separation in the air whereas Davis gains separation on the ground. Davis didn’t always play the highest level of competition at Western Michigan, but he was dominant when playing the best teams on Western Michigan’s schedule. Davis broke the NCAA’s record for receiving yards in a career. I think Williams has a slightly higher ceiling, which is why I have him ranked higher. But Davis is the safer player with the higher floor (even with his injury concerns). I can’t imagine a scenario where Davis becomes a bust. Although he was too injured to work out at the combine or his pro day, I wouldn’t have any concerns drafting Corey Davis in the first round.
- John Ross – Washington
John Ross blew up Twitter when he broke the NFL combine record by running a 4.22 second 40 yard dash. This changed many opinions about Ross in the draft community, but I think people shouldn’t overreact and move him up their draft boards. Ross was already a first round pick before the combine and this shouldn’t change. Everyone knew before his record breaking run that he is extremely fast and injury prone. These were both proven true when Ross got injured running that speedy 40 yard dash. Ross has good hands, is a good route runner, and has the ability to take the top off defenses. That is extremely valuable in today’s NFL. He struggled getting off press coverage at times, which will always be a concern due to his lack of strength and size. But I think he could be a great slot receiver at the next level. If a team is looking for a field stretching wide receiver, John Ross would be the best player to target in the first round.
- Zay Jones – East Carolina
Zay Jones is one of the most underappreciated prospects in this year’s draft. As the all-time receptions leader in the FBS, there is no denying that his production as a wide receiver is unmatched in this draft class. Jones is a lean 6’2” tall and has average deep speed. Although this is a bit concerning, the other aspects of his game make up for all of his weaknesses. Jones has incredible hands and is an excellent route runner. I have no concerns that he’ll be able to separate at the next level. Jones is versatile enough to play either outside or in the slot. He dominated in college with subpar quarterbacks passing him the football. Playing at East Carolina may worry some people in the draft community about his level of competition, but those concerns should’ve been put to rest when he dominated at the Senior Bowl. Jones has checked every box since the season ended, and his tape is good enough to warrant a day two selection. If I was in charge of a team needing playmakers, I’d target Zay Jones in the second round of the draft.
- Chris Godwin – Penn State
Chris Godwin was one of the winners of the combine when he put up a great 40 yard dash time. Some people in the draft community wondered if Godwin had the speed to separate from defenders down the field. After watching him on tape, I was a bit concerned about his deep speed. He was already one of my favorite wide receiver prospects before the combine, and he vaulted up into my top five receivers after alleviating my concerns about his deep speed. On tape, Godwin is a good route runner with amazing ball skills. His ability to make contested catches down the field is his greatest attribute. Only Mike Williams is potentially better at making contested catches in this draft class. Godwin needs to become a better route runner at the next level so he doesn’t have to rely on making contested catches. I think he’ll improve in that regard once he receives NFL coaching. I think Godwin will come off the board on day two of the draft and will immediately become a team’s second wide receiver.
- O.J. Howard – Alabama
O.J. Howard proved at the combine that he is the best tight end in this year’s draft class. He might also be the safest prospect in the entire draft. It is almost a crime how underutilized he was at Alabama. Howard is a great athlete with the ability to get open down the field and make people miss with the ball in his hands. In today’s NFL, teams are looking for an athletic tight end to be a mismatch in the passing game. But Howard is so much more than that. He is also a great blocker. Howard is a complete tight end with both a high floor and high ceiling. There haven’t been many tight ends drafted in the first round in recent years, but I wouldn’t be surprised if two or three become first round picks this year. This is the best tight end class in recent memory and each team will value different players more depending on what type of tight end they are looking for. But I cannot imagine a team having a tight end rated above Howard. You can flex Howard out wide, use him as an H-back, or use him as a tradition in-line tight end. Howard will be a first round pick and could even be a top 10 pick.
- David Njoku – Miami
David Njoku has been rising up draft boards throughout the draft process. He is coming out after his redshirt sophomore season, so he is young compared to the rest of this draft class. He needs to improve as a blocker, but he has all the tools to do so if he can add some strength. At 20 years old, he isn’t fully developed yet. As a receiver, he is already an elite weapon that can stretch the field vertically. He compares favorably to 2014 top 10 pick Eric Ebron. Although Ebron hasn’t fully lived up to expectations yet, they both share above average athleticism for the position. Tight ends usually have struggled to integrate themselves into their offense as young players, so it might take Njoku a few years to reach his potential. But I would be surprised if he isn’t a top tier receiving tight end by the end of his rookie contract. Njoku should be drafted somewhere in the first round.
- Evan Engram – Ole Miss
Evan Engram’s draft stock has increased since the combine. In a loaded tight end class, Engram stood out from the rest of the pack in Indianapolis. He showed he was a great athlete and looked fluid during the drills. Although he won’t give you much as a blocker, he will be a great move tight end at the next level. He is too big and strong for corners and safeties and too quick for linebackers. He is essentially a large wide receiver and should be used as such at the next level. He is a classic mismatch tight end and could thrive if he ends up with a team that has a creative offensive coordinator. Although I think he is a second round talent, I wouldn’t be surprised if a team takes a chance on him in the last few picks of the first round. If used properly, Evan Engram could become a nightmare for opposing defenses.
- Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech
Bucky Hodges is another mismatch tight end whose stock has increased since the combine. He didn’t dominate quite like Evan Engram, but he still impressed nonetheless. Hodges is a glorified receiver who will likely do most of his damage from the slot. I can’t imagine him being used as an in-line tight end at the next level due to his inability to block. Although his 40 time was impressive, it was Hodges’ jumps that made him stand out. His 39 inch vertical was tops at his position and his 134 inch broad jump broke the combine record for tight ends. This type of athleticism is prevalent on his tape. Although he believes he can block and sees himself as a tight end, he was used as a wide receiver at Virginia Tech. Teams that are looking for a Jordan Reed type of tight end would value Hodges. Although he isn’t as talented as Reed, he has the potential to be a weapon in an offense that understands his skill set. I’d be shocked if Hodges makes it out of round two.
- Jordan Leggett – Clemson
Jordan Leggett chose not to run at the combine, which raised some eyebrows from the draft community. He showed at his pro day that he’s a decent athlete, but not quite on par with many of the other tight ends in this class. However, I’d rather have a good football player than a good athlete. Jordan Leggett is a good football player with enough athleticism to become a weapon in the passing game. He isn’t a great blocker yet, but he has shown the ability to block on occasion. I don’t think he’ll ever be elite in this area, but he should become more consistent with NFL coaching. Leggett will make his money because of what he can do as a receiver. He has great hands and knows how to get open. He isn’t as good of an athlete as Engram or Hodges, but he will be used similarly to them at the next level. I think he has a better chance of surviving as an in-line tight end than Engram and Hodges. I think Leggett’s versatility will catapult him up draft boards. He can be used as an H-back, an in-line tight end, and he can be flexed out wide. Leggett should be a day two pick in this year’s draft.
- Forrest Lamp – Western Kentucky
Forrest Lamp is the safest offensive line prospect in this year’s draft. Although I think he’ll be a guard at the next level, I would try him at tackle and make him prove he’s incapable before sliding him inside. Lamp was phenomenal at left tackle against Alabama, so why couldn’t he play there at the next level? There is a major offensive tackle crisis in the NFL, so teams need to stop moving potential tackles inside to guard. I think Lamp has the traits to be the next Zack Martin, Joel Bitonio, and Brandon Scherff. I believe all of those other players could have been good tackles, but moved inside to become elite guards. Teams need to figure out if having an elite guard is more important than a good tackle. It’s much easier to find guards in today’s NFL so I believe having an above average tackle is more important. But given the trend of moving players like Lamp inside, I think he’ll be a guard at the next level. Lamp even has the versatility to play center. I’d be shocked if Forrest Lamp falls out of the first round.
- Garett Bolles – Utah
Garett Bolles is my highest rated pure offensive tackle in this year’s draft. He was a one year starter at Utah, which concerns some people in the draft community. Bolles had a troubled childhood, but has since turned his life around. He was an elite high school football player, but went on a Mormon mission after high school. Bolles played football at Snow College for two years before transferring to Utah in 2016. His one season in the Pac-12 was a memorable one in which he was a first team All-Pac-12 selection. Bolles is a great athlete for his position and should be a day one starter at tackle. I think he has the ability to play on either side of the line, but will likely be a left tackle due to it being a premium position in today’s NFL. Bolles is already an outstanding run blocker and has the tools to be an outstanding pass blocker. He’ll need to clean up his technique a bit, but this shouldn’t be an issue once he receives NFL coaching. Bolles definitely has some nastiness to his game, which is paramount for offensive lineman. I can’t imagine Bolles making it out of the first round.
- Ryan Ramczyk – Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk has an interesting past that led him to Wisconsin. He decided to pursue his passion of welding out of high school. After attending a few different technical colleges, he decided to pursue football at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point. He then transferred to Wisconsin and had to sit out the 2015 season before becoming a starter in 2016. Some draft experts question his passion for football, but I don’t see this as an issue. On tape, Ramczyk is one of the top tackle prospects in the draft. Wisconsin has a history of putting offensive lineman in the NFL, and Ramczyk has the potential to be the best from his alma mater. Ramczyk is extremely physical, has good length, and is a good athlete for his position. With the NFL’s offensive line crisis, Ramczyk will likely be pushed up draft boards and should be a first round pick.
- Cam Robinson – Alabama
Cam Robinson is an extremely polarizing player in this year’s draft. Some teams see him as the top offensive lineman in the draft, and other teams see his inconsistency as a reason why he will be a bust. Robinson played left tackle in the SEC against some of the best pass rushers in college football. He held his own against probable #1 overall pick Myles Garrett. There’s no denying that Robinson looks like an NFL offensive tackle and has enough athleticism to become an elite player, but he’ll have to be more consistent if he wants to maximize his potential. Some draft experts believe he’s better suited to be a guard, but I disagree. I think Robinson can play guard if he’s asked to, but I think his length and skill set better translate to tackle. He is dominant as a run blocker, but sometimes gets off balance in pass protection. I wouldn’t be surprised if Robinson slides out of the first round, but he shouldn’t fall outside the top 50 picks in this draft.
- Dan Feeney – Indiana
Dan Feeney is my top pure guard prospect in this year’s draft. Although I have Lamp rated higher on my board, he is a bit more versatile than Feeney. I see Feeney being a classic zone guard at the next level. He is an above average pass protector with a bit of nastiness to his game. His pad level isn’t always ideal, but he still manages to get some push in the run game. He should be able to correct this issue with NFL coaching. The guard position isn’t as valuable as the tackle position, and teams are looking for more versatile lineman because they can only dress a handful during games. Having someone that can play multiple positions is more valuable than someone that can only be a guard. So Feeney will need to be a starter at the next level if he wants to dress for games. With his skill set, I can’t imagine him being a backup. He’s too polished and talented to not become a day one starter. Feeney shouldn’t make it out of the third round in this year’s draft.
- Myles Garrett – Texas A&M
Myles Garrett is the best player in this year’s draft class. He has been dominant since his first day at Texas A&M. Before the combine, some draft experts questioned whether Garrett was a potential once in a generation pass rusher. They wanted to see if he was as freaky of an athlete as he looked on tape. Garrett silenced all the critics in Indianapolis. He was as dominant in the combine as Jadeveon Clowney was a couple years ago. Garrett compares favorably to former #1 pick Mario Williams, and reminds me a bit of future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers. Garrett has the potential to be that type of player. He has great size, athleticism, and pass rushing abilities. He could improve against the run and could use a few more moves as a pass rusher, but I can’t imagine this being an issue once he receives NFL coaching. The Cleveland Browns need help at many positions, so they would be wise to take the top player on their board. I will be shocked if Myles Garrett isn’t the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
- Solomon Thomas – Stanford
Solomon Thomas has the potential to be a top five pick in this year’s draft. I’m not as high on him as others in the draft community, but it’s impossible to deny his talent. He has the potential to be a Michael Bennett type of pass rusher at the next level. He’ll likely play defensive end on first and second down with the potential to kick inside to tackle on third down. He can play in both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. I don’t think he’ll be as successful as Bennett when he kicks inside, but he has the potential to be even better than Bennett when playing outside. He continued to get better throughout the season culminating with a dominate performance in their bowl game against North Carolina. He went to Indianapolis and checked every box at the combine. Thomas is a lock for being a top 10 pick.
- Derek Barnett – Tennessee
Derek Barnett is the most polished pass rusher in this year’s draft. He isn’t a great athlete, but he uses great technique to beat his opponents. Barnett broke NFL legend Reggie White’s record for most sacks in Tennessee history. Barnett was sick during the combine but decided to compete anyways. Many people in his situation would shut it down and wait for their pro day, but Barnett showed that he’s a great competitor. I didn’t expect him to put up amazing numbers, so I wasn’t disappointed when he didn’t test as well as many of the other top prospects at his position. He showed on tape that he’s a hard worker with great technique, which he backed up at the combine. Some teams would rather take a chance on a great athlete and try to coach them up, which would make them steer clear of Barnett. But teams who want a great football player should consider Barnett. I would be shocked if he didn’t hear his name called in the first round.
- Tim Williams – Alabama
Although Tim Williams struggled at the combine, I still think he’s an outstanding talent. I’m a believer that it’s easier for a good athlete to have a bad day at the combine than a bad athlete to have a good day. Even Tim Williams would admit that he was one of the losers of the combine. He didn’t look as fluid in the drills as I would have expected and his numbers were subpar for a player of his caliber. He looked like a fluid athlete on tape, so this definitely gives me pause. However, I still believe he can be a 10 sack per year player at the next level. Williams’ off-field issues also concern me, and might cause him to slide in the draft. He was also said to have struggled in the interviews at the combine. I believe that everything that has happened to Williams since he played his last down at Alabama will cause him to slide in the draft, which will allow a team to get a great value pick in the second or third round. Williams is a first round talent, but will likely hear his named called on day two. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as a defensive rookie of the year candidate.
- DeMarcus Walker – Florida State
DeMarcus Walker is one of the more underrated prospects in this year’s draft. He doesn’t get the recognition that he deserves from the draft community, but I think teams will be smart enough to see his potential. He is a big defensive end that can play tackle on passing downs (many people consider him a defensive lineman and not an edge defender). He’s athletic enough to beat offensive tackles in a variety of ways, and his motor is always running hot. I think he’ll be dangerous as an interior pass rusher when offenses are in obvious passing situations. He reminds me of Michael Bennett in the way that he can dominate from all spots along a defensive line. Walker is also a savvy run defender and rarely gets himself out of position. While watching other defenders on Florida State’s defense over the last few draft seasons, I’ve always been distracted by the dominating play of DeMarcus Walker. I can’t imagine Walker falling out of the second round of the draft.
- Jonathan Allen – Alabama
Jonathan Allen is my highest rated interior defensive lineman in the draft. Although he didn’t dominate at the combine, I still believe he should be a top ten pick. Many experts had him as a top five pick before the combine, but decided to drop him outside the top ten after his subpar performance in Indianapolis. I never thought Allen was an elite athlete on tape, so his poor testing times didn’t surprise me. I think he’s a decent athlete with elite football skills. I’d much rather have a football player than an athlete. Allen uses his hands and great leverage to beat offensive lineman. I think his skills will translate to the next level and allow him to become an above average starter. I don’t think he has an extremely high ceiling, but his floor is extremely high. He can play the five technique in a 3-4 defense, but I think his skills best translate to a three technique in a 4-3 defense. He’s smart and versatile enough to play on any team. Some experts believe Allen is sliding down draft boards, but I think teams shouldn’t put too much stock into his combine performance. Allen should be a top ten pick in the draft.
- Malik McDowell – Michigan State
Malik McDowell is arguably the most polarizing player in this year’s draft. He has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro defensive tackle, and has enough flaws to potential bust out of the league before his first contract expires. Drafting McDowell will be a huge risk, but teams are willing to bet on a player’s upside when they are as talented as McDowell. There were a few plays in most games that made McDowell look like a top ten pick, but there were also stretches of games when he looked like an undrafted player. His motor was extremely inconsistent, especially this year. Michigan State was expected to be a contender this year like they had been during the last few seasons, but they surprising struggled to a 3-9 record. Many in the draft community are speculating that McDowell wasn’t trying because the team was struggling. That is an alarming red flag. Some teams believe they have the coaching to help motivate players to play hard at all times. If you get McDowell into a rotation that allows him to take occasional breathers, his problems with his effort may be alleviated. Other teams believe effort is a skill and will see McDowell as a lost cause. I’m worried that his effort issues will persist at the next level, so I wouldn’t take him until the third round of the draft. Some team will believe they can motivate him and will take a chance on him in the second round. They might strikeout or they might hit a home run, but it’s not a chance I’d be willing to take in round two.
- Jahleel Johnson – Iowa
Jahleel Johnson is an extremely powerful defensive tackle whose best football is likely ahead of him. He likely won’t be a three down player at the next level, which should slightly hurt his draft stock. I wouldn’t say that he cannot be a third down interior pass rusher, but that isn’t a strength of his game. I’d rather get him off the field on third down and allow him to rest than try to play him on all three downs. His motor was inconsistent at times, and it will continue to be if teams try to play him all the time. He’s a big man in the middle of a defense, and he’ll need his rest to play up to his potential when he does step on the field. His pass rushing skills are limited to a bull rush, but this isn’t where Johnson will be making his money. His greatest attribute is his ability to clog up the middle as a nose tackle and help stop the run. Johnson’s stock has been rising since he played his last game, and I think it’ll culminate with him being selected on day two of this year’s draft.
- Montravius Adams – Auburn
Montravius Adams is another defensive tackle prospect whose best football is likely ahead of him. Unlike Jahleel Johnson, Adams is more of a boom-or-bust prospect. I think Adams has more versatility than Johnson, but I could see him busting out of the league if he doesn’t make necessary improvements at the next level. Adams is an extremely big defensive tackle, so he sometimes struggles with keeping his pads down. This isn’t an uncommon problem, but it is a big reason why he has been an inconsistent player at Auburn. Adams flashes during every game, and this potential will cause a team to take a chance on him. Adams is the type of player that can play both nose tackle and as a three technique on a defensive line. He has some upside as a pass rusher, but will make his money by his ability to stop the run. I think Adams will be selected in the third round of the draft and will have a chance to greatly outplay his draft position.
- Carlos Watkins – Clemson
Carlos Watkins is the next Clemson defensive lineman to get drafted into the NFL. Although he doesn’t have the upside of many of his collegiate teammates, Watkins should be a solid defensive tackle at the next level. He’ll need to improve his lower body strength to maximize his potential, but I don’t imagine that being an issue once he gets into an NFL weight room. He is a bit inconsistent with his motor due to his size, so he’ll need to be kept fresh by being in a rotation. This is an extremely common issue for defensive tackles, so I’m not going to worry too much about it. Watkins is a solid athlete for his position and can play all over the defensive line. He can play five technique in a 3-4 defense, three technique in a 4-3 defense, and nose tackle in all defenses. His versatility should make him an attractive prospect to all teams. He is a good run defender and has pass rushing abilities, which will allow him to play on all three downs. Watkins doesn’t have the upside that many other defensive lineman have in this class, but he should be a solid contributor right away. Watkins will likely be selected in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft.
- Reuben Foster – Alabama
Reuben Foster is the best linebacker prospect in this year’s draft. Although he made a stupid mistake at the combine by getting himself sent home due to an altercation, I still think he should be selected in the top half of the first round. Teams should do their due diligence by making sure he doesn’t have attitude problems before considering whether or not they would want him on their team. On tape, he is an extremely instinctual linebacker with enough athleticism to make plays sideline to sideline. I love his motor and leadership qualities on the field. It’s obvious that he was the leader of an elite Alabama defense, and he was the biggest reason why they put up historically dominate numbers. If teams can get past his combine gaffes (including a failed drug test) and injury history, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him selected in the top ten of this year’s draft.
- Haason Reddick – Temple
Haason Reddick is the clear winner of this year’s draft season. After his season concluded, Reddick was seen by most in the draft community as a mid-round pick. Since then he’s seen a meteoric rise that will likely culminate with him being selected in the first round. Reddick started his career at Temple as a safety before ending up as a defensive end. Although he was an undersized defensive end in college, he’ll be used as an off-the-ball linebacker at the next level. Teams were initially concerned about how he’d make this transition, which is why most evaluators believed that he’d be a mid-round pick. Reddick showed teams at the Senior Bowl that he has the talent to be a dominating linebacker. If he was able to make a transition from safety to defensive end so seamlessly, why couldn’t he make an equally seamless transition to linebacker? He’s an amazing athlete and an instinctual football player. He went to the combine and dominated at every drill and athleticism measurement. I think he can play every linebacker position in both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, and has more pass rushing abilities than any linebacker in this class. I think Reddick will be a top 20 pick in the draft.
- Jarrad Davis – Florida
Jarrad Davis is one of my favorite players to watch on tape. When watching Florida defenders during last year’s draft season, my eyes were constantly diverted to watch #40. Davis was an absolute monster. He was constantly around the ball making tackles and cleaning up his teammates’ mistakes. His tape wasn’t as good this past season, but he was dealing with injuries. He was the leader of an elite Florida defense and should become a leader at the next level. I think he could play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3 defense or inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. He isn’t a great pass rusher, but he’s good enough as a blitzing off-ball linebacker. He can cover the pass and stop the run like few others in this draft class. Although I think he may come off the board on day two, I wouldn’t hesitate drafting him in the first round if I was in charge of a team needing linebacker help.
- Raekwon McMillan – Ohio State
Raekwon McMillan is a talented linebacker who would be a first round pick if we were playing 1980’s NFL football. McMillan is an instinctual linebacker that can dominate against the run. He is very decisive when he comes down hill and has the size and strength to take on blockers. Today’s NFL is a passing league, and McMillan isn’t nearly as good at defending the pass as he is stopping the run. Although he’ll struggle defending tight ends and running backs out of the backfield, there is still a role on most teams for McMillan’s skill set. He can play middle linebacker in both a 3-4 and 4-3 defense or strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense. I think he’s savvy and strong enough to be an excellent blitzer at the next level. If the team that drafts him limits how often he has to guard speedy athletes in coverage, I think he’ll be a very effect pro. McMillan should be a day two selection in this year’s draft.
- Zach Cunningham – Vanderbilt
Zach Cunningham is a rangy linebacker with the potential to be an elite player in the NFL. His instincts are second to none, which is why he’s always around the ball making plays. He doesn’t have enough functional strength to take on blockers, so he’s best when he’s uncovered and can use his athleticism to get to the ball carrier. He is an excellent run defender when he can avoid blockers and has the athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs in the passing game. His skill set screams weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 defense, but he also has the skills to play inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Although he has received first round buzz from some in the draft community, I believe that would be a bit of a reach. I like his talent and think he could be a day one starter in the NFL, but he needs to add strength before he’ll reach his potential. I think Zach Cunningham will be a day two pick in the draft, but it only takes one team to fall in love with him for Cunningham to be off the board on the first day of the draft.
- Marshon Lattimore – Ohio State
Marshon Lattimore is the most talented cover corner in this year’s draft. He is a phenomenal athlete and can dominate in a variety of schemes. He can be a lockdown press corner at the next level. He’s also instinctive enough to play in a zone defense. Although he was only a one year starter, Lattimore was dominant all season. He went to the combine and ran a blazing 40 yard dash, which is something I expected when I watched his tape. He looks like a fluid athlete and seems to understand how to play the ball. He’s had hamstring issues in the past, and got hurt at the combine. He claimed it wasn’t his hamstring that he tweaked at the combine, but his injury history is still a concern. In this deep corner class, teams might want to take someone without the injury concerns. But football is a violent contact sport that causes everyone to get hurt at some point. I wouldn’t be too concerned if I drafted Lattimore. I can’t imagine him falling outside of the top 10 picks in the draft.
- Marlon Humphrey – Alabama
Marlon Humphrey is one of the most talented cornerbacks in this year’s draft class. While playing at Alabama, Humphrey received coaching from one of the best coaches in football history. Nick Saban is a genius and knows how to coach defensive backs better than any other position. What worries me about Humphrey is with all of this great coaching, he still struggled tracking the ball down the field. He never seemed to turn his head at the right time and struggled making plays down the field. I like every other aspect of his game, so if he can fix this problem I think he’ll be a shutdown corner at the next level. But if Saban couldn’t coach these bad habits out of him, who can? Humphrey is a first round talent, but I could see him sliding into day two. He has the best upside to be a shutdown corner in this draft class, and I think he should be drafted in the top 20 picks. If he slides, the team that picks him might be getting one of the best steals in the draft.
- Chidobe Awuzie – Colorado
Chidobe Awuzie was one of the big reasons for Colorado’s surprising turnaround this season. Along with fellow corner Ahkello Witherspoon, the Buffaloes had one of the best secondaries in the nation. Awuzie reaches the six feet tall threshold that some teams are looking for in cornerback prospects. His technique is sound and his ball skills are above average. He’s a physical corner that is willing to tackle in the run game. Some people in the draft community were worried about his speed, but he put those concerns to rest at the combine. Awuzie can play both man and zone coverage, and should be a day one starter for whatever team decides to draft him. He can be an outside corner, slot corner, or safety. His versatility will make him attractive to all 32 teams. Since his season ended, he’s done nothing but impress every time he’s been in the spotlight. Before the combine, I think Awuzie was projected by most in the draft community to be a day two pick. Now I’d be surprised if he isn’t drafted in the first round.
- Tre’Davious White – LSU
In today’s NFL where teams are looking for six feet corners, Tre’Davious White comes up just short of that mark. At 5’11” tall, White is big enough to play on the outside at the next level. He also has the skill set to be a slot corner if a team wants to play him inside. White has long arms and good enough ball skills to become an elite corner. He isn’t an aggressive tackler, but that isn’t nearly as important as his ability to lock down opposing receivers. He is a fluid athlete that can play in both man coverage and zone coverage, which will make him an attractive option for all 32 teams in the NFL. With all the depth at the cornerback position in this draft class, White could be drafted anywhere from the early first round to the end of round two. This will all depend on what teams are looking for from cornerback prospects. There’s no denying that White has the talent to be a lockdown corner, and I expect him to be taken in the first round.
- Obi Melifonwu – Connecticut
Obi Melifonwu is one of the more intriguing players in this year’s draft. Most teams will likely see him as a safety, but I think he could be a great cornerback at the next level. He is an incredible athlete, has great size, and is an instinctive football player. This skill set screams press corner at the next level. I think he’d be a perfect fit for Seattle’s cover three defense in which the corners press at the line of scrimmage. Many teams are copying this defense, and Melifonwu would be an ideal fit as a corner in that scheme. This is an extremely talented cornerback class, and I could have easily included Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson, Fabian Moreau, Cordrea Tankersley, Gareon Conley, Kevin King, Adoree’ Jackson, Sidney Jones (torn Achilles), Jourdan Lewis, or Desmond King in this list, but I can’t overlook the potential of Melifonwu to become an elite cornerback in the NFL. He put up the second best broad jump in combine history behind former UConn teammate Byron Jones which leads me to ask, what’s in the water at UConn? All of these other corners that I mentioned could be selected before Melifonwu and should be selected in the first two rounds. Since Sidney Jones tore his Achilles recently at his pro day, I wouldn’t be shocked if he falls to day three in the draft. Melifonwu could be played as a big nickel safety that matches up with mismatch tight ends. With offenses using athletic receiving tight ends more than ever, it’s important that defenses find players that can matchup with these tight end-receiver hybrids. Melifonwu can play that role as a safety, or he could be an outside corner. He’s extremely talented, so it’ll be up to the team that drafts him to make the decision where they want him to play. There are so many talented corners that teams will have to choose which type they want. If a team is willing to bet on upside and wants to try Melifonwu at corner, they could be rewarded with an All-Pro player for years to come. I can’t imagine Melifonwu falling outside the top 40 picks in this year’s draft.
- Malik Hooker – Ohio State
Malik Hooker is one of my favorite players to watch on tape in this year’s draft. He is a rangy centerfielder and would be an excellent fit in a cover 1 or cover 3 zone defense. He has the ability to cover up any mistakes made by the underneath coverage. Watching him play reminds me of what Earl Thomas does for the Seattle Seahawks. Although Hooker is currently injured and only started one year in college, I would still take him in the top 5 if I needed a safety. Safeties are becoming a more important position in today’s NFL. Hooker isn’t the highly coveted in-the-box type of safety or versatile safety that can cover mismatch tight ends in the slot. He’s purely a free safety that will play over-the-top and limit offenses’ ability to push the ball down the field. Hooker has great ball skills and is a very instinctual player. With the Chargers’ need at safety, I can’t imagine him dropping past the seventh pick in this year’s draft.
- Jamal Adams – LSU
Jamal Adams is the number one safety prospect according to most people in the draft community. I have him second on my board behind Malik Hooker, which would lead some to believe that I’m low on Adams. This could not be further from the truth. Adams is a much more versatile safety than Hooker. The NFL values versatility, but I think Hooker’s skill set is too elite to not have him above Adams. But I think both Hooker and Adams are top ten picks. Teams will have to decide which flavor of safety they value more. Adams can play both free and strong safety, but I think his best ball will be played as an in-the-box strong safety. He is a willing tackler and usually takes the right angle to the ball carrier. His athleticism and instincts are good enough for him to play free safety at a high level, but I think he’ll be used close to the line of scrimmage more often than not. He isn’t the highest safety on my board, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the first safety taken in the draft.
- Budda Baker – Washington
Budda Baker is an extremely fun player to watch on tape. He’s an undersized safety, but you cannot measure the size of his heart. He is always near the ball making plays for a very talented Washington Huskies defense. With all the talent that he played with, Budda Baker stood out from the rest on tape. I think he can play safety or nickel corner at the next level. He’s a versatile player that can be used in multiple roles, or he could be pigeonholed into one role and thrive for any defense. It will be up to the team that drafts him to decide how they want to use him. I don’t think his best position will be as an in-the-box strong safety, but I can’t put a limit on his talent. If a team wants to use him in that role, I still think he’d thrive. He an instinctive player, great tackler, and has good ball skills. If Baker was a few inches taller, he’d be a top ten pick. I think his small stature will push him into the second round. Whoever drafts Baker will be getting a player with Pro Bowl potential.
- Jabrill Peppers – Michigan
Jabrill Peppers is the most versatile player in this year’s draft. Many teams are pushing him down their board due to him not showing that he can play at one position. Although I see value in him being able to play all over the field, many teams are said to be concerned about his talents translating to the next level. I believe Peppers was born to play football. He’ll be an elite punt and kick returner the day he enters the league, and also has the ability to play on offense. I don’t think most teams will use him on offense, but I think he could be an elite running back if he chose to play there in college. I think he’s a hybrid safety that can be used in a variety of roles. He’s the type of player that Bill Belichick would love to coach. He’s a mismatch player that can be used differently each week depending on their opponent. I think he could play free safety, but would be better utilized as an in-the-box safety that can matchup with slot receivers, tight ends, and running backs. Peppers only had one interception in college, but I have no issues with his ball skills. He’s extremely intelligent and hardworking, and will excel wherever he’s used at the next level. Peppers will likely be picked in the second half of the first round in this year’s draft.
- Eddie Jackson – Alabama
Eddie Jackson is the forgotten safety in this year’s draft class. Jackson only played eight games this year due to a broken leg. He is an extremely talented safety and can also double as a returner. He’s best suited to be an in-the-box strong safety, but has the athleticism and ball skills to play free safety. If he stayed healthy all year, he may have made the difference in the National Championship game. His injury will likely cause him to slide a bit during the draft, but whatever team selects him will be getting a steal. Jackson should come off the board in the third or fourth round of the draft.