NFL Draft Big Board: All eyes on Myles Garrett and Jonathan Allen
Scouts are salivating for Texas A&M vs. Bama, a showcase for the top two prospects in the draft
Top-rated prospect Myles Garrett and the undefeated Texas Longhorns A&M Aggies travel to Tuscaloosa to take on No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide and No. 2 prospect Jonathan Allen in what is the biggest treat to date for NFL scouts.
The disruptive pass rushers epitomize a defense-heavy draft class that might lack a surefire franchise quarterback. Garrett and Allen check in at 1-2 on my personal rankings of the top 32 draft-eligible prospects in college football, The Big Board.
Players are listed by name, position, school, year, height, weight and 40-yard dash time
1. Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, Jr, 6-5, 262, 4.74
Still fighting an ankle injury which sidelined him against South Carolina Gamecocks , Garrett faces arguably his toughest (and most highly anticipated) matchup of the year against All-SEC left tackle, Cam Robinson , a projected first-round pick. Garrett has proven much more disruptive than stats (14 tackles, including six tackles for loss and four sacks through five games) might suggest, consistently disrupting opponents despite frequent double-teams. The former consensus five-star recruit has been a terror since stepping onto the field for the Aggies, answering his breakout freshman season (53 tackles, including 14 for loss and 11 sacks) with an even better one last year (59-19.5-12.5). Boasting a prototypical blend of explosiveness, flexibility and length off the corner, Garrett has the look of a future Pro Bowl regular.
2. Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama, Sr, 6-3, 292, 4.85
With 12 sacks last season, Allen was the most disruptive of Alabama's dominant defensive line a season ago. In fact, one of the reasons why A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed surprisingly slipped into the second round in the 2016 draft is that talent evaluators realized the best prospect of the bunch -- Allen -- had returned to school. Allen has been every bit as good this season, registering 29 tackles, five sacks, two pass breakups, a blocked kick and a 75-yard touchdown return of a fumble through six games. Allen, who reminds me a little of Seattle Seahawks ' Pro Bowler Michael Bennett , is position versatile with surprisingly light feet and dynamite sticks for hands.
Michigan State Spartans
, Jr, 6-5, 282, 4.92
McDowell made waves in the preseason by announcing his plans to return to East Lansing unless he was projected "in the top three." He may be rethinking these plans with the reigning Big Ten champs currently on a three-game losing streak. While the Spartans are down, McDowell's stock is not because of his combination of length, strength and agility offer exciting position and schematic versatility at the next level.
, RB, LSU, Jr, 6-1, 230, 4.45
Fournette has slipped a few spots as he continues to battle an ankle injury and has watched fellow future NFL running back Derrius Guice put up Heisman-like numbers in his absence. At this point in the season, in fact, Guice is the Tigers' leading rusher with 564 yards (averaging 9.1 yards per attempt) compared to Fournette's 386 (5.8). Make no mistake, Fournette is an exceptional talent. Put simply, I believe he is the most exciting talent at the position since Adrian Peterson . Like Peterson, Fournette gets a lot of attention because of his rare combination of size, speed and power but his vision and agility are the stuff of legend, as well.
, rSoph, 6-0, 208, 4.48
Michigan is loaded with NFL prospects and Peppers, just a redshirt sophomore, is the best of the bunch. Peppers is the latest in a new line of defensive 'erasers' capable of lining up at safety, linebacker or cornerback similar in style to recent first-round picks Deone Bucannon , Damarious Randall and Shaq Thompson. Arguably the most versatile player in the country, Peppers leads Michigan in tackles for loss (10) and is averaging 73.7 all-purpose yards per game as a returner and runner.
, Jr, 6-0, 202, 4.48
With his easy agility, instant acceleration and soft hands, McCaffrey is a weapon of mass destruction as a runner, receiver and returner, warranting comparison to another former Pac-12 star, Reggie Bush . Like Bush, McCaffrey lacks the bulk to be a true bell-cow back at the next level but his versatility translates very well to today's wide-open NFL. McCaffrey was "banged up" in Stanford's loss to Washington State Cougars according to head coach David Shaw , but don't blame him for the team's struggles. When healthy, he's been just as dynamic as he was last season.
7. Jamar Adams, S, LSU, Jr, 6-0, 211, 4.48
It is easy to mistake Adams for former LSU Tigers star Tyrann Mathieu , given their similar instincts and highly aggressive playing style. Like Mathieu, Adams possesses the agility and speed to handle coverage duties on slot receivers, possesses soft hands for the interception and is a tenacious run defender. Adams' kamikaze style of play can lead to occasional mistakes but he is always around the ball. Adams and the Tigers face an exciting offense in Week 7 with Chad Kelly and Mississippi coming to Baton Rouge.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
, rSoph, 6-4, 230, 4.84
Kizer is the most gifted draft-eligible quarterback prospect in the country with a prototypical blend of build, arm strength and functional athleticism. The young signal-caller has struggled in recent weeks, however, and was even benched for much of the second half against Stanford. He possesses the kind of undeniable talent that could lead to an early selection should he opt to head to the NFL but is far from a surefire franchise quarterback. Teams will not overlook that Brian Kelly has produced just one NFL quarterback (2010 sixth-round pick Tony Pike , Carolina) in 26 seasons as a head coach.
, Jr, 6-0, 199, 4.52
Until this summer, Tabor's first name was Jalen, though his new name may provide a more accurate description of his game. Tabor teases with an exciting combination of size, fluidity and speed, standing out in coverage and as a gunner on special teams the past two years. After boasting about Florida's recent domination of Tennessee Volunteers in the week leading up to their September 24 matchup, Tabor was beaten for a long touchdown, contributing to Florida's collapse. Tabor is one the nation's top smack-talkers but he usually backs it up. He was suspended (reportedly for a fight with a teammate) for Florida's season opener but has three interceptions in four games since, including one in a close win over Vanderbilt Commodores .
, CB, Alabama, rSoph, 6-1, 198, 4.53
The son of former Alabama (and NFL) standout Bobby Humphrey, Marlon looks like a chip off the old block with his easy change of direction and acceleration. He's built well for a young player at a solid 6-1, 198 pounds and is an aggressive tackler, including in run support. Humphrey and true sophomore Minkah Fitzpatrick gives Alabama the best duo of cornerbacks in the nation.
, ILB, Alabama, Sr, 6-1, 240, 4.72
Reggie Ragland was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year last season but Foster could earn a higher draft selection this spring. Foster is a more explosive athlete, showing ridiculous closing speed and an utter disregard for his own safety or that of his opponents. Foster might be the most intimidating hitter in all of college football and he possesses the fluidity and speed to cover.
Florida State Seminoles
, Jr, 5-11, 206, 4.46
Cook struggled out of the gate this season but has been dynamic since, accumulating over 200+ all-purpose yards and at least one score in three of his past four games, including rushing for a cool 150 yards and hauling in a 59-yard touchdown pass in a Week 6 upset of Miami. While not as big as Fournette nor as explosive as McCaffrey, Cook is a natural runner with excellent vision, agility and burst who projects nicely in today's pass-happy NFL.
, LB, Vanderbilt, rJr, 6-3, 230, 4.74
Cunningham played a starring role in Vandy's Week 7 upset in Athens, recording a career-high 19 tackles against Georgia Bulldogs , including a solo stop on 4th down inside the final minute to seal the victory. He was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for this performance and is far from just a one game wonder, recording 21 more tackles this season (81) than any other defender in the SEC. Instinctive, aggressive and athletic, Cunningham offers an exciting skill set and may be only scratching the surface of his potential. Despite not starting until the fourth game of last season, Cunningham posted 103 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles, earning First Team All-SEC honors.
, Jr, 6-2, 210, 4.64
Watson has guided the Tigers to a 6-0 start but has made troubling decisions with the ball and struggled with shaky accuracy from inside the pocket. That's not what scouts want to see from a quarterback in his third season as a starter. Watson's slight frame and Clemson's relatively simple offense are other legitimate concerns. Watson's stock is slipping but he remains firmly in the first-round conversation at this point as he possesses exciting potential as a dual-threat quarterback and has proven his poise in big games.
, WR, Southern Cal, Jr, 6-2, 220, 4.52
The touchdown machine scouts thought we'd be seeing this year returned in Week 7 with the powerfully built Smith-Schuster hauling in nine passes for 132 yards and three scores at Arizona Wildcats . Highly competitive with terrific body control to make tough grabs look easy, Smith-Schuster is a potential No. 1 target in the NFL, but I have reservations about his straight-line speed.
16. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama, Jr, 6-5, 327, 5.28
The matchup between Robinson and A&M's Garrett is one of this season's must-sees for scouts. As his monstrous size implies, Robinson can be a road-grader in the running game and his quickness and length can make him very effective in pass protection. He struggled with Tennessee's Derek Barnett in Week 8, however, and needs a bounce-back performance against Garrett (and Daeshon Hall ) to settle his stock. Unfortunately, Robinson comes with legitimate off-field concerns as well, with an arrest in May on guns and drug charges. The charges were later dropped.
, TE, Alabama, Sr, 6-6, 242, 4.57
Howard is the best tight end in the country even if he plays a relatively marginal role in the Alabama offense. He only has 14 receptions for 209 yards and a single score in 2016 but scouts saw what he could do when featured during last season's national title game against Clemson. His freakish combination of size, speed and strength make Howard a mismatch nightmare in the passing game and he's made major strides this season as a blocker.
, rJr, 6-2, 253, 4.67
With all due respect to the top-ranked Garrett, Lawson has been the best pass rusher in the SEC over the past month, already eclipsing his previous single-season high with six sacks so far this year. Finally healthy after missing 19 of 26 games over the 2014-15 seasons with a torn ACL and hip injury, Lawson is winning with a fearsome combination of initial burst, core strength and a relentless motor. He was voted the SEC's Defensive Lineman of the Week for his two sack (and forced fumble) performance in a road win over Mississippi State Bulldogs in Week Six.
, WR, Clemson, rJr, 6-3, 220, 4.50
According to Clemson coaches, Williams is in the same class athletically as former teammates Sammy Watkins , DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant . An imposing target with explosive speed and the body control to win contested passes, Williams is only a clean bill of health away from competing with Smith-Schuster to be the top receiver prospect in the country.
, Sr, 5-10, 200, 4.53
King recorded the 12th interception of his career in Week 7, icing a Hawkeyes win over Purdue Boilermakers with a 40-yard pick-six. This, of course, is nothing new for the reigning Thorpe Award winner, who combines terrific instincts, soft hands and a knack for making the big play (as both a defender and punt returner) at critical moments.
Best of the rest
21. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, Jr, 6-3, 257, 4.76
22. John Ross , WR, Washington Huskies , rJr, 5-11, 190, 4.35
23. Bucky Hodges , TE, Virginia Tech Hokies , rJr, 6-6, 245, 4.78
24. Adoree' Jackson , CB/WR/RS, Jr, Southern Cal, 5-11, 185, 4.43
25. Charles Harris , DE, Missouri Tigers , rJr, 6-3, 255, 4.74
26. Royce Freeman , RB, Oregon Ducks , Jr, 5-11, 230, 4.49
27. Vita Vea , DT, Washington, rSoph, 6-4, 322, 5.19
28. Dan Feeney , OG, Indiana Hoosiers , rSr, 6-4, 310, 5.09
29. Lowell Lotulelei , DT, Utah Utes , Jr, 6-2, 310, 5.28
30. Marcus Williams , FS, Utah, Jr, 6-0, 195, 4.56
31. Malik Hooker , FS, Ohio State Buckeyes , rSoph, 6-2, 205, 4.52
32. Dorian Johnson , OG, Pittsburgh Panthers , Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.20
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