This article lays out my list of the top 100 prospects in the upcoming NFL draft. This is based on their performances over the college season and during All-Star games like the Senior Bowl. It has nothing to do with their draft value, which is why you will find the top quarterback significantly down the list. Enjoy!
1. Luke Joeckel (OT): Texas A&M
Joeckel is quite simply the best tackle prospect I have seen. He is quick, strong, technically sound and should be a Year 1 starter like we have not seen in years at the left-tackle position due to his ability to excel equally in the run and pass games.
2. Bjoern Werner (DE): Florida State
Werner has exploded over the past season after he lost weight to become more explosive. While still not an overwhelming athlete, Werner is strong and flexible, and his non-stop motor lets him dominate play after play in all facets of the game. His ability to stop the run while also pressuring the passer is the reason for such a high grade.
3. Star Lotulelei (DT): Utah State
Lotulelei appears to be the second coming of Haloti Ngata, what with his 330 pounds of bulk, overwhelming power and quickness. Throughout the college season, he has consistently impacted games despite being double-teamed inside constantly. He shut down inside running games and harassed quarterbacks, and his skill set means this should continue throughout his NFL career.
4. Jarvis Jones (LB): Georgia
Jones is actually the second-best player in this draft, but health and positional concerns drop him below the others with elite talent. Despite these issues, Jones has the pass-rushing talent and football IQ to make an impact in any defense, much like Von Miller does.
5. Damontre Moore (DE): Texas A&M
Moore is another talented pass rusher who lacks ideal bulk for a 4-3 defense, but has the burst, athleticism and functional power to deal with the best left tackles in the league. He also shows up well against the run with his constant motor and quick hands, even though he lacks the anchor to stand up blockers. He arguably has a higher ceiling than Werner, too.
6. Eric Fisher (OT): Central Michigan
Fisher was the big winner of the Senior Bowl, and his dominant play has vaulted him into the top 10 players in the draft. Fisher is super athletic for a lineman, and his incredible length allows him to lock down pass rushers.
He is also a great blocker in space and can block extremely well while on the move. His height does give him some issues against players who can get under him, but on the whole he looks like a multiple Pro Bowler at left tackle and a Day 1 starter.
7. Chance Warmack (OG): Alabama
Another offensive lineman, Warmack is a much better player than David DeCastro, who was widely touted last year. While he looks vastly overweight, he has quick feet and incredible power that allows him to dominate the trenches against all comers, from hulking nose tackles to quick 3-tech's.
He is a good pass protector, but he will make his money in the run game, where his technique and strength will make him one of the very best maulers in the NFL before long.
Who is the best player in the draft?
8. Dee Milliner (CB): Alabama
Another Alabama player, Milliner is one of the youngest in the draft at just 20 years of age. However, he is also one of the most physical and athletic cornerbacks out there.
At 6'1" and 200 lbs, he is at his best in press coverage, where he can beat up opponents at the line, yet he also has the quick hips and burst of a smaller man, which allows him to mirror receivers down the field in man and zone coverage.
On top of this, he is a force against the run and has significant room to grow as he cleans up his fundamentals.
9. Sheldon Richardson (DT): Missouri
Richardson is the definition of a one-year wonder, but in that year he showed a skill set that will have teams dreaming of Warren Sapp.
Richardson would fit best as a penetrating 4-3 defensive tackle, where his quickness off the ball would allow him to shoot gaps and make plays in the backfield against the run and pass. He also has the non-stop motor that is lacking in others with his physical gifts.
10. Kenny Vaccaro (S): Texas
Vaccaro is coming into the league at just the right time. With tight ends and slot receivers taking over offenses, the safety is being required to play in man coverage a lot more to counter them.
This is exactly what Vaccaro specializes in, as he has the athleticism, size and coverage skills to stay with receiving tight ends and shifty slot receivers.
He is also solid against the run, and while he is not an in-the-box safety, he can lay the wood on a ball carrier and generally will not be blocked out of plays downfield.
11. Ezekiel Ansah (DE): BYU
Ansah is this year's raw but dripping with potential player who fits the Jason Pierre-Paul mould to a tee. Ansah has unreal size, speed and power, as well as surprising football instincts for a player with such little experience.
While he is very unrefined and should take significantly longer than JPP to develop into a legitimate NFL starter, if he maxes out his potential, there is no doubt he is the best defensive end in this draft.
12. Dion Jordan (LB): Oregon
Jordan is simply perfect for a 3-4 defense looking for an edge rusher. He has incredible burst, speed and flexibility to turn the corner, a 6'7" frame and long arms that let him be effective against the run, and real skills in coverage due to his time as a nickel back (no lie) in specific situations.
Like many edge rushers in this draft, he is raw after spending half his college career as a tight end, but he has the tools to produce in a limited role in his first season and be a stud down the line.
13. Manti Te'o (LB): Notre Dame
Te'o's stock took a beating after his girlfriend hoax blow-up, but to me his stock should remain relatively unchanged. It was such a bizarre situation that it seems relatively trivial, and his talent as a inside linebacker who can thump running games and play great coverage will overrule any misgivings teams have.
I also believe he is more athletic than given credit for, and will not be limited to a between-the-tackles old-school 'backer like many think he will become. He is the real deal, and the best linebacker to hit the draft since Patrick Willis.
14. Xavier Rhodes (CB): Florida State
Rhodes has not been talked about much recently as a starting cornerback, but I believe he has the most potential of any in this draft.
He has great size and height for the position, but unlike most big cornerbacks, he has the fluidity to change direction on short routes and flip his hips to run downfield with receivers. He sometimes loses focus, but his future is bright as a starting corner.
15. Geno Smith (QB): West Virginia
After being the runaway favorite to be the best player in the draft at midseason, Smith's play went downhill over the second half of the season as teams took away the easy passes over the middle.
While his struggles showed that he was not an elite quarterback, Smith still has the tools to be a top quarterback. He has elite arm strength, athleticism in the pocket and accuracy to be a great quarterback, and once he learns to play the position better, he will be good.
There is bust risk in picking Smith, but a team in the top 10 will certainly take a risk with him.
16. Alec Ogletree (LB): Georgia
Ogletree does have some character red flags, but his play on the field warrants a mid to late first-round draft pick. He will almost certainly be an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense in the NFL, and he has the blinding speed, tackling power and raw coverage skills to be a star much like Derrick Brooks.
17. Cordarelle Patterson (WR): Tennessee
Patterson burst onto the scene in the first game this season when he burnt David Amerson for two long touchdowns. However, over the season he continued to show an elite skill set of speed, burst, size and running ability.
He may be raw, but he has the best tools of all the receivers in the draft, and the added value of his elite kick-returning skills only increases his value and highlights his run-after-the-catch ability.
18. Jesse Williams (DT): Alabama
Williams is a space eater of the highest order and would fit the best as a 5-technique defensive end, although he could also excel as a nose tackle in either defensive front.
While he is not much of a pass rusher, he offers enough for a 3-4 defensive lineman, and his overwhelming power, length and leverage allows him to make stifle running games.
He would not be a flashy first-round pick, but for a 3-4 team that has pass rushers, Williams would be the perfect complementary piece.
19. Johnathan Cooper (OG): UNC
Johnathan Cooper would normally be the best guard in a draft class, but this year he is clearly behind Chance Warmack.
Nevertheless, he is a great player, and he may draw significant interest from zone-blocking offensive lines who would value his athleticism, second-level blocking and pass-protection technique perhaps more than Warmack's power-based game.
Cooper would also be a good lineman in a man blocking scheme; however probably not worth a first-round pick.
20. Johnthan Banks (CB): Mississippi State
Banks is a very solid boundary cornerback who reminds me of Nnamdi Asomugha. He lacks the quickness to deal with small slot receivers, but his long frame, press technique and speed will allow him to play bigger receivers with ease and keep the ball away from them.
He is not blessed with the best ball skills of the prospects in this draft, but his coverage skills and run defense will make him a late first-rounder.
21. Ryan Nassib (QB): Syracuse
Nassib has come from nowhere this season to be one of the best quarterback prospects in the draft, and a likely top-15 pick. He has good arm strength and accuracy, and is able to buy time in the pocket with a game that is similar to Aaron Rodgers coming out of college.
He does not have a great feel for the subtleties of quarterbacking such as pre-snap reads and working through route progressions, but he has the upside to be a great quarterback if his coaches can develop him.
22. John Jenkins (DT): Georgia
Jenkins could well be this year's combine phenom who could see a draft stock rise similar to Dontari Poe. He is a huge, powerful man who weighs 350 lbs, but he has quick feet.
While he sometimes tries too hard to beat his opponent with quickness rather than his brute strength, and he can get too high and lose leverage, Jenkins is the sort of nose tackle who could anchor a 3-4 defense against the run for a decade and be a decent pass rusher.
His rare athleticism will also guarantee him to be a first rounder at the very least.
23. Barrett Jones (OL): Alabama
Jones has the ability to play every position on the offensive line, but I believe his best fit would be at center, where his football IQ and knowledge of blocking angles would be best used, and his lack of strength could be hidden.
Jones could struggle against big nose tackles in the NFL, but this season at center in the Alabama offensive line he has excelled and also shown great aptitude in calling audibles and assignments along the line.
He will never be a superstar, but he has a very high floor and will be a model citizen.
24. Lane Johnson (OT): Oklahoma
Johnson was a big riser at the Senior Bowl, where he showed that he had enough power and technique to stonewall pass rushers. A former quarterback and tight end,
Johnson is extremely athletic, and while relatively raw and lacking in both bulk and strength, he has all the raw tools to be a top left tackle who can hold his own in the run game.
25. Kawann Short (DT): Purdue
Short was quiet all season long, but he flashed his talent at the Senior Bowl, where he was mostly unblockable. He is a prototypical 3-technique defensive tackle with a squat, powerful build and the quickness to penetrate the line and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
While his lack of performance in 2012 is a worry, his talent will outweigh any fears and make him a top-40 pick.
26. Jonathan Hankins (DT): Ohio State
Hankins started the season in the top 10, but inconsistent performances and a poor motor have dropped him. He is not much of a pass rusher, but he can dominate against the run and has the athleticism to be more dynamic in the run game.
27. Desmond Trufant (CB): Washington
Trufant is a very polished cover man who is solid in all facets of the game and plays sticky coverage play after play. He does not have the best ball skills, but is a Day 1 starter and future No. 1 cornerback.
28. Quinton Patton (WR): Louisiana Tech
Patton stood out at the Senior Bowl, as he has the hands, speed, quickness and route running to be a primary target in the NFL. He is at his best going deep, but he has enough subtlety in his game to make plays all over the field.
29. Jonathan Cyprien (S): Florida International
This safety was the best at the Senior Bowl, and is one of the few in this draft who are equally capable in coverage (both man and especially zone) and against the run. Cyprien is a powerful hitter, and his versatility makes him a fit in any defense.
30. Tyler Eifert (TE): Notre Dame
Eifert is the most polished and well-rounded tight end in this draft, and he can block in-line and dominate as a split wide receiver, as well as everything in between.
Eifert should develop into a every-down tight end who can create mismatches wherever he lines up, much like Rob Gronkowski (although he does not have the same athleticism).
31. Keenan Allen (WR): California
Keenan Allen is not a lightning-fast wide receiver who will kills teams deep with speed, nor is he a tall target who will win every jump ball thrown to him.
Nevertheless, he is a quick, powerful receiver with great run-after-the-catch skill and safe hands. He looks like a younger Anquan Boldin or Marques Colston, and will probably make his living in the slot.
32. Larry Warford (OG): Kentucky
Warford is the third guard with a first-round grade in the draft, which highlights the strength at the position. Warford is sort of like a poor man's Chance Warmack.
He is a huge and powerful blocker who can maul in the run game and is quick enough to wall off opposing pass rushers. He is not quick enough for a zone-blocking scheme, but he could easily be a Pro Bowler in the right system.
33. Tyler Wilson (QB): Arkansas
Wilson was not great in his final college season, but his arm strength, toughness and deep-ball accuracy will make him a first-rounder.
34. Barkevious Mingo (OLB): LSU
I see Mingo as an athlete rather than a pass rusher, but there is no denying he has the physical gifts to be a star as a pass rusher. He has huge bust potential, though, which is why he is so low.
35. Gio Bernard (RB): UNC
Bernard is the best running back this year, and his three-down game and electrifying speed and quickness could make him a star if he is in an offense that gives him space to run. Think LeSean McCoy.
36. Sharif Floyd (DT): Florida
Floyd is a good athlete who can penetrate and make plays in the backfield. However, he plays too high and often is washed out of plays. However, if he can fix this, he would be a huge steal at the back end of the first round.
37. Arthur Brown (LB): Kansas State
Arthur Brown is a big-time linebacker who could play inside or outside in a 4-3 defense. He is undersized, but he is powerful and very fast and can play sideline to sideline against run or pass.
38. Phillip Thomas (S): Fresno State
Thomas is a coverage-first safety who has a nose for the ball and great hands. He is not a powerful tackler and is not an in-the-box safety though, and is only at his best in zone coverage. Jairus Byrd is the best-case scenario.
39. Sam Montgomery (DE): LSU
Montgomery is not an overwhelming athlete for a defensive end and has not been a consistent pass rusher yet in his career, but he plays the run well and hustles every play, and he could be a great complementary defensive end to go with an all-out pass rusher.
40. Tavon Austin (WR/RB): West Virginia
Austin is a multi-purpose weapon for any offense, and his acceleration, quickness and running skills make him a great slot receiver, return man and screen-game weapon.
41. Zach Ertz (TE): Stanford
The second-best tight end in the draft, Ertz is much more a receiving weapon than an in-line blocker. However, he is a better player than Coby Fleener was last year, and his length, route running and balance will make him a match-up nightmare on passing downs for years to come.
42. Justin Hunter (WR): Tennessee
While not a polished receiver, Justin Hunter has the length, speed and leaping ability to be the next Randy Moss. He will take a while to be a true weapon outside streak routes, but he could be one of the biggest steals in the draft.
43. Logan Ryan (CB): Rutgers
Ryan is a big cornerback who is best suited to playing in a zone-heavy defense where his burst, instincts and length lets him cover a lot of ground.
44. Mike Glennon (QB): NC State
Glennon is a big-armed quarterback who has decent accuracy, but he lacks the polish to start successfully in his rookie season.
45. Justin Pugh (OG/OT): Syracuse
Pugh's stock as a tackle took a big dip when he recorded 31" arms at the Senior Bowl, but his athleticism and experience as a guard will keep him in the first two rounds and let him stick in the NFL for a long time.
46. Alex Okafor (DE): Texas
Okafor is not a dynamic pass rusher, but he is strong and has good technique, which allowed him to give every tackle at the Senior Bowl trouble, even Eric Fisher. He is also strong against the run.
47. Matt Elam (S): Florida
Elam is not the prospect everyone is making him out to be due to his small stature and poor tackling technique. He could still be a good NFL starter, but he is not first-round worthy.
48. Marcus Lattimore (RB): South Carolina
Lattimore is the most complete back in this draft, but with serious knee injuries in consecutive years, his rookie season will be a wash. However, if he gets back to full strength, his powerful running style and receiving skills will make him a starter.
49. Robert Woods (WR): USC
Woods was overshadowed by Marqise Lee last year, but his decent athleticism, route running and safe hands will make him a good secondary or slot receiver on an NFL roster, and if he plays beside an elite player like Calvin Johnson, he could put up big numbers.
50. Baccari Rambo (S): Georgia
The best name in college football is a good safety who tackles well, can cover tight ends and is fast enough to cover deep zones. He is not a spectacular player, but will do his job.
51. Matt Barkley (QB): USC
52. Tony Jefferson (S): Oklahoma
53. DeAndre Hopkins (WR): Clemson
54. Khaseem Greene (LB): Rutgers
55. Datone Jones (DE): UCLA
56. Markus Wheaton (WR): Oregon State
57. David Amerson (CB/S): NC State
58. Terrence Williams (WR): Baylor
59. Marquise Goodwin (WR): Texas
60. Sylvester Williams (DT): UNC
61. Chris Harper (WR): Kansas State
62. Eddie Lacy (RB): Alabama
63. Mike Gillislee (RB): Florida
64. Brandon Williams (DT): Missouri Southern State
65. Leon McFadden (CB): San Diego State
66. Jackson Jeffcoat (DE): Texas
67. Kevin Minter (LB): LSU
68. Aaron Murray (QB): Georgia
69. DJ Fluker (OT): Alabama
70. Kenjon Barner (RB): Oregon
71. Shawn Williams (S): Georgia
72. Stepfan Taylor (RB): Stanford
73. Jordan Poyer (CB): Oregon State
74. Corey Lemonier (LB): Auburn
75. DJ Swearinger (S): South Carolina
76. Johnathan Franklin (RB): UCLA
77. Terron Armstead (OT): Arkansas-Pine Bluff
78. Ray Graham (RB): Pittsburgh
79. Dallas Thomas (OT/OG): Tennessee
80. Sean Porter (LB): Texas A&M
81. Cornelius Washington (DE): Georgia
82. Vance McDonald (TE): Rice
83. Brandon McGee (CB): Miami
84. Joseph Randle (RB): Oklahoma State
85. Jordan Mills (OT): Louisiana Tech
86. William Sutton (DT): Arizona State
87. Eric Reid (S): LSU
88. Tyler Bray (QB): Tennessee
89. Brandon Jenkins (DE): Florida State
90. Margus Hunt (DE): SMU
91. Dwayne Gratz (CB): Conneticut
92. Will Davis (CB): Utah State
93. Oday Aboushi (OT): Virginia
94. Stedman Bailey (WR): West Virginia
95. TJ McDonald (S): USC
96. Jordan Reed (TE): Florida
97. Ray Ray Armstrong (S): Miami
98. Michael Dyer (RB): Arkansas Baptist
99. Mike Catapano (DE): Princeton
100. Tavarres King (WR): Georgia