I really like this upcoming draft class. Perhaps the names at the top of the draft aren’t quarterbacks, but there is plenty of talent to be found. Specifically, defensive line and linebacker are the strongest positions.
So much of the process is still left. All Star games, Combine workouts, Pro Day workouts, prospect visits, etc. These rankings and evaluations are fluid, but I hope to post them every other week, opposite a mock draft.
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. Ohio State EDGE Joey Bosa
Where He Wins: Explosion to power is the name of Bosa’s game. Don’t expect an edge bender when watching Bosa. Instead admire his burst off the line and powerful hands to jolt his opponent, then press and walk them back or shed to make a play in the backfield. Expect Bosa’s jumps (vertical and broad) to be excellent. I would not ask him to drop into coverage. Why waste the pass rushing potential more than it is necessary? Bosa is also an outstanding run defender, shedding one, two or even three blocks at times to make a play at the line of scrimmage.
3. Baylor WR Corey Coleman
Where He Wins: Functional athleticism helped Coleman win both “small” and “big” while at Baylor, and the latter is difficult to find with a 5’10/190 lbs receiver. Coleman will win contested catches, elevating over corners or adjusting with body control to haul in targets. Add that on top of vertical speed, quickness in and out of breaks and yards after catch ability, and Coleman has the tools to be an all-around receiver.
4. Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
Where He Wins: Obviously I would not argue with anyone who ranks Treadwell as the top receiver. I love both prospects. Treadwell displayed his physical dominance in college both before and after the catch. Treadwell fits the No. 1 receiver template at 6’2/210 lbs. His game did not slow down in 2015 after returning from a horrific leg injury. Treadwell can win at every level of the field with position and agility for someone of his size. He is used to catching erratic targets away from his body.
5. Ohio State RB Ezekiel Elliott
Where He Wins: A foundation piece of an NFL offense and a complete back. Zeke’s eyes and feet are so in tune that he seamlessly shifts his line to accommodate blocking strengths and positioning. Elliott turns plenty of three yard gains into eight yard carries with balance, agility and power. He might be the best pass protecting running back I’ve seen out of college, on top of being a solid receiving option.
6. FSU DB Jalen Ramsey
Where He Wins: “What position will he play?” will be a question frequently asked throughout the process. Ramsey has the tools to succeed at multiple positions. Some teams will evaluate him at just one spot. A few will see a versatile playmaker with the size, athleticism and aggression to move around and make an impact at a variety of alignments. Ramsey can win at the catch point, make tackles in the box, blitz and even return kicks.
7. Ole Miss T Laremy Tunsil
Where He Wins: Most games Tunsil shows you everything you want. Balance, functional strength, posture, length, hands, nastiness, etc. The game against Auburn might have been his most challenging, but Carl Lawson plays like a future first round pick.
8. Notre Dame T Ronnie Stanley
Where He Wins: Many will question Stanley’s strength and/or power. By this I think they mean anchor versus power. I believe Stanley combination of length, frame, footwork and athleticism is enough of a combination to get by with possibly adequate strength. I’ve seen him display an aggressive temperament on multiple occasions.
9. 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.
10. Oregon DL DeForest Buckner
Where He Wins: Has the tools to be extremely disruptive versus the run and rushing the passer. Right now Buckner shines against the run thanks to his size, length and strength to shed. Those tools can work as a pass rusher, but right now the awareness to shed and create space is not there on a consistent basis. He could play a variety of alignments up front based on personnel packages. He played on 85.5% of the school’s snaps this season.
11. Louisville DL Sheldon Rankins
Where He Wins: A true interior disruptor. Rankins was asked to play next to the center, guard and outside of the tackle this year. He’s at his best getting upfield off the snap with explosion and agility. He’s quite strong for a compact defensive tackle. Disruptors like Rankins can be difficult to find in any class. Rankins was on the field for 79.4% of the school’s snaps.
12. Alabama DL Jonathan Allen
Where He Wins: Only played on 40% of the school’s snaps, but Allen made an impact in every game. Of Alabama’s three defensive linemen, he gets upfield and disrupts more than any others. Especially when pass rushing. Allen is ahead of his time in terms of hand use. Watch for his push-pull technique. He gets on his block and gets off of it, which can be difficult to find at the college level.
13. 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?
14. Ole Miss DL Robert Nkemdiche
Where He Wins: Production was definitely minimal, but Nkemdiche offers plenty of disruption potential. After playing outside early in his career, Nkemdiche looks at his best inside. His natural athleticism is an advantage there, winning around heavy footed offensive linemen off the snap or through weaker opponents.
15. 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.
16. Ohio State WR Michael Thomas
Where He Wins: Michael plays the position in a similar fashion as Demaryius Thomas. 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.
17. Florida CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Where He Wins: 2014 was far better for Hargreaves than 2015. Still, I don’t think talent just disappeared. The corner can be aggressive at the catch point, closing on receivers after the catch when in off coverage and when playing the run. He allowed separation on deep routes this season. When he’s on, Hargreaves plays with intensity and fights for positioning to beat receivers to their point.
18. Clemson EDGE Shaq Lawson
Where He Wins: Shaq Lawson shows a variety of moves to win versus his opponents, displaying intent and awareness as a pass rusher. Lawson will take advantage of linemen who overextend and win around the edge. Then he can win inside after tackles compensate on the edge. He even displayed a successful spin move. He is just as successful against the run as he is rushing the passer.
19. 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.
20. Georgia LB Leonard Floyd
Where He Wins: Evaluators have been able to see Floyd play from practically every linebacker alignment. He lined up at the second level more often this season and was still an effective pass rusher when asked to be. He lacks strength when getting upfield, but Floyd can bend around the corner, which some staffs prioritize despite its scarcity.
21. Florida DL Jonathan Bullard
Where He Wins: I have reservations about Bullard’s athleticism, but 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.
22. 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.
23. Alabama TE O.J. Howard
Where He Wins: After two years (plus a few games) of clamoring for Howard to be a focal point of Alabama’s offense, he finally was in the National Championship Game. The tight end can get open in the intermediate level with athleticism and body positioning, but what stood out was his yards after catch capability. He has plenty of straight line speed which will be maximized by accurate passes.
24. Ohio State LB Darron Lee
Where He Wins: A true run and chase linebacker. Lee missed a few tackles this season, but he also puts himself in position to make plays other linebackers cannot. Lee is also an adequate blitzer.
25. TCU WR Josh Doctson
Where He Wins: Doctson produced so many highlight reel, acrobatic catches in the end zone and along the sideline. He can get open when working back towards the quarterback after winning vertical, resulting in easy separation.