On Tuesday here at The Draft Network, our senior analyst team of Joe Marino, Jon Ledyard, Trevor Sikkema and I released our individual Top 10 positional rankings for the start of the 2018 college season. Please bear in mind that these ratings will change. So, too, will my 2019 big board.
But with the opportunity to sit down filter through where I thought each position group stacked up, it made perfect sense to carve some additional time out to work through all the positions together.
Below is my personal preseason 2019 Big Board of my top 50 prospects eligible for this year’s NFL Draft.
50. DeAndre Baker, Cornerback, Georgia
Georgia’s DeAndre Baker has a lot to like in his game. He’s got good ball skills. He’s active in addressing the football when targeted in coverage. But my apprehension is this: can he get better at his transitional quickness? Baker is a lot of things, but overly fast isn’t one of them. He’ll need to be crisp in his footwork to protect vertically.
49. Kendall Joseph, Linebacker, Clemson
Predominantly a coverage linebacker, Joseph looks to follow in the footsteps of Dorian O’Daniel as an undersized linebacker to be coveted in the draft. Joseph is slotted higher than O’Daniel thanks to excellent discipline and range.
48. Juan Thornhill, Safety, Virginia
A former cornerback, Thornhill looks to shine at safety in 2018. The Cavalier is a cerebral, smart player and his transition to a new position should help him hide some less than ideal movement skills for locking receivers down on the boundary.
47. Justice Hill, Running Back, Oklahoma State
Ever see lightning in a bottle? If not, just pop in some Justice Hill tape. Hill plays way over his listed weight of 185 pounds. That bit of spunk on contact is key to his game, as he puts defenders in a bind every time he’s head up with them. Hill has the most explosive jump cuts in the nation.
46. Kris Boyd, Cornerback, Texas
Boyd is a wonderful tackler. He and Holton Hill (former Longhorn now with the Vikings) tackle better than most of the safeties we’ll encounter in college football this season. Boyd has requisite size to play the boundary and is best man to man coverage.
45. Drew Lock, Quarterback, Missouri
Lock is a popular choice to be designated QB1. I like Lock. I think he’s got a super arm. But his eyes tell a lot on a play by play basis. Lock doesn’t work through the field with quickness and (wait for it…) locks (get it?) on to reads with much too high a frequency.
44. Jalen Jelks, EDGE Defender, Oregon
Jelks first caught my eye in the same game that N’Keal Harry did. He was impossible to miss with his constant penetration into the Sun Devil backfield that night. Jelks is miscast in the Oregon front, often spending his reps inside but don’t let that deter you from his length and range.
43. Deebo Samuel, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
Goodness gracious, Deebo is electric. But I’m more concerned with what I don’t know about Deebo vs. what I do: is he durable? I can’t tell. Samuel has fought injuries throughout his career at South Carolina. Has that impacted his development? Will these be long term issues?
42. Anfernee Jennings, EDGE Defender, Alabama
Jennings reminds me of a bit more athletic version of Ryan Anderson, who is now with the Redskins after an accomplished career with the Tide. Heavy, heavy hands are his trademark and you have to like a guy that can beat up tackles on the edge.
41. Greg Little, Offensive Tackle, Mississippi
Little has so much upside. This is the type of tackle I used to get snookered by in drafts past. With Little’s athletic gifts, he can be a physically dominant player. But in the meantime, I have big time apprehension that he’s going to clean things up. 2018 needs to show progress in technique.
40. Dexter Lawrence, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
I’m willing to give Lawrence the benefit of the doubt when he says he played at less than 100% last year. He certainly didn’t look like the freak athlete he was billed as. Will the real Dexter Lawrence please stand up in 2018?
39. Julian Love, Cornerback, Notre Dame
Love is a combative corner who shows admirable patience in off coverage. There, he forces receivers to declare their intent before getting into their body and stuffing up free runs into the secondary. I’d love to see more of that patience at the line of scrimmage instead in 2018.
38. Damien Harris, Running Back, Alabama
Harris is a physical, between the tackles rusher who punishes flat footed tacklers in the hole. Harris can be relied upon to always get available yardage, plus a few extra. Receiving skills can add some three down reps.
37. Anthony Nelson, EDGE Defender, Iowa
A base 4-3 end, Nelson doesn’t quite bring the same upside of the top tier EDGE defenders. No matter. Nelson has heavy mitts that collapse tackles and brings more variety with his hands than one would expect in pass rushes.
36. Christian Wilkins, Defensive Tackle, Clemson
Wilkins, in my opinion, gets a bit of a bum rap. He’s typically discussed as one of the the more overrated prospects in the country, but that’s only the case if you were expecting a top three overall player. Wilkins was very good as a freshman, perhaps that has impacted his long term impression. But make no mistake, Wilkins gets into gaps well and is very fluid for his size.
35. Dawson Knox, Tight End, Mississippi
Knox is flying under the radar thanks to the three-headed receiving threat at Ole Miss, but that’s alright. As a plus athlete, Knox is an athletic target with a ton of upside.
34. Dalton Risner, Offensive Line, Kansas State
Listen, Risner might be better served inside at guard. But I’m typically willing to let guys fail their way inside instead of pegging them prematurely. Risner plays with good cadence in his feet, allowing him to play balanced and under control up front.
33. David Montgomery, Running Back, Iowa State
I haven’t seen a back with contact balance like Montgomery in a while. The guy is a human pinball, bouncing off of contact and sustaining movement. No, he isn’t a home run hitter. But Montgomery is a capable receiving back as well who can beat you with some wiggle.
32. Justin Herbert, Quarterback, Oregon
Herbert may be the most physically gifted quarterback in the class. He has mobility. Size. Arm strength. Some great placement skills. But most of quarterback is played between the ears. If Herbert can prove he transcends the Oregon spread, he’ll be locked into a 1st-round projection.
31. Jaquan Johnson, Safety, Miami
My favorite thing about Johnson’s tape is everything is done with intent. There are no lazy reps. Johnson’s focus and execution pairs well with a well built frame, allowing him to play physical as a tackler and through traffic. He’s a great asset in run support.
30. A.J. Brown, Wide Receiver, Mississippi
The Rebels’ leading receiver last year is a likable athlete in his own regard. He’s not a freak like Metcalf, but that’s alright. Brown is creative after the catch and can make big plays happen with the ball in his hands. That said, I would love to see more consistency out of Brown, plus better performances against top competition.
29. N’Keal Harry, Wide Receiver, Arizona State
I’ll never forget seeing Harry for the first time in Tempe last September. I was on the field for Arizona State’s game against the Oregon Ducks and Harry made me do a triple take. “That is a wide receiver?!” Harry is a possession receiver who doesn’t bring a lot of big play ability after the catch, but he’s got a huge catch radius and is tough to run with due to his strength and persistence on route stems.
28. Rashard Lawrence, Defensive Tackle, Louisiana State
Stout at the point of attack, Lawrence has the kind of physical play you’d expect from a stereotypical SEC defensive lineman. Lawrence doesn’t offer some of the same “dancing bear” qualities that make for nimble footed splash defenders inside, but that’s okay.
27. Trey Adams, Offensive Tackle, Washington
Adams is rock solid in just about every way. Coming back from a knee injury from 2017, Adams’ biggest test will be proving that he’s the same guy we knew him to be when he last laced them up. Adams is a huge presence and naturally occupies a lot of space.
26. Devin White, Linebacker, Louisiana State
One of the darlings of the summer, Devin White’s name has bubbled up boards across the country. He’s fast, powerful and an explosive athlete. Yet White wasn’t as decisive as some of his contemporaries and therefore he’s a bit further down the board. White should still be a very good plug in starter at the NFL level.