2016 NFL Draft: Top 25 prospects
Jan 12, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive lineman Joey Bosa (97) in game action against the Oregon Ducks in the 2015 CFP National Championship Game at AT&T Stadium. Ohio State won 42-20. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The 2016 NFL Draft will be upon us soon as the best of the best are excited to see the beginning of their journey into the NFL. These top prospects will immediately make an impact upon arrival to their new teams.
Entering the draft is an experience every college player dreams of. However, it is a dream only the elite will conquer. These players have spent endless hours training, while playing in bowl and title games and everything in between in order shine and display their talents. Entering the 2016 NFL Combine in hopes of showcasing their athleticism, these players now await their fate.
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With the draft rapidly approaching, these NFL hopefuls continue participating in college pro days while meeting with potential teams, in hopes of impacting recruiters, coaches and managers.
Since the combine, certain players have hit the radar more than others. Being drafted is a unique experience and opportunity that only the best of the best will achieve. But, who are the best of the best?
Of course not every top prospect in the country is perfect but these impact players will make some noise the moment they step foot on the gridiron. Let’s take a look at the top 25 draft prospects and their strengths/weaknesses heading into this year’s draft.
Next: 25. Good skill-set but too many distractions
25. DE Robert Nkemdiche, Mississippi
As a freshmen, Robert Nkemdiche’s statistics didn’t prove to show much; eight tackles and two sacks. Again, in his sophomore year, he only had four tackles for loss and two sacks.
Despite these stats, Nkemdiche was awarded many titles and honors. During his junior year he was suspended for marijuana possession which disqualified him from playing the bowl game.
Strengths: He’s a big boy with a powerful lower half. Uses his weight and build to push through guards. Doesn’t release running backs easily. Quick reaction to plays. Versatile and aggressive.
Weaknesses: Low production resulting in poor statistics. Takes his eyes off of the football. Poor counter rush moves. Doesn’t force or recover fumbles. Arrested last year in college.
Next: 24. He was a 2015 Butkus Award finalist
24. OLB Leonard Floyd, Georgia
Leonard Floyd has been making noise since his freshmen year in 2013 when he had 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. The following year, Floyd received Defensive MVP and other honorable mentions. Last year the dominance continued as Floyd was a 2015 Butkus Award finalist and second-team All-SEC.
Strengths: Long strides allows him to quickly leave the starting block. Very athletic, fast for his build and flexible. Smart blitz player. Understands plays and makes instant decisions.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up. Very lanky; results in most of his downfalls. Doesn’t play neutral zone well. Doesn’t bounce back quickly from hits causing him to play downfield.
Next: 23. He's ranked No. 1 receiver in the nation
23. WR Corey Coleman, Baylor
Corey Coleman started making noise in freshmen year where he completed 35 passes and averaged almost 30 yards per kickoff return. During his sophomore year, he was named second-team All-Big 12.
Last year he ended his college career winning the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s No. 1 receiver, as well as other prestigious awards and honors.
Strengths: Great footwork and control. Quick, immediate release upon the snap. Finds the ball well. Thinks on his feet for route changes. Above average touchdown completions.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up; small for outside player. Allows defenders to control him. Buckles under pressure when defenders are close. High drop rate.
Next: 22. He turned down the 2015 NFL Draft
22. OT Taylor Decker, Ohio State
Taylor Decker opted for another year in college rather than entering last year’s draft. This was a smart decision that allowed Decker an opportunity to win two national titles. Decker was also named 2015 Big ten offensive Lineman of the Year.
Strengths: Extremely tall. Plows through targets. Good hand usage and punches well. Strong striking abilities against linebackers and safeties. Leader on and off the field.
Weaknesses: Controls body too much. Stiff and doesn’t bend his lower body. Strong arms but small hands. Poor footwork and lack of balance.
Next: 21. He was ranked No. 4 college prospect in high school
21. CB Mackensie Alexander, Clemson
Mackensie Alexander has been on the radar since high school when ESPN ranked him No. 4 best college prospect. Since 2014, Alexander has received many awards and honorable mentions including Freshmen All- American and third-team All-American.
Strengths: Very competitive. Allowed less than 30 percent pass completions and no touchdowns. Understands the game and reads plays well. Quick recovery. Strong and athletic.
Weaknesses: Only 5’10. Releases himself from play ranges. No interceptions. Big mouth; cocky. Fell short of projected stats.
Next: 20. Co-defensive player of the year in 2015
20. DT Andrew Billings, Baylor
Before attending Baylor, Billings was making high school history. By his sophomore year in 2014, he received first-team All-Big 12 recognition.
In 2015, Billings was named co-Defensive Player of the year. There’s no surprise he led his team in tackle for losses and sacks.
Strengths: Strong and powerful. Has played offensive and defensive positions. Strong use of arms and hands to release from opponent. Attentive and strong blocker.
Weaknesses: Not ideal body structure; short and top-heavy. Poor pass rushing abilities. Doesn’t adjust to different plays and directions quickly.
Next: 19. His statistics don't scream results
19. DL Jarran Reed, Alabama
When Jarran Reed transferred to Alabama in 2014, he didn’t live up to anyone’s expectations having only one sack and 6.5 tackles. Last year wasn’t much better however, Reed did increase his tackles finishing the year with 56. Despite his stats he was named second-team All-SEC.
Strengths: Ideal build. Handles hits well. Closes running gaps. Huge, quick hands. Great eye coordination and reads plays quickly. No missed tackles in 2015.
Weaknesses: Arrested for a DUI in 2014. Doesn’t offer pressure in the pocket. Lacking pass rusher abilities. Foot and hand work are just average.
Next: 18. He started every year in college
18. OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State
Football is in his blood being the son of a high school football coach. During his college career, Jack Conklin started all three years having 28 career games under his belt.
After receiving numerous All-American honors and recognition’s, he also earned First Team All-Big Ten. Conklin is considered by many to be the top offensive tackle in this year’s draft.
Strengths: Built like a monster; 35” long arms and huge hands, strong and stable core. Plays with entire body including his eyes. Understands the game and plays smart. Aggressive at the position.
Weaknesses: Slow at times. Trips over his own feet. Can’t multi-task speed and technique simultaneously. Reaches second level too late at times.
Next: 17. He won a national title in 2015
17. DT A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama
A’Shawn Robinson was a top pick among college recruits. During his freshmen and sophomore year, Robinson earned All-SEC honorable mention. Last year he was a finalist for the Outland trophy and contributed to the winning of the national title.
Strengths: Ideal build; strong body overall. Stops running backs. Bounces back from blocks. Solid lower half grounds him in position. Understands the game and how to use his entire body at the position.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t offer much flexibility. Poor balance. Slow on plays and loses leverage. Inconsistent against opposing double teams.
Next: 16. The cornerback that robbed Mariota
16. CB Eli Apple, Ohio State
Remember when Marcus Mariota threw an interception during the last play of his college career? Eli Apple is the man responsible for the interception, securing the win in the championship game.
His stats decreased last year, but he still finished with 33 tackles. Apple was named second-team all-conference.
Strengths: Perfect build for the position. Competitive, aggressive and intimidating. Re-routes receivers. Quick and swift. Flawless footwork.
Weaknesses: Poor eye contact during deep throws. Unstable balance. Not flexible as a field tackler. Multiple penalties for holding when receivers outperform him.
Next: 15. This linebacker rarely misses tackles
15. ILB Reggie Ragland, Alabama
Reggie Ragland could have entered the draft in 2015 however, he wanted to earn his degree not to mention win a championship. He has earned numerous honors and awards including SEC Defensive Player of the Year and All-American. He finished the season with a whopping 97 tackles and blocked six passes.
Strengths: Risky player. Good eye contact and reacts in an instant. Understands leverage. Knows how to tighten his gap. Only three missed tackles in 2015.
Weaknesses: Inconsistent tendencies. Restricted cover skills. Slow at times. Would rather take a hit than defend. Underestimates the speed of his opponents.
Next: 14. He took his team to their first ACC
14. DT Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
Sheldon Rankins didn’t show any relevancy until his junior year. Rankins took his team to their first ACC with 13.5 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions. In 2014 he was third-team all-conference, however in 2015 he earned second-team all-conference.
Strengths: Versatile and able to fit in multiple routines. Strong and powerful. Fiery with good stability. Reads blockers and plays instantly. Flexible with top quality footwork.
Weaknesses: Small frame and overall size. Doesn’t utilize arms. Redirects slowly. Mediocre secondary skills.
Next: 13. He even excelled as a second string defensive end
13. DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson
Shaq Lawson played second string his first two years in college and still managed to complete 10 tackles in 2013 and 11 in 2014. After getting his first shot at being a starting defensive end in 2015, Lawson dominated the field, finishing the season with 25.5 tackles and 12.5 sacks.
He also earned numerous awards and honors across the league, as well as played in the ACC title and national championships.
Strengths: Superior build and very strong upon attack. Multi-purposeful. Uses arms and hands to punch and block. Above average abilities to stuff the run; second most in the country. Plays instinctively.
Weaknesses: Slows down throughout the game. Relies on play blocks. Not flexible as a pass rusher. Locks up and tightens lower body.
Next: 12. A linebacker that has played numerous positions
12. OLB Darron Lee, Ohio State
Darron Lee started his career as a quarterback and running back while he was in high school. Once he transitioned into college football, Lee quickly changed positions and earned numerous Freshmen All-American recognition’s. He also received Defensive MVP when Ohio State beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
Strengths: Read plays quickly. Versatile and able to change positions and speed. Not afraid to face blockers. Blitzing strengths include ability to speed through offensive lineman with ease. Flexible and smart with his body.
Weaknesses: Needs to bulk up. Too many missed tackles. Poor zone coverage. Poor stability upon attack. Doesn’t impose tackles; aims for arms and then feet.
Next: 11. He was the No. 1 prospective college receiver
11. WR Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi
Laquon Treadwell entered college as No. 1 receiving prospect in the country. It’s no surprise he was the top freshmen in the SEC.
Unfortunately he was injured in 2014 but bounced back from it in 2015. He was a Biletnik Award finalist, All-American and first-team All-SEC while doing his part in a Sugar Bowl victory with Mississippi.
Strengths: Athletic with decent height and weight ratio. Understands and reacts to the position. Flexible but in control of his body. Offers quarterbacks an ideal passing space. Can block if needs to.
Weaknesses: Needs to be more physical. Takes eye off the ball at times. Can’t release from press coverage. Doesn’t pressure or intimidate opposing cornerbacks.
Next: 10. He was a Mr. Football finalist in Florida
10. CB Vernon Hargreaves III, Florida
Vernon Hargreaves is the son of a college football player and coach so it’s no shocker he dominated during his high school career. He received the National Defensive Player of the Year award, a Florida Mr. Football award finalist and was voted MVP of the Under Armour All-American game.
He also earned multiple college awards and honors including first-team All-SEC (three seasons) and All-American (twice).
Strengths: Fast and fiery. Offers great zone coverage. Punt return capabilities. Thinks on feet with little hesitation. Plows through targets. Shuts down top receivers on any team effecitvely. Good use of body and hands; flexible.
Weaknesses: Buckles under pressure during Bowl games. Lanky build. Insufficient speed during play routes against running backs and receivers. Shorter than average cornerbacks at 5’10.
Next: 9. One incredible offensive tackle
9. OT Ronnie Stanley, Notre Dame
Opting out of the 2015 NFL Draft, Ronnie Stanley is still a force to be reckoned with. Hoping to win a championship, Stanley was quickly disappointed when he lost two conference championships and the Fiesta Bowl. However, he still received the Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2014 as well as second-team All-American in 2015.
Strengths: Quick upon the snap. Flexible and versatile. Comes back quickly and doesn’t buckle under pressure. Hand and foot control are solid along with overall swiftness. Strong and powerful lower half. Isn’t stopped around the edge.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t reroute opponents. Average stability. Doesn’t immediately bring down defenders. Weak upper body and core strength. Doesn’t stabilize feet and allows bull rusher to take control.
Next: 8. The best running back of this year's draft
8. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State
In 2014, Elliott had three back-to-back 200 plus yard games and received two MVP awards. He won a national title, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2015 and second-team All- American.
Strengths: Perfect size and footwork. Quick, played track in high school. Perfect eye and foot coordination. Doesn’t hesitate on a play. Bullies defenders and piggy backs tacklers. Three down player.
Weaknesses: Needs work on receiving capabilities if he wants to be used all over the football field. Doesn’t avoid impact. Doesn’t escape tackles consistently.
Next: 7. A quarterback with multiple FCS championships
7. QB Carson Wentz, North Dakota State
Carson Wentz is the ideal quarterback. In his first year, he threw for over 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also won the FCS Championship.
In his second year, Wentz won the FCS Championship again. He also earned the College Sports Information Directors Association All-American accreditation twice.
Strengths: Ideal build; height and frame. Plays in the pocket; good release timing and precision. Understands the game and plays the whole field. Accurate and consistent down the field passes. Smart and attentive.
Weaknesses: Broke his wrist in October; missed two months. Needs more height passing down field. Fumbles over feet. Passing timing is off in certain instances.
Next: 6. An incredible defensive end
6. DE DeForest Buckner, Oregon
DeForest Buckner has earned his spot as a top prospect in this year’s draft. In 2014, he earned second-team All-PAC 12 during his first starting season.
Last year Buckner was a Ted Hendricks Award finalist, Defensive Player of the Year and was recognized in many All-American groups.
Strengths: Supreme build and frame. Above average tackle stats. Utilizes body and swiftness. Flexible and versatile. Shows abilities to take direction.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t drop and bend upon snap. Needs to use lower half. Feet are stable and loses position. Poor body discipline during route changes.
Next: 5. First freshmen quarterback to start in California
5. QB Jared Goff, California
Jared Goff grabbed every one’s attention when he was the first freshmen quarterback to start in his school’s history, earning him All-PAC 12 honorable mention.
Although he fell short to an injury, he returned to the starting position the following season. He set numerous records and won the Armed Forces bowl game.
Strengths: Quick and athletic. Good accuracy outside of the pocket. Great arm strength as he keeps his upper body in control. Running abilities with good eye contact. Understands how to maneuver pocket pressure. Connects with receivers in tough situations.
Weaknesses: Small build and hands. Overthrows the ball at times making receivers change course. Buckles under pressure. Inconsistent tendencies. High fumble stats. Doesn’t address all defenders.
Next: 4. A top linebacker worth taking a risk on
4. OLB Myles Jack, UCLA
Myles Jack has hit the radar his entire college career. In 2013, he earned the Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year award while also being a Paul Hornung Award finalist and second-team All-Pac 12.
In 2014, Jack was elected second team all-conference for the second time in a row. Unfortunately last year, Jack was injured and his season ended after only three games.
Strengths: Versatile; has played many positions. Fast paced no matter where positioned. Weaves through gaps and around congestion. Uses body well. Releases from blocks sufficiently. Responds quick on a snap and thinks instantaneously.
Weaknesses: Unconventional route runs. Needs to gain more control. Build isn’t ideal for the linebacker position. Season ending injury less than a year ago might hurt his overall draft stock.
Next: 3. The top defensive end in this year's draft
3. DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State
Joey Bosa has positioned himself as a phenomenal defensive end. Starting more than half of the season’s games in his freshmen year, Bosa received honorable mention All-Big Ten.
The following year, he continued the trend earning several honors, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for multiple awards including the Lombardi Award. In 2015, Bosa was named Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Strengths: Impactful body and build. Flexible but in control. Adds pressure and forces fumbles. Utilizes arm and hand strength. Explosive bull rusher. Locks in position against defenders.
Weaknesses: Hesitant and slow to gain speed. Poor tackle abilities. Allows blockers to take control. Weak on the edge. Slow to re-route plays. Forward leaning posture produced double-digit offside penalties.
Next: 2. A cornerback that was a Freshmen All-American
2. CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State
Jalen Ramsey has been on the radar since his freshmen year when he started in the opening game, something a freshmen hasn’t done since Deion Sanders started. In 2013, Ramsey won Freshmen All-American followed by All-American and first-team All-ACC honors in 2014 and 2015.
Strengths: Fast; previous track star. Aggressive and instinctive. Flexible and balanced. Re-routes effortlessly. Versatile and athletic. Understands several positions and reads plays well.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t approach opposing receiving targets. Poor footwork at times causes instabilities. Firm and stiff; doesn’t bend hips and waist. Inconsistent aggression.
Next: 1. Projected to be the No. 1 overall pick
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1. OT Laremy Tunsil, Mississippi
Laremy Tunsil is without question, the complete package for an offensive tackle. After all, the majority of mock drafts all across the internet have him as the overall No. 1 selection of this year’s draft and rightfully so.
Tunsil enters the draft with above average athleticism and pass protection abilities like no other. Any quarterback would appreciate being blocked by him throughout the majority of their career under center.
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Strengths: Quick footwork and very flexible. Defends with quick repetitive punch-like jabs. Extreme force and accuracy with assignments. Reads and understands plays well. Takes down linebackers with ease.
Weaknesses: Needs to gain weight and become stronger. Inconsistent against defenders on the edge. Hasn’t played a full game in three years of his college career. Injury prone.