Meet the Most Physically Gifted Prospects of the 2015 NFL Draft
When it comes to maximizing a physical advantage on the football field, it’s generally ideal to get faster, heavier and longer all at the same time. The more a draft prospect can demonstrate elite combinations of these traits, the more excited NFL teams become.
This is why scouts and personnel directors put their time and energy into the NFL Scouting Combine and the pro days that follow it.
I’ve been collecting the data and results from these events since 2012 to plug into my metric that creates a comprehensive score for each player by factoring in nearly every measured aspect of his physical traits. Over the years, I’ve amassed a significant sample size of prospects to help provide context to this ranking system. You can find a link for the full list on the last slide.
The 2015 draft class is loaded with incredible athletes at the edge-rusher position.
It’s worth mentioning that this list does not rank prospects by their overall value or projections into the NFL; this is just one aspect to their game, albeit an important aspect.
It’s time to meet the 30 most physically gifted prospects in this upcoming draft class…
Using a simple quantitative numeric scale that grades nearly every physical attribute of a prospect, I was able to generate a single grade value intended to represent an overall measurables grade. Below you will see a description of what each category represents:
Dynamic Speed (DSA): Often times, people put too much emphasis on a player's 40-yard dash when it is only one of three times recorded. DSA equals the combined average of a prospect's 40-yard dash, short shuttle and three-cone drills. This allows for a better comparison of the straight-ahead, lateral and change-of-direction speed of any given prospect. I use this tool exclusively rather than isolate the 40-yard dash time because it’s a more accurate representation of true football speed.
Dynamic Explosion (DET): This is a simple formula that takes the prospect's combined number of bench reps, vertical jump and broad jump and adds them together for a single number. This gives a more complete gauge of the prospect's explosive capabilities of both his upper and lower body.
Dynamic Speed with Weight (DSA/Weight): This is based on a formula that takes into account the prospect's weight and the average of all three speed times to produce a number that reflects a player's speed relative to his weight. The goal is to put prospects of various weight groups on a level playing field when determining speed. This also represents the measure that considers a player's weight, which as we know is important in football.
All three of these elements are then added to a prospect's height and arm length/hand size combo, where each category is graded numerically on a scale from 1-10. The score is then averaged out over each column for the "Comprehensive Measurables Grade."
Though it may seem excessive or benign, a player’s hands and arms are important tools on a football field, and the longer and bigger they are, the better. While long arms provide valuable length, big hands allow players more strength for grabbing, blocking, catching and tackling.
Note: Running backs were not graded on height or arm length since these elements factor very little in their success on a football field. Hand size, however, was factored in. All other positions are graded equally across the board.
All numbers were acquired from numbers from the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days. When a player ran a faster 40 at his pro day compared to his combine time, I averaged those two times. All other numbers represent the best result from either the combine or pro day.
30. Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas
Ben Heeney's impressive outing at the combine made him the third fastest multidirectional athlete per pound in this draft class.
It’s this speed that helped him to make so many tackles while at Kansas.
Out of all the FBS prospects from this class, regardless of position, only four players (Eric Kendricks, Denzel Perryman, Clayton Geathers and Derron Smith) had more career solo tackles than Heeney's 218, according to my own research on the draft class.
29. Blake Bell, TE, Oklahoma
Aside from the fact that Oklahoma’s Blake Bell has the ideal frame for an NFL tight end, he makes this list primarily because of the way he can move. Despite his massive size, his short-area quickness is elite.
Bell might have run an average 40-yard dash time, but that hardly makes him slow. He posted the fastest three-cone time among tight ends despite carrying 252 pounds.
When looking at the data collected over the last four years, Bell actually turned out one of the better combine performances of any tight end over that time, ranking as the eighth-best at his position since 2012.
Not only was he the tallest tight end in Indianapolis, but he also had the best speed/weight grade.
28. Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
Kenny Bell has had an impressive predraft showing thus far. At the combine he finished with the third-best three-cone time of any prospect of 2015.
The former Cornhusker was also impressive with a 41.5" vertical.
Bell is the second highest-ranked prospect on the list weighing less than 200 pounds.
He made the list despite only putting up seven reps on the bench press.
Bell seems to lack the football traits required to be a No. 1 wide receiver at the next level, but he'll be a valuable asset wherever he lands.
27. Marcus Rush, Edge, Michigan State
Marcus Rush is not a well-known prospect despite being a productive four-year starter on Michigan State’s defense.
Rush tested fast for a 247-pound prospect, and he wasn’t even invited to the scouting combine.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a deep class of talented pass-rushers, and yet Rush is showing that he belongs among them on every level.
It’s unclear where he will land in the draft, but it would be a surprise if his name is never called this May.
26. Alvin "Bud" Dupree, Edge, Kentucky
Alvin Dupree has all the physical tools to be a great NFL player, but his instincts and awareness seem to be holding him back from greatness. Like physical gifts, instincts are not something you can teach.
While this talented edge-rusher figures out how to play the game, he can always fall back on his size, speed and explosion.
He was one of just five prospects to score over 200 in explosion this year.
25. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Heisman-winning quarterback achieved the highest adjusted QBR in the nation (90.9) in 2014, per ESPN.com.
Mariota’s claim to fame comes from his dual-threat abilities as both a runner and passer. His 6.6 yards per carry is the highest average of any FBS quarterback in this draft, as is his differential of 105 touchdown passes to 14 interceptions.
He uses his athleticism in perfect balance for a quarterback and understands how to avoid the unnecessary hits when scrambling. He has the quickness to evade defenders and extend the play.
Mariota’s NFL destination is one of the biggest mysteries of this draft. Whoever ends up getting him will have a lot to work with.
24. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Brett Hundley is the school leader in total offense and touchdown passes, and the single-season record holder for passing yards from the 2012 season. Keep in mind—this is the same school that Troy Aikman and Cade McNown played for in the past, and both became first-round draft picks.
Neither of those guys is even close to the athlete Hundley is. He is the second most athletic quarterback in his class after Mariota.
The problem is, most athletic quarterbacks end up using this skill as a crutch that allows them to have success without improving from the pocket.
23. Geremy Davis, WR, UConn
UConn wide receiver Geremy Davis has made a good case for himself this offseason by demonstrating he has the physical tools to be one of the best in the business.
But physical tools are in no way a guarantee that a prospect will find success at the next level.
Davis benched 23 reps of 225 pounds and still managed to run an impressive 6.86-second three-cone drill.
There are some red flags in terms of his production, or lack thereof, during his 47 games. Teams are likely to forgive this aspect of his game because there’s so much to work with.
22. Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
Melvin Gordon is certainly much more than just an elite athlete. Evidence of his playmaking ability can be quickly found by looking at his 2014 production. His 2,587 yards rushing nearly broke the FBS record Barry Sanders set in 1988. He fell just 42 yards short. He also had 29 touchdowns while averaging 7.5 yards per carry.
Of all the FBS running backs in this draft class, Gordon’s 5,143 career yards from scrimmage ranks second, as does his 294 points scored in 45 career games.
None of Gordon’s testing numbers were amazing, but when taken as a whole, he shows up as one of the better prospects in this draft.
21. Zach Zenner, RB, South Dakota State
South Dakota State is not known to be a factory for NFL-caliber running backs, but Zach Zenner is looking to start a new trend.
This highly productive back has the size and speed to be dangerous weapon at the next level. His 4.6-second 40-yard dash was not that impressive, but he’s explosive in all other areas.
One of the most impressive things he did at the combine was jump 41 inches while weighing 223 pounds.
20. Eli Harold, Edge, Virginia
Eli Harold is far from a perfect prospect. On tape, he lacks functional strength and seems to get pushed around easily.
Regardless of his issues with the game, Harold’s testing numbers prove he has the physical tools to be good at the next level, but he has a long way to go in order to become a complete football player.
Expect him to be a liability in the running game until he figures out how to play with better leverage and use his body more effectively.
19. Malcolm Brown, RB, Texas
Few people would identify Malcolm Brown as having one of the combine's best performances of the running backs.
At 5’11”, 224 pounds, he managed to pull off a 6.86-second three-cone drill in Indianapolis. That was the fourth-best time for his positional group.
When you average out his speed and agility times and factor in weight, he had the second-best grade among running backs. He also has the biggest hands (10 ¼ inches) of the group as well.
Brown may lack flat-out blazing speed, but he is quick enough to hit holes and big enough to break arm tackles at the next level.
18. Darren Waller, WR, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech continues its tradition of producing enormous wide receivers who have the ability to stretch the field.
I’m sure some teams are wondering whether or not to turn Darren Waller into a tight end.
Waller’s physical gifts seem ideal for the jump-ball game with his 6’6” height and 37" vertical jump. During his career at Georgia Tech, he averaged 19 yards per reception.
17. Jordan Hicks, LB, Texas
Texas LB Jordan Hick hasn’t received much attention throughout this predraft process, but ranking as the 17th-best athlete in this draft class should at least raise a few eyebrows.
The former Longhorn excelled in every phase of his testing and showed no weaknesses physically.
Despite his athleticism, Hicks was not overly productive throughout his 48 games in college. Instincts will be the big question that his career hinges upon.
16. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Amari Cooper makes this list because of his elite speed and quickness in all directions. He has much more than straight-line speed, though. In fact, the former Crimson Tide ranks tops among the 2015 receivers in multidirectional speed per pound.
According to Football Outsiders, which does a "playmaker score" metric, Cooper ranks atop the receiver class with a score of 95.4 percent.
In my production metric, he ranks third among the receivers overall and looks to be one of the safest players in this year’s draft, displaying excellent marks in every area of prospect evaluation.
15. Alani Fua, Edge, BYU
BYU’s Alani Fua’s predraft numbers have pushed him into the discussion of becoming a potential mid-round draft pick. However, he has not found his way into Matt Miller’s top 100 on Bleacher Report.
There’s a good reason Fua is not considered a top prospect. He has failed to maximize his potential. From my research, he ranks 22nd out of 28th in production. In 44 games he only managed eight career sacks.
14. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
NFL teams are sure to be excited about the potential downhill threat Sammie Coates can be at the next level. He has big-play capabilities written all over him with his size/speed combination.
Coates is more than just fast. He turned out the second best explosion score among the receiver group, highlighted by his 41" vertical.
In addition to his speed and explosion, Coates has great length, demonstrated in his 6'1" height and 33" arms.
13. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
Many draft analysts believe Kevin White is the best wide receiver in this class. He could be the best combination of size and speed of all the wideouts in this class.
White impressed everyone when he ran 4.35 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He also showed his strength when he benched 23 reps of 225.
There’s no doubt White will be a top-10 pick overall.
12. Eric Rowe, S, Utah
The safety position is not overly impressive this year or loaded with freak athletes. Eric Rowe is likely going to be one of the first safeties drafted in this class particularly because of his athletic gifts.
His speed-to-weight ratio is the best out of all the safeties in this class.
Rowe is one of the best prospects in this draft in terms of his lateral movement—his three-cone and short shuttle-times are both incredible. He’s one of the only guys to run below seven seconds and four seconds in the three-cone and short shuttle, respectively.
11. Frank Clark, Edge, Michigan
Surprisingly, Frank Clark is the fastest multidirectional athlete per pound in this entire draft.
Before the combine, there weren’t a lot of people who knew about Frank Clark because he was kicked off the Michigan football team.
Clark has good length and the size to be a true three-down defensive end. His troubled background will cause teams to pause, but there’s a lot to work with just going off his physical tools.
10. Chris Conley, WR, Georgia
As of right now, Chris Conley looks like a guy who is a far better athlete than he is a football player.
Conley turned in the best explosion score of any receiver at the combine in addition to one of the fastest times in the 40-yard dash.
Oh yeah—his 34" arms are helpful and should come in handy when he’s reaching for balls or trying to keep a defender at bay.
9. Preston Smith, Edge, Mississippi State
Most people know about the stellar performances that Vic Beasley and Owamagbe Odighizuwa had at the combine, but few are aware Preston Smith was next in line.
His 4.74 seconds in the 40-yard dash was impressive, but what’s more noteworthy is his running that fast while weighing 271 pounds.
The edge-rusher from Mississippi State is a solid athlete all-around, and he pairs his athletic gifts nicely with an ideal frame for the position. He is long and has giant hands, which helps in shedding blocks and tackling.
8. David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa
Teams that are looking for a bigger back who can move should be paying close attention to the small-school back David Johnson. He is one of the bigger backs in this draft class but still managed a 41.5" vertical, which means he can either jump over you or run through you.
Johnson also was one of the few RBs in this class who ran under seven seconds in the three-cone drill.
It’s this degree of athleticism that allowed him to dominate lesser competition for years.
7. Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
On tape, Stephone Anthony displays great size but appears to be stiff in the hips and struggles to change directions. This is why it was so surprising he put up the numbers he did at the combine.
Of the non-rushing linebackers, Anthony placed second in the 40-yard dash (4.56 seconds), second in the short shuttle (4.03 seconds) and second in speed/weight grade.
He has great length (32 ½" arms) and big hands (10 ⅜" inches) for a linebacker.
6. Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
Abdullah ranks as one of the most explosive players in the draft this year, as evidenced by his position-leading 42 ½" vertical jump and 130" broad jump. I was surprised to see him test so well at the combine.
Based on tape I assumed he was a much better football player than he was an athlete, but as it turns out, there is some debate about that. He can now be seen as a more complete NFL back who could end up carrying the bulk of a team’s running game.
5. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Edge, UCLA
If you were to create a mold for which to build an army of edge-rushers, Odighizuwa is the guy you should be looking at.
He’s built like a statue, and every inch of his frame shows up functionally on the football field.
He needs to get better at finishing plays, but his productivity as an edge force is apparent. His 11" hands legally qualify as grizzly claws and should help him when tackling and controlling blockers.
Odighizuwa ranked in the top 20 overall among 903 prospects over four years.
4. Randy Gregory, Edge, Nebraska
With all the negative publicity about Gregory testing positive for marijuana at the combine, it’s a good thing he has elite size and athleticism to fall back on. It’s these traits that should keep him from falling out of the first round.
Out of the 903 prospects over the four-year study, Gregory is ranked 13th overall. That gives you a pretty good idea how rare his physical gifts are.
3. Danielle Hunter, Edge, LSU
Danielle Hunter is an interesting prospect who sort of came out of nowhere when he blow his pro day out of the water. The LSU edge-rusher was one of the least productive players at his position of draft-eligible prospects but is almost certainly going to be drafted based on athletic ability alone.
Hunter weighs 17 pounds more than Gregory yet had a better broad jump and the same vertical. He also ran a slightly faster 40-yard dash, though his time wasn’t electrically timed.
Despite all of this, Hunter will likely be yet another example of an athletically gifted prospect who can’t put it all together.
2. Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson
Not only was Vic Beasley the second most explosive draft prospect of 2015, but he was also fourth in the class in his multidirectional speed per pound.
In four years' worth of draft prospects, Beasley ranks seventh overall out of 903.
One of the biggest surprises from his combine showing was his 245-pound weight. Most expected him to weigh around 220 pounds.
1. Byron Jones, CB, UConn
It’s not surprising after Byron Jones jumped out of the building in Indy that he would be on this list.
His explosion score is the highest number I’ve ever recorded in four years. It was so high that I had to configure my charts to accommodate his score.
Jones currently ranks as the most physically gifted prospect in this draft, but he also holds the honor as the most physically gifted cornerback in four years and 903 draft prospects studied.
His fast-twitch muscle fibers are world-class and extremely rare. If he can use this gift properly, there are no limits to how good he can be.
To see the complete list of prospects since 2012, visit DraftMetric.com.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player writing for Bleacher Report.