With draft season quickly approaching, here’s my first Top 30 prospect rankings of the year. Please note that the 2017 NFL Draft is four months away and that these rankings will change multiple times throughout the pre-draft process. Also note that some of the players below are underclassmen and may choose to go back to school. With that being said, lets get started.
4 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 2 OT, 1 OG, 3 DL, 5 EDGE, 1 LB, 5 CB, 3 S.
Quarterback: The QB group is headlined by Clemson star DeShaun Watson. He’s led the Tigers to back to back national championship appearances with his dual-threat ability and has scouts drawing comparisons to players like Marcus Mariota and Russell Wilson. DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) has shown that he has the necessary arm strength to make any throw in an NFL offense and can be a threat while scrambling. Mitch Trubisky (UNC) was named the Tar Heels starting QB in the pre-season and has taken full advantage of his opportunity as he has skyrocketed up draft boards this season. He has one of the most accurate arms in this class and has come up huge in clutch situation this season for UNC. Similar to Trubisky, Josh Allen (Wyoming) only has one year of experience as a starter, but he has made the most of it. Allen has showed he has the arm strength and mental traits to be a starting QB at the next level.
Running Back: Prior to this season, I had Leonard Fournette (LSU) as my #1 RB, but after watching Dalvin Cook (FSU) tear it up all year long, he’s now my #1. A truly electric player, Cook is a threat to take it all the way anytime he has the football in his hands. Once he gets going with his top-notch acceleration, good luck catching him. Fournette has drawn comparisons to Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson due to his size, strength, and athleticism. He is a dangerous downhill runner and is like a bowling ball in the open field as he is nearly impossible to bring down alone. It’ll be interesting to see which one of these two is selected first come April.
Wide Receiver: After suffering an injury that many thought would hamper his future playing football, Mike Williams (Clemson) came back stronger than ever and silenced his doubters. Williams has the size (6’3, 225lbs) and speed that NFL teams covet. But my favorite part of his game is the fact that he has no issues running over the middle of the field and catching the football in traffic. He has drawn comparisons to former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. One of the most productive players in all of college football the past few years, Corey Davis (Western Michigan) has helped put his team on the map. He has experience playing from anywhere on the field and is one of the best route runners in the draft. His hands and ability to go up and snag the ball will make him a highly sought after player. With blazing straight line speed, John Ross (Washington) has scouts and analysts raving about his play making ability. His elite speed gives him the ability to straight up out run anyone on the football field and he can take it to the house anytime the ball is in his hands. He also offers great value as a kick returner.
Tight End: One of the best tight end prospects to enter the draft the past few years, O.J. Howard (Alabama) became a household name after his performance in last years national championship game, where he had over 200 yards receiving and two touchdowns. He averaged nearly 42 yards a catch and showed his ability to move with the football in his hands. Standing at 6’6, Howard is a huge target and has the athleticism to be a dominant receiver in the NFL. Even though he isn’t the strongest at the point of attack, he is a great run blocker. With his versatility, offensive coordinators all over the NFL will be begging their front offices to snag Howard.
Offensive Line: A starter since he arrived on campus several years ago, Cam Robinson (Alabama) has been a staple of the Crimson Tide offensive line. Robinson has the size, strength, and athleticism to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL. There have been some instances of him taking some plays off, but when he goes 100%, he is a dominant player. After sitting out last season due to transfer rules, Ryan Ramczyk (Wisconsin) had a fantastic year for the Badgers at left tackle and received a first round grade from the NFL Advisory Board. He has the strength and agility to combat all types of pass rushers in pass protection and plays with a nasty demeanor while run blocking. A four year starter for the Hoosiers, Dan Feeney (Indiana) is no doubt my top interior lineman of this class. He plays to the whistle and wants to drive his man into the ground every play while run blocking and is solid in pass protection as well. With his attributes, he can play in any scheme and on either side of the line.
Defensive Line: One of the most dominant defensive lineman in the country the past two seasons, Jonathan Allen (Alabama) won’t be waiting long for his name to be called on draft day. He consistently disrupts opposing running attacks while his ability to shed blockers with ease and is a great pass rusher from the inside. The strength and explosiveness of his first punch and ability to use his hands will allow him to have success from day one at the next level. Standing at 6’4, 309lbs, Montravius Adams (Auburn) is a monster on the defensive line that has surprising quickness. Although he has some issues with consistency, he has shown that he can be an effective three-down lineman in the NFL with his athleticism. With his size and first step quickness, Malik McDowell (Michigan State) could play in any scheme in the NFL, but would be an awesome 3-technique.
EDGE Rusher: Like many others, my number one prospect for the 2017 NFL Draft is the explosive pass rusher Myles Garrett. The Texas A&M product has wrecked havoc on opposing offenses since he stepped on the field as a freshman, when he broke Jadeveon Clowney’s record with 11.5 sacks. Tim Williams (Alabama) may not be the biggest or strongest, but he makes up for it with his explosiveness coming off the edge. Derek Barnett (Tennessee) proved he had a nose for opposing quarterbacks as he surpassed the legendary Reggie White with career 32 sacks. Taco Charlton (Michigan) has flown up draft boards with his superb senior season both rushing the passer (nine sacks) and as a run defender (11.5 TFL). Takkarist McKinley (UCLA) uses his speed and non-stop motor to get the job done while going after the quarterback.
Linebacker: The best linebacker in the country this past season, Reuben Foster (Alabama) will certainly be a top 10 pick this April. Foster is a complete linebacker with his ability to stop the run, drop back into coverage, and rush the passer. He has the speed to run sideline to sideline and has the strength to take on any blocker who meets him in the hole. He rarely misses tackles and can deliver big hits when given the opportunity. Foster will have defensive coordinators drooling when they watch his film. He will be a three-down linebacker at the next level and an immediate starter.
Cornerback: In a deep cornerback class, Jalen Tabor (Florida) is my #1. He has great size and the necessary speed to matchup against NFL wide receivers and has experience covering receivers outside and in the slot. His ball skills are what separates him from the rest. Marlon Humphrey (Alabama) is the next Crimson Tide defensive back that will hear his name early on draft day. One of the best athletes in the country, Humphrey also has terrific size and length for a corner and can matchup with any receiver. One of the most productive corners since arriving on campus, Desmond King (Iowa) has amazing ball skills and has 12 career interceptions. He is the most physical corner in the draft and it shows in coverage and when he comes up to make a tackle. With 8 interceptions and 6 forced fumbles, Sidney Jones (Washington) is a turnover causing machine. He displays great awareness and instincts while in coverage and has the potential to be a shutdown corner. Last season, Jourdan Lewis (Michigan) set a school record with 22 pass deflections. Although undersized, Lewis makes up for it with his elite quickness and sound footwork.
Safety: After another outstanding season, Jamal Adams (LSU) cemented himself as one of the top defenders in the entire country. He can play the middle of the field, matchup 1 on 1 with tight ends, and can play in the box as a run defender. One of the best aspects of his game is his awareness and football IQ as he consistently sniffed out screens and runs. His versatility will lead a team to take him in the top 10. A playmaker for the Buckeyes defense, Malik Hooker (Ohio State) has one NFL scout comparing him to Ed Reed. He has six interceptions on the year and has returned three of them for touchdowns. He is at his best when he can drop back into the middle of the field and read the quarterback’s eyes. Not many players can do what Jabrill Peppers (Michigan) does for the Wolverines. He mainly plays on defense in a hybrid linebacker/safety role but has also seen some time on the other side of the ball as a quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. He has also been the team’s kick returner since arriving on campus three years ago.
Photo Credit: TexasA&M