Now that players should their athletic abilities at the Scouting Combine and with pro days already running I decided to list my top ten prospects in the draft for each position. This is based on who I think these players can become and not just the top guys right now from one to ten. Each of them can still boost their draft stock with good individual workouts. Today I’m taking a look at the offensive players. Here they are:
- Marcus Mariota, Oregon
- Jameis Winston, Florida State
- Brett Hundley, UCLA
- Bryce Petty, Baylor
- Garrett Grayson, Colorado State
- Shane Carden, East Carolina
- Sean Mannion, Oregon State
- Blake Sims, Alabama
- Bryan Bennett, Southeastern Louisiana
- Connor Halliday, Washington State
To me there’s a huge gap between the top two quarterbacks and everybody else.
I went with Mariota over Winston mainly based on potential. He has tons of talent, a clear record off the field and turned the football over just seven times during his Heisman campaign compared to his 57 total touchdowns. Whoever drafts him will need to have him sit on the bench for some time, but put in the right offense he can really be a superstar in this league.
As pretty much every average football fan has heard already, Winston is more pro-ready. He can make all the throws necessary, he can stand tall in the pocket and has played in a pro-style offense. But he threw 18 interceptions last year and with domestic violence becoming a bigger and bigger issue in the NFL his past hurts him.
Deciding on my number three prospect at quarterback wasn’t easy, but I went with Hundley right here. He delivers some question marks such as his ability to read defenses and willingness to stay in the pocket, but he is a very good athlete with a strong, accurate arm who has some qualities that can’t be taught.
Right behind him is Bryce Petty, who pretty much seems to have all it takes to lead a team. Scouts like his size and leadership. He’s also a decent athlete, but coming from a one-read Baylor offense he needs time to develop his progression. His back problems may have hurt his numbers in 2014, but he has the most natural throwing motion among this class.
Grayson is a guy who can do pretty much everything and checks off all the boxes, but other than great deep ball accuracy he doesn’t have any ability that separates him from the rest. Put in a run-based offense with a lot of talent around him he can be very successful.
Carden is a very intelligent, competitive and hard-working player, who lacks some physical traits such as arm strength and foot quickness. He does a good job reading defenses and may prove people wrong who question his ability to succeed with the skill set he has.
Mannion started four years in Oregon State’s pro-style offense. He needs time to go through his progression, but finds the open target when he’s protected. 74 turnovers over his career are a big issue with many of those coming due to poor ball security in the pocket. He can produce when plays work the way they are scripted, but struggles when they break down.
With Jacob Coker transferring to Alabama, many expected him to start for the Crimson Tide, but Sims won the competition in the offseason and remained his success during the year as he was named second team All-SEC. His 5’11’’ size might be his biggest problem to attract attention from scouts, but he can succeed within the pocket and the elusiveness to move and create time. He will need a run-based offense around him that features a lot of play-action though.
Bennett only completed just under 50 percent of his passes in 2014 due to him relying too much on his arm strength. He will have to prove he can win with his intelligence and eyes, but is a very good athlete with a lot of room for improvement.
With tons of production at Washington State and great improvement over the years, Halliday is often referred to as a system quarterback with a skinny frame. He understands the game though and will have to continue to grow.
Overall this is a very weak quarterback class with maybe only one plug-and-play guy on the board. After the top two signal callers are off the board you will only see one or two others go per round.
- Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
- Todd Gurley, Georgia
- Jay Ajayi, Boise State
- David Johnson, Northern Iowa
- Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
- Duke Johnson, Miami
- T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
- Tevin Coleman, Indiana
- Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
- Mike Davis, South Carolina
Right there: David Cobb (Minnesota), Javorius Allen (USC)
Gordon finished the year with the most rushing yards in the country (2587) and second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Wisconsin seems to have one of the best rushing attacks every year because of their offensive line and that’s why their running backs are often called system players, but Gordon is different. He has outstanding balance and acceleration. He wasn’t a huge part of the passing game, but he made some critical catch-and-runs to keep drives going and has become a very good pass blocker as well. There’s a reason he’s often compared to Jamaal Charles. The only thing the Badger running back doesn’t have is the kind of top-end speed Charles has.
Gurley might be the number one prospect in the entire draft if not for his knee injury. I think he’d be better suited if he would sit at last a part of the 2015 season, but if the team that drafts him has the patience to let him get healthy, they will hit the jackpot. He runs hard with a lot of power to run through arm tackles and put his head into tacklers’ chests, but also has the shiftiness to make defenders miss and the speed to finish his runs. He has natural hands, doesn’t put the ball on the ground and steadily improves his pass protection skills. It will be extremely important for him to show scouts he can return to his natural form.
Boise State brings out a more powerful version of Doug Martin is his former teammate Jay Ajayi. He probably is the most complete back in the entire draft. He has the wiggle to make defenders miss, good speed and a fighting running style. He is a proven pass catcher out of the backfield but also split out wide. He was very productive in his junior year as the combined for nearly 2400 total yards.
David Johnson is just a joy to watch. He has a big body with a long-stride running style and the best receiver skill set at his position. Many people think he doesn’t have the foot quickness to succeed at the next level, but I’ve seen him put a foot in the ground and leave tacklers behind in the dust and defenders never seem to get a clear shot at him. His 40 yard dash at 4.50 (and his Combine resume in general) improves his stock a lot since he isn’t referred to as a guy with great top-end speed.
Abdullah is only 205 pounds heavy, but he is very energetic runner with great body control and running back instincts. He cuts explosively without losing speed and makes it happen however he gets the ball in his hands – as a runner, receiver and returner. The thing that keeps me from putting him higher is his ball security as he fumbled 13 times as a Cornhusker.
The Duke was the most exciting big-play runner in college football during his time at Miami as he doesn’t need much to defenses pay. Coming into the league as Miami’s all-time leader in all-purpose yardage his burst, acceleration and suddenness will transfer well to the NFL, but his tendency to break runs to the outside, inconsistent pass protection and injury concerns keep him away from the top of the draft board.
Yeldon is one of the hardest backs to evaluate. He comes from a college that brings out one of the highest-ranked runners every year. He often runs too upright and exposes his body and the ball without good pass blocking, but I think he has the talent to really make a difference. When I saw his first game with Alabama I thought he would be a star soon, but injuries, fumbles and overall inconsistencies have held him from becoming that kind of player. He’s probably best in a two-back rotation.
Coleman approaches every play the same – hit the homerun. He is willing to pound it between the tackles and then turns it on in the second level with outstanding speed and violent finishes. He has an explosive jump-cut in the hole and works hard in pass protection. The problem with him is that the only has one speed and therefore lacks the patience to let plays develop.
Langford is a workhorse-type runner with college-untypical maturity which shows in great pass protection, patience and reliability. He keeps his pads low and doesn’t dance around. He lacks great shiftiness, but his time in the 40 (4.42) make scouts go back to the tape and reevaluate his ability to finish runs with pure speed.
The Gamecocks’ Mike Davis took a step from his 2013 campaign last year, but remains one of the top prospects. His North-and-South running style, a suprising second gear and willingness to fight for extra yards will fit in well with the NFL. He has tight hips and lacks the wiggle to make defenders miss, but can play all three downs.
Cobb looks like an NFL back with good vision and great production at the college level. He isn’t a shifty run and won’t outrun defenses, but he has the toughness to pound it inside and keep drives going with great reliability and durability.
Buck Allen is a complete slashing back who attacks the line, but also has the patience to let things develop. He has thick thighs to initiate contact and then drive his legs to gain extra yards. He doesn’t have great balance or breakaway speed, but he looks like a complete back to me.
- Amari Cooper, Alabama
- Kevin White, West Virginia
- DeVante Parker, Louisville
- Dorial Green-Beckham, Oklahoma
- Breshad Perriman, Central Florida
- Phillip Dorsett, Miami
- Nelson Agholor (USC)
- Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
- Devin Smith, Ohio State
- Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Right there: Sammie Coates (Auburn), Rashad Greene (Florida State)
Everything Cooper does looks so smooth. He comes out of breaks effortless and creates separation quickly. Although he’s so smooth he works very hard to make himself available for the quarterback. He doesn’t have elite size or speed, but is a complete receiver who can fit right in as your number one guy, as he caught 124 passes last year on his way to being the third finalist for the Heisman Trophy.
White is a physical freak. At 6-3, 215 pounds he ran a 4.35 40 and bench-pressed 2-and-a-quarter 23 times. With his crazy combination of size, speed and strength he features some of the best upside in the draft. He’s not as polished as Cooper, but he has great ball skills and will make defensive backs look awful.
Parker plays the ball in the air probably better than any other receiver in the draft and his catch radius is near the top as well. He has natural hands and a feel for the position, but needs to work on his route-running, as he doesn’t always run them precisely nor comes out of breaks explosively, and also on beating press-coverage.
I think DGB has the best ability among all receivers mentioned. His huge frame, great ball skills and overall athleticism are very intriguing and will turn some heads in the process, but his work ethic and commitment to football will decide how high his ceiling is. Because if he plays more physical against man-coverage he can do some crazy stuff.
UCF’s Perriman is a very intriguing prospect. When you look at his measurements he simply looks like a prototype NFL receiver in today’s game. He combines that with unbelievable top-end speed (4.24 in the 40 at his pro day) and an incredible ability to climb the ladder and come down with highlight catches. His route running is sloppy and he has too many drops. You often hear he doesn’t have good hands, but I disagree – those are a combination of focus drops and a lack of touch on a lot of those throws. He will need to show scouts at his pro day that he can run more precise routes and that he catches the ball naturally, but his feel for the big play can’t be overlooked.
To all the people who think Dorsett is just a speed-guy – He is not! He has elite quickness, agility and body control. He can work from the outside, from the slot, can take the top off defenses but also burn them on crossing routes. He has a thin frame and will have to prove he can take the hits inside, but he is a complete receiver with the ability to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. He had an excellent Senior Bowl week and reminds a lot of the Cardinals’ Jon Brown who came out last year.
Agholor is an intelligent, well-built and instinctive receiver who is quicker than fast. He has pretty good speed, but fails to create a lot of separation down the field, which makes many scouts think he won’t be successful on the outside. He has great value as a possession slot-receiver who can step right in as a return man.
Strong has done nothing but to improve his draft stock since the season ended. He had a good combine and an outstanding pro day as he caught everything thrown his way. He is a very well-rounded receiver who only lacks great speed. He has an ability to get the inside release and the toughness to go over the middle. He will be a great possession-receiving who can also compete for the ball in the air and can work from the slot. He drops two spots on my list because of injury concerns.
Ohio State has never lost a game when Devin Smith has caught a touchdown. He has football-speed, which means he doesn’t only measure well (4.42 in the 40) but also seems to always run by defenders. His game is often too much relied on speed and he has to work on completing catches, but he has the foot quickness and hip fluidity to be more than just a big-play guy.
I had Lockett ranked as high as Duke’s Jamison Crowder before the combine, but after Lockett ran significantly faster I had to re-evaluate him. I think he (unlike Crowder) can work from the slot and the outside. He has the wiggle and suddenness to consistently create separation, but will need to learn how to play press-coverage more physical. He can step in right away as a return man.
Coates is a size-speed standout who consistently pops out on tape with big plays. He tends to double-catch passes and is still raw in his route running, but he has great upside and will get behind defenses from time to time.
To me Greene is one of the most underrated receivers in the draft. He was the number one guy for Jameis Winston during his time at FSU and left as their all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, because he did everything right. He runs smooth routes, can change directions quickly and has come up big when his team needed him. He only lacks elite speed and size to be among the highest-rated players at his position.
- Maxx Williams, Minnesota
- Clive Walford, Miami
- Devin Funchess, Michigan
- Nick O’Leary, Florida State
- Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
- Tyler Kroft, Rutgers
- Nick Boyle, Delaware
- Ben Koyack, Notre Dame
- Jesse James, Penn State
- MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
Williams clearly is the best tight-end in this year’s draft. He has the all-around skill set to dominate at the next level – he runs routes naturally, has soft hands, good straight-line speed and a lot of room to keep improving. He’s a much better blocker than he gets credit for, but lacks explosiveness and has tight hips. He could be a dominant move tight-end in the NFL.
Walford has improved his run blocking immensely during his time at Miami. He’s twitchy, accelerates quickly, but also has the strength to come down with competed catches. He can be moved everywhere on the field and asked to make plays. After he catches the ball he will look to take it the distance and makes a lot of YAC. Focus drops have been his biggest issue during his collegiate career.
What you get with Funchess is an unbelievable matchup-nightmare. What you don’t get is a reliable blocker. I listed him as a tight-end because I don’t think he has enough speed to succeed on the outside. I think he could still add weight to his body and should high-point catches better. He only has average hands, but his potential is intruiging.
O’Leary is a complete tight-end who lacks great athletic ability. He doesn’t need any gloves to be a reliable pass catcher who looks to make himself available for his quarterback. He’s a very intelligent player who understands coverages and finds holes in it.
Heuerman saw his numbers drop last year from where they were in 2013 due to quarterback changes and a foot-injury, but he has all the physical traits to be an elite player at his position at the next level. He’s 6’5’’, 250+ pounds, a workout warrior and has great speed. He does an outstanding job adjusting to the ball and getting up to bring catches down. He has to transfer his strength to the field when it comes to being a consistent blocker and not getting redirected in his routes, but he could be a star some day.
Kroft brings great athleticism and aggressive blocking to the position. He will immediately upgrade your run game, but has the quickness and slipperiness to get open as well. He’s often referred to as a body-catcher, but I think he’s got very good hands. He isn’t considered one of the top prospects because he’s not polished as a pass catcher.
Nick Boyle is one of my favorite players to watch in the entire draft. You can line him up at tight end, H-back, fullback and in the slot. He has long arms and natural hands to fight for the ball in traffic. He looked better in 2013, but I think if he works on using his big frame to be a more consistent blocker he can be a versatile offensive weapon.
Koyack is a devastating run blocker with great technique and hand placement. He can drive defensive ends from the line of scrimmage but also seal the edge. He has strong hands and the size you want to see at this position, but hasn’t been used as a receiver a lot, so he will need some positional work. I love his competitive spirit.
At 6’7’’ James presents a big frame that could even add more muscle. He works hard to get open and also compete for jump balls, but only shows flashes of his highly praised athleticism on the field and will have to work on becoming a more reliable blocker.
Pruitt might have the most natural hands and speed among his peers. He was highly productive as a four-year starter and seems to have all it takes to be successful in the NFL. The problem with him is his competitiveness and consistency, as demonstrated by a lack of effort on back-side blacking and on run plays in general.
- Andrus Peat, Stanford
- Ereck Flowers, Miami
- D.J. Humphries, Florida
- T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh
- Ty Sambrailo, Colorado State
- Jake Fisher, Oregon
- Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin
- Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
- Rob Crisp, N.C. State
- Austin Shepherd, Alabama
Peat combines great size, power, foot quickness and intelligence. He was well-coached at Stanford (like all O-linemen coming out of there) and uses his length well but also plays with good leverage. He got beat by speed rushers a couple of times and will need to improve his technique in pass sets to protect against the fast edge rushers in the league, but he probably is the most pro-ready (left) tackle in the draft already.
Flowers has unbelievably quick feet but can also overpower people. Like Clemmings his pass protection will need some work and he will have to adjust to the pros where many of the holding penalties he didn’t get at the collegiate level will be called. If he can play with more balance and stay square to edge rushers he has a lot of potential as a starting left tackle.
Humphries has a little edge in his play. He prides himself on toughness and playing through the whistle. He combines that demeanor with great athleticism and length. He tends to lean into defenders in both the pass and run which leads to not having his feet under him and he will have to work with an offensive line coach on his messy hand placement.
Clemmings is a kind of a work in progress. He played right tackle at Pitt and showed he could compete with the best, but has shown inconsistency at times. He got embarrassed at the Senior Bowl by a couple of guys like Utah’s Nate Orchard, but his upside is tremendous. He’s extremely athletic (coming from a basketball background) and can shield defenders with his long frame, but he’ll need to work on his technique and play with more confidence. If teams give him some time to develop he could become an elite left tackle.
Sambrailo is a technically sound pass protector who has the athleticism to stay in front of edge rushers and keeps his feet under him. He will need to work on his core strength and hand positioning in the run game, but I like his technique and nastiness when he finishes plays.
Fisher is a former tight-end who will need to keep adding weight to his long frame. Therefore he lacks some power in the running game, but does a good job using angles to open up holes and has outstanding foot quickness and conditioning.
The 6’7’’mammoth out of Wisconsin named Rob Havenstein often gets criticized for being a bad athlete, but he has surprisingly mobile feet to pair with good balance, great coaching and an intelligence to use his strength to lead rushers to the outside and then drive them away from the passer. He plays too tall but helped Melvin Gordon to lead the country in rushing.
You have to worry about Ogbuehi’s torn ACL, lack of core strength and the fact he led the SEC in sacks allowed, but he has the potential to attract team’s interests. If you think he needs some time to get healthy and work on his technique you give him a shot. To me he’s kind of a high risk – high reward guy.
Coaches will love Rob Crisp. He always plays with high effort, good hand placement and quick feet who never stop moving. He has long arms and stays square to edge rushers. He will need to hit the weight room to become a more powerful run blocker, but has a good shot of becoming a starting left tackle at some point.
Sheperd is a big, tough guy who doesn’t have the kind of athleticism some other prospects at his position have, but his hard-working mentality combined with good technique give him a lot of value. He can mirror defenders and uses great positioning and angles to open up lanes.
Interior Offensive Linemen:
- Brandon Scherff, Iowa
- La’el Collins, LSU
- Cameron Erving, Florida State
- A.J. Cann, South Carolina
- Laken Tomlinson, Duke
- Hroniss Grasu, Oregon
- Tre’ Jackson, Florida State
- Ali Marpet, Hobart
- Reese Dismukes, Auburn
- John Miller, Louisville
Right there: Arie Kouandjio (Alabama), Daryl Williams (Oklahoma)
I think Scherff can really be what Zack Martin was for the Cowboys last if a team decides to move him to the guard spot. I’m not saying he will be First Team All-Pro in 2015, but I think he has Pro Bowl potential at that position. He brings unbelievable toughness, strength and power combined with a lot of intelligence and great movement skills for his size. He has also shown what a nasty finisher he can be.
Collins played left tackle at LSU, but I project him to play guard as well even though I think you could line him up wherever you want. He plays with an edge and finishes his blocks hard. When he grabs you it’s over. To me what makes him a guard is the fact he’s a great lateral mover, but not quite as good when he kicks back. The thing he’ll have to work on is how he uses and places his hands.
Cam Erving is a former defensive lineman who converted to the other side of the ball just two years, but had instant success at left tackle. In 2014 he switched to center during the season, which really helped the offensive line, and that’s also the position I think will suit him best in the NFL. He positions his feet and hands very well, dominates at the second level, competes hard and will only get better with time.
South Carolina always had one of the biggest offensive lines in college football and while Cann is only 6’3’’ he is one powerful man. He is best suited for a power-scheme where he will grab his guy and drive him until the whistle blows. He needs some work is pass protection and getting to the second level, but he has the intelligence to learn quickly and make an immediate impact.
Tomlinson is a road-grader with the ability to throw defenders through the air, but is often questioned for his athleticism. He made most of his money at the Senior Bowl in the one-on-ones with Washington’s Danny Shelton, where he seemed to be the only one able to control the monster. While his movement skills are questioned he is an intelligent player who gets under defensive linemen and hasn’t allowed a sack in two years.
Oregon’s center Grasu is a guy who can do everything well and doesn’t have any major flaws in his game. At just under 300 pounds he will need to add some weight, as he doesn’t display great power. He has outstanding lateral quickness, intelligence and control at thesecond level. He started 50 consecutive games and was a leader for the Ducks. A zone-scheme would be perfect for him.
Jackson came into the 2014 season probably ranked as the top guard in the country on most teams’ draft boards, but took a step back. He has a lot of talent and a huge frame, but often relies on that too much and struggles in space. His potential is great, but he will have to lose some weight and work on his movement skills.
Hobart’s Ali Marpet has been turning heads since the Senior Bowl. This Division III kid came into the week as an unknown prospect and competed hard against players from the best programs and was head-to-head with them. After that he stole the show at the Scouting Combine recording the fastest 40 among offensive linemen (4.98) and looking quick and fluid in positional drills. He moves his feet very well, has great hand placement, athleticism and much better technique you’d expect out of a D3 guy. He hasn’t played against great players during his collegiate career and will have to add to his frame, but I see him as a special prospect at center or guard.
Dismukes has very quick feet to move laterally and get to the second level as he was a reliable leader for Auburn in four years. He struggles with defenders right in his face and doesn’t have the physical traits or measurabels you’d like to see, but plays with great effort.
Miller is another player who will be best suited in a power-scheme. He has a thick body to move people out of the way and can create push with his hands. He lacks some of the athleticism and light feet you’d like to see, but I really like his tough demeanor and power.
Arie Kouandjio is certainly not the kind of athlete his brother Cryus was coming out of Alabama, but he is mauler in the run game who uses his length very well and can fire defenders off the ball. His stiffness in the lower body, inability to work efficiently in space and (like his brother) questions about his restructured knee worry scouts.
Oklahoma’s former tackle Daryl Williams will probably have to make the move to guard in the NFL because he doesn’t feature the athleticism and quickness to stay on the outside, but his big body, toughness, and competitiveness make him a valuable pickup.
As far as fullbacks go, I only wanted to list my top two guys, since I don’t think you’ll see any other player at that position get drafted before the seventh round or maybe even not at all.
- Jalston Fowler, Alabama
- Tyler Varga, Yale
Fowler to me is without question the number one guy at his position. He has proven he can play fullback, H-back and even some halfback especially on third down. He is big-bruising people-mover who has shown he can run good routes and catch the ball at the Senior Bowl.
Varga played the majority of his football career at halfback, but will come into the league as a fullback. He has an impressive body that almost only contains muscles. He fights for every inch as a runner and I think he can become a solid lead-blocker. He set the school record for rushing touchdowns as a senior with 26.
I’m already working on an edition for the defensive players as well, but I still have to watch some tape. It will come soon!