With much of the college football season wrapped up, prospect evaluations are in full swing. The Jets might not have a head coach or general manager yet, but they do have a top ten pick in their back pocket. How is the top ten of the 2015 NFL Draft class shaking up? Here’s my edition…
The Top Ten:
1) Leonard Williams, DL, Southern CaliforniaThe 6’5, nearly 300 pound Williams is the standout defender in this draft class. To make it simple, so much of his game compares to Jets star lineman Muhammad Wilkerson.
He commands constant double teams, sheds blocks with his hands, and is extremely light on his feet for his size. At the next level a defensive coordinator can play him at multiple alignments as he has the agility to play the 5 technique, but also the strength to be a wall at the 3 and 0 techniques. I do not see Williams making it out of the top 5 come draft night.
2) Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Winston is possibly the most controversial player in this draft class due to a mix of both talent and off field incidents. From a football standpoint, he is a strong armed pocket passer that carries a powerful 6’4, 230 pound frame. He consistently displays the down field vision required to scan the entire field and is a menace to for tacklers to bring down 1 on 1.
Although his interceptions have sky rocketed from 10 (freshman season) to 18 (sophomore season), the talent level around him was extremely underwhelming at times. With Winston it is certainly not a matter of talent but more-so if he can stay out of trouble off of the field. If he can, an NFL franchise will have a franchise passer that in my eyes is a hybrid of Ben Roethlisberger and Joe Flacco, something that has eluded the Jets franchise for quite some time.
3) Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE, Florida
Fowler leads the stacked edge rusher class for me in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has all the tools to be a three down, outside linebacker for an NFL defense. His skill set reminds the TOJ staff of Baltimore Ravens’ All Pro Terrell Suggs, with a pristine blend of power and strength off the edge. Fowler is also versatile as he was used to rush the passer from all different areas of the Gators’ front seven.
The Washington Husky play maker is one of the best athletes in the entire country, excelling at both outside linebacker and running back this season. When watching Washington’s defense this season, Thompson is all over the field. In 2014 he had 3 fumble returns for a total of 184 yards (all three taken back for touchdowns), and an interception returned 36 yards for a touchdown.
He wins with speed, often quicker than blockers as he flies down hill (9 tackles for a loss this year). Even more impressive is that Thompson did all of this in 2014 while filling in at running back due to team injuries at one point of the season (taking him away from the defensive side of the ball). Teams looking for a three down, do-it-all play maker will jump at the opportunity of adding Thompson come the first night of the draft.
5) Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
Stanley has not officially declared for the 2015 NFL Draft, but if he opts to he instantly becomes the best pass protector in this class. He has dominated over the last two seasons as a Golden Domer, with the first being at right tackle and the most recent being at left tackle.
In a ‘passing league’, Stanley’s impressive footwork and lateral ability will be coveted. He needs to develop more ‘pop’ with his hands at the point of attack, specifically against power rushers. Overall, Stanley is the best at the most important trait of the offensive tackle group (pass protection) and will be highly valued if he throws his name into the draft.
6) La’el Collins, OT, LSU
Collins is almost Stanley’s opposite when it comes to strengths and weaknesses. He is a downhill, drive blocker that is extremely impressive in the run game. As a pass protector, he does not have the footwork or ability to ‘latch on’ like Stanley, but he does have Greg Robinson-esque power.
7) Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon
The Heisman trophy winner seems to be an ‘all in’ or ‘all out’ type prospect with many media members as draft season is officially underway. The concerns with Mariota are adapting to making more NFL throws, as the offense he runs at Oregon relies on screens and short passes more often than not.
Although Mariota’s numbers are inflated from the system he plays in, he has flashed as an NFL passer throughout his junior season. He has the arm to make down field throws and elite speed for a 6’4, 220 pound passer. He displays good pocket presence and has the potential to be a star at the next level in the right situation. Come draft night, there will be a team in the top ten that takes the gamble on Mariota as the future of their franchise.
8) Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama
Cooper may not be in the Sammy Watkins, Odell Beckham Jr., and Mike Evans tier from the 2014 NFL Draft, but that should not takeaway from how talented of a player he is. He might not dominate with physicality by catching the ball over defensive backs, but he doesn’t need to due to top notch separation ability.
Cooper ‘glides’ through his routes, reminiscent of Steelers’ wide out Antonio Brown. What I mean by this is that he never loses an ounce of speed while he breaks into his routes, making it nearly impossible for a defensive back to keep up as they turn or flip their hips. Cooper is not a lock to be the first wide out taken in the 2015 NFL Draft, but it would be hard to argue against.
9) Randy Gregory, EDGE, Nebraska
The 6’6 Gregory stacks up second in this impressive edge class, right after Fowler. His raw skill set is a little more impressive than Fowler’s due to his length, but he is not nearly as refined or as explosive off the snap. Once an NFL coach works with Gregory on disengaging blocks with his hands at a more consistent rate, he can evolve into one of the best pass rushers in the league.
10) Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa
Scherff is one the more ‘pro ready’ prospects available in the draft, but right now that position is at guard. Much like La’el Collins, he is a freight train in the running game. He finds his way into the second level of the field and paves the way for rushers.
His movement in pass protection isn’t spotless, which would make guard the best possible spot for him to start his career. Do not be mistaken though, he can have a Zack Martin-esque impact on an NFL franchise in 2015.
Follow Connor Rogers: @CRogers_NFL