Ranking the Players I’ve Been Able to Watch
As the NFL draft approaches, it’s time to rank the best players available this year. Here are the best 50 players of the 89 total that I have watched this year.
1. Todd Gurley, Running back, Georgia
Gurley’s only concern is that torn ACL. He is explosive through contact, explosive in space and fluid with very quick, precise feet. His awareness, intelligence and creativity comes with snap-to-snap discipline. The 20-year-old has a skill set that is very similar to that of Marshawn Lynch, but he also possesses a jump cut that rivals Adrian Peterson’s.
Running backs may be devalued because it’s easier to find adequate starters at that position than any other, but the impact an elite one can have on your offense is still huge. Gurley is the kind of talent that could go in the top five of the draft without it being a mistake.
2. Marcus Mariota, Quarterback, Oregon
Concerns about Mariota’s transition to the NFL have been overblown. If he doesn’t immediately start in the league or land with a team willing to adapt to his skill set it won’t mean that he is going to be a bust for the long term.
Mariota has all the traits of a top 10 NFL quarterback. His poise and intelligence allowed him to execute the Oregon offense to an exceptionally high degree, leading to a large percentage of wide open throwing windows. Accuracy and holding onto the football when hit are the two biggest concerns with the quarterback and neither is so significant that it should handicap his career.
3. Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson
Probably the most explosive player in this draft. Beasley is by far the best pass rusher, boasting a burst off the line of scrimmage that would make Robert Quinn proud. Beasley isn’t just a speed rusher though, he has enough strength to battle bigger offensive tackles even if he won’t be able to run over them.
Beasley might not be capable of starting from day one as a 4-3 defensive end, but his ability as a pass rusher means he can still carry great value even with a career arc that mirrors the early years of Aldon Smith’s.
4. Kevin Johnson, Cornerback, Wake Forest
Johnson is an aggressive cornerback who excelled in off coverage. He showed off the ability to be balanced in coverage in terms of contrasting aggression and caution, while his physical traits are ideal for the position. Johnson has precise, quick feet and fluid hips that allow him to stick with receivers through breaks.
Locating the football when working down the sideline can be a significant problem, but on the whole Johnson has natural coverage ability and impressive physical traits. He should be a very good NFL player.
5. Jameis Winston, Quarterback, FSU
Winston’s 2013 season was simply phenomenal. If he had played to that level in 2014, it would be fair to talk about him as a prospect rivalling Andrew Luck or Teddy Bridgewater. Instead, his play significantly careened off course during his final season in college.
Turning the ball over was a major issue for Winston and as much as his coaches deflect the blame away from him, most appeared to be his fault. Winston’s accuracy, mechanics and decision making are too concerning to simply be brushed aside because he played in a complex offense.
Character concerns have to be acknowledged also.
6. Dante Fowler, Edge, Florida
Fowler doesn’t have the same explosiveness as Beasley or even his own elite trait to match the Clemson player. However, his skill set is very well-rounded and impressive as a whole. He is strong at the point of attack and has long arms that should allow him to be effective in different ways against NFL offensive tackles.
With impressive burst, a violent intensity and upper body fluidity, Fowler is also comfortable working in space. How much Fowler develops his technique and consistency after he is drafted will have a major impact on whether he can become an All-Pro caliber player or just a good starter.
7. Kevin White, Wide Receiver, West Virginia
The best receiver in this year’s class isn’t a refined talent. White is a physically gifted back who shows off outstanding ball skills. He will likely need to develop more as a route runner when he gets to the NFL, but his fluid athleticism should allow him to become an all-around receiver if he commits to working at it.
White doesn’t have the same body type as Alshon Jeffery, but he has that kind of skill set. He should be able to immediately win at the catch point in the NFL and be dangerous on underneath routes by creating yards after the catch.
8. Arik Armstead, Defensive Line, Oregon
Armstead is a bit of a project when it comes to NFL projection. He is a mammoth sized defensive lineman who shows off impressive hand usage and incredible fluidity, balance for someone of his size. At Oregon, he played in an unconventional defense that regularly rushed just three defenders so he was often being forced to work in tight spaces or against double teams.
Inconsistency is Armstead’s greatest concern. If he can develop more consistency as an overall player, he could become dominant both against the run and the pass. Comparisons to Calais Campbell have been reoccurring and appear to be accurate. Campbell is one of the best players in the NFL.
9. Leonard Williams, Defensive Line, USC
Leonard Williams is a fascinating case study for a defensive lineman. He was arguably the best defensive player in college football last year and if you made every trait a player could possess equal, he would comfortably be the most talented defensive player in this class. Yet, he’s not.
He’s not because he lacks the ability to be a consistent pass rusher. His explosiveness isn’t evident even though he can be powerful with his upper body. Williams could be a dominant run defender in the NFL, but how much value is there in that if the offense is constantly throwing the ball?
10. Cameron Erving, Center, FSU
This isn’t a strong class for top 20 talent. While there is a lot of talent available, much of that talent is represented by players who will be reliant on post-draft development to become starters, players who were very inconsistent performers in college or players who project forward as high quality role players rather than foundation starters. Because of this, Erving’s value becomes greater.
As a left tackle, Erving struggled to move his feet quickly in space so he was susceptible to faster edge rushers. Getting him off balance was too easy. When he moved to center, he was being asked to handle bigger(often slower) defenders in tighter spaces. This perfectly suited his skill set as he excelled both as a run blocker and pass blocker. Erving could easily slot into a starting lineup as a rookie and remain there for more than a decade.
11. Andrus Peat, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
Peat is a huge body who offers the most impressive combination of control and athleticism for any tackle in this class. He uses his hands well and quickly reacts to sudden movements in front of him with his quick feet. Despite his size, Peat is still able to move relatively well in different directions which should allow him to be developed into a valuable run blocker and pass protector as a left or right tackle.
12. Amari Cooper, Wide Receiver, Alabama
An incredibly productive player at Alabama, this ranking is likely relatively low for Cooper. Much of Cooper’s production was a result of his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, understanding how to put him in the best position to succeed. Cooper has an impressive skill set, but he’s more of a Jeremy Maclin level player than an A.J. Green.
13. Owamagbe Odiginizuwa, Edge, UCLA
Owam may be much higher on this list if his health wasn’t such a concern. Hip problems could sap the athletic ability of Odiginizuwa throughout his NFL career so it’s unlikely that he will ever be able to bend the edge. Even if he can’t, he should still be an effective passer if he can use his burst and extremely powerful and violent hands to force his way to the quarterback.
14. Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
Gregory needs to learn how to get the most out of his athleticism with more consistent hand usage and body positioning. His feet can cause him to be reckless at times, but his explosiveness and overall strength makes him an enticing prospect as a pass rusher in the NFL. Concerns about his failed drug tests will likely cause him to drop out of the top 10 in the draft.
15. Eric Kendricks, Linebacker, UCLA
While he’s not on the same level of C.J. Mosley, Kendricks offers a similar style of linebacker for this year’s NFL draft. Kendricks is very comfortable in space and offers the same kind of range that Mosley showed on a regular basis in the NFL. He is intelligent and aggressive, with enough strength and awareness to shed blockers when working against the run.
16. Brandon Scherff, Guard, Iowa
Scherff played left tackle in college, but his skill set suggests that he should move to guard in the NFL. He could be an outstanding left guard, offering the athleticism to help protect the quarterback’s blindside while being a potentially dominant guard. Scherff is a big body, with long arms and has shown the power to dominate opponents with his upper body strength. He should fit in any scheme as a guard.
17. Nelson Agholor, Wide Receiver, USC
A number of USC receivers have been highly touted prospects in recent years, but none were as impressive as Agholor. In a league that is spreading out, his ability to excel both inside and outside should have teams thinking about Antonio Brown or Emmanuel Sanders as comparisons. Agholor explodes in and out of breaks, while showing off natural ball skills and impressive footwork.
18. Malcom Brown, Defensive Tackle, Texas
The traits that Brown exhibits are the types of traits that NFL teams desperately need to counter today’s pass-inclined offenses. He is a compact defensive tackle with strength, explosiveness and discipline. He is the kind of player who should be able to disrupt pockets on a consistent basis while also being an effective run defender.
19. Devin Smith, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
Devin Smith doesn’t do a lot at this point, but what he does do he does incredibly well. Smith is the rare fast receiver who can be compared to Mike Wallace without it being a stretch. He sustains speed through everything he does and is always the most explosive receiver on the field. Having one elite trait at the receiver position alleviates the pressure on the rest of a player’s skill set. Having two elite traits makes you a matchup nightmare. That’s what Smith has as his deep tracking ball skills are simply outstanding.
20. Jordan Phillips, Oklahoma, Nose Tackle
Nose tackles in today’s NFL can’t be one-dimensional players. It’s tough to find huge bodies that can handle double teams and still penetrate the pocket when afforded opportunities. Jordan Phillips appears to have the potential to become that kind of player on the second level. He didn’t consistently dominate games, but the flashes of his ability were very, very impressive.
21. Marcus Peters, Cornerback, Washington
An aggressive cornerback in coverage who shows enough control to project well to the NFL. He has the fluid athleticism to be comfortable in space while also showing stout toughness against more aggressive receivers or blockers. Peters has good size and decent ball skills, but off-field concerns exist also.
22. La’el Collins, Guard/Tackle, LSU
Much debate has surrounded where La’el Collins bests fits in the NFL. He may be able to be an effective tackle, but he doesn’t appear to have the balance and footwork to consistently get the most out of his athleticism in space. Collins appears best fit in a zone-blocking scheme as a guard.
23. Davante Parker, Wide Receiver, Louisville
A poor man’s A.J. Green feels like an apt description of Davante Parker. He has the same kind of well-rounded athleticism and fluidity to adjust to balls at the catch point against tight coverage. Parker’s explosiveness as a whole will be interesting to measure in the NFL, but his overall ability should make him an effective receiver.
24. Maxx Williams, Tight End, Minnesota
With his outstanding ball skills and impressive size, Williams could prove to be a major matchup problem for defenses in the NFL. He offers enough upside as a blocker to project as a balanced tight end in a league that largely lacks balanced tight ends.
25. Jake Fisher, Tackle/Guard, Oregon
Jake Fisher probably won’t be highly rated by every team, but those running zone blocking schemes should like him a lot. His hands and feet are very impressive and allow him to be effective in space or moving laterally. He ideally will be a tackle, but he could be shoehorned into a guard position for a team such as the Miami Dolphins.
26. Landon Collins, Safety, Alabama
The NFL is bereft of safety talent, so a player with the skill set of Landon Collins is always more likely to go higher than he probably should. Collins could prove to be one of the most versatile starters in the NFL, but he needs to become more consistent with his performances instead of just relying on his obvious traits.
27. Dorial Green-Beckham, Wide Receiver, Missouri
Probably the best wide receiver in this class, an incredible physical talent with natural ball skills. The problem is you don’t know what you’re getting off the field. At some point, the risk of taking him will be diminished by his talent, but too many red flags exist to presume that you can rely on him.
29. Quinten Rollins, Safety/Cornerback, Miami(Ohio)
A basketball convert who played just one year of football probably regrets not switching sports many years ago. Rollins is an outstanding athlete with impressive ball skills and a natural understanding of positioning. He played cornerback in college and could be a very good zone cornerback in the NFL, but his value would likely be at its highest if he played safety.
30. Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle, Washington
Shelton isn’t the 3-4, two-gapping nose tackle that his reputation suggests he is, but he could still be a very good NFL player. He doesn’t have the same levels of athleticism as Dontari Poe or Haloti Ngata. Although those players may be out of his reach, he can still mimic much of what they do and become valuable in similar roles. He moves very well for a player of his size and flashes power as a pass rusher.
31. Duke Johnson, Running Back, Miami
Size can be deceptive as he is a strong runner with consistent vision and the burst to show it off. Outside of Gurley, Johnson is the most versatile back in this class with the ability to immediately act as a valuable receiving back in the NFL. He proved to be durable at Miami in spite of his size and the hope is that he can do that against better athletes on the next level again.
32. Michael Bennett, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State
Not a big player and there are question marks about his consistency. However, Bennett’s skill set is very appealing. He is a penetrating interior presence with an excellent burst and active, strong hands that will offset some of the concerns about his size. Bennett’s overall strength should allow him to hold up against the run in the NFL.
33. Ameer Abdullah, Running Back, Nebraska
Often given a huge amount of space to work in during his time at Nebraska that likely won’t be made available to him in the NFL(unless he is drafted by the Cowboys). Abdullah offers the power and explosiveness as well as discipline to quickly eat up space in the NFL while also being effective between the tackles. His discipline as a runner keeps him ahead of Jay Ajayi and Melvin Gordon.
34. Jalen Collins, LSU, Cornerback
Somewhat of a project who needs to have a better professional career than college career to justify this ranking. Collins has all the physical traits of a top cornerback with the ball skills to find the football in different situations. Coaching is going to be crucial for him moving forward as he is taught how to be more consistent in balancing aggressive and cautious coverage.
35. Alvin Dupree, Edge, Kentucky
Dupree wouldn’t be this high if he hadn’t tested phenomenally well at the combine. His tape in college was very concerning as he proved to have nothing to complement his burst off the line of scrimmage. Dupree needs to develop a greater pass rushing repertoire and better translate his strength to what he does on the field.
36. Melvin Gordon, Running Back, Wisconsin
His exceptional speed is obvious for all to see, but there was somewhat of a reliance on it during his time in college. That reliance will cause him problems in the NFL. Gordon is a good prospect who is coming out with a very strong class of running backs. He should be a good starter in the NFL, but he needs to show a better understanding of when to break outside and when to stay disciplined between the tackles.
37. Stephone Anthony, Linebacker, Clemson
Incredible athleticism and ideal size for an inside linebacker in today’s NFL. Anthony makes so many plays that make your eyes widen because of his explosiveness when he is attacking downhill, but he needs to show better strength and hand usage against contact. He has good, but not great awareness in coverage that may improve on the next level.
38. Trey Flowers, Edge, Arkansas
Although he probably has a limited ceiling because of his athleticism, Flowers shows off impressive hand usage, power and discipline both as a run defender and a pass rusher. He should be a defensive end rather than an outside linebacker, lining up over or just outside of the tackle to fight him on every snap. Flowers has the kind of intensity and power that will wear down opponents.
39. P.J. Williams, Cornerback, FSU
Williams isn’t as athletic or as big as Patrick Peterson, but the similarities between the two in coverage are evident. Both players rely on their aggressiveness early in press coverage before using their length and strength to run through routes with their assigned receivers. Williams lacks that added athleticism and he has some significant concerns as a tackler in space. He can be too reckless. A recent DUI arrest is going to cause him to fall in the draft.
40. Devin Funchess, Whatever Jimmy Graham is, Michigan
Arguments will rage about what Funchess is. I believe he’s a tight end who needs to be used like Jimmy Graham. He can line up anywhere, but is primarily built to win on deep routes and when asked to be a blocker he should essentially just be asked to try and get in the way of someone who isn’t wearing the same color jersey.
41. T.J. Clemmings, Offensive Tackle, Pittsburgh
In recent years the NFL has shown repeatedly what can be done with very athletic but raw offensive tackle prospects. Clemmings fits in that mold as someone who will comfortably move in space while showcasing length and strength to bully his assignments. Consistency is obviously a major concern, but improved technique from better coaching could make a huge difference.
42. Mike Davis, Running Back, South Carolina
Davis is a compact, powerful runner with the explosiveness and vision to excel in the NFL. He would ideally play behind a zone-blocking line that would allow him to make one cut before aggressively attacking downfield. If Davis had the explosiveness of Melvin Gordon, he could potentially be a first round pick. He’s still explosive, just not to the same degree.
43. Jay Ajayi, Running Back, Boise State
It’s easy to like Ajayi because he flashes monstrous athleticism at times. However, he also has a tendency to make bad decisions and run into blockers that he should be able to avoid. Ajayi’s phsyical tools won’t be as effective in the NFL unless he can alter his pure rushing ability. He isn’t a natural runner who is able to quickly feel out situations as they develop in front of him.
44. Trae Waynes, Cornerback, Michigan State
Waynes is a good athlete who lacks natural awareness in coverage. He is often too hesitant to aggressively attack the ball when in position and becomes very, very handsy when he should be playing less aggressively. Waynes is the kind of player that will need to be coached out of bad habits to become a decent NFL starter.
45. Shane Ray, Edge, Missouri
Ray doesn’t show off the length of other prospects and he has a very, very rigid upper body that will hinder what he can do in space on the next level. Ray will be reliant on his power to be effective in the NFL, which may work against lesser offensive tackles but will prove to be a problem against the better starters.
46. Breshad Perriman, Wide Receiver, Central Florida
Perriman has unreliable hands but is an intriguing prospect with impressive balance, quickness, ball tracking ability and size. He is primarily reliant on his athleticism to be successful, something that could be an issue early on during his NFL career.
47. Eli Harold, Edge, Virginia
Harold lacks the lower body power to be a defensive end. His lack of overall power and strength is highlighted most when he rushes the passer as offensive tackles are able to redirect him with ease and push him out of plays. What Harold lacks in bulk he attempts to make up for with intensity, speed and fluidity in space. His intensity sometimes leads to recklessness but that is something that can be corrected with coaching. Harold will likely be a 3-4 outside linebacker but could even be a 4-3 weakside linebacker.
48. D.J. Humphries, Offensive Tackle, Florida
Doesn’t always appear to be in control and may not be quick enough with his feet to handle the better pass rushers in the NFL as a left tackle. Could excel with his athleticism as a right tackle, being effective enough in pass protection and versatile as a run blocker.
49. Rashad Greene, Wide Receiver, FSU
One of the standout pieces for Florida State’s offense over the past two seasons. Greene isn’t a great athlete, but he is a good enough athlete to play in the NFL. His ball skills and routes will allow him to be impactful from the beginning of his career.
50. Tevin Coleman, Running Back, Indiana
Coleman does everything you want a running back to do, but he doesn’t break tackles. He submits to tackles instead of aggressively fighting through them with his upper body. He needs to alter his running style to be anything more than an average starter in the NFL. It also appears that Coleman played the 2014 season with an injured foot, so that may have impacted how he approached the point of contact. It seems unlikely though.