The names listed in each tier are not ranked, they are grouped.
Tier one (4)
Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
Solomon Thomas (DL, Stanford)
Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
Myles Garrett and Solomon Thomas are two of the most explosive defensive linemen to enter the league in a generation. Here’s how they compare to other great defensive linemen using TEF:
Myles Garrett — 4.21
Mario Williams — 3.97
Solomon Thomas — 3.83
J.J. Watt — 3.82
Khalil Mack — 3.81
Aaron Donald — 3.53
Jadeveon Clowney — 3.50
O.J. Howard could be the most complete tight end to enter the NFL, possibly ever. He’s a 4.50 runner at 250lbs, has textbook blocking technique and can be the ultimate weapon at the next level.
Leonard Fournette is a beast. Pure and simple. Like all running backs the environment he plays in is crucial. If he lands on a team committed to running the ball with at least an average offensive line, he has superstar potential.
Tier two (5)
Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
Malik Hooker (S, Ohio State)
Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
Haason Reddick is a modern day defensive dynamo. He flies to the football, plays with great intensity, gets sideline to sideline and can rush the passer. He could be Ryan Shazier working inside or Von Miller lite at OLB.
Marlon Humphrey is the best cornerback in the draft in my opinion. For some reason there’s too much focus on his ball-tracking skills (can be improved) and not enough on his physicality, athleticism and coverage ability.
Whenever you get a chance to draft someone with Earl Thomas’ range and nose for the ball, you should seriously consider it. Malik Hooker is cut from the same cloth and while he probably lacks Earl’s quirky intensity — he’ll allow teams to play single-high and exploit the benefits of nickel base.
Jonathan Allen is a bad ass. He isn’t twitchy and he isn’t going to dominate like Aaron Donald at the next level. He will, however, absorb blocks and set the tone up front. He’s a finisher when he gets sight of the quarterback.
Garett Bolles plays like he’s pissed off with the world. You want your linemen to have an edge and Bolles is as nasty as they come on the field. He’s also incredibly athletic — capable of locking on to a D-liner, winning with leverage and possessing the hip-torque to turn his man in the run game to open up huge lanes.
Tier three (6)
Jarrad Davis (LB, Florida)
Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
John Ross (WR, Washington)
Patrick Willis? Ray Lewis? These comps are not unfair for Jarrad Davis. He’s that good. Plays his tail off, great athlete, fantastic character.
Adoree’ Jackson is the ultimate playmaker and a first round pick in any draft. He’s a threat to score any time he touches the ball. He could be one of the all-time great kick returners. Fantastic character and a willing tackler despite his lack of size.
Christian McCaffrey is another player perfectly matched for the modern game. He can line up in the backfield, split out wide and cause constant headaches for a defense. He could be Julian Edelman or Doug Baldwin in the slot and he’s a sudden, physical runner in the backfield.
Jabrill Peppers might be the most misunderstood player in the draft. His entire role at Michigan was to contain the edge in the run game. The whole ‘one interception’ thing is such a misplaced narrative. He’s a dynamic, gritty strong safety or big nickel and a plus return man.
Reuben Foster could slip due to character concerns but these appear to be mostly related to the company he keeps. It’s hard to judge him on that — especially if you were considering moving him to the other side of America. He’s highly athletic and hits like a sledgehammer.
John Ross isn’t just a 4.22 runner down the field only capable of separating on a go-route or deep post. He consistently wins at the snap, creating early separation in his routes. In the modern NFL he can be a genuine threat lined up outside or in the slot, capable of Antonio Brown-style mass production in the right offense.
Tier four (15)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Kevin King (CB, Washington)
Chidobe Awuzie (CB, Colorado)
Forrest Lamp (G, Western Kentucky)
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Marson Lattimore (CB, Ohio State)
Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
David Njoku (TE, Miami)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Tyus Bowser (EDGE, Houston)
Evan Engram (TE, Ole Miss)
Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
The more I watched Quincy Wilson, the more I liked. He has good size, mirrors receivers very well and anticipates routes to play the ball. He’s confident and cocky (in a good way) with the size to be physical in the run game.
Kevin King is a freak of nature. There just aren’t many 6-3, 200lbs cornerbacks capable of running a 4.43, jumping a 39.5 inch vertical and flashing the kind of agility he showed in the short shuttle (3.89) and three cone (6.56). There are ways he can improve at the next level but any coach worth his salt is going to want to work with this physical profile.
Chidobe Awuzie is what the league needs as it moves ever closer to a consensus nickel base. He has the athleticism to cover the slot, the awareness and physicality to be an effective blitzer and the football IQ to line up at safety, outside corner or inside. He can be a hybrid starting at nickel and dropping into a two-deep zone in certain looks.
Forrest Lamp was the most explosive offensive lineman at the combine. He lacks the length to be an obvious fit at tackle but he could be an early starter at guard or center. Great character and attitude. The type of player teams love for their O-lines.
There are a lot of reasons to like Gareon Conley — size, length, athleticism, fantastic positional awareness. There is one minor quibble though — he didn’t use his hands enough at Ohio State. He can’t get away with conceding so many free releases at the next level and he has to learn how to jam and re-route.
There isn’t a ton of difference between Marshon Lattimore and Conley. Lattimore is the better athlete but there are concerns about his long term health (hamstring issues).
Taco Charlton is a really fun player to watch. He was finally being used properly as a Senior, lining up as a pure EDGE and attacking the LOS. He could be Chandler Jones as a fair comparison and his ceiling is possibly Aldon Smith.
David Njoku is a sensational athlete at the tight end position. A true mismatch target. He can line up outside or as a joker. His blocking is better than advertised. He will dominate smaller cornerbacks and safety’s. Only scratched the surface of his potential at Miami. Would like to see more of an edge.
Budda Baker is a 5-10 defensive back who plays like he’s 6-4 and 225lbs. Intense, physical, fast. Very few players can sift through traffic and explode into the backfield like Baker. There will be concerns about his size if you want to play him in the slot but if anyone can make it work it’s Budda.
The league is going through a phase where teams are utilising multiple-WR sets and emphasising the tight end in the slot. The counter punch is the 4-2-5 formation and the use of the big nickel. Obi Melifonwu could set a new standard for one of the most important positions in the modern NFL.
T.J. Watt and Tyus Bowser are almost identical physically. Let’s add a third name into the equation — Khalil Mack. Look at how they compare to the reigning NFL defensive MVP. You’ll be surprised how they similar they are.
Evan Engram sometimes gets lost in the wash but he might be Mike Evans (Tampa Bay receiver). He’s a 4.42 runner at 234lbs. People raved about Melifonwu’s 4.40 at 225lbs. Engram thoroughly deserves a first round grade.
Jamal Adams is a good football player but is he really special? His pro-day was considerably better than his combine which is always suspicious. He’s not an overly physical hitter and he’s not as rangy as Hooker. He’s a good leader though and made some big plays at LSU.
Mike Williams isn’t a great athlete and might be more Alshon Jeffrey than DeAndre Hopkins. Jeffrey is still a really good player though and Williams is capable of similar production in the NFL.
Tier five (10)
Justin Evans (S, Texas A&M)
Cam Robinson (T, Alabama)
Takk McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
Tre’Davious White (CB, LSU)
Jourdan Lewis (CB, Michigan)
Corey Davis (WR, Western Michigan)
Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
Cordrea Tankersley (CB, Clemson)
Chris Wormley (DT, Michigan)
Yes, the missed tackles are a concern for Justin Evans. They are for Earl Thomas too. I’m willing to live with that a little to tap into Evans’ explosive athleticism, bone-jarring hits and special plays.
Cam Robinson is a good offensive linemen. However, there has to be a legit feeling that he’ll end up moving inside to guard where you can make the most of his size and power — because he isn’t explosive, mobile or particularly athletic.
Takk McKinley has a lot of potential. He’s a 1.60 10-yard runner and his motor never stops. He’s relentless. His technique needs some fine-tuning and he might have a Ziggy Ansah learning curve but he has a ton of upside.
Charles Harris really boosted his stock at the Mizzou pro-day with better results in tests like the vertical jump. He performed well during the positional drills at the combine too. Highly athletic EDGE rusher and his best football is ahead of him.
The #18 jersey at LSU is coveted, saved for a player with special personal and leadership qualities. Tre’Davious White has worn the #18 for the last two seasons. He’s not a twitchy athlete but he’s tough, fast enough and is a playmaker in the return game. Dependable.
Jourdan Lewis is toughness personified. He never backs down, he’s sticky in coverage and plays well above his size in the run game. He’s a specialist slot cornerback with grit and intensity. Consistently made plays at Michigan.
Corey Davis hasn’t done any workouts this off-season due to injury. He has some concentration drops and he’s better after the catch than he is running routes or creating separation. Might be a bit of a Jordan Matthews at the next level.
Zach Cunningham isn’t a sideline-to-sideline, super fast Ryan Shazier type linebacker. He is explosive and tough, ideally suited to playing the MIKE. He’ll be a tackle machine for several years.
Cordrea Tankersley is savvy, physical and has some really good tape against tough opponents. He dominated Bucky Hodges at Virginia Tech. He undercuts routes, jams with authority and anticipates throws to make interceptions.
Chris Wormley can be inconsistent and it’s unclear whether he’ll ever be a truly dynamic pass rusher. However, he has really good size and length — plus a strong motor and great attitude. He might not be a headline maker at the next level but he might be a solid, underrated starter.
Key names not included (and why)
The Seahawks have a franchise quarterback so there was little point including them here. I will say though — I like Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and Mitch Trubisky. I’m not sure why they’re considerably less hyped than Jared Goff.
Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State) & Joe Mixon (RB, Oklahoma)
Just a personal opinion (and it’s my board after all). If they’re good, they can be good somewhere else. Zero sleep lost.
Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
He was a zero-star recruit, he quit football once already and while you have to give him respect for coming back and making a career out of this in the end — he’s now recovering after surgery on a torn labrum and hasn’t done any off-season work-outs. He doesn’t wow you on tape and he isn’t a dominant run blocker. I’m willing to risk him being really good somewhere else.
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
Jones is a really good player but achilles injuries are legit. The chances are he won’t play in 2017. I’d consider him after round two as a redshirt but look at all the injured players San Francisco used to draft and stash. How many worked out?
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
Short arms, mediocre athleticism, small size. It’s not a great combination. Barnett plays hard every week and had some great moments in Tennessee. Is he going to be able to re-create that at the next level with his limited physical profile?
Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
Without the character concerns, he’s a first rounder. When a player constantly admits his mistakes and keeps making them — that’s a problem. He’s good but is he worth the risk in the top-50?
Fabian Moreau (CB, UCLA)
He tore his pec at the UCLA pro-day. His athleticism and frame are better suited in the slot but he struggled working inside. He’s been injured a lot in his career.
15 names for later on (Day 2-3, UDFA)
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Noble Nwachukwu (DE, West Virginia)
Nico Siragusa (G, San Diego State)
Jehu Chesson (WR, Michigan)
George Kittle (TE, Iowa)
Michael Davis (CB, BYU)
Rayshawn Jenkins (S, Miami)
Samson Ebukam (EDGE, Eastern Washington)
Scott Orndoff (TE, Pittsburgh)
Daeshon Hall (EDGE, Texas A&M)
Brandon Wilson (CB, Houston)
Deangelo Yancey (WR, Purdue)
Adrian Colbert (S, Miami)
Damore’ea Stringfellow (WR, Ole Miss)
Dylan Cole (LB, Missouri State)