QB: Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson is my favorite quarterback in this draft class. He doesn’t have the highest ceiling, but he’s got a very high floor. He’ll either be a solid starting quarterback or a star, which is something that all teams need. He needs to improve his decision making, but that’s something that I believe he’ll improve on at the next level. He’s a good athlete and is extremely smart. Two traits that I covet in a quarterback prospect are leadership and winning. Deshaun is going to be a great leader at the next level. He was an extremely clutch quarterback during the biggest games, which is a trait that will translate to the big moments late in NFL games. I think he should be a top ten pick.
RB: Brian Hill, Jamaal Williams, Joe Williams
If it wasn’t for his off-field issues, Joe Mixon would be my favorite running back in this class. He has the running and receiving abilities to be the next Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson. Since he is a character concern, I won’t put him on this list above Brian Hill and the Williams bros. Brian Hill was Beastmode at Wyoming. He was the focal point of his offense, and succeeded despite teams knowing he was getting the ball. He’s a classic downhill runner that wins with physicality. He doesn’t have elite athleticism or receiving skills, so he’ll be a two-down back at the next level. Jamaal and Joe Williams aren’t related on or off the field. They are two completely different types of running backs. Jamaal Williams’ running style is similar to Brian Hill. He isn’t quite as powerful as Hill, but he’s a downhill runner who would fit perfectly in a zone blocking scheme. He’s a very decisive runner, which is a crucial element for zone running backs. His receiving and blocking abilities may allow him to become a three-down back at the next level. Joe Williams retired last season before returning and setting the world on fire. He put up astonishing numbers for someone who was willing to walk away from the game forever. If his passion has returned, he could become a speedy threat at the next level. He isn’t a powerful runner, but he’s extremely fast and elusive in the open field. He’ll be a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball in the NFL.
WR: Chris Godwin, Gabe Marks
I didn’t know who Chris Godwin was until the Rose Bowl, but now he’s one of my favorite players in this year’s draft. After watching him dominate USC in the Rose Bowl, I started watching Godwin’s tape. His tape showed that he is an elite receiver prospect with great hands and an uncanny ability to track the ball down the field. The only other receiver that might be better at making contested catches is Mike Williams. I was concerned about Godwin’s athleticism, but he put those worries to rest at the combine. He’ll probably be a second round pick and will start immediately as a team’s number two receiver. As a proud Washington State Cougars alum, I’ve watched Gabe Marks make every catch in college. I’ve seen him play in person many times, which makes me qualified to sing his praises. He doesn’t have elite deep speed, but he has elite quickness to go along with his fantastic route running abilities. Marks knows how to get open. His hands are some of the best in this draft class. He’ll be a slot receiver in the NFL, which is becoming a premium position. He reminds me a lot of Doug Baldwin because of his attitude and skill set. I think he’ll be a late round pick, but will eventually develop into a team’s starting slot receiver.
TE: Cole Hikutini
I’m higher on Cole Hikutini than everyone else in the draft community. Although he needs to improve as a blocker, I’ve seen enough at times to think he’ll become a solid blocker with NFL coaching. He has the desire to block, which is more than half the battle. He has better size than most receiving tight ends. His route running will need to improve, but he was able to get open in college and make plays in the open field. I think he’ll be picked in the fifth or sixth round, but I have a late second round grade on him. It usually takes tight ends multiple years to adjust to the NFL level of competition, but don’t be surprised if he emerges as one of the best tight ends from this draft class by the time his rookie contract ends.
OL: Forrest Lamp
I love Lamp! Although most people in the draft community think he’ll become a guard at the next level, I think Forrest Lamp should be tried at tackle before moving inside. Make him prove he can’t play outside before putting him inside. He’s versatile enough to play all five positions, but dominated Alabama’s elite pass rushers as a left tackle last season. If he can shut down Alabama, why can’t he get a look at tackle in the NFL? There is an offensive tackle crisis in the NFL, so should teams covet an elite guard over an above average tackle? Since it’s easier to find starter quality guards, I think finding a good tackle is more important. Lamp’s best position will be as a guard, but I think he can be a long-term tackle if he’s drafted by an intelligent team. Either way, I think he’s the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft by a country mile.
EDGE: Jordan Willis
Jordan Willis is a technician on tape. He looks like he has average athleticism, but went to the combine and put up numbers similar to Von Miller. He showed freakish athleticism in every drill. I think it’s easier for an elite athlete to have a bad day at the combine (example: Dalvin Cook) than a marginal athlete to have an elite day. In other words, Willis’ elite athleticism in Indianapolis wasn’t a fluke. I was a big fan of Willis before the combine, but now I think he should be a late first round pick. He’ll likely go in the second round, but I think he’ll be in consideration for defensive rookie of the year after this season.
DL: DeMarcus Walker
I became a huge fan of DeMarcus Walker when watching Florida State tape for last year’s draft. I was trying to watch Jalen Ramsey, but I kept getting distracted by Walker. He has a relentless motor that will help him get sacks at the next level. He’ll make his money as a pass rusher, but is more than adequate as a run defender. Walker can play both defensive end and defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense or five technique in a 3-4 defense. His versatility and motor will help him see the field on all three downs. He isn’t being talked about as a first round pick, but I think he’ll produce like a first round pick as a rookie. Whichever team drafts him will be getting a steal.
LB: Jarrad Davis
I became a huge fan of Jarrad Davis when watching Florida tape for last year’s draft. I wasn’t trying to watch Davis (I was watching Florida defensive players in last year’s draft), but I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. He was constantly around the ball making plays. He played at a higher level two seasons ago, but was injured most of last season. I think he’ll be a plug-and-play middle linebacker in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defense. He is a downhill thumper in the run game and has the athleticism to cover tight ends and running backs in either man or zone coverage. He’s projected as a late first round pick, but I’d take him in the first half of the first round if I needed a linebacker.
CB: Marlon Humphrey
Marlon Humphrey has the greatest upside of any cornerback in this year’s draft. He’s the perfect prospect except for one flaw – he struggles tracking the ball down the field. Multiple receivers beat him deep this season, including Clemson’s Mike Williams in the National Championship Game. If Humphrey can clean up his technique by learning how to track the ball down the field, he will be a shutdown corner in the NFL. He’s extremely young, so I’m betting on him improving his one flaw at the next level. He can press, play zone, tackle, and catch the ball better than most defensive back prospects in this draft. I think he’s the second best cornerback prospect behind Marshon Lattimore, and I’d have no issues taking him in the top ten of the draft if I needed a cornerback.
FS: Malik Hooker, Budda Baker
Malik Hooker is my favorite safety to watch on tape. As a Seahawks fan, I often watch football through a Seahawks lens. Hooker reminds me of Seahawks star Earl Thomas. He’s a bit bigger than Thomas (and isn’t quite as talented), but his style of play is extremely similar. He’s a ball hawking free safety that has elite speed and instincts. His range is greater than any other safety in this draft class, which will allow teams to play cover 1 or cover 3 without having to worry about being beat deep. He has elite ball skills too, which will force teams to be careful about throwing deep against him. Budda Baker has similar abilities to Hooker, but is a bit smaller and more versatile. He isn’t as talented as Hooker as a deep safety, but he has the ability to play free safety in a cover 1 or cover 3 defense too. Baker’s versatility will allow him to play in the slot at times. He can be a slot corner against receivers, tight ends, or running backs. Although he’s small in stature, Baker doesn’t play small. He’s a big hitter and isn’t afraid to compete against taller receivers. He can play in-the-box or over-the-top in both man and zone coverage. Although Baker won’t be drafted as high as Hooker, they should both be first round picks.
SS: Jabrill Peppers, Jadar Johnson, Shalom Luani
Jabrill Peppers is one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft class. Although some people are afraid that he doesn’t have a natural position, I think that his versatility should be seen as a strength and not a weakness. He’ll be an elite returner in the NFL, and could play some on offense if he’s drafted by a creative team. On defense, he can play basically anywhere in the back seven if he’s coached properly. He’s an elite athlete and is a hard worker, so he’s moldable if coaches are willing to help him. I think he can play as a deep safety, slot corner, dime linebacker, or in-the-box strong safety. It’s really up to the team that drafts him to make that decision. His most natural position would be as an in-the-box strong safety, but I wouldn’t doubt him at any of those positions. The team that drafts him can either put him at a position and let him thrive, or they can use his versatility to their advantage and play him at different spots each week depending on their opponent’s personnel. There’s talk that he might fall out of the first round, which I think is absolutely insane. Jadar Johnson and Shalom Luani are late round picks that have impressed me more than most people in the draft community. Johnson was a one year starter at safety, and it shows on tape at times. He doesn’t always take the correct angle to the ball carrier, but most of the time he’s in the right position to make a play. He has great ball skills, and could probably play at free safety. He’s got the size of a strong safety, but will need to bulk up if he wants to play in-the-box. With NFL teams becoming more versatile and wanting their safeties to flip, Johnson is the type of player that can play both safety roles for a team. He won’t start right away, but he’ll be a special teams contributor before getting his shot on defense. Luani is a similar player to Johnson, but he has a different frame. Johnson is much lankier and doesn’t have the strength of Luani. Shalom Luani was a ball hawking safety for the Cougars. I had the chance to watch him on TV and in person, and came away impressed every time I saw him play. He can be an in-the-box strong safety that will tackle in the run game and play man coverage against tight ends and running backs. He has an elite understanding of zone coverage, and always seems to be in the right spot. Although I don’t think his natural spot is as a free safety, he has the athleticism and ball skills to survive as a deep defender. I think both Johnson and Luani will outplay their draft positions.