The top prospects available for the 2016 NFL Draft.
By Charlie Campbell.
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Updated April 27, 2016
- Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss. Previous Rank: 1
4/27/16: At his pro day, Tunsil solidified his high rating with an excellent showing. He was as athletic in the field as a dancing bear and strong in the weight room. Tunsil looks like a franchise left tackle and a high-impact starter for a decade.
In my opinion, Tunsil is hands-down the best prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft and there isn’t a close second. I’ve had him rated No. 1 since the preseason and haven’t moved him out of the top spot once. Sources said that Tunsil was solid in his combine interviews. He was polite, laid back and confident. They said he is a smart kid who has been coached well. Tunsil isn’t perfectly clean, but definitely is smart enough to not get in trouble.
Tunsil (6-5, 310) has natural knee bend with amazing quickness and agility. His fast feet and natural strength make him a franchise left tackle. I believe he has the potential to be one of the best left tackles in the NFL and a perennial Pro Bowler. I ran this assessment by a variety of team sources, and they all agreed with me.
While Tunsil has room to add more power for the NFL, he has some natural strength and plays with great leverage. Tunsil gets movement in the ground game and should only get better as he ages with more power from a NFL strength and conditioning program.
Tunsil only played a half against Oklahoma State, but he won his few reps against defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. Aside from shutdown pass protection, Tunsil showed his athleticism when he caught a touchdown pass near the goal line on his final collegiate play.
The Rebels cruised over Mississippi State to close out the regular season. Previously, Ole Miss received an excellent game from Tunsil against LSU as he led a superb game from the Rebels’ offensive line to get a victory. Tunsil turned in a good game against Arkansas on the weekend before. He had some issues a week earlier with Auburn speed rusher Carl Lawson, but overall, had a solid game. The Auburn game was only Tunsil’s second week back following his suspension. His return to the field was against Texas A&M, and he impressed with how he blocked Aggies superstar defensive end Myles Garrett. Tunsil showed why he is held in such high regard.
Tunsil was suspended for seven games to start the season over accepting improper benefits from an agent. His stepfather made the allegations after he and Tunsil had an altercation over the summer. Tunsil said he was protecting his mother, and the stepfather denies that side of the story.
9/2/15: Tunsil has a ton of natural talent to be a blind-side protector. He was very good in 2014 and was arguably the best left tackle in the nation on occasion. Tunsil is very athletic with natural bending. He could use some hand-placement development and some more power for the ground game, but he has a skill set for the NFL with size, speed, length and athleticism. During his junior year, Tunsil has the potential to emerge as a franchise left tackle prospect for the NFL.
Not only does Tunsil match up well with speed rushers, but he is solid in the ground game. Tunsil was one of the top recruits in the nation coming out of high school. As a freshman, he validated the hype when he broke into the starting lineup and became an All-SEC Second-Team selection by the AP. The conference’s coaches had him as an All-Freshman performer, and he was also named a Freshman All-American according to many media outlets.
- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA. Previous Rank: 2
4/27/16: UCLA’s doctor gave Jack full clearance to work out without restrictions, so the talented linebacker has worked out for NFL teams this spring. He was unable to work out at the combine though. In speaking to sources, they still have some medical concerns with Jack and think that he could have more issues with the knee injury in the months to come that might involve another surgery. However, they don’t think it will hurt his draft stock.
Jack has rare traits with speed and athleticism to make him a tremendous weapon as a pass defender in the passing-driven NFL. He also has a ton of upside to develop as a pro. In speaking with sources, teams love Jack and rave about his pass-coverage skills. He played some slot corner in college and practiced at corner with UCLA, which is just ridiculous for a linebacker. Teams say he interviewed really well at the combine, too. Jack (6-1, 245) also showed up bigger, so he could be a middle or outside linebacker at his size. Needless to say, his stock has risen during the leadup to the 2016 NFL Draft.
Jack’s 2015 season ended early after suffering a knee injury in practice that required surgery. In his abbreviated year, he totaled 15 tackles with one breakup, one interception and two carries for seven yards with a touchdown. For his final college game, Jack notched six tackles, an interception and a pass broken up against BYU. Versus Virginia in Week 1, he had seven tackles on defense with two carries for seven yards and a touchdown on offense.
9/2/15: Jack racked up 87 tackles with eight tackles for a loss, seven passes broken up, one interception and one forced fumble in 2014. His natural pass-coverage skills are extremely impressive. NFL evaluators are going to love what Jack can do in the passing game.
Not only was Jack a freshman starter in 2013; he became a superstar who was named the Pac-12’s Offensive AND Defensive Freshman of the Year. On the defensive side of the ball, Jack notched 75 tackles with 11 passes broken up and two interceptions. Jack was playing both ways in 2013 because of injuries at running back. He ran for 267 yards on 38 carries (7.0 average) with seven touchdowns.
Jack’s long-term NFL future is at linebacker, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he’s used as a goal-line running back if he lands with a creative coaching staff. Jack is naturally strong, fast and instinctive. He has tons of potential and upside.
- DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon. Previous Rank: 3
4/27/16: The 6-foot-7, 291-pounder has a similar skill set to former teammate Arik Armstead. Both have a unique combination of size, strength, speed and agility. Buckner managed to have more pass-rushing production than Armstead while playing in a scheme that doesn’t lend itself to defensive linemen putting up big stat lines. Buckner also had a solid combine showing to solidify his draft stock.
Buckner can beat tackles with speed or strength and also can move inside during passing situations. In speaking with sources, they feel that Buckner’s best fit would come as a five-technique in a 3-4 defense. He could fit a 4-3, and some teams might want him to gain weight to be a Red Bryant-type end. Scouts say that Buckner has received high marks for character, and they view him very favorably off the field.
The senior was a tough defender for the Ducks in 2015, totaling 83 tackles with 17 for a loss, 10.5 sacks and five passes batted. He was very strong to shed blocks with rare athleticism and quickness to close on ball-carriers.
In the Alamo Bowl against TCU, Buckner notched seven tackles and a sack. He closed out the regular season by hanging seven tackles with 1.5 for a loss and one sack on Oregon State. Two weeks earlier against Stanford, Buckner had 10 tackles with 1.5 sacks. In 2014, he recorded 81 tackles with 13 tackles for a loss, four sacks and four passes broken up.
- Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State. Previous Rank: 4
4/27/16: Sources from multiple teams said that Elliott did not interview well with teams at the combine. League contacts have concerns about Elliott being a hard-partier and using party drugs. They also feel that he is a unique personality who could rub some the wrong way. Still, they believe those concerns won’t push him out of the top 20. At the combine, Elliott (5-11, 225) was excellent in the field work and had a fast 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds.
The junior was tremendous in 2015 with his burst, vision, balance and ability to rip off yards in chunks. Elliott also did some nice blocking, which illustrates his three-down ability for the NFL. He has the potential to be a special back at the next level.
Elliott averaged 6.3 yards per carry in 2015 for 1,821 yards with 23 touchdowns. He had 27 receptions for 206 yards as well. Elliott went Al Bundy style with four touchdowns in one game for his final collegiate performance. He dominated Notre Dame to the tune of 149 yards on 27 carries with those four scores. Elliott also had one reception for 30 yards and flashed some blocking.
To conclude the regular season, Elliott dominated a good Michigan defense with 30 carries for 214 yards and three touchdowns. He was excellent with his power, speed, vision and balance. The week before against Michigan State, Elliott’s 100-yard-game streak ended as he was held to 33 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. Elliott could have rubbed some in the NFL the wrong way when he criticized the Ohio State play-calling in that contest. Elliott was correct in his opinion, but airing it to the media could upset some teams; he apologized to his coaches afterward. Elliott also announced he would enter the 2016 NFL Draft.
Against Indiana earlier in the season, Elliott exploded in the second half to put the Buckeyes on his back to avoid an upset to the Hoosiers. He had touchdown runs of 75, 65 and 55 yards.
9/2/15: Elliott was the workhorse who carried the Buckeyes to the National Championship. He destroyed Wisconsin (20-220-2), Alabama (20-230-2) and Oregon (36-246-4) in the final three games to lead Ohio State. Elliott averaged 6.9 yards per carry in 2014 for 1,878 yards with 18 touchdowns. He had 28 receptions for 220 yards. Elliott showed speed, cutting ability and the ability to pick up yards after contact. He is a well-rounded back who does everything well.
- Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State. Previous Rank: 5
4/27/16: I don’t think that Wentz is as good of a prospect as Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, but I think Wentz has the potential to be a franchise quarterback. In my opinion, he ended any debate about who is the best quarterback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. I’ve spoken with scouts, coaches and general managers, and the vast majority feel that Wentz is the best quarterback prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Wentz was tremendous at his pro day, showing off his arm talent, footwork and athleticism. At the combine, Wentz was very impressive on the field and team sources said he was a stud in the meeting room. Wentz has the most physical talent of any quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Following an impressive Senior Bowl, I labelled Wentz as the top quarterback in the 2016 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5, 233-pounder has a lot of arm talent with athletic upside alongside an excellent skill set for the NFL. Wentz has a good arm, mobility, pocket presence, field vision and accuracy. He also operated in a pro-style system with play calls in the huddle and working under center.
Sources with multiple teams say they graded Wentz for the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Team contacts say that Wentz could stand to fill out his frame more, but that should come with time in a NFL strength and conditioning program.
The big challenge for Wentz will be huge adjustment to the speed of the game coming from a massive jump in competition. He also will need more development as he has less than two seasons of starting experience.
In 2015, Wentz completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,651 yards with 17 touchdowns and four interceptions while also missing six games with a broken wrist. As a junior, he completed 64 percent of his passes for 3,111 yard with 25 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had six touchdowns on the ground. Wentz was a backup as a freshman and sophomore.
- Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida. Previous Rank: 6
4/27/16: At the Florida pro day, Hargreaves was excellent and improved on his 40 time from the combine. He recorded 33 tackles with four passes broken up and four interceptions in 2015, but didn’t play as well late in the year as he had as a sophomore. It looked like Hargreaves had the NFL on his mind, which he admitted in interviews. Still, the 5-foot-10, 204-pounder is an excellent cover corner who runs the route and prevents separation with excellent feet and instincts. He looks like a safe pick to turn into a very good pro corner.
Against Michigan to end the year, Hargreaves continued his late-season slump and looked like he reduced his effort level to protect his NFL hopes. Hargreaves gave up a 31-yard touchdown in the second quarter after he went to jump a route, but instead allowed the receiver to break wide open for the score. In the third quarter, Hargreaves gave up a long completion on a deep post.
Versus Alabama, Hargreaves had five tackles, but was beaten for some big plays downfield on 50-50 passes. Sources have felt that Hargreaves can get bumped around and out-physicaled. That was given further evidence against the Crimson Tide.
Versus LSU, Hargreaves stripped Leonard Fournette for a fumble, but also got caught peeking in the backfield on a play-fake to allow a 50-yard reception downfield. Against Ole Miss, the junior turned in a strong game with six tackles and an interception. He was excellent to limit Laquon Treadwell and lead the Gators to a big upset over the Rebels.
9/2/15: Hargreaves could end up being the best cornerback prospect to enter the NFL since Patrick Peterson or Joe Haden. Sources with NFL teams said that if Hargreaves were draft eligible, he would have been a top-10 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. As a shutdown corner, Hargreaves has natural cover skills to run with wideouts and not allow separation.
In 2014, Hargreaves totaled 50 tackles, three interceptions and 13 passes broken up. He went toe to toe with Amari Cooper and held his own in an impressive performance. Hargreaves was Florida’s best and most consistent cornerback in 2013. Considering the Gators had established veterans in Marcus Roberson and Louichez Purifoy, it said a lot that Hargreaves was on the field immediately. The true freshman recorded interceptions in his first three college games while totaling 11 pass breakups and 38 tackles for the year.
The only flaws in Hargreaves’ game are that he can get pushed around by bigger receivers on 50-50 passes and may not have the most deep speed. Sources say they will be watching how does in those areas as a junior.
- Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State. Previous Rank: 7
4/27/16: Bosa’s 40 time at the combine was slower than expected (4.86), but he had a decent showing in the field work. Sources say they do have some off-the-field concerns with Bosa and he didn’t erase them in the interviews in Indianapolis. He told teams his Week 1 suspension was from his refusal to take a drug test. Some sources suspect that Bosa knew he would test positive for ecstasy or molly (MDMA) as he admitted that he likes to go to raves. Teams believe that Bosa will still be a top-10 pick, and sources with the Titans said he was still in the running for the No. 1-overall pick as of mid-March. Bosa looks like a lock for the top 10.
Bosa didn’t look as tenacious in 2015 as he did during 2014, and he wouldn’t have been the first junior to have been protecting himself. Bosa was suspended for the 2015 season opener against Virginia Tech. He totaled 51 tackles with 16 for a loss and five sacks on the year. Bosa was very good in run defense, but not overwhelming in the pass rush, even with single-blocks against weak opponents. In the Fiesta Bowl, he made a couple of good run tackles before being ejected for targeting.
Bosa made three tackles, one sack and an interception against Michigan. He had his best game of 2015 versus a terrible Penn State offensive line with five tackles, three tackles for a loss and one sack. Aside from those plays, Bosa caused a lot of disruption and was constantly getting to quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
9/2/15: Bosa will miss the first game of 2015 with a suspension for violating team rules. In 2014, he recorded 55 tackles with 13.5 sacks, 21 tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles and pass defended. The sophomore simply lived in opponents’ backfields.
The 6-foot-6, 275-pounder has quickness to go with natural strength. He has a serious burst off the snap and with the speed to turn the corner. Bosa also displays good hands to shed blocks while working upfield. Many in the media have compared him to J.J. Watt, but that isn’t fair to Bosa as Watt has rewritten NFL record books and is the best player in the league. Sources from teams say a better comparison is to the Redskins’ Ryan Kerrigan. That being said, Bosa is a great prospect who looks like he has the talent to be perennial Pro Bowler and double-digit sacker.
Bosa was one of the best freshmen in 2013 as he racked up 44 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks and one forced fumble that season.
- Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia. Previous Rank: 9
4/27/16: Sources with teams picking in the top 10 are giving consideration to taking Floyd. The fast edge rusher is an excellent fit for a 3-4 defense, and contacts at 4-3 teams see a fit for him in their schemes as well. They feel that Floyd (6-6, 244) could be a Sam (strongside) linebacker on run downs who rushes off the edge in passing situations, similar to Anthony Barr. Floyd had a fast 40 at the combine with a time of 4.60 seconds.
Floyd split reps between inside and outside linebacker in 2015. He handled the new duties at inside linebacker well, but looked awkward at dropping into coverage, and sources say that he won’t be playing inside linebacker in the NFL. Floyd’s much better served doing what he does best: rushing the quarterback. He is extremely fast with a rare ability to bend that is truly ridiculous.
In the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State, Floyd recorded six tackles. He decided to skip his senior year and enter the 2016 NFL Draft. The junior totaled 74 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks and three passes batted in 2015.
9/2/15: Floyd (6-4, 231) is a speedy rusher who has a lot of potential. He is a natural pass-rusher with agility and is very fast off the edge. Floyd must get stronger in the ground game though, and by his preseason listing, it doesn’t appear that he got bigger over the offseason.
The redshirt sophomore notched 55 tackles with six sacks, two forced fumbles and 8.5 tackles for a loss in 2014. Floyd wisely returned for his junior year and and should be stronger before entering the NFL draft. In 2013, Floyd totaled 55 tackles with 9.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
- Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame. Previous Rank: 8
4/29/16: Smith would be a top-five pick if it weren’t for the knee injury – a torn ACL and MCL – he suffered in the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State. I’m keeping him high in my big board despite reports that he will probably miss the 2016 season. After all, plenty of excellent NFL players weren’t immediate high-level performers and the reports were that Smith would be back to full health for the 2017 season. Missing one season isn’t enough for me to put him behind inferior players. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder is most likely to be a second-day pick and could end up being a steal for some team.
Smith is a fast, strong and instinctive linebacker who is a future three-down difference-maker. For the Fighting Irish, he was quick to chase down backs, able to get off blocks and a sure tackler. The junior also displayed the ability contribute in coverage against backs and tight ends in 2015. The way that Notre Dame lined up Smith shows that he can play as an inside or outside linebacker in the NFL. He was looking like the rare non-pass-rushing linebacker who had the potential to be a high first-rounder before the injury. For the year, Smith totaled 115 tackles, nine for a loss, one sack, four passes broken up and one forced fumble – he was robbed of one by the official scorer.
In his last regular-season game, versus Stanford, Smith was all over the field as he totaled 15 tackles with one for a loss. Smith did a superb job of defending against star Cardinal running back Christian McCaffrey. Consistently, Smith produced good down-and-distance situations for his defense. He totaled 14 tackles against USC. Smith made some big plays against Georgia Tech a few weeks earlier, notching two forced fumbles, two passes broken up and five tackles.
9/2/15: Smith (6-2, 235) was an impressive defender for Notre Dame in 2014. He was all over the field for the Fighting Irish with 112 tackles with nine tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, 3.5 sacks and two passes defended. Smith has speed and athleticism in the middle of the field. He saw the field as a freshman and had 67 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one interception and three passes broken up.
- Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 10
4/29/16: Sources with teams picking in the top-20 have told me that Ragland is in the running to be their pick. Teams feel he is a polished and well-rounded player, although some feel that Ragland is a finished product and doesn’t offer a lot of athletic upside for the NFL.
Prior to the combine, Ragland (6-1, 247) dropped 12 pounds, and he performed well in Indianapolis. At the Senior Bowl, Ragland was heavier than expected, but he still played well at outside linebacker. Ragland continued to show more speed, athleticism and pass-coverage skills than one would expect from such a thickly built linebacker. Ragland is a polished player, but he doesn’t have to grow as an athlete at the next level.
In the National Championship against Clemson, Ragland had five tackles. He also made five tackles against Florida in the SEC Championship. Versus Tennessee, Ragland had a decent outing with 12 tackles, but also missed a few tackles; he put together better games this season.
Ragland played well against Texas A&M with nine tackles with a one sack. He also rushed the passer well as a defensive end this season while showing some impressive coverage skills, particularly against Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry. Ragland also impressed in coverage versus Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram the week before.
Ragland started his season strongly against Wisconsin with 12 tackles. Not only did the senior look good defending the run versus the Badgers, but he showed some pass-coverage skills as well. For the year, Ragland totaled 102 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, seven pass breakups, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
9/2/15: Many expected teammates Trey DePriest and Denzel Devall to be the players who stepped up and replaced C.J. Mosley in 2014, but it was Ragland (6-2, 254) who was the Crimson Tide’s best interior linebacker. Ragland recorded 95 tackles, 10.5 for a loss, three passes broken up, one interception, one forced fumble and 1.5 sacks on the year. He is a big, physical in-the-box defender. In 2013, Ragland was a backup and recorded 17 tackles. He led Alabama with 11 tackles on special teams.
- Jalen Ramsey, S/CB, Florida State. Previous Rank: 11
4/29/16: Sources with the Titans have said that Ramsey was their favorite for the No. 1-overall pick before they made the trade with the Rams. Tennessee loves Ramsey on and off the field, but opinions around the league are split.
In speaking with a general manager of a playoff team, they view Ramsey as a Seattle Seahawks-style cornerback. They have a second-round grade on Ramsey, as do some other playoff teams. However, I know two teams picking in the top 10 that have Ramsey in the top 10 of their boards.
Part of the discrepancy in grades stems from whether teams see Ramsey as a corner or a safety. Some NFL sources said in the preseason that in watching Ramsey, they prefer him at safety rather than corner. He’s okay at corner, but is special at safety. He has instincts, coverage skills and big-play ability as a safety. At corner, Ramsey is limited to a press-man system that matches him up well with big wideouts, but he struggles to prevent separation from smaller speed receivers and sudden route-runners.
At the combine, Ramsey was a star. The 6-foot-1, 209-pounder is a great athlete with a rare combination of size and speed. In 2015, Ramsey totaled 50 tackles with 10 passes broken up and no interceptions.
In his final season of college football, Ramsey was very good overall. Against Miami, he gave up a 58-yard touchdown to wide receiver Rashawn Scott. It gave evidence that Ramsey is a work in progress as a corner. He totaled four tackles and a pass breakup against the Hurricanes. In mid-September, Ramsey made six tackles against Boston College and also scooped up a fumble, returning it for a touchdown to help the Seminoles to a 14-0 victory. There were some games where Ramsey had some issues in coverage including the contests versus Florida, Clemson and South Florida.
9/2/15: The Florida State defense was disappointing as a unit in 2014, but some individual players impressed. Ramsey was one of the team’s best defenders, making a lot of clutch tackles. He totaled 79 stops, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 12 passes broken up, two interceptions and two forced fumbles on the year. At times during the 2014 season, Ramsey was the Seminoles’ best defensive player.
There is some talk of Ramsey moving to cornerback in 2015, and that could change his draft evaluation significantly. However, head coach Jimbo Fisher believes that Ramsey has the potential to be an elite corner.
As a freshman in 2013, Ramsey started on Florida State’s National Championship team at safety and cornerback. He recorded 49 tackles and an interception that season.
- Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame. Previous Rank: 12
4/29/16: At the combine, Stanley did well in the field work and showed that he is a good enough athlete to be a starting left tackle. For the NFL, the 6-foot-5, 312-pounder could stand to get stronger in his base. He needs to get more physical and show more tenacity as a run blocker. His pass protection is his strong suit.
Stanley had a quality final performance in the Fiesta Bowl. To end the regular season, the Fighting Irish had a tough loss to Stanford. Stanley blocked well in pass protection, but was underwhelming in the ground game.
Notre Dame lost a close game against Clemson a few weeks earlier in which Stanley had some good plays and bad plays going against Tigers defensive end Shaq Lawson. Stanley was solid as a blocker against Georgia Tech two weeks before that, but he had four penalties – three false starts and a holding. Stanley did a nice job in pass protection, but wasn’t blasting defenders off the line in the ground game.
9/2/15: Stanley took over at left tackle with Zack Martin in the NFL and did a great job for the Fighting Irish. Stanley is strong and quick, plus he has good length to him and finishes his blocks extremely well. Stanley has the speed and agility to mirror speed rushers and is strong enough to create movement in the ground game. He surprisingly decided to go back to school for his senior year rather than enter the 2015 NFL Draft.
Stanley generated a ton of late-season buzz in 2014, and he put an exclamation point on it by getting the better of the top 2015 NFL Draft-eligible defensive lineman, USC’s Leonard Williams, in limited plays against each other. It was only a few reps, but impressive nonetheless that Stanley was able to handle one of the best defensive linemen in college football. Stanley started at right tackle in 2013 and was part of a line that allowed only eight sacks on the season.
- Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville. Previous Rank: 13
4/29/16: For Rankins, it was mission accomplished at the combine. The 6-foot-1, 299-pounder had an official 40 time of 5.03 seconds with a 34.5-inch vertical jump and 9-10 broad jump. Those are good numbers for an interior defensive lineman who weighs around 300 pounds. In the field drills, Rankins performed well also. He is a fluid athlete who showed his explosion and balance. Rankins’ time in Indianapolis confirmed his potential to be a top-25 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
All week at the Senior Bowl, the attention was focused on Ohio State wide receiver Braxton Miller and North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz, but many other players had great weeks to improve their respective draft stocks, and Rankins was among them. He flashed as he was a good interior pass-rusher in college, and he showed that off by excelling the one-on-ones. Rankins has natural pad level with a burst to fire his gap before offensive linemen are ready. With his body type, he can be tough to get a hold of for blockers.
Sources say that Rankins’ tape wasn’t as good as his Senior Bowl performance, and I agree with that sentiment. Still, Rankins was an impressive defender for Louisville in 2015, totaling 58 tackles with 13 for a loss and six sacks. In 2014, he was even better when he had Lorenzo Mauldin on the edge drawing attention. As a junior, Rankins totaled nine sacks, 54 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss. He could be a speedy three-technique for the NFL.
- Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame. Previous Rank: 15
4/27/16: Most projections have Fuller (6-0, 186) as a late first-round or second-round pick, but I know teams picking in the 20s that are hoping to draft him in Round 1. They’re worried about another organization trading into the teens to take Fuller. Not only did he work out really well at the combine, but sources from multiple teams said that he interviewed well. They said he is a bright kid and loves football. In the NFL, I think Fuller is going to be a home-run hitter who will have a huge impact.
In speaking with teams, Fuller has been quietly rising for months. The 6-foot, 186-pounder was clearly the most explosive wide receiver at the combine. His official 40 time was 4.35 seconds, and he tied for the fastest 10-yard split of 1.52 seconds. The biggest knock on Fuller is dropped passes, but in the field drills, he did well at catching the ball and didn’t have a single drop. Fuller didn’t have any drops in the gauntlet, which is the toughest test on the hands, and had some nice receptions on vertical throws.
Fuller is extremely fast. He has elite speed to stretch defenses vertically and competes for the ball, plus he has a history of clutch plays, and those open up holes underneath for other receivers. In the passing-driven NFL, Fuller could be a real weapon. He would be perfect as a No. 2 receiver in a good aerial offense.
Fuller was a play-maker in 2015 for the Fighting Irish. He showed the speed to be a vertical weapon and get separation deep downfield. Fuller had 62 catches for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. He had 76 receptions for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2014.
- Jared Goff, QB, California. Previous Rank: 14
4/27/16: At his pro day, Goff had a solid showing, but wasn’t electric. It doesn’t matter significantly as he is solidly going at the top of the 2016 NFL Draft. In my opinion, I think Goff is overrated as a “top of the draft” quarterback. He lacks size, and has just an average arm. I think he could have injury issues in the NFL as well. The NFL hasn’t had a No. 1 pick quarterback be a bust in a long time – you could say that Sam Bradford was the last one – and it wouldn’t surprise me if Goff is a bust.
In 2015, Goff completed 64 percent of his passes for 4,719 yards with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The junior showed a quality, accurate arm with developed field vision. He also has functional mobility to avoid rushers and pick up some yards on the ground.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder is lanky and could use more weight. He also could have some issues with getting rattled, handling the rush in the NFL, and letting the rush cause him to make mistakes in his mechanics. Some teams have concerns about Goff struggling to maintain his weight during the offseason as well.
To conclude his collegiate career, Goff lit up Air Force in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, throwing six touchdowns. He closed out the regular season by completing 30-of-51 for 542 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions against Arizona State.
Against Stanford, Goff showcased an accurate arm capable of making all the throws. He was very good at shuffling in the pocket to avoid defenders, reset his feet, and deliver well-placed passes to receivers downfield. Goff showed nice composure to scramble while keeping his eyes downfield with improved decision-making. He was 37-of-54 for 386 yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinal.
A few weeks earlier against USC, Goff was 23-of-31 for 272 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The first was a terrible pick-six and the second was ugly, too. Goff also made some superb throws.
The UCLA Bruins topped Goff while he completed 32-of-53 passes for 295 yards with three touchdowns. Against Utah, he completed 25-of-47 passes for 340 yards with two scores and five picks. Goff played better than the stat line indicates, as despite his four first-half interceptions, he didn’t play poorly. Two picks weren’t Goff’s fault as they came off tipped passes, while one was a superb catch by the corner; the last one was truly ugly. In the fourth quarter, Goff didn’t play his best. The pressure seemed to get to him as he was forcing some passes downfield. Still, Goff also made some on-the-money throws that showed off he has enough arm strength and good accuracy.
Over the past three seasons, Goff was a point machine in the Bear Raid offense. He completed 62 percent of his passes in 2014 for 3,973 yards with 35 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Goff had some struggles against good defenses like USC and Stanford. As a freshman, he completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,508 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Goff’s career completion percentage was inflated by a lot of quick throws and bubble screens.
- Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State. Previous Rank: 16
4/27/16: Apple looks like he has No. 1-corner potential for the next level. The 6-foot, 199-pounder has upside for the NFL with size, agility and speed. He clocked a 4.40-second time at the combine to illustrate how fast he is.
However, Apple is raw and needs development. Sources say that Apple grabs too much on receivers down field and he will need to change that or he will get flagged a lot in the NFL.
In 2015, Apple made one interception, eight passes broken up and 33 tackles. He had some coverage lapses early in the season, but played better to close out the year. The redshirt sophomore has a good skill set and upside to develop.
Apple was very impressive for the Buckeyes in 2014 as he made 53 tackles with three interceptions and 10 passes broken up. He was huge late in the season to help the Buckeyes bring home a National Championship.
- Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson. Previous Rank: 17
4/27/16: Some teams have told me they gave Lawson a second-day grade, while a number of other teams think that Lawson could be a mid- to late first-rounder. I think the organization that likes him enough to take him will probably do so in Round 1 of the 2016 NFL Draft as a top-20 pick.
Lawson played really well in 2015 with 60 tackles, 25.5 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks and one forced fumble. The 6-foot-2, 270-pounder has speed and strength on the edge. Lawson looked good with his power and speed, giving Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley a lot of issues.
Lawson is a smooth pass-rusher, but lacks explosion and is not twitchy. In 2014, he was a backup and totaled 34 tackles with 11 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. Given his body type, he could fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
- A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama. Previous Rank: 18
4/27/16: Robinson has a ton of natural talent, and if weren’t for his lack of consistency, he would be in contention for the No. 1-overall pick. That isn’t just my opinion, but one shared by scouts as well. It didn’t help him that he had underwhelming interviews at the combine that brought into question how much he loves football.
Robinson had three tackles against Clemson in the National Championship. Taking on Florida in the SEC Championship, he notched three tackles. A few weeks earlier versus Mississippi State, Robinson was an animal at the point of attack for the Crimson Tide for the second straight contest. After having his best game of the year against LSU, he was even better taking on Mississippi State. Robinson beat the left guard to sack Dak Prescott on the first play from scrimmage, and that set the tone for a dominant game. Robinson recorded five tackles and 2.5 sacks versus the Bulldogs.
All of Alabama’s front seven played well against LSU, but the most impressive job of defending among a great team effort came from Robinson. He led the way to stuff a number of runs from Leonard Fournette and also was getting after the quarterback.
In 2015, Robinson totaled 46 tackles with 7.5 for a loss and 3.5 sacks. The tapes against LSU and Mississippi State will aid his draft grade and help to trend his stock upward.
The 6-foot-3, 307-pounder is a fit as a 3-4 nose tackle or defensive end. In a 4-3 defense, he would be a nose guard. Robinson is very strong and physical at the point of attack with the ability to stuff the run and contribute some to the pass rush. As a freshman in 2013, he made 5.5 sacks.
- Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis. Previous Rank: 19
4/27/16: In speaking with one general manager of a team that is among the best at developing quarterbacks, they have a second-round grade on Lynch. They view him as too much of a project to go in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Teams like Lynch’s skill set, but he is far behind from an X’s and O’s standpoint. They feel he needs a ton of development for the NFL because he just hasn’t been taught very much.
Lynch has a strong arm that can make all the throws for the pro game, and his tape flashes his ability to pass accurately and beat good coverage with precise completions into tight windows. However, Lynch (6-6, 244) is inconsistent with passing accurately and working through his progressions. He needs to become more consistent with his ability to thrive as a pocket passer. Lynch is a project entering the NFL and is a raw player who needs time to develop.
In 2015, Lynch completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,778 yards with 28 touchdowns and three interceptions. The redshirt junior has a great skill set, but is still unrefined. His footwork and field vision are the prime areas to improve. Lynch also has the athleticism to make plays with his feet or make throws on the run. Against Auburn to finish off his collegiate career, Lynch completed 17-of-38 attempts for 104 yards with an interception. That tape further illustrates that he needs grooming for the NFL.
To close out the regular season, it took only one half of action against SMU for Lynch to tie an FBS record with seven touchdown passes. He also was impressive by completing the scores to seven different targets. Versus the Mustangs, Lynch was 9-of-14 for 222 yards with the seven touchdowns. A week earlier in a loss to Temple, Lynch completed 25-of-34 for 156 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. It was a mixed outing for him, but he wasn’t himself after having his ankle rolled early in the game.
In his previous seasons as a starter, Lynch used his running ability more. He ran for 321 yards with 13 touchdowns as sophomore while also completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,031 yards with 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions. As a freshman, Lynch completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,056 yards with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
- Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech. Previous Rank: 20
4/27/16: I’ve moved Butler up because I like his raw talent and his versatility to play a variety of techniques in the NFL. Butler (6-3, 323) would be a nice fit as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. He has the quickness to fire by guards while also possessing the strength to push them into the backfield. Butler could play in a 3-4 as an end or nose tackle. He does have some five- and zero-technique experience from Louisville, but he told me at the Senior Bowl that he feels like three-technique is his best fit. For the NFL, Butler should work on not standing up too high as he can get into trouble when that happens.
Butler was a bit of sleeper prospect, but that ended when he showed extremely well at the Senior Bowl. In the pass-rushing one-on-ones, Butler was too fast for the offensive linemen and showed nice strength to bull rush. Sources say that Butler has a ton of talent but doesn’t know what he’s doing yet. While he has upside, being undefined has some teams grading him as an early second-rounder. I know sources at a couple of playoff teams that are considering Butler for their first-round pick. They also like him off the field and his love for football.
In 2015, Butler recorded 50 tackles with 10 tackles for a loss and three sacks. As a junior, he totaled 55 tackles with 13 for a loss and one sack.
- Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State. Previous Rank: 21
4/27/16: I’m higher on Washington than others. I think he will be a disruptive presence and a good interior pass-rusher in the NFL.
Washington had an excellent performance at the Senior Bowl. He dominated the first practice and stayed strong over the rest of the week. The 6-foot-3, 301-pounder is very fast off the snap with the speed to put pressure on the quarterback. He also has functional strength.
In 2015, Washington totaled 49 tackles with seven tackles for a loss, four sacks, a forced fumble and a pick-six. In many regards, he was Ohio State’s most consistent defensive lineman.
Washington teamed with Michael Bennett and Joey Bosa in 2014 to produce a consistent pass rush and a ton of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Washington had 48 tackles with 10.5 for a loss, 4.5 sacks, three passes batted and one forced fumble on the year. He totaled five sacks over his sophomore and freshman seasons.
Washington was arrested for solicitation in December 2015, but the charges were dropped. While that may have hurt his draft stock, sources say that by the time of the 2016 NFL Draft, they don’t think it will be a big factor in where he goes.
- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State. Previous Rank: 22
4/27/16: Ogbah had an excellent performance at the combine with a very fast 40 time and a solid showing in the field work. That athletic upside could help him to rise higher in the first round.
WalterFootball.com was first to report Ogbah’s plans to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. He drew the best offensive lineman in college football with Tunsil in the Sugar Bowl, and Tunsil won the few plays they went against each other. Ogbah had three tackles with a few passes batted and a lot of pressures with quarterback hits that were nearly sacks going against the other Ole Miss tackles.
The junior recorded sacks in all but two games in 2015. He totaled 61 tackles, 17.5 for a loss, three forced fumbles and 13 sacks for the year. However, he wasn’t always consistent.
Against Oklahoma in the regular-season finale, Ogbah totaled one sack and four tackles. He notched seven tackles with two for a loss and a sack the previous month versus Texas Tech. The junior also looked good in his snaps against Red Raiders left tackle Le’Raven Clark, the top left tackle in the Big XII. Ogbah also put together a strong performance against Kansas State with six tackles and a sack. He had his way with Wildcats left tackle Cody Whitehair. Ogbah made five tackles, two for a loss and 1.5 sacks versus Texas.
Ogbah is a strong base end who has some quickness to go along with size or strength. He isn’t an amazing athlete, but he is a natural pass-rusher who would be a great fit as a 4-3 base end. Some teams grade him in the back half of the first round.
9/2/15: Ogbah (6-4, 273) broke out for the Cowboys in 2014 with 11 sacks, 49 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and five passes batted. He has quickness to go with strength and made a lot of plays in the backfield. Ogbah isn’t a pure speed rusher or quick twitch, but he has power, plays the run well and has a good motor. As a freshman in 2013, Ogbah had four sacks and 20 tackles while rotating into the game.
- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama. Previous Rank: 23
4/27/16: In speaking with sources, they believe that Henry will get drafted late in the first round or in the second round. He could provide an immediate impact for a playoff team looking to get over the top. While Henry lacks elusiveness and runs too high, he has a rare combination of power and speed. Many sources talk about that if Henry can get to the second level, he is a home-run hitter and a big problem for defenses. At the combine, Henry (6-2, 247) worked out well and sources said he did interview well with teams.
Henry averaged 5.6 yards per carry (395 carries) in 2015 for 2,219 yards with 28 touchdowns with 11 receptions for 91 yards. Not only was his running during the season impressive, but his blitz protection will really excite scouts as he displayed good blitz pickup to give his quarterback time to throw. The tale of the tape will definitely help Henry’s draft grade and give NFL teams the evidence that he can be a three-down starter as a pro.
Against Clemson’s tough defense, Henry totaled 158 yards on 36 carries with three touchdowns, including a 50-yarder. He and O.J. Howard carried Alabama’s offense to 45 points and another National Championship.
The Crimson Tide rode Henry hard, once again, as he took 44 carries against a tough Florida defense and produced 189 yards with one touchdown and a lost fumble. In the Iron Bowl, Henry became the third back in SEC history to have four games over 200 yards in a season as he rolled over Auburn with 271 yards on 46 carries with a touchdown. He took 90 carries over those two games.
Two weeks earlier, Henry continued his torrid season as he rolled over Mississippi State for 204 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Henry showed serious speed with how he ran away from corners and safeties on two long touchdown runs.
While taking on LSU, Henry led the Crimson Tide offense as he ran for 210 yards on 38 carries with three touchdowns and a fumble. Henry racked up 236 yards on 32 carries and two scores against Texas A&M the week before. Versus Georgia, he totaled 148 yards on 26 carries with a score and a fumble. Even with the fumble, that tape will help Henry to grade out as a first-rounder.
9/2/15: Henry averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2014 for 990 yards with 11 touchdowns. He added five receptions for 133 yards, too. Henry racked up 382 yards on only 36 carries with three touchdowns in 2013.
Henry should be in store for a huge season in 2015 with T.J. Yeldon and Amari Cooper in the NFL and Alabama starting a new quarterback. That has been the trend for the Crimson Tide in years past with players like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and Yeldon taking over as the lead back after an older player moves on to the NFL.
- Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor. Previous Rank: 24
4/27/16: I’m higher on Billings than others, as he is very impressive with his massive power at the point of attack and his burst to get after the quarterback. Billings also shows the speed to close and make tackles outside of his gap. In speaking with sources at multiple teams, they say that Billings has graded out as a second-rounder. However, there aren’t players 32 players grading out as first-rounders.
Prior to a mid-season ankle injury, Billings was really turning heads in 2015. After a few games of being held back by the ankle, he returned to his previous form and finished the regular season playing well. Billings recorded 39 tackles, 14 for a loss and 5.5 sacks on the year.
The 6-foot, 311-pound is extremely strong to toss blockers out of the way. He also has the speed to close and make tackles out of his gap while also being able to collapse the pocket in the pass rush. Billings would make a perfect nose tackle in a 3-4 defense. As a sophomore in 2014, he totaled 37 tackles with 11.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.
- Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss. Previous Rank: 25
4/27/16: Nkemdiche looked good at his pro day – as expected -, but that environment won’t answer the flaws in his play on the field or character concerns off of it. At the combine, Nkemdiche (6-3, 294) had a good workout too – again as expected – but he didn’t ease the rampant character concerns that teams have with him. Sources from multiple teams indicated that Nkemdiche interviewed poorly, which likely made the off-the-field concerns even worse.
At the end of last year, Nkemdiche added more to the off-the-field questions NFL teams have about him when he fell from the fourth floor of an Atlanta hotel room. Marijuana was found in that hotel room and Nkemdiche was arrested. While at the combine, Nkemdiche said he was drunk but not smoking marijuana. At his press conference, he also threw teammate Laremy Tunsil under the bus for being in the room. After the Atlanta incident, Ole Miss suspended Nkemdiche for the Sugar Bowl.
Some sources said early on that Robert Nkemdiche has major off-the-field concerns and that part of the problem is his brother Denzel, who teams believe will follow Robert to his NFL city. Another said that Robert Nkemdiche wants to be a movie star and is more focused on being in the limelight than being a great football player.
Nkemdiche’s typical game in 2015 involved him flashing his great skill set, but not finishing plays or producing much for his defense. He has a tremendous skill set with the speed and agility of a linebacker. For the NFL, there is no doubt that the junior has the ability to be a disruptive presence at the point of attack.
Nkemdiche is a tremendous run defender, but sources say that he isn’t a natural pass-rusher and his sack numbers prove it. Nkemdiche would use his power or speed to burst into the backfield, but rarely ever finish a play. He lacks awareness, and in the NFL, he won’t be able to just win on size or speed.
Nkemdiche totaled 29 tackles, seven for a loss and three sacks in 2015. In my opinion, Nkemdiche is extremely overrated as some consider him to be the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft class. Nkemdiche made seven tackles with 1.5 sacks against Mississippi State to close out the regular season and his collegiate career. It was a rare occurrence of him finishing some plays.
The outing against Arkansas saw him record just one assisted tackle, and he didn’t make any big plays as the Rebels’ defense was lit up and lost in overtime. As usual, Nkemdiche was good at getting into the backfield, but he didn’t finish plays and showed poor awareness with a lack of pass-rushing moves.
Nkemdiche left the game against Memphis with a concussion and didn’t play the next week against Texas A&M as a result. He made a few nice plays against Florida the week before the Memphis game, but only totaled one tackle. His conditioning looked poor in the first half as the Gators built up a big lead.
Against Alabama, Nkemdiche was a huge presence in the Crimson Tide’s backfield. He made six tackles and .5 sacks, and another 1.5 of his tackles were for a loss. That was one of the few games in Nkemdiche’s collegiate career where he turned in good production.
Since being the No. 1 recruit in the nation, there has been a lot of hype around Nkemdiche. He had two sacks as a freshman and the same total as a sophomore. NFL sources said they wanted to see more production out of the junior in 2015 in order to give him a high grade; that didn’t happen.
- Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
- Keanu Neal, S, Florida
- Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
- Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
- Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
- Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor
- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
- Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
- Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, Maryland
- Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
- Jonathan Bullard, DT, Florida
- Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
- Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
- Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
- Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
- Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky
- Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
- Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
- Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
- Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame
- Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
- Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
- Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
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