As we get closer to the draft we’ll be giving you some of the best in-depth coverage of this year’s class and prospects. You can find all the content on our NFL Draft homepage. We start with my top-100 list in a four-part series. As always some things too remember:
- Positions – Players are listed at their current college position. Players will shift throughout the process and their rank will be changed when that information comes to light.
- Movement – As the process continues there will be movement and likely major moves as we get more accurate measurables and intangible reports.
- Grades – Grades are based on a scale that is detailed here.
- Opinion – Remember these rankings are MY opinion and mine alone. Feel free to share your opinion but abuse based on a draft ranking is unwarranted.
If you have any questions or feedback drop them in the comments section below or contact us on twitter @SidelinesReport
Langford is a talented, short area, explosive, back. He’s a tough but not overly powerful runner with great patience and an outstanding ability to make players miss in space. He’s shown flashes in the passing game and although he’s not necessarily a good pass-blocker he’s willing. Age is a slight downside – turns 24 during the 2015 season – but he brings an immediate impact as a special teams player and a change of pace back.
Everett is an outstanding pass protector who plays with a wide base, good toughness and strong technique inside to turn on countermoves and screws. He flashes in the run game with an average first step and he has a tendency to play a little high. He’s grown as a more vocal leader throughout his career and has a sky high football IQ. He’s the kind of foundation piece that makes a good football team an extremely good team.
Anderson is a powerful interior playing 3-4 defense end with major durability concerns. He lacks the foot speed to be an every down 3-4 outside linebacker and is too tall to play inside at DT on every down. He plays with good leverage, has fantastic eye discipline and a nose for finding the ball in the run game. He’s just a touch below relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback and although he doesn’t beat tackles at the punch he sticks with the play.
Derron Smith is a natural leader who was a star playing center field for Fresno State. He doesn’t have the natural size you look for in a pro safety and it shows in the run game, but his ability in coverage more than makes up for it. He’s a fluid, natural defensive back with an above average closing burst. He has an excellent ability to control the defense from the safety spot and has special diagnose and attack instincts. He’s a player who will continue to rise up draft boards as he meets with more teams.
Robinson is the #12 rated offensive tackle on my board. He has exceptional size as a former defensive tackle and is a tough on the field performer. He plays with serious emotion and clearly enjoys motoring in the run game. I have real concerns in pass-protection. He showed little to no progress from 2013 to 2014, he has a below average kick step, struggles against blitzes and too often gets lazy finishing on a play before the play itself has finished. He has natural talent, but there’s work needed.
Grayson is a true ‘project’ quarterback who’s not yet ready to start at the pro-level. He needs to improve his footwork and learn to play from under center, he struggles with his mental clock and can get down on himself in-play which leads to prolonged periods of poor decisions. He does however possess NFL upside. He can make all the necessary throws, has a willingness to learn and improve (has already made big strides), has a high (quick) release and although it takes too long he is willing to work through all his progressions.
Grayson is also has plus athletic ability which he uses to his advantage in the play-action game, in rollout situations and most importantly to avoid the rush.
Nelson is a really hard working, smaller, cornerback. He’s dedicated to improving his life and that of his young families (girlfriend, son Steven Nelson III). He takes exceptional pursuit angles to the ball in both the passing game and the run game. He has a lack of elite athletic measurable and it makes him susceptible in one-on-one coverage but as part of a defensive scheme (particularly zonal) he could be a very good player.
Sample has a prototypical NFL safety frame but he struggled in key drills at the combine. He had an excellent season with Louisville but it was his only season at a major college program. He has great eye discipline, is quick to the ball, locates the ball well and does a fabulous job being aggressive and physical in the run game. He’s an ideal ‘in the box’ safety.
Jarrett is an explosive, disruptive three-technique who is a little on the short size and lacking the ideal weight for the position. He is explosive but not to the same degree as an elite interior force (Marcell Darius, Aaron Donald). He has a high motor in the run and pass games, but has a tendency to tire late on and get blown of the ball. He’s a really good prospect who will do his job, but not a great prospect.
Williams is one of two Oklahoma tackles in this year’s class. He has a good first step, adequate speed and a strong ability in pass protection and run blocking. He’s clearly more ‘nasty’ on tape than fellow Oklahoma tackle Tyrus Thompson, but he has a naturally lower ceiling.
Fisher has an outstanding combination of speed and agility for an offensive line prospect. He’s solid in the passing game and has the potential to be an elite ‘pull guard’ if moved inside. He plays with a decent base but has below-average arm length a major concern if he plays tackle at the next level. Fisher does have a tendency to rise before contact and then look to ‘effort’ his way through the block. He’s good enough climbing at the second level to move inside long-term and he played well against the best defensive line he faced all season in the national championship game.
Smith is a versatile edge player who can play LDE or RDE in a 4-3 as well as a playing a five-technique in a 3-4. He has an incredible motor and played an exceedingly high percentage of snaps for Kentucky over two years. He’s strong against the run, has good gap discipline, a good eye for the runner and decent initial pop.
I mentioned Thompson earlier. To me he has more upside than his Sooners cohort, Daryl Williams, but Williams is the safer choice. Thompson is a terrific technician in the run-game. He fires of the ball well with a good pad level, he’s excellent in space and moves easily to the second level. He has active hands in the pass protection and is very infrequently caught out by counter moves or blitzes. Thompson’s major downside is his tendency not to finish, nor does he flash the kind of nasty streak needed at the next level.
Matias is a gem amongst gems hidden away between the star studded Florida State teams he helped anchor (ten FSU players in my top-100). Playing alongside Cam Erving, Tre’ Jackson and Bobby Hart has hurt Matias’ draft stock but he is a fine player in his own right. He helped anchor the left side of the FSU line as Erving was moved inside. He has a huge frame and plays every bit of 6-5 with a large base. He’s difficult for any defensive lineman to get around in the run game. He has a propensity to get flat footed and high in the passing game and has a lot of work to do with his angles and timing as a pulling guard.
Edwards is about as versatile as they come. His best fits are as the LDE in a 4-3 or as a DE in a 3-4. He can move inside in obvious passing situations and exceled there throughout his Florida State career. He has the size and experience to play 3-4 OLB and can drop into coverage on occasions. Edwards’ is a powerful player who is tough to push back off the ball. He can hold the line in the run game but doesn’t have the closing speed needed to rack up a number of sacks.
Geathers is a physical, locker room dominating leader. He’s got above average instincts with solid eye discipline. He’s rarely, if ever, out of positon though he does have a tendency to be too aggressive on the ball at the POA. He’s decent enough sorting through traffic to be effective in the run game though, once again, he can be overly aggressive and take pursuit angles that completely take him out of the play.
Pullard is the fifth rated inside linebacker on my board in a weak inside class. He has shorter arms than the position requires and he may need to move to outside backer. He has elite sideline-to-sideline speed and is excellent in transition, planting and turning on the jets in a flash. He’s a four down player, good enough in coverage, a strong tackler and a candidate to be a great special teams player. He needs work in the run game but all the raw tools are there.
Prewitt is a fascinating safety prospect. He’s bigger and longer than a typical prospect for the position and he has excellent location and balls skills (13 career interceptions). He’s the perfect matchup for tight ends and could see himself move to the top of day-two due to the current tight-end trend running through the league. He’s a good athlete with adequate top end speed for a safety.
Emanuel is a player who I fall in the love with the more I watch. I currently have him graded as a 70 prospect due to the lack of elite competition and some concerns about his ability at the POA. He can become unbalanced and has a terrible reaction time to the snap of the ball.
However, once the ball is snapped Emanuel turns into a complete gem. His recognition skills are off the charts, he can slip and slide in the run game, is a complete tackler and is on the field for every down and every game. His tape against Sam Houston State is dominant.
Heuerman is an interesting prospect who missed plenty of time with injuries and who struggles, technically, in the passing game. Heurerman has poor separation skills, doesn’t sell dummies and can’t create separation outside of the scheme. However he does have a huge catching radius, one of the best in the draft, and has terrific ball skills. He’s able to dominate if teamed up with a quarterback with elite ball placement. He doesn’t have elite speed but attacks the seams well and can create big plays downfield. He’s a good enough blocker to survive at tight end in the modern NFL but he does need work.
Golson is duel sport athlete (drafted by the Red Sox) with some maturity concerns. He has elite cover skills as a day one starter as a nickel corner at the pro-level. He lacks the ideal size and weight for the positon but in an NFL with less emphasis on the physical aspect of secondary play and a new emphasis on Nickel and Dime defenses he could still be a sub-package star. At the next level he’ll struggle on the outside and that’s why his grade and stock will see him go in the middle rounds.
Rollins is an off the charts athlete who was a terrific basketball player and has only one year of college football experience. He plays with a reckless mindset which makes him an elite run defender. He needs work in the pass game and he’s still a work up progress but he has sensational upside.
TJ Yeldon is a tall back who was primed to be the next super star Alabama running back. It didn’t really happen at that level for Yeldon but he has all the traits you’d look for to plug a running back into any system. He’s on the tall side with decent bulk (which he continues to add) he has good but not elite top-end speed and he does a terrific job of making people miss in the hole with a sensational jump cut. He’s patient enough and as with most backs out of Alabama is good in the passing game. He could be a great late round steal.
Lockett epitomizes the depth of this year’s receiver class. He has a plethora of injury concerns but has elite big play ability. He could be a stud in the slot. He has fabulous separation skills that come naturally (speed of foot) and excels in the dummy game.
He can catch and move in an instant and as previously mentioned that lends to being a big time contributor in the big play ‘splash play’ category. He doesn’t have a large catching radius and would struggle outside the numbers but he can pluck the ball out of the air if it’s not perfectly located. Lockett does have a long injury record that teams need to delve into but based on the tape he has the chance to be a real nice contributor.
Harris is the second rated safety on my board and there’s a huge discrepancy between he (ranked #76) and the number one safety Landon Collins (ranked in top-25). Harris is taller than the prototypical safety but he uses his size to his advantage in the passing game to extend and bat balls down but he also uses it to extend as a tackler in the run game. He has outstanding production and takes well calculated gambles. He may be the best ‘ball hawk’ of the safety class and is another player who’ll be an immediate contributor on special teams.
Player to watch
Kristjan Sokoli, DE, 6-5, 290, Buffalo
Sokoli is the definition of a freak athlete. He stole the show at his pro day with these numbers; 4.83 forty, 38” vertical, 9’11” broad and 31 bench press reps.
The tape is inconsistent but he’s certainly one to watch. He played defensive tackle in college but projects as either a 3-technique or 5-technique. He gets off the ball explosively and his enough of a dip to compete. There’s clear work that needs to be done and I need to do some more studying, but the athletic measurables are unbelievable.
Next Up 75-51