2015 NFL Draft: Matt Miller's Post-Regular Season Big Board
Draft season is here, with the first stage of the process complete now that the college football regular season is over and the first 20 picks of the NFL draft set. But let's not forget this is a long, arduous process, and it's just getting started.
The process of evaluating players for the NFL draft begins immediately after the last draft ends. For the 2015 class, I started in mid-May 2014 working on the top returning players. The general idea is to focus on the top seniors, but players like Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) and Jameis Winston (QB, FSU) meant also looking at the top underclassmen quarterbacks.
From mid-May until the games begin in late August, my work focuses purely on those seniors and top-level underclassmen. The process evolves once the college season begins, with more work being done on a team level as the search for NFL-caliber talent becomes more widespread. My goal in-season is to see each team three times and then highlight individually talented players on those teams three times by looking at their individual game film.
Now, once the season ends, is when the job gets crazy. With underclassmen flooding the draft class, that means going back to review those sophomores and juniors who weren't expected to declare in-season and getting a look at their skill set. And that's where I'm at now—trying to finish evaluations of the top seniors while adding in the declaring underclassmen.
These rankings will change between now and the last week in April when the 2015 NFL draft is held. That'll happen because of more exposure to the players at the Senior Bowl and Scouting Combine, because of more time to review game film and simply due to more time to think about the players' strengths and weaknesses. But with January here and draft fans hungry for info, here is a look at my updated top 300 players, ranked by position.
Top 50 Overall
Here are the top 50 players who have already declared or are eligible for the 2015 NFL draft.
The class isn't particularly strong—especially if compared to 2014 or 2011—but there is good talent here. You'll notice a lot of offensive tackles, wide receivers, running backs and pass-rushers here, and it's a very good year for each position in the first two rounds of the draft.
What you'll notice lacking is depth at quarterback. Marcus Mariota seems like a lock to enter the draft as a junior, and he'll be the No. 1 overall player once he makes that decision official. If Jameis Winston opts to return to Florida State for his junior season, the gap between the top two ranked quarterbacks would be 49 spots, as Brett Hundley comes in at No. 50 overall.
|12||Kevin White||WR||3||West Virginia||Sr||6'3"||209|
|15||Ronnie Stanley||OT||3||Notre Dame||rSo||6'5"||315|
|20||Cedric Ogbuehi||OT||4||Texas A&M||rSr||6'5"||300|
|21||Benardrick McKinney||ILB||1||Mississippi State||rJr||6'4"||249|
|23||Trae Waynes||CB||2||Michigan State||rJr||6'1"||183|
|29||Jaelen Strong||WR||5||Arizona State||rJr||6'4"||212|
|32||Kevin Johnson||CB||4||Wake Forest||rSr||6'0"||175|
|33||Michael Bennett||DT||4||Ohio State||Sr||6'2"||288|
|34||Duke Johnson||RB||3||Miami (Fla.)||Jr||5'9"||206|
|36||Eddie Goldman||DT||5||Florida State||Jr||6'3"||320|
|40||Ereck Flowers||OT||6||Miami (Fla.)||Jr||6'5"||324|
|42||Ty Sambrailo||OT||8||Colorado State||rSr||6'5"||315|
|43||Denzel Perryman||ILB||3||Miami (Fla.)||Sr||5'11"||242|
Before the season began, it looked like the 2015 quarterback class could be very strong with names like Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Brett Hundley and Bryce Petty all set for big seasons before heading to the NFL. And then the season began.
Mariota, Winston, Hundley and Petty still come in atop the rankings but are no longer considered a foursome of first-round talent. Now, it's Mariota and Winston (if he declares for this draft) sitting in the top five, but each with holes and question marks. Look at Winston ranked No. 4 overall, then travel way down to No. 50 and you'll see Hundley, a talented athlete but a player still struggling with how to become a pure passer. Then there's Petty at No. 78, a productive passer who will crush the interview portion of the pre-draft process but is limited by his scheme and has questionable NFL arm strength.
If you were excited about the quarterback class in August, you may feel let down now. Any team needing a quarterback early in Round 1 shouldn't feel great about their options.
|2||Jameis Winston||Florida State||6'4"||232||rSo||4|
|5||Garrett Grayson||Colorado State||6'2"||220||rSr||108|
|6||Shane Carden||East Carolina||6'2"||221||Sr||129|
|7||Brandon Bridge||South Alabama||6'5"||235||rSr||162|
|8||Sean Mannion||Oregon State||6'5"||220||rSr||204|
|10||Bo Wallace||Ole Miss||6'4"||217||Sr||233|
|12||Bryan Bennett||SE Louisiana||6'2"||215||rSr||242|
|13||Tyler Heinicke||Old Dominion||6'1"||213||Sr||261|
After two years of the NFL de-valuing the running back position, this might be the year that puts a runner back into the first round.
Pick your flavor between the powerful, speedy Todd Gurley, the do-it-all-back in Tevin Coleman, the pure speedster in Duke Johnson or the complete-package in Melvin Gordon, and it's easy to make the case for a late-first-round running back.
But it's not just the top-end of the class that's impressive—this is a deep group with the top nine backs ranked all capable of being Day 1 starters.
|3||Duke Johnson||Miami (FL)||5'9"||206||Jr||34|
|8||Jay Ajayi||Boise State||6'0"||216||rJr||76|
|9||Mike Davis||South Carolina||5'9"||216||Jr||90|
|11||Josh Robinson||Miss. State||5'9"||225||Jr||126|
|13||Jeremy Langford||Michigan St.||6'0"||205||rSr||131|
|14||David Johnson||Northern Iowa||6'2"||229||rSr||142|
|18||Dee Hart||Colorado St.||5'9"||187||Jr||218|
|19||Karlos Williams||Florida State||6'1"||225||Sr||222|
|20||Trey Williams||Texas A&M||5'8"||195||Jr||231|
|22||Jahwan Edwards||Ball State||5'10"||219||Sr||235|
|25||Malcolm Agnew||Southern Illnois||5'9"||207||Sr||264|
The fullback position isn't as widely used in the NFL as it was 20 years ago, but those teams that do rely on a fullback will be surprised by the talent available in this class.
Alabama's Jalston Fowler might be my favorite player to watch film on in the entire class. He's big, powerful, mean and can both run with the ball and block. Yale's Tyler Vargas didn't see a ton of big-league competition, but that's why he looks like a man among boys on film as a runner and receiver.
Five draftable fullbacks? That's great news for the NFL.
|4||Trayion Durham||Kent State||6'1"||248||Sr||237|
|5||Zach Zenner||South Dakota St.||5'11"||220||rSr||289|
The 2014 class of rookie wide receivers posted historic production and offer jaw-dropping upside and potential. The 2015 class doesn't quite compare to that group, but this is a very good crop of wide receivers with early impact potential.
Up first is Amari Cooper. The Alabama wideout is a complete, dynamic wide receiver. And while he wouldn't have been on-par with Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans in terms of ranking or grade, he's up there with Odell Beckham Jr. The same could be said for DeVante Parker and Kevin White—two bigger-bodied receivers with off-the-ground ability. And if you like them big, Devin Funchess and Jaelen Strong are nice options at the end of the first round.
Speed receivers are featured here, too, with Sammie Coates having burner ability in space. If you prefer possession receivers, you'll love Nelson Agholor, Rashad Greene and Justin Hardy as Day 2 options.
|3||Kevin White||West Virginia||6'3"||209||Sr||12|
|5||Jaelen Strong||Arizona State||6'4"||212||rJr||29|
|8||Devin Smith||Ohio State||6'1"||197||Sr||55|
|9||Rashad Greene||Florida State||6'0"||180||Sr||62|
|10||Josh Harper||Fresno State||6'1"||185||rSr||84|
|11||Justin Hardy||East Carolina||6'0"||188||Sr||91|
|13||Vince Mayle||Washington State||6'3"||219||rSr||105|
|14||Tyler Lockett||Kansas State||5'11"||175||Sr||106|
|17||Tony Lippett||Michigan State||6'3"||190||rSr||127|
|19||Phillip Dorsett||Miami (FL)||5'10"||195||Sr||156|
|24||Dezmin Lewis||Central Arkansas||6'4"||212||rSr||186|
|25||Titus Davis||Central Michigan||6'2"||190||Sr||188|
|29||Matt Miller||Boise State||6'3"||220||rSr||241|
|32||Cam Worthy||East Carolina||6'2"||220||rSr||281|
|34||Lemar Durant||Simon Fraser||6'2"||231||Jr||292|
|37||Shaq Roland||South Carolina||6'1"||176||Jr||350|
One year after Eric Ebron was a top-10 pick, it's unlikely any tight end goes that high in the 2015 draft. Not even the top-ranked player (Maxx Williams) is guaranteed to be a first-rounder.
But this is a good tight end class in terms of depth, even if the top-end talent isn't epic. Williams is a stud in the making, but look at Miami's Clive Walford for that basketball player-type tight end with big developmental potential. Ohio State's Jeff Heuerman didn't have great production in college, but he's a complete player with receiving and blocking skills, plus athleticism.
Nick O'Leary has been a high-level producer in college, but he's more of an H-back at the next level and may be too scheme specific for most teams.
|2||Clive Walford||Miami (FL)||6'4"||258||rSr||81|
|3||Jeff Heuerman||Ohio State||6'5"||255||Sr||85|
|4||Ben Koyack||Notre Dame||6'4"||261||Sr||95|
|5||E.J. Bibbs||Iowa State||6'3"||261||Sr||123|
|7||Nick O'Leary||Florida State||6'3"||247||Sr||151|
|9||Wes Saxton||South Alabama||6'4"||235||Sr||178|
|10||MyCole Pruitt||Southern Illinois||6'3"||255||rSr||180|
|12||Rory Anderson||South Carolina||6'5"||227||Sr||194|
Offensive tackles have become a trendy Round 1 pick in recent years—an average of 4.5 tackles have gone in the first round the past five years. That trend should continue in 2015, as the tackle class looks very solid yet again.
The three seniors dominate the first round currently, as they are the only players guaranteed to be in this class. Redshirt sophomore Ronnie Stanley is on the fence as of January 5, and junior Andrus Peat is also still undecided. That leaves Brandon Scherff, La'el Collins and Cedric Ogbuehi as the Big 3, but we could see five first-round grades by late April.
The second round features starting-caliber tackles, too. Seniors T.J. Clemmings and Ty Sambrailo could rise to late-first status by April, and underclassman Ereck Flowers has that potential too.
|3||Ronnie Stanley||Notre Dame||6'5"||315||rSo||15|
|4||Cedric Ogbuehi||Texas A&M||6'5"||300||rSr||20|
|6||Ereck Flowers||Miami (FL)||6'5"||324||Jr||40|
|8||Ty Sambrailo||Colorado State||6'5"||315||rSr||42|
|13||Corey Robinson||South Carolina||6'7"||344||rSr||103|
|15||Robert Myers||Tennessee St.||6'5"||310||rSr||168|
|19||Donovan Smith||Penn State||6'5"||335||Jr||226|
Don't get your hopes up for a quick fix at offensive guard in Round 1 this year. Or Round 2. There's no Zack Martin or Joel Bitonio in this class, but remember that Brandon Linder was drafted in Round 3 and became a top starter in his rookie season.
A.J. Cann is a dang good run-blocker with the athleticism to improve in the pass game to get to that high level. He's talented enough to start as a rookie. The same could be said for Josue Matias, Arie Kouandjio and Tre' Jackson—all are experienced, talented guards with starter upside.
|1||A.J. Cann||South Carolina||6'3"||318||rSr||71|
|2||Josue Matias||Florida State||6'6"||325||Sr||98|
|4||Tre' Jackson||Florida State||6'4"||330||Sr||117|
|5||Jarvis Harrison||Texas A&M||6'3"||325||rSr||120|
|9||Miles Dieffenbach||Penn State||6'3"||303||rSr||182|
|10||Jamil Douglas||Arizona State||6'4"||300||rSr||189|
|13||Christian Lombard||Notre Dame||6'5"||315||rSr||202|
|14||Ben Beckwith||Mississippi St.||6'3"||308||rSr||252|
|15||Jon Feliciano||Miami (FL)||6'4"||316||rSr||256|
Making the transition from college center to pro center isn't easy, but it can be done well. Look at Travis Frederick or Corey Linsley as recent examples of rookies who have had a major impact on their new teams.
There are three players in the 2015 class who qualify as potential impact centers. Cam Erving, a former tackle, Reese Dismukes and Hroniss Grasu. Each has the athleticism and intelligence to make the jump from college to the NFL without slowing down.
A sleeper prospect here is Greg Mancz. He's been impressive on film but is flying under the radar a bit currently.
|1||Cameron Erving||Florida State||6'5"||308||rSr||74|
|4||Andy Gallik||Boston College||6'2"||299||rSr||111|
I've taken the liberty of naming the 2015 NFL draft the "Year of the Pass-Rusher," and if you see how many players are ranked below, you'll understand why.
With 32 players ranked in the top 300, the defensive end (and some 3-4 outside linebackers) class is loaded. That includes four in the top 15 and eight in the top 50 overall. And there would have been more if not for Eric Striker, Leonard Floyd and others returning to school.
The existing class features elite athletes with versatile skill sets. The top seven players all played defensive end in college but have the tools to stand up and play linebacker in a rushing scheme in the NFL. Randy Gregory looks like Aldon Smith's little brother, Shane Ray has some Cameron Wake to his game, and Alvin Dupree is a physically jacked stud who few tackles can compete with on a strength and power basis.
If your team isn't drafting in the top 15 or planning to use a first-rounder on a pass-rusher, don't worry, the depth here is very good too. In Round 2, players like Nate Orchard, Hau'oli Kikaha and DeForest Buckner are all future starters.
|4||Dante Fowler Jr.||Florida||6'2"||261||Jr||13|
|11||Shilique Calhoun||Michigan State||6'4"||257||rJr||56|
|12||Mario Edwards||Florida State||6'3"||294||Jr||60|
|16||Preston Smith||Mississippi St.||6'5"||270||Sr||82|
|20||Deion Barnes||Penn State||6'4"||255||Jr||149|
|24||Xavier Cooper||Washington St.||6'4"||299||Jr||165|
|26||C.J. Olaniyan||Penn St.||6'3"||252||rSr||213|
|27||Anthony Chickillo||Miami (FL)||6'4"||282||Sr||225|
|28||Shaquille Riddick||West Virginia||6'5"||242||Sr||238|
|32||Ishaq Williams||Notre Dame||6'4"||271||Sr||293|
It's still early in the draft process, but if you had to bet on anyone taking Marcus Mariota's spot atop the draft class, Leonard Williams would be that guy.
The big USC defensive lineman plays a lot of end for the Trojans, but he projects best moving inside to a 3-technique position as a pass-rushing tackle in the pros. And he can be a good one. I don't compare Williams to Ndamukong Suh's ability coming out of Nebraska, but he's on par with other top-tier tackles I've seen in the last decade.
Four other players have Round 1 talent—Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton, Michael Bennett and Eddie Goldman—but how they come off the board will depend on the schemes and needs after free agency. Brown is a complete player, Shelton is a classic nose tackle, Bennett is a one-gap penetrator and Goldman can do it all when he's on his game.
If his injury history checks out, Jordan Phillips might be the No. 2 guy off the board in the group. The huge Oklahoma tackle had a back injury, but he was dominant in 2014.
|4||Michael Bennett||Ohio State||6'2"||288||Sr||33|
|5||Eddie Goldman||Florida State||6'3"||320||Jr||36|
|10||Tyeler Davison||Fresno State||6'2"||309||rSr||119|
|12||Travis Raciti||San Jose St.||6'5"||290||rSr||136|
|18||James Castleman||Oklahoma State||6'2"||300||Sr||190|
|19||Kaleb Eulls||Mississippi St.||6'3"||295||rSr||217|
|21||Desmond Hollin||Florida St.||6'3"||285||Sr||248|
|22||Olsen Pierre||Miami (FL)||6'5"||300||Sr||263|
|23||Thomas Teal||North Carolina St.||6'1"||308||rSr||265|
The spread of the 3-4 defense and the prevalence of nickel packages becoming base packages in the NFL means linebackers must be more athletic than ever before. Gone are the days of 6'4", 260-pound one-directional players. Now NFL teams will take a 225-pound athlete and let him do what he does best—run and react.
With that in mind, the '15 class could be a fun one. Shaq Thompson has played running back, linebacker and safety, so you know he's bringing athleticism to the field. Vic Beasley is an undersized pass-rusher in the Barkevious Mingo mold, but he'll be a stand-up player in the pros. Paul Dawson and Kwon Alexander might be under the radar right now, but both can flat-out run and are terrors in space. And if you want edge-rushers, Zach Hodges and Lynden Trail are small school guys with that skill set.
|6||Lynden Trail||Norfolk St.||6'6"||260||rSr||109|
|10||Noah Spence||Ohio State||6'3"||252||Jr||160|
|14||Derrick Malone Jr.||Oregon||6'2"||220||rSr||206|
|17||Aaron Davis||Colorado State||6'0"||220||Sr||245|
|20||Maurice Falls||East Carolina||6'3"||247||rSr||296|
|21||Michael Orakpo||Texas State||6'1"||226||rSr||298|
Every NFL fan wants the next Luke Kuechly or C.J. Mosley, but unfortunately, the 2015 class doesn't look to offer that level of skill set. But don't be too discouraged, as the top three linebackers here are all rookie starter material.
Benardrick McKinney could play any linebacker spot in a 4-3 defense and offers unreal athleticism combined with instincts and production at the "Mike" spot. Eric Kendricks and Denzel Perryman won't meet ideal height metrics, but they both can fly to the ball and have taken over games during their careers. Perryman might be the hardest hitter in the entire draft, too.
My sleeper here? Hayes Pullard. And yes, it's weird that a sleeper could come from USC, but he's being overlooked right now.
|1||Benardrick McKinney||Mississippi St.||6'4"||249||rJr||21|
|3||Denzel Perryman||Miami (FL)||5'11"||242||Sr||43|
|8||Mike Hull||Penn St.||6'0"||232||rSr||174|
|14||Taiwan Jones||Michigan St.||6'3"||252||Sr||285|
It can't be said lightly, so here it is: There isn't a top-10 or top-15 cornerback in the 2015 draft class. Not yet, at least.
Sure, that could change between now and late April, but the on-film talent levels shown don't represent a top-tier group. The draft's best cornerback—Marcus Peters—was dismissed from the team and will have to answer questions about his character to keep his Round 1 status. After Peters, take your pick between Trae Waynes, Jalen Collins, Kevin Johnson, Alex Carter and Ronald Darby as the top corner. Each could lay claim to that ranking depending on what you (and what NFL teams) want from the position.
A few sleepers to track: Quinten Rollins, Senquez Golson and JaCorey Shepherd.
|2||Trae Waynes||Michigan State||6'1"||183||rJr||23|
|4||Kevin Johnson||Wake Forest||6'0"||175||rSr||32|
|6||Ronald Darby||Florida State||5'11"||195||Jr||54|
|7||Quinten Rollins||Miami (OH)||6'0"||203||rSr||58|
|8||P.J. Williams||Florida State||6'0"||196||Jr||61|
|11||Senquez Golson||Ole Miss||5'9"||176||Sr||67|
|12||D'Joun Smith||Florida Atlanta||5'11"||190||Sr||83|
|16||Steven Nelson||Oregon State||5'11"||195||Sr||130|
|18||Doran Grant||Ohio State||5'11"||193||Sr||140|
|20||Cam Thomas||Western Kentucky||6'1"||190||rSr||148|
|22||Cody Riggs||Notre Dame||5'9"||190||rSr||164|
|23||Deshazor Everett||Texas A&M||5'11"||188||Sr||177|
|24||Ladarius Gunter||Miami (FL)||6'2"||198||rSr||199|
|25||Imoan Claiborne||Northwestern State||5'10"||187||rSr||200|
|28||Curtis Riley||Fresno State||6'0"||190||Sr||229|
|32||De'Ante Saunders||Tennessee St.||5'10"||196||Sr||257|
|35||SaQwan Edwards||New Mexico||6'1"||189||rSr||284|
|36||Merrill Noel||Wake Forest||5'10"||180||rSr||294|
The best free safety in college football pulled down 14 interceptions in 2014, tying the NCAA record for single-season interceptions. Now he's headed to the NFL.
Gerod Holliman won't be a player everyone likes, but his ability to play in coverage and attack the football in the air makes him a Round 1 talent to me. He's not a big hitter, but he'll make his money by getting the ball into his hands.
The rest of the safety class is good but not overwhelmingly so. Derron Smith, Durell Eskridge, Jalen Mills, Cody Prewitt and Kurtis Drummond could all be Day 2 guys and play early in their careers, but each also has a hole in their game that make them less than Round 1 talents.
|2||Derron Smith||Fresno State||5'11"||197||rSr||64|
|5||Cody Prewitt||Ole Miss||6'2"||217||Sr||77|
|6||Kurtis Drummond||Michigan State||6'1"||200||rSr||99|
|7||Damarious Randall||Arizona State||5'11"||190||rSr||181|
|9||Justin Cox||Mississippi St.||6'2"||190||Sr||250|
|10||Dechane Durante||Northern Illinois||6'2"||193||rSr||272|
|11||Detrick Bonner||Virginia Tech||6'0"||194||rSr||295|
When scouting strong safeties, I'm looking for the next Sean Taylor. In the last decade, there hasn't been a player of that caliber, but he's the player all others are compared to.
Landon Collins may get that comparison from some. He's freaky athletic, wears No. 26 and could be a top-10 pick. But he's not as insanely large as Taylor was, nor is he as good when the ball is up for grabs. Collins is a very good player, but not on the iconic level. He should still go in the top 10 picks of this draft.
After Collins, I'm still waiting for a strong safety to jump out at me.
|6||Kyshoen Jarrett||Virginia Tech||5'11"||192||Sr||191|
|9||Isaiah Johnson||Georgia Tech||6'1"||213||rSr||254|
|11||Serderius Bryant||Ole Miss||5'9"||220||Sr||299|