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.
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Kikaha is a talented edge player who played opposite another exceptionally talented prospect, Shaq Thompson. Kikaha’s a tweener who lacks the size or strength to play DE in a 4-3 and there’s real concerns about his ability in space and lateral quickness to play OLB in a 3-4. He’ll more than likely be a sub-package edge rusher. He’s a physical tackler who isn’t afraid to get into an opponent’s face. He has a relentless motor and ‘efforts’ his way to pressuring the quarterback. He plays with quality leverage and good hands but struggles at the point of attack due to his lack of size or elite speed.
Hardy is a relentless competitor who uniquely commands his team from the receiver spot. He’s an outstanding young man and student who draws his motivation from his father who he lost in 2013. He brings that competitiveness on the field and dominates at the point of attack. He wins at the line for the most part and is crisp and fluid through NFL routes. He’s a strong player who doesn’t have elite top-end speed and plays more ‘in the post.’ If he doesn’t win at the line separation skills are a small concern but he makes up for a lot of it with his location and catching skills. He has the makings of being a real impact contributor in year one.
Coleman is the prototypical running back in most ways and will likely fly up this board as I see more of him. He’s the perfect size – 5-11 – has good bulk – 206lbs – and is a true burner with near elite top-end speed. He’s special getting in and out of creases and has elite vision, patience and can make players miss in space and in the hole. He struggles somewhat in the passing game, he appears willing as a blocker, will lower his shoulder, but he still needs work.
Bryce Petty has a shot to be one of the steals of the draft. It’s a frankly terrible quarterback class and personally I wouldn’t be taking any quarterback not named Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota. But there are aspects of Petty’s game that could make him a very good pro quarterback. The major downside with Petty is the fear around his back, yet there was little noise showing any concern coming out of teams individual evaluations from the combine.
On the field, Petty has elite arm talent. He can make every throw and make it in a flash. I’d say Winston has the best arm when you factor in touch and release but Petty has the best ‘pure arm’ talent. He needs work dropping from under center but has shown the ability to marry his feet and eyes, drop, set and throw in a pro fashion. His accuracy comes and goes but that seems married to his release. He alters his release and release point on a per play basis in the ilk of Matt Stafford, if he can hone that in and settle on a regular release he can improve his accuracy tenfold.
Grasu is an unbelievable athlete for an offensive lineman. He played every game he was eligible for at Oregon and played center for big portions where he made a lot of the line calls in the Ducks high powered fast break offense. He has natural football instincts and would fit perfectly into a zone blocking scheme. He has an elite first step, a powerful base and can move about as well as any guard in the league.
Marpet is a powerful, big, lineman who’ll likely play guard at the next level. He’s a fierce, nasty competitor who took great advantage of his opportunity at the Senior Bowl. He gets off the ball well in run blocking and has the potential to be really good inside as a pass protector. His lack of length is a concern and he’ll be unable to play outside but at guard he has a chance to be special.
Mauldin is just a good solid player at everything he does. He typically plays standing up but he can put his hand in the dirt and he’s been terrific for large parts matching up in coverage on tight ends and running backs out of the backfield. He’s a good open field tackler with good instincts and often jumps plays but lacks eye discipline when ball carriers make counter moves. When he gets to the tackler he converts speed to power well. He doesn’t have many pass rushing moves but blends quickness, bend and power to generate enough pressure on the pocket.
Sambrailo is every bit of an NFL tackle with great range and weight who’s a monster at the second level. He gets off the ball pretty well and does an exceptional job of locating and picking blitzing linebackers turning on screws and twists. He’s a functional zone blocker in the run game but operates much better in a kick step power run game. He’s long enough to play tackle but could also perform inside if needed in year one.
Rashad Greene is a quicker than fast receiver with average top-end speed. He has elite feet in and out of breaks and can explode in short space. He’s a twisty receiver who runs terrific double move routes but is not crisp through the regular route tree. He’s a big run after the catch threat but is not a field stretcher either from the slot or outside the numbers. Off the field he’s a hard worker and was named a permanent captain at FSU.
Darby is an instinctive ‘gambler’ from the cornerback spot. He’s simply sensational in zone coverage and makes reading and reacting look effortless. He’s got solid ball skills and is able to track and high point the ball to a good level. In press coverage he’s made major strides since going up against Kelvin Benjamin and Rashad Greene in practice each day. He does come with major off the field red flags and teams need to do deep research into internal charges that he and fellow teammates created a ‘hostile and intimidating environment with conduct of a sexual nature.’
Williams and Darby are teammates and came out dead even in my scouting report. I put Williams one click ahead of Darby because I love him as an on field competitor. He plays fierce and angry particularly in the run game. He’s not afraid to put his body on the line taking on much bigger blockers. Williams has decent recognition skills and reads the quarterback well in zone, however when in man coverage he struggles to turn his head and locate the ball. He still has extra weight to add to his body and help his press man game.
Mike Bennett is a quick, explosive, 3-technique from the National Title winning Ohio State. He’s above average of the snap and a plus player in the explosion category. He doesn’t match an elite 3-tech prospect like Aaron Donald but he’s more than explosive enough (shoots gaps) to play the position at the pro level. He’s powerful inside, with good instincts, plays with a decent pads level and can control blockers one on one. He doesn’t possess many pass rushing moves but he does find a way to create pressure and he can occasionally collapse the pocket.
Dawson is a strong college performer who outperformed his negative height, weight and length but did so with an off the charts IQ. He’s below average as an edge rusher and rarely wins at the point of attack due to his lack of length and size. His IQ gets him around the ball on all plays and he continually makes great plays against the run. He has elite range sideline-to-sideline and takes great pursuit angles to the football. He’s a candidate to get moved inside as he’s an elite coverage and space player.
Walford’s the second tight end in what’s a really weak class. He’s a big tight end with huge hands a massive catching radius. He struggles to create natural separation, instead relying on head bobs and dummies. He’s not quick enough to drag linebackers out of coverage and stretch the seams but he is quick enough to make some big plays after the catch. He’s a solid blocker and can block from all over the formation. He’s a ‘move’ TE and would be a great number two alongside an elite tight end.
Alexander is listed as an OLB but he played a good chunk of time inside and I think he can be a star inside. He has decent enough diagnose and attack instincts, good enough to play Mic linebacker. He’s a flat out stud against the run with some of the best sideline-to-sideline range in the entire draft. He can stop and drive in a flash and is able to turn on a dime. He’s undersized as an edge rusher who struggles against longer tackles with a lack of counter moves or an elite jump off the line. He’s good in space and holds tight coverage on running backs and tight ends. Alexander’s a sleeper.
Jones is a former safety who converted to corner in 2013 and was considered the “co-leader” of the UConn program in 2014. He’s lengthy and uses his length in coverage to win at the line, swat balls and press off bigger receivers. He flashes elite ball and location skills and can match up one on one with virtually anyone. Jones is average in the run game with below average recognition skills and propensity to get stuck in traffic.
Orchard is an edge rushing DE who’ll convert to OLB at the next level. Orchard did not have a great combine struggling in drills and measuring shorter than expected. He’s a solid run defender with good eye discipline, strong diagnostic skills and an average range against the run. He’s a far superior edge rusher who plays with a great pad level, a good initial punch, converts speed to power, is extremely strong and uses his size to bully unbalanced tackles. He has added value at linebacker as he can play all three downs. He’s been exceptional against read-option plays and is a superstar against play action.
Coates is a bigger bodied receiver than all the receivers previously listed who has the perfect frame for the position. He has good separation skills and can beat corners at the line with his straight line speed and dummy skills. His overall route running ability is poor. He’s not crisp or sharp in or out of breaks and I lost count of the number of times he looked confused or was barked at after being in the wrong spot. He’s an elite vertical threat who forces cornerbacks back off the line and has true ‘go up and get it’ ability with an elite vertical jump. His biggest weakness is in catching. He’ll likely have to land with a Pro Bowl calibre quarterback. Despite his large frame he does not use it effectively and take advantage of his catching radius. He ended his career with a high drop rate which is a concern. Overall he’s inconsistent with tremendous upside.
Johnson is an explosive junior college star with real durability concerns (averaged 8.3 touches per game, most in the FBS) and a shaky frame. He’s shorter than a prototypical back but is a lethal home run threat with elite speed in pads. His combine 40 performance was worrying but it really is a case of watching a player’s tape and seeing them run in pads rather than shorts and a t-shirt.
As a runner Johnson plays above his size, he’s tough and competitive. He displays good vision but can get impatient and often looks to bounce the play outside too often rather than letting his blocks materialize a clearer north-south path. His biggest weakness is in the pass game. His blocking technique is all over the place and he has shown little to no progression from his first game to the last. He lacks the size or length to be an elite running back in pass-pro but even with that said he hasn’t shown a want to improve the less glamorous area of a back’s game.
Tomlinson is a Jamaican born guard who played in all 52 games while he was at Duke. He’s a powerful run blocker who plays with good balance, a decent initial punch and who really can explode people off the ball with pure size. He’s an ideal fit in a power run scheme where he can duck his head and power people downfield. He plays with good aggressiveness on tape, and demonstrates strong football instincts in the passing game. He’s a negative athlete in pass protection but has enough short area quickness to survive long-term at guard, again, in a power run scheme.
Abdullah has long been considered the third running back in the class and in years gone by he’d have been a bottom of the first round draft choice. Although I love his elite top-end speed, his ability to make people miss and his explosive jump cut I’m worried by his frame. He lacks the size you’re looking for in an every down back and has yet to take a real shot for us to see how he reacts. His lack of length – short arms and hands – will make him ineffective in pass protection. However as a runner he’s a 90 talent. Great, great vision, the explosive jump cuts I mentioned and huge big play ability. He’s a risk with tremendous upside.
Stephone Anthony is a thumping linebacker with way below average diagnose and attack instincts. He struggles at the snap of the ball to react to the quarterback but makes up for large parts of it with impressive sideline-to-sideline quickness. He’s good enough in pass coverage to never come off the field and he really can deliver a punch. However, the instincts scare me and the more I watch the more he’s sliding.
I recently bumped Ajayi just above my former #3 back Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. Ayaji is a physical back with a long off the field history both with a long discipline record and injury record. On the field Ajayi may be the best pass catching running back in this year’s class. He’s solid in pass protection, is a crisp/clean route runner and has the size to move fearlessly all over the field. In the running game he’s a shifty runner who continuously bounces off players. He has elite balance, good overall vision and is a patient enough runner to wait for creases and his blocks. Overall he reminds me a lot of his fellow Boise alumni, Doug Martin, who went in the first round.
Ogbuehi is one of the best pass protectors in the entire draft. He has a huge frame and uses every inch and pound of it. He couples his size with athleticism and is one of the most mobile tackles in the class. In pass protection he sets himself quickly and is rarely beaten purely for speed, when he is, he’s able to reset and maintain his block through the play. The biggest issue is that ability to reset at the next level. Is he strong enough to reset against elite NFL pass rushers? I have my doubts and that’s my biggest knock on him. You also have to question how his skills in the A&M zone scheme translate to the pro-game. If he lands in Washington, Philadelphia etc, he has a change to be a Pro Bowl player.
Smith is a sensational prospect with outstanding physical traits. He had elite top-end speed and does a good job of converting speed to power. He has huge hands and makes use of them in the run game combining them with a strong upper body to shed blockers and manoeuvre the interior of the line. At Mississippi State he lined up all over the formation but at the next level he’s best suited to be a LDE who kicks inside on 3rd downs and in obvious passing situations. He isn’t a good enough pass rusher or good enough in space to play OLB in a 3-4.
His tape against Texas A&M is the best tape to evaluate him where he went up against a legit NFL tackle in Cedric Ogbuehi. He displays a constant motor but gets a worryingly low amount of pressure on the quarterback on passing downs.
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