Doing this version, the first real rankings of the season, in positional list form. This is in no way a finished or finalized list as I still have many more players and games to watch before the postseason All-Star games and workout season.
This is based strictly on my evaluation and is not a draft or order projection. I do not include any player I haven’t seen play at least two games.
1. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina
2. Deshone Kizer, Notre Dame
3. Pat Mahomes, Texas Tech
4. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
5. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
6. Luke Falk, Washington State
7. Sefo Liufau, Colorado
8. Zach Terrell, Western Michigan
9. Brad Kaaya, Miami FL
10. Davis Webb, California
Notes: Trubisky lacks experience but has the arm, accuracy, poise and vision to be a franchise QB. Merits a top-5 gamble.
I was told in early October that Kizer was staying in school, but the equation at Notre Dame has changed. He has the highest ceiling and best natural tools in the class, but he’s not as good now as he was four months ago and that’s troubling.
Watson must take better care of the ball but he can do things outside the pocket that really excites me.
Liufau needs more national attention. He’s very smart and can rifle the ball on the move and from the pocket. Occasional accuracy flubs hurt but he’s improved his field vision and decision making speed from his earlier career.
Terrell has a lot of Kirk Cousins to him, with just a little less arm strength. Better athlete than advertised.
1. Dalvin Cook, Florida State
2. Christian McCaffrey, Stanford
3. Jeremy McNichols, Boise State
4. Leonard Fournette, LSU
5. Marlon Mack, South Florida
6. Kareem Hunt, Toledo
7. James Conner, Pittsburgh
8. Wayne Gallman, Clemson
9. Royce Freeman, Oregon
10. Elijah Hood, North Carolina
Notes: Incredibly deep and diversely skilled group. To compare to last class, Ezekiel Elliott would still be No. 1 but then this class would fill the next 7-8 spots.
Cook is the best prospect on the field, but I have serious reservations about his shoulder surgeries and long-term durability. He stays atop for now until medical evaluations at the Combine tell me otherwise.
McCaffrey fits as a speed/all-purpose back but could have a huge impact in that role.
Mack is a home run hitter with great acceleration and vision who consistently maximizes his yardage.
Conner is a pile mover with quick feet in the Jerome Bettis mold, aside from being an outstanding story as a cancer survivor.
1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
2. John Ross, Washington
3. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
4. Juju Smith-Schuster, USC
5. Mike Williams, Clemson
6. Courtland Sutton, SMU
7. Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington
8. Ryan Switzer, North Carolina
9. James Washington, Oklahoma State
10. Amara Darboh, Michigan
10a. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
10b. Malachi Dupre, LSU
10c. Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Notes: Davis is the most complete receiver but might not be the most dynamic NFL wideout from this class.
Ross brings speed but also the ability to effectively work underneath routes.
Kupp shines at the FCS level with size, routes and body control but isn’t a blazer.
Switzer is a natural in the slot with shifty quickness and sticky hands. Also a top-shelf return specialist.
Ford is a lightning vertical threat who has improved his ability to handle more physical coverage
1. Evan Engram, Ole Miss
2. O.J. Howard, Alabama
3. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech
4. Jordan Leggett, Clemson
5. Michael Roberts, Toledo
6. Jake Butt, Michigan
7. Jeremy Sprinkle, Arkansas
8. Josiah Price, Michigan State
9. Blake Jarwin, Oklahoma State
10. Cole Hikutini, Louisville
Notes: Engram is a dynamic receiver who can thrive in the slot. He’s a more reliable talent than Eric Ebron, a very similar prospect who went No. 10 overall in 2014.
Hodges is a 6’6” converted QB with WR speed and movement skills. He’s probably more aptly listed as a supersized wideout in the Kelvin Benjamin mold, though much faster.
Roberts is 6’5”, 270 pounds and can move well. He’s consistently lethal in the red zone and is a solid blocker.
Price stood out in a down year for the Spartans and runs great routes from a tight alignment.
Hikutini brings a wide catch radius and toughness after the catch while also blocking in space well.
1. Ryan Ramczyk, Wisconsin
2. Adam Bisnowaty, Pittsburgh
3. Cam Robinson, Alabama
4. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
5. Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell
6. Erik Magnuson, Michigan
7. Levon Myers, Northern Illinois
8. Dion Dawkins, Temple
9. Roderick Johnson, Florida State
10. Chad Wheeler, USC
Notes: Ramczyk is the only tackle prospect currently in my top 50 overall. The former D-III standout is technically proficient and comfortably athletic in space.
Bisnowaty does a fine job moving people and brings requisite nastiness.
Davenport dominated the FCS level and wears his 6’7”, 315 frame like a tight end. Might be the smartest lineman in the draft.
Magnuson is a natural right tackle and the best down blocker in the class.
Myers allowed just one sack in his final 16 games and has upside to play either tackle spot.
Wheeler has great initial burst and punch, and blocks well in space but has durability and flexibility concerns.
1. Dan Feeney, Indiana
2. Taylor Moton, Western Michigan
3. Pat Elflein, Ohio State
4. Braden Smith Auburn
5. Dorian Johnson, Pittsburgh
Notes: Haven’t gotten around to many guards yet in part because the team I cover most (Detroit) is not in the market for one.
Feeney is a legit first-round talent with balance, power and great technique with his hands and feet. Missed four games with a concussion.
Moton plays right tackle at WMU but is a natural guard and will play inside at the Senior Bowl. He would rank 7th at tackle.
Elflein played center in 2016 but is a better prospect at guard, where he played in prior seasons.
1. Tyler Orlovsky, West Virginia
2. Ethan Pocic, LSU
3. Jon Toth, Kentucky
4. Cameron Tom, Southern Miss
5. Brian Allen, Michigan State
Notes: Orlovsky edges out Pocic for the top spot for being a little quicker to engage and control leverage at the second level. They are ranked right next to each other at 46 & 47 on the overall big board (coming soon).
Elflein would rank third, but again he’s a better guard prospect.
Allen is an ideal swing interior lineman and naturally bigger than older brother Jack.