Now that the college football regular season is complete, it’s time to put out the initial big board. I’ve cataloged over 90 college games this year, including six I attended in person.
This list is by no means set in stone, though I’ll say right now the top three aren’t changing barring injury or arrest. There is plenty of fluidity as I get more exposure to more players, as well as seeing many in person at the Shrine Game, Senior Bowl and Combine.
You might ask, why 103? I did this initially several years ago to throw off a serial plagiarizer, and it stuck. It tends to coincide with the number of slots in the first three rounds after the compensatory selections are added, too.
As always, these are my rankings. This in no way represents any sort of draft order forecast. That’s what mock drafts are for. Without further ado…
1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss: the best offensive line prospect since Joe Thomas, who happens to be the highest-graded player I’ve ever scouted. It’s hard to find much fault with anything Tunsil does on the field. Biggest issue is durability.
2. Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama: inside linebacker isn’t a sexy position, but Ragland is a smart thumper with better closing speed and lateral range than many analysts think he is. Reminds me a great deal of in-his-prime Pepper Johnson. Higher ceiling than Dont’a Hightower.
3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State: power-to-speed pass rusher with tremendous upper body strength and torque in his shoulders. Can be a bit streaky and penalty-prone, but few 6’6”, 275-pound guys have his closing burst or intensity. Has take-over-game kind of talent.
4. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State: he’s proven to be a pretty darn good CB in ’15, but his best NFL spot is free safety. Has the length and cat-like quickness NFL teams drool over. His versatility is a nice safety net but also a great chess piece for a creative defensive coach.
5. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon: unblockable at times, the 6’7”, 300-pound Buckner racked up 16 TFLs and 9.5 sacks despite facing near-constant double teams. Big, strong, high football IQ, athletic enough to play stand-up DE but also the 5T in a 3-4. Higher-end, much taller version of Green Bay’s Mike Daniels in terms of NFL impact.
6. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA: the knee injury gives me pause, as does the freedom to do his own thing in UCLA’s defense. But he’s shown he can play any spot from inside LB to slot corner to running back with aplomb. Compares favorably for me to former teammate Anthony Barr, a top 10 pick who has panned out nicely.
7. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State: junior RB with vision, acceleration, and a grinding style that should translate quite well to the NFL. Home run hitter who is also an asset in the passing game, and I love his competitiveness.
8. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida: he’s smallish, both in height and frame, and that worries me a bit. Then I watch him erase good future NFL receivers in coverage with fantastic consistency, show solid run support effort and an uncanny knack for playing the ball in the air. Potential “island” CB in the NFL.
9. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor: Billings is a rare species, a playmaking nose tackle. Despite being dogged with a bum ankle that limited his lateral agility, he continually shows up in opposing backfields while also holding strong in run D. Ideal, high-floor shaded 0 or 1-tech for a 4-3 front.
10. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss: freakish athletic specimen with the complete package of speed, power and looseness for a 290+ pounder. It hasn’t produced great numbers at the college level, but it’s hard to ignore his disruptiveness and all the blocking attention he draws. Have a feeling he’s very boom/bust from week to week at next level a la Nick Fairley.
11. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis: my top QB, the 6’7” junior showed steady improvement at necessary NFL traits in his breakout campaign. Athletically similar to Cam Newton, Lynch has the arm strength, touch and competitive nature to be a very good NFL starter. Just not in 2016; the team that drafts him had better be aware he’s not as NFL-ready as either Mariota or Jameis were this year. Think Brock Osweiler in terms of career arc as Lynch’s potential.
12. Su’a Cravens, LB, USC: Cravens grew on me the more I watched him. Formerly a safety, he’s definitely a 4-3 OLB or even a kinetic ILB in the NFL. Few players close with as much force or control as the 6’1”, 225-pound junior.
13. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson: two traits I love in cornerbacks are long confidence and short memory. Alexander, a 5’11” junior who looked better the deeper I delved into the Tigers’ season. One area of concern--he registered just three tackles all year against the run. Boom/bust prospect.
14. Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida: at times dominant, the 283-pound senior has shown he can be equally effective playing end or tackle. His NFL future is likely at base end and kicking inside on pass rushing downs. He’s not as explosive off the snap as Seattle’s Michael Bennett but shares a lot of similarities.
15. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama: fundamentally sound, powerful interior D-line presence with the ability to stack and shed and genuine violence in his hands. Makes a lot more impact than his meager stat line (4.5 TFL, 1 sack) indicates.
16. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor: smooth downfield target with great functional fight/size of dog ratio and ability to create after the catch. His size, 5’10” and 190 soaking wet, will deter some but Coleman has proven he is a dynamic weapon in the DeSean Jackson mold.
17. Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia: Floyd moved to a more off-the-ball role in Georgia’s 3-4 and found his calling. He still has the bend and closing burst of a pass rusher, but proved he can do much more. That’s good because he weighs less than some bigger safeties.
18. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke: ideally suited to play the Deone Bucannon role as a hybrid S/LB role, Cash is a sound tackler and field savvy rover. Strong leadership presence, and opponents always talked him way up.
19. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson: Lawson consistently shows strong, swift hands and powerful shoulders as an edge presence. The junior has impressive, albeit inconsistent, footwork and bend too. Played his best vs. top competition, a habit I favor.
20. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State: what stands out with Decker is his functional power and pad level for such a long edge tackle. It’s often hard for taller (he’s 6’7” and change) linemen to unleash core power but Decker does it naturally. He’s also a good recovery blocker when beaten initially, an underrated trait.
21. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
22. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
23. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
24. LaQuon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
25. Jared Goff, QB, California: there were times with Goff where I thought I was watching a legit No. 1 overall pick. There were also times where the junior showed just an average arm, poor decision-making and late ball placement. In short, he’s a project but one that could pay off handsomely.
26. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
27. Cody Whitehair, OT/OG, Kansas State
28. Adolphus Washington, DT, Ohio State
29. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
30. William Jackson, CB, Houston: NFL-ready press man corner with great length and tremendous physicality. Will need to tone down the hands down the field and does run past some tackles. Upwardly mobile in these rankings, has the potential to be the best DB in class.
31. Landon Turner, OG, North Carolina
32. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina
33. Darian Thompson, S, Boise State
34. Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
35. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA: man mountain, immovable object type of defensive tackle, the 310-pound junior is ideally an interior complement to a dynamic up-field rusher like an Aaron Donald or Geno Atkins. High floor talent, smart football player.
36. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
37. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
38. Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
39. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
40. Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia: a legit 6’2” corner who can play man in the slot or zone on the outside, Canady might wind up being a better safety than CB in the NFL with his above-average tackling and lack of top-end speed. Has upside beyond what he showed in trying to do too much too often for an overmatched UVA defense.
41. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
42. Germain Ifedi, OT, Texas A&M
43. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
44. Leontee Caroo, WR, Rutgers
45. TreDavious White, CB, LSU: very athletic, pretty field smart outside corner with average length but very fluid movement skills. Has bouts where he’s strangely passive but when he’s fired up he can burn up very talented receivers.
46. Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame
47. Antonio Morrison, LB, Florida
48. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
49. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
50. Deion Jones, LB, LSU: it’s hard for an LSU defender to be under the radar, but somehow Jones accomplished this. A powerful tackler despite being about 225 pounds, his acceleration to the point of attack and ability to control himself once he’s there is fantastic. High upside, only started for a year and will have some growing pains.
51. Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State
52. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
53. Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
54. Kyler Fackrell, OLB, Utah State
55. Roger Lewis, WR, Bowling Green: just strictly on on-field talent, Lewis is a borderline 1st rounder. He plays the same role in the same offense as Corey Coleman at Baylor, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts Lewis is top-end faster and at least 2 inches taller. Google him for the off-field issue coming out of high school, it’s not pretty.
56. Ryan Switzer, WR/RS, North Carolina
57. Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
58. Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee
59. Brandon Doughty, QB, Western Kentucky
60. Kentrell Brothers, LB, Missouri: a player who shot his way up my board by displaying better athleticism and quicker reactions than his junior season, Brothers is a consummate 4-3 Will backer who is very adept at keeping--and finishing--the play in front of him.
61. C.J. Prosise, RB, Notre Dame
62. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
63. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
64. Vadal Alexander, OG, LSU
65. James Cowser, DE, Southern Utah: small-school stud became the all-time leader in sacks at the FCS level this year, and how he does it translates; he’s got initial quickness, a variety of coordinated hand and shoulder moves, good bend and ankle flexion and a relentless attitude. Overaged, graduated HS in 2009 before an LDS mission. Shrine Game week will be huge for the Thunderbird.
66. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh
67. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
68. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Maryland
69. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
70. Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: out for the season with a knee injury, and his propensity to try for the kill shot instead of the sure tackle needs to be curbed. Yet Joseph has range, straight-line speed and a real nose for the ball in both run and pass defense that are all hard to ignore.
71. Jack Allen, C, Michigan State
72. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
73. Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
74. Alex Collins, RB, Arkansas
75. Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame: I really like Day’s game, and he improved as a pass rusher as a senior. He’s a better football player than athlete, however, and his maxed-out size at 6’2” and 285 pounds is a very odd fit at any DL position. A creative defense can find great usage for the Indianapolis native.
76. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
77. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
78. LeRaven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
79. Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State
80. Kareem Hunt, RB, Toledo: has had some durability issues but Hunt tore up competition with fast feet, exceptional quickness in and out of cuts, and 1-2 step burst for a 6’, 220-pound runner. He destroyed a talent-laden Missouri defense in 2014 and that has always stuck with me.
81. Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State
82. Jimmy Bean, DE, Oklahoma State
83. Evan Boehm, C, Missouri
84. Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford
85. Danzel McDaniel, CB, Kansas State: feisty, instinctive boundary corner with great click/close ability, McDaniel was building nicely on a breakout 2014 when sidelined with a knee injury. He’s going to miss most of workout season and needs to be viewed as a long-term investment. Has potential to move to safety with his tackling and heads-up style.
86. Bryce Williams, TE/HB, East Carolina
87. Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State
88. Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State
89. Adairius Barnes, CB, Louisiana Tech
90. Tom Hackett, P, Utah: rugby-style Aussie with exceptional control to his kicks. He’s the most consistently accurate punter I’ve seen since Shane Lechler, who happens to be the best punter in NFL history. Has shown he can kick conventionally too.
91. Nick Vannett, TE, Ohio State
92. Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida
93. Jordan Jenkins, OLB, Georgia
94. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State
95. Jerald Hawkins, OT, LSU: despite battling an ankle injury late in the year, Hawkins showed solid pass protection technique. He was better at RT in 2014 and likely will shift back to that side in the NFL. He’s just a junior but indications are strong he will declare early.
96. Kamalei Correa, OLB, Boise State
97. Jalen Mills, S, LSU
98. Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
99. Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee
100. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama: he’s less acclaimed as a collegian than predecessor Barrett Jones, but Kelly is a superior NFL prospect in the pivot thanks to his quick feet, consistently strong hand placement and ability to stay engaged in space.
101. Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
102. Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
103. Denver Kirkland, OG, Arkansas
I have not yet evaluated Eastern Kentucky DE Noah Spence beyond his Ohio State career. I’ll wait until seeing him in person at the Senior Bowl before delving into his game. I did not forget Baylor DE Shawn Oakman, he’s just not a very good prospect in my book.