Welcome to another edition of our Draft Film Room a column that’ll be coming to you more and more frequently as we near closer to the 2017 NFL draft on April 27th.
It might be early for fans of winning teams to talk Draft but there are several fan bases already looking forward to April and as the college football season has come to a close there are several prospects we must talk about who’ve managed to elevate their stocks significantly. We’re also going to offer up an updated Big Board and a special section dedicated to the top local draft-eligible products.
And stay tuned for a follow-up in which we’ll focus primarily on quarterbacks and two prospects in the rocky mountains who could make some noise come April. I’ll also share my live notes from scouting Luke Faulk in person, the Dak Prescott effect and how that could affect the perception of other dual-threat spread offense QBs in the 2017 class. All that and much more will be coming your way. For now, let’s see who’s stocks are on the rise.
Who’s entered the first round conversation
Not all that long ago we offered up a midseason draft update with some other risers, so we’ll avoid being repetitive and focus on new names, though you’ll still see players like John Ross, Curtis Samuels and Takkarist McKinley (among others) prominently featured in our rankings below.
Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
East coast bias is real folks and few prospects out west have been as overlooked this draft season the way Thomas has. A former blue-chip recruit out of Texas, Thomas has been a dominant force for Stanford for years but broke out in a big way this season. The lineman is an interior penetrator that plays with power but can also slip blocks and wreck game plans. He’s long but plays with great leverage. Solomon was a big factor in Colorado managing only 10 points in their game against the Cardinal as he was seemingly in the backfield all day, totaling 2.5 tackles for a loss.
In an interior defensive line class that has some uncertainty after Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Thomas’ gritty style, raw power, and impressive mobility will make him a valuable commodity for 3-4 teams looking for penetrating five-technique defensive ends.
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Jones had some hype coming into the season and we had him ranked 21st in our preseason draft board as the fourth-best cornerback in this class. But with an outstanding 2016 season individually that’s led to great team success as well, Jones has jumped all the way to the top of our rankings.
He’s simply sticky in coverage and hasn’t been targeted much but when he has he’s been phenomenal – as shown in the two interception, two pass deflection game against the Cal Bears leading to a Pac-12 defensive player of the week award. Beyond the ball skills and the ability to stick with players in coverage, Jones is the most complete cornerback prospect in the class while also having the coveted boundary cover skills that’ll get him paid in the NFL. He can press, or play off, he has great awareness in zone and can turn and run blanketing the fastest of receivers. He’s also a dog against the run and will lower his helmet and try to force the ball out. Still not in many mocks, I fully expect Jones to be a top 15 pick in 2016 and consider him the top corner in a loaded class.
Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
The best argument a Sooners fan could have made for their playoff bid was that their Heisman finalist wasn’t 100-percent when they faced off against Houston and Ohio State. Since facing the Buckeyes he’s hit the century mark for receiving yards in every game except for Baylor in which he still caught two touchdowns for 88-yards. Westbrook has otherworldly speed, not to mention soft hands and playmaking ability with the ball in his hand that’s mesmerizing.
At 175-pounds and 6-feet he’s undersized but that speed threat that’ll stretch defenses vertically is coveted in the pros. If Will Fuller went in the first round, Westbrook who has significantly more reliable hands, should merit consideration as well. He’s reminiscent of former Colorado WR Paul Richardson in many ways.
Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
No one has seen their stock rise the way the Badgers left tackle has. Ramczyk is only a first-time starter but already had some slight murmurs entering the season, but no one expected this.
Ramczyk hasn’t just held his own against Michigan, LSU and Ohio State; he didn’t allow a sack or tackle for a loss and at most was guilty of allowing a couple pressures in the three games combined.
Ramczyk is a smooth operator who plays with great balance and technique in pass protection which has allowed him to handle some of college football’s best athletes and pass rushers. He’s a bull in the run game who can create big holes and also lay a hat on someone when on the move. Coming from Division III, he’s not perfect and he needs to be better angle blocking. You’d like to see him finish more blocks and often he doesn’t get in great position when setting up blocks on the second level. But those are minor issues. All considered, Ramczyk shows the mobility, length, and skill required to be a true NFL left tackle and he might be the only one in the class to fit that mold. We expect Ramczyk to be firmly in the first round conversation with the potential to go fairly high as OT needy teams should fall in love with him.
Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
We mentioned Lattimore briefly in our last update while talking about the emerging No. 2 cornerbacks but the more I watch him the more I’ve fallen for his talent and the OSU cornerback is now solidly in the top 20 on my board.
Lattimore has everything you want in a modern Cover 3 boundary cornerback. He’s big and can press, he has fluid hips to turn and run with the best of them, he’s physical at the point of attack on contested catches, and has extraordinary ball skills.
Only a redshirt sophomore Lattimore’s upside is mouth watering, how he fares in the national semifinal and potentially the final could hep elevate his stock that much more. He has the profile of a top 10 selection and already possesses more impressive tape than former teammate Eli Apple – a top 10 selection by the New York Giants.
Taco Charlton, DL, Michigan
Thomas isn’t the only defensive lineman in this draft raising his stock as the Wolverines No. 33 has had an extraordinary season with his best performance coming in THE GAME against Ohio State. Charlton won’t amaze you with his first step, but he’s far from un-athletic.
Taco’s long and uses his length wonderfully, getting around the edge this way. He’s also a great interior penetrator and has flashed a nasty spin move that even put Ramczyk off balance.
Charlton at 6-foot-6 265-pounds has the length to play as a 3-4 DE but will need to put on more weight as he’s more of a pure 4-3 end right now. His ability vs the run is impressive as well; as a penetrator who can also keep blockers at bay with his length and has good gap discipline. Due to his hybrid profile, he’s received lots of comparisons to Justin Tuck which seem pretty fitting.
The interesting case of Adoree Jackson
If you love football then you should be hooked on Adoree Jackson. Just click play below on his game against Notre Dame and enjoy the show, as Jackson was spectacularly dominant taking over the game on kick returns.
Jackson’s been a cornerback at USC though he’s the team’s punt returner and is used in special packages as a wideout on top of that. As a cornerback Jackson is small, he has great speed and ball skills but he’ll also give up his fair share of big plays. He’s very susceptible to double moves and has been torched deep by elite speedsters – John Ross in 2016 and Will Fuller in 2015.
But as an offensive playmaker, that speed is far too intriguing. So the debate regarding Jackson’s role should heat up. Given his ability, he might be best suited as a WR, PR, and jack-of-all-trades weapon in attack who could play as your dime corner in a pinch. After seeing Tyreek Hill’s splendid rookie season, why couldn’t the Trojans playmaker be used in a similar role? Jackson is a top prospect in this class based purely on potential and world-class athleticism – that’s not an exaggeration as the kid was on the U.S. Olympic trial team las summer – not necessarily as a DB.
Ranking the top ten local products
There’s an additional caveat here as we’re not ranking underclassmen aside from McCaffrey who recently declared. Because of this, CU’s left tackle Jeromy Irwin, or CSU’s star receiver Micheal Gallup would merit being on this list – among others, Kallen Ballage is also being left out for these reasons. We’re focused on seniors here.
1. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
2. Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado
3. Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado
4. Tedric Thompson, S, Colorado
5. Sefo Liufau, QB, Colorado
6. Weston Steelhammer, SS, Air Force
7. Jalen Robinette, WR, Air Force
8. Jimmie Gilbert, EDGE, Colorado
9. Josh Tupou, NT, Colorado
10. J.K. Scott, P, Alabama
Kevin Davis, ILB, Colorado State
Kenneth Olugbode, OLB, Colorado
Fred Zerblis, OG, Colorado State
McCaffrey and Awuzie are the cream of the crop as both should land easily in the top two rounds and have a multitude of skills that’ll make them ideal in today’s league.
Witherspoon is amazingly still underrated but could be considered the best DB prospect in the state once run times are in and people put on the film. He has big time length, he’s one of the FBS’ leaders in passes deflected with 21, and has the length and speed that press defenses covet. Witherspoon’s hit list of wideouts that he’s held down is as good as it gets; Amara Darboh, Darren Carrington, Gabe Marks and even John Ross have all been blanketed by the Buffs standout. At 6-3 if he can run with the speed he’s shown on tape, watch out!
Thompson is another underrated prospect who could surprise with a selection on day two or early day three. He leads the FBS in PD’s with 22 and is top second in interceptions with seven, coverage wise he’s impressive and has shown some range to play as a high safety. He’s also physical against the run and can intimidate receivers trying to make plays over the middle. In a great safety class, Thompson has a complete skill set to get him some important looks.
We’ll talk about Liufau soon, but his stock has risen significantly this season with impressive performances against ranked opponents – given the injury and circumstances, I don’t expect his stock to take much of a hit from the disastrous Pac-12 championship.
Steelhammer has one of the best names in all of football and is a bad MF when coming downhill. Robinette has intriguing size and upside that garnered him an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. But as a tight end a role he could transition to with a bit more weight though he is a fine run blocker.
Gilbert is one of the best pass rushers in the Pac-12 but his skinny frame makes a full-time role in the league hard to find. He should get looks as a situational pass rusher – he certainly gave UCLA LT Connor McDermont issues before getting expelled from the game for targeting.
Tupou’s size and gap stuffing ability will translate in a two-down role in the NFL, even as a undrafted player he should find a way to stick with a roster. We break our rule with J.K. Scott, a Denver kid, who’s been booming kicks on national TV since the time he was a freshman. One of the more impressive punting prospects I’ve ever come across due to his superhuman leg/foot.
Davis was thought of higher in some circles last offseason then now Oakland Raiders starter Cory James, he’s an inside backer who’ll get some looks due to his production, similar to Olugbode.
Updated 2017 Big Board
Position rankings, an early mock draft and constant updates on the Board will come before the NFL season is over with much more still to follow. For now here’s our top 50 (or so) prospects.
1. Jonathan Allen, DE, Alabama
2. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M
3. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU
4. Malik Hooker, FS, Ohio State
5. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
6. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
7. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
8. Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
9. Reuben Foster, ILB, Alabama
10. Takkarist McKinley, EDGE, UCLA
11. Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida
12. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
13. Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State
14. Tim Williams, OLB, Alabama
15. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn
16. Malik McDowell, DL, Michigan State
17. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
18. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
19. Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
20. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
21. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, USC
22. John Ross, WR, Washington
23. Solomon Thomas, DL, Stanford
24. Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
25. D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas
26. Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin
27. Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
28. Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
29. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson
30. Budda Baker, FS, Washington
31. Jamal Adams, SS, LSU
32. Jourdan Lewis, CB, Michigan
33. Ryan Anderson, OLB, Alabama
34. OJ Howard, TE, Alabama
35. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama
36. Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
37. Joe Mixon, RB, Oklahoma
38. Curtis Samuels, WR/RB, Ohio State
39. Adoree Jackson, CB/WR/PR, USC
40. Jordan Thomas, CB, Oklahoma
41. Chidobe Awuzie, DB, Colorado
42. Jarrad Davis, OLB, Florida
43. Desmond King, CB, Iowa
44. Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
45. Mitch Trubisky, QB, UNC
46. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
47. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
48. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
49. Ethan Pocic, OC, LSU
50. ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Just missed the cut:
Jarron Jones, DT, Notre Dame
Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama
Charles Harris, EDGE, Missouri
Luke Falk, QB, Washington State
Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio States
DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame
Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Evan Engram, TE, Ole Miss
Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State