QB- First Team: Jacoby Brissett (NC State)
Second Team: Brandon Allen (Arkansas). Allen is the type who hangs around the NFL for a decade. I think of him as a stud backup quarterback prospect. The only thing he’s lacking is a major league arm. The accuracy, composure, touch, quick release and functional mobility are all there. If you want to swing for the fences, dream on Cardale Jones. If you expect a return on a Rd. 6 investment, this is your quarterback.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Matt Johnson (Bowling Green) or Vernon Adams (Oregon). The sub 6-foot All-Stars. Johnson has a strong arm and the guts to keep his eyes downfield, dig in, and drive the ball under pressure. Adams’ ceiling is higher. Like Johnson, he isn’t likely to get drafted, but Adams is drawing Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson comparisons for a reason. He's a dangerous rhythm passer in structure. But when the pocket melts down like the city of Pompeii, Adams turns into Kit Harrington, keeping his composure and saving all the lost sinners around him by making a play he had no business making.
Second Team: Kenyan Drake (Alabama). If Drake is used in the NFL as he was at Alabama (and he will be)—as a change-of-pace back and the primary backfield receiver—he’ll be well worth the mid-round price tag. The more the NFL throws, spreads and tempos, the more the value of runners like Drake increases while the value of runners like his teammate Derrick Henry decreases. That's why many who say Henry is Eddie George would agree that Henry is not as valuable today as Eddie George was coming into the league. That sounds contradictory but isn't: Eddie George entered a different league. Some prefer Drake to Henry. Like the previous statement, that one is entirely context dependent. Are you the Cowboys or Vikings? Are you a downhill team? You want Henry. If you want to deploy a committee of RB specialists like the Chargers, Saints and Giants did last year, you might value Drake more. Who's better between the two? That depends on what you want. It's like girlfriends that way.
Jonathan Williams (Arkansas). Williams comes with plenty of risk, having lost last season to a foot injury. But for his price tag—we’re probably talking a mid-Day 3 pick—he’s worth the risk. Last time we saw him, Williams was a tackle-breaking machine with nifty feet. Now, he's healthy and tested out well athletically at Arkansas’ Pro Day. Perhaps a second-rounder had he not gotten hurt, Williams has less wear than other top runners due to the injury and his timeshare with Alex Collins before it.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA prospect: Tyler Ervin (SJSU). He's been rising so quickly that he may even sneak into the back of Rd. 3 on Friday night.
Second Team: Daniel Braverman (Western Michigan). A slot magician. Of all the random undersized white receivers who have been comped to Wes Welker over the last several years, Braverman may be the one most deserving of the hyperbole (he’s not Welker, though, obviously; nobody is). Think a rich man’s Cole Beasley and you're getting warmer. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Braverman creates separation like he walks around with an electrical fence and he’s hell to get your hands on after the ball has been caught. There’s exceptional late-Day 3 value here for a team that needs a slot.
Devon Cajuste (Stanford). Cajuste is a prospect so highly spoken of in scouting circles that it’s difficult to reconcile his thoroughly mediocre Stanford career (63 receptions for 1,206 yards and 11 scores). Cajuste ran the fastest three-cone drill (of anyone) at the Combine, even though he has a tight end's build and possibly a tight end's future. In the NFL, he’ll either be a jumbo, tremendous-blocking receiver or no worse than a try-hard nuisance for DEs when lined up at TE. Either way, he'll display more receiving chops in the NFL than Kevin Shaw and Kevin Hogan allowed him to show on The Farm.
Favorite Day 3/UDFA prospect: Malcolm Mitchell (Georgia), Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa) or Jordan Payton (UCLA). If my doctors were okay with Mitchell’s knee, I’d be thrilled to have him on Day 3. If the reports are grim, give me Payton, similar to First-Team All-Underrated receivers Leonte Carroo and Tyler Boyd in that he's a physical, Bermuda Triangle-handed (exceptional 1.3 percent drop rate) receiver who shakes corners like Jason Bourne shakes bad guys in car chases. Garrett is one of the very few size/speed upside guys who will be available after Rd. 4. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Garrett runs a 4.53 second forty. Laquon Treadwell is 6-foot-2, 221 pounds and ran a 4.65 forty at his Pro Day.
Favorite Prospect I've Only Seen Grainy German Footage and Choppy FAU Pro Day Clips of and Had Never Heard of One Month Ago: This category was really difficult to pick this year. In the end, I settled on Moritz Boehringer (Germany). Say Mitchell, Garrett and Payton are off the board -- meaning we're in Rd. 7 and the receiver pool is basically dry -- but you still want a developmental receiver. Your only chance to strike gold at that point is by dialing up Boehringer, the mysterious German who runs a high 4.3s forty at 6-foot-4 1/2, 225 pounds. Boehringer's pre-draft workouts floored scouts. And he's not just a large sprinter, either. He was the German Football League Rookie of the Year in 2015. Boehringer will get drafted on Saturday. This is not a drill.
TE- First Team: Jerrell Adams (South Carolina).
Second Team: Thomas Duarte (UCLA). This tight end class has taken its share of deserved criticism. But what it lacks in surefire, early-round studs it makes up for in a small handful of potential late-round gems. To me, that list begins with Duarte. He’s not really a TE. But if he can at least impersonate one, the receiving skills will play, and maybe even at a Pro Bowl level. Duarte was Pro Football Focus' No. 1 receiving TE in this class last year (871 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns playing mostly out of the slot).
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: David Morgan (UTSA). Last week, in panning Ohio State’s Nick Vannett, I urged teams to wait a few rounds and take a similar prospect in UTSA’s Morgan. Not only was Morgan the best blocking tight end in the nation last year, but he also showed great improvement as a receiver (45 receptions for 566 yards and five touchdowns). He’s limited athletically (low-5.0s forty), but has reliable hands and will put you on your butt. That’s a highly useful NFL player for the cost of perhaps a Rd. 6 or 7 pick.
Second Team: Joe Haeg (North Dakota State). Bias alert! Joe and I are both from Brainerd, Minnesota (better known as the town the movie Fargo was based in). He played hockey with my little brother as a kid. While I can’t be neutral about Joe, I can lay out the case for and against him. Cons: Weak base (chicken-legged and below-average core strength befitting of a player who was 235 pounds at high school graduation and earned his ticket to the NFL in the weight room), untested, and probably needs a year of technique refinement while continuing to live in the weight room. Pros: One of the best athletes in this offensive line class, highly agile on the field, is a tough feet-driver who can also seal the edge. At the time he will be taken (my guess is Rd. 4), Haeg will represent the clearest path to a potential long-time starting NFL tackle. By definition, that makes him a strong value if he’s not taken Friday (Rds. 2-3). NFL Media’s Lance Zierlein, an offensive line Svengali who is not from Brainerd, believes Joe translates as a zone tackle if he can get functionally stronger.
Kyle Murphy (Stanford). Similar to Haeg in that he’s an athletic tackle who can shuffle right along with speed rushers but struggles with power. Also like Haeg, Murphy needs polish (in Murphy’s case, he has a maddening habit for an athletic tackle, sometimes popping up and losing leverage). Murphy will, ala Haeg, be a steal if he can add strength and get the kinks worked out by a good coach.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Alex Lewis (Nebraska).
Second Team: Isaac Seumalo (Oregon State). Even to tape nerds, Seumalo is boring. He doesn’t often get the seat of defender’s pants dirtied, but his adversary basically never makes the play. That’s because Seumalo is all about technique. Adept in both the running and passing games, Seumalo best fits a zone-blocking scheme. Some think he’s one of the class’ best centers, instead of a guard.
Landon Turner (UNC). Coming into this season, Turner was Mel Kiper’s top senior guard and seen as a possible first-round pick. He’s been relegated to a Day 3 afterthought due to his one-dimensional game. Turner only suits a certain number of schemes. But to a downhill, run-heavy team looking for a guard later on (like the aforementioned Vikings), he’d be a nice value in Rd. 5.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Ted Karras (Illinois).
C- First Team: Graham Glasgow (Michigan).
Second Team: Max Tuerk (USC). You have to be able to stomach the gamble of taking a player coming off a torn ACL in October. But look on the bright side: Tuerk may have been a first-rounder had that not happened. Now available for a third or fourth, Tuerk offers Pro Bowl ability and four-position versatility. If your system demands a center who must routinely engage with linebackers on the second level, Tuerk is the guy in this class that you want.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Austin Blythe (Iowa).
Second Team: Bronson Kaufusi (BYU). If you need a defensive end but don’t pick high enough to get Joey Bosa or DeForest Buckner, Kaufusi might be just the guy for you. Want production? Pro Football Focus charted him as the nation’s best pass-rushing interior defensive lineman in 2015 (No. 6 overall interior defensive lineman). Want freakish measurables? Kaufusi stands 6-foot-7, 285 pounds with a SPARQ score in the 82nd percentile. Want a leader and a hard worker? Kaufusi is well respected and completed an LDS mission a few years ago. He’s old for a prospect—he’ll be 25 as a rookie—but everything else here screams first-round pick.
Mario Ojemudia (Michigan). A mid-rounder had he not torn an Achilles in October against Maryland, Ojemudia can now likely be had late on Day 3. At that price, jump froggie.
Favorite Day 3/UDFA prospect: Drew Ott (Iowa). Available for a steep discount because the NCAA stole his pre-draft process by waiting until April 13(!) to deny his medical hardship waiver, Ott’s ideal frame, on-field desire, well-rounded, power game, Rumble Johnson hands and high football IQ will be available for a late Day 3 pick. Or possibly even a UDFA contract.
Second Team: Darius Latham (Indiana). Latham is like Chipotle. He can be a valuable part of your yearly culinary rotation, but should be used in moderation. Latham is not a good athlete and he has Murphy's bad habit of sometimes standing up at the line and playing high (it’s only a habit; Latham can also use his long legs as springs at times and fire out low with power). Now that we have the backhanded compliments and pessimism out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff. Latham is going to be a solid No. 3 rotational DT because he’s a scheme versatile 6-foot-4, 311-pounder who spins like Brian Boitano, swims like Michael Phelps and swats like Mount Mutumbo when offensive linemen engage. He’s crafty, skilled and smooth, with a sixth sense for escaping phone booths to flatten your quarterback. You’d think a defensive tackle with these athletic limitations couldn’t get to the quarterback consistently, but Latham’s got a deep bag of tricks in those long pockets.
Adam Gotsis (Georgia Tech). I predict that Gotsis, a native of Melbourne, is going to get picked a lot higher than folks think. The former Australian footballer appeared poised to break out in 2015 before his Halloween turned nightmarish with a torn ACL against Virginia. He’s huge (6-foot-4, 287 with nearly 11-inch hands) and getting bigger (his broad-shouldered frame could easily add 30 more pounds). Gotsis offer true scheme versatility: While today he’s best suited as a 3-4 DE, he could easily gain a few pounds to play 4-3 DT or lose a few pounds to play 3-4 DE. He’s highly athletic and still learning the game.
Favorite Day 3/UDFA prospect: Willie Henry (Michigan).
ILB- First Team: Scooby Wright (Arizona).
Second Team: Steven Daniels (Boston College). He’s short and slow, but good gosh is Daniels good at what he does. And what he does is crash running lanes and crush skulls. PFF graded Daniels as the best linebacker in the entire nation last year. While he will probably never be great in coverage, Daniels isn't dreadful at it. He’s also a decent pass rusher. Projected as a fifth-round pick, Daniels will be a long-term starting inside linebacker in 3-4 defense. Pro Football Focus compares him to Brandon Spikes, and both Lance Zierlein and Dane Brugler have likened him to Jeff Luc.
Favorite Day 3/UDFA prospect: Kentrell Brothers (Missouri). Non-athletic tackling machine who plays so much faster than he tested.
Second Team: Kyler Fackrell (Utah State). Ideal frame, consistently dominant in college, no weaknesses in his game, athletically similar to Chad Greenway (solid but not preternatural). Josh Norris comps Fackrell to Connor Barwin, a player drafted in the second round who should have gone in the first. Sounds about right.
Jaylon Smith (Notre Dame). You know Smith’s game, and you know Smith’s heartbreaking story, so I’ll keep this short: If he falls into Round 3, the juice has become worth the squeeze and you ought to shout so through the television at your GM, some of whom are more concerned with short-term job security than long-term franchise success. Smith has special talent, and it's tailor-made for tomorrow's NFL. The chip on his shoulder will keep getting bigger throughout those long, lonely hours of rehab.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: James Cowser (Southern Utah).
Second Team: Tavon Young (Temple). If you need a slot corner on Day 3, Young is the guy. He can’t play on the outside because he’s short and frail (5-foot-9, 183 pounds) and gets boxed out, but Young’s antagonistic, indefatigable brand of coverage is perfectly suited for the slot, a position that increases in value every time a new team decides to run its base offense out of a three-wide set.
Cyrus Jones (Alabama). Speaking of short corners (5-foot-10) who adapted a hard-edged playing style to compensate, Jones’ willingness to crash hard on running plays evokes Antoine Winfield. Jones is well-built at nearly 200 pounds and offers tremendous return ability in addition to his defensive contributions (four punt return touchdowns last year). He’s got an awesome nickname (Clamp Clampington), people from his past rave about his character and he’ll provide years of good quotes in the media and on social media.
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Ryan Smith (North Carolina Central).
Second Team: Justin Simmons (Boston College). The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder has been called underrated so often over the past six weeks that he probably no longer qualifies for this list. Simmons is a good athlete (4.61 40-yard dash, 40-inch vertical, 126-inch broad jump) who did whatever was asked of him at Boston College, shifting between corner and safety. Teammates want to be him and coaches want their daughters to marry him.
Jeremy Cash (Duke). Cash is a Generation X safety who doesn’t much care for coverage but who will get up in the box and mess your world up. It doesn’t really matter if you call him a strong safety or an undersized linebacker, and it doesn’t really matter if he’s missing a few key traits for each spot. This is Deone Bucannon minus three percent. They have the same style and they have about the same dimensions, but Bucannon is a slightly better athlete (to be fair, Cash really didn't get an opportunity to prove his athleticism during the pre-draft process because he spent most of it rehabbing the wrist that underwent surgery in December, costing him Duke's bowl game).
Favorite Day 3 or UDFA sleeper: Clayton Fejedelem (Illinois). As a function of my job, I watch a ton of Big Ten football. Last year, when I drew the short stick and had to blurb an Illinois game, four players alone prevented the need for intravenous Dramamine: RB Josh Ferguson, WR Geronimo Allison, DL Jihad Ward and Fejedelem. Fejedelem’s name came up constantly on every broadcast because he seemingly made every other tackle (140 total). This is a guy who was playing NIAI ball a few years ago. If I had an end-of-the-roster spot available for a backup safety/special teamer, I want to give it to a guy who will outwork Sisyphus. That's Fejedelem.
QB- First Team: Connor Cook (Michigan State).
Second Team: Christian Hackenberg (Penn State).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Memphis QB Paxton Lynch.
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Jordan Howard (Indiana).
WR- First Team: Will Fuller (Notre Dame) and De’Runnya Wilson (Mississippi State).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Braxton Miller (Ohio State).
TE- First Team: Nick Vannett (Ohio State).
Second Team: Kyle Carter (Penn State).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Austin Hooper (Stanford).
T- First Team: Le’Raven Clark (Texas Tech) and Willie Beavers (Western Michigan).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Shon Coleman (Auburn).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Sebastian Tretola (Arkansas).
C- First Team: Nick Martin (Notre Dame).
Second Team: Jack Allen (Michigan State).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Evan Boehm (Missouri).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Shilique Calhoun (Michigan State).
DT- First Team: A’Shawn Robinson (Alabama) and Adolphus Washington (Ohio State).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Jarran Reed (Alabama).
ILB- First Team: Antonio Morrison (Florida).
Second Team: Josh Forrest (Kentucky).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Ben Brown (Mississippi State).
OLB- First Team: Leonard Floyd (Georgia) and De’Vondre Campbell (Minnesota).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Deion Jones (LSU).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech).
Least favorite properly rated prospect: Vonn Bell (Ohio State).