With the NFL Combine just around the corner, here is an early look at my top 50 prospects in this year’s NFL Draft.
1. Myles Garrett, EDGE, Texas A&M
Garrett is solidified as the No. 1 overall prospect on virtually every big board you come across, reason being that he is a freak athlete with prototypical size and strength for a weakside 4-3 defensive end.
2. Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Medicals are going to be important for him, as he’s had to deal with multiple stingers and a shoulder injury. If he checks out, Foster is an immediate upgrade for any team looking for a WILL/MIKE linebacker.
3. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
Maybe the most pro-ready, complete player in the draft is Marshon Lattimore. His footwork and ability to mirror receiver’s movements are unmatched by anyone in this year’s class.
4. Jonathan Allen, DL/EDGE, Alabama
Allen is built like a defensive tackle (6-foot-3, 291 pounds), but has the pliability of an edge rusher and can truly play anywhere along the defensive line. Just tell him to rush the passer, period, and he’ll go to work.
5. Solomon Thomas, EDGE, Stanford
Detroit Lions fans should be salivating at the idea of Solomon Thomas falling to their No. 21 overall pick, because he is a perfect fit as a closed end that can move inside. He’s a physical specimen that will test well at the combine.
6. Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State
There is no better center fielder in this year’s draft or the upcoming MLB draft than Malik Hooker. He can cover a ton of ground and make plays that very few can make in coverage. I love his speed and instincts, but he’ll have to get better versus the run.
7. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Lacking elite top end speed? Doesn’t matter. Corey Davis runs some of the crispiest routes you’ll see and exposes greedy cornerbacks with a nasty double move. Creating separation comes natural to him.
8. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
The combine is going to be ultra important for McKinley, who is reportedly set to undergo shoulder shoulder surgery following his workout. He is a phenomenal athlete that should turn some heads.
9. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
There is no question whether Cook is a top prospect, he’s an absolute stud. The question is going to be Cook’s off-the-field concerns, as well as his injury history. We’ll have a better idea after the combine.
10. Jamal Adams, S, LSU
Adams isn’t quite the athlete that Hooker is, but his versatility (ability to play free, box or nickel safety), leadership and downhill aggression makes it difficult to keep him out of the top 10.
11. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
Don’t give me that, “he’s not going to fit in every running scheme” bullcrap. Fournette will get picked up by a team that heavily runs a power/gap scheme and he’s going to punish people. That’s all there is to it. I think he can play on all three downs, too.
12. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama
Howard is arguably the best and most complete tight end prospect I’ve ever scouted. I thought he made a mistake by staying in college for an extra year, but I was wrong. He’s improved a ton and can punish defenses up the seam, as well as provide efficiency as a blocker. There isn’t much that he can’t do.
13. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
Some will debate whether Malik is better suited as a defensive end or tackle. I say, why not both? Have him play DE on early downs and make him rush the passer as a 3-tech on passing downs. He’s raw, but there is so much potential there. He’d be a perfect fit for the Lions as a strongside DE too, if he miraculously fell to their first-round pick.
14. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
NFL.com has Jones at a listed 170 pounds, while CBS has him at 181 pounds. Both numbers are rail thin for a 6-foot-1 corner, so combine weigh-ins will be huge for him if he’s able to add extra weight, because he looks like a clear first rounder on tape.
15. Taco Charlton, EDGE, Michigan
Taco had a slow start to the 2016 season, but absolutely dominated during big games against Ohio State and in their bowl game versus Florida State. He’s a solid run defender with a knack for turning the corner and pressuring the QB. He’s only going to get better with time.
16. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
For such a large man (6-foot-1, 213 pounds), I was alarmed by how timid Wilson was in the run game, but there may not be a more physical corner in press-man coverage. Wilson has the potential to be a shutdown CB1 at the next level.
17. Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
Williams is going to have one purpose in the NFL, and that’s rushing the passer. He wasn’t used much other than on obvious passing downs, but still adds a ton of value to any team that needs a pure pass rusher and should eventually give someone 10+ sacks a year.
18. Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State
Conley’s footwork is only trumped by his teammate, Marshon Lattimore. He’s constantly staying in his receiver’s hip pocket, and if he can learn how to use his hands instead of just relying on his feet, he can turn into an All-Pro corner.
19. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
If you’re looking for someone who can create a big play and turn the tables in your favor on a moment’s notice, Tabor is the CB for you. Teez can get caught looking in the backfield on occasion, but his playmaking ability more than makes up for it.
20. Forrest Lamp, OG, Western Kentucky
As a former left tackle, Lamp is a tremendous athlete who will likely make the transition to guard due to his lack of height and length. He was able to hold his own against a strong Alabama defensive front.
21. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson
I definitely wasn’t expecting Watson to be my QB1 at this point, but here we are. Watson isn’t perfect, but sometimes you just want a leader that shows up at the biggest of moments. He’s an elusive QB that can also put touch on his throws and connect on the deep ball. I think he has plenty of potential.
22. Caleb Brantley, DL, Florida
There may not be a more explosive 3-tech DT than Caleb Brantley. If his pad level wasn’t so inconsistent and if he didn’t appear to take some plays off last year, he’d be a top-10 talent to me.
23. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Kizer is an interesting case. He looked like a shoo-in top-2 pick through the first couple games of the season and then went on an awful stretch with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions through six games. He has a ton of talent, but I worry about his decision making.
24. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
This year’s OT class is the weakest I’ve seen in recent memory, but Ryan Ramczyk is clearly at the top of the board at the moment. I love his technique and lateral agility.
25. Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Earlier in February, I wrote about why Reddick is a real option for the Detroit Lions at No. 21 overall. I still maintain that thought and believe Reddick is the No. 2 linebacker in this class behind Foster.
26. Derek Barnett, EDGE, Tennessee
Barnett may not blow up the combine, but he is explosive enough with tremendous bend around the corner to make him one of the top pure pass rushers in the country.
27. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Williams reminds me of a poor man’s Devante Parker. He wins mostly with the ball already in the air by adjusting his body to the ball and tracking it at its highest point. He’ll need to add emphasis on selling his routes, along with showing more urgency in the run game.
28. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh
Don’t make the same mistake you made with T.J. Clemmings, Alex. Don’t make that mistake again. Aw hell, I really like this Pitt lineman a lot. A former five-star recruit, Dorian Johnson is a remarkable athlete with plus-strength and can pull and make plays in space with the best of them.
29. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
If you’re looking for a pure press-corner, Humphrey might be your guy. He played a majority of his snaps in press coverage and may be the most physical corner in this draft. However, I worry whether he can turn his hips and keep up with faster receivers.
30. Adoree Jackson, CB, USC
This may be a bit high for most draft analysts, but Adoree is a complete game changer and that’s something you don’t find very often at CB. He can add value on all three phases of the game, and if he can correct his issues at CB, his potential is through the roof.
31. Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
I talked a little about why I believe most draft outlets are underrating Rivers and believe he is a borderline first round talent. His flexibility and hand usage alone makes him a terror off the edge.
32. Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Davis is yet another top linebacker prospect that offers speed, cover ability and a great mentality in run support. He will need to clean up his inconsistencies and recklessness in the run game, however.
33. Obi Melifonwu, S, Connecticut
I’m a big fan of Melifonwu, but there is no doubt that he is a project at this stage of his career. His size and athleticism is otherworldly, but the amount of time it takes for him to diagnose plays at times is worrisome.
34. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
A 6-foot-6, 326-pound offensive tackle should not be allowed to move around the way that Cam Robinson does. With that, comes a raw prospect with technique and balance issues. He’ll have more than his fair share of struggles if given playing time right away, but give him some time and he can develop into a stud lineman.
35. Jabrill Peppers, S, Michigan
I’m not worried about the lack of turnovers created. Big plays can be made other ways, and there may not be a prospect that loves to hit more than Peppers. I like him a lot more as a box safety than linebacker, and he’s easily the best return specialist to enter the draft this year (sorry Adoree).
36. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo
Oh boy, where to start? I’m a huge Kareem Hunt fan. For an undersized back (5-foot-11, 208), I was extremely impressed by his north/south attitude, along with his balance and power. He’s also very reliable with the best fumble rate in the country.
37. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
JuJu is a big, physical receiver that was able to bully CBs and make contested catches. He had an especially dominant game against Washington’s Sidney Jones. He can be inconsistent and his hands are average, but he remains a solid early-Day 2 WR option.
38. Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Harris is one of the more explosive edge rushers and displays a nasty spin move with active hands. His stiff hips and lack of strength at the point of attack may limit his production at the next level.
39. John Ross, WR, Washington
Ross is likely to run a sub 4.35 40-yard dash and is easily the best deep threat in this year’s class. He reminds me of a DeSean Jackson in his prime with quicker feet.
40. Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
Earlier this month, I named Wilson as another prospect that I believe is being severely underrated, but that’s because many are still getting around to studying certain players. Wilson is a stud athlete with great feet and can change directions on a dime. He can fit in any scheme, but will have to prove he is healthy and add some muscle to his frame.
41. David Njoku, TE, Miami (FL)
Njoku is a great athlete and basically a poor man’s Eric Ebron if you ask me. The strengths and weaknesses are eerily similar, including the drop issues.
42. Carl Lawson, EDGE, Auburn
Lawson doesn’t have the pliability you look for in an edge rusher, but his strength, violent hands and wide variety of pass rushing moves cannot be overlooked.
43. Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound receiver out of Virginia Tech has some of the quickest feet in the draft, which sometimes makes up for his thin frame in press. Ford is lethal across the middle and can take the top of of a defense with his speed and ability to haul in contested throws.
44. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
Teams will figure out whether they want Mixon and his character issues, but as a pure football talent, Mixon sports a huge frame and is one of the better catchers out of the backfield in his class.
45. Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
Douglas is very tall (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) and is sometimes clunky with his movements, but he proved he has some of the best ball skills out there after tallying eight interceptions last year.
46. Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, Alabama
Top-tier defensive linemen prospects really do grow on trees in Alabama. Tomlinson is yet another big-bodied defensive lineman to leave the Crimson Tide after limited experience, but his strong punch and long arms will make him a highly coveted prospect.
47. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Speed for days. Westbrook is a blur on the football field and is also known to turn a small gain into a huge one. Teams will need to get him open in space as he may have trouble when put on the LOS at a measly listed 176 pounds.
48. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
There may not be a more improved prospect than Tre White. He made a great decision to stay in school and it paid off big time. I love his athleticism and upside, but he’ll need to improve on his hand placement in press coverage.
49. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Cunningham is a tough watch on tape, as he may have missed more tackles than anyone in college football last year, but a lot of those missed tackles resulted after putting himself in a position to make a play that not many linebackers could have made. That’s because Cunningham is a freak athlete with quintessential size for his position.
50. Carlos Henderson, WR, Louisiana Tech
I still need to see more of Henderson, but from the limited tape out there, there is a lot to like. He can return kicks (averaged north of 30 yards per return), pluck the ball out of the air at its highest point and turn a short pass into a large gain with impressive elusiveness in the open field.