It’s draft week and I have my combination of vitamin water, super noodles, a laptop and microphone to bring 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. Here’s the final of my top-100. As always some things to 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.
Odighizuwa is an effective pass rusher who is not as explosive as some of the edge threats in this class but who has an array of pass rushing moves and is a really good run defender. Odgihizuwa is powerful at the punch and has great instincts in the run game, he’s flexible and can bend the edge. He’s versatile and can line up in a 3-4 or 4-3 as a DE but I think he’ll struggle if converted to be an OLB in a 3-4. He just isn’t good enough in space or in coverage. I love Odighizuwa’s emotion, motor and aggression. He gets after every play and is determined to chase down the quarterback.
Strong is a physical, big-bodied receiver with a large catching radius and long arms who can stretch the field and stress a defence vertically. Strong does a lot of his work in the post. He doesn’t create natural separation and instead relies on his body and physicality to win and attack the ball. Strong’s a constant one-on-one threat and is an elite red zone target.
He’s not a burner but he does have good top end speed and can do serious damage after the catch. He may not be a true number one as he’s not a ‘move the chains’ wide receiver but he can be the difference between a good offense and a great offense.
Johnson is the most fluid, natural, cornerback in the class with the best cornerback movement skills. Johnson’s tall and lengthy but lacks some of the bulk you’re looking for if the corner doesn’t have elite speed. He’s already added fifteen pounds but he has to continue to add weight. His cover skills may be the best of any of the top corners. He’s fluid in his hips and getting out of his backpedal and has great short area burst. He’s a good press corner and a very good off man corner. His instincts are good but he can sometimes gamble too much and be beaten downfield. His ball skills are average and although he has receivers in his pocket downfield he can be beaten at the jump and high point of the ball. He has great raw tools and is a player who needs coaching.
Trae Waynes is the best athlete at corner in the class. There’s little to nothing between the top-three cornerbacks Peters, Waynes and Johnson. It’s really splitting hairs. Waynes is an elite athlete and sprinter but can be stiff in his hips and getting out of his backpedal, though he often makes it up for it beating players at the punch. He’s best as either a press corner or in zone playing one half of the field (Michigan State system). He has the top-end speed to stick on any receiver in the game and good enough hands to beat receivers at the line. Waynes is a willing run supporter who’s physical and sets the edge. cornerbacks in 2015 have to be able to hold the edge and tackle in space. We now live in a bubble screen era. cornerbacks have to be able to break down in space and wrap up. Waynes is a good tackler who breaks down extremely well.
Peters is the number one corner on my board. There’s a lot of concern with Peters particularly off the field. Here’s the list of transgressions on Peters’ resume;
– Admitted to a failed drug test in 2011.
– Suspended for the first quarter of the 2013 BYU bowl game.
– Banned by coaches from working out with the team for four weeks before the 2014 season.
– Suspended for Illinois game in 2014 after head-butting an opponent against Eastern Washington.
– Missed practice in November 2014 and was kicked off the team.
That’s a lot of issues and it’s a leap of faith to select Peters. His talent is undeniable. He has good size and bulk with great feet and short area quickness. He’s a natural press corner with great change of direction skills and punch at the POA. Peters is a natural playmaker and is great in contested situations high pointing the ball. Outside of the off the field concerns I do worry about Peters in off man coverage sometimes getting stuck and burnt by more athletic receivers. Peters is a stout run defender and at times reckless with his body. His technique is somewhat lacking but he’s willing. There’s a lot of negatives but the new age NFL is all about corners who can win at the line, put there hands in a receivers chest, track a receiver downfield and make plays on the ball. Peters ticks every box.
Beasley has been all over the place in pre-draft rankings. I’m comfortable having him as the fifth edge rusher in this class. Beasley’s an elite athlete with unbelievable physical tools, an elite first step and range. As a pure athlete and football player he’s elite but I worry about OLB specific traits. He has poor hands, average instincts and a lack of power. Beasley could be a Ziggy Ansah type who’s moved all over the defensive formation and makes unbelievable athletic plays. But as a pure edge rusher who’ll put consistent pressure on the pocket I don’t think he’s in the same league as Randy Gregory and Dante Fowler and I have him a notch below Shane Ray and Bud Dupree is a pass rushing technician.
Todd Gurley has been grabbing all the headlines of late but Melvin Gordon remains a legit first round talent who has a chance to be a star. Gordon is more of a zone runner with a devastating jump cut that will break ankles in the league. He has elite size-weight-speed for the position and is taller/leaner than Gurley but an equally outstanding runner. Gordon has a great feel for creases and when he finds a hole he’s gone. The main knocks on Gordon are his fumble rate (1.8%) and his deficiencies in the passing game. But as a runner he’s lethal and will be a superstar if he lands in a zone-stretch system.
Peat is a raw tackle prospect with elite/prototypical size and length for a left tackle prospect. Though raw he has elite feet and he’s 6’6 / 6’7. That’s uncoachable. Players of his size, with his feet, don’t come around too often. Peat’s a natural pass protector using his reach and length to mirror and keep edge rushers at bay. He’s proven to be vulnerable to inside moves from bigger defensive ends and he needs to continue to work on his hands. As a run blocker Peat grades fairly well. He flashes the ability to drive players off the ball but too often he lunges and is caught off-balance. Peat is an exceptional talent but he’s raw and needs to be refined in the technical aspects of the game.
Dupree is a true power player who’s extremely versatile and he could end up being the best edge rusher from the class. He’s not a polished pass rusher and he can be inconsistent but he flashes rare athletic ability and range against the run. He’s scheme versatile and has the bulk to line up as a DE in 4-3 and athletic ability to play as an OLB in a 3-4. Dupree is a great speed to power player and if he refines his pass rushing ability and consistency he’ll be the best of a good group.
Ray has slid down boards, mine included, and taken knocks throughout the draft process. The latest being a toe injury. But Ray remains an elite prospect with the best first step in the class. He destroys tackles at the line with his first step and speed.
He’s a relentless rusher with a great motor.
The biggest issue with Ray is power. He’s not a speed to power player and he struggles if he doesn’t win off the snap. If Ray doesn’t bulk up some he’ll have to learn a variety of counter moves.
DeVante Parker is a big play threat waiting to happen on every single play. He’s a huge target with a large catching radius and an elite leap. He has good separation skills and gets physical at the line of scrimmage to shake of defensive backs and create throwing lanes. When the ball is in the air he high points and attacks the ball as well anyone in the draft. Parker compares favourably to AJ Green and he can have that kind of year one impact.
Erving may be the most versatile lineman in the class. He has experience at tackle, guard and, his best position, center. Erving excels in pass protection. He sets quickly, can mirror pass rushers and reset with great feet. He’s quick in run blocking and is a good pull player with a powerful upper body. He made a seamless transition from tackle to centre after struggling at tackle early in the season.
Ereck Flowers is a physical freak with an outstanding blend of size, length, weight and power. He’s an elite athlete for the position with a great first step, pad level and pop at the POA. He’s an anchor in the run game and continues to improve as a pass blocker. His biggest issue is his hands, he relies on a powerful punch and often over-commits and misses his target. Another player with great physical tools, ability and instincts who needs good coaching to be special.
Shelton is the top defensive tackle on my board. He’s a prototypical two-gapping defensive tackle with a huge frame and an ability to anchor a defense. He’s surprisingly quick for someone of his size and is a shutdown run defender. He’s another player who needs to work on his pass rush ability. He has good instincts and improved immensely in 2014. His size, bulk and power give him the ability to penetrate double teams and collapse the pocket. Shelton’s a ‘high-floor’ player who’ll be a solid pickup for any team in the league.
Armstead is a physical freak who is still adding bulk to his huge frame. He’s long and powerful with good first step quickness and a surprising ability to bend the edge. He shows great instincts against the run and has the athletic ability to disengage and redirect to find the ball. His best fit is as a 5-technique in a 3-4 where he can collapse the pocket from the edge. He doesn’t have the natural pass rushing ability to create consistent pressure on the quarterback he relies too much on power moves as an edge rusher. But he does flash the ability to pressure the pocket and get to the quarterback. There’s also some work ethic concerns but the tools are there for him to be a stud.
Gregory is the best 3-4 OLB in the class though he comes with major trust concerns. Gregory has consistently failed drug tests and has fluctuating weight problems that may be tied to the drug concerns. On the field Gregory converts speed-to-power better than anyone in the class and has elite hands. Gregory’s blend of athletic ability and pass rushing instincts make him a rare prospect. The weight and drug concerns are major issues and I’d be wary of drafting him in the first round but as a prospect he’s a top-ten player.
Todd Gurley is one of the best running back prospects to come in the league in some time. He has an exceptional blend of size-weight-speed. Gurley’s a physical, downhill, runner in the ilk of Marshawn Lynch. He’s powerful and plays with great balance with a good burst and elite top-end speed. The key to Gurley’s game is his vision. He has rare physical traits and constantly makes the correct decisions. Gurley’s best fit is in a power-run offense but he could truly fit any offense. Now that the medical has checked out I’d be shocked if he didn’t go in the top-fifteen. Watch the tape below and tell me behind a good offensive line that wouldn’t be one of the scariest sights in all of pro football.
I’ve had Collins in my top-ten for a long time and I’m sticking with him here. He’s a top-ten prospect with a unique skill set that might see him slide as far as the top of the second round. Collins is built like a weakside linebacker and he plays as an in the box run stopper. He has elite instincts as a run defender. He’s quick to diagnose and attack the play. In pass coverage his instincts are questionable, he often gambles and is beaten by double moves. Collins is an elite athlete and may be the very best athlete in the entire class with great straight line speed, sideline to sideline range and the physique to matchup with tight ends and wide receivers at the line of scrimmage. Stopping the run is where Collins will make his name and I think he needs to play with another good safety to have the career I think he can. Playing with Collins’ unique skill set will force DC’s to play a lot of single high safety coverage and that’s going to rely on having a talented coverage free safety. It’s tough to find him a landing spot but if he finds the correct one he’ll be a big difference maker.
Scherff is a monster and the most pro ready offensive lineman in the draft. At worst Scherff is a pro bowl guard at best he’s an all pro right tackle. Scherff is a mauler in the run game with a great first step, powerful initial blast and an ability to control defenders at the POA. He regularly pancakes huge defensive ends and he may be the toughest player in the entire class. I love his attitude on and off the field. He’s an NFL team leader and he’s going to be great for a long time.
Dante Fowler Jr. is my premier edge threat. He doesn’t flash the elite first step of Shane Ray or Vic Beasley but he moves extremely well and is a more versatile, powerful, player. Fowler has played all over defensive fronts as a DE in a 3-4 and OLB in a 3-4. He’s best suited as a DE in a 4-3 and he can kick inside on obvious passing downs. He’s a great run defender who sets the edge well, has great range and controls tackles at the POA. As a pass rusher he is powerful, with long arms, violent hands and great instincts. He may be the least polished of the top edge threats but he’s the most versatile with the best raw skills to be a pro bowl, every down, impact player at the next level.
Mariota is the most widely debated prospect of the entire draft. I love Mariota. I have since he stepped on campus in Eugene Oregon. I would watch tape at all hours of the day and would rave about Mariota as a freshman.
Mariota has all the tools to be a pro bowl calibre quarterback at the next level. He has a B+ arm and can make all the pro throws, with a smooth, quick, over the shoulder release getting the ball out extremely quick. He’s a world-class athlete with elite top-end speed, with unbelievable ball security (14 INTs entire career) and a great, quick, decision maker. Everything Mariota does is done well and quickly even his workouts and off field habits. The knock on Mariota is his readiness to play. Despite it being covered horribly in some quarters there are transitional elements to Oregon’s system and Mariota’s play. There are plenty of pro concepts in Oregon’s scheme with a huge emphasis on attacking the seams on both sides of the field with the deep shot being either on a double move outside or a skinny post. Mariota hit those throws often with good ball location. He can drive the ball downfield when needed but also shows touch and accuracy downfield.
The biggest issue is his feet and that’ll take time to learn. He hasn’t dropped from under center, he’s poor resetting his feet and he often throws without marrying his eyes to his feet and loses some velocity. That’s fine when you have track stars at Oregon but if you’re throwing against an NFL defensive back and you mean it to be a fastball it has to bring some heat. Throughout the draft process Mariota has shown great progress with his footwork but it’s impossible to evaluate without having him on the field either working out for you or having him in your training camp for two solid weeks. He’s going to take some work. He has to know the entire playbook, command (and teach) the huddle, improve his footwork, anticipate throws (flashed in college). It’s all a question of coaching. The raw tools are there for Mariota to be great, he just needs time and to land with a coaching staff who can develop some of the raw aspects of his game.
Kevin White is a fascinating prospect who burst onto the scene in game one of last year after transferring from junior college in 2013 and not being much of a factor in his first year at West Virginia. In 2014 he was a stud and he has a chance to be really special. White’s a legit deep-threat who dominates at the POA and makes spectacular catches effortlessly. His ability to win one-on-one down the field is second to none in the class and he’s a dominant red zone threat with his combination of height-weight-speed and sudden agility. He’s improving as a route runner but doesn’t create natural separation. He relies on his physicality and body to catch the ball and it’s an area that needs to be more polished going forward. The biggest blemish on his resume is the ‘one year wonder’ concept. I think he has a chance to be a star from week one of the 2015 NFL season. But you can’t ignore that he had only one year of star like performance in college.
Amari Cooper is the most ready to play receiver to enter the league in some time. Everything Cooper does is to the highest level. He creates natural separation as a crisp route runner and using fakes, dummies and stutter steps. Cooper has exceptional ball skills tracking and high pointing the ball, he shows an ability to explode with the ball in his hand and he can stretch a defense vertically as a deep play threat. Cooper’s also an isolation threat. At Alabama he was used as the primary read regardless of his route and its combination in the scheme. Whether it was a short, intermediate, deep route, screen or sweep Cooper was the number one read and target. He can carry an offense.
It’s been a ride along the Winston roller coaster throughout the draft process. I moved him slightly ahead of Marcus Mariota a few weeks back and he remains there as we head into the draft. I love a lot about Winston. He has elite arm talent (one of the best of the past ten years), he makes anticipation throws (gets the ball out before his receiver breaks), he’s already shortened his release from a winding throw to a more tightened efficient motion, has elite football IQ.
He understands defenses, their tendencies and how to break them down. At Florida State he ran a pro-style offense. Not only playing from under center, the route combinations and the progressions, but in protections. Winston set protections, reset protections and then reset them again. He had complete command of an offense that most struggle with on Sundays. He’s a vocal leader and a teacher. Not only does he command the offense but he teaches it to his lineman, receivers and running backs. He demands perfection. I love all that about Winston. He’s an A prospect on the field.
For all the positive there are some striking negatives. I have trust issues with Winston on and off the field. He doesn’t protect the ball nearly as well as he should for someone of his ability. Some were tipped INTs, some were ‘I’m better than all of you’ throws, but some were just bad and ugly.
There are excuses for some of the eighteen picks he threw last year but some were just poor decisions he made two or three teams in each game. Then there’s the off the field trust issues. You don’t have to be a vocal leader to win in the NFL (contrary to former players) quiet guys always win; Montana, Eli Manning, Flacco etc. But you have to commit to being the best you can be. Maximise your talents and those of the people around you. Be the CEO of the club. Be the first one in the building and the last one out. I have concerns about all those things with Winston, though I do believe football is his first love. My evaluation takes into account the serious accusations levelled against Winston and the dumb, immature, actions he showed while in school. But I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply don’t have enough information to knock too many points off. There will be some analysts with greater connections (like teams) and have more information and a more accurate report.
Here’s the final key question. Does Winston make those around him better on a daily basis? Coaches, players, office workers, the equipment workers. He certainly makes players around him better and that’s why I’d bank on him as the number one quarterback.
Williams remains atop my board as he has since midway through the collegiate year (his game against Stanford was the best tape of the year). He’s elite against the run. With great short area speed and power. He has explosive hands and can shed blockers at will. Williams is a monster and near unstoppable in the run game. There are some concerns about his ability as a pass rusher and I share some of those. He’s not a twenty sack a season player but he certainly shows the ability to generate pressure on the quarterback and collapse the pocket from the interior (rare).
He has a lot more quarterback pressures than sacks. Williams biggest strength is his versatility. He’s best suited to play 5-techinique in a 3-4 but he can play inside at nose or as a 3-technique in a 4-3. He can play wherever depending on the situation. Williams’ models his game after JJ Watt and he’s certainly as versatile as Watt and draws constant double teams. He can be moved all over the formation depending on the down and distance and the offensive formation. The other thing I love about Williams is the intangibles. He’s a fighter, a grafter, a hard worker and he wants to be a great football player. He doesn’t want to be the first pick in the draft he wants to go to the hall of fame. For me he’s the best overall prospect and the most ‘sure thing’ in this class.