Two trades and an unexpected change of address for a Pro Bowl cornerback have thrown the 2016 NFL draft completely askew. But the chaos had no bearing on my Big Board.
The rankings below don’t project a player to a team; it simply shows how they all stack up as next-level prospects.
From the time I put together my first Top 50 until now, there’s been no change at the top. Ole Miss star tackle Laremy Tunsil won’t be the No. 1 pick, considering the trade activity over the past month, but he’s still the top prospect in this draft class.
The top 50 prospects for the 2016 NFL draft
1. LT Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss – His combination of size and speed make him a bona fide star at the position.
2. CB/S Jalen Ramsey, Florida State – He can be a game-changer at either position, but he’s best served moving around the defensive alignment to maximize his impact in base and sub-package situations.
3. OLB Myles Jack, UCLA – The knee injury does worry me a bit, but if he plays all out, 100 percent for five years, he’ll be a two-time Pro Bowler, at a minimum. The problems with his knee will eliminate any small chance he plays RB in certain situations on offense in the future, sadly. He’s carried the ball with success in the past for the Bruins.
4. DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon – In a draft that’s loaded on the defensive line, Buckner is the best of the bunch. At 6-foot-7, 290 pounds, he runs like a gazelle but has heavy and violent hands like boxer Roberto Duran.
5. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State – The position in front of his name is worthless because he’s so much more than just a running back. He can impact both the running and passing game with his receiving and blocking ability.
6. QB Jared Goff, Cal – He’s the best pure passer in this draft, making throws to spots that others in this draft class have no chance to consistently strike. It would appear that the Northern California kid will move south to L.A. and be the first pick of the Los Angeles Rams, version 2.0.
7. DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State – He’s not a dynamic, turn-the-corner-in-a-flash sort of edge rusher. He’s a clinical technician with immense power who uses his hands and his pass-rush repertoire to get to the quarterback.
8. LT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame – The former Irish product isn’t on the same level as Tunsil, but he’s going to be a 10-year starting left tackle. He works the arc well, but won’t drive anyone off the ball in the run game.
9. CB Vernon Hargreaves, Florida – He has sublime cover skills and utilizes a variety of techniques to cover receivers. He can play press, bail, off and zone coverage equally well. Although he’s not the athlete that Ramsey is, he’s a big-time players and will start immediately.
10. QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State – With dual threat ability and potentially no Sam Bradford in Philadelphia, Wentz could be thrown into the fire immediately. He has the level head, poise and chutzpah to handle pressure, but playing in Fargo, N.D., is a cakewalk in comparison to being Philadelphia’s No. 1 signal caller.
11. WR Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss – The former Rebel star may not run 4.4 or 4.5 but he’s a pure football player. Teams are going to miss on him, but then again, in 2013, 25 teams passed on Texans star WR DeAndre Hopkins because he ran 4.6 at the combine. What’s the definition of insanity? Don’t make the same mistakes, NFL teams.
12. DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville – He’s a ready-made 4-3 “three-technique.” He has the quickness off the ball to disrupt blocking schemes but the legs and trunk to win leverage battles with NFL offensive linemen.
13. ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama – Ragland is just a thumper. He’s an old-school, run-through-running-backs-and-send-them-backwards thumper. The former Alabama star is far and away the best inside linebacker in this draft. That said, he can transition outside, if needed, in either 4-3 or 3-4 as well.
14. DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson – Tougher than a $2 steak, Lawson has definitely won teams over with his unyielding desire to play the game. He’s always available, no matter what, and there’s no bigger asset in the NFL. He can be a power end with the ability to rush the passer. Some might find more value taking Lawson in the top 15 as opposed to Bosa in the top 10.
15. WR Corey Coleman, Baylor – He might end up going bust as he has plenty to learn about the NFL passing game but if/when he goes boom, look out. He just needs the ball in his hands to do something jaw-dropping. At the scouting combine, he said he emulates Pittsburgh Steelers star Antonio Brown and that’s worked thus far for Coleman.
16. DE/DT Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss – The consensus seems to be that he could fall precipitously in this draft due in large part to the off-the-field issues. But, if he does fall then becomes a star, how many teams with an interior defensive line need will kick themselves for passing on him? He needs a strong locker room to influence him the right way, but it can be done (see: Tyrann Mathieu).
17. DE/OLB Noah Spence, Eastern Kentucky – See Nkemdiche above. If Spence has, and continues to, put his off the field issues further in the rear-view, some team is getting pure and unbridled talent at DE/OLB. He’s volatile and inconsistent at times, but there isn’t another edge player that puts a scare into offensive coordinators like this guy.
18. OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State – The former walk-on will be a top 20 selection after only three years on the field at Michigan State. He’s seen some of the best in this draft, from Joey Bosa to DeForest Buckner and had more success against them than anyone. He might be a left tackle in the future, but there’s no question he’s a starting right tackle from Day 1.
19. QB Paxton Lynch, Memphis – What’s the difference in Wentz and Lynch? Good question, in all honesty. Wentz is more precise and systematic than Lynch, while the former Memphis star is a bit more improvisational than Fargo’s finest. Some like Jazz. Some like Classical. Lynch, behind center, is more of a jazz riff than he is structured sheet music from Beethoven or Bach.
20. OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia – The delta between Floyd’s floor and ceiling is perhaps the largest difference of any player in the Top 50. He’s a whirling dervish on the field, rushing the edge like he’s a human rocket, but because he’s long and active, he’s difficult to block. But, if an offensive lineman gets his hands on him, it’s trouble for Floyd.
21. DE/OLB Kevin Dodd, Clemson – Many have made a case for Dodd to be taken before Lawson, but that’s foolish, in my opinion. Dodd was in Lawson’s shadow all year but took over college football’s national title game. He’s long, strong and has one pet pass rush move (swipe and rip) that he’s mastered.
22. DT Andrew Billings, Baylor – Up close, he looks like a bowlegged bowling ball, a fast moving bowling ball, even at 311 pounds. Like Rankins, he’s a ready made 4-3 “three-tech” but he could be a 3-4 one-gap nose tackle in a Wade Phillips-style defense as well. On his pro day, he was one of the last guys to the weight room. Why? He went to class first.
23. CB Eli Apple, Ohio State – He’s not ready to dominate the league just yet, but he has the size, speed and quickness to one day be a star corner in the NFL. He’ll yield dividends early in his career, but his future is brighter than most other corners in this draft. He’ll only be 25 or 26 at the end of his rookie contract.
24. OLB Darron Lee, Ohio State – The scouting community is mixed on Lee, it seems, and that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. The NFL has become an offensively dominated space/speed game. As such, Lee is the defensive chess piece to counter what’s taking place on that side of the ball.
25. DE/DT Jarran Reed, Alabama – Each and every week, we hear coaches constantly harp on stopping the run. Those coaches will love Reed and the opposing line’s inability to move him off the ball consistently. He’s not going to be a tremendous pass-rusher, but good luck trying to run against him.
26. WR Josh Doctson, TCU – Doctson is one of the best red zone receivers in recent memory. If the ball is thrown anywhere in his area code, he’s going to come down with it the majority of the time. He embarrassed his share of gifted, athletic corners before he broke his wrist against Oklahoma State.
27. WR Will Fuller, Notre Dame – Some will harp on the lack of great hands. Some will harp on the straight-linish skills. But, they’re missing the true downfield threat Fuller can be instantly. His hands are tiny, but it’s of little consequence because he gets to balls that other receivers won’t even touch.
28. C Ryan Kelly, Alabama – He’s the best center in a deep group for a number of reasons. He has the strength and quickness to make blocks on down linemen that other centers dream of making. He handled all of Alabama’s line calls for the past three years, working with three different quarterbacks, as well.
29. DE/DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama – See Reed above. There have been a handful of coaches that have said Robinson has better natural ability than his teammate Reed, and that Robinson will eventually be a capable interior pass-rusher. He needs a lot of work to improve in that area, but he’s a stone cold stopper against the run.
30. OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State – Trust me, he’ll be drafted well before pick No. 30 because demand outweighs supply at the tackle position in the first round. Decker’s first start as a Buckeye was at right tackle against Khalil Mack, so he took his lumps early. But, he rebounded nicely over the next few years and became an All-Big Ten star.
31. G/T Cody Whitehair, Kansas State – He was the only South team offensive lineman that had any success at the Senior Bowl against the outstanding opposing defensive linemen. He’ll transition inside to guard as he loves to mix it up physically. Whitehair reminds me of former Patriot/current Buccaneers guard Logan Mankins in a number of ways.
32. RB Derrick Henry, Alabama – It seems as if most people don’t respect the type of football player Henry can be. He has too many carries, they say. He’s too upright when he runs, they complain. He has tiny hands, they cry. But, this guy loves the game, loves to work out and stay fit, and loves to run past defenders into the end zone regularly.
33. CB Will Jackson, Houston – He should get drafted in the first round, in large part because he ran a 4.37 at the combine. He has outstanding transitional quickness, but he’s not as well built as some of the corners in front of him. But, he can run, if that wasn’t made overtly clear.
34. WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh – People have missed the boat on him, given his quarterback situation the past two seasons, or lack thereof. He has natural hands and snatches the ball out of the air. The only question is whether he follows Eagles WR Jordan Matthews into the slot or stays outside.
35. OT Jason Spriggs, Indiana – He’s perhaps the best athlete at left tackle but he has struggled against some adept pass-rushers, especially on inside moves. At the Senior Bowl, he was stellar 85-percent of the time, but the remaining 15-percent of the time is highly concerning at the next level.
36. DT Kenny Clark, UCLA – Power and strength are hallmarks in his game. He might be one of the rare players in this draft that can actually play over the nose as a two-gap 3-4 nose tackle and succeed.
37. WR/RET Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma – This is higher than Shepard’s been in my Top 50 previously, but he deserves the boost into the top 40. He’s dynamic in space, whether that’s with the ball in his hands, or working to get open against man coverage.
38. WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State – Keyshawn Johnson’s nephew is a route-running maestro with the size to win across the middle consistently.
39. DE/DT Jon Bullard, Florida – He had a tremendous 2015 season, flashing quickness, strong hands and technique. His best fit might be as a 4-3 “three-technique” but he could flourish as a one gap 3-4 defensive end as well.
40. OLB Kamalei Correa, Boise State – He’s a ready-made, versatile 3-4 outside linebacker. He can drop in coverage, play the run on the edge and rush the quarterback. He’s a smoother and more fluid Hau’oli Kikaha, the former Washington Huskies star turned New Orleans Saints OLB.
41. DT Vernon Butler, Louisiana Tech – Although he played ball in Ruston, La., he made a name for himself, especially as a senior. At the Senior Bowl in Mobile, he made a handful of “wow” plays, but to succeed, he needs to be more consistent in his approach. He’ll play too high at times and get driven off the ball on occasion. But, it’s his movement skills that get attention. No 325-pound man moves like he does.
42. TE Hunter Henry, Arkansas – For the second consecutive season, the tight end class is lacking. Severely. But Henry is the best of the lot. He has aligned as an in-line Y tight end, a move half- and fullback and a perimeter receiver. As a pass receiver, he’s outstanding, but as an in-line blocker, he’s willing, but needs a ton of work.
43. S Karl Joseph, West Virginia – He’s just ruthless. As a hitter, there’s no equal in this draft to Joseph. His torn ACL appears to be fully healed and that has teams ready to take the plunge with the next Bob Sanders, the hard-hitting former stud with the Colts.
44. OT/OG Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M – This ranking for Ifedi is all about traits, upside and potential. He played both guard and tackle, but should be a guard at the next level. The former Aggie offensive lineman has the wingspan and the athleticism to play tackle, but his technique out on an island breaks down when he gets stressed up the field against quick, explosive edge rushers. So, it’s back to the safety of the guard position.
45. WR/ATH Braxton Miller, Ohio State – Find any way possible to get him the ball. He’s got a ways to go as a receiver, but there may not be a more dangerous ball-carrier in this draft class.
46. NT Austin Johnson, Penn State – He’s a true two-gap 3-4 nose tackle prospect and that’s rare in this draft class (and future ones, as well). He’s not going to wow anyone with athleticism or explosive up-field penetration, but he has strong hands and excellent technique.
47. RB Devontae Booker, Utah – Even though he tore his meniscus late in the season, Booker is a dual-threat back, reminiscent of former Houston Texans star Arian Foster. He has great hands out of the backfield, like Foster, and also emulates his smooth running style.
48. DE/DT Chris Jones, Mississippi State – Traits get people drafted early and Jones will get drafted early for that reason. His production never matched his enormous potential, which is both worrisome and tantalizing at the same time.
49. S Vonn Bell, Ohio State – He won’t remind anyone of Ronnie Lott or Kam Chancellor, two safeties very adept at filling the alley against the run. But, his football IQ and awareness are outstanding and make him a tremendous asset in pass defense.
50. OG Joshua Garnett, Stanford – The former Cardinal guard is a road-grader of the highest order. He’s got some work to do in pass protection, but in the run game, he has no interior equal.