The first installment of my Top 30 big board is here and we are just about to hit our stride into “draft season” so read and enjoy, or yell at it if that is your kind of thing.
1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
To me, this is a no brainer and I believe that Tunsil is actually one of the most complete prospects regardless of position to come out of college in a long time. He has the look and feel of a future Pro Bowl left tackle in this league with his size, athleticism, and technique.
2. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State
Some may think he is a cornerback, some may think he is a safety, but I like to call him a pure defensive back who can do it all. As one of the best defensive playmakers I have ever scouted, I truly think he will succeed anywhere in the back end of the secondary. Not only can he be a physical presence in the box, but he will instill fear in QB’s who throw it deep.
3. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
People like to make comparisons all the time with NFL Draft prospects, but I can definitively tell you that there is not a legitimate comparison for Myles Jack. Honestly, when is the last time you saw a linebacker who could also be a Top 50 running back and defensive back? His cover skills are second to none in this class and he can run with receivers in the slot as well. He is also solid against the run with his quickness and brute strength when moving downhill to explode through blocks.
4. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Laquon Treadwell is the real deal at wide receiver and he legitimately looks like he could be one of the immediate impact players in this draft if he stays healthy. He can just beat you in so many ways, whether that be with overwhelming power, or with explosion and quickness. Treadwell will not blow away scouts with his route running, but if he can continue to refine that area of his game, a team is going to be so happy they drafted the next Dez Bryant.
5. Noah Spence, EDGE, Eastern Kentucky
In my opinion, Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky is the best pure pass rusher in the 2016 NFL Draft. He does have some off-field issues to deal with, but the raw talent to get to the quarterback is too overwhelming to not put him in my top five. If he can stay healthy and out of trouble, Spence could be a perennial double digit sack guy.
6. Joey Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Joey Bosa is in all likelihood the most sure thing in this draft as he can nearly play anywhere on the defensive line and give both disruption and production. While he may not have the upside of a player like Spence, I can easily see him being a cornerstone on a defensive line in the NFL. Bosa’s upside as a pass rusher is probably 8-10 sacks per year, but I can definitively tell you that he is the best run defender in this draft class.
7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
There is always that one player who I enjoy to watch on tape the most and that is Ezekiel Elliott of Ohio State. He can literally do it all at the running back position as well as having minimal flaws to his overall game. I’m not sure he is on Todd Gurley’s level, but he is pretty damn close.
8. Jared Goff, QB, California
The first quarterback on my big board is Jared Goff of California. In my opinion, he is the prospect that every draft pundit has talked about one way or the other, and is thus a controversial player. His pocket presence and ball placement set him apart from this year’s crop of quarterbacks, and I am of the mindset that he is the only quarterback of this class that is ready to start on opening night.
9. DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon
I would argue that DeForest Buckner looks scarier on the eye test than the infamous meme of Shawn Oakman, but that is just my opinion. Unlike Oakman however, Buckner plays up to his bill and makes opponents feel his wrath of terror. He uses his hands as weapons and is violent at the point of attack on a consistent basis. He is a better prospect that what Arik Armstead was last year, and I believe that he will be a 3-4 team’s dream in the top half of the draft.
10. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida
Despite his 5’10 stature, I do believe that Vernon Hargreaves III is the prime candidate to be the draft’s “shutdown” cornerback. Not only does he possess the best quick-twitch COD and ball skills of any cornerback in this draft class, but he is also extremely physical for his size. If there was one thing he needs to work on, it may be to be more disciplined with his aggressiveness in coverage. (double moves, etc)
11. Shaq Lawson, EDGE, Clemson
Shaq Lawson was one of my favorite players to watch on tape all year as he faced top competition and lived up to his status as a top prospect in each of those big games. He can rush the passer with violence and athleticism, but can also be a behemoth against the run game. Just an overall solid player with few weaknesses as a whole.
12. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
It is truly a shame that Jaylon Smith tore his ACL in the Fiesta Bowl because he would have definitely been a top five player on my board, but recent reports have said that he should be ready for the 2016 season. I would want to see it to believe it in this case, but his stock is trending up with that news of no nerve damage regardless. He is an instinctive player who has some of the best mental processing skills of any linebacker to come into the draft in recent memory.
13. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
I am not sure there is a prospect that I am in more infatuation with than Tyler Boyd. His tape the last three years have been mesmerizing and he has shown that he can shoulder the load as the top target in an offense. Possessing some of the strongest hands and footwork in his routes gives him an edge over other receivers in this draft, and I honestly do not see many flaws with his game. It will be interesting to see what he runs in the 40 yard dash, but I’m pretty sold on him.
14. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
It took me too long to figure out who the best defensive tackle in this draft was, but after turning on several tapes of Sheldon Rankins and the Louisville Cardinals defense, my question was easily answered. He is by far the best interior pass rusher of the group as well as being able to disrupt the run game with his play strength and violence at the point of attack. In addition, he can play either the one or the three technique on the defensive line.
15. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State
The redshirt sophomore linebacker Darron Lee out of Ohio State is an interesting prospect because of his superb athleticism and cover ability for the position. He is probably best suited to play outside linebacker at the next level, but I believe his ability to go sideline to sideline and cover tight ends down the field will make him a luxury in this draft. An underrated part of his game due to people’s belief of his size is his ability to take on blocks as he is able to shed and finish the play with an exclamation point. Expect Lee to get top ten talk after the NFL Combine if he does as well as anticipated.
16. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
A true nose tackle that will help immediately in the run game with his mammoth hands and overwhelming play strength. He is not twitchy enough to play the three, but I have a feeling that he is going to be a bargain for team that needs a nose tackle in the middle of the first round.
17. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Another undersized cornerback, but like VH3, he does not play like it whatsoever. People may knock him for his lack of production in terms of interceptions, but it is simply because quarterbacks were too scared to throw his way. His technique and footwork are outstanding and has the necessary athleticism to recover to the hip pocket of the receiver to blanket his ability to catch the football. Like Hargreaves III, he will get toasted if he keeps taking unnecessary risks.
18. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Taylor Decker is probably the meanest offensive tackle that I’ve seen so far in this draft. His toughness in the run game is second to none, and he will let you know that he smoked you right afterwards too. A big improvement for him this season was his ability to consistently hold his own in pass protection with improved feet and technique. I’m a big fan of Decker, and I would not be surprised to see a team reach for him in the top half of the first round.
19. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Many draft pundits out there believe that Sterling Shepard is simply a slot receiver because of his size, but I would make the argument that he can play on the outside as well. In my opinion, he was the hardest wide receiver to guard in the country and was able to get open at will with his unreal foot quickness and smooth route running skills. This will translate well to the next level and I think he can have an Emmanuel Sanders like impact in the NFL.
20. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Another shame that a top prospect tore his ACL in the season, but Karl Joseph truly is a Top 20 talent in my opinion. He can line up in the box, in man coverage, and in single high at the safety position providing tons of versatility and athleticism. Joseph can be a bit too aggressive at times, but his upside is one of the highest in this draft bar none as a defensive back who can do it all in terms of both coverage and run support.
21. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama
Reggie Ragland is a clear-cut prospect in that you know he is a heat-seeking missile coming downhill in the run game, and that will translate in the NFL as he will probably be a long-time starter in this league. However, I do have questions about how well he moves in space and in coverage considering that Alabama did not ask him to do much of that. I do have my concerns about him, but there is no denying that he is probably one of the safer picks in this draft as an overall middle linebacker prospect.
22. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
The second and final quarterback to be in my top 30 is Carson Wentz of North Dakota State. Wentz is another prospect that receives a lot of mixed opinions, but there is no doubt that he is one of the most naturally gifted quarterbacks in this class. The combination of his athleticism, arm strength, and touch on the football will intrigue multiple teams as a future franchise quarterback, but I think he will need time to shore up his mental processing at the next level before being handed the keys to the kingdom.
23. Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
I know a lot of people will be shocked about having Xavien Howard this high, but I am really sold on him as a top cornerback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. In my opinion, he has the best ball skills of any cornerback not named VH3 in this class, but the difference is that he is 6’2, 200 pounds, matching the prototypical size that NFL teams covet. In addition, he has the lateral quickness to shadow and stick with the receiver in man coverage. Not many people know about him yet, but once they start to watch his tape, boy he has some big-time upside with his length, ball skills, and overall quickness. The question with Howard will be with how fast can he run?
24. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
In one of the deepest defensive line classes I can remember, Kenny Clark is the player that is sort of fading to the back of the room. Not to me however, as I believe he can be dominant defensive tackle at either the one or the three and give a boost in the pass rush as well as being able to hold his own in run support. His upside is as high as any defensive tackle in this draft.
25. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Just like Kenny Clark, I feel as if Michael Thomas is one of the more under appreciated players at his position considering that he doesn’t necessarily do anything flashy, but he is just a solid football player. I do not see a glaring weakness in his game, but I also don’t see a game-breaking trait to his game either. He should be a solid WR2 for an offense going forward.
26. Kamalei Correa, EDGE, Boise State
Here is another player that people may shake their heads about in my top 30, but I think Kamalei Correa’s stock is only going to rise even more as we move along the process. Position flex to play standing up or with his hand in the dirt will intrigue NFL scouts as well as him being able to maneuver his way into the backfield both in the pass and run game. The thing I was most surprised about him was his quick twitch athleticism on tape and how he made opponents blocking him a living hell.
27. A’Shawn Robinson, DL, Alabama
Robinson is another player where the draft media has mixed emotions about, but there is no denying that he is one of the most impactful run defenders in this draft. He is probably best suited to two-gap as a run stuffing five technique at the next level, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he also was considered by 4-3 teams in need of a one technique. I would like him to use his hands more when rushing the passer, but I think he will learn that as he grows older (he looks 50 right now, but will turn 21 in March).
28. William Jackson III, CB, Houston
As many of you know, I was a big fan and advocate for Wake Forest cornerback Kevin Johnson last year, and it is to no one’s surprise that a player with a similar skill set would intrigue me in the same type of way. That cornerback prospect is William Jackson III out of Houston. His reactionary quickness on underneath routes may be the best in this draft at this position, but it his length at 6’2 that will open the eyes of NFL teams. He is at his best when he is up tight at the LOS in press coverage, but he has also proven that he can run with receivers vertically with his long stride in off coverage.
29. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
Another true nose tackle/one technique prospect in this draft is Austin Johnson out of Penn State. I was splitting hairs to decide on either Austin Johnson or Jarran Reed at this spot, but they are so close that I don’t think it matters. His ability to anchor down in the run game against doubles, while still being able to shed blocks at the point of attack is excellent. In addition, he can also provide a pinch of pass rush at the next level.
30. Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
Again, I was splitting hairs with this spot because Garnett and Whitehair are so close together on my board, but I’m giving Garnett the edge due to his mean streak and power in the run game. He is legitimately one of the strongest, most physically imposing linemen in this draft. He works well to the second level and is able to anchor nicely in pass protection. Just an overall beast at the offensive guard spot who could go in the first round.