Top 5 Prospects at Each Position

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We don’t often see drafts as loaded as this one appears to be.  With multiple positions crowded with talent at the top, it’s often hard to discern who is in fact the cream of the crop.  There are a few positions that are loaded top to bottom, and some that lack a true number one player.  Here are just some of the storylines at notable positions before we get into my top 5 rankings.

Everyone still debates about the quarterback class in the draft.  Most of those draft analysts will stick to their guns with one guy.  More than likely, they will either say Mitchell Trubisky or DeShaun Watson.  From there, it gets dicey.  There are very polarizing opinions on the others near the top.

This edge rusher class is very talented and deep.  There could be up to six names called on night one alone.  Myles Garrett is the consensus top player, but it differs from there.

This corner class is the best I’ve seen (I haven’t covered the draft in depth for very long, 4 years to be exact, so take that as you will).  But, ask draft analysts who have been in this business for a long time.  They say it too.  The best in this class isn’t as good as Ramsey last year, but there’s so much depth that prospects with first round grades could get drafted in round 3.

Now let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

1. DeShaun Watson, Clemson

2. Mitchell Trubisky, UNC

3. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech

4. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame

5. Davis Webb, Cal

This quarterback class isn’t the greatest, which I stated above, but there is potential here with this group.  I put Watson ahead of Trubisky solely because there is more tape on Watson.  Watson has more experience as a starting quarterback, and I see the gamer mentality in him.  Trubisky has potential with his arm strength and athleticism, but the concern of games played is real.  Mahomes has ridiculous arm talent, but his footwork and reads need to get better.  When Kizer has it going, holy cow does he have it.  But, the inconsistency is real.  He will throw a dart 20 yards downfield on the money in between defenders and then miss a running back in the flat the next play.  Webb is the wild card here.  I personally love Webb, but he needs time to develop behind someone.  He has a very good arm and solid touch down the field.

Running Back

1. Leonard Fournette, LSU

2. Dalvin Cook, Florida State

3. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford

4. Joe Mixon, Oklahoma

5. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee

The running back class is another one with serious depth.  I also considered guys like Wayne Gallman and Kareem Hunt for the five spot.  Let’s start at the top.  Leonard Fournette is a true downhill guy with breakaway speed and nastiness at the point of contact.  He reminds me of DeMarco Murray in space and Adrian Peterson everywhere else.  Dalvin Cook will fit perfectly in today’s NFL.  He has great speed in space and can line up at receiver and be a factor in the passing game.  McCaffrey is another like Cook.  He has insane quickness with the ball in his hands, and could carve out a giant role in the passing game.  Don’t overlook his ability to run between the tackles though.  Joe Mixon has as much talent as anyone on this list.  However, we all know about the off field stuff, which he seems to be handling well.  He can be a feature back in the NFL.  Kamara is an intriguing prospect.  He can be a factor in both aspects of the offense, but his limited tape comes with uncertainty.

Wide Receiver

1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan

2. Mike Williams, Clemson

3. John Ross, Washington

4. Zay Jones, East Carolina

5. Chris Godwin, Penn State

The receiver class this year won’t outdo the class of 2014, but there are still strong names throughout this class.  Corey Davis is the most polished receiver in the class, and his tape shows a player who will start out as a number two somewhere with the potential to be a number one receiver.  He runs excellent routes and has some short area burst create big gains.  Mike Williams may not be as polished, but he can step in and be a number one wide receiver with his ability to high point the ball and be physical at the catch point.  He is also a big time red zone threat.  John Ross may be looked at as “just a speedster”, but if you’ve seen him play, you know for a fact he’s more than that.  Zay Jones burst onto the scene at the Senior Bowl, and his big play ability combined with his hands will prove to be effective in the NFL.  Chris Godwin is a very physical player, and what jumps out, besides his big play ability, is his willingness to block downfield.

Tight End

1. OJ Howard, Alabama

2. David Njoku, Miami

3. Evan Engram, Ole Miss

4. George Kittle, Iowa

5. Gerald Everett, South Alabama

The tight end class is full of very good athletes and receiving threats.  There are also very good blockers in the draft.  The key is knowing where each prospect stands.  OJ Howard sits atop the class as a solid blocker who can be a real threat up the seam.  Alabama didn’t tap into Howard’s ability as much as they could have.  David Njoku is a very close second to Howard, but he is still a bit raw.  That doesn’t mean he won’t be as successful, but he needs to find the right fit and coaching staff to unlock his full potential, because the athleticism is there.  Evan Engram is more of a one dimensional tight end, but that dimension is darn good.  Engram is a guy who won’t block often, but will really be a mismatch in the passing game with his size and athleticism.  George Kittle isn’t as widely known as the others in this top 5, but you can’t overlook the blocking ability he can bring to an offense.  Don’t sleep on his quickness in the passing game either.  Gerald Everett is a big name when you look at all the small school prospects in this draft.  I would consider Everett a David Njoku-lite when it comes to his abilities.  He has great potential as a field stretcher in the right scheme.

Offensive Tackle

1. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin

2. Garett Bolles, Utah

3. Cam Robinson, Alabama

4. Antonio Garcia, Troy

5. Dion Dawkins, Temple

The offensive tackle isn’t as deep as we are accustomed to seeing, which explains why so many teams went out and overspent on offensive linemen in free agency.  This class does have a few guys at the top who can make an impact, and one good thing about offensive linemen in this class is that many are versatile.  Ramczyk is my top tackle in the class, even with the injury concerns with his hip.  I don’t use the word technician to describe many, but Ramczyk is just that on the left side.  Plus, if you want to put him on the right side, go “right” ahead.  Garett Bolles is one of two nasty tackles in this draft.  He has very good balance and has good quickness.  He will be 24 this year, but that shouldn’t deter teams from giving him a look.  Cam Robinson is the definition of “people mover” in this class, but many analysts wonder if he has the technical qualities to pass block on the left side.  Some have suggested him at guard, but I personally think he’s a great fit at right tackle.  Antonio Garcia is another player I would describe as nasty.  His tape is solid, and how can anyone forget him contacting another lineman during the kick slide drill at the combine?  Dion Dawkins is a versatile lineman that has tackle potential, and he moves well enough to have a future there.

Interior OLine

1. Forrest Lamp, Western Kentucky

2. Pat Elflein, Ohio State

3. Dan Feeney, Indiana

4. Ethan Pocic, LSU

5. Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh

The interior offensive line class has some real nice impact players at the top.  Forrest Lamp is the clear number one here, and some analysts ranked him with the tackles, since he has potential to play there as well.  Lamp is as solid a lineman as they come in this draft, with no substantial weaknesses.  Elflein is a real tough guy who can play guard or center on the line, and his strength and footwork could make him an impact player.  Dan Feeney is solid as a rock in this class when it comes to guards, and you can plug him in on day one.  Pocic is a little tall to play the center spot, as it is tougher for him to adjust and keep leverage, but he has enough promise to have a chance to play guard.  Dorian Johnson is a name not as talked about, but he has plug and play potential as a late day two pick.

Edge Defenders

1. Myles Garrett, Texas A&M

2. Solomon Thomas, Stanford

3. Charles Harris, Missouri

4. Derek Barnett, Tennessee

5. Takk McKinley, UCLA

The edge class is full of talented prospects, and it was difficult to narrow this list to five.  Myles Garrett is the near consensus top player in this draft, and there really isn’t a weakness to his game.  He has a multitude of ways to get to the quarterback, and is the type of player who can take over a game.  Solomon Thomas has had a meteoric rise since January, and he is versatile along with having a big time motor and active hands.  The spin move of Charles Harris is second to none, but that’s not all he has in his arsenal.  He has a knack for getting in the backfield and has excellent quickness off the first step.  Derek Barnett’s production speaks for itself, and he is a raw power guy when getting to the quarterback.  McKinley can stack up in the run game and rush the passer, and he never gives up on plays.  He needs to refine part of his game, but he has as much upside as anyone outside of Garrett.

Defensive Interior

1. Jonathan Allen, Alabama

2. Caleb Brantley, Florida

3. Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte

4. Malik McDowell, Michigan State

5. Chris Wormley, Michigan

The interior defensive line class is full of intriguing names.  At the top of my list sits one of the best players in college football this past season: Jonathan Allen.  Allen can play both as a 5-tech and as a 3-tech, making him more scheme versatile.  He is a nightmare for guards with his quickness and variety of moves.  His pass rushing ability is what stands out, and he always is hungry to find the ball.  Caleb Brantley is higher for me than most, and that’s due in part to Brantley’s ability to rush the passer from the interior, something you don’t find very often.  His quickness makes him a very intriguing early day two pick.  Larry Ogunjobi is a name that’s getting more familiar for football fans.  He did very well during the Senior Bowl in 1-on-1s, and has the chance to be a disruptive presence in the middle.  Malik McDowell is a mystery for many.  His frame and athleticism scream first rounder, but the issue is how he plays.  I got to see him firsthand against Illinois, and he didn’t get low enough to win against the Illini offensive line.  You can see flashes, but there are plays where he clearly doesn’t give it all.  Chris Wormley is a riser who will fit very well as an end in a 3-4 scheme.  He isn’t as much of a pass rushing threat, but he can hold blocks and win against the run.

Linebackers

1. Reuben Foster, Alabama

2. Haason Reddick, Temple

3. Jarrad Davis, Florida

4. Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State

5. Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt

With these five linebackers right here, you have to love what you’re getting if linebacker is a need for your team.  Reuben Foster is a top five player in this draft, and it’s hard to match his instincts, his physical style of play, and his quickness sideline to sideline.  Haason Reddick surged up boards throughout the draft process, and he is the most versatile in the class.  He played a ton on the edge for Temple, but his quickness and instincts showed that he can play off the ball as a linebacker.  He has also showed the willingness to play anywhere.  Jarrad Davis has as much talent as Reuben Foster, and can play the run and in coverage.  Raekwon McMillan isn’t talked about as much as other linebackers, but he is very capable of starting right away at the next level.  Zach Cunningham is another top notch player at linebacker.  It’s very rare for Cunningham to miss tackles, and he has continued to improve throughout his years at Vanderbilt.

Cornerback

1. Quincy Wilson, Florida

2. Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State

3. Gareon Conley, Ohio State

4. Marlon Humphrey, Alabama

5. Kevin King, Washington

There’s no secret that the cornerback class is loaded.  I wish I could put 10 names on here for five spots, but that’s not how it works.  (NOTE: Sidney Jones would be on here if not for injury)  Quincy Wilson has been my number one corner for some time.  He is physical at the line of scrimmage and has great ball skills.  Lattimore is as ready as anyone could be for the next level.  You see the natural ability with Lattimore.  He is so fluid in coverage and has good closing speed to the ball.  Lattimore’s teammate, Gareon Conley, also has made a name for himself.  Conley can line up with anyone and stick to him like glue.  He also possesses great ball skills.  There might not be a corner who has the combination of speed and physicality like Marlon Humphrey.  He does struggle at times with technique when the ball is in the air, but you can’t overlook a corner who can tackle like he does.  Kevin King is a very tall corner with great ball skills.  He is often overshadowed by teammate Sidney Jones, but he looks the part of a starting corner in the NFL.

Nickel

1. Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado

2. Budda Baker, Washington

3. Desmond King, Iowa

4. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan

5. Jabrill Peppers, Michigan

I love that Mike Mayock added this position to his rankings.  With the league how it is, this position has become much more important.  Some of these guys can play corner on the outside, and some can play safety, but this mini ranking uses corners that weren’t considered in my top 5 and safeties that could play the position.  Chidobe Awuzie is a very versatile corner that could line up inside and outside.  He could easily be a guy that could play nickel from the get go if need be.  Budda Baker is a jack of all trades throughout the secondary.  He has great ball skills and instincts, and his stature makes him a perfect fit in the nickel spot, were a team to have that luxury.  Desmond King has the coverage ability to play corner, but his speed is in question.  Playing nickel would allow him to use his best traits to succeed at the next level.  Jourdan Lewis has fallen due to off the field stuff, but you can’t overlook his ability to be a potential starter at nickel.  Jabrill Peppers is the toughest to figure out, but his physicality could move him to nickel at times to work with slower tight ends and physical receivers.

Safety 

1. Jamal Adams, LSU

2. Malik Hooker, Ohio State

3. Marcus Maye, Florida

4. Justin Evans, Texas A&M

5. Marcus Williams, Utah

The safety class is as loaded as the corner class (Baker, King, and Peppers are all names to watch).  Jamal Adams is a do-it-all safety who can play in the box and finish plays near the line of scrimmage while also possessing the ability to play centerfield.  Malik Hooker has tremendous instincts and ball skills, and he will start on the back end in no time.  Marcus Maye is a hybrid safety in that he can come downhill and lay the boom while also being a solid player in coverage.  Justin Evans and Marcus Williams aren’t as talked about in the safety class, but they are potential starters you can get on day two of the draft.  Evans has solid range on the back end and Marcus Williams can be the heart of a defense.

Disagree with my rankings?  Want to offer your opinions?  Comment here or get at me on Twitter @JSchyvinck13.

Jake Schyvinck covers the NFL and the NFL Draft for The Sports Guys.  In this busy time for the NFL Draft, follow him on Twitter @JSchyvinck13 for all things NFL Draft.

2 comments on “Top 5 Prospects at Each Position”

  1. Peppers is my number one nickel (and hybrid LB), lattimore and humphrey tie for the top corner, Davis Webb my #1 QB, and obi melifonwu belongs as a clear #3 safety behind the Big Two at the position IMHO

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    1. I think Peppers needs to show better instincts. Doesn’t feel as natural as some others at nickel. Love Humphrey too. Davis Webb has great potential. As far as Melifonwu goes, he looks more the part of a corner than a safety. Tape isn’t the greatest.

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