*Click on the link in blue to see actual rankings. Synopsis below each position by Tom Sisti. We realize there are some overlap between certain positions. We listed guys at any position we thought they legitimately will play or should play.
Running Backs Grade:
There is no Adrian Peterson-type elite prospect at running back, though there are a handful who should be successful in the NFL. Mark Ingram is the number one running back on the board. He doesn’t have exceptional size or speed, but his vision and awareness are better than any back in the nation. Mikel Leshoure and Daniel Thomas are two big backs who would fit in greatly in a time share with a smaller back. Ryan Williams and DeMarco Murray are two backs who offer more big-play ability and will be great values for whoever takes them. Derrick Locke is a potential X-factor in the middle rounds with his sprinter speed. There are plenty of backs who should make rosters and contribute, just like any other year.
Wide Receivers Grade:
There’s just about everything you could ask for in this class. Top-end all-everything talent? A.J. Green and Julio Jones should be among the best in the league for many years. Deep threat who can stretch the field? Titus Young and Torrey Smith offer all the speed you could ask for. What about a bigger target who you can throw it up to? Leonard Hankerson, Jon Baldwin, Tandon Doss all have the size to box out defenders and allow the quarterback to put in a spot where only he can get it. But what about a productive receiver in the slot? Randall Cobb, Jerrel Jernigan, and Vincent Brown are quality starters who could be really dangerous in the slot. There is a lot of talent at this position all the way up to the 3rd round, with some more intriguing prospects available in the later rounds.
Tight Ends Grade:
This is not the strongest tight end class in recent memory. Kyle Rudolph may sneak his way into the first round, but if not he will be off the board in round two. Lance Kendricks and Luke Stocker are two quality receiving threats, Kendricks the better receiver and Stocker the better blocker. D.J. Williams will be a solid mid-round pick for a team who will only ask him to catch passes, not block. Virgil Green has impressed in post season workouts. Weslye Saunders has had serious problems, but he could end up making a team somewhere. Outside of them, there’s just really not a ton of depth, and even the top-end talent at tight end this year is not very strong.
Offensive Tackles Grade:
There’s a few guys who should hear the names in the middle of Day 1. It’s a very close race between them to be the top tackle off the board. Nate Solder may be the most athletic of the bunch and has the most pass blocking potential. Tyron Smith and Anthony Castonzo are two finesse tackles who should go mid-late first, and the same can be said about Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod, two more complete tackles. Ben Ijalana is a small school prospect who has flown up draft boards. One player who I’m very high on is Marcus Cannon, who some see as a guard but I believe could be a very good right tackle at his size. The one thing this class lacks is a top 10 player or two. There are good tackles to be had, though.
Mike Pouncey is clearly at the head of the class. After watching his twin brother, Maurkice, make the Pro Bowl as a rookie, some team will expect the same out of him in round one. Rodney Hudson will be a real steal if he goes to the right team, the only thing his game lacks is elite size. Danny Watkins and Stefen Wisniewski should hear their names called in round two, plus maybe John Moffitt and Clint Boling. Will Rackley has managed to create some buzz despite playing at Lehigh. There other solid linemen that will get taken most later who are most likely just depth players but could end being starters eventually.
3-4 OLBs Grade:
Defensive Tackles Grade:
Same rules apply here. There are some outstanding 3-4 ends, too. Nick Fairley is more suited for 4-3 DT, but he will be a very good 3-4 DE if he was asked to play there.Marcell Dareus is streaky, but he has shown enough to go in the top ten. J.J. Watt is slightly underrated and sure looks to us like he belongs in the first half of round one. Corey Liuget will probably go in the first to play the three somewhere. There’s many more players (Jordan, Wilkerson, Heyward, Taylor, Ballard, Nevis, Paea) who will be gone by round three. There’s ten or fifteen legitimate if you group these positions together. Defensive line as a whole is easily the strongest unit in this draft, it’s not even close.
4-3 OLBs Grade:
This position is very weak this year, with the only saving graces being Von Miller and Akeem Ayers, who may end up as 3-4 LBs. They are the only two who will go in the first round. Bruce Carter is very talented and Mason Foster can rack up tackles, but after these top four there’s really not many good prospects at the position. The guys at the top get a high grade, but the significant drop-off so soon makes the group as a whole mediocre.
Martez Wilson is the only guy who has a legitimate chance to be taken in round one, but there will be a few more ILBs who hear their names called by the end of day two. Quan Sturdivant is an athletic playmaker and Greg Jones figures to be a solid pro despite sliding over the last few months. Kelvin Sheppard looks like he can play in either the 4-3 or 3-4, so he will probably be gone somewhere in the 3rd. Mark Herzlich isn’t the same player since being diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, but if he can regain a step then he will be a real steal. Everyone’s favorite mid-round pick, Casey Matthews, would be getting no publicity if he got a hair cut and changed his name to Weinstein, but his bloodlines make you wonder how good he can be. There’s no Pat Willis in this year’s draft, but there about a half dozen inside backers who should become starters.
Patrick Peterson is a once in a generation talent…and some view Prince Amukamara as an even better prospect than him. That should tell you all you need to know about how strong this year’s corner class is. There’s not a real clear-cut hierarchy, but after those two there should still be about a half dozen corners who go in the first two rounds. Jimmy Smith is a huge corner with great cover ability, Brandon Harris and Aaron Williams might sneak their way into round one, and Kendric Burney might be a steal for any of the few teams who still run the Cover 2. Cornerback is kind of like running back as a position in some regards because you can always find solid ones in the middle rounds, but this year’s class is especially strong.
There’s a couple decent safeties, but no safety in this year’s class can compare to last year’s rookies, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas. Rahim Moore is probably the best of the bunch, and he had a down year and might not go until round two. DeAndre McDaniel is a pretty complete player and looks like he should go solidly in the second round as well. Then there’s a group of players whom there are varied opinions on, including Deunta Williams, Ahmad Black, Robert Sands, and Quinton Carter. There might be some pretty good safeties out of this class, they just all have question marks right now, particularly in the speed department, which will be answered after a few years in the league.
1. Kai Forbath, UCLA
2. Alex Henery, Nebraska
3. Thomas Weber, Arizona State
1. Chas Henry, Florida
2. Ryan Donohue, Iowa
3. Rob Long, Syracuse