One of the more anticipated weeks in draft season begins on Friday, as the NFL world descends on Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. During the week, draft prospects will look to improve their stock and move up a couple rounds in projection by proving their athleticism.
Before the craziness and on-field workouts begin, a draft position rankings is long overdue. This post would normally be on The Draft Den, but unfortunately, we are fixing some things at the moment. For now, NFL Draft content will be here.
Let’s get to my top five players at each position for the NFL Draft, pre-combine edition.
1. Josh Rosen, UCLA
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
3. Sam Darnold, USC
4. Lamar Jackson, Lousiville
5. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Analysis: As of right now, and it’s hard to see this changing, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield are the most polished quarterbacks in the class. Rosen is masterful moving in the pocket and reading the defense. His accuracy is also top notch, especially in the intermediate area of the field. Mayfield has the arm and the accuracy to go toe-to-toe with Rosen, but is slightly less polished. Sam Darnold may have the highest ceiling of any of the quarterbacks, but he has things to work on, most notably his footwork and turnovers. Overall, though, the talent is there. Lamar Jackson is a much better passer than people give him credit for. He does a great job maneuvering the pocket with his athleticism. What stands out most is how he resets his feet after evading pressure. He does need to work on having a wider base when he throws, but he is improving. Oh yeah, and he’s also a special player in space as a runner. Josh Allen is all boosted with arm talent, but he has plenty to work on. He needs to play more refined in the pocket and work on his touch. He is a project, but he has potential.
1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. Derrius Guice, LSU
3. Ronald Jones, USC
4. Sony Michel, Georgia
5. Nick Chubb, Georgia
Analysis: I nearly put Guice above Barkley because it’s that close right now. Barkley is a special player, with the burst and pass catching ability to wreak havoc on defenses. He’s also big enough to run between the tackles. Guice is another big back at 224 pounds, but he has burst himself to run away from the defense. He also possesses the lateral quickness Barkley does, but he makes every run look like his last, fighting for every last yard. Ronald Jones feels slept on in this class right now. There might not be a better back with the burst to get to the edge and turn it upfield. Even though Jones is smaller, he still runs well between the tackles and has great balance through contact. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are a big reason why Georgia played for a national title. Michel and Chubb both possess the vision, burst, and balance through contact to succeed in the NFL. Right now, Michel sits slightly higher because of injury history.
1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
2. D.J. Moore, Maryland
3. Courtland Sutton, SMU
4. James Washington, Oklahoma State
5. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Analysis: There isn’t a better receiver in the draft than Calvin Ridley right now. Ridley is a nuanced route runner, and is smooth as silk getting past defenders after the catch. He can also stretch the field with his speed and has good hands. D.J. Moore is an electric playmaker with the ball in his hands. He may not be a number one option down the road, but he certainly has high end wide receiver two potential in the league. Courtland Sutton is a big bodied wide receiver who wins down field with his body. He has a strong frame to go up and win 50-50 balls. He is an above average route runner, but sometimes struggles to separate against quicker defenders. James Washington checked off a lot of boxes during Senior Bowl practices. He is a vertical threat with strong hands, and ran routes better back in January than many predicted. Rounding out the list is Christian Kirk, a dynamic receiver who can line up anywhere. Kirk is extremely dangerous after the catch, with the burst to take anything to the house.
1. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
2. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
3. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
4. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
5. Ian Thomas, Indiana
Analysis: The tight end class in 2018 is full of untapped potential. It starts at the top with Dallas Goedert, who, while still raw, presents great athleticism to stretch the field while also having the size and willingness to block. He has excellent hands and a wide catch radius. Mark Andrews is a solid prospect this year, especially in the passing game. He isn’t extremely dynamic, but he gets the job done and will be a good option in any offense. Mike Gesicki is a big bodied tight end with the athleticism to thrive in the red zone at the next level. He has strong hands and a strong frame to frustrate defenses. Gesicki’s only knock will be his ability to get his pads low enough to block. Hayden Hurst is rising quickly up boards with his dynamic ability in the passing game. He is a do-it-all tight end. Ian Thomas is another athletic prospect with the ability to stretch the field.
1. Connor Williams, Texas
2. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
3. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
4. Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
5. Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
Analysis: The offensive tackle group isn’t very deep this year, but some big names sit at the top. Connor Williams, despite a knee injury this season, is still my number one tackle. He is the most refined with his footwork and balance of anyone. Mike McGlinchey is another disciplined tackle, possessing the strength and leverage to block upfield in the running game while holding his own in pass protection. Orlando Brown is a physically dominant tackle, and is more agile than people think. Jamarco Jones should be talked about more, and maybe that’s because he spent his time on the right side in 2017. He is a powerful run blocker capable of starting right away. Martinas Rankin is forgotten in this class, but he’s a steady player and does everything well.
Interior Offensive Line
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
2. Billy Price, Ohio State
3. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
4. Will Hernandez, UTEP
5. James Daniels, Iowa
Analysis: This top five is a group of strong players with a mean streak. Quenton Nelson may be the best guard prospect in quite some time. He is a powerful player that gets to the second level with ease. Billy Price also plays mean up front, and his versatility to play center and guard will attract plenty of teams. Isaiah Wynn played tackle at Georgia, but many believe he will transition to guard in the NFL. He anchors well and has the power to move defenders. Will Hernandez is cut from a similar mold. He uses defender’s speed and power against them, and may get the bouncer title very early on. James Daniels has only been talked about recently, but he is another who can play both center and guard.
1. Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
2. Harold Landry, Boston College
3. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
4. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
5. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Analysis: The edge class is the most intriguing, because so many players make a case for the top five. The one thing that is clear is Bradley Chubb sitting on top. He is a relentless pass rusher with a plethora of moves to win one-on-one. Harold Landry didn’t have a good 2017, but his quick first step, bend around the arc, and better-than-advertised run defense make him a first round talent. Obo Okoronkwo is a powerful pass rusher who impressed a lot at the Senior Bowl with his power and hand usage. Speaking of hand usage, there may not be a better rusher at that than Duke Ejiofor. He is a calculated rusher who does a great job reading the lineman before making a move. Sam Hubbard converted to edge rusher, but he has acquired a number of moves and always attacks differently.
Interior Defensive Line
1. Maurice Hurst, Michigan
2. Vita Vea, Washington
3. Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
4. Taven Bryan, Florida
5. Nathan Shepherd, Fort Hays State
Analysis: The interior defensive line class might be the deepest in the draft. It starts with Maurice Hurst, who has an extremely quick first step and will thrive with his hand usage. Vita Vea had an inconsistent year, but his physical traits can’t be taught. Plus, Vea can be moved all along the line thanks to his quickness. Da’Ron Payne didn’t show up a lot on the stat sheet this season, but he lived in the backfield playing along the interior. Taven Bryan is another physically gifted player who just needs some more refinement in his game. Nathan Shepherd was unheard of until the Senior Bowl, where he looked like the best defender in attendance. He did a great job in one-on-ones using his hands to not get sucked in by linemen. He also showed good quickness and bend from the interior and will certainly shoot up boards after the combine.
1. Roquan Smith, Georgia
2. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
3. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
4. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
5. Fred Warner, BYU
Analysis: Roquan Smith is the top linebacker by far in this draft. His sideline-to-sideline speed combined with his instincts and coverage prowess separate him from the pack. Tremaine Edmunds is on the rise for sure. He’s a big and fast player who can play on the weak side and rush the passer, but he’s a project when it comes to his instincts and understanding his position. The good news? He’s only 19. Rashaan Evans is a missile at linebacker and his speed fits right in with the changing NFL. Vander Esch is a classic downhill linebacker, which still fits in today’s NFL, but his lack of three down ability may push him down. Fred Warner may be a bit of an unknown, but he’s a faster and more athletic player than people know, and he will continue to rise as the process goes on.
1. Jaire Alexander, Louisville
2. Denzel Ward, Ohio State
3. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
4. Josh Jackson, Iowa
5. Carlton Davis, Auburn
Analysis: Just throw the 2017 tape out the window for Jaire Alexander. Alexander is the best cover corner in this class and he talks and walks like he is. Denzel Ward is extremely physical near the line of scrimmage. He lacks deep speed, but zone teams will love him. Isaiah Oliver is another long corner from Colorado who will be able to start from the get go. Josh Jackson is the definition of a ball hawk, which will be attractive to many. However, he needs to work a bit on his technique in coverage. Carlton Davis rounds out the list, and his physical stature and play near the line of scrimmage translate well.
1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
2. Derwin James, Florida State
3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
4. Jordan Whitehead, Pittsburgh
5. DeShon Elliott, Texas
Analysis: Minkah Fitzpatrick could be on the cornerback list, but he fits better as a safety, where he can play deep with everything in front of him while also moving down by the line of scrimmage. His instincts, speed, and work ethic make him exactly the type of player to lead a defense down the road. Derwin James started out 2017 rough, but he found some of himself before his injury in 2016. James will be a great player near the line of scrimmage in a Kam Chancellor role. Ronnie Harrison plays like a linebacker near the line of scrimmage, but he also has the speed to play in coverage. Jordan Whitehead was a star on an underwhelming Pitt team. He has above average ball skills and plays a good centerfield. Rounding out the top five is DeShon Elliott, a speedster at the safety spot with good instincts and tackling skills.
Disagree with the rankings? Find Jake on Twitter @JSchyvinck13 and discuss!