Ranking the Top 50 Players Invited to the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine
On Wednesday, the NFL announced which college prospects will be attending the league's combine in Indianapolis later in February. The event is used as a medical checkup for players, as well as a platform for interviews, but the only thing from the week that most casual fans will pay attention to is the 40-yard dash.
The NFL has taken a stand on players with criminal offenses, banning them from participation at the combine. Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com noted Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly, Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon and Grambling State receiver Chad Williams as players who missed the cut for off-field reasons. Both Kelly and Williams were at January's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama.
Looking ahead at the combine week, the last major hurdle for most of these draft prospects, we'll break down the top 50 attendees. Some of these players will not be participating in drills because they are recovering from injuries or surgeries, but there are few exceptions of players being invited to the combine, injured or not, who don't go through checkups, weigh-ins and the interview process.
Follow along as we lay out the main characters of this draft pool, including just about every name you can expect to see on Day 1 of the draft.
50. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
The first thing that will be brought up with Cordrea Tankersley will be his age. While most players who are drafted in the top 50 picks of an NFL draft are young, Tankersley will be a 24-year-old rookie in-season.
The reason for this is that he went to a military academy coming out of high school, and he stayed all four years while at Clemson. It's possible he could have left after 2015, his first year as a starter, but he was a No. 2 cornerback at the time, with Mackensie Alexander, a Minnesota Vikings second-round pick in 2016, as the team's top defensive back.
Tankersley is "handsy" and may not be able to get away with his style of play in the NFL as frequently. Recording nine interceptions and 20 additional pass breakups over the last two years is nothing to scoff at, though, and the combination of that with the fact he will likely measure in over 6'0" and also has a chance to run 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash makes him an interesting factor early on Day 2.
49. Ethan Pocic, IOL/OT, LSU
Ethan Pocic is the opposite of what you think of when you think of college offensive linemen. For the most part, the majority of draftable offensive linemen play offensive tackle, but with only 64 starting professional tackle spots in the NFL, they often have to kick inside to guard.
Tackles, who have to play in space, are most often the best players on the line from the high school level up. That's why it's odd that Pocic, who played guard and center for most of his career at LSU, would kick to offensive tackle at this point in his career.
Pocic played just one game at left tackle and one game at right tackle with the Tigers, but he is listed at 6'7" on the school's official site, and size is a premium at the position. Pocic might well be the class five-tool offensive lineman with the ability to line up wherever you want him to.
With LSU, he was a team captain, a first-team All-SEC and a first-team All-American player.
48. Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, Alabama
At the Senior Bowl, Dalvin Tomlinson was the most consistent defensive tackle when stopping the run. He's not great at beating linemen on pass-rush attempts, but for a nose tackle, he's more than fine.
Last year, in a much deeper defensive tackle class, former teammate Jarran Reed was a second-round pick with the Seattle Seahawks. Expect to hear Tomlinson's name to come off the board around the same range.
Tomlinson is the best nose tackle in the draft, though he doesn't bring a lot to a team on third down. He may be a two-down run-stopper, but even in 2017, with the way defensive lines have to rotate so heavily, that still has value.
He can play head up on the center, in the A-Gap, in a bear front or head up on tackle at the next level. As long as you don't design a scheme in which he's the penetrating tackle, he should fit almost across the board as an interior player.
47. Marlon Mack, RB, South Florida
If you didn't watch South Florida last year, you missed a treat in Marlon Mack. The Bulls running back helped vault the team into the national conversation while pushing head coach Willie Taggart's profile to the point he was able to take the head job at the University of Oregon.
Like Taggart, Mack also departed with some eligibility left. In every single season that Mack played, he was able to crack 1,000 yards rushing. In the American Athletic Conference, there's not much more he could have proved in a new scheme in 2017.
Mack's initial burst out of his cuts is impressive, though his long speed tends to dwindle as he stands up when running in space. His 10-yard split will be more impressive than his 40-yard dash in Indianapolis.
46. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Jalen "Teez" Tabor is a cornerback from the University of Florida who took over college football during the past few seasons. In the past two years, he's made the first-team All-SEC list at cornerback, which is significant in the top conference of defensive talent in the sport.
He missed the season opener, though, because of a suspension following an altercation between him and his teammate, C'yontai Lewis. Before then, in 2015, Tabor was suspended for refusing to take a drug test. If anyone is on the hot seat to pass the combine drug test, it's Tabor.
Tabor checks every baseline box in terms of height (6'0") and athleticism, but playmaking potential is missing from his game. He's a high-end second cornerback or a medium-to-slightly-below-average No. 1 corner. In a class that has so many cornerbacks with so many styles of play, it's a pick-your-type market at the position.
45. Jabrill Peppers, S/LB, Michigan
Jabrill Peppers might be the most popular defensive player in the country, but it's because he's not just a defensive player. After coming in as a cornerback recruit, Peppers transitioned from safety to linebacker, as his athleticism didn't match up with his coverage ability.
Peppers also returned kicks for Michigan on top of lining up as a tailback. The NFL lists him as a linebacker at the combine, but there's a decent chance that he gets a look or two at safety or running back, similar to the predraft process of Shaq Thompson of the Carolina Panthers, who played safety, running back and linebacker for the Washington Huskies.
He's a project, but he could be an outside linebacker in a 4-3 defense who also plays as an overhang defender against spread looks. That's important, as most 4-3 defenses pull out an outside linebacker when they go into a 4-2 nickel defense. If he can have a Micah Hyde-style impact as an overhang defender in the slot, he'll be worth a top-45 pick in redrafts.
44. Tre'Davious White, CB, LSU
Tre'Davious White had an up-and-down career with the LSU Tigers. As a freshman, he was a standout, which started the hype that built to a "future first-round pick" label after his true sophomore season.
In 2015, though, his junior season, he had some lapses. Instead of declaring during his first shot at the draft, despite making the second-team All-SEC team, White returned to school for his senior season.
That turned out to be a great choice, as he became a team captain, a consensus All-American and an All-SEC player for the first time in his career. According to NFL Draft Scout, he's a quarter-inch short of 6'0" with a 4.50-second 40-yard dash time. After generating some momentum at this year's Senior Bowl, White could parlay a good combine into a first-round selection.
43. Jaleel Johnson, DL, Iowa
Jaleel Johnson is one of just two under tackle prospects in this top 50. In a weak draft class at defensive tackle, don't be surprised if he rises up to become a first-round pick.
Johnson is incredibly consistent in reading blocks, and even against Big 10 competition, he came out with many more wins than losses on a down-to-down basis. Some may worry about his impact as a pass-rusher, but his 7.5 sacks in 2016 should keep those thoughts away.
He's stout enough that he can play as a 1-technique in a 4-3 defense that uses its defensive tackle more ambiguously, like the Carolina Panthers do. At Senior Bowl practices, his rush reps with guards and centers didn't land on film, but when team reps came along, Johnson stepped up.
42. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
For teams that value a linebacker who can play sideline to sideline, many are going to think highly of Zach Cunningham. Teams that primarily run a Cover 3 scheme, where linebackers have to drop into the flats in coverage, need athletic linebackers like Cunningham. It's why teams like the Carolina Panthers and the Seattle Seahawks draft like they do.
Cunningham may not be Jamie Collins in terms of athleticism, but he's about as close as you're going to get in this draft class. Last year, in the Southeastern Conference, he totaled 125 tackles. He also registered 16.5 tackles for a loss.
It's not often that Vanderbilt football players declare early for the draft, but Cunningham isn't your typical Commodore. He's a top-50 lock who should be on the minds of those picking late in the first round, such as the New England Patriots, who need help at linebacker.
41. Caleb Brantley, DL, Florida
This defensive tackle class is poor. For as strong as the 2016 class was, with three 3-4 defensive ends or tackles going in the top 12 and six in the first round overall, this class is weak.
The top true defensive tackle on this list, one who played as a defensive tackle and not a hybrid player like Alabama's Jonathan Allen or Michigan State's Malik McDowell, is Caleb Brantley of Florida. He's an athletic defensive tackle, and if his combine lands right, in this market, he could see a sharp rise in his draft stock.
At the end of the day, defensive linemen get drafted in the first round. If Brantley is the top name for a team that absolutely needs a tackle after free agency, he could be a top-20 player. In three years at Florida, Brantley recorded 5.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for a loss. Expect him to be a 3-technique defender in the NFL, be it in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense.
40. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Think Randall Cobb. That's the player Dede Westbrook is going to be compared to during the draft process.
A Heisman Trophy finalist, you could make the case that Westbrook, an Oklahoma wideout, had the best season of any college receiver in 2016. He's small (6'0"), but he's also fast and elusive. He may not be on John Ross' level, but he's about as close to a second-round lock as you can peg.
Westbrook was twice arrested for domestic violence, which may affect his draft stock. There have been no rumors at this time as to whether NFL teams will or won't weigh that heavily into their evaluations of the receiver.
39. Antonio Garcia, OT, Troy
Antonio Garcia looks more like a defensive end than an offensive tackle, and that plays to his advantage. Around bowl season, hype started building around the Sun Belt bookend, and by the time the Senior Bowl came around, rumors of "the next Terron Armstead" had spread.
Garcia looked the part in one-on-ones in terms of athleticism. He struggled with consistency compared to the likes of Western Michigan's Taylor Moton, but he has the tools to be the best tackle in this draft class.
No one has more to gain in a weak offensive tackle class than a player like Garcia, who could rise into the top 20 of every draft board if he puts up Armstead- or Tyron Smith-like numbers. What he does in Indianapolis will decide where he's drafted. Few players have that fate.
38. Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
Before this season, Taco Charlton only had nine career sacks and 14.5 career tackles for a loss in his three years at the University of Michigan. Even early on in his senior season, he didn't have the same type of splash impact with which he ended the year.
Against Ohio State and Florida State, on a national stage, he took over games for moments. In those two meetings alone, he recorded five tackles for a loss and 3.5 sacks. That's a huge bump from his 8.5 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks over nine games to start the season.
In some ways, he's similar to Kevin Dodd, the former Clemson pass-rusher who last year got hot during the playoffs and made a name for himself. Dodd wound up being an early second-round pick to the Tennessee Titans.
The biggest difference between Dodd and Charlton? According to NFL Draft Scout, Charlton is going to measure in taller than 6'5" and heavier than 270 pounds.
37. Evan Engram, TE, Mississippi
When you hear about Evan Engram this winter and spring, the name that will continue to come up is Jordan Reed. Both shorter, thinner tight ends, they are often linked as H-back types, with Reed being the NFL archetype since Aaron Hernandez was asked to stay away from New England's headquarters in 2013.
Engram had a breakout 65-reception, 926-yard and eight-touchdown season with the Ole Miss Rebels in 2016. Like most of the seniors on this list, Engram was a known commodity going into his senior season, but he made the most of his final year before being thrown into the talent pool.
At the Senior Bowl, Engram weighed in at 236 pounds, about 10 to 15 pounds above what he looked like while playing in the Southeastern Conference. At 6'3", he was still big enough to block the likes of Florida State defensive end DeMarcus Walker five yards off of the ball in the season opener.
After Engram's all-star practices and his weigh-in, his stock is trending upward. Considering his athleticism, especially juxtaposed to some of the blocking tight ends who are slated to participate at the combine, he's going to separate himself from the pack even more in Indianapolis.
36. Pat Elflein, IOL, Ohio State
Ohio State's offense had legitimate problems in 2016 despite making the playoffs. The Buckeyes' offensive line had a shaky right side, and quarterback J.T. Barrett looked like an undraftable prospect after shining in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
The most solid spot that the Buckeyes had on the offensive side of the ball last year, though, was center, where Pat Elflein transitioned after staring as a guard. He did so well as an interior lineman that he elected to not even show up to the Senior Bowl, the showcase for the top senior talents in college football.
Elflein, after one year at center, won the Rimington Trophy, an award given to the top center in college football. Elflein didn't need to return to school in 2016, which was why he entered the year as one of the top seniors in the class, but by going back, in a relatively weak offensive line class, he's proved to every NFL scout that he can play left guard, center or right guard with ease.
35. Dan Feeney, IOL, Indiana
The best pure interior offensive line prospect in this draft is Dan Feeney, a guard from Indiana. At the Senior Bowl, though, Feeney spent some reps at both guard and center, leading some to believe that he can play the middle spot on the offensive line in the NFL too.
If he clears medical concerns around his concussion issues, Feeney will be the first college guard drafted in the 2017 class. Based on his athleticism, you have to assume that power teams will look at him as a left guard, which would allow him to pull across the formation more often.
Feeney was a four-year starter at Indiana, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2013. He finished his career with back-to-back All-American honors in 2015 and 2016. There are few boxes left for him to check as an interior lineman.
34. Garett Bolles, OT, Utah
Garett Bolles, before he plays a single snap of regular-season football at the NFL level, will be a 25-year-old. With that being said, there's a good chance he's the best offensive tackle prospect in this draft class on draft day.
Bolles didn't play college football until 2014, when he joined Snow College, a junior college in Utah. After two years, he became one of the most sought-out junior college prospects in America, but instead of leaving for the SEC, he stuck around and played for his in-state Utes.
In his one season of play in major college football, he earned a first-team All-Pac-12 nod. At the combine, Bolles has a chance to make up a lot of ground on some of the younger prospects in this class with a solid performance. If he fails to do something big, though, he might find himself stuck in the 30s of draft rankings.
33. Eddie Jackson, S/CB, Alabama
If not for an injury, Eddie Jackson would be talked about as a potential first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Jackson started his career off as a cornerback for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, but he played the last two seasons as a safety.
Jackson has had two major injuries: an ACL tear as a sophomore and a leg fracture as a senior. If Jackson wanted to be a top-100 pick last season, he could have declared a year early for the draft after 2015, but he, like Reuben Foster, Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen, was part of the group of defenders who returned to give Alabama one of the best defenses we've seen in recent years.
He has the size and speed you want out of a safety prospect, and the fact he might be able to play cornerback in a pinch can only help his draft stock. While there's a stigma around Saban-coached corners, his recent safeties, like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Landon Collins, have thrived in the NFL.
32. Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
If you don't know who Derek Rivers is, don't worry. Most of the draft world doesn't, either.
Coming out of high school, Rivers played at a military academy in an effort to earn a Division I scholarship, which he landed with Youngstown State. There, under former head coach Bo Pelini, he became the school's all-time sack leader.
Pelini, who coached in the NFL for nine seasons, was able to develop pass-rushing prospects like Randy Gregory, and Rivers might be set to have a better NFL career than any of them. In terms of frame and athleticism, nothing is holding Rivers back from being a consistent eight-sack force in the NFL.
While that might not sound like much, pass-rushers are like quarterbacks in the way that there's a massive drop-off after the first round. Rivers is about all you can ask for from a Day 2 pass-rusher. He bends in all the right places, can come around the corner with ease and consistently plays the run with good hand placement.
At the Senior Bowl practices, no pass-rusher looked more impressive in one-on-ones than Rivers.
31. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
Ryan Ramczyk is one of three offensive tackles who are being named as first-round picks in mocks. If you didn't know that name before, no one blames you.
The Badgers product didn't play a Division I game until 2016. Jesse Temple of ESPN told Ramczyk's wild story earlier this season. Basically, he turned down a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh coming out of high school because he wanted to stay close to home and nearly quit football altogether to become a welder.
Ramcyzk said no to Pittsburgh, showed up to Winona State but left before playing, missed a season, then spent time at both Madison Area Technical College and Mid-State Technical College before joining Wisconsin-Stevens Point's football team, which led to a transfer to Wisconsin-Madison. In his one year of Division I play, after graduating high school in 2012 with a Division I offer, he was an All-American.
After declaring a year early, with "early" being a relative term, Ramczyk had hip surgery on January 4, according to CBSSports.com.
30. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
You should know who Christian McCaffrey is by now. He was all over television and magazine covers from August until January.
The Stanford running back is similar to former USC Trojan Reggie Bush in that he's primarily a runner but is talented enough as a pass-catcher to warrant a conversation about whether he could be a solid pass-catcher if you split him out wide. In some ways, that's like Ty Montgomery, a former receiver with the Cardinal who transitioned to running back for the Green Bay Packers in 2016.
McCaffrey sat out his bowl game, making headlines during a quiet news cycle, but no one expects for that to affect the 2015 Heisman Trophy runner-up's draft stock. McCaffrey nearly recorded 4,000 rushing yards and 100 receptions at Stanford.
If your team needs a primary running back to pair with a goal-line back, McCaffrey should be high on your list. In today's NFL, where backs need to run power, zone and catch the ball, he's a plug-and-play athlete.
29. Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
Carl Lawson was a standout freshman for the Auburn Tigers in 2013, but injuries quickly limited him. He missed his sophomore season of 2014 because of a torn ACL.
In 2015, because of injuries, including a hip issue, he only played in seven of Auburn's games. Many thought he could have declared for the NFL draft after three years, but heading into 2016, his redshirt junior season, he had never started a full season of FBS football.
That changed, and he was able to post a 9.5-sack All-American season for Auburn in 2016. He declared with one year of eligibility remaining, but there are still some questions around his draft stock. He may have been one of the few pass-rushers to beat Laremy Tunsil, a 2016 first-round pick, but there's a chance he measures in at 6'1". And with his injury history, he may drop on draft day like Owamagbe Odighizuwa.
Odighizuwa was predicted to be a first-round pick coming out of UCLA but didn't come off the board until the third round, when the New York Giants picked him up. Last year, the second-year pass-rusher barely saw the field, as he was passed by an undrafted rookie free agent in the Giants' limited rotation.
There's a bit of a boom-bust factor with Lawson considering his injury history.
28. David Njoku, TE, Miami
After turning down the likes of Ohio State in recruiting, David Njoku, a New Jersey native, went south to the University of Miami to play college football. In his first year with the team, he took a redshirt, but his next two seasons generated enough hype for him to leave school as a redshirt sophomore.
Njoku only started nine games in his entire college career, much less than we think a typical first-round pick would have done, but he recorded 64 receptions, 1,060 receiving yards and nine touchdown receptions in his time with the Hurricanes. Eight of those nine touchdowns came in 2016.
To start the year, his quarterback, Brad Kaaya, was the highest-mocked offensive player off that Miami roster, but as the season moved along, it was clear that Njoku had special traits, whether Mark Richt's offense used him enough or not.
He's one of the players who could have a huge rise dependent on the combine. He has the potential to put up numbers close to Vernon Davis'.
27. Taylor Moton, OT, Western Michigan
When watching receiver prospect Corey Davis, another offensive player from Western Michigan stands out: Taylor Moton. The former Bronco shut down basically anyone and everyone in the MAC and didn't struggle with the pass-rushers Wisconsin threw out in the Cotton Bowl, either.
Moton was about as consistent as you can imagine a MAC right tackle being, but he was still a MAC right tackle after watching his senior season. The Senior Bowl was a big test for him. And in practice he hardly lost a one-on-one, even though one-on-one drills are designed for defenders to win by nature.
No one was more consistent in practice at the tackle position than Moton, and that's going to count for a lot. He has some momentum and is looking set to be a high pick on Day 2, but after the combine, when NFL teams get a look at how athletic the bookend is, don't be surprised if you start to see his name float around the first round.
Moton almost exclusively played right tackle at the Senior Bowl, though he did get guard looks, a position he played in 2015. No one knows what he looks like as a left tackle, but he's a flexible player who can play inside and outside.
26. Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina
Mitch Trubisky was a one-year starter for the North Carolina Tar Heels, replacing an undrafted quarterback in Marquise Williams. There are going to be questions as to why Trubisky wasn't able to win that starting job before 2016, but the fact of the matter is he only has one season of film to judge him by.
In his one year of starting play, Trubisky had a 68 percent completion percentage, posting a 30-6 passing touchdown-to-interception mark. In terms of mobility, Trubisky is similar to Carson Wentz, last year's second overall pick.
Wentz had even less experience at the FBS level than Trubisky, but after his 28-turnover season in 2016, when you include his interceptions and fumbles, some may start to second-guess whether a quarterback of that level of experience can be evaluated as an NFL starter. Be on the lookout for what Trubisky measures in at in terms of height.
The NFL minimum for a first-round pick seems to be 6'2", with the exceptions being the likes of Johnny Manziel and Michael Vick, who took over college football. If Trubisky, who couldn't even take over his own bowl game with Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey out, comes in at 6'1", it could be the start of a slow decline in his draft stock.
25. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Haason Reddick was the biggest riser of Senior Bowl week, and if you would have watched him at Temple beforehand, you would have seen that talent on film too. The Temple defender played just about everywhere in his college career, and his background is one that can hardly be replicated.
As a senior in high school, Reddick only played in four varsity games because of a knee injury. For that reason, he was a walk-on cornerback with the Owls. From cornerback, he moved to linebacker and defensive end. Used as an edge-rusher in college, Reddick's incredible speed was enough to warrant a move to inside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, which is where he's solidified his stock.
He's not a 4-3 defensive end. He can be a blitzing 3-4 outside linebacker, and he can drop into coverage as well as he can get after the quarterback. But to most teams, he's going to be viewed as a Ryan Shazier-like prospect.
24. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
After Marshon Lattimore, the best cornerback prospect is Sidney Jones of Washington. Jones' teammate Kevin King was good enough to be one of the 10 prospects to skip the Senior Bowl without an injury, and Jones was the better cornerback of the duo.
Between Jones, King, Marcus Peters and Desmond Trufant, Washington is quickly becoming the most productive school for cornerbacks. As a three-year starter and back-to-back All-Pac-12 selection, there was little more for Jones to prove in Seattle when he decided to clear a year early for the draft.
Listed at 6'0", Jones should pass whatever height-speed standard teams use for their draft process. Jones, on paper, should go between the 15th and 25th overall picks, based on where cornerbacks of his talent have been drafted in recent years—assuming he has a decent combine.
23. Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
No one in college football has done more in three years as a pass-rusher than Derek Barnett. Even Myles Garrett, someone most are mocking as the top overall player in this draft class, couldn't keep up with Barnett's 32 sacks in three years to go along with his 52 career tackles for a loss.
Barnett played 39 games for the Tennessee Volunteers before realizing he was ready for the NFL. Barnett's style of play will have to go through something of a transition. He's a snap-jumper, which works in the SEC in front of 100,000 rabid fans, but an NFL atmosphere is going to negate some of his guess work at the line of scrimmage, as opponents won't have to go silent as often.
Look at how some notable snap-jumpers in the NFL work. Think of Michael Bennett as an example. Bennett isn't incredibly athletic, but Seattle's loud crowd helps him more than others do for other pass-rushers. If Barnett ends up in a dome or somewhere like Seattle or Kansas City, he could be a force. He's a consistent rusher in terms of his bend but an inconsistent player in terms of his burst off of the line of scrimmage, and he could struggle in a quiet stadium.
Barnett needs the right home, but he's one of the more fluid ends in this class.
22. Patrick Mahomes, QB, Texas Tech
If there is any quarterback who is going to have a meteoric rise in this draft class, it's going to be Patrick Mahomes of Texas Tech. He played in an offensive system that another first-round pick, Johnny Manziel, played in under now-Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
That offensive system was so similar to California's—whose quarterback, Jared Goff, was selected first overall last season—that Mahomes' previous backup, Davis Webb, was a graduate transfer for the Golden Bears this year. Webb was named the Senior Bowl's most valuable player in January.
Mahomes has the most arm talent in terms of an easy flick of the wrist ripping downfield since Derek Carr, who turned out to be a steal for the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 2014 draft despite the fact Carr came out of a spread system too.
In a class with no clear-cut consensus first-ranked passer, Mahomes' talent, along with the narratives around spread passers in recent years, could push him way up draft boards.
21. Forrest Lamp, IOL, Western Kentucky
Forrest Lamp was a dominant left tackle for Western Kentucky, and he might be this year's Zack Martin, a top-tier guard who needs to be kicked from tackle at the next level. Even against Alabama's pass-rushers, Lamp held his own, but after measuring under 6'4" at the Senior Bowl, it's going to be hard for him to start as a tackle.
Outside of Kelvin Beachum, there are few examples of sub-6'4" tackles in the modern NFL. At the Senior Bowl, Lamp's reps at tackle and guard were totally different. In his one day of practice in Mobile, Alabama, Lamp looked dominant at guard but struggled when facing the variety of talented pass-rushers on his own team.
He's the top interior offensive line prospect in the country. He might be the best offensive line prospect in the country. Unfortunately, with the questions around his size, including his arm length, and that practice film he posted in Mobile, he's going to be a guard at the next level. Still, expect him to test well at the combine.
20. John Ross, WR, Washington
John Ross is DeSean Jackson, from size to speed to the city they played high school football in. Ross is everything you'd want in a speed receiver.
If you want to win a one-on-one matchup in space or need some yards after the catch, Ross is your top receiver on the board. His only knock is his 5'11" height, which we might find out is closer to 5'10", but after he runs his 40-yard dash, some are going to forget about his size completely.
He missed all of his 2015 season with a knee injury, but he rebounded with a great redshirt junior year in 2016. Despite his size, he was able to record 17 receiving touchdowns, with a lot of that work coming at the goal line on slant and fade routes.
If not for quarterback Jake Browning suffering a shoulder injury, which he needed surgery to heal, Ross might have recorded two dozen touchdowns last year.
19. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
There's no receiver at the Division 1 level with more impressive numbers than Corey Davis. With that being said, because he didn't play against Power Five talent consistently, many are questioning how good he is.
Could he be a Brandon Marshall-level player? Sure. He has 331 receptions, 5,278 receiving yards and 52 touchdowns in his career. He has plenty of fans.
Unfortunately for him, he's not going to be able to quiet the doubters in Indianapolis. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Davis recently had ankle surgery, which will keep the wideout from participating in the timed drills.
18. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
Takkarist McKinley is an interesting pass-rusher. In three years, we may think he should have been the first overall pick in this draft. In three years, he may be traded like Barkevious Mingo was this past season.
He has the highest upside relative to the lowest floor of any pass-rusher in this draft class, and in a class loaded with so many edge defenders, that's impressive. He's also a one-year wonder, which only further complicates his evaluation.
McKinley couldn't qualify to go to the University of California coming out of high school, so he took the junior college route, which led to three years at UCLA. There, he recorded 16 sacks in his career, with 10 of them coming in his senior season despite the fact he battled through some injuries.
His pad level is an issue, but he has the raw athleticism of a DeMarcus Ware. He will be testing at the combine, despite the fact Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline stated that he's unsure whether McKinley will have surgery on a shoulder issue.
17. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
Deshaun Watson finished second in Heisman Trophy voting this season, which is one spot higher than last year. After both of the most recent national championship games, though, many were thinking, "If we were allowed to wait on voting until after the playoffs, would Watson have won those awards in back-to-back years?"
Watson beat down a historically talented Alabama defense in the two biggest games of his career, but he only went 1-1 in their matchups. His head coach, Dabo Swinney, even went as far as to call him the sport's Michael Jordan when he made an appearance at the Senior Bowl earlier this year.
Watson is somewhere on the spread quarterback spectrum. Watson is somewhere on the dual-threat quarterback spectrum. With that being said, Clemson loved to throw it deep, and Watson never had an issue with pulling the trigger.
He's much more developed than, say, Goff was last season, and the Los Angeles Rams quarterback, also a true junior at the time, was the first overall pick. Watson could go first overall to the Cleveland Browns. Watson could go second overall to the San Francisco 49ers. Watson could go third overall to the Chicago Bears.
It just depends on which team falls in love with him. As we learned with the 2016 trades and rumored asking prices for passers like Marcus Mariota in 2015, NFL franchises fall for individual quarterbacks more than they do with other players and traits across the board.
16. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
DeShone Kizer has incredible arm talent and was used often on designed runs as a member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. With that being said, he was the quarterback of a team with a losing record in 2016.
Still, from a talent perspective, there isn't much difference between him and Jameis Winston in his final season at Florida State, and that was enough to get Winston drafted first overall. Still, Kizer wasn't named the starting quarterback of the team until in-season.
Overall, his narrative at Notre Dame is odd, but if we've learned anything about the NFL, it's that they can be sold on a big, strong quarterback. According to NFL Draft Scout, Kizer should measure in at 230 pounds and over 6'4".
His athleticism isn't a question, and he never played a college football game over the age of 20. Kizer will be a 21-year-old until the start of next season's NFL playoffs. He's going to take some grooming, but he has the most upside of any quarterback in this class.
15. Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Charles Harris is going to rise quickly, continuing a recent history for him. Harris was a basketball player during his younger days, and he didn't even play high school football until his junior year.
From there, he was an unknown recruit who signed with the only Power Five conference team that made him an offer: the in-state Missouri Tigers. Former Missouri coach Craig Kuligowski, now a defensive line coach at the University of Miami, molded him into what he is today, but Coach Kul wasn't with Harris in 2016.
Early on last year, Harris was limited by a defense that was built run-first, demanding he get off the ball when the offensive line moved. When that switched midseason, Harris' production caught up with his talent. Line coach Jackie Shipp, who oversaw Harris in 2016, was fired before the season finished.
As a redshirt sophomore last season, Harris flirted with declaring for the NFL draft but elected to return. In the past two seasons, he's posted 30.5 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks. His explosive burst off of the line of scrimmage, combined with a violent spin move, will remind some of Everson Griffen.
14. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
As a true freshman, Cam Robinson was the top left tackle prospect in the projected 2018 draft class, as he flashed talent as a starter on the Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line. In his sophomore season, he regressed a bit as a pass protector, but he helped run block for Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry.
As a junior, he had a bounce-back season, which led to him winning the Outland Trophy. For reference, only one Outland Trophy winner in the past decade wasn't a first-round pick.
In a weak offensive tackle class, Robinson may go much higher than most people expect, which is likely why he declared a year early despite the fact he will be playing a month or so into his rookie season in the NFL as a 21-year-old.
When you juxtapose that to Bolles of Utah, who will turn 25 years old before his first NFL game, and Ramczyk of Wisconsin, who has had hip surgery, Robinson is clearly the top tackle prospect in the country. Those are the only three tackles who are being mocked as first-round picks, and it's safe to say that Robinson, who is close to 6'6" and 310 pounds, according to NFL Draft Scout, will rise to be a top-20 lock during the combine.
13. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
After a 200-yard game in the national championship last year, many were surprised when O.J. Howard returned for his senior season instead of declaring for the 2016 draft. Because of that, he's now the top senior on the offensive side of the ball, and he might well be the first pass-catcher off the board in April.
The tight end was seldom used as a receiver at Alabama, as he blocked for 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and had a true freshman passer playing quarterback for most of 2016 in Jalen Hurts. Still, when he arrived at January's Senior Bowl, it was clear he was by far the most talented receiver in Mobile, making routine one-handed catches like it was nothing.
NFL Draft Scout lists Howard closer to 6'6" and 249 pounds and projects a 4.57-second 40-yard dash. If those numbers land, he should be the highest-drafted pass-catcher Saban has molded since Julio Jones. Those are rare traits at a position that has few mismatch talents.
12. Malik McDowell, EDGE/DL, Michigan State
Think of Malik McDowell as a more athletic DeForest Buckner, who was drafted with the seventh overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2016. McDowell, who is only 20 years old, is a former Army All-American who declared early after playing through some injuries in his junior season of 2016.
He has a bit of an up-and-down motor, but so did Chris Jones, who last year was drafted in the second round out of Mississippi State after being a super recruit too and might well have been the most talented Kansas City Chiefs defender last season. McDowell could have a similar start to his career.
Per NFL Draft Scout, McDowell will come in over 6'5" and at 276 pounds. He played everywhere from head up on the center to outside of the tight end for Michigan State. He's a run defender and an athletic pass-rusher for his size.
He should get looks as a defensive end in any scheme with the potential to kick inside on long and late downs. McDowell, on film, holds up at nose tackle, but playing someone that long and light inside for entire drives seems a bit dangerous on the surface. Still, in a weak interior line class, some teams may get desperate.
11. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Reuben Foster may be the most talented and highest-drafted off-the-ball linebacker since Luke Kuechly was drafted ninth overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2012 draft. Foster, in a lineage of talented Alabama linebackers that includes 2014 first-round pick C.J. Mosley and 2016 second-round pick Reggie Ragland, is arguably the best Crimson Tide linebacker of Saban's time as the head coach of the team.
Before he started to make an impact as a college player, Foster was known for tattooing the Auburn logo on his skin as a Tigers commit before he changed his intentions and decided to sign with the other in-state school. Foster has since made everyone forget about that with his play.
He's not like Ragland in that he's not a liability in coverage, as he's closer to Mosley, who excels in that area of play. Unfortunately, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan, Foster just had rotator cuff surgery, which means he won't be participating at the combine.
The senior, with 120 career tackles, may never run drills for NFL evaluators, which could sink his name on draft boards.
10. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Heading into the 2015 regular season, many had Mike Williams of Clemson as the top receiver prospect of the 2016 draft. Instead, he returned to school, and only Corey Coleman of Baylor, who is listed at 5'11" and 185 pounds by the Cleveland Browns, was drafted in the top 20.
Williams' subtraction from the 2016 draft hurt the class, but his addition to it in 2017 only pushes the number of impact players higher. Williams' 2015, his true junior year, ended after one game because of a Week 1 neck injury.
After using up a redshirt year, Williams had 98 receptions for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016. His Tigers, led by Heisman Trophy runner-up Watson, climbed to the national championship game, upsetting Alabama.
9. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
According to Scout, Leonard Fournette was the top high school football prospect in the nation in the 2014 recruiting class. There have been pieces written about Fournette's potential since he was in middle school, and he's finally eligible to earn a living from football. It's been a long time coming.
Per NFL Draft Scout, Fournette should run a 4.45-second 40-yard dash despite the fact that he weighs 230 pounds. While that sounds crazy, his breakaway speed checks out on tape.
He's large and explosive, and that's going to go high in any NFL draft. The one question surrounding Fournette is the fact he might not be able to run outside zone looks at a high quality in the NFL, separating himself a bit from, say, an Ezekiel Elliott, who thrived in those situations, both at Ohio State and with the Dallas Cowboys.
Fournette needs good guard and center play to win with his power and inside zone style of football, but if he can get that locked in, he's going to be a problem for defenses. Teams like the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders should be working the phones trying to move up to secure him if he starts to slip on draft day.
8. Solomon Thomas, EDGE/DL, Stanford
Solomon Thomas is the first of four potential 4-3 defensive ends to land in our top eight in the pre-combine rankings of this draft class. This class is loaded at the position, looking similar to the 2011 pass-rushing class, which may have featured two of the best line-of-scrimmage defenders in this generation in J.J. Watt and Von Miller.
If you've been watching Pac-12 football over the last two years, you would have seen that Thomas was the most dominant lineman in the conference. Even as a redshirt freshman nose tackle in 2015, on a 3-4 line that only featured a heavy rotation of four linemen, Thomas looked like a man among boys.
Against North Carolina in the Alamo Bowl, with McCaffrey sitting out, the Stanford lineman, not Tar Heels quarterback Trubisky, looked like the best player on the field. There are some concerns with his style of play, though.
Thomas moved up and down the line, and with only two years of play under his belt, he wasn't able to develop a pass-rushing move more than a swim. According to NFL Draft Scout, Thomas will come in at 6'2" and 275 pounds at the combine.
If that's so, Thomas doesn't have the length to solely win off size at any defensive end position. At 275 pounds, he will struggle to hold up at defensive tackle in the NFL like he did on combination and double-team blocks in the Pac-12.
He's a bit of a project, but once he learns to land a couple more moves rather than living and dying off a burst at the line of scrimmage, he's going to be something special.
7. Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
Tim Williams has been a heavily featured rotational pass-rusher for the Alabama Crimson Tide over the past two seasons, but he still had the potential of a top-100 pick last season and elected to return for his senior season. He, Jonathan Allen and O.J. Howard are among the top seniors in this class, and their return was one reason that Alabama was once again competing in the national championship game.
Williams didn't often play more than half of the Crimson Tide's defensive snaps, but when he did, like against LSU, the team was able to shut down talented running backs like Fournette. It'd be reckless to say that Williams isn't a talented run defender, as well as a pure pass-rusher, despite the fact he only played long and late downs in most games in 2015 and 2016.
He might not be Vic Beasley, but Williams is close to being an athletic clone to Bruce Irvin, who signed a four-year, $37 million deal with the Oakland Raiders last offseason, which makes him one of the 10 highest-paid linebackers in the sport based on average salary, according to Spotrac.
In limited reps, Williams recorded 27.5 tackles for a loss and 18.5 sacks in the past two seasons.
6. Malik Hooker, S/CB, Ohio State
Malik Hooker last played at Ohio State as a sophomore. He was born in 1996. Does that make you feel old?
Hooker only played one season of significant time with the Buckeyes, but he made the most of it. In Ohio State's press-heavy scheme, Hooker was asked to man down the middle of the field in an Earl Thomas-type role as a free safety, and he executed those responsibilities at a high level.
Since Thomas was drafted, there hasn't been an athlete of this caliber playing the position. Unfortunately, according to Walter Football's Walter Cherepinsky, Hooker recently had surgery to repair his labrum and hernia issue. He won't be participating in drills, which makes his draft stock a bit volatile.
Most safeties who run like he can run are moved to cornerback, like Damarious Randall recently and Nnamdi Asomugha historically. Hooker's injury may be like Thomas' height: a single variable that puts a cornerback-caliber athlete in the middle of the field, leading to a dominant player at the position.
5. Jonathan Allen, EDGE/DL, Alabama
Jonathan Allen was the biggest name to return for his senior season last winter, and he's the top senior prospect in this draft class. On paper, Alabama ran a 3-4 defense, with him playing end, but the Crimson Tide often played an even front too, in which he played 4-3 defensive end on early and short downs.
Where does he play in the NFL? He's more of a Joey Bosa-type player in that he moves around all over the field—compared to someone who has just one hat to wear. Because of the weak defensive tackle talent in this class, though, some teams may try to pigeonhole him into a 4-3 under tackle role, like a Gerald McCoy or Aaron Donald.
As a pass-rusher on the edge, he's similar to the Detroit Lions' Kerry Hyder and Atlanta Falcons' Adrian Clayborn, which may not sound like much, but they are among the most underrated pass-rushers in the sport. That's also where he's coming into the NFL from a talent standpoint, which is impressive for someone who only turned 22 in January.
Allen can play 3-4 defensive end, 3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 defensive tackle or 4-3 defensive end. Because of that, plenty of teams will be in the running for him, which will only help his draft stock. He's not Leonard Williams or Buckner, true 3-4 defensive ends who were discussed as the most talented players in their draft classes but fell because there were so few teams in the market for their talents.
Allen, an All-American, a Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and a Chuck Bednarik Trophy winner, could put up impressive numbers for a 291-pounder.
4. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
While Fournette is the biggest name of this running back class, Dalvin Cook is the most talented. Both were thought of highly as recruits and produced early in their college careers, but the spotlight has always shined a bit more on Fournette, whose LSU offense was built around him.
With that being said, Fournette may be limited to being an impact player on inside zone runs and power plays, while Cook can do everything as a runner. He is able to make players miss in the backfield, a trait that makes LeSean McCoy great in the NFL and contributed to his big value as the 53rd-overall pick in the 2009 draft.
Some may compare Cook to Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs, but there is no perfect comparison for the back. He may not quite be Ezekiel Elliott in terms of talent, but the two-time All-American's college career speaks for itself.
According to NFL Draft Scout, Cook is going to run a 4.43-second 40-yard dash. If he hits that number, expect his stock to soar as he becomes the consensus top running back in the country.
3. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
We haven't seen a true safety taken in the top 10 of an NFL draft since 2012, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Mark Barro seventh overall. Barron, who was traded to the Rams and moved to linebacker, will be forgotten once LSU's Jamal Adams is selected in the top 10 of this draft class, though.
Adams is athletic and well-built at 6'1" and 213 pounds. With that said, he's closer to an Eric Berry-type strong safety than an Earl Thomas-style free safety.
He can play well as an overhang defender, an enforcer or as a two-high defender who has to close in on tackles. Adams is a tone-setter, similar to how the Atlanta Falcons used their 2016 first-round pick Keanu Neal in his rookie season.
The question is this: Just how valuable is a safety, much less a strong safety? He's incredible at his job, but in terms of value, the most expensive strong safety in terms of average salary, Reshad Jones, is the 167th priciest overall heading into 2017, per Spotrac.
The former Tiger may need to wait for some premier-position players to come off the board first, but he's going to be selected in the top tier of the draft.
2. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
While Alabama reigns supreme in terms of overall defensive talent in college football, there may not be a secondary in the history of the sport that has pumped out as much talent as the Ohio State Buckeyes have recently.
Last year, cornerback Eli Apple was a first-round pick and safety Vonn Bell was a second-round pick. This year, Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore and safety Malik Hooker may be top-10 selections. They just plug and play.
Lattimore is one of the more athletic cornerbacks in recent memory, and if he comes in close to his listed 6'0" height, everyone is going to be in play for him. At Ohio State, he was used almost exclusively in press zone and man coverage, both compromising positions for a defender, and he was able to thrive on a down-to-down basis.
He may be able to clone Darrelle Revis' pro day numbers if he is a full participant at the combine. His floor should be the sixth overall pick, where the New York Jets are picking.
1. Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Fully expect Myles Garrett to be the star of the combine. The true junior pass-rusher from Texas A&M is viewed as the consensus leader to land as the first overall pick with the Cleveland Browns, and there's good reason for that.
In 2014, he was a Freshman All-American. In 2015 and 2016, he was an outright All-American. In his career with the Aggies, he posted 47 tackles for a loss and 31 sacks. He is exactly the player he was tabbed to be coming out of high school and beat the expectations of a 6'5", 262-pound former super recruit.
Even at his size, Garrett is a freak athlete. Expect him to post no less than a similar combine to what Jason Pierre-Paul did coming out of South Florida. Garrett even recorded a lighthearted video in which he asked Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to trade Tony Romo to the Browns for the first overall pick, so he could play professional football in Arlington, Texas, where he's from.
He's the star every draft cycle wants to have.