Norris: NFL Draft Rankings - Top 50

Josh Norris
Rotoworld

This is clearly a draft process unlike any other. We will have limited athletic testing for prospects, which is a significant portion of my evaluations for offensive linemen and defensive linemen, as well as locating late-round targets. Teams do the same, and not possessing the ability to host prospects on visits and private workouts could separate front offices across the league. It most certainly will hurt small school prospects and non-Combine invites. 

If you read closely, you can pick up my biases and types: I value impact. Players who can alter the outcome of a game, even in just a few snaps. This list will continue to be fleshed out, with the top 50 receiving write-ups and rankings going into the 200 range.

All athletic composite scores are provided by Zach Whitman from 3sigmaathlete.com. The ages are in reference to September 1, 2019 and are rounded up from 0.8.

1. QB Joe Burrow, LSU

Age: 23 | Athletic Profile: Elected to not complete

Where He Wins: No play is ever dead. Burrow’s athleticism is not striking, neither is his arm strength. Yet the total package allows Burrow to consistently create success off script - and the foundation is his confidence and feel for the chaos around him. More athletic quarterbacks make fewer plays than Burrow does. The slight steps and movements to avoid and manufacture space to operate allows his blockers to have even more success. Keeping that out of structure ability in mind, Burrow is also highly effective on script. Joe Brady and company created professional concepts and Burrow executed with the accompanying placement and touch that were necessary.

Forecast: While the NFL world seems to immediately lock their gaze on quarterbacks one year out, this is the third year in a row a quarterback emerges from the shadows to lock down the No. 1 selection spot. Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Joe Burrow. All transfers. Don’t break him, Bengals.

2. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama

Age: 22 | Athletic Profile: Elected to not complete

Where He Wins: Tua only put quality seasons together at Alabama. From being called in to win the National Championship, to his second and third seasons at Alabama, Tua has only been superb. He anticipates windows, especially vertically. He’s confident extending plays. And most importantly, he operated at a high level inside of structure, when everything goes according to plan. That happened a lot at Alabama, talented receivers running open - but 1) it wasn’t his first read that was constantly open, he frequently worked off his primary or diverted defenses with his eyes, and 2) he also created off-script.

Forecast: Seems to hold the ball a tick too long, leaving himself vulnerable to avoidable hits in the pocket. That segues us into medicals. I am no doctor and multiple reports emerged during Combine week that Tua was cleared by teams. I don’t doubt that, but just from observing this league it becomes clear every year that clubs hate taking risks during the draft process. They consistently hate being first to step onto the invisible bridge. This isn’t a shoulder or a knee that teams see every year. It’s a hip, and I could totally see numerous teams avoid the unknown despite an obvious need at the position.

3. EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: Elected to not complete

Where He Wins: Wins in his first three steps with explosion or fluidity or strength. Winning early in the snap translates to the NFL, and Young possesses a pass rush plan to set up his opponent on either side of the line. Young is a threat to disrupt the plan of the offense when he’s afforded a one on one matchup. That is the definition of a primary pass rusher, and those handful of snaps each game can alter the outcome.

Forecast: There’s a constant conversation on the importance of offense versus defense. That has now extended to a discussion on coverage being more important than “front” play. But there’s something to clarity in an evaluation. The ease. Confidence in traits that translate and Young likely elicits the sturdiest conviction among every non-QB in this class.

4. CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State

Age: ? | Athletic Profile: Projected in 99th percentile

Where He Wins: I keep repeating it, but the most important aspect of on-field evaluations is recognizing what a player’s strengths are, take an educated guess on what they were asked to do and then determine if how they won at the college level can win at the NFL level. For Okudah, he seemed to play in a C1 or C3 system, which is widely used in the NFL. He’s athletic, is over 6-foot-1 and possesses arms longer than 32-inches - that’s protoypical. Uncommon fluidity at his size.

Forecast: Per PFF, Okudah hasn’t allowed more than 50 yards receiving in any of the 27 games played over that stretch either. He fits your system, draft him.

5. WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: 70th percentile

Where He Wins: It’s uncommon to find a receiver so comfortable at adjusting for the ball in the air, resulting in acrobatic catches, who is also so productive after the catch (Per PFF: forced 38 missed tackles over the last two season). His game reminds me so much of DeAndre Hopkins: physical when it needs to be, elegant when called for, and a mentality to be the alpha before and after the snap. The ability to separate in breaks or at the catch point is absolutely there.

Forecast: While Lincoln Riley certainly deserves credit for constructing an outstanding offense, Lamb’s talent transcends it. The only real question is how he’ll react to being pressed play after play after seeing free releases with the Sooners. But I count on his hammer mentality answering that.

6. LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson

Age: 22 | Athletic Profile: Projected 98th percentile

Where He Wins: Everywhere? Versatility is lining up at multiple positions and performing well at each. If you’re not winning, you’re just losing from multiple alignments. Simmons has played a sizable amount of snaps at safety (both free and strong), slot, as a traditional linebacker and on the edge. He just moves differently.

Forecast: Hopefully this makes sense - Simmons is a blend of hybrids. If we can focus on the Patriots Defense, Simmons can be Kyle Van Noy when you need him to be or Patrick Chung. Maybe Derwin James is the closest comparison, as the former first-round pick was also an incredible blitzer off the edge. I hope he goes to a defense that uses him creatively. There’s also the question on how much a player like Simmons changes the Win-Loss record of a bottom-feeding team with a defense full of adequate (or worse) talents - his presence certainly would be felt more on a good team.

7. WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: 21st percentile

Where He Wins: Creates separation and sustains it with animated movements in his breaks. Put him in the slot - Jeudy wins early in his route, even on vertical plays. Plce him on the outside and Jeudy is happy to put his isolated corner in a blender. Despite his lack of top-end testing athleticism, Jeudy is still a threat with the ball in his hands.

Forecast: I know it’s easy to compare players from the same school, but it’s easy to see Calvin Ridley in Jerry Jeudy’s game. The rookie-to-be might have a low-end projection of Ridley and a high end of Stefon Diggs. There is quite a difference between the two, as the latter can be the primary option in a passing game.

8. OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: 53rd percentile

Where He Wins: Left tackle with a nasty demeanor. As a pass protector he is not passive. His set is not stiff, his butt is pointed at his quarterback and Thomas wants to gain control with his hands and length, adjusting the placement if necessary. Georgia left him on that tackle island quite often, and he rarely let them down. Even against the explosive upfield edge rushers in the SEC, Thomas seemed to always be in their way to prevent early wins and helped them run the arc behind his QB. And as a run blocker, Thomas wants to move you off the line.

Forecast: Georgia’s offensive line was one of the best in the country, Thomas was a reason for that rather than being a product of it. Yes, there were occasions when he overextended in the running game and lost his balance. His pass set might not be as aesthetically fluid as others - but you’d be hard-pressed to find others that were more effective. Plus he has right tackle experience. With these first-round tackles, NFL teams need to ask themselves if they are comfortable leaving them isolated. I would be with Thomas.

9. OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: 99th percentile

Where He Wins: One of the best athletes we’ve seen at the position. A long-time starter for the Hawkeyes, Wirfs’ agility shows up when asked to block at left or right tackle. On the occasions when it all comes together, he shows Joe Thomas level fluidity in his set. When he loses that first contact you see his core strength and flexibility on display, anchor his feet and transitioning that force to halt his opponent’s momentum. An NFL could be quite creative with his movement skills in the running game, and he looks to force defensive backs to question their choice to play football.

Forecast: I’m struggling a bit here. Wirfs was a long time starter at an offensive line factory. His athleticism is in the 99th percentile. Yet there are stretches with absolutely atrocious balance - falling forward on contact, winding up on the ground far too often. Wirfs even whiffs at times. It doesn’t make sense with his profile. I’m banking on coaching and tools here, because the good is incredible. Just make it the norm.

10. iDL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina

Age: 23 | Athletic Profile: Elected to not complete

Where He Wins: Natural “get out of my way!” strength. Quick hands and hips at the line lead to early wins, leaving an unprepared lineman in his wake. Early wins also result in steamrolling blockers immediately. That’s a difficult combination for an interior blocker to prepare for. Finally, the late wins are there too: continuing to fight when the initial momentum is stopped and attempting to get hands-on the ball when the quarterback is not in striking distance.

Forecast: I understand if people question Kinlaw’s lack of production - 10 sacks in his collegiate career. To me, his final season was incredibly similar to Jadeveon Clowney’s - incredible individual disruption that should have resulted in clean up production by his teammates, yet too often they were nowhere to be found. Kinlaw can force an offense off-script a handful of times per game: inserting chaos into design. His teammates will benefit.

11.  OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: 72nd percentile

Where He Wins: Right tackle, which was Alabama’s blindside. There are finesse blockers, Wills is size and force. But there are moments of quickness that take you by surprise, namely when passing off stunts. His size is an asset, and as games wear on it seems like edge rushers realize how much of a chore it is to work around that mountain. And that mountain can move.

Forecast: The value of left and right tackles should be equal. But with Thomas and Wirfs proving they can play on both sides, Wills seems to be most comfortable on the right.

12.  WR Denzel Mims, Baylor

Age: 23 | Athletic Profile: 94th percentile

Where He Wins: Might be typecast as a Baylor receiver, but Mims has so many of the details of the receiver position down. He’s sneaky with his contact, using his hands or shoulder to create separation at the top of his routes or on breaks. If the corner closes at the catch point he’s then able to create another sliver of separation - putting him in the position of success. He’s the one who wins the contact battles and maintains his speed. The athleticism easily pops on free releases, acrobatic catches, sideline grabs and with the ball in his hands.

Forecast: While this isn’t Briles-level limited route tree, Mims certainly wasn’t asked to be Stefon Diggs. Still, I’ll bank on his combination of athletic profile, size and willingness to be the one in control of contract.

13.  WR Henry Ruggs, Alabama

Age: 21 | Athletic Profile: Projected 99th percentile

Where He Wins: He’s got the juice - all speed. There are so many occasions where another receiver is tackled by a chasing or closing defender. Not Ruggs. His speed is shocking, another gear that surprises the viewer and surprises the defense when they realize their selected angle is short. Simple curls or slants are always a threat to be taken for six points. Alabama used Ruggs creatively and manufactured touches near the line of scrimmage, not too dissimilar to early-career Tyreek Hill. And he rarely drops the ball.

Forecast: This kind of speed helps any offense. Don’t worry if he’s not a “primary” option immediately. We’ve seen Marquise Brown, Mecole Hardman, Hill and others offer an immediate jolt to an offense - a threat defenses always need to be aware of. Captivating that level of attention is uncommon.

14.  EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State

Age: 22 | Athletic Profile: Elected to not complete

Where He Wins: There’s just a natural look to his game when it flows together: fluid movement with some bend at 266-pounds along with hand use to create an angle advantage, then closing strides to make a play on the ball. There aren’t many prospects in this class with that potential combination, nor is two-step quickness. Loop him inside and awaiting interior linemen are just too stiff to stay in position. 

Forecast: This is probably higher than you’ve seen Gross-Matos ranked by others. I understand the consistency questions - but he has an ability to totally disrupt the offense’s script a handful of times per game. Many of his wins occur early in the snap, so I’d love to see more late/hustle plays. Reminds me of Ezekiel Ansah entering the NFL.

15.  S Xavier McKinney, Alabama

Age: ? | Athletic Profile: 20th percentile

Where He Wins: Nick Saban clearly trusted McKinney to be the chess piece (queen?) of his defense, moving in every direction and attacking the ball from each angle. Slot, to deep to box safety and reliable in all three. He’s unafraid to make plays on the ball in coverage and will gladly fill in run support.

Forecast: In some ways a discount, lighter Isaiah Simmons, as they were asked to operate in many of the same areas of the field. The concern is he’s not close to the athlete Simmons is, so will his profile hold up in the same way in the NFL?

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16. OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville - A shockingly easy mover at 6-foot, 364-pounds, even when reacting to inside moves. Throws defenders out of the club in the running game. Out of 314 pass block snaps last season, just 73 were true 1-on-1 opportunities, per PFF. That’s a small sample. Does have experience on both sides.

17. EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson, LSU - Arrived at the Combine over 250-pounds. Offers a primary pass rush move that is valuable to any team - three step explosion and true bend to dip around his opponent. Great tackles will have an answer, but many tackles throughout the league won’t. Add some form of a counter to keep a tackle off balance and tenacity when closing, and Chaisson can be an asset. Ask Shaq Barrett

18. CB Kristian Fulton, LSU -  All around averaged sized corner, but plays smart when recognizing concepts, timing his break and disrupting the catch point. Many corners allow separation on inside breaking routes - Fulton has a my ball mentality and often beat the pass catcher to the spot.

19. OT Josh Jones, Houston - While it might look ugly, Jones constantly locked down his island. Light feet + strong hands equals rarely allowing disruption. Jones isn’t passive, commonly securing hold of the pass rusher then driving them further away from his quarterback. That translates in the running game too, where Houston asked Jones to block in space.

20. WR Justin Jefferson, LSU - At the very least, Jefferson will be a highly successful slot receiver who can rack up production in good offenses. You’d expect a finesse receiver who is best when creating separation and sustaining it. Jefferson can do that, but he sets himself apart when winning through contact - at the catch and through contract. He is highly competitive, possesses good body control and is a great athlete… that leads to big plays.

21. iDL Derrick Brown, Auburn - Massive interior disruptor who constantly worked through his blocker at the college level. It’s like Brown’s target is always the quarterback and the blocker is just an inconvenience. I always ask “Can a player win in the same way in the NFL as they did in college?” With Brown, and how he creates disruption in the passing game - I am not sure. His below average athletic profile brings up a concern that he might not have enough juice. 

22. QB Justin Herbert, Oregon - The tools are absolutely there - Big frame, big arm and a fantastic athlete. He definitely can succeed in an offense that wants to threaten vertical. Yet with all of those tools, I have concerns that he will not succeed off script. Mobility is not the problem, but mentality might be. He just might not have the comfort or confidence in those moments to make magic outside of structure.

23. QB Jordan Love, Utah State - While Herbert has questions on his confidence to “win the play” when off script, Love might be at his best out of structure. It’s like he watched a Patrick Mahomes highlight reel prior to every game and said “I’m gonna do that today!” Love tried to do too much in 2019 after losing so much around him in college. But there were plenty of times where Love compounded the problem instead of improving it.

24. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU - Reminds me so much of Maurice Jones-Drew. He’s a block with balance, plus possesses immediate lateral agility to make the defender in front of him miss. Footwork toi duck in then explode out leaves linebackers’ angles destroyed. Comfortable in the passing game, both in the flats and when working linebackers on option or angle routes.

25. RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin - Likely leads the class in traditional under center carries, but Taylor’s game extends beyond the typical productive Badger back. Slalom skier between the tackles to weave and cut to make box defenders miss. Has big play upside thanks to an athletic profile in the 89th percentile. His combination of vision, speed and comfort on contact likely means he’d star in a zone system.

26. WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame - The immediate trait that pops is Claypool’s redzone and endzone dominance. He’s one of the top athletes in this class, and it shows when isolated in short fields. Then you dig a little deeper and see he was open for more big plays if the quarterback did his part. You also see that Claypool is quite fluid for his size, especially off the line, and  was featured after the catch on crossing routes. Getting the ball to an athletic receiver at full speed is a simple and successful plan. If he hits, Claypool might find himself in Vincent Jackson territory.

27. WR Jalen Reagor, TCU - Reagor’s profile boasts similarities to D.K. Metcalf’s. Straight-line speed with incredible jumps, but questionable agility scores. One difference: Reagor is four inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, so it is unlikely he wins the same 50-50 situations Metcalf did as a rookie. But I make the comparison to say this: a team that invests in Reagor will need a plan. Hopefully it can be added to week by week like Metcalf’s was.

28. LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin - Kyle Van Noy-like. Need him to operate on the edge and maximize an isolated matchup? Yep. How about split into the slot and operate in space against a detached tight end? That too. A defense that wants to be multiple will be intrigued by Baun’s pedal to the floor versatility.

29. iDL Jordan Elliott, Missouri - This class is shallow in interior disruptors. Elliott shows fluidity to work the angles of guards and centers, squirming free with rips and swims to release into the backfield. 

30. LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma - See it, chase it. Murray is an absolute defensive demon when moving forward. Oklahoma put Murray on the edge and inside, resulting in disruptive plays between the tackles and on the edge. He might be slowed, but he’s not stopped. It’s notable that few of Murray’s highlights are moving laterally or backwards. Everything is forward. Does that make him limited?

 

 

31. CB C.J. Henderson, Florida

41. WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State

32. LB Patrick Queen, LSU

42. iDL Ross Blacklock, TCU

33. CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah

43. S Jeremy Chinn, SIU

34. S Grant Delpit, LSU

44. RB D'Andre Swift, Georgia

35. OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State

45. iOL Cesar Ruiz, Michigan

36. CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama

46. DL Marlon Davidson, Auburn

37. CB Jeff Gladney, TCU

47. EDGE Darrell Taylor, Tenn

38. S Antoine Winfield, Minnesota

48. OL Austin Jackson, USC

39. WR Antonio Gibson, Memphis

49. CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn

40. S Terrell Burgess, Utah

50. EDGE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame

 

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