Between now and April 28, the hierarchy for this year's NFL draft class is bound to undergo a number of changes. Based on how this past season has unfolded, though, the most talented stars have begun building strong cases for first-round consideration.
Bowl season offered a great showcase for those players who have NFL dreams. Almost every game was afforded a national showcase, and many ran unopposed, thus drawing more eyes to the game.
Looking back on the past month, these three stars performed the best and consolidated their already strong draft stock.
|1||Tennessee Titans||Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss|
|2||Cleveland Browns||Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State|
|3||San Diego Chargers||Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss|
|4||Dallas Cowboys||Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis|
|5||Jacksonville Jaguars||Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida|
|6||Baltimore Ravens||Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame|
|7||San Francisco 49ers||Jared Goff, QB, Cal|
|8||Miami Dolphins||DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon|
|9||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State|
|10||New York Giants||Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson|
|11||Chicago Bears||Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State|
|12||New Orleans Saints||Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson|
|13||Philadelphia Eagles||Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State|
|14||Oakland Raiders||Desmond King, CB, Iowa|
|15||St. Louis Rams||Josh Doctson, WR, TCU|
|16||Detroit Lions||Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State|
|17||Atlanta Falcons||Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama|
|18||Indianapolis Colts||Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State|
|19||Buffalo Bills||Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA|
|20||New York Jets||Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia|
|21||Seattle Seahawks||Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss|
|22||Pittsburgh Steelers||Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU|
|23||Kansas City Chiefs||Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State|
|24||Green Bay Packers||Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia|
|25||Washington Redskins||A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama|
|26||Houston Texans||Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State|
|27||Minnesota Vikings||Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor|
|28||Cincinnati Bengals||Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma|
|29||Denver Broncos||Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas|
|30||Arizona Cardinals||Noah Spence, OLB, Eastern Kentucky|
|31||Carolina Panthers||Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana|
Source: Draft order via ESPN.com
Stars Who Gained Most from Bowl Season
Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
Laremy Tunsil was considered one of the best offensive linemen in the 2016 draft class before playing in the Sugar Bowl, but his performance against Oklahoma State solidified his standing as a possible top-five pick.
Tunsil's individual matchup with Emmanuel Ogbah drew a lot of attention but ultimately proved to reveal little about either player.
"While Ogbah gave Tunsil a look at a physical, power end with strong hands, he just wasn't a dynamic enough pass rusher to truly stress Tunsil," wrote NFL Media's Lance Zierlein. "Plus, Ogbah and Tunsil had limited matchups. I saw what I expected to see from Tunsil."
Still, Oklahoma State had little success sending rushers at Chad Kelly's blind side.
Tunsil possesses the perfect combination of size, strength and agility. He should have no problem handling more physical defensive ends or speed-rushers coming off the edge. You can also add touchdown vulture to his resume after his two-yard run at the end of the first half of the Sugar Bowl, per ESPN:
How good was Ole Miss in New Orleans? Even top NFL prospect Laremy Tunsil scored. And he's a 305-pound O-lineman: https://t.co/q76I2RbIYm— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2016
"The opportunity presented itself in Laremy's last game," said Matt Luke, Ole Miss' offensive line coach, per Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion-Ledger.
Tunsil fits the mold of a left tackle who can anchor an NFL offensive line for a decade, and he'd be a great addition for the Tennessee Titans, who need to build around Marcus Mariota.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Derrick Henry may own the Heisman Trophy, but Ezekiel Elliott is the better NFL prospect and will likely be selected earlier in the NFL draft.
Elliott closed out his college career in stellar fashion, running for 149 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. In the Buckeyes' win, the junior running back showcased a little bit of everything about his game—the explosiveness, pass protection, agility and speed in the open field.
NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah offered this succinct scouting report on Elliott:
Zeke Elliott is pretty complete as a back. He can do everything.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 1, 2016
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller also compared him to two former Pro Bowlers:
Lot of Matt Forte to Ezekiel Elliott's game. Or Priest Holmes. https://t.co/jyBa4tHIGz— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 1, 2016
While fewer and fewer running backs are considered first-round talents in today's NFL, Todd Gurley proved truly elite prospects are well worth an early pick.
Indianapolis Colts fans might be wary about the team hitching its wagons to a former first-round pick at running back after Trent Richardson's disastrous time with the franchise. With that said, Elliott would be a nice fit in the Colts backfield.
Indianapolis' top running back in 2015 was an aging Frank Gore. It needs to address the position with a long-term alternative, and Elliott would potentially be the most talented running back to put on a Colts uniform since Edgerrin James left.
Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
It's safe to say Mackensie Alexander got the better of Sterling Shepard in the Orange Bowl. The Clemson cornerback was put to the test and passed with flying colors, limiting Shepard to seven receptions for 87 yards and keeping the Sooners wideout out of the end zone.
According to Aaron Brenner of the Post & Courier, Alexander was also cramping up in the second half of the game but still managed to remain effective. It didn't stop him from jawing at the opponents, either, per SI College Football:
Clemson's Mackensie Alexander seen smack-talking Sterling Shepard and an OU assistant in last sequence. The Sooner Schooner may be next.— SI College Football (@si_ncaafb) December 31, 2015
When you're as talented as Alexander, you have every right to be a bit confident.
The redshirt sophomore is excellent in coverage, something he showed when lined up against Shepard. He's also agile enough and fast enough to keep up with or even close in on his man if he should lose a step or two.
Alexander can't do anything to grow another inch or two, so his 5'11" frame is likely to be used as an area of weakness in his game. While Alexander might struggle against a bigger receiver in the mold of Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, that issue would apply to a number of NFL cornerbacks.
Watching the battle between Alexander, Vernon Hargreaves and Jalen Ramsey to be the first CB selected will be fun to watch in the coming months.
Note: The draft order for selections No. 1 through No. 20 are courtesy of ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert. The final 11 picks are subject to change depending on the postseason.