NFL Draft: Top-Five Position-By-Position Rankings

Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

We take a look at NFL prospects and break them down into a position-by-position top-five ranking.

With over 150 prospect notes completed and evaluations all but finalized, I'm wrapping up my Top-100 Prospects. In the meantime, I decided to give an update of where I am with the players that I've watched at this point, ranking them according to their respective positions. Questions and comments are always welcome here or @JoeGoodberry.

Quarterbacks

  1. Geno Smith, West Virginia
  2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas
  3. Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
  4. E.J. Manuel, Florida State
  5. Mike Glennon, N.C. State

I'm a "potential" guy when it comes to quarterback. How much can a prospect improve given his physical abilities? Can he make every throw? Does he amplify the talent around him or drag it down?

All five of these guys present considerable upside, but they're incomplete prospects. Glennon has the best arm. Nassib may be the best mix, but he has weird mechanics. Smith is a polarizing prospect that can be very good with more consistency. Manuel and Wilson have plenty of physical talents, but had too many lapses and couldn't elevate the talent around them.

Next on my watch list: Matt Barkley (USC) and Zac Dysert (Miami OH)

Running Backs

  1. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
  2. Andre Ellington, Clemson
  3. Eddie Lacy, Alabama
  4. Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
  5. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Not much has changed since my pre-combine rankings were released. I gave another look at Joseph Randle and Ray Graham; I still like Randle, but not as much after overestimating his speed and elusiveness originally. Graham doesn't look healthy and he's a shell of his former self. He dropped considerably.

One player added to my list was Jamaine Cook from Youngstown State. I came away very impressed. He's a thick, powerful, shorter back with good balance and the ability to break tackles in the open field. He's now my leading "Alfred Morris" candidate.

Wide Receiver

  1. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
  2. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
  3. Keenan Allen, California
  4. Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee
  5. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia

Hopkins remains my true No. 1 wide receiver because he's an outside threat that can run every route. Austin is more of a gadget receiver. It'll be in your best interests to use him as an offensive chess piece. From what I've heard, the Bengals are very interested. I doubt he makes it to pick no. 21. Bailey is the guy to watch. He's short but thick and can play above the cornerback. He's not as fast, but that reminds one of Steve Smith.

Next to watch: Alec Lemon (Cuse) and Ryan Swope (A&M)

Tight Ends

  1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
  2. Travis Kelce, Cincinnati
  3. Jordan Reed, Florida
  4. Gavin Escobar, SDSU
  5. Zach Ertz, Stanford

Talented receiving class without much blocking. I'm not as high on Ertz as others. His best attribute is probably his hands. He's not very athletic, is a terrible blocker and plays with no functional strength. Chase Coffman, anyone?

Next to watch: Chris Gragg (Arkansas)

Offensive Tackles

  1. Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
  2. Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
  3. Lane Johnson, Oklahoma
  4. D.J. Fluker, Alabama
  5. Menelik Watson, Florida

All five prospects could be first round picks in April. This is without including the offseason riser Terron Armstead. He isn't far behind this group with starting left tackle ability.

Interior Offensive Line

  1. Chance Warmack, Alabama
  2. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
  3. Larry Warford, Kentucky
  4. Travis Frederick, Wisconsin
  5. Kyle Long, Oregon

Cooper and Warmack are both top-10 players on my board and are better than both guards drafted in the first round last year. That's a statement because DeCastro was the best guard I've seen until this year.

Next to watch: Brian Winters (Kent State) and Brennan Williams (UNC)

Defensive Tackles

  1. Sheldon Richardson, Missouri
  2. Sharrif Floyd, Florida
  3. Star Lotulelei, Utah
  4. Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
  5. Jesse Williams, Alabama

The gaps between ALL FIVE of these prospects are minimal. They should all be first round picks and this group as a whole presents every type of defensive tackle that you're looking for. Star and Jesse Williams are both power nose tackle types while the remaining three can get after the QB. Floyd may be the best all-around defensive lineman in this draft.

Defensive End/Strongside LB

  1. Dion Jordan, Oregon
  2. Ezekiel Ansah, BYU
  3. Bjoern Werner, Florida State
  4. Cornelius "Tank" Carradine, Florida State
  5. Barkevious Mingo, LSU

I combine these two positions because the Bengals typically look for a 3-4 OLB type to play their SAM linebacker role. If you're looking for Jarvis Jones, he just missed the cut. This is a good group of pass rushers and Jones has been slipping lately.

Next to watch: Joe Kruger (Utah), Trevardo Williams (UConn) and John Simon (OSU)

Linebackers

  1. Arthur Brown, Kansas State
  2. Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
  3. Khaseem Greene, Rutgers
  4. Kevin Minter, LSU
  5. Alec Ogletree, Georgia

After Brown, who I am VERY high on, the next four are all second round picks. Maybe Minter and Te'o slip into the late first because they're the best true inside linebackers, but I wouldn't touch them yet. Two players that I really like that didn't make the top 5: Kiko Alonso (Oregon) and DeVonte Holloman (S.Carolina) Both are WLB that can defend the pass.

Cornerbacks

  1. Dee Milliner, Alabama
  2. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
  3. Desmond Trufant, Washington
  4. Jamar Taylor, Boise State
  5. David Amerson, NC State

Another deep group where some good prospects are absent, such as Jordan Poyer, Robert Alford, Tyrann Matthieu and Johnthan Banks. After the top-two in Milliner and Rhodes, I think there's a drop off, then a big group of solid prospects.

Safeties

  1. Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
  2. Johnathan Cyprien, FIU
  3. D.J. Swearinger, S.Carolina
  4. Bacarri Rambo, Georgia
  5. Matt Elam, Florida

Not much has changed since my pre-combine rankings, but Matt Elam has forced me back to his tape more than a few times. I still see an average athlete that plays too recklessly. He's a SS only that is at his best in the box defending the run. Overall, I think were looking at 6-8 rookie starters from this class.

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