NFL Draft Big Board: DeSean Jackson clone John Ross flying up rankings
The electric WR headlines a huge Washington-Utah battle full of NFL prospects
A roster full of NFL talent has hoisted the Washington Huskies to the top of the Pac-12.
Senior speedster John Ross is a big part of UW's return to national relevance but he's just the top Dawg with several underclassmen -- including 6-foot-5, 320-pound redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Vita Vea -- also earning high marks from NFL scouts.
Ross, Vea and the rest of the Huskies travel to Utah Utes in Week 9, where two more nationally underrated defenders -- Utes safety Marcus Williams and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei -- are expected to provide Washington with its biggest test of the season.
All four make the cut in 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
A&M, Jr, 6-5, 262, 4.74
Garrett lived up to his billing as a difference-maker, registering seven tackles, including 3.5 for loss in the showdown with No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide despite the fact that he was still limited by an ankle sprain. 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, 4.85With all due respect to Garrett, Allen was the best player on the field in the Week 8 showdown, registering six tackles, including a sack that showed eye-popping athleticism and technique as well as a momentum-stealing fumble recovery and return for a touchdown. With 12 sacks last season, Allen was the most disruptive of Alabama's dominant defensive line in 2015. 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, 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." 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. McDowell and the Spartans face arguably their toughest matchup of the season in Week 9, hosting state rival and current No. 2 Michigan Wolverines .
, RB, LSU, Jr, 6-1, 230, 4.45
Sidelined with an ankle injury since the September 24 loss at Auburn Tigers which led to Les Miles being relieved of his duties, Fournette returned with a vengeance against Ole Miss Rebels in Week 8, setting a new school record with a staggering 284 rushing yards (and three touchdowns) in a 38-21 victory. Fournette is an exceptional talent who I believe is the most exciting prospect 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.
, SS/OLB, Michigan, 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 73.4 all-purpose yards per game as a returner and runner.
, ILB, Alabama, Sr, 6-1, 240, 4.72
If Allen was the most impactful of the Tide's defenders against Texas A&M, Foster ran a close second, registering a game-high 12 tackles, including a handful of thunderous tone-setting stops. Foster might be the most intimidating hitter in all of college football and he possesses the fluidity and speed to cover. He is a more explosive athlete than Alabama's recent stars at linebacker, showing ridiculous closing speed and an utter disregard for his own safety or that of his opponents.
, 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.
, Jr, 6-0, 202, 4.48
Despite Stanford's struggles, McCaffrey has proven every bit as dynamic as in past seasons -- when healthy. 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.
, 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. Tabor is one the nation's top smack-talkers but usually backs it up. He was suspended (reportedly for a fight with a teammate) for Florida's season opener but has four interceptions in five games since.
, 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. He recorded five tackles (including one for loss) and a pass breakup against Chad Kelly and Mississippi in Week 8 and has been named a quarterfinalist for the LOTT Impact Trophy.
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.
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 three times since, including rushing for a cool 150 yards and hauling in a 59-yard touchdown pass in a Week 6 upset of Miami. If the Seminoles are to have any shot of upsetting No. 3 Clemson Tigers , Cook will likely lead the way. 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.
, 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 16 more tackles this season (85) 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.
, TE, Alabama, Sr, 6-6, 242, 4.57
Howard is the best tight end in the country even if he plays an inconsistent role in the Alabama offense. Just as he did when featured during last season's national title game against Clemson, Howard was virtually unstoppable against Texas A&M, registering a career-high eight receptions for 69 yards and touchdown. 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.
, QB, Clemson, Jr, 6-2, 210, 4.64
Watson has guided the Tigers to a 7-0 start but has made troubling decisions with the ball and struggled with shaky accuracy from inside the pocket, belying his 63.6 completion percentage and 20 touchdowns (against eight interceptions). 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.
, DE, Auburn, 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 seven sacks, tied for second most (behind LSU sophomore Arden Key 's eight) in the conference. 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 6.
, 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.
, OT, Alabama, Jr, 6-5, 327, 5.28
While Garrett's production against Alabama was impressive, few of his stops came while matched up against Robinson, who enjoyed one of his better overall games of the year. 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. 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.
20. John Ross, WR, Washington, rJr, 5-11, 190, 4.35
With all due respect to sophomore quarterback Jake Browning , Ross is the fireplug sparking Washington's high-octane offense (and special teams). A DeSean Jackson clone with blinding straight-line speed, agility and versatility as both a receiver and returner, he is only a clean medical grade away from becoming the first receiver from Washington to earn a first-round pick since Reggie Williams in 2004.
Best of the Rest:
, Jr, 6-3, 257, 4.76
22. Desmond King , CB, Iowa Hawkeyes , Sr, 5-10, 200, 4.53
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, 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
Our Latest Stories
Here's what you need to know from the pro days of Florida, Florida State, Texas and Eastern...
The Lions could be in the market for an impact safety and Peppers is a top-tier athlete with...
Lamp’s performance continues the momentum he's created for himself throughout his senior s...
The versatile Stanford star would wear a lot of hats in Green Bay
Michigan, California and BYU held pro days on Friday, with Davis Webb fighting a 'torrential...
Plus, prospects at Utah, Missouri and San Diego State look to make their mark on a busy Th...