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.