2017 NFL Draft

NFL Draft Big Board: Star-studded weekend sure to shake up the rankings

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst

NFL scouts live for the type of dream matchups college football will stage in Week 5.

The media headliner is a QB battle at Clemson. Deshaun Watson, the Tigers' Heisman finalist in 2015, and 2016 frontrunner, Louisville true sophomore Lamar Jackson, share the stage Saturday night in Death Valley.

However, scouts will be just as interested in top 10 battles in Ann Arbor (No. 4 Michigan hosting No. 8 Wisconsin) and Seattle (No. 7 Stanford visiting No. 10 Washington), with early-round NFL prospects dotting those rosters. Impactful performances in high-profile games such as these can play a huge role in a player's final draft grade.

Based on the first four weeks of the season, here is my ranking 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
He has "just" 11 tackles in the Aggies' first four games, but Garrett has proven much more disruptive than stats 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. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, Jr, 6-1, 230, 4.45
Fournette mishandled a handoff leading to a lost fumble at Auburn, but don't blame Fournette for the drama at LSU, as he has provided the only consistent offense for the Tigers over the past two seasons. Simply put, Fournette 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.

3. 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 14 tackles and three sacks through four games. Allen, who reminds me a little of Seahawks Pro Bowler Michael Bennett, is position versatile with surprisingly light feet and dynamite sticks for hands.

4. Jabrill Peppers, 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 both all-purpose yards (332) and tackles for loss (9.5). He'll be all over the field against Wisconsin.

5. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State, Jr, 6-5, 282, 4.92
A week after dominating a Notre Dame offensive line full of NFL prospects, McDowell and a gifted Michigan State defensive line was effectively handled by Wisconsin, with the powerful junior registering just one tackle in a humbling 30-6 loss. While the Spartans, as a whole, struggled, McDowell's combination of length, strength and agility offer exciting position and schematic versatility at the next level.

6. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford, 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 faces arguably his toughest matchup of the season September 30 against a Washington defense boasting NFL prospects at every level.

All eyes will be on Watson as he battles Lamar Jackson. (USATSI)
All eyes will be on Watson as he battles Lamar Jackson. (USATSI)

7. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, Jr, 6-2, 210, 4.64
Completing a career-low 60 percent of his passes for nine touchdowns (and four interceptions) over the first four games this season, Watson hasn't generated the same buzz he did last season as a true sophomore Heisman finalist. Frankly, his perch atop my quarterback rankings is perilous, with Notre Dame's super redshirt sophomore DeShone Kizer -- who is bigger and possesses a stronger, more accurate arm -- closing in. In guiding the Tigers to the national title game a year ago (and an undefeated 4-0 start this season), however, Watson has already shown the same poise and dual-threat ability that have scouts enamored with Kizer. Watson's slight frame and Clemson's relatively simple offense are legitimate concerns, but his knack for making the big plays against top competition in critical moments cannot be discounted. This week's showdown with early Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson -- and Louisville's talented pass rush -- is a must-see for scouts.

8. Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama, Jr, 6-5, 327, 5.28
As his monstrous size implies, Robinson is a road-grader in the running game and he has proven surprisingly quick in pass protection this season, distancing himself from the rest of the pack as the top offensive lineman in the country. A former five-star recruit who has starred at left tackle since winning the job as a true freshman, Robinson is an easy NFL projection with top-10 talent. Teams will have to investigate his decision-making off the field, however, given his arrest in May on guns and drug charges. The charges were later dropped.

9. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame, rSoph, 6-4, 230, 4.84
Frankly, after another relatively ho-hum performance from Watson (in another win) in Week 4, Kizer had an opportunity to narrow the gap on my rankings. Instead, after steadily moving up the board over an impressive first three weeks of the season, he stays put at No. 9 overall and No. 2 among quarterbacks after struggling with his accuracy and contributing to the Notre Dame's surprising home loss to Duke, dropping the a talented Irish squad to a disappointing 1-3 on the season. Kizer is undeniably gifted, with an exciting blend of build, arm and functional athleticism. Further, he shows intangibles such as pre-snap awareness and the calm demeanor scouts hope for in a field general. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, he lacks consistency, with just 15 career starts under his belt. Further, it won't be lost on scouts that coach Brian Kelly has produced just one NFL quarterback (2010 sixth-round pick Tony Pike, Carolina) in 26 seasons as head coach.

10. Jamar Adams, S, LSU, Jr, 6-0, 211, 4.48
It is easy to mistake Adams for former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu, given their similar instincts and highly aggressive style of play. Like Mathieu, Adams features 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, including in LSU's controversial Week 4 loss to Auburn, in which the junior safety collected a game-high nine solo stops and 13 overall tackles.

11. Teez Tabor, CB, Florida, 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 was more consistent in coverage last year than former teammate Vernon Hargreaves III, the No. 11 overall pick this spring by Tampa Bay. Tabor was suspended (reportedly for a fight with a teammate) for Florida's season-opener but has two interceptions since.

12. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama, rSoph, 6-1, 198, 4.53
One of the best looking prospects I've seen this season is Humphrey, who wowed last year in his debut season after redshirting in 2014. The son of former Alabama (and NFL) standout Bobby Humphrey, Marlon looks like a chip off the old Tide with his easy change of direction and acceleration. He's well-built for a young player at a solid 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds and is an aggressive tackler, including in run support.

13. Reuben Foster, 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.

14. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State, Jr, 5-11, 206, 4.46
The Cook who shattered Warrick Dunn's single-season all-purpose yardage record last year with 1,935 yards (averaging 7.4 yards per run) returned in Week 4 against South Florida with an eye-popping 329 combined running and receiving yards and two touchdowns. 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.

15. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Southern Cal, Jr, 6-2, 220, 4.52
The powerfully-built Smith-Schuster nearly matched his previous season totals (11 catches for 99 yards) with eight receptions for 98 yards against Utah, though he was unable to push the Trojans to a win. While scouts certainly would have liked to see Smith-Schuster contribute more, there are plenty of others more at fault for USC's struggles thus far this season. Highly competitive and possessing terrific body control to make tough grabs look easy, Smith-Schuster is a potential No. 1 target in the NFL, though I do have some reservations about his straight-line speed.

16. Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt, rJr, 6-3, 230, 4.74
Despite not starting until the fourth game of the season, Cunningham emerged as one of the most disruptive defenders in the entire country last year, earning first-team All-SEC honors with 103 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. Cunningham already has 38 tackles, including seven for loss this season, second in the SEC in both categories. Instinctive and aggressive in meeting and discarding blockers, Cunningham is well-suited to remaining inside at the next level, but I believe that he's athletic enough to play outside, as well.

17. Desmond King, CB, Iowa, Sr, 5-10, 200, 4.53
King's eight interceptions last season generated most of his buzz and for good reason, as he showed terrific instincts, soft hands and a knack for making the big play at critical moments to earn the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. Average speed, however, led to King returning to his court as a senior and this could limit his stock in 2017, as well. Don't blame him for Iowa's stunning loss to a Carson Wentz-less North Dakota State in Week 3, however. The Bison only completed 11 passes in the game and King stood out as a run defender, making six tackles (four assists) and forcing a fumble.

The Clemson quarterback will get plenty of attention but don't overlook Williams. (USATSI)
The Clemson quarterback will get plenty of attention but don't overlook Williams. (USATSI)

18. Mike Williams, 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.

19. Lowell Lotulelei, DT, Utah, Jr, 6-2, 310, 5.28
Today's NFL may feature the pass but interior defensive linemen remain highly valued on draft day for their ability to eat up blocks and collapse running lanes. Few are better at this than Lotulelei, who possesses a similar combination of size and brute strength as his older brother, Star, a former Morris Trophy Award winner for the Utes and current standout for the Carolina Panthers.

20. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, Sr, 6-6, 242, 4.57
While not yet as polished a receiver as Michigan's Jake Butt, Howard finally had the opportunity to show off his dazzling combination of size and athleticism during the national title game and dominated, earning Offensive MVP honors with a school bowl game record 208 receiving yards (on five grabs), including two touchdowns against Clemson's terrific secondary. Howard is off to a slow start again with just 10 grabs for 152 yards over the first four games. Due to drops and occasional lapses as a blocker, Howard can be a frustrating prospect, but his mismatch potential is simply too significant to ignore.

Best of the rest:

21. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn, rJr, 6-2, 253, 4.67
22. Tim Williams, DE/OLB, Alabama, Sr, 6-3, 237, 4.76
23. Adoree' Jackson, CB/WR/RS, Jr, Southern Cal, 5-11, 185, 4.43
24. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami, Jr, 6-4, 210, 4.84
25. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana, rSr, 6-4, 310, 5.09
26. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon, Jr, 5-11, 230, 4.49 (injury)
27. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech, rJr, 6-6, 245, 4.78
28. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, rJr, 6-3, 255, 4.74
29. Cameron Sutton, CB, Tennessee, Sr, 5-11, 186, 4.50 (injury)
30. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, Jr, 6-3, 257, 4.76
31. Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi, Sr, 6-2, 224, 4.76
32. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh, Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.20


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