I do not regret my ranking of Myles Jack as the No. 1 prospect in this class. I do not own a lab coat or scrubs. I attempt to evaluate based on talent. And if Jack shines for whatever team selects him, it is all on him and he deserves all of the praise.
Here are the best players available, with their original ranking in parenthesis.
1. (1) UCLA LB Myles Jack
Where He Wins: The complete package at the position, and a complete linebacker is as valuable as it has ever been. Jack’s movements are uncommon. His lower half swivels when adjusting to what is in front of him, and his first steps are explosive and springy, quickly eating up ground to make a play others cannot. Jack is equally as aggressive between the tackles as he is in coverage. At UCLA, he was even asked to play opposite receivers and did not look out of place in coverage. Jack is a foundation piece to build with and around.
2. (7) Baylor DL Andrew Billings
Where He Wins: Billings might be labeled as a nose tackle by some, but he is so much more. I expect Billings to play multiple gaps and alignments, similar to Star Lotulelei early on with the Panthers. Billings can will at the line of scrimmage and also behind it. He is nimble for a big man with athleticism to gain initial ground and power to press his opponent backwards. An injury slowed down Billings for a few games. He was on the field for 77.9% of the school’s defensive snaps this season.
3. (14) Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Where He Wins: On the Michael Crabtree - Demaryius Thomas spectrum. He can take short passes and surprises with acceleration and balance to pick up yards after the catch. A large portion of Thomas’ catches were made within ten yards of the line of scrimmage, but he can also win vertically and adjusts to the football while it is in the air.
4. (18) Notre Dame LB Jaylon Smith
Where He Wins: Jaylon is very athletic, capable of covering gaps and plenty of ground. Like most linebackers, Smith is at his best against the run and looked more aggressive at the point of attack this season. He is above average in coverage and has even shown the ability to rush the passer as a blitzer. I have no comment on the injury, and teams likely won't until re-check in April.
5. (21) Florida DL Jonathan Bullard
Where He Wins: Bullard tested like a great athlete, which was a bit surprising. I love his ability to win as a defensive end against the run and impact passing downs when lining up inside. Bullard can win with power immediately or can win with length to shed and make the tackle.
6. (24) Eastern Kentucky EDGE Noah Spence
Where He Wins: The former Ohio State Buckeye is an outstanding talent. Most pass rushers win one way, either with speed or power. Spence has the potential to win in both areas. A lot will be made about Spence’s past and “character concerns,” but what if they aren’t concerns any longer?
7. (25) Oklahoma WR Sterling Shepard
Where He Wins: Perhaps the best route runner in this class. Shepard is already precise in some of his breaks, creating separation and sustaining it. On top of that, Shepard looks like an above average athlete for the position and can come down with circus like grabs. He seems like a sub-six-foot receiver who wins outside or in the slot.
8. (26) Alabama RB Derrick Henry
Where He Wins: A great athlete for a 6’2/242 lbs ball carrier. Defenses will need to slow him down behind the line and attempt to tackle him low, because once he is up to speed Henry is a monster. When allowed the second level, Henry has long speed to outrun defenders or power to gain a few yards after contact, if not run over them completely.
9. (27) Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon
Where He Wins: Has three down running back ability. Will maximize the yards blocked for him and then create on his own with strength or elusiveness. Also a good receiver out of the backfield, displaying sideline awareness and body control to adjust to difficult catches.
10. (28) Alabama DL Jarran Reed
Where He Wins: An extremely stout run defender who can play from outside or over top of the center, guard or even tackle on some snaps with a specific role. The question is if he can be more than just a run defender, or if that strength can be coupled with upfield ability to be an asset as a pass rusher.
11. (30) South Carolina State DL Javon Hargrave
Where He Wins: Squatty, powerful interior defensive lineman who also has upfield ability thanks to explosion and even displays flexibility in his hips. Far from rigid. A better prospect than many “big school” names, and more advanced with his hands, too.
12. (33) Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander
Where He Wins: Highly competitive corner despite his size 5’10/195 lbs. Plays with confidence at the line of scrimmage or off, and wants to attack the catch point. Seems aware of the football as well as his receiver/assignment. Can limit yards after the catch due to his tackling skills, and is not just a force player on the outside on runs.
13. (36) Miss State DL Chris Jones
Where He Wins: The flashes are outstanding, but they are not consistent. Jones has so much ability and typically works around his opponent when winning. Successful snaps from outside the tackle, guard and center. Tough to stop his momentum when he’s aggressive, and then can slip past anchors with fluid movement.
14. (37) Kansas State OL Cody Whitehair
Where He Wins: Many expect Whitehair to be the next tackle to guard transition. Why can’t he succeed at guard? The answer I point to is his wide base that has been and might be an issue against edge rushers with speed. It was the same for Zack Martin. Whitehair has powerful hands and will control you in tight spaces when in proper positioning. Guards can be just as important as tackles.
15. (38) LSU LB Deion Jones
Where He Wins: One of the most explosive linebackers in the class. Plays fast and with aggression. I’m not worried about his size at 6-foot-1 and 219-pounds, just like I wasn’t worried about Telvin Smith’s size. Shifty linebackers can scare blockers more than ones who prefer to take on a block. There are multiple examples of assignment sound plays in coverage for Jones.
16. (39) Alabama LB Reggie Ragland
Where He Wins: Is best as a hammer linebacker, meeting blocks as soon as possible in the hopes of disrupting plays. Reminds me a lot of Kevin Minter. I think the “edge rusher on third down” stuff is a nice attempt by his people, but if Ragland is one of your two best edge rushers on obvious passing downs, you have bigger problems.
17. (40) Appalachian State DL Ronald Blair
Where He Wins: Again, movement and explosion are the keys. Blair is extremely explosive and stout on the edge, but then uses a slightly different skill set when moved inside on some sub-package situations. He had a number of great games, including against Clemson.
18. (41) Utah State EDGE Kyler Fackrell
Where He Wins: Reminds me so much of Connor Barwin. Can be a starting caliber drop end/linebacker for a team opposite a designated pass rusher. His safety background shows in his comfort in space. Still growing as a pass rusher, but has a foundation for hands and lateral moves.
19. (42) Illinois DL Jihad Ward
Where He Wins: Ward fits the outside to inside mold very well. The 6’5/295 lbs defensive lineman can win with length and strength on the outside (if he understands who he is as a rusher). Then he can win with hand use, power and quickness inside in sub package downs. Jason Jones, Malik Jackson come to mind. A “leap of faith” candidate due to poor athletic testing.
20. (43) Clemson EDGE Kevin Dodd
Where He Wins: There is nothing flashy athletically in terms of explosion, but Dodd can be very efficient and maximizes the space he is given. Dodd can match the strength of power blockers and uses his hands to create separation on the outside and flattens out to turn the corner as best he can when rushing the passer.
21. (45) Michigan State C Jack Allen
Where He Wins: I think every Senior Bowl center will start in the NFL, but Allen is the best of the bunch. Might measure in less than 300-pounds, but he anchors against bigger players (see Jarran Reed). He will fight for dominant positioning.
22. (46) Alabama DL A’Shawn Robinson
Where He Wins: When watching Robinson, I see a defensive lineman who is content to stay at the line of scrimmage and is a strong run defender. The question is if he can be more than a two down player. Athleticism could be a piece to the puzzle. Is he Michael Brockers at best?
23. (47) LSU CB Jalen Mills
Where He Wins: I prefer him at corner compared to safety. Ran receivers’ routes for them during Senior Bowl week. Recognized and anticipated breaks, showed great timing and closed in a hurry to beat receivers to the catch point. An above-average athlete for the position.
24. (48) Arkansas TE Hunter Henry
Where He Wins: As of now, a true role player as a receiving tight end. If a target is in his catch radius, Henry will bring it in. Will not be a complete tight end, there are very few in the NFL, but Henry needs to be at least willing and adequate as a blocker in order to stay on the field. Has been used from practically every alignment.
25. (49) Maryland DB Sean Davis
Where He Wins: The comparison to Eric Rowe makes so much sense. Davis spent time at safety and corner during his time in college and displayed high points at each. An outstanding athlete who also has 32-plus inch arms.
26. (50) NC State OL Joe Thuney
Where He Wins: At the very least, Thuney is the perfect utility offensive lineman who can play tackle, guard and center in a backup capacity. Thuney is a great athlete who stays in proper positioning to sustain blocks. He has starter upside at a variety of positions.
27. (51) Ohio State WR Braxton Miller
Where He Wins: The big question is if Miller is more than a manufactured touch player early on in his career, and if so can he play on the outside or strictly in the slot. Miller displayed natural receiving skills in his first game against Virginia Tech in terms of contorting his body to adjust for catches. OSU, perhaps because of quarterback play, attempted to force touches to him. Miller can create separation in his breaks (sometimes too many breaks) and is nasty with the ball in his hands.
28. (53) USC LB Su’a Cravens
Where He Wins: Played on the edge for the most part this season, and maximized his size and length to hold up against blockers and force runs back inside. Might be best as a true off ball linebacker in the NFL, covering ground from the backside. Shows on a number of plays that he can get skinny and bend to work around blocks others might not.
29. (54) Ohio State S Vonn Bell
Where He Wins: An all-around safety who likely fits best on a team that splits their safeties in the back half. There are exposures of quality play as a deep safety and in the box over top of a slot receiver. Steady is the best way to describe Bell’s game.
30. (55) Rutgers WR Leonte Carroo
Where He Wins: Makes difficult catches on a consistent basis. Defenses knew he was the only receiving threat on the team, yet Carroo still produced at a very high level. Knows how to create slivers of separation at the catch point. Has played both outside and in the slot.
31. (56) Indiana T Jason Spriggs
Where He Wins: A great athlete at tackle, and that can help him compensate for other potential issues. Had a solid Senior Bowl week. More of a position blocker than a power/drive offensive lineman, but there is nothing wrong with that.
32. (58) Notre Dame RB C.J. Prosise
Where He Wins: At his foundation, Prosise is a receiving back who is comfortable in space and a mismatch against linebackers. In 2015, Prosise showed natural running ability and awareness between the tackles. His acceleration and lateral agility allow him to maximize alleys and avoid linebackers’ angles.
33. (59) Arizona State G Christian Westerman
Where He Wins: Has early career starter skills. Strong, takes angles to get into position, wants to lock and sustain blocks, and is equally solid in both phases of the offense. Weakness is recovering once he loses balance after overextending.
34. (60) Northwestern DL Dean Lowry
Where He Wins: An outstanding athlete who can with off the snap with explosion. Likely a base defensive end who then moves inside in some situations. Would also fit odd man fronts. Needs to improve on counter moves outside of his motor i.e. restarting his momentum.