When we kicked off festivities here at The Draft Network in August, each of our senior analysts (myself included) was required to have a set of positional 2019 NFL Draft rankings. These rankings were composed of our top-10 prospects at each position.
How does one value players before the games even begin? A lot of that comes down to setting expectations based on the previous season. But all bets are off once the games begin. This year is a great illustration of that.
To mark the new year, I've updated each of my positional 2019 NFL Draft rankings. You can find them here:
Expect to see updates from the rest of our team in the coming days as well...we all have updated Big Boards due in the coming week. In the meantime, I can only speak to my own rankings. And boy, has there been some shuffling of the deck.
Now that we're just about finished with live games, it will be much easier to set the foundation of the class vs. what we experienced at the front end of the season. I, for one, am excited to dig deep into the class and find surprising names that will force their way into the rankings going forward.
That part of the process is fun, but it's much more stable than what we've seen over the past four months. For example, we recognize eleven position groups here at The Draft Network. Six of those position groups have seen the pre-season top prospect hold serve throughout the year in my personal rankings. They are:
Wide Receiver: D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi
Tight End: Noah Fant, Iowa
Offensive Tackle: Jonah Williams, Alabama
Interior Offensive Line: Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin
EDGE Defender: Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Safety: Deionte Thompson, Alabama
This is a great group. But even in that stability, there is change. We've seen the other Iowa TE, T.J. Hockenson, go from unranked in the pre-season to TE2. Oklahoma OT Cody Ford has emerged as another pre-season unranked player to sit at OT2 in my January 1st update.
Shoot, let's not forget Delaware S Nasir Adderley, who I was late to the party for relative to our good friend Dane Brugler. I had only heard his name before the season and he now sits as SAF2 and carries a first round grade.
The point is this: this process is 12 months long for a reason. There's so much ground to cover, so many variables at play. And that's exactly what makes it so much damn fun.
It's also a two way street.
There were several prospects who I entered this season on with high rankings who have completely fallen off the radar. Their circumstances are unique, but their status as a pro prospect is damaged none the less.
Here are a few examples:
QB1 - Brian Lewerke, Michigan State
WR3 - Ahmmon Richards, Miami
OT5 - Greg Little, Mississippi
CB3 - Levonta Taylor, Florida State
SAF5 - Lukas Denis, Boston College
The obvious elephant in the room is that Lewerke played like one of the worst quarterbacks in college football after the first three weeks of the season. I've mentioned this to those who have asked, but here's my thoughts on Lewerke's season and my pre-season ranking:
In a thin, uninspiring quarterback class, I saw promising traits from Lewerke's 2017 season. Anticipation, some clutch/savvy 2-minute offense, athletic ability, general accuracy. And the team brought 10 starters back. Why wouldn't he make a progression? I bet on the upside.
And the wheels fell off. The line couldn't block. The receivers got hurt. Lewerke himself was banged up but his flaws as a passer became amplified. The throwing mechanics melted under pressure. The trust in the line vanished in thin air.
Some of the other names in this group, such as Levonta Taylor and Ahmmon Richards, suffered injury. Richards' football career is, tragically, over. Taylor will return to Florida State next season and look to recapture his 2017 form.
Others, like Greg Little and Lukas Denis, simply didn't play well. Their flaws became amplified. And in their place were players like Florida's Jawaan Taylor (OT) and Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (SAF). Each took big steps forward and enter the Draft process with momentum.
One last parting thought as we overview the positional ranking updates. I mentioned the sorry state of our quarterback class. There's a lot of fresh faces in that group as of the January 1 update. Of my top-5, three were unranked before the season started.
QB1 - Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State (Pre-season rank: N/A)
QB2 - Brett Rypien, Boise State (10th)
QB3 - Daniel Jones, Duke (N/A)
QB4 - Drew Lock, Missouri (4th)
QB5 - Gardner Minshew II, Washington State (N/A)
Jones, Lock and Minshew figure to participate in this month's Senior Bowl, while Rypien will be in attendance at the East/West Shrine Game. Look for strong performances to add some stability to a paper thin top of this year's Quarterback class.