Here we go, folks! After a summer spent scouting hundreds of the top prospects in the country, here is my preseason top 50 2019 big board in anticipation of the upcoming NFL Draft. If you haven't yet, please check out my colleague Kyle Crabb's Top 50 Big Board that dropped yesterday on the site.
Full disclosure, I tend to get a little risky with projections in an August big board, ranking players based on expectations that some will hit and some will miss entirely. After all, the offseason is the season for optimism right?
Let's have some fun.
50. Taylor Rapp, S, Washington
Physical safeties will always have a place in my heart, but is there more than excellent tackling to Rapp's game? I didn't see the range or athleticism to play single-high, and I'm not sure he's strong enough in man to be a mismatch eliminator either.
49. Tuf Borland, LB, Ohio State
Quick-footed, fluid and always on the hunt for the football. Watching Borland, I got the sense that with another year of experience under his belt, things could suddenly click for him from the neck up. The flashes he showed last year were enticing, this year it all comes together.
48. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
I struggled with Oruwariye's tape. There are glimpses of big-time potential and ball skills, but I'm not sure Oruwariye has the athleticism or long speed to stay at corner. Also, at his size he should be mauling receivers at the line of scrimmage in press, not rarely touching them. 2018, his first as a full-time starter, is his time to put it all together.
47. Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
Speaking of flashes, Ridley had some of the best catches in college football last year as a part-time player for Georgia. The problem is, he only had 14 grabs total behind a loaded starting lineup of receivers. The brother of first round pick Calvin Ridley, Riley should see increased playing time in 2018 to show off an elite catch radius, but speed will be a question mark entering the draft process.
46. Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
Jennings gives me some Jordan Jenkins vibes, as an assignment-sound, physical run defender with terrific technique. My concern is that I don't know how much upside he has as a pass rusher without explosive traits or elite bend.
45. Dexter Lawrence, IDL, Clemson
*Gasp!* Lawrence this low?? Who does this clown think he is?
Do me a favor. Instead of looking at his high school rating or expected measurables in athletic testing, show me where Lawrence makes a major impact on the football field. I know he was hurt last year, so I'm willing to show some patience, but right now he's more of a mid-day 2 player than the top 10 prospect he's being billed as.
44. Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
A tough runner with desirable contact balance and vision, Harris is more steady than splash-y, but that's ok. He'll help a team's backfield out, my biggest concern is that he isn't a dynamic receiver and his pass protection needs way more work than you'd like for a senior.
43. Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State
I love Lewerke's ability to create under pressure, but I think his physical tools are average, and his lower body mechanics just exacerbate the issues. Can he clean up his base and improve his velocity as a result? If he can, Lewerke can be a big riser this season.
42. Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami
You won't find many tackles St. Louis' size that can move like he does, showing rare explosiveness out of his stance and the ability to hit extended set points in pass protection. He needs some technique work in the run game, where his pad level doesn't do him many favors. The tools are there for St. Louis, but this is very much a projection ranking.
41. Ricky Walker, IDL, Virginia Tech
Nobody is talking about this kid, but I think he has more ability than some of the big-name defensive tackles in the class. Walker needs to use his hands more effectively to stack-and-shed blocks, but he plays relentlessly, has legit pass rush moves and is explosive enough to be disruptive up the field.
40. Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami
I've likened Johnson to Mike Mitchell, a physical, big-hitting safety who is an excellent leader and communicator on the field, but makes very few plays on the ball due to subpar instincts. Can Johnson stop being a step too late and start impacting the catch point more in 2018?
39. Isaiah Buggs, IDL, Alabama
Big, mean and physical, Buggs is better technically than most interior defensive linemen in this class. He can play a number of different techniques and has a strong array of rush moves on the interior, but it is very fair to wonder how athletic and explosive he is heading into his senior year.
38. Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU
Another upside ranking! Banogu is twitchy, bendy and plays with a relentless motor. The issues? When he can't win the edge, he's locked down too easily. He has to incorporate power moves and counters into his arsenal this season.
37. Lukas Denis, S, Boston College
Talk about ball skills and upside, Denis was tied for the nation's lead with seven interceptions last season. In his first year at safety, Denis showed the instincts and ball skills needed to make a big leap up boards, but his size, tackling and man coverage flaws are reason for concern.
36. Michael Jackson, CB, Miami
Jackson certainly fits the NFL prototype of a big, long, physical corner who can play in press and come up and stick backs in the run game. He's not an elite athlete however, nor is he super twitched up, so the right scheme will definitely matter for him in the NFL.
35. Ahmmon Richards, WR, Miami
This kid is crazy talented, but inconsistency plagues his game. His routes are uncertain at times, he needs to become more physical in his patterns to separate from aggressive corners and his hands/catching technique are a certified mess right now. Luckily for Richards, size, speed, length and overall athleticism are traits that are clearly in his corner.
34. Dre'Mont Jones, IDL, Ohio State
One of the hardest players to evaluate in the country right now. I am all about athletic interior defensive linemen, but Jones spends so much time getting mauled at the line of scrimmage that he makes me re-think my stance. He plays hard and makes some plays just off of his exceptional ability, but the decision to go back to school and improve technically was probably a good one. Huge projection ranking here.
33. Delvon Randall, S, Temple
One of the leaders of Temple's defense, Randall reminds me some of a middle-class man's Kevin Byard. Both players were smart, similarly-sized safeties with the rare combination of ball skills and tackling ability. The question with Randall will be how great of an athlete he is, but if he can answer that question as Byard did a few years ago, he could be one of the biggest risers of the draft process.
32. Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
Edwards has made some unreal catches during his time at South Carolina, and really stepped up last season when Deebo Samuel went down. He's pro-ready in a lot of ways, running strong routes and showing good variety in his releases. Edwards tested unbelievable out of high school, but speed and short-area quickness don't seem to be major strengths on tape.
31. Christian Wilkins, IDL, Clemson
Many analysts have Wilkins as a top ten player, but I think he's more of a day two guy. His motor and fluidity are unquestionable, but he isn't super explosive and he doesn't get off blocks anywhere close to as well as he should. Eventually the flashes have to result in snap-to-snap dominance for Wilkins to live up the hype.
30. DaMarkus Lodge, WR, Ole Miss
The least talked about of the three Ole Miss receivers, Lodge is pretty clearly the most pro-ready. He worked Greedy Williams in their matchup last season, showing nuanced releases, good vertical acceleration and the speed to separate down the field. Has to catch the ball a lot better in 2018 though.
29. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
I think Herbert has a better arm than Drew Lock, throwing one of the more gorgeous balls I've ever scouted. He's fairly accurate to all levels of the field, but Herbert has to navigate pressure and process a lot better this season, or he'll just be the next toolsy quarterback to interest teams.
28. Rashard Lawrence, IDL, LSU
I'm predicting a breakout season for the finally healthy Lawrence this year, as his terrific natural tools finally blossom into a top prospect. He's physical, quick with his hands as a rusher and has great built-in leverage, but controlling and getting off blocks will be a big priority this season.
27. A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
The good? He's a playmaker with the ball in his hands, and when he's had to make contested grabs, the results are usually pretty good. The bad? Brown looks like a good, not great athlete, he's typically afforded clean releases in the slot and we need to see him make more high-degree of difficulty plays in 2018.
26. Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Adams is a smooth mover with more strength than you'd think when first glancing at his frame. The athletic traits are there to assume NFL teams will be very intrigued, but I'm concerned about how rarely he had to face quality competition off the edge, and how little physicality he shows at times.
25. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Edwards is kinda the opposite of Adams, showing excellent power, toughness and technique, but not offering the same range as a pass protector. His hand usage is so impressive for a recently-converted tight end that he may be able to survive most matchups without great traits.
24. Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan
I actually prefer Gary to bulk up and play on the interior, but he's reportedly cutting weight to stay on the edge, so we'll see what happens this season. I love his motor and twitched-up lower half, I just wish more analysts were honest about his cornering concerns and total lack of polish as a pass rusher right now. He's a project with quality upside, but I'm not sure about his ceiling on the edge.
23. Tyler Biadasz, IOL, Wisconsin
Not many redshirt freshmen can look like the best player on perhaps the best offensive line in the country, but Biadasz did it last year. His technique and body control are evident, and his scheme versatility and pro-ready skill set should appeal to a lot of teams next year.
22. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
Is this the season for Drew Lock to put it all together? His flashes of mental processing, anticipatory throws and strong mechanics have me excited, but his decision-making and accuracy have to continue to make strides. Getting experience in Derek Dooley's pro-style offense should help.
21. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
An athletic phenom at the position, Fant has the size, speed and explosiveness you want in a move tight end. He's the ideal modern NFL prototype, but you better be ok with the fact that he won't help you at all as an in-line blocker.
20. Kelvin Harmon, WR, N.C. State
Contested catches is where Harmon makes a living, and he's extremely good at it. Few receivers use their body better to make tough grabs, but speed and overall athleticism will be question marks for Harmon to answer over the next eight months.
19. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
He's started two college football games, so obviously his mental processing will need to improve as he adjusts to live action. But Thompson has the size, speed, range and physicality to develop into a high draft pick this season at Alabama.
18. Devin White, LB, LSU
White has the tools and the frame that NFL teams want at linebacker, but he's still a major work-in-progress from the neck up. I dislike the Roquan Smith comparisons, while still believing that White can become a top prospect at the position with further development.
17. Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
Instincts are available in droves with Fisher, who played through congestion better than any draft-eligible linebacker in the country last year. His range and athleticism appear to be solid, but at 6-4, 245 pounds, it will be his movement skills that garner the most doubt from analysts in projecting him to the NFL level.
16. Dalton Risner, IOL, Kansas State
Steady, technical and consistent, Risner doesn't have a ton of upside, but looks like he could start right away at tackle or at guard in the NFL. He's the best of three pro prospects on Kansas State's underrated offensive line heading into the season.
15. Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State
How high can a sub-5-foot-10 corner go in the draft? We may find out, with the rumors that Taylor could be significantly undersized for the position. I think he'll hit 5-foot-10, and I think he has rare processing and closing burst for an off-man corner. I'm a fan of his game, but how he matches up with bigger receivers on the outside will be huge for him this season.
14. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Ferrell plays with his hair on fire, showing a terrific variety to his pass rush arsenal and deadly hand usage. He isn't the best athlete nor the most flexible edge rusher, but I think he's destined for NFL success regardless due to his well-rounded game.
13. Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Speaking of playing hard, Sweat is a tough defensive end to block due to the ground he gains up the arc and his ability to deploy power moves to get position on a tackle despite being undersized at just 241 pounds. He has to improve in the run game and work to counter moves more readily in 2018.
12. Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
I'm shooting my preseason shot with Knox, who has a rare combination of elite size and athleticism for the tight end position. He's clueless after the catch and needs work as a blocker, but natural hands, a massive catch radius and speed and separation quickness like he possesses don't come along every day.
11. Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
I look for three traits above all else for running backs: contact balance, burst and vision. Anderson is elite in the first area, strong in the second and developing nicely in the third. There are other aspects that matter in evaluating him, but as long as his receiving and pass protection keep improving, he'll be the top back off the board next year.
10. Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
Watching him heavily this summer, especially toward the end of the year, sold me on the fact that Wilson could be special. His range and coverage skills are already elite, he just needs to continue making strides as a mental processor while perhaps adding a little bulk to his frame in the process.
9. Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
Playmaker. Put the ball in Samuel's hands and good things happen. I think he checks the boxes in every major area for a wide receiver, despite being only 5-foot-11. Many will have concerns about how elite of an athlete he is, but I think the tape shows that he's more than capable in that area, while being outstanding as a route runner, post-catch creator and in contested catch situations.
8. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
This one is an upside ranking to the max. Metcalf is a rare specimen at the position, and has exceptional athletic traits to go along with his massive frame. His routes need to become as pro-ready as his releases are, and Metcalf must become more consistent in contested catch spots. His potential is through the roof.
7. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Williams is a plug-and-play left tackle in the NFL, especially if he improves his sets against true speed rushers this season. I don't think he's an exciting, dominant type of player, but I do think we'll see an NFL covet his high-floor skill set early in the draft.
6. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
I'm a big believer in Williams' upside, as he possesses all the physical and athletic traits a team could want in a corner. He has some bad habits in press coverage at the line of scrimmage that will need to be fixed however, as well as overall consistency in how he finishes plays.
5. Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Burst, speed, bend, counters, hand usage, run defense...this kid has it all. Burns needs to get stronger and fix some first step issues from a two-point stance, but reports of him hitting 245 pounds this offseason have me very encouraged considering how strong he played at 230 last season.
4. Jeffery Simmons, IDL, Mississippi State
Ranking Simmons and Raekwon Davis was so hard for me. Simmons is a little more inconsistent, but has more explosiveness and pass rush ability than Davis right now. If he can improve his block recognition and technique this season, he should be a lock top ten pick based on his ability on the field.
3. Raekwon Davis, IDL, Alabama
It's unreal to watch Davis' near 6-foot-7 frame play the run with textbook leverage, hand placement and power. People have compared him to DeForest Buckner because of their size, but Buckner never played with Davis' attention to detail and pad level against the run (it just didn't matter). Where the former Oregon Duck is clearly still ahead of Davis is as a pass rusher, where the Alabama redshirt sophomore still needs a good amount of work.
2. Ed Oliver, IDL, Houston
I would be lying if I said I wasn't at least a little concerned about Oliver's weight reportedly being in the 270s, or that his level of competition is poor enough to expect some regression against better opponents in the NFL. But the dude is such an unreal athlete with such great power and natural instincts that I'm not ready to be contrarian on his ranking just yet.
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
I don't think anyone came close to overtaking Bosa for Player1 in this year's class. He's not quite Joey against the run, but he might have more upside as a pass rusher. He should be the first non-quarterback off the board next year.