Archive for category 2011 NFL Draft Big Boards
1. Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: Strong, fast, and dominant against both the run and the pass. A scheme versatile, three down player whose immaturity concerns are being blown way out of proportion.
2. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: A tall, explosive receiver who can take games over. He has the skill, potential, and attitude to be a superstar at the next level.
3. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: The best pure pass rusher to come out of college football since Mario Williams can be a terror of the edge with his speed and moves.
4. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The total package at receiver who is extremely big, strong, and tough. A no-nonsense prospect very much in the mold of Andre Johnson who I consider to be a safer pick than A.J. Green.
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: A rare talent who plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played and contributes on special teams.
6. Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama: A very solid football player who has no weaknesses in his game, but he’s not the twelve-sack player that Fairley can be.
7. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Supremely athletic and surprisingly powerful for his weight, Tyron Smith certainly looks like he can blossom into a top left tackle. Had he stayed in school, he would be vying for the top overall pick in 2012.
8. Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: Not the best athlete in the world, but is certainly good enough and is the most polished pass rush prospect to come out in some time. He will immediately be a very, very tough player to block.
9. Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: A powerful interior presence who plays with great leverage and dominates his gap in the run game. He will never be a liability, but won’t wow anybody with his rush skills, although they are adequate.
10. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Nobody’s thrilled with his off-the-field antics or attitude, but Smith is as good of a man-to-man cover corner as you will find in the NFL. Think Antonio Cromartie.
11. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: A very gifted and productive pass rusher, but he needs to develop better moves to complement his amazing natural abilities.
12. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: The knee injury is a serious concern, but Bowers will still have his whole career ahead of him and remains one of the most talented and complete defensive ends to come out since Mario Williams.
13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Not as explosive off the edge as Quinn or Bowers, but Watt finds a way to make plays, whether it be by penetrating, rushing off the edge, or batting down a pass. Impressive motor.
14. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA: Not only a ballhawk anymore, Rahim Moore is a sure tackler and somebody quarterbacks will not want to test in coverage. It’s hard to understand why he may not go in the first round, as he reminds me a lot of Earl Thomas, who was drafted fourteenth overall.
15. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Experience, pedigree, toughness…Carimi has it all. While he may not be an elite athlete, he’s certainly a plug-and-play at right tackle and has the potential to be a solid left tackle.
16. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Prince certainly knows how to play the game, but his tendency to disappear in big games is a huge concern.
17. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Ingram’s stock fell at the combine because he’s the type of runner that thrives when he gets the pads cracking. He should be a very effective back who can shoulder the load of a franchise runner if necessary.
18. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: He’s surrounded by allegations, but the facts say that he’s the only passer in the draft that could move his team up and down the field against the top defenses in the country in a pro-style offense.
19. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: A little raw, but Baldwin is a huge target that will wind up being a deep threat and red zone weapon. He reminds me a lot of Plaxico Burress.
20. Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: A complete interior offensive lineman who has elite mobility and is worthy of a first round pick despite his position.
21. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: A sound tackle who will probably be a starter on the right side, but does not impress me as a run blocker or pass protector. Your pedestrian starting tackle.
22. Marvin Austin, DT, North Carolina: A very powerful player who is very tough to move but extremely athletic. If he had played this season, he would be right up there with Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley.
23. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: A great 34 nose prospect as he can engulf smaller offensive linemen, but has his weight completely under control.
24. Jabaal Sheard, DE, Pittsburgh: Slightly undersized, but is very powerful at the point of attack, and is a crafty and productive pass rusher.
25. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: Extremely talented, but would have liked to have seen one more year of college for this raw youngster who has quite a burst but plays far too tall.
26. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: A fiery competitor who is fast enough to start in the NFL and loves to be physical. A bit of Antoine Winfield in his game.
27. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: A tall, long cover corner who can also kick inside and play in the slot or at safety. A complete player who just needs to clean up some footwork and fluidity issues.
28. Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: A 3-4 end only in my opinion, Heyward is a tough, strong player who can be a day 1 starter in the right situation. His game compares very favorably to Cullen Jenkins.
29. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: A fundamentally sound player who plays with passion. I just question whether he’s big enough to be an effective 3-4 end or quick enough to be an effective 4-3 end. He will be a solid but unspectacular player.
30. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: A do-it-all linebacker who really allows you to be flexible in your scheme. However, I’d like to see him jump out at me more on tape.
31. Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona: An explosive, relentless pass rusher who definitely reminds me of Clay Matthews a bit, although I doubt he will become that type of player.
32. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: A supremely talented player who is unshakable under pressure. He needs a ton of work, but is a big time prospect.
I haven’t done one of these in a while, so here are my top 32 prospects as of mid-March.
1. Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn: Very few players are capable of taking over games from the heart of the trenches. Fairley is dominant against the run and the pass, showing very few weaknesses in his game. He should be in the same class as Ndamukong Suh, Haloti Ngata, and Darnell Dockett very soon. Carolina, Denver, and Buffalo all desperately need an inside presence like Fairley on their team.
2. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: Green has the unbelievable combination of height, hands, and explosiveness that every team covets minus the diva attitude. A skinnier Calvin Johnson comes to mind.
3. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: Yes, Julio Jones is in my top three because he brings a toughness and physicality to the receiver position that you just don’t see these days. His frame has to remind you of Andre Johnson, and he ran a sub-4.4 on a broken foot. A rare blend of toughness and talent who appears to be a very, very safe pick.
4. Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama: Dareus is stout against the run and will beat pretty much any guard in the league one-on-one. He’s not quite as dominant as Fairley, but he’s as complete as they come and can play in any scheme. It’s very hard to envision a scenario where he’s not a high level starter within the next two or three seasons.
5. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Peterson has all the talent in the world, plays aggressively, and is also a dynamic return man. While he plays with sound technique, I don’t see the elite instincts of Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha. However, he should be a very good starting cornerback and return man at the next level.
6. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM: An ideal 3-4 linebacker, Von Miller is the best pass rusher in this draft class and comparisons to DeMarcus Ware are legitimate. His frame appears to be maxed out at 246 pounds though and likely won’t be all that good in a 4-3. A perfect fit for Arizona or San Francisco.
7. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: A phenomenal pure pass rusher who can thrive in any defense. His athleticism is astonishing and reminds me of a taller Dwight Freeney the way he runs the arc. However, he’s been out of football for a year and still needs to develop better pass rush moves.
8. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: A natural fit as a 4-3 end who looks like a man among boys on the field. He is big and disruptive, but there are some questions about him being a one year wonder, his health, and rawness.
9. Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue: Kerrigan isn’t nearly as physically gifted as the pass rushers in front of him, but he is a great fit as a 4-3 end and has very developed pass rush moves. He is also a master of the forced fumble, and looks to be more pro-ready than Quinn or Bowers, though he doesn’t have quite as much potential.
10. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: Carimi is much more sound in pass protection than people give him credit for. What isn’t in question is his experience, prototypical size, and run blocking skills. He’s a very well-rounded tackle who shouldn’t be written off as a right tackle. Just because he’s not a finesse player doesn’t mean he’s not good enough to handle the best pass rushers in the league.
11. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: Very fundamentally sound, a willing tackler, and unbelievably instinctive, Prince has everything teams are looking for in an NFL corner. What bothers me is that Justin Blackmon won their battle decisively in 2010, and Amukamara will have to match up with players as good or better than him every week in the NFL.
12. Tyron Smith, OT, USC: A physical marvel who looks the part of a franchise left tackle. He’s more polished than people give him credit for, but he’s always played on the right side in college.
13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: Not an elite edge rusher, but Watt can do so many other things well. He is a disruptive force and is great at batting passes down at the line of scrimmage. He can thrive as an end in either the 4-3 or 3-4 and will enjoy success with any team that drafts him.
14. Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois: Liuget is extremely stout against the run and offers enough in terms of pass rush and lateral quickness. He’s not quite as complete or dominant as Fairley or Dareus, but he will be a solid starter in pretty much any scheme.
15. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama: Not a blazer, but Ingram simply knows how to run the football. His instincts, power, and toughness will make him an excellent and complete back in the NFL. If he’s paired with a home-run hitter, he could lead one of the most dangerous backfields in the league.
16. Mike Pouncey, G, Florida: Pouncey is a much better fit at guard than at center where he will be able to show his elite lateral mobility. He is easily the best puller in college football and will be a great fit for a team that relies on the screen game. He can provide depth at many positions, and has no major flaws in his game.
17. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: I love how Dowling plays the game. He’s a physical corner who is smart and instinctive and has good ball skills. He answered my questions about his long speed at the combine, and he’s a player that reminds me an awful lot of Malcom Jenkins, who eventually moved to free safety.
18. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA: Moore is a ballhawk in the defensive backfield, and quarterbacks will throw away from him in zone coverage. While he won’t deliver the knockout blow, he’s a reliable tackler who won’t be much of a liability in run support.
19. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: Baldwin is really a special talent at 6’5″, and he has plenty of production to match his frame. He will win jump balls as often as anybody in this draft class and is a true vertical threat who is tough to outleap for the ball. He’s still raw, but should be a dangerous weapon down the road.
20. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: Ayers doesn’t really look like a star to me, but there’s no questioning his versatility. He can play in any scheme, rush the passer, drop into coverage, and stop the run. He’s a three down player with no glaring weaknesses, although he isn’t a true difference-maker.
21. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: The character concerns with Mallett have been blown way out of proportion. He’s got the strongest, most reliable arm in this draft class and has shown that he is capable of moving his offense up and down the field against the nation’s toughest competition week in and week out.
22. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College: Castonzo isn’t a dominant player in any phase of the game, but he appears to be a well-rounded tackle who can be a steady starter on either side for somebody.
23. Phil Taylor, NT, Baylor: I haven’t seen Taylor much in game action, but he is the prototype nose tackle for the 3-4 and the way he takes care of his body tells scouts a lot about his work ethic. Talent, work ethic, and playing a critical position will get you drafted in the first round these days.
24. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, Temple: I would have liked to have seen a little more dominance on the part of Wilkerson, who played against lesser competition. However, he’s a perfect fit as a 5-technique and performed well against Penn State.
25. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri: There’s no denying Smith’s pure talent. He’s long, lanky, and has a great burst. In many ways, he reminds me of Robert Quinn, but he’s not quite as smooth. He could be a great pass rusher, but he has to refine his game and get stronger before he can really make an impact in the NFL.
26. Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami: Franklin is nimble, powerful, and nasty. He has everything teams covet in guards, and will be a steal in the third round, where he will probably be drafted. Think Todd Herremans, but his potential does not end there.
27. Cameron Jordan, DE, California: In my opinion, Jordan has been a little too overhyped over the last month. He’s a solid 3-4 end who plays with very good technique, but I don’t see anything overly special about him.
28. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn will be a 4-3 left end at the next level, and while he will be a good one, he will never be an elite pass rusher. He is stout against the run and can get to the quarterback, but nothing he does makes me fall off my rocker. He also has a bizarre shoulder condition that sort of freaks me out.
29. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: Patrick is a very underrated prospect who has good size, length, and speed. Unlike most other corners in this class, he plays bigger and faster than he measures and is a fierce competitor on the gridiron. I love his aggressiveness and confidence.
30. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas: Williams is a long cover man who can fit in pretty much any system. He’s willing to tackle and is a fluid athlete. Apparently, he had a poor combine though and he isn’t all that polished.
31. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech: A complete back with very good balance and vision, Williams can break the big one but can also withstand a heavy load of carries in the NFL. He only has one productive college season though.
32. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: Supremely talented, Jimmy Smith has the chance to be the next great NFL cornerback. However, his character concerns appear to be serious issues and many teams are dropping him off their boards entirely.
Did not make the list: QB Cam Newton, QB Blaine Gabbert, OT Nate Solder, OT Derek Sherrod, DE/OLB Justin Houston, DE Cameron Heyward, DT Stephen Paea, CB Brandon Harris
My opinions of players are beginning to crystallize after the Senior Bowl and watching at least a little tape on all the highest profile prospects. So, here is my fourth big board, which should not change until the combine late this month.
1. Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn
2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: I’m not sure why most people don’t have him as a top ten pick. He has all the physical tools you look for and has really polished his game this past season. He’s very tough and physical, and looks like a pro bowl receiver for the next ten years.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
4. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
5. Marcell Dareus, DE/DT, Alabama: Dareus is not as dominant as Fairley was down the stretch, but he is extremely disruptive and will be an impact player for somebody from day 1. He’s a great interior pass rusher as well.
6. Da’Quan Bowers, DE/OLB, Clemson
7. Von Miller, OLB, Texas AM
8. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina: The smoothest pass rusher since DeMarcus Ware, but I’d really like to see more moves. Quinn can run the arc as well as anybody on the planet, but doesn’t have much beyond that at this point.
9. Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois: Liuget is great against the run and is an elite disruptive force. He doesn’t make the impact plays like Dareus or Fairley, but will be a very good player at the next level.
10. Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
11. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraksa: Amukamara looks like a can’t miss prospect against average players, but he will struggle against top-end competition. I would worry if he had to be a team’s top cover man as a rookie.
12. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Say what you want about Mallett, he gets it done every week against the toughest competition. It may take a year or two on the bench, but Mallett will be a franchise quarterback down the road.
13. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
14. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
15. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
16. Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh: Sheard doesn’t get the attention he deserves. He plays the run great, is physical, and gets to the quarterback with ease. Keep an eye out for him.
17. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
18. Cameron Jordan, DE, California
19. Mike Pouncey, G/C, Florida
20. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
21. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: Clayborn is physical and plays the run well, but I don’t think he’ll be a feared pass rusher at the next level, so I would only draft him to be a complementary rusher. The Saints should be interested.
22. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
23. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
24. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh: He’s not the greatest route runner in the world, but will be able to stretch the field and be a game-breaker in the NFL. If a team like Cleveland can grab him at the top of round 2, they won’t regret it.
25. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: Dowling doesn’t have the speed to be an elite corner, but I love his physicality and instincts. He could be a great cover 2 corner or possibly a free safety. He reminds me of Charles Tillman.
26. Orlando Franklin, G/OT, Miami: Franklin is a tough, versatile, and gifted. He’s very underrated and will be a phenomenal guard who can also kick out to tackle if necessary.
27. Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
28. Drake Nevis, DT, LSU
29. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
30. Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon State
31. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
32. James Carpenter, OT, Alabama: Carpenter isn’t highly regarded by pro scouts, but players who line up across from him agree that he’s the best lineman they’ve ever faced. He has great feet and technique and looks like a solid left tackle in the NFL, though he won’t dominate.
33. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois
34. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
35. Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
36. Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech
37. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Newton has tremendous physical gifts and upside, but has a ton of adjusting and improving to do before he is ready to start in the NFL. I’m not sure that he has the drive that Tim Tebow had to avoid being a bust.
38. Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma
39. Johnny Patrick, CB, Louisville: Patrick is fast, physical, and very competitive. He will challenge to start as a rookie if given the opportunity and will end up being a big-time steal.
40. Rahim Moore, S, UCLA
41. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
42. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: Solder is physically very gifted, but he has a very, very long way to go in the pass protection department before a team should consider inserting him into their starting lineup.
43. Marcus Cannon, OT/G, TCU
44. Ben Ijalana, OT/G, Villanova
45. Shareece Wright, CB, USC: Wright has everything you look for in a corner and really impressed me at the Senior Bowl while he consistently blanketed receivers and was never beaten badly.
46. Brooks Reed, DE/OLB, Arizona
47. Rashad Carmichael, CB, Virginia Tech
48. Curtis Brown, CB, Texas
49. Christian Ballard, DE/DT, Iowa
50. Muhammad Wilkerson, DT/DE, Temple
I’ve had the chance to watch tape on pretty much everybody that I’ve wanted to. I was really disappointed by Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert, Colorado OT Nate Solder, and Boston College’s Anthony Castonzo. However, Miami OG Orlando Franklin and Pittsburgh DE Jabaal Sheard blew me away and now I believe that they are some of the most underrated players in the draft.
1. Nick Fairley, DT/DE, Auburn
No change at the top here. Fairley can do it all as he plays both the run and the pass very well and can play in a 30 scheme as well as in the 4-3. To me, the dirty plays are the only thing working against him.
2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama
A dominant receiver in college whose skillset translates very well to the NFL. He has the toughness, work ethic, and physicality to be the go-to-guy in the NFL from day 1. He will be severely underdrafted (likely in the 10-15 range).
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
Everybody pretty much agrees that Green is deserving of a top 5 pick and it’s no secret why. He’s a great talent with great hands and is really tied with Julio Jones for the second overall slot in my opinion.
4. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU
I love how Peterson plays the game. He’s an all-world athlete, but unlike most superior collegiate athletes, Peterson does not skate by on his natural abilities. He is tough, understands the importance of sound fundamentals, and contributes in every phase of the game.
5. Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama
A very complete player who is scheme versatile. He looks like a very safe pick at this point who I believe will be a very good but underrated pro because he doesn’t generate as many impact plays as Fairley.
6. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
An unbelievable athlete who can be a terror off the edge with his acceleration and power. He could be a Julius Peppers-type player, but at the same time, he is far from a finished product and it may take him 3-4 years to be a 10 sack player.
7. Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina
Sat out this past season, but was utterly dominant in 2009 and was an early favorite to go first overall in 2011. He toyed around with Boston College’s Anthony Costanzo and is just a phenomenal pass rusher.
8. Von Miller, OLB, Texas A
Every bit as good as Robert Quinn, but is not as big or as long. As a result, he is much better off in a 3-4 than in a 4-3. I liken him to a more explosive but smaller Brian Orakpo, who went 13th overall in 2009.
9. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
He looks better than Peterson in most games, but struggles against top competition, which is a very scary omen going into the NFL. He needs to prove a lot to me at the Senior Bowl, where he can cement his status as a top 10 pick.
10. Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue
Is not a wonderful athlete, but has a great first step and displays an extraordinary array of pass rush moves. He is relentless and very polished, and looks like he will immediately be a very solid edge rusher at the next level.
11. Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers is as complete of a defender as you will find in the draft. He can rush the passer, drop into coverage, and is a very reliable tackler. He has a very good nose for the football and can play any of the four linebacker spots in a 3-4 or outside in a 4-3.
12. Aldon Smith, DE/OLB, Missouri
Smith is relatively unproven, but has as much athleticism as anybody in the draft. He plays with pretty good technique for somebody so young and can get in the backfield with ease. His ceiling is very high, though he is a possible bust.
13. J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin
Many say Watt is a player without a position, but he is one of those players who will find a way to impact a game no matter where he lines up. I like him as a left end in a 4-3 who can kick inside to a 3 technique on passing downs.
14. Tyron Smith, OT, USC
The best offensive tackle in this class could see his stock soar due to team needs, but he has never played left tackle and was not dominant at USC. However, he has very good feet and is a driving run blocker despite being only 290 pounds.
15. Corey Liuget, DT/DE, Illinois
The people at ESPN are loving Liuget, and I’m starting to see the light. He never gets driven off the line of scrimmage and has good lateral movement to bring down the ball carrier. He may be best as a 3-4 defensive end, but would be a fine 3 technique as well.
16. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
I still believe that Mallett is the top quarterback in the draft. He has a rocket arm, and though I am beginning to see his inconsistent accuracy and struggles against pressure, he is always able to put up points, no matter how good the opposing defense is. It’s not like any of his targets are going to be drafted in the first two or three rounds either.
17. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
Ingram is a very complete running back who can carry the rock 20 times a game if need be in the NFL. He can run inside and outside and be the focal point of an offense from early on in his career.
18. Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida
Pouncey can do everything and play anywhere on the interior of the offensive line. He has extensive experience at both guard and center, and is the best puller I’ve ever seen in the college game. His best fit is at guard in the NFL.
19. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Initially, I didn’t think much of Carimi, but he is definitely good enough to be a starting tackle in the NFL. What I don’t like is how often he plays down to his level of competition, but that won’t be an issue in the NFL as everybody is worthy of Carimi’s respect there.
20. Stephen Paea, DT/NT, Oregon State
If Paea demonstrates that he can play nose tackle, which I believe he can, he could be selected near that 10th overall slot. He is very powerful and pushes the pocket as well as anybody in this draft. I would like to see some better pass rush moves and instincts out of him though.
21. Cameron Jordan, DE/DT, California
Jordan looks like a 5 technique in the NFL, where he has flashed a great-looking swim move and supreme agility for a player at that spot. Also, he doesn’t get driven back as easily as most 280 pounders. Still, he needs to add more bulk to become a dependable player on first and second downs.
22. Jake Locker, QB, Washington
Locker played on an awful team last season, but is extremely mobile and is accurate enough to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He needs a good outing at the Senior Bowl to solidify a first round grade.
23. Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
I loved Sheard on tape as he is very athletic getting to the passer and is surprisingly powerful against the run. I believe he has been arrested though, so character concerns may bring up some red flags. Keep an eye out for him though, as he looks like a very good left defensive end in a 4-3 at this point.
24. Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa
A force against the run and the pass and can be a very solid piece in a defense. However, until he improves his pass rush moves and quickness, he is nothing more than a two down left defensive end in a 4-3 scheme.
25. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
Baldwin has elite size and leaping ability, which gives him the potential to be a dangerous deep threat in the NFL much like Vincent Jackson. However, he needs to improve his route running to become a complete pass catcher.
26. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
Newton was an unbelievable collegiate player, but he needs a lot of work on his accuracy to be an effective NFL quarterback. He will get drafted in round 1 based on potential and production in a fluke offense only.
27. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas
Williams has the height, speed, and fluidity that you look for in a top-notch NFL cornerback, but needs more experience to polish his game. Still, he remains a very promising prospect who has a bright future.
28. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Dowling is a very physical, instinctive corner that plays the game the way it’s supposed to be played. My only question about him is his long speed, which may force him to move to safety or limit him to playing for a cover 2 team. He reminds me of Saints cornerback/free safety Malcom Jenkins.
29. Jurrell Casey, DT, USC
Casey is a high energy 3 technique who is tough to drive backwards and is disruptive. He has extremely good burst, both into the backfield and laterally, for a player his size. He’s not versatile and is quite short, though.
30. Cameron Heyward, DE/DT, Ohio State
Heyward is tough, instinctive, and has good pedigree, but I question whether he will be a good fit in the NFL. He doesn’t have the athleticism to be a very good 4-3 end and lacks some size to be an ideal 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle. That being said, he can be a very valuable piece who can move around on the defensive line and play the run very well.
31. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Solder has immense physical gifts and is a very good run blocker despite his height (6’9″). He is very athletic, but needs a ton of work in pass protection before he sees the field. He could be an all-pro, but he could just as easily be a bust. Much depends on his work ethic and his future offensive line coach.
32. Orlando Franklin, OG, Miami
The more I watch Franklin, the more I like him. He is a nasty, powerful run blocker who had the athleticism to play left tackle at Miami. Outside of Mike Pouncey, Franklin is the best interior lineman in the nation who can play either guard spot and potentially right or even left tackle. He plays with great leverage, using his 6’7″ frame to his advantage.
Overrated players who didn’t make the cut: Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert plays in a fluke offense and gets too antsy in the pocket to focus downfield and make a decent throw. Miami DE/DT Allen Bailey may light up the combine, but his physical gifts do not show up on the field as he shows terrible lateral movement and minimal pass rush skills. Miami CB Brandon Harris is a player I’ve heard good things about, but I can’t get over Michael Floyd dominating him in the bowl game a few weeks ago.
After watching a lot of bowl games and studying some film, my opinions of a lot of pro prospects have changed. Also, a bunch of underclassmen made their decisions to declare or to stay in school, which obviously alters the rankings. My second version of the big board is highlighted by Nick Fairley’s rise to number one after absolutely dominating Oregon. Here are, regardless of positional value, projected draft slots, or Eagle team needs or scheme demands, my top 32 prospects in America.
1. Nick Fairley, 4-3 DT, Auburn. Fairley is easily the most disruptive defensive player in the country and will excel against both the run and the pass in any scheme.
2. Julio Jones, WR, Alabama. A physical marvel who has polished his game (route running, hands) since arriving at Alabama. He will play through pain and looks the part of an elite NFL receiver.
3. A.J. Green, WR, Georgia. A phenomenal college receiver whose skillset translates favorably to the NFL. Should be a perennial pro-bowler if he can add a little more bulk to his frame.
4. Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU. An unbelievable athlete and return man who can impact a game in many ways. He also displays great technique and has the potential to be on the same level as guys like Darrelle Revis.
5. Marcell Dareus, 4-3 DT/3-4 DE, Alabama. A well-rounded defensive lineman who can play in any scheme. He’s a polished pass rusher, very athletic, and is stout against the run.
6. Da’Quan Bowers, 4-3 DE, Clemson. I don’t love him as much as most, but he can certainly use his power/speed combo to overwhelm offensive tackles at the next level. He has a lot of work ahead of him if he wants to be great.
7. Robert Quinn, 3-4 OLB/4-3 DE, North Carolina. Did not play this season, but is the best pure pass rusher in the draft who has unbelievable athleticism. His ceiling is very high, but is not the safest pick in the draft.
8. Von Miller, 3-4 OLB, Texas A&M. Undersized, but a premier pass rusher that could be a cornerstone of a defense for many years to come.
9. Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska. Looks all-world against average college receivers, and there are no real flaws in his game besides average long speed. However, he was abused by Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon.
10. Ryan Kerrigan, 4-3 DE, Purdue. Not an impressive athlete, but is a very smooth, polished, and relentless pass rusher who will be a solid-but-not-great pro.
11. J.J. Watt, 4-3 DE/3-4 DE, Wisconsin. Does not have great speed off the edge, but finds a way to make plays and is very intelligent and versatile. He plays best in big games and will be a playmaker in any scheme.
12. Akeem Ayers, 4-3 OLB/3-4 OLB, UCLA. The total package at linebacker who can rush the passer, drop into coverage, pursue from the back-end, and tackle one-on-one. Not an elite player, but will make those around him better.
13. Tyron Smith, OT, USC. Despite being only 290 pounds, Smith is a very effective run blocker and has elite footwork and agility. My only concerns are his slight frame and the fact that he has never played left tackle.
14. Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas. More mobile than people give him credit for, and nobody in college has really been able to shut him down. However, accuracy is sometimes questionable and he cannot deal with the blitz. These issues are correctable though, and Mallett could be an elite passer if he sets his mind to it.
15. Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama. A tough runner who can run inside and out, break tackles, and catch the ball out of the backfield. A workhorse who can handle 20 carries a game.
16. Mike Pouncey, OG/C, Florida. The best puller I have ever seen at the collegiate level who is better suited as a guard than as a center and may even be able to play tackle. Should be a pro-bowl guard early in his career.
17. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. Very talented and effective as both a run and pass blocker who can play either tackle spot. However, he plays up and down to his level of competition and is a bit lazy.
18. Stephen Paea, 4-3 DT/3-4 NT, Oregon State. Very powerful and can push the pocket as well as hold his ground against the run. Best suited as a 1 technique, but may be able to play nose in a 3-4 scheme.
19. Cameron Jordan, 3-4 DE, California. Not a monster against either the run or pass, but is disciplined, gives good effort, and can play three downs. Should be a solid 5 technique for most 3-4 teams for a long time.
20. Nate Solder, OT, Colorado. Has great length in pass protection (6’9″) and is not hurt by it when run blocking. Very agile, but is far from polished as a pass protector. Should not start as a rookie.
21. Corey Liuget, 4-3 DT/3-4 DE, Illinois. Quietly a very good player who does not have bad games. He won’t dominate, but is a three down defensive lineman at the next level who will play at a high leve and is scheme versatile.
22. Adrian Clayborn, 4-3 DE, Iowa. A very solid, well-rounded defender who had a somewhat disappointing senior season. He can get after the passer and will hold his own in the run game, though he will only be a two down left defensive end in a 4-3 system in the pros.
23. Jake Locker, QB, Washington. Played on a very poor team, but is very mobile, has extensive experience in a pro-style offense, and is a good enough passer to succeed as a starter in the NFL.
24. Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh. A massive receiver who can elevate and win most jump ball situations. Is a phenomenal run blocker, plays in a pro-style offense, but struggles to separate from NFL-caliber corners and is not a very good route runner yet.
25. Cam Newton, QB, Auburn. Tough to evaluate since he plays in a gimmicky offense, but has great physical tools. Is a natural passer, but has not demonstrated any ability to march down the field with the mid-range passing game. Classic risk-reward selection.
26. Aaron Williams, CB, Texas. A very fluid athlete with good height and cover skills. Does not project as a bump-and-run corner and does not have elite feel for the game yet. Has a very high ceiling, though.
27. Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia. A tall, lanky corner who is very physical and great in run support. Would be a great cover 2 corner or maybe a free safety, but could struggle if asked to play too much man-to-man due to questionable long speed.
28. Cameron Heyward, 3-4 DE, Ohio State. Very good against the run and is a very high-motor player. Does not have the pass rush moves to be effective in a 4-3 though and does not have very much potential for a first round pick.
29. Allen Bailey, 3-4 DE, Miami. Does not have the size or pass rush ability to play in a 4-3, but could be a perfect fit as a 5 technique, where he can play the run well and push the line of scrimmage backwards.
30. Jurrell Casey, 4-3 DT, USC. Short and squatty, but plays with very good energy and remarkable lateral quickness. Needs to be a more consistent pass rusher and will not dominate against the run.
31. Jabaal Sheard, 4-3 DE/3-4 OLB, Pittsburgh. Quite possibly the most underrated player in the draft. Surprisingly good against the run given his size (6’3″, 255) and a very good pass rusher. Has some character concerns though.
32. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois. A big pounder who run hard with good leverage. He’s tough to take down and can also run outside. Will never be great, but reminds me a bit of Jonathan Stewart of Carolina. Could be a feature back.