As the college football season wore on last fall, I kept up with a monthly 2013 NFL draft big board from September through the beginning of January.
But with the whirlwind of underclassmen declarations and the NFL Scouting Combine, I figured the rankings would be changing too rapidly to make it worth coming out with another ranking until now.
I like position rankings and big boards a lot more than mock drafts, because it's more about actual evaluation of players and not blind predictions. Mock drafts, especially before free agency but even afterward, are incredibly pointless, because we have no idea what NFL teams are planning on doing.
I'm doing this list in the style of Mike Mayock, who ranks players within their positions. I like this style because it's so hard to compare some positions. It's difficult and often misleading to compare a guard to a safety to a running back.
So remember, this is not a mock draft in any way; this is just ranking the 10 best draft-eligible college football players at each position.
Most rankings are done as standard top-10 lists, but for the linebacker position I made three shorter lists so I could be more specific about the exact position. I also combined the guard and centers into one slide because there isn't as much top-level talent and demand for those positions.
Lastly, I added in a sleeper pick for each position for a lesser-known player who isn't necessarily next on the ranking but is worth keeping an eye on.
Matt Scott, Arizona
1. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
2. Geno Smith, West Virginia
3. Matt Barkley, Southern California
4. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
5. Mike Glennon, NC State
6. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
7. Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
8. Landry Jones, Oklahoma
9. Matt Scott, Arizona
10. Tyler Bray, Tennessee
Sleeper: Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah
Some people may scoff at Wilson being ahead of Smith, but I think Wilson has more potential as a leader and was working with a depleted Arkansas offense against SEC defenses, while Smith was boosted by his exceptional receivers and horrible Big 12 secondaries.
Scott is a great athlete who came on strong at the combine and showed big-time potential. Glennon, Dysert and Bray all have that high-risk, high-reward quality about them. Sorensen is a pure pocket passer and has an intriguing arm and field sense.
Andre Ellington, Clemson
1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
2. Le'Veon Bell, Michigan State
3. Eddie Lacy, Alabama
4. Joseph Randle, Oklahoma State
5. Stepfan Taylor, Stanford
6. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
7. Andre Ellington, Clemson
8. Montee Ball, Wisconsin
9. Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
10. Jawan Jamison, Rutgers
Sleeper: Christine Michael, Texas A&M
Still not buying fully into the hype surrounding Lacy. He ran behind one of the greatest offensive lines in college football history, and was boosted by his backfield mate T.J. Yeldon. Randle and Franklin both have the build and ceiling of every-down backs in the NFL.
Bell and Taylor are both underrated, while Ball is overrated as an NFL prospect. Michael had such an up-and-down career, and he dealt with a broken leg and torn ACL during college, which kept him out of the top 10.
Robert Woods, Southern California
1. Keenan Allen, California
2. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
3. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
4. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
5. Robert Woods, Southern California
6. Terrance Williams, Baylor
7. Justin Hunter, Tennessee
8. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
9. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
10 (tie). Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech
10 (tie). Aaron Dobson, Marshall
Sleeper: Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Patterson is an exceptional athlete, but I just can't put him over Allen because he isn't anywhere near as polished at this point. Hunter would have been lower on this list if he hadn't had a great combine.
Swope isn't exactly a sleeper because he's pretty well-known, but I think he has real potential as an NFL receiver, and not just in the slot. Patton, Woods, Williams, Hopkins and Bailey are all pretty similar players to me; they have good hands, are crisp route-runners, but don't have that elite size or speed to put them over the top.
Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
2. Zach Ertz, Stanford
3. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
4. Vance McDonald, Rice
5. Jordan Reed, Florida
6. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
7. Michael Williams, Alabama
8. Ryan Otten, San Jose State
9. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
10. Chris Gragg, Arkansas
Sleeper: Zach Sudfeld, Nevada
Anyone who thinks Ertz is a better prospect than Eifert has not watched enough football. Eifert is faster, has a much better catch radius and surer hands. He also has an aggression and leadership about him that I didn't see in Ertz.
McDonald is a bit of a question mark coming out of Rice, but he definitely has some potential. Escobar and Otten both come from smaller programs as well, but just aren't the same type of athlete that McDonald is.
Barrett Jones, Alabama
1. Barrett Jones, Alabama
2. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
3. Khaled Holmes, Southern California
4. Brian Schwenke, California
5. Braxston Cave, Notre Dame
1. Chance Warmack, Alabama
2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
3. Barrett Jones, Alabama
4. Larry Warford, Kentucky
5 (tie). Alvin Bailey, Arkansas
5 (tie). Brian Winters, Kent State
Sleeper: Justin Pugh, Syracuse
I put Jones as both a center and guard because he could easily play either in the NFL. I even would be willing to bet that he could be a good NFL tackle if he went back and worked at it.
Warmack is the best guard prospect in years, and Cooper isn't that far behind. I included Pugh as a guard even though he played tackle in college, because his size may be more conducive to playing the inside in the NFL.
Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
1. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
2. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
3. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama
5. Menelik Watson, Florida State
6. Dallas Thomas, Tennessee
7. Oday Aboushi, Virginia
8. Terron Armstead, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
9. Kyle Long, Oregon
10. Justin Pugh, Syracuse
Sleeper: Manase Foketi, West Texas A&M
Joeckel, Fisher, Johnson and Fluker are the consensus top four tackles, and there's a pretty serious drop-off after that. Watson, Long, and Armstead are all freak athletes who have elite potential but could very well end up as busts.
Aboushi and Pugh are both guys who could move inside to guard in the NFL if the situation is right. Foketi may be unknown at this point, but don't be surprised if a team takes him as high as the fourth round in April.
Jesse Williams, Alabama
1. Star Lotulelei, Utah
2. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
3. Sharrif Floyd, Florida
4. Jesse Williams, Alabama
5. Kawann Short, Purdue
6. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
7. Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
8. John Jenkins, Georgia
9. Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern State
10. Bennie Logan, LSU
Sleeper: Everett Dawkins, Florida State
Lotulelei's status is a little up in the air right now because of his heart condition, which required more testing. On the field, however, Lotulelei is a dynamic force who could step right in and contribute on Day 1.
Richardson and Floyd are similar players who could play numerous positions and be productive.
Hankins has slid a lot in the past few months and may continue to do so. Jesse Williams and Jenkins are traditional nose tackles who will clog the middle on run plays. Brandon Williams may have attended Missouri Southern State, but his talent is unquestioned.
Corey Lemonier, Auburn
1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
2. Bjoern Werner, Florida State
3. Damontre Moore, Texas A&M
4. Tank Carradine, Florida State
5. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
6. Sam Montgomery, LSU
7. Corey Lemonier, Auburn
8. Datone Jones, UCLA
9. Margus Hunt, Southern Methodist
10. Alex Okafor, Texas
Sleeper: John Simon, DE, Ohio State
Jordan, Ansah and Hunt are all physical specimens, but Jordan has the experience, technique and versatility that the other two lack. Werner and Moore both had sub-par combines, but the tape on them is outstanding.
The bottom half of the list is full of talent, but each comes with his own particular deficiency keeping him from elite status. Each could be very productive if put in the right system and given quality coaching.
Chase Thomas, Stanford
3-4 Outside Linebacker
1. Barkevious Mingo, LSU
2. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
3. Zaviar Gooden, Missouri
4. Trevardo Williams, Connecticut
5. Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi
6. Jelani Jenkins, Florida
4-3 Outside Linebacker
1. Jarvis Jones, Georgia
2. Alec Ogletree, Georgia
3. Arthur Brown, Kansas State
4. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
5. Sio Moore, Connecticut
6. Chase Thomas, Stanford
1. Kevin Minter, LSU
2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
3. Jon Bostic, Florida
4. Nico Johnson, Alabama
5. Kiko Alonso, Oregon
6. Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
Here's where things get a little complicated. On the inside, Minter is a better option than Te'o, and not just because of Te'o's off-the-field issues. I'm high on Bostic; his frame and athleticism impressed me when I watched him work out at the combine.
Gooden and Williams are a bit undersized, but they have that deceptive strength and blistering quickness around the edge that reminds me of Bruce Irvin. Lastly, that 4-3 outside linebacker class is really deep; the top four could all be taken within the first 45 picks.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
1. Dee Milliner, Alabama
2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
3. Johnthan Banks, Mississippi State
4. Jordan Poyer, Oregon State
5. Desmond Trufant, Washington
6. Logan Ryan, Rutgers
7. Robert Alford, Southeastern Louisiana
8. David Amerson, NC State
9. Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut
10. B.W. Webb, William & Mary
Sleeper: Dwayne Gratz, Connecticut
Everyone is getting a little too excited about Milliner after the combine. His speed is impressive, and his aggressive style is appealing.
But there are definitely some question marks about his hips and footwork, which make me hesitate to call him a top-five talent. Rhodes and Banks round out the top tier.
Amerson is intriguing because of his upside, although he had a disappointing 2012 season. Poyer, Trufant, Ryan and Alford all have the upside of a great No. 2 or average No. 1 corner.
I have Wreh-Wilson ninth here, although his teammate Gratz deserves a lot of praise. I wouldn't be surprised if Gratz ends up having a better NFL career.
D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
2. Johnathan Cyprien, Florida International
3. Eric Reid, LSU
4. Matt Elam, Florida
5. D.J. Swearinger, South Carolina
6. Phillip Thomas, Fresno State
7. Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
8. Shawn Williams, Georgia
9. Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse
10. Zeke Motta, Notre Dame
Sleeper: J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern
Cyprien has made waves over the past few weeks, and he deserves all of the attention and more. I'm not sold on Elam or Swearinger, because I'm not sure either of them has the discipline and technique needed to be a great NFL safety, although nobody can doubt their athleticism or hitting ability.
Thomas and Motta are both hard-nosed players, but they may be liabilities in coverage. The sleeper of the bunch, Wilcox, is a crazy athlete who converted to safety from running back last season and tore up the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago. Look for him to climb up boards in the coming weeks.