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Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
100. Washington State RB James Williams
5-foot-9, 197 pounds
The lowdown: Williams, who declared for the 2019 draft following his junior season, collected almost as many receiving yards (1,437) as he did rushing yards (1,583) in his three seasons for the Cougars. His 27 career touchdowns were the fourth-most in school history, and his 202 receptions were the most by a running back in school history.
He fits the mold of a James White type of back who should mostly be employed as a pass catcher. Williams set a Pac-12 single-season record for catches by a running back as a junior and had six games with 10 or more catches. Coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid system helped inflate Williams’ receiving stats, but he has displayed natural hands and good route-running ability.
Williams might never be a true three-down back in the pros, even though he runs with determination when given the chance in traffic. He is shifty and can avoid contact.
Watch Williams pinball his way through Oregon on a simple draw play, breaking about seven tackles along the way to the end zone (1:37-mark of the video clip):
A light frame and some smaller rushing holes in the NFL could limit Williams’ effectiveness and limit him to a third-down role.
Fun fact: Goes by the nickname “Boobie,” which came from Boobie Miles of “Friday Night Lights” fame.
Draft range: Round 4-5
99. Stanford TE Kaden Smith
6-foot-5, 255 pounds
The lowdown: The redshirt sophomore declared early, coming from one of the best tight end-producing schools in college football. Smith redshirted in 2016 before emerging late in the 2017 season with a big performance in the Pac-12 championship game vs. USC with two TDs. Last season, he turned into a go-to option for the Cardinal with 47 receptions for 635 yards and two TDs in 10 starts despite missing three games with a foot injury.
Even in as deep a tight end class as the draft has seen in years, Smith entered the NFL scouting combine as a possible Day 2 prospect. But his substandard testing there – most notably a slow 40 time (4.92 seconds), a low bench-press number (15 reps) and a poor broad jump (108 inches) – painted him as a below-average athlete for the position, even with good size and a respectable 3-cone drill (7.08 seconds).
Smith profiles as a possible No. 2 tight end with solid hands and good blocking effort. That said, he has shorter arms, doesn’t display much ability to separate on tape and seldom overpowers people as a blocker. A safe but hardly exciting player who turns 22 the day before the NFL draft.
Fun fact: Smith grew up in Flower Mound, Texas as a Dallas Cowboys fan, modeling his game after Jason Witten. In the 2016 class, Smith was considered by some recruiting services to be the nation’s top-rated tight end. Although Alabama made Smith its top tight end priority, he turned the Crimson Tide down to play for the Cardinal.
Draft range: Round 4 to 5
98. Western Illinois DT Khalen Saunders
6-foot, 324 pounds
The lowdown: Overlooked out of high school and recruited by bigger schools in the area only for track and field, Saunders developed quickly as a force on the football field for the Leathernecks as a versatile defender who played multiple techniques. He was named first-team all-Missouri Valley conference in 2017, with 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 12 games, and he was named FCS second-team All-American in 2018.
Saunders even moonlighted on offense at Western, rushing for a TD in 2017 and catching a TD pass in 2018. At the Senior Bowl, he claimed to have played every position on the football field except cornerback and center since he started playing youth ball. He was a Senior Bowl standout against better competition despite waiting for the news of the birth of his daughter that week more than 1,000 miles away.
His athleticism is obvious for such a thickly built man. He showed an ability to shoot gaps and chase down ballcarriers from behind. Saunders played almost every spot on the defensive line and even was asked to stand up occasionally as a rusher there.
He fits best as a nose tackle in the NFL and has as much or more potential than Oakland Raiders 2018 second-round pick P.J. Hall (Sam Houston State).
Fun fact: How many 320-pounders possess this kind of athleticism?
Draft range: Round 3 to 4
97. Boise State QB Brett Rypien
6-foot-2, 210 pounds
The lowdown: The nephew of former Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, Brett carved out a terrific college career of his own as the Mountain West's all-time leader in passing yards (13,581), completions (1,036), and 300-yard passing games (21). He was a highly touted prep prospect who shined early in 2015 to earn Mountain West Freshman of the Year and All-Mountain West First Team in 11 games (10 starts).
Rypien started 49 games in his Broncos career, finishing with a TD-INT ratio of 90-29 and a completion percentage of 64 on 1,618 attempts. Although he doesn’t possess some of the physical gifts most NFL starters have, Rypien’s football intelligence, sound mechanics, timing and touch are all above-average to very good by league standards, which were all on display in a strong performance at the East-West Shrine Game.
NFL scouts can more easily evaluate Rypien’s fit from his frequent work under center, his pre-snap adjustments in Boise State’s offense and his ability to manipulate safeties with his eyes. He also works all parts of the field and appears to handle pressure well.
Rypien lacks big arm talent, has suffered from fumbles and might always be the type of quarterback teams are trying to upgrade from.
Fun fact: Rypien has dual citizenship in the United States and Canada, making him a closely watched prospect in the CFL (where rosters must contain a certain percentage of Canadian citizens). … He’s also close friends with former Boise State QB and 2019 draft prospect Ryan Finley (who just missed our top 100 list) even though he transferred to N.C. State after Rypien took his job.
Draft range: Round 5 to 6
96. Miami (Fla.) S Jaquan Johnson
5-foot-10, 191 pounds
The lowdown: The Miami-bred Johnson stuck close to home for school and stepped up as a junior on defense after making his mark early on special teams. He finished his career with eight interceptions, led the Hurricanes in tackles his final two seasons and also was named second-team All-ACC twice.
Regarded for his toughness and football intelligence, Johnson comes up short in terms of size and athleticism for the position benchmarks. His height, weight, wingspan (72 3/4 inches), arm length (29 5/8 inches), hand size (8 3/4 inches), 40-yard dash (4.69 seconds) and vertical jump (33 inches) all fall on the bottom 20th percentile among safeties.
But Johnson makes up for it with great instincts, hitting ability and versatility – he can play both safety spots and will be a valuable special-teams contributor from Day 1. Covering tight ends and backs in man coverage could be a consistent challenge, but this is a win-at-all-costs prospects who has the intangibles to overcome his physical shortcomings.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 18, 2018
Fun fact: After missing two games last season with a hamstring injury, Johnson returned to the field against Florida State and had a team-high 10 tackles in the Canes’ 28-27 comeback win. What Johnson said at halftime, giving an inspired pep talk with Miami down 20-7, earned serious praise from his teammates. “Jaquan Johnson came in, gave us the talk that we needed,” Hurricanes DE Joe Jackson said. “I think that got everybody going for the second half. We came out and played big. That’s the reason why we won.”
Draft range: Round 4 to 5
95. Georgia WR Mecole Hardman Jr.
5-foot-10, 187 pounds
The lowdown: After being relegated to a special-teams role early in his Bulldogs career, Hardman emerged the past two seasons as a major offensive threat. Hardman’s raw speed made him a danger on kick returns (25-yard average) and punt returns (15 average, one TD), and he started to translate that on offense, even in a run-heavy system.
The coaches tried to expand his role, using Hardman on jet sweeps and end arounds as well as his increased work as a receiver. He hits top gear quickly, as seen in his 4.33-second 40-yard dash (which actually angered Hardman, who thought he would run faster). Hardman can be used on screens, and he shows surprising toughness running in traffic, as well as “go” routes where he flashes a strong ability to track the ball downfield.
Hardman also projects to being a gunner as well as a returner in the NFL, giving him added value to special-teams-needy squads. Still, he’s new to wide receiver with only two seasons at the position after being recruited on defense. Hardman also started only six games and caught a total of 60 passes in his Georgia career. The team that drafts him must be patient with his development as a full-fledged receiver and find other ways early to unlock his game-breaking ability.
Fun fact: His father, Mecole Sr., played football briefly at Savannah State as a power running back before quitting and leaving for the Navy.
Draft range: Round 3 to 4
94. Houston CB Isaiah Johnson
6-foot-2, 208 pounds
The lowdown: From a height-weight-speed perspective, you can’t draw them up too much better than Johnson, who tested very well athletically at the combine and whose only real physical shortcoming are his smallish hands (8 3/4 inches). He turned in a top-five 3-cone drill time in Indy (6.81 seconds) among all corners, ran a 4.4 40 and had a brilliant broad jump of 133 inches.
With long arms (33 inches), Johnson fits the mold of the prototypical press corner. His development is still in the raw stages, having changed positions from receiver, but he uses his physical skills well and competes on every rep with excellent recovery speed. Johnson would be a fun project to cultivate for a team that seeks length in its cover men, even if he might not be ready for prime time right away as a rookie.
It's not typical for a dude of Isaiah Johnson's build to move this well. Incredible. Length helps him break this up at the end, but he needs to watch the contact with receiver. pic.twitter.com/hpN3XAk65L
— Matty F. Brown (@mattyfbrown) March 6, 2019
In his two years at cornerback, Johnson showed enough progress to project as a Day 2 draft pick. But he’s strictly an outside corner, tends to grab and tug receivers too much and will have to get better at his zone and off-man technique to be a full-time player. Johnson skipped the Cougars’ bowl game and had a solid week at the Senior Bowl.
Fun fact: When Houston’s Howard Wilson surprisingly declared for the 2017 NFL draft, Johnson followed Wilson into head coach Major Applewhite’s offense and volunteered to move to cornerback to help soften the blow for the team. It turned out to be a wise move after Johnson had caught only 21 passes in the two seasons prior.
Draft range: Round 2 to 3
93. Old Dominion EDGE Oshane Ximines
6-foot-3, 258 pounds
The lowdown: When Old Dominion pulled off the upset of the 2018 college football season in beating Virginia Tech, Ximines’ name (pronounced zim-AH-nes) started gaining traction in the scouting community. He registered seven tackles and two sacks in the win, and Ximines finished the season fifth in FBS with 12 sacks and tied for 10th with 18.5 tackles for loss. The fifth-year senior finished his ODU career with 33 sacks and 51.5 tackles for loss, increasing his production in each statistic every season.
Ximines is an undersized rusher who plays with a lot of energy – almost too frenetic at times. A scout who visited ODU the past two seasons said the coaching staff raved about Ximines’ coachability and desire to improve as a player. He makes up for his lack of bulk and length with above-average athleticism and a solid knack for making disruptive plays (11 forced fumbles the past three seasons).
He rushed from two- and three-point stances in ODU’s “Stud” position as the boundary rusher. Although he didn’t dominate at the Senior Bowl, sometimes getting pushed around by stronger tackles in one-on-one drills, Ximines didn’t look out of place and ended up having a solid week. He looks like a try-hard pass rusher who has some deficiencies vs. the run, which he’ll have to battle through early in his career.
Fun fact: The son of Jamaican immigrants, Ximines weighed in at 241 pounds in Mobile but showed up for the NFL scouting combine at 253, which he said was closer to his college playing weight. Ximines attributed the pre-Senior Bowl weight loss to a change in diet – “I cut out the Taco Bell,” he told us – before bulking back up.
Draft range: Round 3
92. Northern Illinois OT Max Scharping
6-foot-6, 327 pounds
The lowdown: Scharping started 53 consecutive games for the Huskies over the past four seasons – at right tackle, right guard and left tackle. He finished up as NIU’s left tackle the past two seasons as an All-MAC selection both years. Scharping had an impressive showing against Florida State EDGE Brian Burns, who could end up a top-10 selection in this year’s class, holding him without a sack in their matchup. In fact, Scharping allowed only one sack over his past three seasons combined (it came against Iowa’s A.J. Espenesa, who projects as a top-10 pick in 2020).
He has great bulk and strength and decent length but lacks great footwork or quickness, which could limit him to right tackle. At the Senior Bowl, he quietly impressed more often than not, winning over a few observers who felt he might have only backup or swing-tackle potential in the NFL. He plays with poise and level-headedness but can crank up the intensity in the run game when needed.
Scharping won various academic and community service awards in his time in school and earned a master’s degree in kinesiology. He turns 23 during training camp season. In a league where there’s a dearth of offensive linemen, you can do a lot worse.
Fun fact: Growing up in Green Bay as a Packers fan, Scharping was ignored by most of the local schools. Northern Illinois was the closest school to recruit him, and Scharping said at the Senior Bowl that he was recruited only by MAC and Ivy League schools. He considered Yale for the academics but chose to stay closer to home and play at the higher level of football, hoping to get a better shot at the NFL. Scharping will get just that in April.
Draft range: Round 4
91. Alabama RB Damien Harris
5-foot-10, 216 pounds
The lowdown: He was the Crimson Tide’s leading rusher each of the past three seasons, fighting for carries in backfields chock full of NFL-grade talent. Harris emerged as one of Nick Saban’s most reliable performers in seasons that all ended in the college football playoffs. He averaged 6.8 yards per carry over those three seasons after playing a bit role as a freshman and scored 24 touchdowns.
Harris didn’t have the natural talent of Josh Jacobs (a possible first-round pick this year) or Najee Harris (who is eligible for the draft next year) but led Bama in carries this season and started 14 of 15 games, earning second-team all-SEC honors. He has a compact build, a strong lower body (very good vertical- and broad-jump numbers at the combine), good balance after contact and enough burst to be a complementary NFL back.
His lack of receiving production (52-407-2 in 54 career games) and lack of return ability might concern teams, but Harris’ good pass-protection ability and low fumble rate make him a reliable three-down option. Think a smaller Jordan Howard, the type of back who was productive his first few seasons with the Chicago Bears in a power-run system.
Fun fact: Check out this fun story about Harris and Auburn QB Jarrett Stidham playing together in middle school. They both grew up in Kentucky and starred on the same youth team together before Stidham moved away to Texas, but they remain good friends to this day – even after Stidham transferred from Baylor to Alabama’s Iron Bowl rival.
Draft range: Round 3
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