Top 10 Remaining
Some people rise. Some people slide. And some people were never on the radar despite what we think of them.
It’s these common factors that mean that while we’re gearing up for the second round of the NFL draft, we’ve still got guys who we’d class as having first round talent. Now where they fit in with teams drafting is a different matter, and we’re not qualified to discuss the ramifications of incidents off the field. But from a pure tape perspective we’re going to share our 10 best guys still left. The guys who represent the best value on Day 2.
Devin Smith, Ohio State, WR
A shame in a lot of ways he wasn’t a bigger part of the Buckeyes’ offense. Indeed featuring on only 514 snaps and targeted only 48 times, it’s rather remarkable that he managed to score 931 yards (thanks to a crazy 28.2 yards per reception average). Beyond the targets, Smith is more than the excellent deep threat he has shown himself to be, but it will take some patience to bring this out. His usage as mainly a go-route specialist didn’t expedite his development.
Grady Jarrett, Clemson, ID
He’s too small and has the wrong dimensions to be a productive player in the NFL, right? Wrong. We thought Geno Atkins had rendered that retort redundant but it still comes out, and while Jarrett is no Atkins he’s still got the ability to make a difference on Sundays. A powerful and explosive player, he uses his weakness to his strength, really taking advantage of the fact that the low man wins. Might struggle at times with his lack of length, but his relentless motor and great hands at the line of scrimmage make him an intriguing fit as a 3- or 1-tech.
Henry Anderson, Stanford, ID
One of these players where you have to accept there’s a reason he’s so productive and it’s because he’s a very good football player. Leaves a mark on every down with Top-4 production grades against both run and pass, leading all interior defenders in the amount of total pressure he got. Does end up on his backside a little too much, with his desire to penetrate putting him in some bad positions, but if you can iron that out without losing his naturally disruptive self you’ll have some player on your hands.
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State, WR
The big wideout from ASU was someone we were sure would find a spot in the first round, but despite plenty of wide receivers hearing their name called, he was not one of them. He might not be the most polished route runner, but his natural feel for the ball in the air and ability after the catch will scare defensive backs. Had the sixth-highest production grade of all wide receivers that are draft eligible last year.
La’el Collins, LSU, OT
Nobody knows quite what to make of La’el Collins issues, but this is a list about the best players available from a talent level perspective. Collins, who was our top-ranked tackle heading into draft week, is worth a spot on that list. He allowed only four pressures all year and is the kind of plug-and-play talent that some team will take chance on regardless of his legal status.
Landon Collins, Alabama, S
The best safety in the draft, Collins had the second-highest production grade among safeties in the 2014 season, but was always likely to fall because he doesn’t have the ability to be Earl Thomas. Well few do, yet they still turn out to be important players for their defense, and Collins should be one of those. He can still get better, especially with the angles he takes and how quickly he decides to close on ball carriers, and might need to push himself a little harder at the NFL level to keep up.
Maxx Williams, Minnesota, TE
Our top-ranked tight end, with positive marks for receiving and blocking. Tight ends aren’t going to get a ton of targets in college, and with 64 balls thrown his way he’s no different, but he made the most of them, showing an ability to generate YAC. Might not be the top end athlete some teams look for, but his ability to contribute on every down as a willing and at times nasty blocker is invaluable.
Paul Dawson, TCU, LB
Dawson’s incredible instincts for where he needs to be to make plays, either offset his poor workout numbers, or don’t translate to the NFL game depending on your opinion. For us we see too many plays being made to ignore, with Dawson making 18 more defensive stops than the next best linebacker (who just so happened to play 239 more snaps than Dawson). Makes plays on every down and was comfortably our top graded linebacker from a production point of view. Some off the field stuff may have helped cause his slip, but what a college player he was.
Randy Gregory, Nebraska, ED
It can only be character concerns that sent Gregory tumbling, because the tape is extremely kind to him. The Nebraska edge rusher doesn’t always use his tremendous speed to its maximum effect, but catches you off guard with just how powerful a player he is. Ereck Flowers really found that out. There are also some knocks on the field, where games like the one against Wisconsin show how he can struggle against the run. They neutralized him all too easily, with Rob Havenstein especially having some joy with him. But ultimately pressure is worth a princely sum. Gregory has an ability to deliver that, and if he never develops into anything more than a situational threat on danger downs, then he’ll still represent a tremendous get for a team. So long as he can keep his head straight.
Trey Flowers, Arkansas, ED
He’s not a pure speed rusher, but he is an every-down threat. Flowers is great against the run and extremely good rushing the passer, which makes it all the more surprising teams are letting a guy slip, who could come in and start Day 1. His 61 quarterback disruptions in the SEC are nothing to be sniffed at, and he had the highest grade of any edge defender against the run. What’s more, he brings with him some versatility, being able to kick inside. An extremely powerful player.
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