It’s THAT time of year again!
The world of the NFL is readying for next week when the NFL draft takes place. Fans are ready to see which rookies their team decides to welcome onto the roster.
Then there are those of us who become entirely immersed in the whole process. For a number of years I have been one of those – a big draft fan. 2016 was when I first expanded this interest and took the time to record position rankings and a top 100 list. Not only did I enjoy it, in terms of evaluating players I did rather well (read my 2016 draft review here!). Back then my rankings came from watching the college season and a few pages of notes from which I created a top 5 at each position, with the addition of some other players I thought would do well. I continued like this for the last couple of drafts.
This year my rankings have gotten bigger and more detailed (and therefore, hopefully, even more accurate!). Hours of game tape has been watched, more notes on players and stats from the combine and pro days have been recorded. All of this work means that for 2019 I’m publishing these position rankings as a Top 10.
There are a number of situations where players could be scouted and graded at more than one position depending on how different teams view their skill-set. Many guys who have declared are capable of lining up in more than one place – of course that kind of versatility is seen as a strength by many a scout. For the benefit of these rankings I put players at the positions they were most regularly playing in their final college season, with the knowledge some will likely be drafted to play a different role in the pros.
- Drew Lock, Missouri – Lock has been my top QB for a while. I hoped he would back up how I see him on the field with a good combine performance, which he did. He’s watchable in that he can do a lot of things well; he has ability to move around during plays if need be and he has good arm strength, while accuracy is not bad either. The reports that he improved on areas in 2018 despite having to learn a new system sound good, as it is a sign he can process different offensive ideas.
- Kyler Murray, Oklahoma – Don’t do it, Arizona! Almost every rumour and every mock draft now has the Cardinals taking Murray with the first overall pick. The whole thing has gained so much momentum it feels almost inevitable. My problem with it is that he hasn’t done enough to help himself post-season. For one so athletic he sat out the combine (although he did take part in the Oklahoma pro day) and his height and weight measurements appear to be generous to say the least. It is the slender build and how it will affect his durability in the NFL that is a concern. Now the good stuff – and the reasons why I still rank him second. Never mind the lack of size, he’s an explosive player and his tape shows how quick and dangerous he can be at completing plays and creating new ones from nothing. This is not just with his feet as Murray may have as good an arm as any in the draft – some of his throws are excellent. I have my doubts especially in terms of number 1 overall, yet wherever he goes I look forward to seeing how Murray adapts to the next level.
- Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State – I’m not sure about Dwayne Haskins. He’s a pocket passer, which is fine as quarterbacks do not need to be moving around all the time but I find his throwing action visually untidy. When he’s given time in the pocket he can put plays together. As long as I’ve been following drafts, quarterbacks from Ohio State have tended to not make the jump to the NFL (J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Troy Smith etc.), just to add a strange little problem I’ve had with him throughout the process! I thought Haskins’ combine was disappointing. However, I can see a team deciding to build a future offense around him. Perhaps it’s an indication that this QB class is not great that I still put Haskins here on the list.
- Will Grier, West Virginia – I really like Grier, who was number 2 on this list for a while then after watching some more tape I just couldn’t keep him there. He has a strange throwing style but uses it well and I like his deep ball more than most seem to. His winning attitude is contagious and he produced some great moments in big games last season.
- Daniel Jones, Duke – There appears to be a lot of praise coming Jones’ way from around the league. He looks fairly athletic and moves well, also has a nice release with a good range of passing. I’ve watched tape of him putting drives together that go awry for one or two plays, maybe that’s concentration or a bad read. I couldn’t put him any higher on the list and a decent combine helped him make my top 5.
- Jarrett Stidham, Auburn – Stidham’s form regressed in his final season at Auburn compared to the previous one, but it’s hard to knock him too much as the whole offense struggled last year. I see Stidham as a QB with the talent to make it in the NFL. He has a reliable and accurate throwing arm – capable of completing the tough throws into tight windows. Most likely to begin his pro career as a backup, albeit I still think there’s a chance he will get picked before the end of round three.
- Ryan Finley, NC State – He has played in some games over the last couple of years that show flashes of being very good. Throughout this year I felt like he would be sought after once he entered the draft, then I watched some tape and it didn’t quite come together so he just hasn’t been able to kick on in his final season. Arm strength seems to be the main concern. Team will see his experience as either something to work with or a minus in terms of a low ceiling.
- Brett Rypien, Boise State – I’ve enjoyed watching Rypien play and will be interested to see where he ends up. I like his throwing motion and he is very accurate. I had to take his perceived lack of size into account when placing him as it’s something I would grade players (i.e. Kyler Murray) down on at most positions.
- Gardner Minshew, Washington State – Here’s another guy I like to watch play. Minshew had high production in leading Washington State through a great 2018 season. Like Will Grier, Minshew is a winner who will drag the offense along on his own. He has a short-looking throw (tends to not bring his arm back very far) that is still effective and he scrambles well when he needs to.
- Tyree Jackson, Buffalo – Jackson is a big quarterback with a very strong arm and proved at the combine he is also athletic. All this coming together would have pushed him up a few big boards. However, he is very raw in all areas and any team interested will need to trust that their offense and quarterback coaches are good enough to mould and improve him if he is to be a success in the NFL.
- Josh Jacobs, Alabama – What’s not to like here? Jacobs has a bit of everything. He excels when he gets to run in the open field and make guys miss, also using this ability to make plays on kick returns. He’s strong against tackles too and possesses nice hands. I like the point that’s been made about his lack of “mileage” as well – the low number of carries at ‘Bama should make for some longevity. It would be a surprise to many if he wasn’t the first back drafted.
- Darrell Henderson, Memphis – I’m a big fan of Henderson. He has great burst and home run speed, I actually thought he would run faster at the combine but as I was underwhelmed by the running back class as a whole, that was not a problem. Henderson is elusive enough to get away from tackle and earns plenty of yards after contact.
- Damien Harris, Alabama – The second RB out of Alabama has as much quality of his own. He’s got great vision and capable of making some really nice cuts in tight spaces. Harris will help his quarterback as a target out of the backfield and in pass protection. Has got some nice toughness and power so will fit into many pro offenses.
- Miles Sanders, Penn State – I took note of Sanders following a strong combine and when I put that together with his tape he was a riser on my board. Has a quick, nimble way of running while also taking on tackles and getting away from many of them – he’s tougher to bring down than you first think.
- David Montgomery, Iowa State – Montgomery moved into my top 5 more recently after I watched some more film. He runs big and tall with an interesting upright style. This means he is more of a power runner, yet still has a nice ability to create space. NFL teams will like his core strength in terms of both carrying the load and as a pass blocker.
- Benny Snell, Kentucky – Here’s another strong runner, who is tricky and difficult to tackle. I liked Snell’s high college production a lot, especially as it came playing in a tough, hard-hitting SEC conference. Unlike some of the names above, teams may not lean on him so much. I had him higher until the combine, where he was a bit disappointing.
- Mike Weber, Ohio State – I like Mike Weber! Perhaps I’m higher on him than most primarily due to watching his play at Ohio State then once I saw the high combine performance I moved him onto this list. Has a really good first step and acceleration on plays and does not shy away from contact. He’s one I’ll be looking out for as I think someone will get a good all-round back in Weber.
- Bryce Love, Stanford – For more than a couple of years I have enjoyed watching Bryce Love run the football. He had a wonderful 2017 season but has unfortunately been struck with injury problems since then. Very quick and difficult to stop once you give him some room and he can break tackles well. The injury red flags have lowered his draft stock but if he overcomes them somebody is going to get a steal.
- Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M – Williams has a smooth running style that he combines with good speed. I liked his highlights on tape and can see teams targeting him as a player to give the ball to as often as possible. He also has good hands so can play well in the receiving game.
- Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma – Another runner suffering injury issues. I had to include him in the list due to his talent when fit. He moves really well and makes great cuts and bursts to make up yardage quickly. Has a nice way of getting to the outside and instantly turning the corner to head up field. Just like Bryce Love, he will fall and could turn into a draft bargain.
- N’Keal Harry, Arizona State – This is such an interesting WR class! There’s good talent (although not excellent!) all over the place. Plenty of guys around the same areas in terms of value, but after going through all the numbers and the tape, N’Keal Harry is my number 1 receiver. He’s a good height with strong hands and the ability to win the high contested catches. Also has the moves to make defenders miss and gain yards after the catch on the ground. In the right offensive scheme there’s room to improve Harry further and turn him into a guy who can dominate on the outside.
- Hakeem Butler, Iowa State – I have a high grade on Butler based mainly on his huge upside and potential. At 6’6” he might be the tallest receiver in the draft – and he plays with that size. He’s nice and quick through his routes too so along with using his large frame, Butler presents a challenge for defenders. No doubt some refining is needed but there’s such a high ceiling here I hope he goes somewhere with the right coaches to get the most out of him.
- A.J. Brown, Ole Miss – A receiver who can make a variety of plays. I like how Brown is able to produce in all areas of the field and Ole Miss seemed to use him whenever they really needed to gain yards. He comes across as a good teammate with good leadership traits that show he could be able to fit easily into a new team.
- D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss – The second-straight Mississippi receiver. Metcalf’s hype took off following his impressive combine display. His speed is his weapon as he can really stretch the field. Has the build to play strong and powerful football too although he can be moved around at times in coverage. Metcalf is probably favourite to be the first WR taken. I’d like to see him add some variation to his game.
- Mecole Hardman, Georgia – One of my favourite players in this draft! So much so I’ve put him up in my top 5. Ultra-quick, nice hands and a great route runner, wherever you line up Hardman along the offense he will find a way to give the opposition some problems. I love his tape and get the impression that with his skill-set he’s a guy who will reach his high ceiling in the NFL.
- Deebo Samuel, South Carolina – Samuel is another receiver who shows up well on tape. He was obviously the go-to guy at South Carolina and produced regularly. A real playmaker with good yards after catch moments that translated to the return game where he also made big plays.
- Parris Campbell, Ohio State – I found Campbell difficult to evaluate. I’m not completely sure how best to play him. What is undeniable is his ability to produce in a game, once he’s in space he can do some damage. I liked how often he would come up with a solid gain in the big matches. He had an excellent combine that helped me decide to place him here.
- Kelvin Harmon, NC State – By contrast Harmon slipped down the list when he did not have a good combine. There are some good highlights on tape and he has sure hands. Also good at coming up with a catch one-on-one and so was NC State’s big offensive threat and the main target whenever they went for the end zone.
- Marquise Brown, Oklahoma – “Hollywood” Brown is a flashy player. He has terrific playmaking talent that will attract loads of teams. Like his quarterback at Oklahoma, Kyler Murray, the questions around Brown centre on his small size and weight. Also like Murray, Brown did not compete at the combine (although he missed due to injury). He runs good routes at high speed and once he has the football in his hands will be hard for anyone to catch. Could turn into a really entertaining pick.
- DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss – Lodge is the third Ole Miss receiver in the draft. He’ll be the last of the trio selected but could have as high a ceiling as his two fellow Rebels. There are some nice highlights, he can make tough catches and has the traits to succeed at the next level. Also is a great blocker so teams with run-heavy offenses will love having him on the outside.
- T.J. Hockenson, Iowa – The best two tight ends in this class both played at Iowa. They are interesting to compare as they are different types of players, either could be the first TE to hear their name called on draft night. I put Hockenson at number 1 as he is more of an all-rounder. He uses his size well to create space and also is a mean blocker. Really good hands show him as a reliable target in the pass game. Hockenson has done a lot with little experience so there is room for him to get even better in the pros.
- Noah Fant, Iowa – As I hinted at above, Fant will be the preferred tight end for some this year. He has huge speed and athleticism for the position and a passing team wanting a deep threat will love using him. Fant will move quickly down the field and challenge the secondary – will make many catches in traffic too so it won’t be easy to slow him down.
- Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M – The more tape I watched of Sternberger the more I enjoyed his game. He looks quick enough on the ground and more athletic than others below him on my rankings. I saw him gain plenty of yards after the catch as well. Also if A&M wanted a play from him one-on-one his hands are very good and will win at the high point more often than not.
- Irv Smith Jr, Alabama – What stood out to me about Smith Jr. on tape was the amount of space he was able to find for himself. He excels in running routes and getting open for catches. Has enough power to get away from tackles and was good as a blocker in Alabama’s strong run game.
- Dawson Knox, Ole Miss – Knox is another tight end who’s good in many areas. He looks like a decent blocker, with nice hands and a key strength is he’s quick. His speed gets him a lot of yards once he has the ball in his hands. As he is following the earlier mentioned three receivers from Ole Miss into the NFL, there won’t be much left on the Ole Miss offense next season!
- Kaden Smith, Stanford – Smith did not have a good combine so fell down my list a bit. I like his play so I couldn’t slide him further than here. Not as athletic as some above him he does play big and strong and is affective. Makes catches in traffic and doesn’t make too many mistakes when the ball is thrown his way. It will be interesting to see how far the combine will push Smith down.
- Foster Moreau, LSU – It seems I’m higher than most on Moreau. He was certainly under-used at LSU, though he did show well as a blocker in their run game. Has nice catching ability as well when he was targeted on pass plays. He is reliable and has a high ceiling.
- Kahale Warring, San Diego State – Kahale Warring’s stock has been on the rise for a while. A good, fast route runner and capable of making plays under a lot of attention. Wins plenty of individual battles as well when asked to. He’s one of those prospects where it is all about the potential.
- Caleb Wilson, UCLA – Here’s another fast tight end. If Wilson had a bit more to his game I would place him higher as his speed is his primary weapon. He was a bit too inconsistent with catches on tape and I don’t think he is much of a blocker. However, if I’m talking up Noah Fant as a deep target then it should be noted Wilson will be best used in the same way.
- Dax Raymond, Utah State – I’ve realised there’s a theme here with how I have graded tight ends. Raymond is yet another who ran well at the combine and shows good acceleration on tape. He made some nice catches and seemed to relish being Utah State’s number one target and the go-to player when needed to keep a drive moving.
- Jawaan Taylor, Florida – Taylor played at right tackle last year for Florida, I’m sure teams will not worry about drafting him to play on the left. He has a nice smooth way of moving around in pass protection and gets up the field well when blocking the run. High-level technique and strength to go with his movement meant he was rarely in trouble on tape.
- Jonah Williams, Alabama – The first thing that has come to my mind when thinking of Williams during the whole draft process, is watching him being put on the ground not once, but twice by Clelin Ferrell in the National Championship game between Alabama and Clemson. There’s the old adage of big players rising in big moments – well that was the opposite. It’s cruel of me to pinpoint that game, because his all-round game as a tackle is very good. There’s highlights of him using power and movement really well. Just like Taylor, when you watch him he looks the part and shouldn’t wait long to be drafted.
- Cody Ford, Oklahoma – Ford is another guy who played on the right side. He was a part of a very strong Oklahoma O line last season and has the versatility thing going for him – teams will see him as both a tackle and a guard. He’s obviously super-strong and will move defenders around easily if they are not ready.
- Andre Dillard, Washington State – I really like Dillard as a pass blocker. He has very nice movement and positioning, able to move quickly against edge rushers. He tested well at the combine and had a solid Senior Bowl too. Could go in the first round.
- Dalton Risner, Kansas State – He shows a lot of strength and toughness on tape and often was very difficult to move. Looks like he turns himself well when protecting his quarterback. Yet another who played at RT, Risner can pull well across the line when run blocking.
- Greg Little, Ole Miss – I had Greg Little higher for a while. Then I watched more tape and the lack of consistency reported by many became apparent. I’ve kept him here for the parts that were very good, but there are times when you can see him struggle in games especially in pass protection.
- Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia – The thing that jumps out on tape with Cajuste is that he appears to use his arms a lot more than most. He’ll lead with them and try to shove defenders. Has good strength when protecting his quarterback. Recently announced surgery on his leg that may affect his draft stock.
- Chuma Edoga, USC – Played at RT during the season then was moved to LT for the Senior Bowl. Edoga shows nice movement and uses core strength and technique to really push guys backwards. Teams will like the chance to line him up a different spots across the offensive line.
- Kaleb McGary, Washington – Despite playing on the outside of the line, McGary plays far better as a run blocker than he does against pass rush. He can look a bit untidy and off-balance on film. All of his strongest work is helping his running backs so certainly a run-first offense would be the best place for him.
- Tytus Howard, Alabama State – I came to Howard a bit late. He’s from a small school and started to get some buzz so I checked him out and really liked some of his highlights, but I’m still not so high on his game so settled for him here. I think there’s some work needed on his overall strength, maybe the inconsistent plays were a technique thing as well.
- Chris Lindstrom, Boston College – I really like Lindstrom. He’s the best out-and-out guard in the draft and a key part of Boston College’s strong run-first attack. They play a quick pro-style offense that should show Lindstrom can contribute in the NFL right away without much adjustment. As a senior he’s played a lot of football and has been good throughout the whole draft process.
- Dru Samia, Oklahoma – Played on the strong right side of the Sooners O line next to Cody Ford. Samia blocks hard and aggressively shoves defenders back and down to the ground – he’s a great finisher. If you want your offensive lineman using brute force and battering the opposition, Samia is your man.
- Michael Deiter, Wisconsin – Deiter plays with a very tall looking stance, still has a good enough anchor that he isn’t pushed around very much. Has played at tackle as well as guard and moves fast to pull well across the line when run blocking.
- Connor McGovern, Penn State – Was a riser on most boards after a good combine. McGovern has had playing time at both guard and center. His technique may need some work as I’ve seen him get moved back more than some of the better prospects in the draft. Does look difficult to beat though as he positions himself very well.
- Phil Haynes, Wake Forest – Phil Haynes might be one of my biggest sleepers in this draft. So much so that I have him here in my top 5. He performed well at the combine and I like his tape. Haynes is strong as a run blocker and has good technique. I also have some inside info (always helps!) that he was praised for his showing at a pre-combine training camp alongside more highly-regarded O linemen.
- Ben Powers, Oklahoma – The third good prospect off of the Oklahoma line. He played on the left where many of Oklahoma’s run plays seemed to be directed and can create gaps. It’s a great name for a guard – Ben Powers. Unfortunately on some occasion, Ben did not Power! Defenders can move him back from his stance, although he was still rather effective.
- Nate Davis, Charlotte – Davis is coming from a smaller school and will have teams looking at him as a run blocker. He obviously has a lot of power and makes sure he finishes plays. Moving him inside works for his skills as he is not a guy to block against pass rushers off the edge.
- Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin – Next to Oklahoma, let’s add Wisconsin as a team featuring good O linemen. I can see why he’s not rated as highly as teammate Deiter, as he can be moved and sometimes beaten in pass protection. Benzschawel is best when blocking for the run game so he projects as remaining at guard.
- Bunchy Stallings, Kentucky – When I started watching film of Kentucky to scout running back Benny Snell I noticed the gaps opening up for him to run through. Then I realised the space was mostly created by one guy – Bunchy Stallings. He’s a big part of Snell’s success on the ground and has some real hit from his first step. Stallings is a fun watch as he plays with nice balance and is able to block well from different angles.
- Alex Bars, Notre Dame – Bars is a player who has been affected by injuries. When healthy he would probably be higher on many big boards and so could drop and become a steal. He’s a tall guard and one that looks for contact, playing tough and with plenty of power. Notre Dame had a pretty successful season in 2018 and before injury cut his year short Bars was a big reason for it.
- Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama – A senior who has led the Alabama offensive line for a few years. Pierschbacher is a versatile lineman who I see as a guard that has been playing at center. He is very strong and uses great technique. NFL offenses will love trying him at the different positions. I may be alone in having Pierschbacher as my top center and look forward to seeing where in the draft he gets chosen.
- Garrett Bradbury, NC State – Prior to the combine Bradbury was lower on my list then I, like many others, got won over by his workout and moved him up to here, although Pierschbacher did enough himself to stay number 1. I can see the movement and athleticism on tape, what he does is use that quick technique more than outright power and looks good in both run and pass protection.
- Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State – Jenkins is another center who moves well. He gets into defenders quickly and is good at creating running lanes. Plays at a high level in pass blocking too with the ability to read a defense and gets into position fast. He can move across the line in the pro game.
- Erik McCoy, Texas A&M – Here’s a center I’m not as sure on. McCoy is a little inconsistent on tape and can be moved a bit more than those above him on this list. Perhaps it’s just down to technique, which can be improved in the NFL. Has obvious ability and high blocking strength. Also has performed well against good defenses.
- Michael Jordan, Ohio State – There is a bit of a drop now, showing that this year’s class at center is not very deep. I saw some nice highlights of Jordan but he has some shaky moments during games, he seems to have awkward footwork. He can get up the field quickly when he needs to so best as a run blocker.
- Lamont Gaillard, Georgia – Gaillard looks a solid guy with good technique, really leaning into blocks. On tape he appears very difficult to move. Not so versatile in that he won’t move around much up and down the line. There are reports that he is a good teammate and leader, which is always a plus.
- Jon Baker, Boston College – I was studying my top guard Chris Lindstrom and noted the man next to him was putting in some good work. Baker was firing off some strong blocks as part of BC’s high-tempo offense. He’s a good run blocker who moves himself into position well.
- Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas – Froholdt looks a bit raw and seems to have played all over the offensive line. I liked the tape I saw of him playing center and he could also be drafted as a guard. He works best as a technical blocker as opposed to being able to use brute strength.
- Sam Mustipher, Notre Dame – The last two names on this list will be drafted in the latter stages if at all. I did like some of Mustipher’s film; he is a little awkward but can move people and turns well. Next to guard Alex Bars he formed part of a Notre Dame offensive line that had a really good year.
- Jesse Burkett, Stanford – Burkett plays a bit straight, although he uses his hands pretty well. He does have problems with speedy defenders so could have issues with making reads and that technique needs to be lowered and made wider.
DEFENSIVE ENDS/EDGE RUSHERS
- Nick Bosa, Ohio State – If you scroll all the way back up to the quarterback group, you’ll be reminded that I am not for the Cardinals taking Kyler Murray with the first pick. I think Bosa is the player they should be favouring; he is the consensus top defensive end this year. His 2018 season ended early when he got hurt and decided not to return and focus on the draft, this shouldn’t affect his stock due to his high level of play. Bosa has size and technique and is still super-fast off the edge. His use of hands and body shape to beat guys and rush quarterbacks is elite. This is the player I would take at number 1 overall.
- Josh Allen, Kentucky – Allen plays and therefore projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He had huge production at Kentucky relying on his great burst and body control to break up pass plays. I thought he looked good when asked to drop into coverage too. Also has a strong motor – Allen has that all-effort way of playing and came up with big plays at big times.
- Clelin Ferrell, Clemson – Ferrell contributed to wreaking havoc on Alabama during the National Championship game (see Jonah Williams!) which was an end to a great season for him with the Tigers. He’s a defensive end and another who does everything well. Lots of power and technique, especially with his hands, helps him get to where he needs to be fast. My favourite player in the draft to watch at this position.
- Rashan Gary, Michigan – I remember Gary as the number 1 recruit when he came out of high school so have always kept an eye on him during his Michigan career. He’s a super athlete considering his size; in fact teams will like the idea of moving him inside the defensive line. Has real burst and is a big load to slow down when rushing from the edge.
- Brian Burns, Florida State – Burns looks a bit light for the position and he does play with exceptional speed. Plays quite upright but has enough tilt in his body to get around guys when chasing quarterbacks. Like Josh Allen I think he’s better suited as a 3-4 OLB.
- Montez Sweat, Mississippi State – Some guys get coveted based on their athleticism. Montez Sweat falls into that category after showing blazing speed during his combine workout. His on-field play is good as well, has enough technique to get away from his man and deliver some hits. I just feel the talk of picking Sweat early in the first round is a bit high.
- Chase Winovich, Michigan – Looks like a fun teammate and plays in an emotional way – he’ll give everything he has. Winovich can be moved around by guys more than those above but he is tough and makes nice plays in open space. I think his best chance of success in the NFL would come from moving out wide as a linebacker.
- Anthony Nelson, Iowa – For such a big defender I liked how Nelson moved on film, and then he backed that up by testing well at the combine. He sheds blocks and finishes plays very well. Performed for Iowa in various situations against pass and run – there are different ways he could line up as a pro and there’s room for improvement.
- Jachai Polite, Florida – The NFL combine has become a process where as long as guys don’t perform too badly in drills and also don’t come across too badly in interviews they should hold their value. This year nobody hurt their stock more than Polite who not only struggled with the workouts but also rather oddly had a negative public reaction to some of the interviews – that’s not the way to get teams to like you and he consequently fell down big boards everywhere. However, I couldn’t drop him too far as I like his tape. He made some nice tackles for Florida and has great burst. There are bits of his technique that need to be cleaned up with some good coaching – as long as he’ll listen!
- Zach Allen, Boston College – There’s such depth in the edge class that filling this last spot was an interesting challenge. I went with Zach Allen based on his high production and I like his versatility. Has good body shape when hitting the backfield and plays smart when dropping into coverage, resulting in some interceptions.
- Quinnen Williams, Alabama – Williams is among the best prospects in the entire draft. He can destroy offensive lines with him power and direct movement. Has the ability to penetrate quickly while fighting contact – even from double-team blocks. I will be surprised if he falls passed the first handful of picks.
- Christian Wilkins, Clemson – Really watchable player. I love how Wilkins can accelerate and attack through gaps. Another reason I like him is he’s a team guy – each time Clemson scored a touchdown, Wilkins made sure to be in the end zone to celebrate. I look forward to seeing where he ends up.
- Ed Oliver, Houston – Here’s another defender that just flies at his man, and often beats him too. Oliver is very talented and there’s a good chance of him picked in the top 10. Has the right combination of speed, power and body control to disrupt offenses and take over a game.
- Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State – Simmons has suffered a ligament injury this off-season. I hope it does not affect his stock too much as he is easily a first round talent. He’s a good technician with the tools to attack an offense has hard as anyone on this list not only with raw power but a quick first step.
- Dexter Lawrence, Clemson – Moves very well for his size and can shove defenders aside. He doesn’t do too many things with his arms or move his body much. He’ll work hard and just use his power to produce right up the middle of the defensive line.
- Charles Omenihu, Texas – Omenihu can be used across the D line even out wide where his burst and length get him success. I like his technique – I’ve seen him more than once use a nice rip move to chase down the opposition. Also gets good penetration and can quickly hit the backfield.
- Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame – Tillery will also move around the line and plays with a lot of power, forcing guys backwards easily at times. He’s good against the pass and able to get through blocks and after the quarterback. I get the impression some are higher on Tillery than me but I still think he’ll be picked by the end of the second round.
- Dre’Mont Jones, Ohio State – I found Jones inconsistent. He can look good technically but at other times is blocked onto his back foot and stopped. During some games he looked strong and showed good enough burst to get through the gaps so there is upside with Jones.
- Trysten Hill, UCF – Hill is a really good watch with obvious power and athleticism, which showed up when he produced good combine numbers. I like his first step – helping him to hit gaps. His technique may need some refining, but he is one of my draft sleepers.
- Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois – A small-schooler! Saunders led by example at Western Illinois, winning with good strength and aggression. Has powerful, strong arms when facing blocks. Will be fun to see how he translates at the next level.
- Devin White, LSU – White excels in closing down and finishing plays. He had a noticeably positive effect on LSU’s defense, able to read plays and get to the ball quickly. Tackles well in space and looks the part as a guy who can dominate. Also comes across as a good teammate. Looks a consistent player and should be the first LB picked this year.
- Devin Bush, Michigan – Like many on the Michigan defense, Bush plays with real heart. He put up great production during his time there and I enjoyed watching how he likes to hit hard. He was used in many ways at Michigan, including in coverage where he looked just as good as when he was rushing the backfield.
- Mack Wilson, Alabama – Has a nice smooth style and can also show real physicality. Wilson looks good on tape and covers a lot of ground. Another strong tackler and was often involved on a fine Alabama defense. Should be a good interior linebacker in the NFL.
- Vosean Joseph, Florida – The knock on Joseph seems to be inconsistent plays on tape. I didn’t see too many that were concerning and that cannot be helped with NFL coaching. He looks undersized but can still rack up the tackles and hit hard. I get the sense he won’t be drafted as high as I would take him but I’m backing his high ceiling.
- Blake Cashman, Minnesota – Cashman got a lot of attention for his combine workout. It shouldn’t have been a surprise when you watch his speedy, all-effort approach to the game. If his style can be honed he will turn into a fine outside linebacker.
- Germaine Pratt, NC State – I still haven’t completely clicked with Pratt. However, as a former safety he plays like someone still learning the linebacker position and in the NFL he should improve further. He reads the game well and has good anticipation with the ability to close in quickly on ball carriers.
- Drue Tranquill, Notre Dame – Another ex-safety who therefore has good speed and coverage skills. Loads of experience and shows good form when tackling. I like watching Tranquill go for gaps as a pass rusher too – he’ll be sought after as a LB who can make all sorts of plays.
- Bobby Okereke, Stanford – I see Okereke as more of a “banger” who gets some real power behind his tackles. He must have good football understanding as he is often in place to finish well. Also his pursuit is good and is another who possesses a great motor.
- Chase Hansen, Utah – A third linebacker who used to play at safety. The skills from being in a secondary show on tape when Hansen needs to drop back into coverage; he has a real eye for the ball. Can miss tackles but hits really well, especially for his perceived lack of size. The type of player who could go anywhere between rounds 2-6 depending on how the league sees him.
- Joe Giles-Harris, Duke – He is a typical lead-from-the-ILB-position sort of player. I like some of Giles-Harris’ game but he had a poor combine. On tape he shows real burst and good downhill effort when playing the run. Not as solid as some above when covering passes.
- Byron Murphy, Washington – Murphy has been my top cornerback for a while. I really like his game as he can do a bit of everything. He plays smart and is best when dropping back into his coverage – with the ability to switch and move to the ball really well. Also a good, tough tackler when he needs to be.
- DeAndre Baker, Georgia – Georgia were happy to leave Baker out in single coverage. When watching games you got the sense it was risky to target his side of the field, which is the tone you want your shutdown corner to set. Not the fastest but is physical enough to affect plays. I like the way he uses his length to reach into a passing lane and prevent a completion.
- Greedy Williams, LSU – I want to like Greedy more, I just have a problem with his inconsistency. He’s very quick and can cover receivers well but doesn’t appear to dish out the right amount of contact, so sometimes looked a bit shaky when keeping up with a route. Can play both man and zone coverage and his production during his time with LSU was very good.
- Julian Love, Notre Dame – A shorter corner who plays fast when he needs to close in on the ball. Love can obviously read and react to a play excellently. Notre Dame were competitive against Clemson in this season’s Cotton Bowl until Love departed injured, at which point the secondary noticeably missed him and the game got away from them. I see him as the best nickel CB in the draft.
- Trayvon Mullen, Clemson – Mullen plays hard and is an excellent tackler. During the National Championship game against Alabama he showed good intelligence on an interception and then how well he can blitz when he flew into the QB untouched for a sack. Did not play man coverage regularly at Clemson but teams will like his physical side.
- Amani Oruwariye, Penn State – Oruwariye is a big, solid corner who has good recovery skills. For his size I thought he could be hitting a little harder. Has some nice highlights that show he has good hands and can be a playmaker.
- Rock Ya-Sin, Temple – Another tough player who plays hard one-on-one. Ya-Sin can keep up well in coverage and will rely on contact more than speed to break up passes. Has quite a heavy way of moving downfield and I cannot tell if that’s technique or his running style. Uses all of his size when he tackles.
- Justin Layne, Michigan State – I’m not completely sold on Layne’s hype yet. There are some good highlights and he can improvise and make some nice heads-up plays. It’s hard to tell which coverage suits him best as he’s still learning rather more than those above him on the list. It’s funny because I usually go for the prospects that are all about “potential”. If Layne reaches his he’ll be among the best of this class.
- David Long, Michigan – There are a few interesting defenders from Michigan in this draft. Long plays tall and enjoys contact – there’s a sturdiness to his coverage. Would have risen up some boards following a great combine. Another guy whose ideal position would be in the slot.
- Michael Jackson, Miami (Fl.) – Jackson is a big corner who plays tough. I like watching him in press coverage as he won’t get bumped off of routes or let receivers get comfortable. For his size he moves fairly well and seems to have a good read on the game.
- Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida – The Gators moved him around but he’ll project as a free safety. Gardner-Johnson is an enforcer type who will try to impose himself on a game as early as possible and knows how to tackle. Shows good positioning and high football intelligence to read offenses very well.
- Deionte Thompson, Alabama – Thompson is the leader of the ‘Bama secondary. He plays tall and can hit with loads of power. Will sit back and wait for passes to be thrown then quickly move in to break them up or get turnovers – able to make it all the way out to the sidelines if he has to. Can come up to the line to play strong against the run.
- Taylor Rapp, Washington – I’ve enjoyed watching Rapp play at Washington and expected to have him right at the top of my rankings. Then came the combine where he ran very slow and the NFL will certainly take note of that. He looks quicker on tape – he closes in quickly on the football and gets plenty of break ups and interceptions. Blitzes nicely too and has a good build – he’ll bring some bang when he hits guys.
- Darnell Savage Jr, Maryland – Here’s a safety who has been rising up most boards. Savage Jr. is a strong tackler and shows good burst in both man coverage and when he needs to move in on a play in his zone. Showed really good athleticism at the combine and many will think about moving him to cornerback, which will improve his stock even further.
- Nasir Adderley, Delaware – Adderley has probably been the most talked-about small school prospect during this draft process. The doubt many have is can he transition his solid play into the NFL from the lower-level of the FCS. There were some good signs during his Senior Bowl performance that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed. He has got great range and makes sure he’s in the right place to move quickly towards the ball. Makes all of these reads from deep so will need to get picked by a defense running zone schemes.
- Juan Thornhill, Virginia – I’m up and down with Thornhill on tape, although many are quite high on him. He got some more buzz following a good combine workout. Does have good highlights but can miss tackles and does not read from deep as well as some higher up this list, when he is close and in position though he’s a real playmaker and will produce turnovers.
- Johnathan Abram, Mississippi State – There will be some who have Abram high up on their board, showing there’s pretty good depth in the class. Will make a lot of tackles in the short game and he’s your guy if you like players who fly into ball carriers at 100mph, but this aggressive style can backfire when he over-commits and misses people completely. Due to this way of playing there are also durability concerns.
- Amani Hooker, Iowa – Hooker is another player who reads the field well and shows good instincts. Needs to get a bit tougher as he can get beat when playing one-on-one in tight or faced with a runner out in the open. He has some good moments on film of tracking the ball and getting interceptions.
- Mike Edwards, Kentucky – What a good draft year for Kentucky! Edwards looks like the leader on a good Kentucky secondary. He’s fun to watch and has good movement – with ability to get into position to stop deep passes. Also good at coming up to the line and playing against the run.
- Ugochukwu Amadi, Oregon – I really like Amadi’s highlights. He’s the shortest safety in my top 10, yet he plays tough and is a real ball hawk – recognising plays well and getting a lot of turnovers. Also a good kick returner, which is a plus. Will best fit into a zone first defense.
A large part of my enjoyment of the NFL draft is following along with my own rankings. They can be hit or miss! It is interesting to see how I evaluate a player or an entire position class compared to the league, and if I feel one team will like a certain type of prospect that it comes to fruition.
I have never gone deeper in preparation for a draft as much as I have this year. Now that all the scouting has been done, all the notes taken and big board is complete. I can say regarding the 2019 NFL draft – I’m ready!
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