2015 NFL Draft: Way Too Early Big Board
Welcome back, Ifo.
When I released my "Way Too Early Big Board" a year in advance of the 2014 NFL Draft, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu was my 32nd-best prospect, the erstwhile last pick of the first round.
Ekpre-Olomu had a terrific 2013 season. He was second on the team in tackles and interceptions, was named a second-team All-American by a variety of outlets, was a semifinalists for the Thorpe Award. Long story short, Ekpre-Olomu decided to return to Eugene and, in doing so, also earned himself a return to my Way Too Early Big Board for a second season.
He's the only one. Everyone else on last year's list has moved on and is gainfully employed by the NFL.
And Ekpre-Olomu is now my top-ranked cornerback prospect for the 2015 NFL Draft, the 11th best prospect overall.
Here's a look at the top 32 prospects, who -- if the draft were today instead of 10 months away or more -- would fill up the first round of the 2015 draft.
|Cedric Ogbuehi||T||Texas A&M||Ogbuehi will be the third A&M tackle in three years to go top 10. He's better technically than Luke Joeckel was at this point in his career, and he's more athletic than Jake Matthews. His first season at left tackle could turn him into the draft's top prospect.|
|Leonard Williams||DE||USC||Williams' versatility will make him really appealing to any team running a hybrid defensive front. He's big enough (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) to play tackle in a 4-3 front or end in a 3-4, though he has the natural pass rush instincts of a 4-3 DE.|
|Randy Gregory||DE||Nebraska||He's not the once-in-a-generation pass rusher that Jadeveon Clowney was. But Gregory showed power and explosiveness in his first season at Nebraska, and sure looks like the real deal.|
|Shilique Calhoun||DE||Michigan State||In a draft class deep with pass rushers, Calhoun's name will be atop a lot of wish lists. He has the size (6-4, 250) to play DE in the NFL, and he has the burst and athleticism to convert to an outside backer in a 3-4 at the next level.|
|Marcus Mariota||QB||Oregon||Oregon's spread offense creates little need for quarterbacks to have read too deep into their progressions. But Mariota showed me all the decision-making capabilities when he decided to return to school and continue to develop as a pocket passer.|
|Andrus Peat||T||Stanford||If Peat were to develop as expected during his junior season, he could challenge Ogbuehi as the top tackle -- maybe even the top prospect -- in the 2015 NFL Draft. He's gigantic (6-7, 312) but is shockingly fluid and athletic for a guy his size.|
|Jameis Winston||QB||Florida State||There's little Winston can't do on the field. It's the lack of maturity he's displayed off the field that may keep him from being the first QB taken.|
|Vic Beasley||OLB||Clemson||With 13 sacks and 23 TFL a year ago, the 6-2, 235-pound Beasley projects as one of the top rush LB prospects in the draft. He's a better prospect than Dee Ford was this year.|
|Brandon Scherff||T||Iowa||There were observers in the Big Ten who felt that Scherff was every bit the prospect that Taylor Lewan was. Right now, his run blocking prowess far exceeds his pass protection experience. But there's no reason to suspect this force at the point of attack won't be able to do anything asked of him at the next level.|
|Cameron Erving||T||Florida State||Erving could have been a first-round pick this season. Another year under his belt on the offensive side of the ball could turn him into a top-10 prospect.|
|Ifo Ekpre-Olomu||CB||Oregon||Ekpre-Olomu is scheme versatile and could be a good fit in any system. While he's a committed run-stopper, he's only 5-10 and could struggle against the NFL's biggest, most physical receivers.|
|Todd Gurley||RB||Georgia||The two-year moratorium on first-round running backs will end when Gurley goes. He's a punishing running who also has a breakaway gear -- a rare combination.|
|Landon Collins||S||Alabama||Collins stepped in as starting SS when Vinnie Sunseri was injured mid-season and emerged as a consistent playmaker, finishing second on the Tide in tackles. He's as strong around the ball as he is in supporting the run.|
|Dante Fowler Jr.||DE||Florida||Fowler has tremendous upside and could be set for a breakthrough season, the kind that will get him a ton of attention from scouts. He's not yet the pass rusher he has the strength and burst to become.|
|La'el Collins||T||LSU||This will be his second season starting at tackle, but Collins might be an even better prospect as a guard, where he started in 2012.|
|Ty Montgomery||WR||Stanford||I know Amari Cooper tops most of the WR rankings at this point, but Mongtomery reminds me of a bigger (6-2, 215) Odell Beckham. He's a deep threat who can also turn short passes into big plays, either with his speed or physicality. He's a major factor in the return game, and is a threat to break the game open on any touch.|
|Michael Bennett||DT||Ohio State||A terrific penetrator on the interior, Bennett could be the top 3 technique tackle available.|
|Amari Cooper||WR||Alabama||This is not to disparage Cooper. He may be the first receiver taken in 2015 -- he's a smooth route-runner and tends to win contested balls. He's just not the home run threat that Montgomery is.|
|Tre' Jackson||G||Florida State||May be a more explosive version of Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson, a third-round pick this year. They're roughly the same size (6-4, 330), same build, and Tre' Jackson will also take four years' worth of starting experience into the draft.|
|Devonte Fields||DE||TCU||Fields has two things to prove in 2014: that there are no lingering effects of the foot injury that cost himmost of the 2013 season, and that he has more to his pass rush repertoire than just a pure speed rush.|
|Eric Striker||OLB||Oklahoma||While I can't hear the name Striker without thinking of "Airplane!", I also can't wai t to see how Striker builds on his Sugar Bowl performance (three sacks, forced fumble, seven tackles -- all career highs). Bob Stoops has called him the best blitzer he's ever had. Scouts will be watching to see if his build (6-0, 220) is something to worry about.|
|Rashad Greene||WR||Florida State||Greene was overshadowed by the presence of Kelvin Benjamin last season. But it's Greene who has led the Seminoles in receiving the last three seasons. Greene (6-0, 178) could line up in the slot or at the Z receiver spot in the NFL.|
|P.J. Williams||CB||Florida State||Williams has the size (6-0, 196) and athleticism to play corner in any scheme and perhaps see snaps at safety if needed. He shows natural instincts around the ball and will only gain more confidence with any strong season.|
|Denzel Perryman||ILB||Miami||Perryman started all 14 games in 2013 as a weakside linebacker for the Canes. The year before, he played primarily Mike backer. He's probably destined to play inside linebacker in the NFL, and would be a tackle-collector in any scheme.|
|Hroniss Grasu||C||Oregon||For all the attention paid to the skill positions at Oregon, Grasu is one of the Ducks' most impressive athletic specimens. He's not just a technically sound center and stalwart presence on the interior line, he's mobile and can get out in front of Oregon's playmakers -- and that is saying something.|
|Melvin Gordon||RB||Wisconsin||A talented back who is fast and physical, Gordon would be a far more complete prospect if he can find a way to contribute in the passing game (as a receiver or a blocker).|
|Trae Waynes||CB||Michigan State||Darqueze Dennard was my No. 1 cornerback in the 2014 Draft; Waynes has a shot to be an even better corner. He's taller than Dennard if considerably leaner, and Wayne may be faster and more agile than Dennard.|
|Kevin Hogan||QB||Stanford||His numbers aren't going to make anyone forget Andrew Luck. But he has NFL size, arm strength, toughness, mobility and FBI (Football Intelligence). He's an afterthought in the Pac-12 among Mariota and Brett Hundley, but he'll be on everyone's radar come 2015.|
|Benardrick McKinney||OLB||Mississippi State||As explosive a front seven player as there is in the SEC, McKinney was rumored to be coming out for the 2014 Draft. He stayed in Starkville and will continue to develop the pass rush repertoire that will serve him well as a rush backer in the NFL.|
|Ramik Wilson||ILB||Georgia||The SEC is loaded with inside linebacker talent, with McKinney, Tennessee's A.J. Johnson and Wilson, who led the league in tackles a year ago. Wilson is high energy, and is quick to read and react to the ball.|
|Cody Prewitt||S||Mississippi||At 6-2, 214, Prewitt has the size NFL teams covet in the secondary. And his six interceptions last year prove he has the ball skills to be a hybrid safety at the next level.|
|Kasen Williams||WR||Washington||Next year's draft will be deep at receiver, and there are a bunch to consider as potential first-rounders: Jaelen Strong of Arizona State, Nelson Agholor of USC, Dorial Green-Beckham of Whereabouts Unknown. Williams has the size (6-3, 221), hands and motor that NFL coaches will love. Expect a full bounce back from the leg injury that shortened his 2013 season.|