NFL Draft Big Board: Kizer overtakes Watson as top NFL QB prospect

by | NFLDraftScout.com Senior Analyst
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Deshaun Watson's poise and production -- five TD passes -- in guiding Clemson to a come-from-behind win over Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals is precisely why he's commonly viewed as a first-round caliber NFL quarterback prospect.

Four Watson turnovers in the game exhibit why the junior slipped on the Big Board, falling behind fellow third-year passer DeShone Kizer (Notre Dame) in my 2017 NFL Draft quarterback rankings.

Based on the first five 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
Garrett and fellow talented defensive ends Daeshon Hall and Derek Barnett make a showdown of No. 9 Texas A&M against No. 8 (and also undefeated) Tennessee a virtual pass rusher smorgasbord. Scouts are eager to see Garrett return to the field after he sat out last week due to a "lower left leg" injury, but there is no concern regarding his relatively meager statistics, which include "just" 11 tackles over the Aggies' first four games. 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. 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 22 tackles and four sacks through five 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. 3. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State, Jr, 6-5, 282, 4.92 Disappointing losses to Wisconsin and Indiana upset Spartans fans but don't blame McDowell, who recorded five tackles (including one for loss) in the surprising upset at the hands of the Hoosiers. 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.

4. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, Jr, 6-1, 230, 4.45
Fournette slips 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 402 yards and four scores compared to Fournette's 386 and two. 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.

5. DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame, rSoph, 6-4, 230, 4.84
Kizer is the most-gifted draft-eligible quarterback prospect in the country. Kizer has an exciting blend of build, arm strength and functional athleticism. He completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,567 yards and 14 touchdowns against just four interceptions entering Saturday's game at North Carolina State. Further, he shows the intangibles -- like pre-snap awareness and the calm demeanor -- scouts hope for in a field general. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, he lacks consistency with just 16 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 a head coach.

DeShone Kizer has all the intangibles that NFL scouts want. (USATSI)
DeShone Kizer has all the intangibles that NFL scouts want. (USATSI)

6. 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 (365) and tackles for loss (9.5).

7. 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. Don't blame McCaffrey for Stanford's "Dawg-day" against a talented Washington defense. He was dynamic in the return game but with few other legitimate weapons to worry about, Washington's defenders keyed in on him.

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. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, Jr, 6-2, 210, 4.64
Watson was recognized as the Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week following his performance against Louisville but those watching closely saw plenty of reason for concern in terms of his projection to the next level. Watson made some troubling decisions with the ball and struggled with his accuracy from inside the pocket -- which is 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.

10. Jamal 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 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, including in LSU's 42-7 shellacking of Missouri in Week 5, when he led the team in total tackles (13) for the second consecutive week.

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. After boasting about Florida's recent domination of Tennessee 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 last week in a close win over Vanderbilt.

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 6-1, 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 5 against North Carolina with an eye-popping 246 combined running and receiving yards and three touchdowns (all rushing). 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 touchdown machine scouts thought we'd be seeing this year returned in Week 5 with the powerfully built Smith-Schuster hauling in seven passes for 123 yards and three scores against Arizona State. 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. 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 52 tackles, including 8.5 for loss this season, which rank first and tied for second, respectively, in the SEC. 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.

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 12 grabs for 165 yards over the first five 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. Dan Feeney, OG, Indiana, rSr, 6-4, 310, 5.09
25. Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon, Jr, 5-11, 230, 4.49
26. Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech, rJr, 6-6, 245, 4.78
27. Charles Harris, DE, Missouri, rJr, 6-3, 255, 4.74
28. Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, Jr, 6-3, 257, 4.76
29. Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi, Sr, 6-2, 224, 4.76
30. Dorian Johnson, OG, Pittsburgh, Sr, 6-5, 300, 5.20
31. Marcus Williams, FS, Utah, Jr, 6-0, 195, 4.56
32. John Ross, WR, Washington, rJr, 5-11, 190, 4.35

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