Big Board 1.0: Top 50 Prospects For The 2015 NFL Draft
A quick snapshot at the start of the 2014 college football season paints a pretty specific picture for what the 2015 NFL Draft might look like eight months down the line.
For instance, there are more hybrid safety prospects out there than cornerstone cornerbacks. The linebacker pool is deeper in the middle than on the outside. There are more pass rushers available this year than last year, but no one on the level of Jadeveon Clowney.
Big receivers are plentiful, but big-time receivers, not so much. There are top-tier tackles (again), but there may not be a pure tight end with a first- or second-round grade. There is more running back talent than in recent years -- almost certainly one or two who will be picked in the first round.
And, of course, there are the quarterbacks. There may be more potential franchise quarterbacks available than in the last couple of drafts, and we're facing a season-long debate over which one will go No. 1 overall.
There are more prospects from Florida State than anywhere else, and the daylight between the SEC and Everyone Else has been diminished. There are even a few names of significant prospects who won't even be suiting up this season.
Inevitably, some of the prospects listed here on this first Big Board will plummet. And there will be names unknown or underappreciated today that will make their way into the early rounds. But you've got to start somewhere.
|1||Jameis Winston||QB||Florida State||In a decision between the top two quarterbacks expected to be available at the top of the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston edges out Marcus Mariota. He can make every throw and can be considered more NFL-ready because of the pro-style offense he runs so effectively at Florida State.|
|2||Cedric Ogbuehi||T||Texas A&M||The media loved the Johnny Football Era. But the NFL is even more enamored of the progression of top-tier left tackles coming out of College Station. Ogbuehi is a better prospect than Luke Joeckel, and is more athletic than Jake Matthews.|
|3||Leonard Williams||DE||USC||The best defensive prospect in the draft and a potential No. 1 overall pick, Williams has shown he can be a dominant force anywhere along the defensive line. As a tackle in 2012, he had eight sacks and 13.5 TFL. As an end in 2013, he had six sacks and, again, 13.5 TFL. He moves so fluidly and naturally for someone 6-foot-5, 300 pounds. His pass rush skills would be wasted as a 3-4 DE, so I suspect he'll be snatched up early by a team with a 4-3 front and become an impact tackle like Ndamukong Suh.|
|4||Andrus Peat||T||Stanford||You don't see a lot of in-line tight ends with feet any better than Peat's, and he's a 6-7, 312-pound tackle. There will be plenty of teams who prefer him over Ogbuehi, and if he stays for his senior season, Peat might challenge to be the top pick in the 2016 draft.|
|5||Randy Gregory||DE||Nebraska||None of his three sacks in the Michigan game came against Taylor Lewan. He got them on broken plays, and while blitzing as a linebacker. But, man, did he battle Lewan, displaying great effort and a variety of pass rush moves that will win him a lot of battles in the NFL.|
|6||Shilique Calhoun||DE||Michigan State||He may not equal the athleticism of Williams or Gregory, but Calhoun is just as tenacious and productive (7.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 4 fumble recoveries -- and three defensive touchdowns scored). At 6-5, 256, Calhoun may be more a textbook 4-3 DE than Gregory (6-6, 240), who may be better suited to outside linebacker.|
|7||Marcus Mariota||QB||Oregon||Mariota is the perfect quarterback for Oregon's offense. But one of his greatest assets in the Ducks' spread attack -- his speed -- is a dimension NFL teams are going to be reluctant to have to use. He's built more like Colin Kaepernick than Robert Griffin III, but Mariota still has to convince scouts he can win from the pocket than be exposed to NFL punishment in the open field.|
|8||Brandon Scherff||T||Iowa||More of a mauler than either Ogbuehi or Peat, Scherff can make a case for being the best tackle prospect in a really strong class. He's a weight room monster who may be an even more physical run blocker than Taylor Lewan. He'll need a bit of developing before facing NFL speed rushers on the edge, but he'll be a force from Day One.|
|9||Vic Beasley||OLB||Clemson||He's a far more appealing prospect than Dee Ford, another undersized pass rush specialist, the 23rd pick in the 2014 draft. Beasley (6-3, 235) will have an easier time transitioning to play outside linebacker, as he certainly will be asked to do.|
|10||Cameron Erving||T||Florida State||Had Erving come out following the 2013 season, he likely would have been a top-20 pick. He'll likely be a top-10 pick in 2015, after one more season on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage. But he's likely no better than fourth-best in another really strong crop of tackles.|
|11||Ifo Ekpre-Olomu||CB||Oregon||Ekpre-Olomu had a first-round grade a year ago, and should be one of the top cornerback prospects again. He could fit in any coverage scheme, but his willingness against the run might make him a better fit for a zone system.|
|12||Todd Gurley||RB||Georgia||Gurley is the total package: a back who can run you over or run away from you. And because he's comfortable with all that's asked of him in the passing game, he's an every-down back worthy not just of a first-round pick but selection in the top half of the first round.|
|13||Landon Collins||S||Alabama||Collins saw time at free safety, strong safety and in dime packages a year ago, and could be the most well-rounded defensive back Alabama has had in a while. He's proven he can play in the box, and this season he may get the chance to patrol the deep middle as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix did so well a year ago.|
|14||P.J. Williams||CB||Florida State||Florida State has had seven defensive players drafted in the last two years. Williams should be drafted higher than any of them, including cornerback Xavier Rhodes, taken 25th in 2013.|
|15||Rashad Greene||WR||Florida State||The more I see of Greene, the more he becomes my favorite receiver prospect in this class. He doesn't have the size to be an X receiver (Greene is 6-0, 180), but he's an accomplished receiver who has better hands, runs better routes and is far more explosive with the ball than former teammate Kelvin Benjamin, the 28th pick in the 2014 draft.|
|16||Amari Cooper||WR||Alabama||A story on al.com last spring detailed Cooper's 40-yard dash times at Alabama's Pro Day. He ran three times: 4.31, 4.35 and 4.38. Clearly, Cooper's straight-ahead speed will compel a lot of scouts -- especially when you realize he's 6-1, 210 pounds.|
|17||Kevin Hogan||QB||Stanford||Hogan's career numbers (289-for-447, 3,696 yards, 29 TDs, 13 INTs) compare to Derek Carr's -- Carr's sophomore season stats, that is. You don't need to see Hogan throw 45 times a game to know he's got everything you look for in a quarterback, from the arm to the legs to the heart and the head. He's going to make some NFL team with a mid-first round pick very happy.|
|18||Michael Bennett||DT||Ohio State||Bennett looks like this year's best 3 technique tackle. He'll win matchups with quickness rather than brute force, and he's a proven playmaker when he's able to penetrate (seven sacks, 11.5 TFL).|
|19||Bernardrick McKinney||ILB||Mississippi State||He's the top middle linebacker in the draft class, and McKinney is just as promising as an outside backer prospect, where his speed and strength would make him a poor man's Khalil Mack.|
|20||La'el Collins||T||LSU||Maybe the fifth-best tackle prospect in a loaded draft class, Collins (6-5, 315) has the quick feet to play tackle but the power and physique to play guard, where he lined up his first two seasons at LSU.|
|21||Dante Fowler Jr.||DE||Florida||Fowler is listed at 6-3, 260 -- 17 pounds lighter than when he arrived at Gainesville. It may be an admission that he needed to get quicker to improve as a pass rusher. He has only six career sacks in 25 career games, but he seems poised for a breakout year that would position him well in this deep crop of pass rush talent.|
|22||Eric Striker||OLB||Oklahoma||For a guy Bob Stoops called the best blitzer he'd ever seen, Striker has a name that really suits him. He's a dynamic playmaker off the edge, and is quietly capable in coverage, too. His full-speed-ahead style is reminiscent of Ryan Shazier, but anyone concerned with Shazier's size and ability to hold up through NFL punishment will be even more concerned with the smaller, slighter Striker (6-0, 220).|
|23||Denzel Perryman||ILB||Miami||Perryman is a throwback backer, a prospect who can line up anywhere along a defense's second level. He attacks the ball with an instinctive sense of angles of pursuit, and is a force against the run and in coverage. Because he's not used to rush the quarterback much, he lacks the flair of a linebacker like Beasley.|
|24||Mario Edwards Jr.||DL||Florida State||Just watch Edwards pancake Auburn LT Greg Robinson in the BCS Championship and you'll get a sense of his strength and explosion. Edwards (6-3, 294) could wind up as either 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT and be solid in either role.|
|25||Melvin Gordon||RB||Wisconsin||Like Gurley, Gordon runs with a combination of power and explosiveness that will entice NFL teams to start thinking running back in the first round again. But until he can contribute in the passing game -- Gordon has three college catches to his credit -- he'll be limited in what he can do at the next level, where every down is a passing down.|
|26||Trae Waynes||CB||Michigan State||Might Waynes be a better prospect than Darqueze Dennard, my No. 1 corner in the 2014 NFL Draft? Well, he's taller, quicker and perhaps more natural around the ball. But he's not yet the technician that Dennard was, nor as stout against the run -- though he can get there by season's end.|
|27||Ty Montgomery||WR||Stanford||He's a big target (6-2, 220) who makes tough catches in traffic, but he projects as more than just a possession receiver. You get a sense of Montgomery's top-end speed when he's returning kicks, which he does as well as anyone in the country.|
|28||Jalen Mills||CB||LSU||Scouts will be flocking to Death Valley to check out the latest model off the assembly line at Defensive Back U. Mills played primarily at cornerback his first two seasons, and shows the fluidity and technique to be a lockdown corner. This season, he'll move to free safety, and he'll be fine at his new spot. Still, i suspect most teams will see him as a promising corner prospect.|
|29||Cody Prewitt||S||Mississippi||Don't be misled by Prewitt's SEC-leading six interceptions in 2013. He's not just a ballhawk. He's a hammer waiting to drop, and at 6-2, 214, projects as the kind of hybrid safety everyone in the league is looking for.|
|30||Duke Johnson||RB||Miami||Three running backs with first-round grades? This is the deepest RB class in recent memory, and there's not a ton of dropoff from Gurley-Gordon to the next tier, which includes South Carolina's Mike Davis. Johnson's burst is as explosive as any back in this class. If he's healthy, he's a playmaker who will catch a lot of attention.|
|31||Ramik Wilson||ILB||Georgia||Jordan Jenkins may get the headlines and the highlights, but Wilson is the more complete linebacker prospect. When asked, however rarely, he can pressure the quarterback, but his game is making tackles all over the field. Scouts will be looking at his coverage skills to make certain he can stay on the field in any situation, like Perryman.|
|32||Hroniss Grasu||C||Oregon||Of all the exceptional athletes on the Oregon roster, Grasu might be the most impressive. He shows tremendous mobility and quickness, and he's firmly established as the leader of the line after 40 straight starts. The question is whether a sub-300-pounder (Grasu is 6-3, 297) can match up with some of the 340-pound nose tackles he'll encounter regularly next year.|
|33||Tre' Jackson||G||Florida State||Like Cameron Erving, Jackson is a converted defensive lineman who looks perfectly at home on the offensive line. He's massive (6-4, 339), but he's likely a right guard at the next level -- and not too many of them are taken with first-round picks, regardless of what their grades say.|
|34||Dorial Green-Beckham||WR||Oklahoma||Green-Beckham's waiver request was denied, making him ineligible to play for Oklahoma this season after being dismissed from Missouri's program for various alleged transgressions. If he declares even after sitting out 2014, plenty of teams will be in the market for a 6-6, 220-pound X receiver prototype.|
|35||Josh Shaw||DB||USC||He's a punchline at the moment (no one's made more unsubstantiated claims about heroes since Jared from Subway). But if Shaw's fabrications turn out not to be a cover-up for something more serious and he is able to earn his way back onto the field, he should have a chance to show what makes him a potentially special prospect. Shaw is a 6-1, 200-pound hybrid DB, who has started at both cornerback and safety at USC and might just be able to play anywhere in the secondary at the next level.|
|36||Kurtis Drummond||FS||Michigan State||Drummond is a long, lean, versatile safety who had 91 tackles a year ago and four interceptions. Clearly, he's comfortable in all facets of the game, and has shown promising instincts in getting to the ball and to ballcarriers. In a class rich in hybrid safeties, Drummond should be one of the first three off the board.|
|37||Brett Hundley||QB||UCLA||He has tremendous upside, but I think Hundley is significantly behind Winston, Mariota and Hogan in terms of NFL readiness. He has the size, the big arm, the mobility. But he still needs to improve on such critical areas as accuracy and decision making -- growth opportunities not uncommon for quarterbacks halfway through their eligibility. He could play himself into the 2015 first round, or stay through his senior season and be the top QB in the 2016 draft.|
|38||Noah Spence||DE||Ohio State||According to his bio in the Ohio State media guide, Spence plays the "viper" position, named as such because it sounds "cool." Whatever you call it, Spence plays it well, coming off a season with eight sacks and 14.5 TFL. He may find that he'll go by a different cool name at the next level, as Spence (6-3, 252) may be better suited to play Sam backer than DE.|
|39||Nelson Agholor||WR||USC||While Marqise Lee underperformed a year ago, Agholor opened some eyes. He's a quick, capable receiver, though I don't think he has the upside of Lee or Robert Woods (I won't hold it against Agholor that I seem to be wrong about USC receivers a lot -- I liked Dwayne Jarrett and Mike Williams as prospects more than I should have).|
|40||DeVante Parker||WR||Louisville||I wouldn't be surprised if Parker's numbers are way down in his first year post-Bridgewater and he still overtakes Agholor and other wide receivers on most draft boards. Even if his production drops, Parker's athleticism and ball skills are already established. He'll test extremely well at the Combine and could vault into the end of the first round.|
|41||Derron Smith||S||Fresno State||He has the versatility to be a hybrid safety, but does his size (5-11, 197) necessitate to move to cornerback? And does he have the coverage skills to make the conversion if asked?|
|42||Devonte Fields||DE||Unaffiliated||Unlike Green-Beckham, Fields has yet to resurface after his off-field issues (domestic violence allegations -- which are, appropriately, a sensitive issue around the league these days) got him kicked out of TCU. Character concerns will exacerbate questions about whether he's more than just a one-gear speed rusher.|
|43||Devin Funchess||TE||Michigan||Is he a tight end with wide receiver skills? A wideout in a tight end's body? He was the Big Ten's top TE a year ago, and Michigan is calling him a receiver this year. Ultimately, what position he plays will be up to the NFL market. I suspect he'll draw more interest as a tight end -- especially one who can run a receiver's route tree.|
|44||Sam Carter||SS||TCU||Another potential hybrid safety, who can do so many of the things asked of safeties today. Carter has good skills around the ball (as his nine career interceptions suggest); he's an aggressive, consistent tackler; he even has racked up seven sacks when used as a blitzer.|
|45||Kyler Fackrell||OLB||Utah State||Far from a one-dimensional speed rusher (though that's a pretty impressive dimension of his game), Fackrell will make plays against the run and in coverage, too. He'll appeal to 4-3 and 3-4 teams.|
|46||Ty Sambrailo||T||Colorado State||After stepping into the leadership void left in the wake of Weston Richburg's departure to the NFL, Sambrailo had his leadership compared to the mother on The Partridge Family. By his coach. In a good way. Beyond that, he's technically solid in all facets of the game and is a remarkable athlete for a guy his size (6-5, 315).|
|47||Jaelen Strong||WR||Arizona State||Last year was a great year for great receiver prospects. This draft is shaping up to be a good year for good ones. Several others could have found their way to this spot (Kasen Williams, Deontay Greenberry, Antwan Goodley, Stefon Diggs, Quinshad Davis). But Strong gets the edge here because of his upside. He had a huge breakout year in 2013, when he was still raw in his route running. He could develop this season into a top-3 wideout prospect and a first-round pick.|
|48||A.J. Johnson||ILB||Tennessee||In 2011, Johnson led all SEC freshmen in tackles. In 2012, he led all SEC defenders in tackles. In 2013, he led Tennessee in tackles and TFL, and it was considered a down year. Johnson has the skill set to be an every-down Mike backer at the next level.|
|49||Cedric Reed||DE||Texas||I fully expected Jackson Jeffcoat to flourish as a pass rusher last season, but his repertoire was limited to a speed rush. Reed doesn't have Jeffcoat's speed, and the question remains whether he has the strength to bull rush an NFL tackle. If he shows he can win battles with strength and quickness, Reed could be a second-round prospect. If not, he may face Jeffcoat's fate (the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year) was undrafted.|
|50||Karlos Williams||RB||Florida State||It will be intriguing to follow what Williams, a converted defensive back, is able to do in his first season as a feature back. He has the tools to be the complete package and could emerge as a top-3 RB prospect.|
David Seigerman's new book, "Under Pressure," co-authored with former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas, is available on Amazon.com and at bookstores everywhere.