**Editors Note: Had to rush this. Life got in the way, so sorry**
I’m a college football nut who generally finds the NFL to be dull and boring if I’m not watching my own team. Without Redzone, fantasy, and my gambling problem, I probably wouldn’t watch. If I wanted to watch a bunch of unimaginative old dudes penalize people for enjoying themselves, I’d go watch cops break up college parties.
On the other hand, I’ll wake up and watch college games from noon until midnight… all the while gambling on those as well. My big board is a mix of college production and NFL projections. I don’t consider myself an expert, and my board will be quite different from others because I don’t try to project the way others do. For example, I saw Deshaun Watson tear Alabama up twice with precision throws, tremendous athleticism, and the ability to fit the ball into tight windows. On the other hand, I saw Mitch Trubisky implode in almost every big situation he was in and never came away all that impressed. Since he won’t be appearing in my Top 32 (first round big board?), let’s get this over now.
Every year, there’s some white QB with decent athleticism who “looks the part” that draft analysts fall in love with. I call this the Blaine Gabbert. A relative of the Jimmy Clausen, the Blaine Gabbert is a mediocre to pretty good college quarterback who looks the part of an NFL quarterback that draft analysts spend months trying to convince the public is the next big thing. Some GM eventually drafts the Blaine Gabbert and winds up fired within a couple years. It’s kind of like an oxycontin addiction.
1) Myles Garrett – Defensive End, Texas A&M
There are some questions about Garrett’s work ethic after a 2016 season in which he had a 4-sack dropoff from his breakout 2015. A bum ankle for most of the year is probably more to blame. Garett also only totaled 9 of his 21 sacks between 2015 and 2016 against SEC opponents and quite often was either feast or famine as 7.5 of those 21 sacks came in two games. All that said, Garrett has long been the #1 prospect in this class and had the best combine of anyone.
2) OJ Howard – Tight End, Alabama
Howard might be the best tight end prospect ever. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s athletic, and has experience being relied upon as a lead blocker. He won’t get drafted this high but he’s as close to a can’t miss as there is. His production was lacking but he showed against an elite linebacking core in the two national title games that he is a weapon when needed.
3) Deshaun Watson – Quarterback, Clemson
I’m much higher on Deshaun than most. His radar gun reading at the NFL combine was a bit worrisome as no QB who has failed to reach 50 MPH has had too much success in the league. The closest would probably be Mike Glennon who just inked a huge contract with the Bears. Like Glennon, Watson’s perceived lack of arm strength doesn’t appear to show up on film. Ask Nick Saban if this dude can play.
4) Malik Hooker – Safety, Ohio State
Here’s a gif of Malik Hooker when a ball goes up in the air:
5) Dalvin Cook – Running Back, Florida State
To me, Cook is the best back in the draft. He’s built like a truck, has 20-yard explosion splits equal to John Ross III, and a track record of tearing up impressive defenses such as 2015 Florida and 2016 Michigan. Shoulder injuries and ball security are concerns for sure, but I think he’s a top 5-10 talent without a doubt.
6) Solomon Thomas – Defensive End, Stanford
Thomas might not be the pass rusher that Garrett is, but his athleticism is almost equal. Thomas also proved elite against the run while at Stanford and has a big, strong, physical frame that will allow him to play inside and outside.
7) Jonathan Allen – Defensive Tackle, Alabama
How the hell did he do this?
8) Mike Williams – Wide Receiver, Clemson
Williams’ career was almost ended in 2015 after a horrifying neck injury at the start of the year. He came back in 2016 to have his best season yet reeling in 98 balls for over 1300 yards and 11 TDs. He saved his best for last with an impressive performance against Alabama in the national title game. Williams is big and athletic and shows the catch radius of a #1 receiver. He doesn’t have the top end speed to break the longest pass plays but neither does Mike Evans. Williams is tremendous and should be the top receiver off the board.
9) Derek Barnett – Defensive End, Tennessee
To be honest, if I hadn’t read a single draft thing all year I would’ve thought Barnett was the #1 defensive end, not Garrett. He jumps off the video a lot more than his SEC counterpart and I had half a mind to put him a bit higher. Barnett had 14 sacks last year with 13!!! of them coming in SEC play and the 14th coming in the bowl game. Barnett saved his best performances for his biggest games with 2-each against Florida and Georgia, Tennessee’s two biggest SEC East rivals. Some have concerns about his length and explosion but production speaks.
10) Marlon Humphrey – Cornerback, Alabama
TBH I’m going to regret this, Alabama corners are trash in the NFL.
11) Cam Robinson – Tackle, Alabama
Robinson has seen his stock rise a bit later in the process. His measurables are solid, his film is great if not spectacular, and he has all the tools to be an elite NFL lineman. Robinson never looked as dominant as people think he should’ve at Alabama, but there are some that have chalked that up to boredom. He’s been the best offensive lineman in this class since he came out of high school. Whoever drafts him needs to light a fire underneath him and they’ll have a superstar on their hands.
12) Jabrill Peppers – Safety, Michigan
The homer in me will defend Peppers until I’m blue in the face. He came into college as the #1 corner in the country but switched to safety because Michigan was loaded at corner (Lewis and Stribbling were likely top-4 round picks until their offseasons crashed and burned a bit), and less so at safety. He switched to a hybrid-linebacker position molded after Mark Barron this year and became one of the most feared defenders in the country. He can cover, he can run, and he hits like a truck. I think his best position will be as a box safety and slot corner in the NFL where he can utilize his instincts in the run game. He has experience as a returner and receiver/running back as well so I imagine he could play center field.
13) Jamal Adams – Safety, LSU
I know Jamal Adams is good, but when I watched LSU he never really jumped out at me. That’s probably a good thing though as teams were avoiding him
14) Marshon Lattimore – Cornerback, Ohio State
Lattimore is a monster and is the eligible Ohio State corner who is NOT being investigated for rape. I’m not sure there has been a corner with his type of ball skills in a while. When you watch him, he breaks on interceptions like he’s the receiver running a pre-determined route. It’s kinda ridiculous. His interception off of Baker Mayfield in the game against Oklahoma over the middle is the most impressive.
15) Zach Cunningham – Linebacker, Vanderbilt
TFW the GOAT wants you to work out for him privately. Cunningham is going to be a superstar.
16) Corey Davis – Wide Receiver, Western Michigan
At one point I might’ve had Davis ahead of Mike Williams, but I think Williams’ physicality is frankly too much to ignore. Davis is fast, runs precise routes, and has had the influence of PJ Fleck over the last four years. The NCAA’s all time leading D1 receiver possesses all of the skills to be a top-end #2 receiver and maybe a #1 as well. That catch against Wisconsin at the end of the game doesn’t make sense.
17) Christian McCaffrey – Running Back, Stanford
I have my doubts that “The Son of Ed” can be an every down NFL back, but I’ve seen Danny Woodhead and Quizz Rodgers pick up the slack for their teams and McCaffrey is more talented than either. He’s fast, well-built, and is probably the quickest back in the class. He had a weird thing at Stanford where he never scored TDs in road games but that’s more of a funky stat than anything else. He’s a weapon in the return game and has fantastic hands making him the perfect utility-back in today’s NFL.
18) Ryan Ramczyk – Tackle, Wisconsin
Another year, another big burly Wisconsin lineman generating some buzz. Ramczyk doesn’t have Robinson’s measurables but he has a mean streak, is powerful, and has a track record of leading some of the best lines in the country. Frankly, this is a pretty generic Wisconsin lineman post because they all tend to be the same.
19) Curtis Samuel – Wide Receiver, Ohio State
I’m higher on Samuel than most which sucks because this play kills me.
20) Reuben Foster – Linebacker, Alabama
The draft is in 4 days and it’s still possible that Foster could submarine his stock even more. He got kicked out of the combine for fighting a volunteer and it leaked later that his piss-test was diluted. A diluted sample generally means a player is covering up something…. or has has a nervous dick and overcompensates to make sure he pees. Feel that dude. Foster was banged up at the end of the year but had previously been the best linebacker in the country. He’s best playing downhill but has elite athleticism to get back in coverage. Alabama linebackers have kind of been boom or bust in the pros, but Foster has all the tools to make it at the next level.
21) Jarrad Davis – Linebacker, Florida
Jarrad Davis’ NFL-stock has been an absolute roller coaster. At one point during the year he was right up there with Zach Cunningham and Reuben Foster as the top linebackers in the draft. However, a series of late-season injuries dropped his stock to the 2nd-3rd round. However, Davis came out and grabbed the combine by the workouts and vaulted himself back up into the backend of the first round. Davis is a tackling machine who plays best downhill but can also hold his own in coverage. Florida’s defense carried the team to two straight SEC Championship scrimmages and Davis was the anchor of both.
22) Takkarist McKinley – Edge Rusher, UCLA
Another dude that got his ranking because pretty much every other place put him here. “Get hit with the TaRICO”
23) Patrick Mahomes – Quarterback, Texas Tech
I LOVE SPREAD AND AIR RAID QBS. THE GAME IS CHANGING AND THE NFL NEEDS TO REALIZE IT. Mahomes has a big arm, good athleticism for the position, and comes from a professional sports pedigree. His dad was a Major League Baseball player. Mahomes’ highlight video is pretty fun so I’ll just link you to that (so many Matt Stafford comparisons) and his coach, Kliff Kingsbury does this:
24) Evan Ingram – Tight End, Ole Miss
Most prefer David Njoku to Ingram but I hate the University of Miami and so fuck David Njoku (who seems like a really good dude but whatever). Ingram was exceptionally productive at Ole Miss finishing with a statline of 65-926-8 as a senior. Ingram is a blur and ran a 4.42 at the combine. He got 19-reps up at the bench press and has elite athleticism. There are some who see him as more of a Delanie Walker h-back/big slot guy rather than pure blocking tight end. That’s because Ingram has issues with physicality. As the NFL turns to more of a vertical passing game however, it’s going to be hard to find guys with higher ceilings than Evan.
25) Malik McDowell – Defensive Tackle, Michigan State
McDowell is another fairly polarizing prospect. On one hand, he’s got the athleticism and flash to make you believe that he could be a dominant and versatile defensive lineman at the next level. Robert Ayers is a decent comparison as a guy who can use his strength outside against tackles and his speed inside against guards. McDowell also has a hot temper and a mean streak that make him an emotional and streaky player. Gotta keep him locked in though. If there’s a player at the top end of the draft who will welcome having more talent and help around him, it’s McDowell. Michigan State sucked this year and offenses gameplanned almost entirely around him.
26) Garrett Boles – Tackle, Utah
Look at this magnificent bastard!
Best haircut ever.
27) Haason Reddick – Edge Rusher, Temple
I’ve never actually seen Reddick play because the only Temple game I almost watched, I was drunk at a bar when they beat USF after Quinton Flowers got hurt. Here’s an article on MLive.Com about Reddick
28) John Ross – Wide Receiver, Washington
Ross is a blur. He ran the 40 in under 4.2 seconds at the combine and his film speaks for itself. All reports indicate that his glass knees are looking pristine at the moment. The league’s best comparison for Ross is Desean Jackson, the speedster for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Both can take it to the house at any time and are stellar at spot punt-return duty taking over in big spots. Ross’ inability to really get going against Alabama is a concern for me as well as his long-term health.
29) Leonard Fournette – Running Back, LSU
Fournette is one of the greatest enigmas in this year’s draft – all the running backs are. He’s an athletic freakbeast with mesaureables that should wow almost anyone. I, however, see too many signs of Trent Richardson in his game. If you watched Trent at Alabama, he seemed less quick every year he was at Alabama. Same goes for Fournette. His straight ahead speed is fine and he tested well at the combine and at his pro-day, but something seemed off. In pads, maybe the injuries caught up with him? His lack of proficiency in the passing game diminishes his value as well.
30) Taco Charlton – Defensive End, Michigan
A late bloomer, Charlton had 9 sacks last year leading Michigan’s defense which ranked near the top in most statistical categories. Charlton is an athletic specimen (4.7 40-yard-dash) that some think is only scratching the surface of his potential. Charlton has shown versatility to rush from the inside and the outside and could fit in a variety of schemes.
31) Demarcus Walker – Defensive Lineman, Florida State
Walker, admittedly doesn’t have the best measurables and is more of an effort player than a dominant athlete, but his production was off the charts. The versatile defensive lineman tallied 26.5 sacks over the last two sacks including a 4.5-sack game against Ole Miss and a 2-sack game against Florida as a senior. He also racked one up in the Seminoles’ Orange Bowl victory against Michigan. While Walker may never be a top-end pass rusher, he’s the type of guy who can hover around double digits by taking advantage of favorable matchups and lapses of focus from the opposing offensive line.
32) Teez Tabor – Cornerback, Florida
Tabor was a playmaker at Florida racking up 4 sacks and 8 interceptions, taking 3 of those back for scores in his three years with the Gators. Tabor was also a big time trash talker, notably ending up with his foot in his mouth against Tennessee and stomping on the Tigers’ graves at LSU. The good comes with the bad. Tabor plays significantly more athletic than his combine numbers indicate and isn’t afraid of a challenge. Does he have the top end speed to hang with NFL receivers? That’s the biggest question he’ll face.