By David Parks
Sadly, the end of college football is here.
“Trapped in a show hole?”
“Nah… Trapped in a sports hole.”
Those that are not in any kind of a hole? The players preparing for the NFL Draft in May. Bowl season brought upon much movement since the first version of the Big Board which you can read here. Before the rankings – a couple of prevailing thoughts:
– Most expected Ohio State to lose a plethora of talent to the NFL at the conclusion of this season. … And they were right. A total of nine underclassmen declared headlined by likely top five pick, Joey Bosa. While Bosa and Ezekiel Elliot will garner the most headlines, I’m most intrigued by Vonn Bell and Darron Lee.
– It appears as though Carson Wentz will be this year’s media QB darling leading up to the combine. Wentz led his North Dakota State Bison to their fifth straight DII national championship recently and has everyone buzzing. I don’t see him as a first round guy and personally, probably wouldn’t touch until the third round.
– THE most divisive prospect is almost assured to be Christian Hackenberg. A former five-star high school prospect, he showed glimpses of greatness as a freshman at Penn State under Bill O’Brien. However since James Franklin took over his development, he’s looked straight up lost at times under center while playing behind one of the worst offensive line units of any power five team. There’s no denying his talent – scouts have even said not to hold Franklin against him. And if I’m Cleveland, he’s the guy I’m targeting at the beginning of round two to pair with either Bosa or DeForrest Buckner.
Now, off to the rankings… (last week’s rankings in parenthesis)
2016 Big Board (2.0)
1) DeForrest Buckner, DE – Oregon (2)
Although his team was on the losing end of one of the worst choke jobs in bowl history, it wasn’t due to anything Buckner did. Played in 101 out of 104 snaps in that Alamo Bowl according to PFF and graded out top five at his position in both run defense and pass rush. At 6-6, 290, he’s even better than last year’s top-15 pick Arik Armstead.
2) Laremy Tunsil, OT – Ole Miss (4)
Dominated Emmanuel Ogbah in the Sugar Bowl who is arguably the best pass rusher in the nation. Also showcased his receiving skills. He’s beginning to distance himself from Ronnie Stanley and the rest of the offensive tackle group.
3) Jaylon Smith, LB – Notre Dame (3)
People will overreact to his knee injury. I understand why the teams will do it, do it. But he’s only 20 years old. He suffered no nerve damage. A team with a need at LB should look at what Chicago did with Kevin White this past season and give him a “redshirt” season. Not only will that give him time to heal one hundred percent, it will also give him time to immerse himself in whatever playbook he winds up with.
4) Jalen Ramsey, S – Florida State (9)
Nine was way too low for Ramsey. He’s going to see so much added value because he can line up against the opposition’s slot guy or line up at safety and be a ball hawk. Run support is outstanding as well – almost certainly seems like a top ten lock.
5) Laquon Treadwell, WR – Ole Miss (10)
Much like his teammate Tunsil, Treadwell is pulling away from the pack at the receiver position. He made his three touchdowns look easy in the Rebs’ Sugar Bowl win over Oklahoma State. Expect the Dez Bryant comparisons to persist up until draft day.
6) Ronnie Stanley, OT – Notre Dame (6)
Stanley once again had a flawless day in terms of pass protection against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Seems unlikely Tunsil escapes the top three meaning Stanley will provide an excellent consolation prize for another team in the top ten.
7) Robert Nkemdiche, DE/DT – Ole Miss (NR)
Not sure what’s going to happen with his draft stock but has the potential to be this year’s Randy Gregory. Extremely talented but does he love football? Scouts and GMs are going to drool over his combine.
8) Joey Bosa, DE – Ohio State (1)
Disappointing end to Bosa’s collegiate career as he was ejected from the Fiesta Bowl for targeting. In all honesty, it wasn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened for him. The ejection won’t affect his draft stock and more importantly, he escaped the game without injury. His move from one to eight has more to do with me ranking him too high in the first place.
9) Shaq Lawson, DE – Clemson (14)
First of four Tiger defenders on the list. May have underrated him from the start. In what limited action he saw vs. Oklahoma he dominated. Unfortunate he wasn’t one hundred percent for the national championship game to go against Cam Robinson. Depending on the combine he may be able to sneak into the top ten.
10) Emmanuel Ogbah, DE/OLB – Oklahoma State (5)
Sugar Bowl was rough but still has great size and is extremely raw. His size and burst off the edge can still be molded into an elite NFL pass rusher assuming he winds up in the right scheme.
11) Myles Jack, LB – UCLA (7)
Linebacker position gets a lot more interesting with Smith’s injury. Still believe Smith is the best linebacker prospect in the class, but no question some teams will drop him because of the injury. Should give Jack and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland a boost.
12) Jack Conklin, OT – Michigan State (13)
Rare is the case a team gets blown out but one prospect emerges unscathed of criticism, but that’s exactly what Conklin did as he more than held his own against Bama’s ridiculous front four. Depending on how high Tunsil and Stanley go, I could see Conklin anywhere from the 11-15 range.
13) Jonathan Bullard, DE – Florida (24)
Love me some Bullard. Much like Conklin, he managed to shine in a game his team got blown out in. Easily the best defensive lineman against the run last year, so for teams that struggled to stop the run last year (Philly? NO? SF?) he’ll be considered extremely valuable.
14) Ezekiel Elliot, RB – Ohio State (12)
Another day at the office. Easily the top running back in this year’s class. The most overlooked part of his game? Pass protection. He’s not Todd Gurley level, but he’s easily first round material.
15) Taylor Decker, OT – Ohio State (26)
Another guy that should’ve been higher from the get go. Big-time size and like Conklin, excels at run blocking. Because of the depth at the position he’s going to provide someone with great value in the first.
16) Leonard Floyd, OLB – Georgia (23)
Had a very good game against an albeit terrible Penn State offensive line. Still feel like he’s going to be one of those guys that winds up being ten times better in the pros than in college.
17) Mackenzie Alexander, CB – Clemson (36)
Love everything about him. Size, speed, attitude. His absence against Alabama was huge for that defense – especially on one of OJ Howard’s big run-after-the-catch plays. I thought there was a clear cut number one corner before the bowls. Not any longer.
18) Sheldon Rankins, DE/DT – Louisville (15)
Much like Bullard, he’s more of a run-stuffer than a pass rusher. Had a subpar bowl game against a good Texas A&M offensive line, but analytics have loved him all year, one game won’t change that.
19) Reggie Ragland, LB – Alabama (32)
Ranking him 32nd was just dumb although I did admit he should’ve probably been higher…. aaaand that turned out to be correct. The hesitancy to rank him this high was because of how good Bama’s defense as a whole was but it’s clear Ragland is an impact player in any scheme.
20) Jeremy Cash, S – Duke (14)
Hate that Cash couldn’t go in the Pinstripe Bowl because he would’ve made a massive difference for Duke as Indiana racked up over 650 total yards of offense. Assuming he fully recovers from wrist surgery, he may wind up being a steal for someone in the second round.
21) Darron Lee, S/LB – Ohio State (31)
Another guy I severely underrated. Makes plays no matter what. Recorded two sacks and a hit in just ten pass rushes against a good Notre Dame offensive front. Even 21 still seems like it might be too low.
22) Joshua Garnett, OG – Stanford (11)
Still maintain he’s as close to a sure thing as there is in this draft. Ranking him eleventh was a tad high, but his unit bulldozed Iowa’s defense in the Rose Bowl. He’ll be a nice plug and play guy for a team toward the back end of round one.
23) Spencer Drango, OT – Baylor (37)
Hesitated to rank him higher from the start because of Baylor’s system and how their linemen translate to the pro-level. Not sure it matters with Drango. Allowed no sacks and one quarterback hit all year (Emmanuel Ogbah). Oh by the way. Baylor just ran for 634 yards in their bowl win.
24) Andrew Billings, DT – Baylor (24)
Freak of nature that will soar up the boards after he murders the combine. As Carolina is showing, having defensive tackles that can wreak havoc up the middle provides massive dividends for everyone else on the field. Might sneak into the top ten depending on how good his combine is.
25) Michael Thomas, WR – Ohio State (22)
Maybe the most underrated offensive guy going into the draft process. Great size, great hands, good production, and yet almost no buzz about him. What separates Thomas and Treadwell from the rest of the receivers is there elite blocking skills.
26) Kenny Clark, DT – UCLA (28)
Such a good year for defensive linemen. Was unblockable in the bowl game vs. Nebraska. He and Billings may vault up boards after the combine.
27) Vernon Hargreaves III, CB – Florida (8)
Got burned badly in the bowl game. Analytics love him – but his size worries me at next level. Many people have him at the top of his position – not sure he was even the best player on his own defense.
28) Yannick Ngakoue, OLB – Maryland (18)
Ngakoue is either going to be a complete non-factor at the next level or a perennial double-digit sack guy. Was able to shine on an terrible Maryland team which is why I’m inclined to believe that latter.
29) Sheldon Day, DE/DT – Notre Dame (34)
Scouts will drop him because of his size but this is the classic case of just turning on the tape and letting it do the talking. PFF ranked him as the second-best interior lineman nationally behind only Buckner.
30) A’Shawn Robinson, DE/DT – Alabama (33)
Don’t see much separation between he and Jarran Reed. Tad more versatility than Reed which gives him a slightly higher ranking.
31) Noah Spence, OLB – Eastern Kentucky (NR)
Crazy to think he and Jeremy Cash were one-time Buckeyes given all the talent they have in this draft. Will have to answer some questions about off-the-field issues but as a 3-4 pass rusher he’s absolutely worth a flier in the second.
32) Jarran Reed, DT – Alabama
33) Shilique Calhoun, OLB – Michigan State
34) Scooby Wright, LB – Arizona
35) Vonn Bell, S – Ohio State
36) Jared Goff, QB – Cal
Follow David on Twitter: @_Parksie