1. Myles Garrett | DE (4-3) | Texas A&M | Grade: 96
Garrett has the ability to transform any defense he plays in, whether that’s as a 4-3 defensive end or a stand-up pass rusher in a 3-4. He could impact an entire division the same way Khalil Mack, Justin Houston, and Von Miller have done in the AFC West.
2. Deshaun Watson | QB | Clemson | Grade: 96
This is going to be a long description, but Deshaun Watson deserves it. Watson is everything a franchise quarterback should be on and off the field, so why is he barely getting mentioned as a top-five pick? The Clemson legend combined to throw for 825 yards, seven touchdowns, and one interception in the two National Championship games against Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide defense, including the game-winning score this year to give Clemson their first title since 1981. He’s proven he’s a winner, and he’s certainly proven he shows up on the biggest stage. More importantly when projecting to the next level, he has a strong arm, is accurate, can read a defense, and is a great runner. The turnovers have been a big knock on Watson, but Jameis Winston was much more careless with the football in his final season at Florida State, and that didn’t stop him from being the first overall pick; Watson should absolutely be considered for the same honor.
3. Malik Hooker | S | Ohio State | Grade: 96
He might slip out of the top-five because of offseason surgery that caused him to miss the Combine, but Hooker is the best safety in this year’s talented class. The Ohio State star will be great as a single-high safety that will take the ball away with great speed, anticipation, and hands.
4. Christian McCaffrey | RB | Stanford | Grade: 95
McCaffrey is a polarizing player, with detractors saying they aren’t sure if he will hold up to an NFL workload at his size. Did they watch him play in college? McCaffrey was the centerpiece of Stanford’s offense, and will impact the game in a variety of ways at the next level. At a solid 5’11”, 202 lbs., McCaffrey is plenty big enough to be a featured back.
5. O.J. Howard | TE | Alabama | Grade: 94
Howard will probably not go in the top-five in April, but I wouldn’t knock a team that picked him there. He didn’t have big-time production at Alabama, but Howard was exceptional at everything he was asked to do. After his insane Combine performance (including running a 4.51 40-yard dash at more than 250 lbs.), Howard is a first-round lock.
6. Solomon Thomas | DE (3-4) | Stanford | Grade: 94
People aren’t sure where Thomas fits best in the NFL, but most coaches would gladly take him in any scheme and find a way to make use of his explosive and versatile skillset. He’s been compared to Aaron Donald, J.J. Watt, and John Randle.
7. Jamal Adams | S | LSU | Grade: 93
More of an all-around playmaker than a ball-hawking centerfielder, Adams can thrive near the line of scrimmage or patrolling the back-end of the defense. His leadership qualities and nose for the football make him worthy of a top-ten selection.
8. Leonard Fournette | RB | LSU | Grade: 93
As a pure runner, Fournette is the best running back in the draft with his Peterson-like combination of size and speed. However, he will not stay on the field for third downs, at least early in his career, and Fournette also needs to show a little more patience in setting up blockers. Still, there isn’t a guy who defenders would like to see in the open field less than the former LSU star.
9. Marshon Lattimore | CB | Ohio State | Grade: 93
Health is the biggest concern for Lattimore after he had issues with his hamstrings at Ohio State, and those issues appeared to show up again at the Combine when he pulled up lame after his 40-yard dash, though Lattimore says it was a hip flexor. The 40-time was impressive enough, though, as the 4.36 helped his case as a potential shutdown corner in the NFL.
10. David Njoku | TE | Miami (FL) | Grade: 92
It should come as no surprise that two tight ends are rated so highly in a class like this one. Njoku doesn’t turn 21 until July, but the young man will be a nightmare for linebackers and safeties trying to cover him with his elite quickness, athleticism, and pure pass-catching skills.
11. Reuben Foster | LB | Alabama | Grade: 92
After having a disappointing Combine for reasons not having to do with on-field drills (i.e. not being there after an altercation with a hospital worker), the center of the Crimson Tide defense could slip because of character concerns. On the field, Foster profiles as an impact, three-down linebacker.
12. Tre’Davious White | CB | LSU | Grade: 92
White is a true lockdown, man-to-man cornerback, and concerns about his size at 5’11” are overblown—Darrelle Revis is the same height. LSU has had a strong track record of defensive backs transitioning well to the league, and there’s no reason that will stop at White, who could turn into one of the game’s best.
13. Joe Mixon | RB | Oklahoma | Grade: 92
On the field, Mixon can be dominant in the NFL, and is right up there with Christian McCaffrey as the most complete back in the class. Mixon glides as a runner, and can catch the ball out of the backfield or lined up as a wideout as well as anyone.
14. Mike Williams | WR | Clemson | Grade: 91
There were concerns that Williams would not run a passable 40-yard dash time, but he was safely in the 4.5s at Clemson’s Pro Day. What he ran wasn’t a big concern for me, though, as Williams isn’t going to get behind a defense at the next level; what he will do is win contested jump balls and catch passes across the middle as a big target.
15. Haason Reddick | LB | Temple | Grade: 91
Reddick has been a huge riser in the pre-draft process, and seems like a lock for the first round this April because of it. He did a lot of things at Temple, but Reddick fits best as an athletic inside linebacker for a 3-4 or outside linebacker in a 4-3. Either way, teams will love his ability to drop back in coverage and rush the passer.
16. Jabrill Peppers | S | Michigan | Grade: 91
Another versatile player, Peppers played linebacker, safety, running back, and returned kicks at Michigan. Most teams apparently view him as a safety, and I feel the same way. Peppers didn’t have a lot of interceptions at Michigan, or else he might be a little higher ranked than this.
17. Jonathan Allen | DT | Alabama | Grade: 91
Allen seems to be a consensus top-five prospect, but his sub-par Combine raises some concerns, particularly if he can be as dominant against NFL competition. He did have an awful lot of talent around him at Alabama to help make him look good.
18. John Ross | WR | Washington | Grade: 90
Ross has unmatched speed—literally—after he broke Chris Johnson’s 40-yard dash record with a 4.22 run, but teams new he was fast before that. What is really exciting about Ross is his ability to run routes, especially downfield, plus his excellent hands.
19. Taco Charlton | DE (4-3) | Michigan | Grade: 90
The biggest criticism on Charlton is consistency, but look at his elite performances against top competition and those worries should disappear; it’s not like he simply dominated lesser players. Outside of Myles Garrett, Charlton is my top 4-3 defensive end, but he can also play outside linebacker in a 3-4.
20. Chris Godwin | WR | Penn State | Grade: 90
Godwin was my favorite value in the entire draft before his stock soared this offseason, and he still might be the best value for teams needing a wide receiver. One of the best contested ball catchers in the past few years, Godwin can win in a variety of ways on the outside.
21. Mitchell Trubisky | QB | North Carolina | Grade: 90
One year as the starter for the Tar Heels is definitely worrisome, but Trubisky flashed arm talent, accuracy, and mostly solid decision-making as a senior. He did make a couple of questionable throws in his bowl game, including a pick-six, but Trubisky only had four interceptions in the regular season.
22. Ryan Ramczyk | T | Wisconsin | Grade: 90
I think Ramczyk is the clear top tackle in this class, and the only one worth a first-round selection. Playing left tackle in a pro-style system at Wisconsin should have him ready for NFL pass rushers, and he should be able to hold his own from day one. Ramczyk was able to handle top college competition all last season.
23. Budda Baker | S | Washington | Grade: 89
Baker is unfortunate to be in a loaded safety class, but he still might be a first round pick, and some teams might even view him as the top player at his position. He is “undersized” according to some analysts, but Baker doesn’t play small with his aggressiveness and instincts. Earl Thomas is around the same size as Baker.
24. Takkarist McKinley | OLB (3-4) | UCLA | Grade: 89
McKinley’s breakout 2016 saw him basically double his stats across the board, but he might be too unpolished to make an immediate impact in the NFL. However, his raw ability and work ethic make him a relatively safe selection in the first round, and getting paired with a strong position coach will really benefit his career (though that can be said for anyone).
25. Cordrea Tankersley | CB | Clemson | Grade: 89
Tankersley has all the makings of a lockdown boundary cornerback with his great speed (4.40 40-yard dash), long arms, and battle-tested background. A team like Seattle or Atlanta that runs a cover-3 would be a perfect fit for Tankersley at the end of the first round.
26. Zach Cunningham | LB | Vanderbilt | Grade: 89
Intelligence, athletic ability, and a nose for the football make Cunningham an easy starter for a team that needs an off-ball linebacker. Attending Vanderbilt shows he was willing to be challenged academically, and he certainly lived up to the on-field challenges throughout his career, as he made plays in the SEC on a team that lacked talent.
27. Marlon Humphrey | CB | Alabama | Grade: 89
Teams might be hesitant to take Humphrey because other Alabama cornerbacks haven’t been as good at the next level, but still just 20 years old, Marlon Humphrey has the tools to become a very good corner in the NFL. He did get beat deep too much at Bama, so early success will be key to build confidence and live up to his potential.
28. Derek Barnett | DE (4-3) | Tennessee | Grade: 89
Barnett was an extremely productive college player at Tennessee, totaling 33 sacks in 36 starts to break Reggie White’s school record of 32 sacks. He has great pass rush skills, but his pure athletic skills are a bit questionable for the next level, so we’ll have to see how he responds to NFL athletes blocking him.
29. Gareon Conley | CB | Ohio State | Grade: 89
The teammate of top-10 prospect Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley will likely be a first-round pick himself. Conley, though, is less of a sure thing, and I’m concerned with whether or not he will be able to man-up with above-average route runners in the league without help or committing penalties. Still, he could become a great player if he cleans up his game.
30. Forrest Lamp | G | Western Kentucky | Grade: 89
Teams that need an interior lineman with the ability to play outside (Lamp played left tackle in college) could make Lamp the first or second offensive linemen off the board. His play against Alabama last season makes Lamp a more proven commodity than typical small school players switching positions would be.
31. Sidney Jones | CB | Washington | Grade: 88
It’s hard to evaluate injured players without a good grasp on their health, but if not for an unfortunate Achilles injury at the end of his pro-day workout, Jones would easily be a first-round pick—probably in the teens. Individual teams will decide where to take Jones based on his medicals, but a team like Cleveland at pick #33 could be getting a steal in a potential lock-down corner that will take the ball away for the defense.
32. T.J. Watt | EDGE | Wisconsin | Grade: 88
The younger brother of J.J. Watt, T.J. Watt looks to have the versatility and work ethic to play basically any scheme and do whatever the coaching staff asks of him. Watt’s impressive combine performance, non-stop motor, and willingness to be great all make him a relatively safe selection on the first or second day of the draft.
33. Evan Engram | TE | Ole Miss | Grade: 88
A 4.42 40-yard dash really helped Engram’s stock, and he profiles as a mismatch tight end in the mold of Jordan Reed. Engram would do well to end up with a position coach that can turn him into a solid blocker so he can be more versatile and stay on the field, but that’s really up to him.
34. Patrick Mahomes II | QB | Texas Tech | Grade: 88
This is a tough evaluation, and the whole organization should be on board with selecting Mahomes before a team pulls the trigger. A true gunslinger, Mahomes basically did whatever he wanted at Texas Tech, but it mostly worked because he has the ability to throw from all different angles and college competition couldn’t keep him in the pocket. If a team believes Mahomes can win by making throws with timing and anticipation in the structure of the offense, he has a very high ceiling.
35. Carl Lawson | OLB (3-4) | Auburn | Grade: 88
Lawson isn’t getting a lot of media attention leading up to the draft, but he will be tough to block when he’s on the field at the next level. Lawson would have likely been talked about as a top-15 pick if he could have stayed healthy at Auburn, and his speed and strength make him an intriguing prospect for teams needing a pass rusher.
36. Corey Davis | WR | Western Michigan | Grade: 87
Corey Davis is a player that I am a lot lower on than most people, as it’s difficult to evaluate his true speed and how it translates to the league since he didn’t run a 40 or play against top competition in college. Davis’ route running might not have looked as impressive if he played in the Big Ten or SEC, and while he did score against Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl, Davis struggled to gain consistent separation in that game.
37. Dalvin Cook | RB | Florida State | Grade: 87
Evaluations of Cook have been all over the place, ranging from being the best player at the position to being about where I have him. We won’t know what NFL scouts and teams think of him until the end of the month, but I’ve viewed him as the clear fourth best running back for a while now. Cook’s performance at the NFL Combine showed he won’t be able to simply run away from defenders at the next level, and he also needs to hold onto the ball to live up to the lofty expectations that his supporters have given him.
38. Desmond King | DB | Iowa | Grade: 87
It would be a mistake to draft King as a man-to-man cornerback, and NFL teams know that, but smart coaches will find a way to utilize him in a zone-heavy scheme as a corner or just put him at safety and let him go to work. King has unteachable instincts and toughness, which more than make up for size concerns at 5’10”.
39. Quincy Wilson | CB | Florida | Grade: 87
Teez Tabor came into 2016 as the top prospect from the Gators secondary, but Wilson has always been the better prospect—even before Tabor’s eyebrow-raising workout numbers hurt his stock. Wilson ran a solid 4.54 40-yard dash, which is very good for his size, and his competitiveness and confidence will hopefully help his game translate to the NFL.
40. Obi Melifonwu | DB | Connecticut | Grade: 86
Like Desmond King, Melifonwu is in between cornerback and safety, but for different reasons. The UConn product basically destroyed the Combine with a 44-inch vertical jump and 4.40 40-yard dash, causing some to wonder whether he fits better at corner than safety. At 6’4”, I like him better staying in the back-end of the defense, though, which will allow him to defend all the athletic tight ends in the league.
41. Jarrad Davis | LB | Florida | Grade: 86
Davis is a notch below the trio of Foster, Reddick, and Cunningham on tape, but he has the intangibles and athleticism that could push him to the end the first round. He might have been a pre-draft riser if he could have participated in the Combine.
42. Curtis Samuel | WR | Ohio State | Grade: 86
Draft analysts are split on Samuel, with some thinking he is not a good enough receiver to play the slot, but others saying he can be a Randall Cobb-type player. I am with the latter, as Samuel is a good enough athlete to improve his ball skills, and we already know he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands.
43. Adoree’ Jackson | CB | USC | Grade: 86
Another dynamic athlete in space but on the other side of the ball, Adoree’ Jackson’s height is the only thing keeping from being a top cornerback. Jackson will not be a wasted pick no matter how he pans out at corner because of his skills as a returner, but I wouldn’t bet against him turning into an above-average defender if teams can keep him away from bigger-bodied receivers.
44. D’Onta Foreman | RB | Texas | Grade: 86
Foreman rushed for 2,000 yards in 2016, but he hasn’t been given the hype like other backs in a talented draft class. That changed after Texas’ Pro Day, though, when he ran in the 4.4s, which is awfully impressive for a guy that played at almost 250 lbs. Foreman likes to make defenders miss despite his size, but he still can convert short-yardage situations.
45. Dion Dawkins | OL | Temple | Grade: 86
Dawkins played well throughout his college career at left tackle for the Owls, but worked as a guard in the pre-draft process. I think he can play tackle in the NFL, but his time working as an interior player leading up to the draft could end up benefitting him in the long run, as it shows his versatility. And he can play in any scheme, too.
46. Cam Robinson | T | Alabama | Grade: 86
I think drafting Robinson in the first round could turn out to be a mistake, as he is far from a sure thing, but it seems like that’s where he will end up. Alabama’s left tackle let pass rushers get by him too often last season, and the talent he faces will only get better when he’s playing on Sundays, and could force him to the right side of the line.
47. Kevin King | CB | Washington | Grade: 86
King has the size (6’3”) and speed (4.43 40-yard dash) to be a problem on the outside for opposing wide receivers, but his instincts and reaction time could limit his upside. He was played all over in the secondary for Washington, but doesn’t have the man-to-man cover skills to matchup with NFL slot receivers, leaving perimeter corner and safety as his possible positions.
48. Charles Harris | EDGE | Missouri |Grade: 85
Harris’ athleticism is supposed to be a strength, but his Combine performance puts that into question, and he doesn’t really “pop” on tape. Many are projecting Harris to go solidly in the first-round, but it wouldn’t be surprising if NFL teams don’t like him as much as draft analysts in the media do.
49. Tanoh Kpassagnon | DE (4-3) | Villanova | Grade: 85
At 6’7” and nearly 300 lbs., Kpassagnon is relatively unknown coming out of Villanova, but he obviously has some unteachable qualities. Kpassagnon won’t come in and dominate right away, but he has a chance to be special if he decides to strive for it.
50. Garett Bolles | T | Utah | Grade: 85
Bolles has been garnering first-round consideration, but I’m just not sure I’d be willing to spend that on a soon-to-be 25-year old that has only played one season at Utah. He needs to add weight to his frame, which could possibly diminish the edge he had in college as an athletic tackle.