NFL Combine 2017: Matt Miller's Position-by-Position Primer

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterMarch 1, 2017

NFL Combine 2017: Matt Miller's Position-by-Position Primer

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    RB Leonard Fournette /
    RB Leonard Fournette /Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    What does the NFL Scouting Combine mean to the draft stock of the players who will perform, those too injured to take part and even those not invited? Tons.

    The combine, which ends Monday, is the best chance to compare athletes across the board. It's also the first chance for teams to meet underclassmen, put all 330 players through medical tests and conduct 15-minute private interview sessions. This is the introductory phase for these teams. Does the athleticism on the turf match what we saw on film? That's the question everyone will be asking throughout the week.

    The NFL selects the best of the best and brings them all to Lucas Oil Field for a week of intense physical and mental testing. Who will leave Indianapolis with the most gained and lost? We'll take a look while also updating my top-400 rankings before the madness begins.

Top 100 Overall Players

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    S Jamal Adams /
    S Jamal Adams /Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Heading into the combine, it's worth noting that this is a really, really good draft class—and not just at the top with rare talents like Myles Garrett and Leonard Fournette either. This class is deep at multiple positions.

    The 2017 safety and tight ends classes are the most talented I've ever seen. Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are legitimately on par with Eric Berry and Earl Thomas as prospects. The same goes for the cornerback class with a legitimate eight players capable of going in the first round. Because of this, it's easy to want to put 50 players on a top-32 list.

    When watching the workouts this week in Indianapolis, be aware of just how much talent is available at each spot. When I was coming up as a scout, we were taught to use the combine as a tiebreaker, and that's how I still view the event. Below you'll notice many players at the same position grouped together in the top 100 list. The combine will allow me to separate Corey Davis from Mike Williams or Marshon Lattimore from Quincy Wilson. The film grade I assign to players is ultimately around 90 percent of the final evaluation, but this is still a height-weight-speed league. Finding athletes matters.

    Because of the depth of this class, there will be names below that will surprise you with where they're ranked. Some may seem too high, and some no doubt seem too low. Much will change in the next three months, but here's a look at the top 100 players for the 2017 NFL draft as we head into the combine.

           

    2017 Top 100 Players
    RankPlayerSchoolPos.
    1Myles GarrettTexas A&MEDGE 
    2Leonard FournetteLSURB 
    3Reuben Foster AlabamaLB 
    4Jamal Adams LSU
    5Malik Hooker Ohio State
    6Solomon Thomas Stanford EDGE 
    7Jonathan Allen Alabama DL 
    8Mike Williams Clemson WR 
    9Quincy Wilson Florida CB 
    10Corey DavisWestern Michigan WR 
    11Marshon LattimoreOhio StateCB 
    12O.J. HowardAlabamaTE 
    13David NjokuMiami (Fla.)TE 
    14Taco CharltonMichigan EDGE 
    15Mitch TrubiskyNorth CarolinaQB 
    16DeShone KizerNotre DameQB 
    17Gareon ConleyOhio StateCB 
    18Dalvin CookFlorida State RB 
    19Sidney Jones Washington CB 
    20Charles HarrisMissouri EDGE 
    21Haason ReddickTemple LB 
    22Garett BollesUtah 
    23Derek BarnettTennessee EDGE 
    24Ryan RamczykWisconsin 
    25Christian McCaffreyStanford RB 
    26Joe MixonOklahoma RB 
    27Teez TaborFlorida CB 
    28Deshaun WatsonClemson QB 
    29Jabrill PeppersMichigan 
    30Takkarist McKinleyUCLA EDGE 
    31Ryan AndersonAlabama EDGE 
    32Tre'Davious WhiteLSU CB 
    33Marlon HumphreyAlabama CB 
    34Montravius AdamsAuburn DL 
    35Caleb BrantleyFlorida DL 
    36Alvin KamaraTennessee RB 
    37John RossWashington WR 
    38Forrest LampWestern Kentucky 
    39Jarrad Davis FloridaLB 
    40Cam RobinsonAlabama 
    41Budda BakerWashington 
    42Patrick MahomesTexas TechQB 
    43Adoree' JacksonUSC CB 
    44Justin EvansTexas A&M 
    45Jordan LeggettClemson TE 
    46Malik McDowellMichigan State DL 
    47Cooper KuppEastern Washington WR 
    48Marcus WilliamsUtah 
    49Desmond KingIowa 
    50Davis WebbCaliforniaQB 
    51 Zach CunninghamVanderbilt LB 
    52 T.J. WattWisconsin EDGE 
    53 Dan FeeneyIndiana 
    54 Evan EngramOle Miss TE 
    55 Zay JonesEast Carolina WR 
    56 Carlos HendersonLouisiana Tech WR 
    57 Dawuane SmootIllinoisEDGE 
    58 Cordrea TankersleyClemsonCB 
    59 D'Onta ForemanTexas RB 
    60 Tim WilliamsAlabamaEDGE 
    61 Joe MathisWashingtonEDGE 
    62 Carl LawsonAuburn EDGE 
    63 Eddie JacksonAlabama
    64 Fabian MoreauUCLACB 
    65 Brad KaayaMiami (Fla.)QB 
    66 Raekwon McMillanOhio State LB 
    67 Bucky HodgesVirginia TechTE 
    68 Carroll PhillipsIllinoisEDGE 
    69 Antonio GarciaTroy
    70 Chidobe AwuzieColoradoCB 
    71 Jourdan LewisMichiganCB 
    72 Chris GodwinPenn State WR 
    73 Pat ElfleinOhio State 
    74 Rasul Douglas West Virginia CB 
    75 Marcus MayeFlorida 
    76 Howard WilsonHouston CB 
    77 Obi MelifonwuUConn 
    78 Nathan PetermanPitt QB
    79 Dion DawkinsTemple 
    80 Garrett SickelsPenn State EDGE 
    81 Chad HansenCaliforniaWR 
    82 JuJu Smith-Schuster USC WR 
    83 Amara DarbohMichigan WR 
    84 Curtis SamuelOhio State WR 
    85 Jordan WillisKansas StateEDGE 
    86 DeMarcus WalkerFlorida State EDGE 
    87 Elijah QuallsWashington DL 
    88 Anthony WalkerNorthwestern LB 
    89 Roderick JohnsonFlorida State 
    90 Ethan PocicLSU 
    91 Isaiah FordVirginia Tech WR 
    92 Wayne GallmanClemson RB 
    93 Jalen Reeves-MaybinTennesseeLB 
    94 Marlon MackSouth Florida RB 
    95 Kevin KingWashingtonCB 
    96 Vince BiegelWisconsin LB 
    97 Cameron SuttonTennessee CB
    98 Corn ElderMiami (Fla.) CB 
    99 Samaje PerineOklahoma RB 
    100 Chris WormleyMichigan DL 

Quarterbacks

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    Patrick Mahomes /
    Patrick Mahomes /David K Purdy/Getty Images

    The big talk from media analysts—and I've been guilty of this too—is that the quarterback and offensive tackle classes are kind of weak. That's not fair. The quarterback class is incredibly deep. There just aren't day one starters like Jameis Winston or Andrew Luck. That doesn't make it a bad group; it's a group that isn't ripe yet.

    Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer have super rare traits. Mahomes has the strongest arm I've ever seen and is able to make unbelievable throws off-platform that few quarterbacks in the last 10 years of draft scouting have been able to. Kizer also has a strong arm and a big body, and he's a very good runner; he just needs time to develop.

    Veteran scout Greg Gabriel told me a few weeks ago that "quarterback evaluation starts now," and he's right. So much of the final grade on a quarterback includes interviews, medicals, combine workouts, pro-day workouts and the wiring of the player. For Mahomes and Kizer, this week in Indy could shoot them to the top of my list.

    2017 Quarterback Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Mitch TrubiskyNorth Carolina15Yes
    2DeShone Kizer Notre Dame 16 Yes
    3Deshaun Watson Clemson 28 Yes
    4Patrick Mahomes Texas Tech 42 Yes
    5Davis WebbCalifornia50Yes
    6Brad Kaaya Miami (Fla.) 65 Yes
    7Nathan Peterman Pittsburgh 78 Yes
    8Chad KellyOle Miss 184 No
    9C.J. BeathardIowa185 Yes
    10Joshua DobbsTennessee188 Yes
    11Jerod EvansVirginia Tech 201 Yes
    12Cooper RushCentral Michigan 239 Yes
    13Alek TorgersenPenn 248 No
    14Seth RussellBaylor 285 Yes
    15Brady GustafsonMontana 333 No
    16Sefo LiufauColorado347 Yes
    17Mitch LeidnerMinnesota350 Yes
    18Trevor KnightTexas A&M354 Yes
    19Wes Lunt Illinois 404No
    20Zach TerrellWestern Michigan 410 No
    21Antonio PipkinTiffin 411 No

Running Backs

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    Christian McCaffrey /
    Christian McCaffrey /Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    This is the year to get a running back. 

    An unreal five running backs hold legitimate first-round grades, and many teams will eye this year as the time to get a young back. Leonard Fournette is a rare, generational athlete at the position and should turn heads in Indianapolis, but he's not the only top-tier back. Dalvin Cook and Christian McCaffrey both offer excellent three-down skills. So do Joe Mixon and Alvin Kamara, but concerns about off-field issues for Mixon could push him out of the draft completely, while Kamara saw limited use in two seasons as a backup at Tennessee.

    There is value in this group on Day 2 and even into Day 3. There can be starting running backs to come out of this group in Round 4 or 5, much like a Jordan Howard last year. One interesting subplot to the draft will be if teams jump on running backs early or wait given the depth. Some general managers may see a player like Marlon Mack as a third-round value and potential starter and opt to pass on a Dalvin Cook in Round 1 because of that.

    No matter where the run on backs starts in the draft, we can be confident there will be many of them drafted.

            

    2017 Running Back Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Leonard Fournette LSUYes
    2Dalvin Cook Florida State 18Yes
    3Christian McCaffrey Stanford 25 Yes
    4Joe MixonOklahoma26No
    5Alvin Kamara Tennessee 36Yes
    6D'Onta Foreman Texas 59Yes
    7Wayne GallmanClemson 92 Yes
    8Marlon MackSouth Florida 94 Yes
    9Samaje PerineOklahoma99 Yes
    10Brian HillWyoming106 Yes
    11Kareem HuntToledo 116 Yes
    12Jeremy McNicholsBoise State 124 Yes
    13T.J. LoganNorth Carolina 128 Yes
    14Elijah HoodNorth Carolina151 Yes
    15Jamaal WilliamsBYU159 Yes
    16Justin Davis USC 175Yes
    17James ConnerPitt195 Yes
    18Dare OgunbowaleWisconsin199 Yes
    19Donnel PumphreySan Diego State212 Yes
    20Corey ClementWisconsin 214 Yes
    21Joe WilliamsUtah223 Yes
    22Stanley WilliamsKentucky226 Yes
    23Aaron JonesUTEP 227 Yes
    24Elijah McGuireUL Lafayette236 Yes
    25Devine ReddingIndiana 240 Yes
    26De'Veon SmithMichigan 242 Yes
    27Tarean FolstonNotre Dame252 No
    28Joe YearbyMiami (Fla.)269 No
    29Matthew DayesNC State 279 Yes
    30Tarik CohenNC A&T286 Yes
    31Jahad ThomasTemple294 Yes
    32De'Angelo HendersonCoastal Carolina 340 Yes
    33Chris CarsonOklahoma State349 Yes
    34Rushel Shell IIIWest Virginia364 Yes
    35Shock LinwoodBaylor388 No

Wide Receivers

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    Corey Davis /
    Corey Davis /Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Corey Davis and Mike Williams might not be on the level that A.J. Green and Julio Jones were in the 2011 draft class, but we're seeing two very dynamic playmakers sit atop the board at wide receiver this year. After that, the depth is staggering too.

    Williams and Davis are one-two on the board right now with time left for a flip-flop at the top. The combine will be big for both, but since Davis is struggling with an ankle injury, the on-field tests won't help push him over Williams just yet.

    Among the favorites from the next tier, Carlos Henderson is a burner with great downfield ability, and possession guys like Cooper Kupp and Zay Jones have the skills to be instant starters in the pros. The same could be said for Chad Hansen, Chris Godwin and sleepers like Taywan Taylor.

    There's a good chance three wide receivers go in the first round (Davis, Williams and John Ross) with a solid 10 possible on Day 2. With 31 receivers drafted last year and 35 the year before, that's a safe bet to look at in 2017.

             

    2017 Wide Receiver Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Mike Williams Clemson Yes
    2Corey Davis Western Michigan 10Yes
    3John Ross Washington 37Yes
    4Cooper KuppEastern Washington47Yes
    5Zay JonesEast Carolina55Yes
    6Carlos HendersonLouisiana Tech 56Yes
    7Chris Godwin Penn State 72Yes
    8Chad Hansen California 81Yes
    9JuJu Smith-Schuster USC 82Yes
    10Amara DarbohMichigan83Yes
    11Curtis SamuelOhio State 84Yes
    12Isaiah FordVirginia Tech 91Yes
    13Taywan Taylor Western Kentucky 102 Yes
    14Noah Brown Ohio State 109Yes
    15Dede WestbrookOklahoma 113Yes
    16Travin DuralLSU 114Yes
    17Trent Taylor Louisiana Tech 122 Yes 
    18Ryan Switzer North Carolina135Yes
    19Malachi DupreLSU 138 Yes
    20Josh ReynoldsTexas A&M 139 Yes
    21Mack HollinsNorth Carolina 144Yes
    22Jehu ChessonMichigan 148Yes
    23Amba Etta-Tawo Syracuse 149Yes
    24KD Cannon Baylor 154Yes
    25Fred RossMississippi State 156 Yes
    26Stacy Coley  Miami (Fla.) 158 Yes
    27Travis RudolphFlorida State 162 Yes
    28Jalen RobinetteAir Force 164 Yes
    29Damore'ea StringfellowOle Miss165No
    30Kermit Whitfield Florida State 169Yes
    31Isaiah McKenzieGeorgia 172 Yes
    32 Derrick Griffin Texas Southern 176No
    33 Josh Malone Tennessee 177Yes
    34 Jamari StaplesLouisville 178Yes
    35 Ish Zamora Baylor 180 No
    36 James QuickLouisville 182 Yes
    37 Shelton GibsonWest Virginia 193Yes
    38 Jerome LaneAkron198Yes
    39 Artavis ScottClemson 215 Yes 
    40 ArDarius Stewart Alabama 216 Yes
    41 Speedy Noil Texas A&M 220 Yes
    42 Bug HowardNorth Carolina 228 Yes
    43 Rodney Adams South Florida233Yes
    44 Ricky Seals-Jones Texas A&M241 Yes
    45 Michael Rector Stanford 244 Yes
    46 Kendrick BourneEastern Washington 257 Yes
    47 Robert Davis Georgia State 274 Yes
    48 Jesus "Bobo" WilsonFlorida State 278 Yes
    49 Billy Brown Shepherd 280 Yes
    50 Corey Smith Ohio State 283 No
    51 Krishawn HoganMarian University287Yes
    52 Noel ThomasUConn297Yes
    53 Victor BoldenOregon State306Yes
    54Quincy AdeboyejoOle Miss307Yes
    55 Kenny GolladayNorthern Illinois308Yes
    56 Gabe MarksWashington State310Yes
    57 Zach Pascal Old Dominion324Yes
    58 Darreus RogersUSC328
    Yes
    59 Drew MorganArkansas331Yes
    60 Keon HatcherArkansas 336Yes
    61 Greg Ward Jr.Houston346Yes
    62Keevan LucasTulsa361 Yes
    63 Jhajuan SealesOklahoma State395 No
    64 Deon-Tay McManus Marshall 402 No
    65 Jordan WesterkampNebraska 403 No

Tight Ends

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    O.J. Howard /
    O.J. Howard /Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Never before have I ranked two tight ends so high in a draft class. O.J. Howard and David Njoku aren't just special pass-catchers; both are special all-around players. This isn't an Eric Ebron-type pick. These are legitimate plug-and-play weapons with excellent blocking, receiving and run-after-catch talent. And both could be gone in the top 15.

    Howard and Njoku are the cream of the crop, but this is a solid all-around group. Evan Engram and Jordan Leggett are very good flex tight end candidates, as is small-schooler Gerald Everett. Michigan star Jake Butt was considered a Day 2 prospect before suffering an ACL tear in the Orange Bowl, while Ashland junior Adam Shaheen is turning heads in pre-combine workouts.

    Gauging pure athleticism is a great scouting tool for tight ends, and this group will put on a show in Indianapolis.

            

    2017 Tight End Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1O.J. HowardAlabama12Yes
    2David NjokuMiami (Fla.)13Yes
    3Jordan Leggett Clemson45Yes
    4Evan EngramOle Miss54Yes
    5Bucky HodgesVirginia Tech67Yes
    6Jake ButtMichigan117Yes
    7Adam ShaheenAshland119Yes
    8Gerald EverettSouth Alabama126Yes
    9Michael RobertsToledo141Yes
    10Cole HikutiniLouisville146Yes
    11Jeremy SprinkleArkansas160Yes
    12Blake JarwinOklahoma State173No
    13Eric SaubertDrake189Yes
    14Pharaoh BrownOregon210 Yes
    15Josiah PriceMichigan State247No
    16Darrell DanielsWashington293Yes
    17Scott OrndoffPitt311Yes
    18George KittleIowa323Yes
    19Daniel BrunskillSan Diego State329Yes
    20Cethan CarterNebraska338Yes
    21Jonnu SmithFlorida International351Yes
    22Hayden PlinkeUTEP357Yes
    23Phazahn OdomFordham375No
    24Tyrone SwoopesTexas397No
    25Barrett BurnsAppalachian State398 No

Offensive Tackles

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    Ryan Ramczyk /
    Ryan Ramczyk /Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    All year we've talked about the lack of top-tier talent at the offensive tackle position. That hasn't changed—no player ranks inside my top 15—but the depth of the group is starting to impress with more viewings.

    Garett Bolles and Ryan Ramczyk are battling for that first tackle slot, and what's interesting is that both players were one-year starters at their FBS schools—Bolles at Utah and Ramczyk at Wisconsin. Each shows remarkable movement and toughness, which could propel them up the board before the draft. Ramczyk, who had surgery on a torn hip labrum, will not work out at the combine.

    After the Big Two, Cam Robinson is the next on the list. He's an excellent run-blocker but struggles with consistency and movement against smaller, quicker ends. The Alabama star will also need to answer questions about a summer arrest on gun charges when interviewed by teams.

    The sleepers of the group come from Temple and Western Michigan. Dion Dawkins may end up playing guard in the NFL, but his ability to anchor and drive-block makes him exciting, while Taylor Moton is moving up my board consistently due to his plug-and-play skills as a right tackle.

            

    2017 Offensive Tackle Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Garett BollesUtah22 Yes
    2Ryan Ramczyk Wisconsin 24Yes
    3Cam Robinson Alabama40Yes
    4Antonio GarciaTroy69Yes
    5Dion DawkinsTemple79Yes
    6Roderick Johnson Florida State89Yes
    7Adam BisnowatyPitt131Yes
    8Taylor MotonWestern Michigan134Yes
    9Julie'n DavenportBucknell145Yes
    10Jermaine EluemunorTexas A&M152Yes
    11Conor McDermottUCLA161Yes
    12Avery GennesyTexas A&M 168Yes
    13J.J. DielmanUtah 179Yes
    14David SharpeFlorida202Yes
    15Dan SkipperArkansas203Yes
    16Jon HeckNorth Carolina246No
    17Jonah PirsigMinnesota253No
    18Clint Van HornMarshall254No
    19Collin BuchananMiami (Ohio)259Yes
    20Erik MagnusonMichigan261No
    21Aviante CollinsTCU289Yes
    22Justin SeniorMississippi State292Yes
    23Ethan CooperIndiana-Pa.299Yes
    24Levon MyersNorthern Illinois314No
    25Sam TeviUtah322Yes
    26Nate TheakerWayne State (Mich.)342Yes
    27Javarius LeamonSouth Carolina State343Yes
    28Jerry UgokweWilliam & Mary345Yes
    29Will HoldenVanderbilt 359Yes
    30Cole CrostonIowa376No
    31Andreas KnappeUConn381No
    32Kent PerkinsTexas 389No

Offensive Guards

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    Forrest Lamp
    Forrest LampJim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    While not a sexy position, offensive guard has become an important add in Round 1 of the NFL draft. Players like Zack Martin have helped round out offensive lines in Dallas, while Brandon Scherff was a top-five pick in 2015.

    There aren't any top-five picks here, but there are some potential first-rounders. That starts with Forrest Lamp. The left tackle from Western Kentucky has the length of an NFL guard and projects well there given his excellent agility and poise as a blocker. Lamp, like Martin and Scherff, has all the tools to be a great day one guard after playing left tackle in college.

    Other top names include Dan Feeney from Indiana and Dorian Johnson from Pitt. I've heard from NFL scouts that both players could rise into the top 50 picks due to the demand for solid offensive linemen in the NFL right now.

    Everyone loves to watch linemen run the 40-yard dash, but I'll focus mostly on short-area agility drills like the three-cone and on-field work where players' movement and balance are on display. The 40 and the bench press are good for TV but haven't proved to be great indicators of NFL success.

    2017 Offensive Guard Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Forrest LampWestern Kentucky38Yes
    2Dan Feeney Indiana 53Yes
    3Dorian Johnson Pitt111Yes
    4Zach Banner USC 166Yes
    5Damien MamaUSC186Yes
    6Nico SiragusaSan Diego State211Yes
    7Greg PykeGeorgia249No
    8Sean HarlowOregon State 260Yes
    9Isaac AsiataUtah276Yes
    10Jessamen DunkerTennessee State277Yes
    11Chase RoullierWyoming290Yes
    12Erik AustellCharleston Southern 291Yes
    13Gavin AndrewsOregon State316No
    14Caleb PetersonNorth Carolina317No
    15Kyle KalisMichigan327No
    16Jordan MorganKutztown330Yes
    17Ben BradenMichigan337Yes
    18Danny IsidoraMiami (Fla.)348Yes
    19Corey LevinChattanooga353Yes
    20Cameron LeeIllinois State371Yes
    21Alex KozanAuburn409No

Centers

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    Pat Elflein /
    Pat Elflein /Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Last year, Alabama's Ryan Kelly established himself as a legit Round 1 player. After the combine, all the talk in scouting circles was about him as a target for teams like the Indianapolis Colts and even the San Francisco 49ers in a trade-up scenario that ultimately netted Joshua Garnett. This year, there isn't a top-tier talent like Kelly, but two very good centers have the tools to make instant impacts.

    Pat Elflein at Ohio State and Ethan Pocic from LSU are both impressive talents. Elflein is a shorter, more compact player, while Pocic is a hulking 6'6". While different in build, both are tough, nasty blockers who project as NFL starters.

    After the two top players, the depth at center is equally impressive. Chad Wheeler and Tyler Orlosky could both be starting on NFL teams within two seasons and can be had after Day 2 of the draft.

    We're accustomed to first-round centers after Kelly and Travis Frederick. While this year won't give us that top-tier draft pick, the depth is among the best in recent memory.

    2017 Center Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Pat ElfleinOhio State73Yes
    2Ethan PocicLSU90Yes
    3Chad Wheeler USC150Yes
    4Tyler Orlosky West Virginia155Yes
    5Kyle FullerBaylor205Yes
    6Jon TothKentucky335Yes
    7Deyshawn BondCincinnati377No
    8Cameron TomSouthern Mississippi 385No
    9Lucas CrowleyNorth Carolina393No
    10Jay GuillermoClemson400No

Defensive Line

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    Jonathan Allen /
    Jonathan Allen /Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Alabama's Jonathan Allen is head and shoulders above the competition as the best defensive lineman in this year's class. That makes the combine important for him as he looks to maintain his status—and medicals will be huge for Allen given his string of shoulder surgeries in college—and also key for the players below him who are looking to come up the board.

    The second tier of defensive linemen—Caleb Brantley, Montravius Adams, Malik McDowell and Elijah Qualls—combine impressive talents and tools but have question marks either about size, motor, wiring or scheme fit. McDowell, especially, is a gifted athlete in the mold of former first-rounder Arik Armstead and could see his stock rise in Indianapolis if he aces interviews with teams.

    The real depth in this draft on defense comes at every position but defensive lineman, but there are plenty of diamond-in-the-rough prospects likely to be available in Round 3 or later. My favorite? Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, whose quick first step and stout build will remind many of Grady Jarrett.

            

    2017 Defensive Line Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Jonathan AllenAlabama7Yes
    2Montravius Adams Auburn34Yes
    3Caleb Brantley Florida35Yes
    4Malik McDowellMichigan State46Yes
    5Elijah QuallsWashington87Yes
    6Chris WormleyMichigan100Yes
    7Carlos WatkinsClemson101Yes
    8Dalvin TomlinsonAlabama108Yes
    9Tanoh KpassagnonVillanova112Yes
    10Larry OgunjobiCharlotte120Yes
    11Vincent TaylorOklahoma State125Yes
    12Eddie VanderdoesUCLA127Yes
    13Nazair JonesNorth Carolina130Yes
    14Jaleel JohnsonIowa133Yes
    15Jarron JonesNotre Dame136Yes
    16Charles WalkerOklahoma147Yes
    17Ryan GlasgowMichigan170Yes
    18DeAngelo BrownLouisville191No
    19Davon GodchauxLSU219Yes
    20D.J. JonesOle Miss243Yes
    21Isaac RochellNotre Dame273Yes
    22Ralph Green IIIIndiana284No
    23Stevie Tu'ikolovatuUSC295Yes
    24Tanzel SmartTulane302Yes
    25Treyvon HesterToledo309Yes
    26Chunky ClementsIllinois320Yes
    27Jeremiah LedbetterArkansas355Yes
    28Josh TupouColorado390No
    29Devaroe LawrenceAuburn401No
    30Harold BrantleyMissouri408No
    31Isaiah GoldenMcNeese State412No

Edge-Rushers

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    Myles Garrett /
    Myles Garrett /Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    The top overall player in the draft—Myles Garrett—headlines a stellar class of edge-rushers. While Garrett may be a generational athlete, there are legitimate seven pass-rushers with a top-32 grade, and a potential 10 of them could go in the first round when it's all said and done. That's unheard of.

    Garrett should go first overall. Solomon Thomas could go top-five. Taco Charlton could go top-15. The top-tier talent is amazing, and the depth is also notable. If you can't find a pass-rusher in this class, fire your scouts.

    What am I looking for from this group at the combine? As mentioned before, the drill work is a great tiebreaker. Looking at the cluster of players here—Takkarist McKinley, Ryan Anderson, Charles Harris, Derek Barnett—a leader can emerge as the top player in that group with what he does on the field and in meetings.

    Edge-rushers aren't all about athleticism, but that is a very telling part of the evaluation. The 40 isn't a great scouting tool but does offer a cross-comparison among the players. As always, I find more value in three-cone drills, short shuttles and field work.

    With 16 edge-rushers in the top 100, here's my list of the best overall.

             

    2017 Edge-Rusher Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Myles Garrett Texas A&M1Yes
    2Solomon Thomas Stanford6Yes
    3Taco CharltonMichigan14Yes
    4Charles HarrisMissouri20Yes
    5Derek BarnettTennessee23Yes
    6Takkarist McKinleyUCLA30Yes
    7Ryan AndersonAlabama 31Yes
    8T.J. WattWisconsin52Yes
    9Dawuane Smoot Illinois57Yes
    10Tim WilliamsAlabama60Yes
    11Joe MathisWashington61Yes
    12Carl LawsonAuburn 62Yes
    13Carroll Phillips Illinois 68Yes
    14Garrett SickelsPenn State 80Yes
    15Jordan WillisKansas State 85Yes
    16DeMarcus WalkerFlorida State86Yes
    17Tarell BashamOhio 103Yes 
    18Tyus BowserHouston104Yes
    19Derek RiversYoungstown State105Yes
    20Daeshon HallTexas A&M115Yes
    21Trey HendricksonFlorida Atlantic 137Yes
    22Noble NwachukwuWest Virginia153Yes
    23Bryan Cox Florida157Yes
    24Matt MilanoBoston College 187Yes
    25Ejuan PricePitt 208Yes
    26Ifeadi Odenigbo Northwestern213Yes
    27Avery MossYoungstown State 217Yes
    28Deatrich Wise Jr.Arkansas 218Yes
    29Josh CarrawayTCU231Yes
    30Keionta Davis Chattanooga232Yes
    31Tashawn BowerLSU258Yes
    32 Devonte Fields Louisville264Yes
    33 James Onwualu Notre Dame 265No
    34 Dylan ColeMissouri State281No
    35 Lewis Neal LSU282No
    36 Fadol BrownOle Miss304Yes
    37 Calvin MunsonSan Diego State315No
    38 Pita TaumoepenuUtah344Yes
    39 Al-Quadin MuhammadMiami (Fla.)356Yes 
    40 Dylan DonahueWest Georgia358Yes
    41 Ken EkanemVirginia Tech363Yes
    42 Torrodney PrevotOregon374No
    43 Joshua PosleyBall State378No
    44 Deon Hollins UCLA386No
    45 Kylie FittsUtah391No
    46 Jordan BurtonOklahoma State 394No
    47 Jamal MarcusAkron406No

Linebackers

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    Haason Reddick /
    Haason Reddick /Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    Think back to all the great linebackers drafted early in Round 1 recently—players like Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis. Reuben Foster has the tools to be a similar kind of player. While he wouldn't have ranked ahead of a healthy Jaylon Smith or Myles Jack last year—both were special players—he's still a very, very talented linebacker and worthy of a top pick.

    Watching linebackers at the combine means focusing hard on change-of-direction skills and range, both as a tackler and as a cover man. Even middle linebackers nowadays are asked to cover the middle of the field, so Foster and those challenging for his top spot must show the ability to not only come up and play the run but also get deep in coverage.

    The 2017 linebacker class is a very good one. Foster reigns as the king of the castle, but there are starters to be found outside the top 10 picks here. Haason Reddick's performance at the Senior Bowl has his stock soaring, and a good week of testing could secure his status as a Round 1 player.

            

    2017 Linebacker Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Reuben FosterAlabama3Yes
    2Haason ReddickTemple21Yes
    3Jarrad DavisFlorida39Yes
    4Zach CunninghamVanderbilt51Yes
    5Raekwon McMillanOhio State66Yes
    6Anthony WalkerNorthwestern88Yes
    7Jalen Reeves-MaybinTennessee93Yes
    8Vince BiegelWisconsin96Yes
    9Paul Magloire Jr.Arizona118No
    10Kendell BeckwithLSU121Yes
    11Duke RileyLSU123Yes
    12Elijah LeeKansas State143No
    13Josh Harvey-ClemonsLouisville163Yes
    14Steven TaylorHouston181No
    15Alex AnzaloneFlorida183Yes
    16Connor HarrisLindenwood200Yes
    17Ben GedeonMichigan206Yes
    18Keith KelseyLouisville229Yes
    19Hardy NickersonIllinois237Yes
    20Nyeem Wartman-WhitePenn State250No
    21Ukeme EligweGeorgia Southern255No
    22Ben BoulwareClemson256Yes
    23Riley BulloughMichigan State266Yes
    24Tanner VallejoBoise State267Yes
    25Jermaine GraceMiami (Fla.)271No
    26Blair BrownOhio303Yes
    27Jayon BrownUCLA305Yes
    28Harvey LangiBYU319Yes
    29Brooks EllisArkansas360Yes
    30Marquel LeeWake Forest362Yes
    31Kevin DavisColorado State365Yes
    32Brandon BellPenn State396No
    33Marcus OliverIndiana407No

Cornerbacks

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    Marshon Lattimore /
    Marshon Lattimore /Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    NFL teams love cornerbacks, but in recent history they haven't drafted them super early. Patrick Peterson was the No. 5 overall pick in 2011, and last year Jalen Ramsey went in the same spot, but traditionally the first cornerback comes off the board around pick No. 10. This year, that won't be the case.

    Marshon Lattimore is the man crush of many NFL scouts I've spoken to based on his size, speed and ball skills. Teams also like his teammate, Gareon Conley, and the duo at Florida (Teez Tabor, Quincy Wilson). Don't forget about Sidney Jones and Marlon Humphrey as potential Round 1 players either.

    When April 27 finally gets here, a run on cornerbacks should be expected. The players mentioned above and USC's Adoree' Jackson are all contenders to hear their names called Thursday night.

    It's not a top-heavy class, though. Starting-caliber cornerbacks can be found in subsequent rounds. There might be seven cornerbacks ranked in the first round, but there are another 10 ranked in the top three rounds after that.

            

    2017 Cornerback Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Quincy Wilson Florida9 Yes
    2Marshon LattimoreOhio State11Yes
    3Gareon ConleyOhio State17Yes
    4Sidney JonesWashington19Yes
    5Teez TaborFlorida27Yes
    6Tre'Davious White LSU32Yes
    7Marlon HumphreyAlabama33Yes
    8Adoree' JacksonUSC43Yes
    9Cordrea TankersleyClemson58Yes
    10Fabian MoreauUCLA64Yes
    11Chidobe AwuzieColorado70 Yes
    12Jourdan LewisMichigan71Yes
    13Rasul DouglasWest Virginia74 Yes
    14Howard WilsonHouston76 Yes
    15Kevin KingWashington95Yes
    16Cameron SuttonTennessee97Yes
    17Corn ElderMiami (Fla.)98 Yes
    18Marquez WhiteFlorida State132 Yes
    19Ahkello WitherspoonColorado140 Yes
    20Channing StriblingMichigan167 Yes
    21Cole LukeNotre Dame174 No
    22Damontae KazeeSan Diego State190 Yes
    23Jalen MyrickMinnesota196 Yes
    24Jack TochoNC State197 Yes
    25Jeremy ClarkMichigan204 Yes
    26William Likely IIIMaryland207 Yes
    27Shaquill GriffinCentral Florida221 Yes
    28Nate HairstonTemple222 Yes
    29Brian AllenUtah224 Yes
    30Sojourn SheltonWisconsin230 Yes
    31Ezra RobinsonTennessee State263 Yes
    32Des LawrenceNorth Carolina268 No
    33Jeremy CutrerMiddle Tennessee270 No
    34Ashton LampkinOklahoma State275 Yes
    35Michael TysonCincinnati296 Yes
    36Brendan LangleyLamar (Texas)301 Yes
    37Breon BordersDuke313 No
    38Brad WatsonWake Forest318 No
    39Treston DecoudOregon State334 Yes
    40Art MauletMemphis366 Yes
    41Greg MabinIowa380 No

Safeties

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    Malik Hooker /
    Malik Hooker /Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Not since the 2010 draft—when Eric Berry and Earl Thomas came out—has a draft class seen two safeties like Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker. Because of the rare talent the two possess, it's safe to assume NFL teams will be all over them in the early picks of Round 1.

    Adams and Hooker are special, but they aren't alone in the Round 1 talk. Jabrill Peppers and Budda Baker are legitimate prospects and will warrant conversations after the combine given their athleticism. Peppers, especially, is poised to blow up in Indianapolis given his all-around skill set. He will work out as a linebacker, but I rank him among the safeties.

    The strength of the safety class is at free safety with Day 2 prospects like Eddie Jackson, Marcus Williams and Justin Evans all potential starters. Like the edge-rusher class, no team should have an excuse to miss on a safety this year.

            

    2017 Safety Rankings
    RankPlayerSchoolOverallCombine Invite
    1Jamal Adams LSU4Yes
    2Malik Hooker Ohio State 5Yes
    3Jabrill Peppers Michigan 29 Yes
    4Budda BakerWashington41Yes
    5Justin EvansTexas A&M44Yes
    6Marcus Williams Utah48Yes
    7Desmond KingIowa49 Yes
    8Eddie JacksonAlabama 63 Yes
    9Marcus MayeFlorida75 Yes
    10Obi MelifonwuUConn77 Yes
    11John JohnsonBoston College 107 Yes
    12Lorenzo JeromeSaint Francis (Pa.) 110 Yes
    13Josh JonesNC State 129 Yes
    14Tedric ThompsonColorado142 Yes
    15Delano HillMichigan171 Yes
    16Montae NicholsonMichigan State 192Yes
    17Jadar JohnsonClemson194 Yes
    18Rayshawn JenkinsMiami (Fla.)225 Yes
    19Johnathan "Rudy" FordAuburn234 Yes
    20Nathan GerryNebraska 235 Yes
    21David JonesRichmond245 No
    22Jordan SternsOklahoma State251 No
    23Tony ConnerOle Miss 262 No
    24Xavier WoodsLouisiana Tech298 Yes
    25Randall GoforthUCLA 312 No
    26Demetrious CoxMichigan State 321 No
    27Shalom LuaniWashington State339 Yes
    28Jamal CarterMiami (Fla.)341 Yes
    29Damarius TravisMinnesota 352 Yes
    30Chuck ClarkVirginia Tech367 Yes
    31Ahmad ThomasOklahoma379 No
    32Nate AndrewsFlorida State 382 No
    33Weston SteelhammerAir Force 387 No
    34Orion StewartBaylor399 No
    35Quincy MaugerGeorgia405 No
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