Final Big Board: Receivers, running backs strongest positions

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

Quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are getting all of the attention before the draft, but what separates the 2015 class from others in recent years is the talent at the other skill positions.

This year's crop of wide receivers has a long way to go before warranting comparison to last year's phenomenal class but the talent and depth is undeniable. Even more exciting is the talent at running back - the strongest positional group in this year's draft.

Whereas mock drafts take team needs and histories into account, the Big Board is simply my personal ranking of the top 100 prospects in the draft. As you'd expect, wide receivers and running backs are well represented, and will be on draft day.

1. Jameis Winston, QB, 6-4, 231, 4.97, rSo, Florida State: Winston possesses the prototypical combination of physical traits necessary for success in the NFL -- size, functional mobility, arm strength and accuracy. Better yet, he enhances these tools with awareness, on-field composure and natural leadership skills. The off-field concerns are troubling but Winston is described by scouts as immature and entitled rather than violent or untrustworthy. I think he's a future Pro Bowl quarterback and the player in this draft most likely to turn a franchise into contender.

2. Leonard Williams, DT, 6-5, 302, 4.97, Jr, Southern Cal: Strong, athletic and passionate, the Trojans' star is earning comparisons to everyone from Houston Texans' defensive end J.J. Watt to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for his ability to dominate the line of scrimmage while alternating between defensive tackle and defensive end. He's too quick for guards and too strong for tackles, wreaking havoc along the line of scrimmage against the run and pass.

3. Dante Fowler Jr., DE, 6-3, 261, 4.60, Jr, Florida: A talented pass rusher with experience at outside linebacker and all over the defensive line, Fowler is an intriguing athlete with range, strength and flexibility. He isn't as explosive off the snap or productive as some of the other pass rushers but is the most pro-ready.

4. Marcus Mariota, QB, 6-4, 222, 4.52, rJr, Oregon: As one of the few in the media who attended both Mariota's throwing session at the combine and his Pro Day workout, I can tell you that there were gains made in his accuracy while dropping back from center -- critical to success in a pro-style offense. Mariota is a work in progress, but he offers a rare combination of physical talent and work ethic.

5. Amari Cooper, WR, 6-1, 211, 4.42, Jr, Alabama: Cooper's production this season looks like something out of a video game. Alabama's first Biletnikoff Award winner, Cooper shattered Alabama records with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns, including two scores against the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl loss. It isn't just the production in Lane Kiffin's pro-style scheme that has scouts excited. Cooper is a terrific route-runner whose agility and acceleration make his elusiveness appear almost effortless.

6. Brandon Scherff, OT, 6-5, 319, 5.05, rSr, Iowa: Scherff may just prove the best in the long line of blockers tutored by Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz, which is quite an accomplishment considering that 13 Iowa offensive linemen have been drafted since he took over in 1999. Scherff won big points with scouts for his toughness, battling back from a torn meniscus and corrective surgery on Sept. 8 to start against rival Iowa State five days later. Team doctors want to check his recovery, though he certainly looked good March 23 at his Pro Day. Scherff is powerful, tough and tenacious, and I see him as one of the "safer" prospects in the draft, though his ultimate position in the NFL could be at right tackle or guard.

7. Vic Beasley, OLB, 6-3, 246, 4.53, rSr, Clemson: With pressure on the quarterback priority No. 1 on defense, teams are more willing than ever to trade size for speed at the position. Like recent "undersized" first-round rushers Von Miller, Bruce Irvin, Barkevious Mingo and Dee Ford, Beasley boasts a lightning-quick first-step and the agility to stalk mobile quarterbacks. His combination of speed and strength (35 repetitions of 225 pounds) demonstrated at the combine shows up on tape, as Beasley leaves Clemson as the school's all-time sacks leader (29).

8. Kevin White, WR, 6-3, 215, 4.35, Sr, West Virginia: No player improved his draft stock more in 2014 than White. It wasn't just his production (110 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns) that is impressing scouts. White's size, strength and ability to come down with contested grabs is something that every team in the NFL is looking for at the receiver position. While the eye-popping 40-yard dash time at the combine is sure to generate buzz, I didn't always see this kind of speed from White on tape.

9. Danny Shelton, DT, 6-2, 339, 5.64, Sr, Washington: Broad-shouldered, powerful and surprisingly passionate in pursuit, Shelton is a classic two-gap run defender with the gaudy statistics to catch the attention of scouts. He has flashed first-round talent throughout his career but played at a different level as a senior, boosting his stock considerably.

10. DeVante Parker, WR, 6-3, 209, 4.45, Sr, Louisville: A broken left foot sidelined Parker for the first seven games of the 2014 season but he returned with a vengeance, averaging seven receptions for 140 yards and a touchdown in his six games, including a Belk Bowl loss to Georgia. Parker can win with his height and ability to high-point passes. He also has impressive fluidity and acceleration for a receiver of his size.

11. La'el Collins, OT, 6-4, 305, 5.12, Sr, LSU: Collins doesn't get the national attention of other tackles in this class, but the big man is surprisingly agile in pass protection and is a mauler in the running game. Collins isn't an elite athlete and will likely wind up inside at guard or right tackle in the NFL rather than at his customary left tackle position. He has the square build and physical nature to handle the move and saw snaps at left guard in Mobile.

12. Todd Gurley, RB, 6-1, 222, 4.52, Jr, Georgia: Boasting a combination of size, power, balance and acceleration to warrant comparison to Seattle superstar Marshawn Lynch, Gurley is in a class by himself in even this very impressive running back crop. The only real concern with Gurley was, of course, his recovery from a torn ACL. With his medical cleared, Gurley is not only a first-round cinch, he could crash the top 15.

Nelson Agholor continues to rise as the draft approaches. (USATSI)
Nelson Agholor continues to rise as the draft approaches. (USATSI)

13. Trae Waynes, CB, 6-0, 186, 4.31, rJr, Michigan State: Waynes erased any doubts about his athleticism by blazing through the 40-yard dash at the combine. Waynes possesses the length, fluidity and ball skills required of cornerbacks in today's pass-happy NFL and is stouter against the run than his frame implies.

14. Ereck Flowers, OT, 6-6, 329, 5.31, Jr, Miami (Fla.): Flowers played left tackle at Miami but may need to move to the right side in the NFL. Despite his massive frame, Flowers is light on his feet and balanced in pass protection. He is aggressive and active as a run blocker, including looking for defenders in pursuit -- offering precisely the type of "nastiness" scouts prefer.

15. Alvin "Bud" Dupree, DE, 6-4, 269, 4.56, rSr, Kentucky: The Wildcats may not have the history of churning out high-end defenders of some other SEC teams, but that won't stop Dupree from earning a first-round selection. Dupree's length, agility and closing speed stand out on tape, as does his comfort playing out of the two- or three-point stance. Better yet, his traits translate into production against quality competition. Dupree leaves Kentucky with 24 sacks over his career, more than any other player in the SEC.

16. Landon Collins, SS, 6-0, 228, 4.53, Jr, Alabama: Instinctive, athletic and an explosive hitter, Collins looks the part of a top-10 pick. His downhill-playing style might be best suited to strong safety as he has been fooled deep on occasion this year due to his aggression. Further, scouts are certainly aware of the fact that few of the highly drafted few defensive backs out of Alabama have performed as brilliantly in the NFL as they did for Nick Saban.

17. Marcus Peters, CB, 6-0, 197, 4.53, Jr, Washington: On the field, Peters is the top cornerback in the class. His aggression, length and ball skills (11 career interceptions) are clearly first-round caliber and his athleticism stood out during UW's April 2 Pro Day. Peters' character is a legitimate concern, however. I've been told by a few teams that Peters is off their board as he was dismissed by new Washington head coach Chris Petersen Nov. 6 and was suspended by the previous staff for the first quarter of the 2012 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, as well.

18. Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, 6-5, 237, 4.49, rJr, Oklahoma: His split surname is appropriate as the former Missouri and Oklahoma wideout possesses the height and grace of Cincinnati's All-Pro A.J. Green and the ability to make the ridiculous catch look easy ala the Giants' star rookie Odell Beckham, Jr. The character concerns that prompted Green-Beckham's transfer from Missouri certainly require thorough investigating.

19. Malcom Brown, DT, 6-2, 319, 5.05, Jr, Texas: Much quicker than his well-proportioned frame would indicate, Brown proved a relative bright spot in 2014 for the Longhorns, earning consensus All-American honors with 72 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Though Brown is leaving Austin as just a junior, the NFL may be impressed with his maturity, as he's married with two children.

20. Cameron Erving, OL, 6-5, 313, 5.15, rSr, Florida State: In making a seamless transition from left tackle to center, Erving won the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the conference's top blocker after winning the same award last year at the blind side. He also captured the imagination of scouts, who see Erving's length, agility and selflessness as traits that could help him play any of the five spots along the offensive line.

21. Melvin Gordon, RB, 6-1, 215, 4.52, rJr, Wisconsin: Gordon offers a rare blend of balance, vision and burst that makes him a homerun threat on every snap. He is not as gifted as his chief competition among running backs (Georgia's Todd Gurley), but he is a legitimate first-round prospect in his own right, with underrated hands out of the backfield and even strength and tenacity to hold up in pass protection.

22. D.J. Humphries, OT, 6-5, 307, 5.12, Jr, Florida: Humphries epitomizes what makes the NFL Draft so fascinating for many fans. He wasn't a dominant player for the Gators, missing seven games (and meaningful snaps in several more) over the past two seasons and has never played heavier than 285 pounds. His upside is exciting, however, as Humphries is one of the few offensive linemen in this class with the combination of light feet, balance and long arms to remain at left tackle in the NFL.

23. Shane Ray, DE, 6-3, 245, 4.54, Jr, Missouri: Ray's inexplicable citation for marijuana possession this week puts him in the news for all of the wrong reasons but he remains too talented to slip far. Ray used an explosive first step to lead the SEC in both tackles for loss (21.5) and sacks (14.5), earning the conference's Defensive Player of the Year in his first season as a starter. Ray's burst and bend will help overcome a lack of ideal bulk, which could make him best suited to playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

24. Byron Jones, CB, 6-1, 199, 4.40, Sr, Connecticut: No player has made a more substantial "leap" up draft boards over the past two months than Jones, who, of course, set a new world record with a staggering 12-3" broad jump at the Combine. Jones, a 37-game starter with experience at corner and safety, has the length, leadership and ball skills (eight career interceptions) to back up his athleticism.

25. Randy Gregory, DE, 6-5, 235, Jr, 4.64, Nebraska: Attacking off the edge out of the two- or three-point stance, Gregory has proven to be a natural pass rusher with an explosive get-off, flexibility, long arms and active hands and the tenacious style of play (including against the run) that will endear him to coaches. Gregory brings a number of red flags with him, however, not the least of which is the fact that he has a thin frame, struggled with injuries last season, wasn't as effective last year as he was in 2013 and raised more questions than answers during interviews with teams at the combine. Gregory's admission of a failed drug test is only the latest in a series of missteps that could push the top-10 talent outside of the top 25 -- or even lower.

Ameer Abdullah highlights a deep class of running backs. (USATSI)
Ameer Abdullah highlights a deep class of running backs. (USATSI)

26. Andrus Peat, OT, 6-7, 313, 5.18, Jr, Stanford: Peat signed with Stanford as a five-star recruit and possesses the combination of size and athleticism scouts drool over, so it is quite possible that he'll be drafted much higher than I grade him. However, he experienced notable lapses as a junior, from getting blown up by Notre Dame and struggling mightily against Utah's Nate Orchard. Peat's upside warrants early consideration but unless he develops more nastiness to his play, there is doubt that he will fulfill his potential.

27. Breshad Perriman, WR, 6-2, 212, 4.26, rJr, Central Florida: How long did it take Perriman to fly up my board? Well, about 4.26 seconds -- the same time it took the well-built wideout to run the 40-yard dash during his Pro Day workout March 25. Perriman drops more passes than he should and wasn't used on a variety of routes at UCF so he's a work in progress. The explosiveness shown in drills also stands out on tape, however. With some patience and hard work, he could match or perhaps even surpass his father's (former Detroit Lions' standout Brett Perriman) success in the NFL.

28. Kevin Johnson, CB, 6-0, 188, 4.52, rSr, Wake Forest: Johnson may be the best cover corner in this class and that will likely earn him a first-round selection. Though he's proven durable (never missing a game over his collegiate career), I do have some reservations about his relatively thin frame and ability to hold up in run support.

29. Jake Fisher, OT, 6-6, 306, 5.01, Sr, Oregon: Fisher impressed with his grit and athleticism while at right tackle in the past and proved to be the leader of the Ducks' offensive line during an injury-shortened senior season at left tackle. I thought he was the most impressive player on the field during Oregon's Pro Day and believe he projects as an immediate and long-term starting tackle in the NFL.

30. Eric Kendricks, OLB, 6-0, 232, 4.61, rSr, UCLA: Given today's pass-happy offenses, NFL defenses are desperate for three-down linebackers. Like his older brother Mychal with the Philadelphia Eagles, Kendricks lacks prototypical size but his athleticism, instincts and ball-skills could earn him first-round consideration.

31. Eric Rowe, CB/FS, 6-1, 205, 4.45, Sr, Utah: Like Fisher, Rowe is moving up draft boards in part due to the versatility he's shown in the past, starring at both free safety and cornerback for the Utes. Some clubs see Rowe as moving back to safety in the NFL. Regardless of his ultimate position, Rowe possesses the speed, awareness and physicality to follow in the footsteps of former Utah defensive backs Eric Weddle and Sean Smith as standout pros.

32. Nelson Agholor, WR, 6-0, 198, 4.42, Jr, Southern Cal: It isn't difficult to understand why Agholor continues to rise as the draft approaches, as he is one of the few receivers in this class with the blend of size, agility, speed, soft hands and experience in a pro scheme. He should be able to make an immediate impact as a receiver and returner.

The Best of the Rest:

33. Grady Jarrett, DT, 6-1, 304, 5.06, Sr, Clemson

34. Mario Edwards, Jr., DE, 6-3, 279, 4.84, Jr, Florida State

35. Donovan Smith, OT, 6-6, 341, 5.15, Jr, Penn State

36. Eddie Goldman, DT, 6-4, 336, 5.30, Jr, Florida State

37. Shaq Thompson, OLB, 6-0, 228, 4.64, Jr, Washington

38. Jaelen Strong, WR, 6-2, 217, 4.44, rJr, Arizona State

39. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, DE, 6-3, 267, 4.62, rSr, UCLA

40. Preston Smith, DE, 6-5, 271, 4.74, Sr, Mississippi State

41. Eli Harold, OLB, 6-3, 247, 4.60, Jr, Virginia

42. Maxx Williams, TE, 6-4, 249, 4.78, rSo, Minnesota

43. P.J. Williams, CB, 6-0, 194, 4.57, Jr, Florida State

44. AJ Cann, OG, 6-3, 313, 5.18, Sr, South Carolina

45. Arik Armstead, DT, 6-7, 292, 5.10, Jr, Oregon

46. Danielle Hunter, DE, 6-5, 252, 4.57, Jr, LSU

47. T.J. Clemmings, OT, 6-5, 309, 5.14, rSr, Pittsburgh

48. Devin Smith, WR, 6-0, 196, 4.42, Sr, Ohio State

49. Sammie Coates, WR, 6-1, 212, 4.43, Jr, Auburn

50. Quinten Rollins, CB, 5-11, 195, 4.57, rSr, Miami (Ohio)

51. Daryl Williams, OT, 6-5, 327, 5.34, rSr, Oklahoma

52. Ameer Abdullah, RB, 5-09, 205, 4.60, Sr, Nebraska

53. Brett Hundley, QB, 6-3, 226, 4.63, rJr, UCLA

54. Laken Tomlinson, OG, 6-3, 323, 5.33, Sr, Duke

55. Nate Orchard, DE, 6-3, 250, 4.80, Sr, Utah

56. Ty Sambrailo, OT, 6-6, 311, 5.36, rSr, Colorado State

57. Jordan Phillips, DT, 6-5, 329, 5.17, Jr, Oklahoma

58. Jalen Collins, CB, 6-1, 203, 4.48. Jr, LSU

59. Carl Davis, DT, 6-5, 320, 5.07, rSr, Iowa

60. Michael Bennett, DT, 6-2, 293, 4.96, Sr, Ohio State

61. Denzel Perryman, ILB, 5-11, 236, 4.78, Sr, Miami

62. Paul Dawson, OLB, 6-0, 235, 4.93, Sr, TCU

63. Henry Anderson, DE, 6-6, 294, 5.03, rSr, Stanford

64. Ali Marpet, OG, 6-4, 307, 4.96, Sr, Hobart & William Smith

65. Xavier Cooper, DT, 6-3, 293, 4.86, rJr, Washington State

66. Ronald Darby, CB, 5-11, 193, 4.37, Jr, Florida State

67. D'Joun Smith, CB, 5-10, 187, 4.37, Sr, Florida Atlantic

68. Duke Johnson, RB, 5-09, 207, 4.50, Jr, Miami

69. Devin Funchess, WR/TE, 6-4, 232, 4.50, Jr, Michigan

70. Tre Jackson, OG, 6-4, 330, 5.49, Sr, Florida State

71. Trey Flowers, DE, 6-2, 266, 4.85, Sr, Arkansas

72. David Johnson, RB, 6-1, 224, 4.40, rSr, Northern Iowa

73. Clive Walford, TE, 6-4, 251, 4.70, rSr, Miami

74. Tre McBride, WR, 6-0, 210, 4.39, Sr, William & Mary

75. Jay Ajayi, RB, 6-0, 221, 4.57, rJr, Boise State

76. Steven Nelson, CB, 5-10, 197, 4.43, Sr, Oregon State

77. T.J. Yeldon, RB, 6-1, 226, 4.52, Jr, Alabama

78. Damarious Randall, S, 5-11, 196, 4.40, rSr, Arizona State

79. Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, 6-5, 306, 4.98 (est.), rSr, Texas A&M

80. Alex Carter, CB, 6-0, 196, 4.50, Jr, Stanford

81. Josh Shaw, S, 6-0, 201, 4.34, rSr, Southern Cal

82. Tyler Lockett, WR, 5-10, 182, 4.31, Sr, Kansas State

83. Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, 6-4, 259, 4.81, Sr, Louisville

84. Stephone Anthony, ILB, 6-3, 243, 4.53, Sr, Clemson

85. Kwon Alexander, OLB, 6-1, 227, 4.54, Jr, LSU

86. Marcus Hardison, DT, 6-3, 307, 4.91, Sr, Arizona State

87. Benardrick McKinney, ILB, 6-4, 246, 4.62, rJr, Mississippi State

88. Tevin Coleman, RB, 5-11, 206, 4.50 (est.), Jr, Indiana

89. Adrian Amos, S, 6-0, 218, 4.39, Sr, Penn State

90. Jaquiski Tartt, S, 6-1, 221, 4.43, rSr, Samford

91. Chris Conley, WR, 6-2, 213, 4.33, Sr, Georgia

92. Jeremy Langford, RB, 6-0, 208, 4.40, rSr, Michigan State

93. Rashad Greene, WR, 5-11, 182, 4.49, Sr, Florida State

94. Garrett Grayson, QB, 6-2, 213, 4.75, rSr, Colorado State

95. Doran Grant, CB, 5-10, 200, 4.37, Sr, Ohio State

96. Mitch Morse, OG, 6-5, 305, 5.14, rSr, Missouri

97. Bryce Petty, QB, 6-3, 230, 4.81, rSr, Baylor

98. David Cobb, RB, 5-11, 229, 4.73, Sr, Minnesota

99. Jeff Heuerman, TE, 6-5, 254, 4.81, Sr, Ohio State

100. Tony Lippett, WR/CB, 6-2, 192, 4.56, rSr, Michigan State


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