Keeping the draft in mind, I wanted to post these rankings, even without full explanations for each prospect, before any more time passed. I will be adding evaluations each day, so continue to check back for updates.
With comparisons, note that a player listed does not mean a complete mirror image. It could be referring to certain traits, roles, or progression in relation to a specific point in a career.
21. CB Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech
NFL Comparison: Alterraun Verner, but a better tackler and run defender.
Where He Wins: I like everything about Fuller’s game. He is a very fluid mover to stick with receivers downfield, despite some unique movements and turns. A very, very good run defender for the position, which he showed while playing a Whip linebacker role against Georgia Tech. Does not mind carrying that physicality over to covering receivers.
Where He Fits: Played a large amount of coverage 6-10 yards off WRs (nearly 57 percent of snaps), but I think he can play press very effectively. Flashed it when asked to do so. Unafraid of lining up over slot targets and attacks the catch point from a variety of alignments.
Draft Projection: Medicals cut his 2013 season short and missed the Senior Bowl because of it, but he is a first-round talent.
22. Edge player Anthony Barr, UCLA
NFL Comparison: Athleticism could be similar to Bruce Irvin.
Where He Wins: The lightning-quick pass rusher is able to gain an advantage on the edge and keep it thanks to his burst off the line, ability to cut off either foot towards the quarterback, and flexibility to bend around the corner. He closes distances quickly, which can be effective from a variety of alignments, and Barr is a punishing finisher.
Where He Fits: Experience as a stand up rusher next to a three man front. Able to loop inside.
Draft Projection: Top-15 selection.
23. TE Eric Ebron, UNC
NFL Comparison: A physical Jared Cook Jr.
Where He Wins: An outstanding straight-line athlete with some bend/flexibility for his size. Will stretch defenses and then cut his route back to the quarterback. Presents a big target and can separate after the catch. Improving consistency at the catch point and a willing blocker.
Where He Fits: An inline option who can be split out to matchup with different defenders.
Draft Projection: Top-25.
24. OL Zack Martin, Notre Dame
NFL Comparison: Logan Mankins
Where He Wins: Held up at tackle well this season and during Senior Bowl week. Hands are so strong to prevent inside moves or latch on and control at the point of attack. Willing to sustain blocks with position and leg drive.
Where He Fits: Can make a good tackle but an outstanding guard. Wide base can be troublesome against agile edge rushers who weave inside and out.
Draft Projection: Has a legitimate chance to be the third offensive lineman selected. Likely as a tackle.
25. G Xavier Su’a-Filo, UCLA (tie)
NFL Comparison: Louis Vasquez
Where He Wins: Has great balance, rarely on the ground. Does not possess a punishing first punch, but certainly has the movement skills to mirror defensive linemen and is active when looking for rushers.
Where He Fits: Has experience at tackle but should play guard at the next level.
Draft Projection: Possible first guard selected.
25. CB Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (tie)
NFL Comparison: Aqib Talib
Where He Wins: An extremely physical corner who loves to press at the line of scrimmage. Frequently patient with his jam, not overextending but rather allowing the receiver to enter contact area. Rides inside hip downfield while sustaining position. Hand fights and flips his head quickly when receiver looks back for the football at the top of their route.
Where He Fits: Press corner or a few yards off on the edge. Will be physical in run support. Matches up at the catch point in contested situations which is critical.
Draft Projection: Top-32 pick, depends on when the run on corners starts.
26. CB Bradley Roby, Ohio State
NFL Comparison: Jason McCourty
Where He Wins: Attacks the jam or blocking receiver, frequently gets into the action. Will play off or press man coverage, attacks the catch point by cutting in front of the target. Even plays on special teams. Trails in close distances and prevents the sliver of separation at the catch point. Makes things difficult on the opposition.
Where He Fits: Not locked into one side of the field. Likely better in press due to physical nature, but shows he can attack and drive in off coverage.
Draft Projection: Poor performance against Jared Abbrederis, but likely top-32.
27. T Taylor Lewan, Michigan
NFL Comparison: Sebastian Vollmer
Where He Wins: Wide stance, wants to find contact through his hands. Has an aggressive mentality, but that can get him in trouble. Even if positioning is off balance, his strong base helps anchor and stop momentum. Better run blocker than pass protector, but wins when gaining a latch in either situation. Asked to pull inside and lead blocks well.
Where He Fits: Could see him on the left or right side.
Draft Projection: Obviously the NFL values offensive tackles. I was a bit surprised by Combine athleticism. Likely top-15 selection.
28. QB Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
NFL Comparison: Tony Romo in terms of improvisational style.
Where He Wins: Wearing down defenses with tempo. A master of broken plays. Stretches teams laterally with his feet. Forces defenses to match up with quick passes followed by elongated plays with little time to rest in between.
Where He Fits: Has shown development from the pocket, but could thrive in a creative system. Thrives on broken plays. Drops his eye level, but can magically find open space and available passing lanes to connect on ridiculous completions. Will test tight single coverage. Gives his receiver a shot. Can also be a quick decision maker, which is key to Air Raid. Has made more throws outside the numbers and downfield this season. Obviously extremely mobile.
Draft Projection: Top-10.
29. QB Blake Bortles, UCF
NFL Comparison: A poor man’s Andrew Luck in terms of mannerisms, running ability and pocket movement.
Where He Wins: Strong pocket mover results in handling pressure others might fold under. Not afraid to work through multiple reads and multiple levels of the field. Spent a lot of time in shotgun, but throws from multiple arm angles. Does not hesitate when throwing to covered receivers to let them win at the catch point.
Where He Fits: Velocity has dropped since 2012, and I am not sure why. With that said, I don’t think he has limitations in terms of an offense in the NFL.
Draft Projection: First or second quarterback off the board.
30. QB Derek Carr, Fresno State
NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler
Where He Wins: Has an incredible arm, not only when discussing velocity but also touch. Is forced to throw a lot of screens, but flashes upside as a vertical passer when given the opportunity. Shows athleticism when scrambling outside of the pocket. Aren’t many windows he can’t test.
Where He Fits: Doesn’t always throw from a balanced base but has improved willingness to take a hit on release.
Draft Projection: Could be anywhere from the first to fourth QB off the board.
31. WR Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
NFL Comparison: Victor Cruz, two inches shorter.
Where He Wins: An explosive receiver that wins at every level of the field. Can take short passes for long gains after creating even more separation. Creates space on intermediate patterns. Tracks vertical passes exceptionally well. Takes the top off coverages. Has a large catch radius for someone his size.
Where He Fits: Some might only see a slot receiver, but he’s an accomplished edge target as well.
Draft Projection: Top-40.
32. Edge player Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech
NFL Comparison: Cliff Avril
Where He Wins: Line him up wide as a 7 or 9 and let him run to a spot in the backfield. Explosive off the snap and can win around the corner, on inside moves, or when engaging into the opponents’ chest.
Where He Fits: Many will attempt to project him to an outside linebacker role and drop Attaochu into coverage. I do not see it. He played that role through his junior season, but was so much better as a senior with limited responsibilities in a disruption role.
Draft Projection: Top-50
33. Edge player Marcus Smith, Louisville
NFL Comparison: Jason Worilds
Where He Wins: The more I watched the Cardinal, the more I liked him. Not only can he bend around tackles, Smith loves to chase from the backside and converts speed to power with good length and hand use. I know I keep bringing up hands and technical skill, but it really does set great rushers that can win on counter moves apart from good ones that have one trick.
Where He Fits: Like Attaochu, I don’t care how Smith lines up as much as where. He can stand up or play in a sub-package, hand in the dirt pass rushing role.
Draft Projection: Top-75
34. Edge player Scott Crichton, Oregon State
NFL Comparison: Some Charles Johnson in his style of play.
Where He Wins: Power rusher who wins through his blocker. Deliver a strong punch with extension to keep them off balance and on skates. Can shed after generating depth. Powerful finisher and strong run defender thanks to his ability to shed. Obtains backfield vision well.
Where He Fits: Does not bend well, so straight-line assignments and responsibilities will be best.
Draft Projection: Possible end of the first-rounder. Second-round is more likely.
35. Off LOS LB Telvin Smith, FSU
NFL Comparison: Danny Trevathan
Where He Wins: Closing speed is outstanding. Much more physical than many prospects his size, strong finisher. Has enough trail speed to stick with crossing routes and has a knack for undercutting the receiver. Has enough length to fight off blocks. Attacks the downhill gaps to make tackles for loss.
Where He Fits: I read a lot of evaluators wanting to move Smith to safety, further away from the football. Why? I disagree with this idea. I think Smith can thrive as a nickel backer early in his career. 2) We get too focused on fitting prospects into position labels rather than focusing on responsibilities.
Draft Projection: A third- or fourth-round pick is likely.
36. OL Brandon Thomas, Clemson
NFL Comparison: Rodger Saffold
Where He Wins: Has a great first punch and an athletic lower half to mirror pass rushers on the edge or prevent them from working inside. That athleticism and length will prevent him from being knocked for lack of ideal height. Can bend at the knee, absorb and redirect momentum. Has enough of a grip to keep opponent latched when initial line is thwarted.
Where He Fits: I can see Thomas as a tackle or guard. Has shown the ability to work in tight spaces, but also did a great job on an island against Clowney.
Draft Projection: Third-round seems likely, since he will not contribute in year one. Starter in year two.
37. TE Troy Niklas, Notre Dame
NFL Comparison: Baby Gronk?
Where He Wins: Displays good speed when running down the seam. Has flashed winning with breaking routes or bodying defensive backs at the catch point. A very good blocker for the position.
Where He Fits: It is difficult to project Niklas right now. First, his best trait is blocking. He was kept in during pass protection situations because of it. But receiving and complete TE skills are there.
Draft Projection: Top-64 selection
38. WR Kelvin Benjamin, FSU
NFL Comparison: Plaxico Burress
Where He Wins: Huge frame and length to win at the catch point in contested situations. Very good body control to slow down, time catch, and contort frame to haul in a catch. Long strides allow him to get downfield. Unafraid to work across the middle on deep posts. Able to make adjustments with the ball in the air that other receivers can’t. Displays strength after the catch.
Where He Fits: Can dominate in the red zone, on vertical passes, and with strength on slants. Mainly an outside receiver.
Draft Projection: Needs to improve consistencies in the form of drops, but he and Mike Evans could draw similar interest.
39. WR Marqise Lee, USC
NFL Comparison: Reggie Wayne with drop issues.
Where He Wins: Long, lean strider. Best as a straight-line receiver. Doesn't mind chipping the edge when in motion or finishing off runs with low shoulder. Obvious burst of quickness in first or second step, then it builds after that. Lines up in the slot and outside, smooth runner in his breaks to avoid contact. Frequently sent in motion. Hands catcher. Can make people miss in the open field, but doesn't have outstanding lateral agility.
Where He Fits: Likely outside receiver who gets vertical with fluid routes and long speed. Can easily peel back patterns and create separation when working towards the quarterback.
Draft Projection: Has dealt with injuries, drops, and bad quarterback play this year. Still a top-40 selection.
40. CB Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State
NFL Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Where He Wins: Played a lot of off coverage, but might be best suited for press in the NFL. Has the frame and closing speed that you want. Impressive athlete with ball skills.
Where He Fits: Footwork can be a mess and I question what he does along the sideline. Tended to struggle most on intermediate targets.
Draft Projection: First-round, possibly as the top corner.