The Chart of Picks By Team Is Complete

Now, you can view every pick your team made, along with our grade of the player, in one handy spreadsheet.

Don’t lose too much heart if we have a “N/A” grade next to your player. It simply means we didn’t have the chance to evaluate the player properly. Some of those players we’ve heard of; some of them we haven’t. Either way, we didn’t see enough of or hear enough from other experts about them to assign them a grade with any confidence.

Since we try to focus on top prospects first and work our way down, it’s rare we get to watch anyone we grade as “undraftable”, but it does happen. That didn’t happen this year; any “undraftable” drafted players would have been marked as such on the chart.

Some interesting tidbits about the chart and pick value:

  • The biggest gap between our ranking of a player we actually graded and his selection spot was St. Louis’ third-round selection of Sean Mannion, our no. 307 player taken with pick no. 89. (Of course, you could argue that Green Bay’s selection of a fifth-round safety at no. 30 represented worse real value, and you’d probably be right.)
  • The lowest-ranked player on our board who was still drafted was linebacker Edmond Robinson of Newberry, no. 324 out of 329 graded prospects. (He was taken by Minnesota with pick no. 232.) Runner-up: Deon Simon, The Jets’ new defensive tackle from Northwestern State, no. 320 (selected no. 223).
  • The highest-selected player we did not grade was Auburn DT Angelo Blackson, taken no. 100 by Tennessee.
  • Pittsburgh arguably had the deepest draft; all eight of their picks were graded in our top 150 prospects. (They did use their second-rounder on a prospect we had a fourth-round grade on, but every other selection represented equal or greater value than the pick itself.)
  • The only teams besides Pittsburgh whose draft classes consisted entirely of players we graded were Minnesota (ten selections), Miami (seven), Chicago (six), the New York Jets (six), and San Diego (five).
  • Some teams besides Pittsburgh who got consistently good value or got a lot of it late: Tennessee, Atlanta, New Orleans, and Miami.
  • Jacksonville had a curious draft: After getting poor value on their first two selections, they got tremendous value on their third-, fifth-, and sixth-round selections (and broke even on their fourth by our rankings).
  • Teams who had a similarly curious start to the draft, if not quite the finish Jacksonville did, include Baltimore, and the New York Giants. (Of the first three prospects these teams selected, the third was the one we graded highest.)
  • Carolina’s first three picks were all graded between no. 62 and no. 68 on our board.
  • St. Louis didn’t use a single selection on a player whose grade was in a tier equal to or better than where they made the selection. (Todd Gurley, the no. 10 selection, was rated no. 13, but he was in the “Mid 1st” tier, and not the “Top 10” tier, of which multiple players were available at the Rams’ selection.)
  • Of Oakland’s ten picks, five of them were of prospects we didn’t grade, and only one– tight end Clive Walford– was the best player available at his position when the Raiders selected him.
  • Two prospects were drafted at the exact place we had them ranked: Nelson Agholor at no. 20 (Eagles) and Jarvis Harrison at no. 152 (Jets).

Enjoy.

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Some helpful charts and spreadsheets for you from Day Two

I’ve linked to four spreadsheets we made over the course of the day to help with your NFL Draft experience.

The first won’t be too much help now, but in case you wanted to view the Day 2 mock vixticator and I made in the afternoon, before proceedings resumed, now you can.

The second is a list of our overall big board, with prospects already drafted marked out in red.

The third is a repeat of what we did on day 1, another list of brief reactions to picks.

And the fourth chart is a list of picks by team, including our grades of each prospect, so you can compare what we thought of them to where they were drafted.

Griddle Takes: Round 1 of the NFL Draft

Fresh off the griddle so you know they’re piping hot, vix and I have our takes on each pick in this draft.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

  • vix: Winston regressed in his soph season. His flaws on tape (decision making, random mechanical lapses) didn’t get as much attention as his off-field concerns. I’d still take him top 5 because I grade him as a 1st round QB, but give me Mariota all day.
  • nath: Obvious pick and the right one in my mind. Winston is an easier evaluation than Mariota, because of the offense he played in, but it’s also the reason it’s easy to see his very high football IQ and innate performance intelligence. Gotta start reading underneath coverages better and leaving the bonehead plays behind, but I feel confident he’ll be a “franchise QB.”

2. Tennessee Titans – Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

  • vix: I’m a fan of Mettenberger and Mariota. They should start Mett in order to showcase him for teams in ’16, and cash him in for some picks. If Mariota reaches his ceiling, or comes remotely close, he’ll turn this franchise around.
  • nath: I’m not as high on Mariota as vix is but I grade him highly enough that you can take him here. He’ll need work; I’m not sure what to make of him with Ken Whisenhunt. He’s not a typical Whisenhunt QB, but then, typical Whisenhunt QBs have mostly been crap.

3. Jacksonville Jaguars – Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida

  • vix: How do you not select Leonard Williams? Fowler is capable of leaping off the screen on tape, but his lack of production at Florida is worrisome. Looks fantastic in that suit at least!
  • nath: He’s a guy who jumps out at first on tape but then you realize he actually isn’t making many big plays. Worried that lack of production + relatively ordinary athleticism could add up to a bust.

4. Oakland Raiders – Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

  • vix: I would’ve loved to see Williams grow along with Mack. That defense starts looking scary. Except, no. Cooper isn’t as great as his production indicates. Doesn’t dazzle as much as he simply does his job. Unlikely to bust, in any event.
  • nath: Should have taken Kevin White. Cooper is pretty maxed out, but I think White has room to improve into a true #1.

5. Washington Potatoes – Brandon Scherff, G, Iowa

  • vix: He’s the best guard in the draft. Not tackle. An exceptional run blocker who mauls defenders. Footwork in pass protection is too shaky to play left tackle. He’ll help this line though.
  • nath: Safe, solid, dull pick. I would have liked La’el Collins here, although his connection to a recently murdered woman, fairly or not (I lean “not”), has by all accounts made him completely undraftable. Leonard Williams probably a better pick, but damn, their line sucked, so I can’t complain.

6. New York Jets – Leonard Williams, DL, USC

  • vix: I am sitting my quarterback when we play the Jets now. Wilkerson, Richardson, AND Williams? Holy hell. What a nightmare D-FENSE. Bowles worked without elite edge rushers at Arizona last year lest ye forgot.
  • nath: Perfect situation for Williams; surrounded by two stud linemen, he can wreak the most havoc, and probably allay any concerns he doesn’t have the top-flight athleticism you want in the position.

7. Chicago Bears – Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

  • vix: Best player available, and fills a giant need. Gotta love when that happens. White is my top receiver in this (really deep) class. His playmaking ability reminds me of Larry Fitzgerald.
  • nath: Should have gone sooner. Great pick for this team. White/Jeffery is a terrifying combo.

8. Atlanta Falcons – Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson

  • vix: Easily the most outstanding pass rusher in the nation. Dan Quinn must be doing backflips. Beasley at LEO will be exciting.
  • nath: Love the pick. Hate the team. Boo, screw you, Falcons.

9. New York Giants – Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami-FL

  • vix: My top left tackle prospect. His game against South Carolina was flawless. Sure, he needs to improve, and some other tapes aren’t so hot, but Flowers has the highest ceiling of any tackle in the draft. I like this pick.
  • nath: Count me in the group that doubts Flowers– I don’t think he has the agility or footwork to be an NFL left tackle. He played most of the year with a knee brace, and his kick-step looks like the kick-step of a guy with a bum knee. Second time in three years Giants have chosen a non-LT OL in the first round– between you and me, I don’t think they’re very good at drafting.

10. St. Louis Rams – Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

  • vix: The best running back since *checks calendar* Jim Brown, y’all. Don’t need no stinkin’ ACL to beast mode all over the NFC West. Right? But seriously, I’m totally on board with selecting Gurley in the top 10. He can be the best runner in the NFL from the first snap he takes.
  • nath: Love Gurley’s talent, but why did a team with a perfectly good starting RB (Tre Mason) and so many other problems take him? Jeff Fisher seems to think the rules haven’t changed since 1978, and running 50 times a game + a defense that beats people up (literally) is enough to win games. Here’s to another 7-9 season.

11. Minnesota Vikings – Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

  • vix: He’s my favorite corner by a comfortable margin. I hate the Vikings for being so good at drafting. Good luck covering Megatron though. Waynes is special.
  • nath: Not as high as others on Waynes– DeVante Parker here would have been fantastic. Waynes is very fast but I’m not as sure about his ability to turn, and he played very grabby at MSU which he won’t be able to do in the pros.

12. Cleveland Browns – Danny Shelton, NT, Washington

  • vix: Large and in charge. Beefs up run defense. Has some ability to pass rush, but not enough to be scary. I’m not sold that he’s an every down player. He was gassed after a few drills at the Senior Bowl.
  • nath: Yeah, I just don’t believe two-down defensive tackles are as valuable in this day and age, but Shelton is, uh, fine, I guess. He moves fairly well for a dude his size, but the comparisons to Ngata or Poe are absurd.

13. New Orleans Saints – Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

  • vix: Best pass protector at left tackle. He doesn’t get much push in the run game. Must learn to play lower (he’s really, really tall). Saints know how to develop offensive lineman. Peat has plenty of room to improve.
  • nath: Love it. Basically my BPA here (as it seems teams weren’t willing to touch Randy Gregory in round 1). Zach Strief is old and better suited to being a swing tackle. Peat will need some coaching but the Saints are great at coaching linemen– he’s the one guy in this draft I think can be a true blindside protector.

14. Miami Dolphins – DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville

  • vix: In related news, Greg Jennings has been released by the Dolphins. Parker plays too soft for my liking. Jarvis Landry can school him in the art of badassery perhaps. This is my only concern, otherwise Parker is damn good. Compliments their receiving group well.
  • nath: Love Parker when he’s healthy, love the A.J. Green comps (including the recurring foot problems). Miami had a collection of very good WR2s and 3s. Now they have a 1. Great pick for them.

15. San Diego Chargers (trade with San Francisco) – Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

  • vix: The Jamaal Charles comparison is dead on. San Diego needed a running back. Gordon is no Gurley, but he’s ridiculously good as well. Watch him break the single game record for rushing against Nebraska if you have time and haven’t seen it yet.
  • nath: I think Gordon is overrated, but everyone knew San Diego was taking him. The only funny part is that they traded up for him.

16. Houston Texans – Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest

  • vix: I’m a bit surprised to see Johnson picked this high, but the more I think about it the less I am. His tape is excellent, especially that closing speed. How is Dupree still available?
  • nath: Seems fine. Solid. Not sexy. Teams liked him a lot– his film was supposed to be quite good but I never got to watch it. No complaints.

17. San Francisco (via San Diego) – Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon

  • vix: Raw is an understatement with Armstead. Needs a ton of work. He flashes brilliance here and there, with strong hands. I’ll be shocked if he’s ready to start immediately. Pure upside pick.
  • nath: I thought it was funny how many places mocked Armstead to SF consistently, and how mad SF fans were about it. Well, congrats, you got a terribly raw athlete who may or may not develop.

18. Kansas City Chiefs – Marcus Peters, CB, Washington

  • vix: Physical press corner with some off field issues. Should start right away. Chiefs continue to build on strength. Defense, defense, more defense. Alas, Alex Smith.
  • nath: My #1 CB in this draft. Great pick for them. Peters / Gaines / Smith a pretty bad-ass CB trio. Never thought they’d make up for letting Flowers and Carr walk.

19. Cleveland Browns – Cameron Erving, C/G/T, Florida State

  • vix: He’s playing guard with Alex Mack, that’s for sure. The Browns are building a wall around Johnny Manziel so he can escape it and get hit anyways. Brilliant.
  • nath: So, we can all agree he’s moving to center in 2016, after a year of Alex Mack showing he never really recovered from his injury, right? Another fine pick– unspectacular but solid.

20. Philadelphia Eagles – Nelson Agholor, WR, USC

  • vix: I would’ve taken Agholor ahead of Parker. Big fan. I believe he can be a true #1 receiver. Philly was looking weak at the position before today. No longer.
  • nath: Like Agholor a lot. Definitely the best receiver available, and receiver is a huge need for Philadelphia. After all the hoopla about Whirlwind Chip and his Trade Tornados, they stay put and make a smart selection.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M

  • vix: I guess the Bengals aren’t worried about his ACL. Ogbuehi is a ridiculous athlete at tackle, but he isn’t a bully. He will look elite for most of the game and then get destroyed on several plays. Can protect speed better than power.
  • nath: I like Ogbuehi enough that I think it’s a good pick. Likely at least one of Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith will be gone next year. Ogbuehi can recover and then step in as a starter.

22. Pittsburgh Steelers – Alvin “Bud” Dupree, EDGE, Kentucky

  • vix: Mistakes were made selecting Jarvis Jones. Dupree is much better. I’m angry that the Steelers got him one pick before my beloved Lions.
  • nath: One of the best values so far, although I understand the concerns about “Athlete who can’t play football.” Still, from the team that picked Jarvis Jones and took Ryan Shazier over C.J. Mosley, this is a positive step.

23. Denver Broncos (trade with Detroit) – Shane Ray, EDGE, Missouri

  • vix: Explosive first step, nothing else. He’ll be less dominant in the NFL. Must add a ton of moves to his arsenal. Limited athleticism. Awful combine.
  • nath: Let’s get the bright side out of the way: At least on this team Ray won’t have to be the best pass rusher, and he might be more effective as that third or fourth guy. You can probably infer that I don’t think a team should take a third or fourth guy in the first round, let alone trade up for him.

24. Arizona Cardinals – D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida

  • vix: Someone needs to explain the NFL’s love for Humphries. He was abused by none other than the aforementioned Shane Ray. I’m not seeing whatever is there with him.
  • nath: I like a couple of guys better, but I think Humphries is athletic enough to justify the selection. Still growing– lots of room to improve.

25. Carolina Panthers – Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

  • vix: My face is officially melted. Didn’t expect Shaq to go this high. Carolina is one of the few teams where I can see him shine. They can protect him with a strong defensive line (Shaq is undersized). He’ll be a special teams ace, and play next to one of the greats in Kuechly.
  • nath: Wat. I heard the rumors, and it makes sense for a team that got so much out of Thomas Davis, but their offensive line is so dire I would have much preferred one of the remaining tackles (Clemmings or Fisher, most likely).

26. Baltimore Ravens – Breshad Perriman, WR, UCF

  • vix: Very raw route runner. Perriman is really strong and fast. Knew he would go around here, but not my favorite receiver on the board. His name is Devin Smith.
  • nath: Looks like a receiver except for the route-running and catching part. Glad it’s not my team that has to worry about whether or not he can do that stuff. Vix is right; Smith would have been a killer fit here.

27. Dallas Cowboys – Byron Jones, CB, Connecticut

  • vix: I wasn’t sold on Jones as a first rounder until I saw his tape against Boise State. It’s an extremely strong game. Still want to see more of him. Worst case scenario: he can jump really far.
  • nath: Good athlete, seems like a good player, not quite as high as I had him ranked, but I don’t hate the selection or anything.

28. Detroit Lions (via Denver) – Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke

  • vix: Well, the Lions sure have a lot of beef inside with Warford, Swanson, and now Tomlinson. Hard to be excited by a Duke guard not named JJ Redick. Wait, Duke has a football team?
  • nath: Not sure he stood out enough from the other guards to merit a first-rounder. Still seemed like a quality player; I hear mixed opinions on him, so I’m not as confident in my lower grade. Probably a good choice.

29. Indianapolis Colts – Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami-FL

  • vix: Hey, this isn’t Devin Smith. I’m a fan of Dorsett too, but not this high. Not a massive blunder given he wouldn’t have been there with their next pick. A reach is still a reach.
  • nath: I guess the thinking is “One T.Y. Hilton worked out great; why not two?” But this team already has Hilton, Andre Johnson, Donte Moncrief, and Duron Carter. Did they really need a fifth receiver with their first-rounder?

30. Green Bay Packers – Damarious Randall, S, Arizona State

  • vix: Laugh out loud. Sorry Packer fans, not sorry. Randall cannot cover, tackle, or, well, he’s just not very good. I’ll leave it at that.
  • nath: LOL. I see some impressive statistics on Randall, but when I watch him, I see a guy who takes terrible angles and falls down a lot. Why do teams love him? Why did Green Bay take a bad player with their first-round pick at the same position they took a good player with their first-round pick last year?

31. New Orleans Saints – Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson

  • vix: Versatile linebacker that can play anywhere in a 4-3, or inside as he will with the Saints 3-4 hybrid. Sniffs out screens really well. Smart, tough player.
  • nath: Big fan. Eric Kendricks was my #1 ILB, but his medical has teams scared, and Anthony was my #2. His athleticism shows on the field, and I think he’s a fast, instinctive playmaker. Not quite as high as I graded him but happy to have him on my team.

32. New England Patriots – Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

  • vix: He’s not a world beater, but Brown is a nice pick at this point. He can play either 5 tech or 3 tech, it fits with the Patriots defensive philosophy.
  • nath: I literally have no opinion of Malcom Brown. My grade was a guess based on the opinions of others. But I ranked him 31 overall, and he went 32, so I probably guessed well.

Explaining some changes on our Big Board

This will most likely be the last update on our Big Board before the draft (unless something drastic happens before then– discovering a heretofore unknown prospect, or a major piece of news lowering someone’s stock, for example). As such, I feel fairly comfortable with the final decisions we’ve made. Thus, I’d like to explain the ones that don’t seem to jive with popular opinion, and why we settled on the decisions we did.

We’ll start with what probably stands out the most right now, our edge-rusher rankings…

Dante Fowler at 22, a tier behind Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Preston Smith

This one is simple, though oddly controversial. When evaluating edge players, one of our top priorities is: Can he provide pass rush around the corner? Other skills are secondary to this. (That’s why Vic Beasley is our #1 EDGE and Randy Gregory, despite his rawness and potential to smoke his way out of the league, is our #2. More on this in a second.) While Fowler does many things well, is explosive, versatile, and an effective blitzer, he isn’t really a top-quality pass-rushing prospect. On film, he doesn’t show much ability to get around the corner, with a lack of bend and ability to turn while maintaining speed confirmed by his 7.40 3-cone time. Fowler only had 5.5 sacks in the regular season (before three in his bowl game), and a significant number of those came on blitzes. I think Fowler is a guy whose athleticism doesn’t necessarily translate into production. (While you can say the same thing about Bud Dupree, Dupree’s athleticism is off the charts compared to Fowler’s, and even with a similarly poor 3-cone time, Dupree’s other athletic measurements are still good enough to qualify him as one of Justis Mosqueada’s Force Players.)

And speaking of Force Players, Smith and Odighizuwa both qualify. That shows up on film, too: Odighizuwa has some hip problems, but he does a great job converting strength to power and with his bull rush. Meanwhile, Smith is larger than a traditional edge rusher, but he also projects as someone who can move all across the formation, a la Michael Bennett (the current Seahawk, not the Ohio State prospect), and still be effective.

I don’t think those two are necessarily elite prospects– hence why they’re only #4 and #5 on my edge-rusher board. But their ability to rush the passer makes them worthy first-round picks, certainly compared to an edge player I have significant questions about on that point.

Brett Hundley #15 and Dorial Green-Beckham #16

Here’s something to think about: The number of prospects with the talent to be a top-flight NFL player at his position (or, at least, at the quarterback position, a reliable enough guy to be a long-term starter) are rare. (That’s also why we have Todd Gurley so high despite his ACL tear, though that one seems much less controversial.)

Dorial Green-Beckham hasn’t played football in over a year and has some serious questions surrounding his off-field behavior. Nobody denies this. (The domestic violence is much more troubling than the cannabis, certainly.) At the same time, nobody denies that he has the talent to be the best receiver in the league someday.

I’m not in the position where I can adequately assess how risky Green-Beckham’s off-field problems are going forward. To that end, I can’t gauge how they will affect his status as a prospect beyond some vague sense that I should downgrade him. That said, I also believe if he hadn’t been kicked out of school for the off-field incidents, and if he had played football last season, he’d be the #1 prospect in this draft and would go off the board in the first three selections. This ranking attempts to reflect that level of talent, combined with the questions surrounding any prospect who sat out a year and may have had his development stunted.

Brett Hundley does not have those off-field problems, but he has people asking similar questions about his game. Thing is, many of the criticisms I’ve heard don’t seem to stand up to much scrutiny. I hear Hundley is an inaccurate quarterback who makes predetermined throws, who can’t read defenses, who drops his eyes too readily, who has no pocket presence and takes off running at the first sign of pressure, then I watch plays like the ones I just linked.

http://www.draftbreakdown.com/gif-embed/?clip=255672&gif=EnviousSentimentalAsp

Sure, Hundley needs to do those things more consistently. But if the argument is that he can’t do those things, plays like these dispel that notion.

Hundley certainly needs refinement to be a successful NFL quarterback, but that’s true of every prospect in this draft. Jameis Winston needs to learn to read underneath coverage and to learn what kind of windows he can and cannot make throws into. Marcus Mariota needs to fix his mechanics, develop more consistent accuracy, and learn to adapt his play in the moment (which may not be possible). Hundley can do many things at an extremely high level, he just has to learn to do them more consistently, and un-learn any bad habits he may have picked up at UCLA.

Reports are that the coaching staff didn’t allow him freedom to audible; it’s possible that his penchant for running was developed from having to deal with plays he knew were broken. Watching UCLA’s film, it’s clear Hundley often had to run for the sheer reason that the offensive line could not block for him consistently. It’s also clear that the coaches did not adjust their route combinations as they should have to provide Hundley with more ways to get the ball out quickly.

Take a look at how few other offensive prospects UCLA has for this year’s draft, and how they’re rated. Last year, the only drafted players from UCLA’s offense were Xavier Su’a-Filo and Shaq Evans, neither of whom made any sort of impact this past season (we gave Evans a “7th/PFA” grade last year, but the Jets took him in the fourth round anyway).

It’s possible Hundley’s struggles were due to overcompensating for a lack of surrounding talent and a lack of faith shown by the coaching staff. (If you think that’s a bad sign for Hundley, remember that Jim Mora Jr. got the Atlanta Falcons job and immediately tried to turn Michael Vick into a high-accuracy, short-yardage West Coast pocket passer.) While I don’t believe you can cite statistics readily when discussing college players, I do believe they can tell you more about a prospect than people want to believe, given the right context. Hundley’s numbers over three seasons, 40 starts, in a Power 5 conference, and with not a lot of supporting talent on hand to help him are pretty damn good, even we look at only his passing numbers and ignore his prodigious rushing talent:

Brett Hundley college passing statistics

Hundley went 29-11 in those 40 starts as well; he wasn’t inflating his numbers in garbage time. And not only were those numbers very good, they continued to improve in his time at UCLA. (If the touchdown totals seem low, consider his lack of receiving talent and his 30 rushing touchdowns as mitigating.)

It’s the Cam Newton argument: If one player has the talent to carry your team this far despite a weak supporting cast, he has the talent for the NFL. (Hundley didn’t carry UCLA nearly as far as Newton carried Auburn, but I’m also not arguing he should be taken #1 overall.)

All of our scouts who have watched Hundley in detail agree that he’s being underrated by the consensus at large and is worth a first-round pick on Thursday. We’re not the only ones; Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio has Hundley ahead of Marcus Mariota as his #2 QB, having done extensive work writing about, discussing, and analyzing Hundley. (I must tip my hat to him for turning me on to that collection of plays I linked earlier.)

We think both Dorial Green-Beckham and Brett Hundley have much more potential as players than most of the draft community seems to think.

Shaq Thompson as a third-rounder

Okay, I couldn’t think of anything else too controversial (many of our other discrepancies are because we rank raw, unproven prospects like Arik Armstead and Breshad Perriman lower than they will likely go). Considering where Thompson started the draft process ranked, this seems like a good choice.

I didn’t really know in my heart where I regarded Thompson until our Twitter mock draft, where, despite having him listed in the early-to-mid second round on the Big Board, neither of us could pull the trigger until midway through the third. He scares me a bit; he’s too small for linebacker and not athletic enough for safety. He has good instincts, but I have serious questions about his capacity to find a fit in an NFL defense. A creative coach might be able to make the most of him, but he doesn’t have the kind of blow-you-away athleticism that he would need to justify regarding him highly.

The Top 42 Prospects, Part 2

Whoa. The last column took long enough that I had to break it off after #23. On top of that, yesterday was a totally bonkers day in the NFL, as free agency officially opened and multiple big trades went down within minutes of one another.

I’ll write up my thoughts on those trades soon, but for now, here is the remainder of the first set of player rankings I promised:

Group V: Late 1st / Early 2nd

24. Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
The big man (315 pounds) has a surprisingly impressive combination of burst, moves, and ability to rush the passer upfield. Consistency is a concern, and I’ll have to see more film to decide what I think of him as an every-down player, but the potential for an interior disrupter here is high.

25. Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA
Hundley is one I’m really torn about. My guys like him. Draft Twitter is low on him. I’m not sure how to reconcile the seeming flaws / lack of development in his game, with the fact he managed to post pretty terrific, and steadily improving, numbers in three years as a starter, without much in the way of surrounding talent. 40 college starts with a 67% completion rate is hard to ignore when matched with the kind of arm and athletic talent Hundley has.

26. Henry Anderson, DT/DE, Stanford
Another one I haven’t done much work on, but what work I have done suggests a guy who can be a serious playmaker from the inside as well, at either a 3- or 5-technique. (Other draft experts rate him even higher than this.)

27. Eric Kendricks, LB, UCLA
A three-down playmaker whom certain draft analysts I respect are really high on. We haven’t gotten to much linebacker film yet; I’d like to know more before forming a precise opinion.

28. Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami-FL
I’m not so sold on Flowers’ ability to play left tackle; I don’t think he possesses the quickness for that. That said, he is very strong and engages well, generally shutting down rushers when he gets his hands on them. I think he could start at right tackle from day one.

29. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas
Don’t have much of an opinion on Brown yet but this is about right given the buzz I’m hearing. Athletic large men never fall too far.

30. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, EDGE, UCLA
Some injury history in his past, but wins with power and speed. Probably most suited as a 4-3 DE. vix wrote an article about him during the season.

31. Nelson Agholor, WR, USC
Agholor does everything well– tight routes, very good acceleration and speed, attacks the football well. Really surprised other sites have him as a round 2-3 guy. If he were 3 inches taller he’d be a top-10 pick.

32. Jalen Collins, CB, LSU
Love his athleticism, tons of size and speed. Technique still a little raw, but certainly meets the NFL requirements for the position.

33. Eddie Goldman, NT, Florida State
Another guy I haven’t had a chance to do much work on and I’ve seen all over the boards. I know someone who thinks he’s nothing special. I know someone else who mocked him in the top 5. He’s huge, and even the ability to occupy lots of blockers has value.

34. Michael Bennett, DT, Ohio State
Another aggressive disruptor in the middle. I have to watch more film on him– it’s possible opponents were overly focused on Joey Bosa– but at least one of our writers really likes him.

35. Paul Dawson, LB, TCU
Don’t let the Combine times fool you, Dawson is an aggressive, instinctive playmaker whose reaction speed makes up for a lack of track speed.

36. Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
Young and ridiculously athletic, Williams still has some refinement to undergo but the raw talent that’s there makes him the best tight end in this draft by far. You’ve probably seen this by now.

37. Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn
Coates’ upside is so high, but his hands are inconsistent. Ordinarily I hate receivers who can’t catch, but I don’t think Coates fits this bill, as he has made a number of difficult, contested catches that suggest the ability to become more consistent is there. With some work on his form, he could become a real terror.

38. Devin Smith, WR, Ohio State
As far as we can tell, Smith only does one thing– run vertical routes– but he does it extremely well, with serious football speed and ability to get open, and perhaps even more importantly, he’s got terrific ability to track the ball in the air and fight for it at the catch point.
He could be a top-20 pick if he were a more well-rounded receiver. But just what he can add as a reliable deep threat is enough to rank him here.

39. Devin Funchess, WR/TE, Michigan
“Tight end” designation is almost a formality at this point. Honestly, Funchess’ ranking involves a lot of projection: He’s young and has fantastic size. His Combine was a little disappointing, though, and he needs a lot of work. I haven’t done enough film study on him to be confident in my evaluation yet.

40. Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
We didn’t like his offensive tackle film at all, but he may well be the best center in the draft.

41. Stephone Anthony, LB, Clemson
Another guy who’s risen up most draft boards because his Combine numbers made people go look at his film again. Anthony first jumped out to us while watching Vic Beasley’s tape, and studying him closer confirms his playmaking ability and the athleticism he displayed at the Combine as legit.

42. D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida
Humphries is young, having just turned 21 in December, and I believe most talk about him as a first-round pick factors in the idea that he has a lot of growth ahead of him. Now, there’s some reason to suspect that’s true: He went from a playing weight of 284 during the season to 307 at the Combine without any seeming loss of agility. I believe ranking him higher than this requires projecting physical growth, and while I was willing to do that to a certain point, I couldn’t combine my projections for him with his film work to rate him a first-rounder. Still a quality prospect worth taking a chance on, though.

Well, that’s where we are for now. We still have a long way to go, so we’re going back to the film room for a little while.

First round of evaluations: Top 42 Prospects

We’re still relatively early in our film-watching process, two months before the draft, but between our work and what we read by other terrific experts in the field (if you want a list, this is a pretty good start), I felt it was time to stoke the fires of reader interest a bit by publishing a rankings list.

Two things about our rankings:

1)If you don’t see a player you like, chances are we simply haven’t watched enough of him to be confident in assigning a grade. In fact, I’m not fully confident in all of these grades, but it’s a solid reflection of who we feel is at the top of the draft right now, based on our current research. (I even thought about assigning each ranking a confidence grade, but that turned out to be more work than I cared for.)

2)The “tiers” I rank players by tend to vary year to year, except at the very top. What I generally mean is that players within a tier are roughly equal overall or close to it; I change tiers when I perceive a drop in quality. So, for example, if I thought there were measurable drops at, say, 25 and 40, that tier would be “Late 1st / Early 2nd.” But if the drops were at 20 and 30, I would call it “Late 1st,” even though the prospects might have the same grade as the other tier. (In this way, the tiers are in part a reflection of the level of talent in a given draft.)

If you’re a quick study, you may have surmised from this paragraph that the reason the list stops at 42 is because that’s where a tier breaks off. You’d be right! Without further ado, the list…

Group 0: Elite Prospects

Last year we had a grouping of “Elite” prospects. Elite prospects are the kinds whose gifts are rare and don’t come around every year, sometimes even less frequently than that. Last year had Jadeveon Clowney and Teddy Bridgewater (and, arguably, Khalil Mack and Sammy Watkins, who were both graded top-5 picks in the end by us). This draft has no one that transcendent, but it does have a lot of talent.

 

Group I: Top-5 Prospects

1. Leonard Williams, DT/DE, USC
While he may not have the top-line explosiveness NFL teams prefer, Williams moves very well for his size and is capable of being very disruptive regardless. Watch USC’s game against Cal to see what kind of a destructive, unblockable force he can be.

2. Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
On-field evaluation only. I make no promises as to whether Winston can stay out of legal trouble (or avoid doing awful things off the field, even if he isn’t held legally accountable for them).

Winston is not a perfect prospect by any means, in particular plagued by spurts of incomprehensible decision-making. But he is still a very good QB prospect. Eli Manning is the most common comparison I’ve heard, and it makes sense: Like Manning, Winston combines the talent for the game and the cool head under pressure (Winston’s numbers suggest he actually improves as the game goes on) with the occasional baffling decision that results in an easily-avoided turnover. Eli Manning isn’t an elite talent, but he’s a guy who’s played QB at a roughly Pro Bowl level for 10 years; if you can get that #1 overall, you take it and you’re happy with it.

The mental game of quarterbacking is huge, and to me, Winston seems like a natural fit with strong instincts in that regard. Most of his mistakes are borne from him trying to do too much rather than not being able to do enough; you’re taking a bit of a chance on his decision-making process improving, but that’s true of every QB prospect, and it’s also true that the best QB prospects do improve with time in that regard. (Peyton Manning, after all, threw 28 interceptions as a rookie.)

3. Kevin White, WR, West Virginia
I love White’s game. I’m a sucker for big, strong receivers with sure hands who can win contested catches. (I really enjoyed watching Marc Trestman’s Chicago Bears for that reason– Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery are two of the best at that.) I already had White over Amari Cooper before the Combine, but it was close; when White ran a sub-4.4 40 (and Cooper didn’t) that sealed it for me. If White has the speed to match his ball skills, strength, and size, he could develop into an All-Pro player.

 

Group II: Top-10 Prospects

4. La’el Collins, OT, LSU
I think he’s the most complete tackle in this draft and he can play left tackle at the next level. Great power in the run game, finishes his blocks well. Not a guy who looks like the smoothest or quickest in pass protection– but somehow, he just always manages to stonewall his man. (And I do believe he’s quick enough for the next level.)

5. Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida
Fowler is one of the most well-rounded edge prospects in this draft; he can win with speed around the edge, strength, and a wide range of moves. He’s versatile, capable of lining up all over the formation, and flashes a few “wow” moments on film where he looks like the best player by a good margin. Not great against the run, but that’s a minor point with all he does so well.

I’ve heard talk that Fowler has a low ceiling, but he’s a very young prospect– he won’t even turn 21 until the preseason– and that leads me to believe he still has room to grow. Perhaps he already has his complete array of moves, but it’s possible he gets a little bigger, stronger, or faster as well, and that could make a real difference.

6. Vic Beasley, EDGE, Clemson
Beasley’s 2013 film had us ranking him as a late 1st prospect at best. A wise decision to return to school: Beasley’s tape is not perfect, but the best parts show a dominant burst and natural bend around the corner, easily the best of anyone in this class. He has great awareness as well, often sticking with a play to finish it or chase it down from behind.

The biggest question with Beasley is whether or not the added weight and strength he displayed at the Combine will translate on the field. Has he added functional power? Can he add weight without losing his burst? His Combine numbers seem to say “Yes,” but until we see how it translates on the field, it’s still a question. He still ranks this high because even if the added weight hinders him, he can drop it and get back to being nasty.

7. Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
Mariota is a a project. He’s got a ton of talent and a great work ethic, but he also hasn’t been asked to do a number of things he’ll have to do to succeed in the NFL. His ceiling could potentially be higher than Winston’s if he learns to do those things, but it’s also possible he ends up being a more talented Alex Smith– which isn’t necessarily a bad player, one you can win with if you have a solid defense and a coach who will tailor the offense to his skills, but when you take a QB high you hope for him to transcend the system, rather than require a system.

 

Group III: Top half of 1st

8. Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
My biggest concern with Cooper going into 2014 was his hands, and he seems to have significantly improved in that regard. He does everything well but doesn’t dominate in any one area, which is why I have concerns that he may have a lower ceiling than I’d want from a prospect I drafted this highly. Still, it’s hard to imagine him completely failing.

9. Randy Gregory, EDGE, Nebraska
Gregory’s been highly ranked by most draft outlets, but buyer beware, as this is in large part projection. Gregory has the kind of length and build that could make for a natural rusher around the edge– he tested well at the Combine in terms of speed numbers, too– but he’s still rather light, still needs to learn a fuller array of moves, and wasn’t nearly as productive a pass rusher in college as you’d like to see from a great prospect. He’s athletic and holds up well in the run game, which makes him unlikely to be a bust, but he has a lot to learn to match the ceiling that had others rating him as the top edge prospect.

10. Alvin “Bud” Dupree, EDGE, Kentucky
Dupree is a bit of a project as well, but I already see more from him, both in terms of the tape overall and in growth. (Dupree’s tape later in the season is significantly better than early in the season, an encouraging sign when projecting a prospect’s development.) He’s a shade below the athlete Fowler is, and may not quite have his natural bend or moves, but he’s still strong, he still has very good functional speed (both in burst and in closing), and a high motor. Kentucky used him in coverage more than I thought they should, but I think he can be a wrecking ball in the front seven.

11. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
There’s a lot to like about Parker: He’s got great size and hands, he’s fast, he goes up for the ball well. Occasionally he doesn’t use his size to the best of his ability, and that’s part of the concern with him, along with a series of injuries in college. Not quite as good as Kevin White, but still clearly a top-three receiver in this class.

12. Shane Ray, EDGE, Missouri
Ray didn’t work out at the Combine, so many sites have moved him even lower than this until his Pro Day. I didn’t want to overreact yet, but this data will be important to projecting his standing among the other edge rushers. Ray has good burst, good closing/chasing speed, but he’s not quite as fast or fluid as Beasley, and I’m not sure yet about how many different ways he can “win” on a pass rush.

 

Group IV: Bottom Half of 1st

13. Danny Shelton, NT, Washington
Shelton played a ton of snaps for Washington last year, and part of the reason teams are projecting him highly is because he can be dominant in a reduced workload. At the same time, that’s why I have him in this group and not the one above it, because I drop him down for not being at his best as an every-down player.

14. Marcus Peters, CB, Washington
Peters certainly has the best tape of any cornerback in this class. As the character concerns surrounding him increasingly seem to be overblown and not a serious issue, the tape comes to the forefront. He didn’t run as fast as Trae Waynes, but the tape still tells the difference. Peters is a true press-man corner with great ball skills and instincts, and is a sure tackler to boot (well, for a cornerback, at least).

15. Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford
Peat has the best “left tackle body” of anyone in the draft. He’s got length, he’s got the build for the position, and he’s got very quick feet capable of big strides– he can get into his pass set faster, and further back, than anyone else in this draft. The problem is what happens once he’s there: He’s still very inconsistent with his form, with his punch, with staying engaged with blocks. The raw material is too tempting, though, especially as he does show the ability to dominate at times– it’s not a complete projection.

16. Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State
I’ve seen other evaluators have concerns about Strong, and I need to take a more full look at his tape, but what I see from him is the stuff that I really like in a receiver and that I think will translate at the next level– great size and leaping ability, terrific hands, attacks the catch point well. His game needs refining, but he does the most important things well already.

17. Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
It’s not entirely clear where Thompson will play on the field– part linebacker, part safety, he’s a player with tremendous speed and instincts but who doesn’t fit into a typical box. A creative defensive coach who knows how to get the most out of unconventional talent will love him.

18. Landon Collins, SS, Alabama
Collins is a versatile all-around safety and the clear best prospect in this draft at the position. Sorry I don’t have much to add beyond that.

19. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
Ogbuehi tore his ACL at the Liberty Bowl, but even if he’s not ready in time for the season, he’s another natural left tackle who should be able to play at a high level. He’d be higher if he hadn’t injured his knee, but he’s expected to make a full and clean recovery, and long-term, he’s still worthy of a first-round pick.

20. Brandon Scherff, OT/G, Iowa
Scherff is lowest of this bunch because I have the most concerns about him being able to play outside at the next level. He could be a terrific guard, but I still prioritize the length and athleticism needed to play NFL tackle first.

21. Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Blazing speed is a huge asset for this former track star.  Biggest concern is that his physical style of play might not translate well to the NFL; in other words, he might get flagged for DPI, a lot.

22. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri / Oklahoma
DGB is crazy talented, but his off-field concerns are going to scare a lot of teams. Marijuana arrests may not be a big deal, but a domestic altercation with a woman is going to have teams thinking hard, especially given the NFL’s increased focus on domestic violence. The fact that he hasn’t been on the field in a year will give teams pause, as well. One guy who could have top-five talent when it’s all said and done, but has so many risks surrounding him right now that it’s difficult to rate him that highly. This seems about right based on talent; not playing a year definitely affects his stock.

23. Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia
Speaking of a player who should have gone top-5: Instead, the NCAA’s odious “amateurism” rules suspended him for four games, and he promptly tore an ACL upon return (one wonders if that would have happened had Gurley been allowed to play for the previous month). He’s expected to recover fully, though, and Gurley provides a devastating combination of obvious size and power with a quickness and balance you’d hope to find in a running back 30 pounds lighter, not to mention his vision and patience.

 

OK. I lied about going to 42 today. I’m already at 2500 words. I need a break, but I’ll come back later and post Group V.