Now that the Under Armour promotional event known as the NFL combine is over and pro days are underway, teams draft boards are being finalized for the most vital weekend of the league’s off-season. The smart teams don’t get swayed by a player’s performance at the Combine or pro day, but it’s all apart of the crap shoot process to try and find players that will help you build your team so you don’t end up on NFL Network as an “expert.” You can’t let a player’s workouts tell his story, but they can take up a few chapters if he’s out of shape for the biggest job interview of his life.
With the combine over, this is a perfect time to unveil some of the top prospects as well as some personal favorites that will absolutely flame out at the NFL level. If you’re not afraid to be wrong, there’s no point in having an opinion, right? Speaking of the NFL’s power, did you know that “pro day” was trending on Twitter Thursday. If you had any doubts about this league being a year round sport, there’s your answer.
Nobody knows what the Chiefs will do with the 1st overall pick and this isn’t a ranking list. It’s just a list of the top prospects that hopefully won’t give you and your team false hope come April…
Luke Joeckel OT Texas A&M– Joeckel will likely be the first pick by the Chiefs because he’s an all around talent that played against the best competition there is in the SEC. He didn’t wow at the combine athletically, but that shouldn’t matter. With Branden Albert back on the franchise tag, Joeckel can start at RT from day one, and eventually move to LT if Albert leaves a year from now.
Eric Fisher OT Central Michigan– Fisher was outstanding at the Senior Bowl and impressed scouts at the combine. He’s a great athlete that has the potential to be a better player than Joe Staley.
Dee Milliner CB Alabama– The much talked about corner ran a 4.37 40 at the combine that silenced critics who wondered if he was fast enough to stay with elite NFL receivers. Milliner has a great all around game, but his hands need work. You don’t want to be dropping picks that will hurt your stats and pockets when it’s time to negotiate a 2nd contract.
Chance Warmack G Alabama– I could care less about Warmack looking out of shape and not as athletic as most expected at the combine. He’s a dominant interior lineman that will instantly upgrade a team’s line from the jump. He possesses the size and strength to overwhelm defensive lineman.
Lane Johnson OT Oklahoma– Johnson is shooting up draft boards because of his athleticism. He put on a show at the combine, and displayed the footwork to be a LT from day one. If he makes it past the 15th pick, I’d be shocked.
Sharrif Floyd DT Florida– Floyd is another player vaulting himself into the mix for the top pick. I don’t think the Chiefs should take him if they’re sticking with a 3-4 defense, but he’s the best defensive tackle in this class. He’s a prototypical 3-technique tackle that upgrade a 4-3 defense immediately.
Geno Smith QB West Virginia– Smith isn’t in the RGIII-Colin Kaepernick mold of athleticism, but he isn’t exactly a Matt Leinart stiff either. He’s a pocket passer that can run when necessary. I’m down on all of these QB’s except Arizona’s Matt Scott, but Smith is enticing to teams because of the success RGIII, Kaepernick, Wilson and Luck had last season. I could see the Cardinals taking him with the hopes he can challenge the Niners and Seahawks for years to come in the NFC West. All that being said, I don’t think Smith is a top 10 caliber quarterback for this or any draft. He has scouts salivating, but I have my doubts that he’ll ever be anything more than one read Geno.
Jarvis Jones OLB Georgia– Jones is the best pure pass rusher in this class, but his spinal stenosis is giving teams anxiety about taking him high in round 1. The fact that he produced in the SEC and is an athletic freak has teams in need of pass rushers salivating, but can you risk a top 10 pick on him?
Jonathan Cooper G UNC– You always hear you can’t take a guard high in the first round, but Cooper’s talents and athleticism make him a safe pick. He’s 6’2 311 pounds and is a fluid athlete. He’ll be a safe pick knowing you have a dominant interior lineman for the next 7-10 years.
Dion Jordan OLB Oregon– One of my favorite players in the draft. Jordan’s freakish ability to rush the passer and drop in coverage make him an ideal 3-4 OLB. He’ll need to add weight to his 240+ pound frame, but he has instant impact potential as long as his shoulder is 100% by the time the season starts.
Jamie Collins OLB Southern Miss– Another long-rangy-athletic outside linebacker that’s perfectly suited for 3-4 defenses. Collins is a former safety that has the speed to get to the QB off the edge and chase down running backs. He led Conference USA in tackles for loss last season, and could be a steal for a team if he gets overlooked because of the level of competition he played against.
Alec Ogletree ILB Georgia– Ogletree isn’t perfect off the field and he has red flags basically shooting out him, but he is a talent. I’d love to see the Bears snag him at 20 or with a trade up in the early 2nd should he slip, but there’s not much debate who is the best inside backer in this draft.
Barkevious Mingo OLB LSU– Mingo could make or break a team’s ’13 draft. He didn’t put up eye popping numbers at LSU last season, but he’ll freak scouts out because of his insane athletic talents. Like I always say… Beware of the combine warrior.
Keenan Allen WR Cal– A knee injury has slowed his chance to move up draft boards, but he’s in the Anquan Boldin mold and could be a steal for a team late in round 1. If he runs better than expected, he could surpass this guy and be the first receiver taken…
Cordarrelle Patterson WR Tennessee– Patterson is a height-weight-speed guy that could turn into A.J. Green, or be too raw in year one to make an impact like Stephen Hill. He’s a question mark despite all of his raw skills. He produced at Tennessee, but receiver is one of the toughest transitions to make from college to the league. If a team is patient, Patterson could be a gem.
Ezekiel Ansah DE/OLB BYU– The comparisons to JPP and Aldon Smith are pressure enough, but the 6’5 270 pound Ansah only played in 9 games at BYU. That’s the reality, but teams are eyeing him because of stellar performances at the Senior Bowl and the combine. He’s a boom or bust guy that will make or break someone’s draft. He’ll go in the top 15.
Sheldon Richardson DT Mizzou– Richardson is nice player with ability to push up the field and create havoc in offensive backfields. He’s strong, athletic and has a quick first step. He had 75 tackles last season, 10.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. That’s quite a statement considering he did it against SEC competition. He might be taken before this guy…
Star Lotulelei DT Utah– A heart condition is not something to mess around with, so teams will be examining his medicals unlike any other player. When healthy, he can be dominant. But do you really want to risk a first rounder on someone with an iffy ticker?
Tavon Austin WR West Virginia– A do it all player that can line up in the backfield, play receiver and return kicks. You cant to create as many match-up problems as you can in the NFL, and Austin will be a nice weapon for a team that doesn’t ask him to be an outside every down receiver. Oh, and his 4.34 40 and smooth catching ability won’t hurt his stock either.
Damontre Moore DE Texas A&M– I’m not a fan of Moore because he looked out of shape at the combine and ran a concerning 4.95 40. Unlike Mingo, Moore produced on the field with regularity, but his workouts have to concern teams. How are you out of shape this time of year?
Tyler Eifert TE ND– Eifert is the top tight end in the class and will be a day one starter no matter which team picks him. He’s that talented. He’s a fluid athlete, has great hands and was one of the few ND players that actually came to play in the BCS title game.
Xavier Rhodes CB FSU– Rhodes quieted concerns about his speed and quickness at the combine and now is line to be a legit first round pick. Corners with size (6’2), speed (4.43 40) and ability to play man to man don’t come around everyday and Rhodes will be a nice addition to any team.
Bjoern Werner DE FSU– Werner isn’t the high end athlete I want for a defensive end, but he’s productive and will bust his ass for you on every play. He’s not Chris Long, but he won’t kill you and make you want to forget you drafted him. I wouldn’t take him high in the first because of his questionable athleticism.
D.J. Fluker OT Alabama– An ideal fit for the Bears should they go OT at 20. I don’t care if people view him as a RT only in the NFL, he’s better than anyone the Bears have on their roster and would start on the right side from day one.
Some of the other players I like are Zach Ertz TE Stanford, Eric Reid S LSU, Jonathan Cyprien S FIU, Desmond Trufant CB Washington, Datone Jones DE UCLA and of course, Eddie Lacy RB Alabama.
My favorite part of preparing for the draft is not just familiarizing myself with the top prospects, it’s knowing that my job or reputation isn’t on the line if one of these guys proves to be a bustout. But if Matt Scott ends up being the best QB from this class, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
This will be updated often with more information on the NFL 2017 – 2018 Draft