Jake’s Top 50 Big Board (2017 Draft Edition)

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The draft season is in full swing.  Evaluators got their final look at live game action last week at the Senior Bowl.  Now, with only the combine ahead, it’s time for teams to put together their draft boards and rank the players.  In my fourth year of covering the NFL Draft process, it is time to release my first big board of the year.  Off we go.

50. Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee

He showed up at the Senior Bowl, proving that he has serious ball skills and can excel in press coverage.  His reps at safety during drills in practice prove he has a versatile part to his game.

49. Haason Reddick, LB/EDGE, Temple

Reddick was a big riser during Senior Bowl week.  He showed he can be very versatile on the defensive side of the ball.  He has speed coming off the edge and has enough agility and football IQ to cover running backs and tight ends.  Teams are salivating knowing he can be a situational rusher and a will or sam linebacker.

48. Desmond King, CB, Iowa

Desmond King is one of the more intriguing corners in this draft.  Scouts are debating what his best position would be.  He’s very good in coverage, but some wonder about his speed.  Micah Hyde comps are on the money, as he could spend time at safety and in the slot.

47. Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri

A strong a powerful rusher off the edge, Charles Harris sort of flies under the radar when it comes to edge rushers in this year’s draft.  He may not be at Garrett’s level, but Harris has the makings of a solid starter.

46. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

Flashy would be a good word to describe Jackson, and not in a bad way.  His speed is proof he can hang with wide receivers on the perimeter, but he’s also a major threat in the return game.  There’s plenty of value in Jackson somewhere in round two.

45. TJ Watt, OLB, Wisconsin

He’s not as highly touted as his brother, but TJ Watt had a very good year at Wisconsin.  Some will question his size off the edge, but Watt’s motor and power could move him up draft boards.

44. Kevin King, CB, Washington

On a loaded Washington defense, Kevin King found a way to stand out.  He is a physical presence who can also come up and make tackles.  Tackling corners are hard to find these days, and if King shows out at the combine and measures well, teams will continue to like what they see.

43. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan

The biggest concern with Lewis?  Size.  Many project that Jourdan Lewis won’t be able to play on the perimeter against bigger receivers.  But, his showing during practices at the Senior Bowl prove that he is very good in press coverage and has great ball skills.

42. Zay Jones, WR, East Carolina

The standout of the Senior Bowl, Zay Jones looks like a player who could vault into the first round.  His hands and catch radius are off the charts, and he makes it look effortless on the field.

41. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford

A do-it-all running back, McCaffrey will be another very intriguing prospect on draft day.  Will he be able to handle the workload of an every down back?  Probably not, but his effectiveness with the ball in his hands is undeniable.

40. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss

Evan Engram has some question marks, most notably his blocking ability, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a skill set teams want.  His ability to stretch the field is important for pass happy teams.  He is a mismatch with his size and quickness.

39. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana

There aren’t many good linemen in this draft, but Dan Feeney is a solid interior player.  He usually plays guard, but the coaches at the Senior Bowl kicked him inside to play center a bit.  Feeney will be a solid player wherever you put him.

38. Caleb Brantley, DL, Florida

Brantley looks a little undersized, but he has something that teams don’t ignore.  His quickness on the interior helps boost his stock as an interior pass rusher of sorts, and in this passing league, getting pressure is important.

37. DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State

The best game I saw of Walker’s might have been the Orange Bowl against Michigan.  Walker was moved all over the defensive line and made plays in every spot.  He has the look of a poor man’s Jonathan Allen, and teams will love his versatility.

36. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

Physical corners who can tackle can always find a home in the NFL.  Marlon Humphrey fits the bill, and to top it off, he has the speed to run with guys.  He does give up the occasional big play, but the physicality and speed hide those issues, and make Humphrey a legit round one prospect.

35. Dion Dawkins, OL, Temple

Dawkins has something that offensive linemen definitely need at the next level.  He has very good technique and has good bend when engaging defensive linemen.  His performance in one-on-ones during Senior Bowl has moved him up draft boards.  He does struggle against speed rushers, but showing he can play guard helps hide that weakness.

34. Cam Robinson, OL, Alabama

Cam Robinson was a streaky player on the left side of Alabama’s offensive line, making scouts lean towards his future on the right side of an NFL offensive line.  He has plenty of positive traits that translate, most notably his strength.  He should be able to pave the way in the run game and hold his own against NFL pass rushers.

33. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Davis isn’t the fastest linebacker in this draft, but his instincts make up for his average speed.  Davis is a very good downhill linebacker and plays good enough coverage that teams will give him a long look and an opportunity to start in the NFL.

32. Ryan Anderson, EDGE, Alabama 

When I think of Ryan Anderson, I think of his splash plays.  Most special players off the edge come up with a splash play each game.  Anderson has done that, especially in big games.  His pick six against Washington in the CFP semifinal showed his instincts and his ability to play the ball.  He also forced a fumble against Clemson that could have changed the game in a big way.  Let’s not forget how good he can be as a rusher off the edge.  He’s not at the level of some, but he’s good enough to be an early second round pick.

31. Budda Baker, S, Washington

Baker is the top of the second level safety prospects, and I project he has the role of a Keanu Neal or a Landon Collins in the NFL.  He will be excellent in run support and is more underrated in coverage, especially against tight ends.  You can do a lot having a piece like Baker in your defense.

30. Jabrill Peppers, LB/S, Michigan

The biggest question mark of this draft is Peppers.  He has an absurd amount of talent, and his ability to play multiple positions isn’t being overlooked.  The issue is that teams aren’t sure where to play him.  He has played linebacker, safety, and corner on defense and even had snaps at running back for the Wolverines.  Now, what position will translate best for him in the NFL?  I think a hybrid safety/linebacker will be his role, but the key for him is finding a team who will use his speed and instincts in the best way.

29. David Njoku, TE, Miami

The athleticism that Njoku brings to the table is very impressive.  That athleticism paired with his size will create nightmares for opposing defenses that go up against him.  What is concerning?  Well, he isn’t as refined as some of the other tight ends in this draft.  He lacks some crispness in his routes and is inconsistent at times.  Give him time, and he can develop.

28. Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama

Tim Williams might be the best situational edge rusher in this draft.  There is no doubt of his value on third down getting to the quarterback.  The one thing holding teams up is his size and his productivity on early downs, particularly against the run.  This drops his stock a bit, but if Williams can continue to use speed and power to get to the quarterback, he will find a home.

27. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State

Malik McDowell feels like a real boom or bust guy.  He has exceptional size and athleticism to play on the interior defensive line.  The issue?  He tends to disappear during games.  Seeing him live against Illinois showed some weaknesses.  He has trouble getting low with his large stature, resulting in very little push on the line.  If he can figure it out, though, he’s primed to shine.

26. John Ross, WR, Washington

Speed has become a bigger part of this game.  When teams find someone who is explosive, they will find ways to utilize their strengths.  John Ross is that type of player.  He comes from the Tyreek Hill/Tavon Austin mold, and yet, he seems like a better player than both of them (at least as receiving goes).  Ross is fast, yes, but he can run very good routes and isn’t afraid to take shots down the field.  Alabama did showcase his weakness (physical man press coverage), but line him up anywhere and he will make plays.

25. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Gareon Conley is either the last or the next to last corner in the first tier this draft.  That should tell you how deep corner is this year.  Conley has the physicality, but he also plays very good coverage and does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes.  The only thing slight knock against him is how he plays against the run.  He needs to be a better tackler in those instances, but his performance in every other area make him a starter from day one.

24. Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky

Small school names have dominated the talk the last two weeks, and there’s a good reason why.  These guys are good.  Forrest Lamp has excelled at Western Kentucky, and his quickness and balance have brought him out into the spotlight.  He, like Dawkins, might be a better fit for guard in the NFL, but his sound technique doesn’t rule out the possibility of playing tackle.

23. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA

UCLA has churned out well rounded NFL talent lately, especially on the defensive side of the ball.  McKinley is no exception to that rule.  He is dynamic off the edge with his combination of motor and speed.  He projects more as a 3-4 linebacker than a defensive end in a 4-3, but he, like Tim Williams, has all the tools to succeed at the next level.

22. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida 

Tabor was the Florida corner everyone was talking about heading into the season.  He had even better coverage skills and ball skills than his counterpart in the secondary, Vernon Hargreaves.  Tabor did struggle a bit this year, though.  He isn’t great in press coverage, and he did get beat deep on occasion.  But, there’s no denying the recovery speed and ball skills that Tabor possesses.

21. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

Kizer seems to be the most pro ready QB right now.  Why?  I believe you can throw him out there from the get go and he will make plays.  Some will argue about the production this past season, but when you lose guys like CJ Prosise, Will Fuller, and Nick Martin, you’re bound to regress a bit.  Kizer makes good decisions and is athletic moving around the pocket.

20. Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan

Charlton’s name has shot up the boards lately, and for good reason.  He has the size and power to win on the outside against linemen.  He doesn’t have pure speed with an explosive first step like other rushers, but he is quick enough to get around the edge or even make a move inside.  Quickness and power are a deadly duo.

19. Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC

Trubisky has by far the best arm of the top three quarterbacks in the draft (Davis Webb may have something to say about arm strength).  There isn’t a throw on the field I wouldn’t be comfortable with him making.  The biggest thing about Trubisky is the sample size.  We don’t know much about him other than this past season.  From what we can see, though, he is a gamer with high level arm strength and solid athleticism.

18. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson

Watson may be the most talented QB in the draft, but he’s also pretty raw.  What he has that the other two don’t have is his ability to extend plays and take off when he needs to.  There are plenty of doubts about Watson though.  His decision making isn’t up to par with his fellow QBs in the draft, and some question the arm strength.  However, there’s no denying his play on the big stage the last two seasons.  If he finds the right situation and system, he has a real chance to play at a high level.

17. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU

White jumped out at me late in the season with his coverage ability.  He can hang with big, physical receivers and has the quickness to keep up with the speedsters.  I am comfortable with his ability off ball and in press coverage.  He anticipates throws very well and is a physical tackler.  He, like Humphrey and Tabor, sometimes struggles with the deep ball, but you can’t deny what you see from him on tape.

16. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Ramczyk is easily the most pro ready tackle in this draft.  He might be the only top prospect at tackle who will end up playing on the left side.  His strength and balance against edge defenders are well above average, and you know you’re getting a high football IQ guy from a school that emphasizes run blocking and good pass protection.

15. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

My word, talk about an outstanding secondary Washington built.  Sidney Jones is a long, rangy, athletic corner who is drawing a few Richard Sherman comps.  It’s not hard to see why.  He covers well in any setting, he has extremely quick feet, and he can come up and tackle hard in the run game.  I’m not too worried about his frame if continues making plays like he did this season.

14. Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee

I would have had Barnett higher, but then the rumblings came, doubting whether Barnett could translate his game to the pros.  What Barnett does real well can still translate, no matter what scouts have said.  Barnett wins with power off the edge, and when he guesses the snap count, you’re in trouble.  At his best, the motor never quits on the field.  The key for Barnett will be to continually work on power moves and get his hands involved to knock linemen off balance.

13. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

The comps are wide ranging for the LSU star.  The closest and most intriguing one for me? DeMarco Murray, believe it or not (comparisons aren’t perfect, but they are quite similar). Fournette has breakaway speed in the open field, and can plant his foot in the ground to cut upfield.  What he brings to the table that Murray didn’t was his deadly stiff arm and trucking ability.  I’m sure you’ve seen the highlights.  Fournette has some injury concerns, but they are minor for one of the best running back prospects we’ve seen in a decade.

12. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

Mike Williams is a starter from day one.  There is no doubt what he can do.  His ability to high point the ball and win downfield are impressive.  He is extremely physical when he needs to be, and he can separate from corners with his build.  He isn’t as quick or as refined running routes, but when you can get any ball thrown up to you, you’re going high in the draft.

11. Solomon Thomas, DE, Stanford

I’ll be honest, Solomon Thomas didn’t jump out a ton in the regular season.  I still had him relatively high (somewhere in the low 30s), but after the Sun Bowl, I am convinced.  He is going to be something else.  The best part about Thomas is his quickness and his ability to win on the interior and off the edge.  He has great burst and is almost impossible to block when he guesses the snap count.  With his size and strength, he can get to the quarterback off the edge and stack up tackles in the run game.  He’s as well rounded as they come.

10. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Malik Hooker has extremely good ball skills for a safety.  He has the speed and anticipation to play that Ed-Reed-type centerfield.  He can even drop down for you to cover tight ends, and with his quickness, slot receivers too.  Don’t forget about his playmaking ability once he has the ball in his hands (you’ve seen the pick sixes right?  You haven’t?  Go look them up now.).  He won’t drop down much for you to play the run, but with his skills, he doesn’t need to.

9. OJ Howard, TE, Alabama

Yep, a tight end in the top ten.  Howard deserves it.  No tight end in the past half decade has the skills Howard does.  He looks like a wide receiver running routes, and his breakaway speed makes you wonder what position he actually plays.  Let’s not forget his blocking, which would surprise you.  He is a guy you want to keep on the field, which you can’t say for most tight ends in the league (they usually are good in one area and serviceable in another, Howard is good in both).  I’ve heard a comp from someone I trust and I couldn’t believe the name that came out: Kellen Winslow Sr. Some team is going to be very lucky.

8. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

The best all around receiver in this draft.  When you can run routes like Davis does, you have a place as a number one wide receiver.  His traits remind me a lot of two other receivers from Michigan schools.  Those two?  Greg Jennings and Antonio Brown.  He may not breakaway like Brown, but the route running ability and great hands are there.  His separation is also second to none.

7. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

Another physical Ohio State corner here, Marshon Lattimore has the chance to be the best corner in this draft.  He can play man or zone, and has the anticipation to drive on the ball.  Again, my favorite trait from corners shows in Lattimore.  He is a great tackler and wants to fight through blocks.

6. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

The Jamaal Charles comparisons are fairly accurate with Cook.  The difference?  I believe Cook can handle 18-20 carries a game, and his explosiveness in space rivals that of Charles.  Cook also has that power to run between the tackles and find space.  Getting skinny is key for running backs, and Cook has shown he can excel in that area.  He gets the nod over Fournette primarily based on his prowess in the passing game.

5. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

The most polished corner in this class is Wilson in my opinion.  He excels in zone coverage and is big enough to come up and press.  He has very good recovery speed, and is another good tackler.  His explosiveness allows you to do a lot of different things with him.  His best trait is his ball skills.  He will contend with anyone down the field, and he rarely gets beat deep.

4. Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Jamal Adams is basically the opposite of Malik Hooker.  Adams can cover tight ends, but he will do his damage in the box against the run and with big hits on receivers.  He won’t get his hands on the ball very often, but his game doesn’t revolve around that.  He is intimidating and can be the Kam Chancellor of a defense, with a little extra juice in his step.

3. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

What isn’t there to like about Allen?  The versatility is there to play inside or outside, and his combination of power and speed have wowed us all.  He can bull rush to collapse the pocket, and he can rip and swim around linemen with his quickness.  His strength also helps in the run game, where he can engage linemen and toss them aside.  He will be a disruptive force wherever you play him.

2. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

I absolutely love linebackers who can do it all.  Reuben Foster looked better last season than Ragland did in the championship game, and that was when I knew Foster could be great.  He is the most polished at his position.  His sideline to sideline speed is exceptional for his size, and there isn’t a tackle he can’t finish.  His quickness will also help him excel in coverage, something that most inside linebacker struggle with.  He can play right away and have an immediate impact on defense.

1. Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M

You knew it was coming.  Garrett seems to be the consensus number one prospect on everyone’s board.  There’s a reason though.  He’s the most dominant and consistent pass rusher in the draft.  He has both power and speed moves off the edge that dismantle opponents.  His power helps set the edge in the run game, which elevates him to elite three down status.  He has all the potential to the be a top five edge defender within two seasons.

Jake Schyvinck covers the NFL and the NFL Draft.  Follow him @JSchyvinck13 on Twitter.

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