By Brandon Thorn
Here are my top graded players so far for the 2015 NFL Draft. These grades are based on film study and how I grade the positional characteristics for the player’s respective position. Before I even start writing a prospect’s report I will ensure I have seen a minimum of four games on them. Most of the time six games. I like to watch a game or two from the previous season so I can see how much they have improved in the current year. Then I watch their best game, worst game, and whatever other games I can get my hands on. This process gives me the necessary confidence to write the in-depth, NFL-style formatted reports I use.
I won’t factor in off the field factors in these rankings due to not having the required access to accurately judge a player on that side of the coin. My goal with my big board is simple: to rank how the top NFL Draft prospects in the country perform on Saturdays and how they project on Sundays.
2015 NFL Draft Big Board – Graded Players
- Edge – Vic Beasley – Clemson – 6-3/246 – Grade: 7.7 Elite get off, refined pass rusher with an arsenal of moves and supreme athleticism. Advanced application of leverage/bend and much better versus the run than given credit for.
- DL – Leonard Williams – USC – 6-5/300 – Grade: 7.5 Immense functional strength at the POA w/heavy hands to disengage at will. Enough quickness and burst to be a factor versus the pass. Think Muhammad Wilkerson.
- CB – Kevin Johnson – Wake Forest – 6-0/188 – Grade 7.4 Long & wiry player with a lot of fight & physicality to his game. Decisive, fast footwork with exceptional instincts and anticipation. Equally polished in man/zone, uses rare body positioning to allow top shelf ball skills to shine. Size isn’t much of a concern for me.
- Edge – Randy Gregory – Nebraska – 6-6/245 – Grade: 7.4 Extremely athletic, explosive, and long. Uses all three very efficiently and only a 2-year D1 player. Tons of room to grow technique and body wise.
- Edge – Alvin “Bud” Dupree – Kentucky – 6-4/264 – Grade: 7.4 Similar to Fowler but has more raw explosiveness and a little less functional strength.
- RB – Ameer Abdullah – Nebraska – 5082/198 – Grade: 7.4 Tremendous overall quickness, soft hands, dangerous KR, and very decisive in the hole. Possesses a special jump cut and uses his low center of gravity to elude defenders and generate underrated power. Limited long speed and a fumbling concern prior to cleaning this up in ’
- CB – Marcus Peters – Washington – 6-0/197 – Grade: 7.3 Prototypical size/length with tremendous ball skills. Plays angry with the attitude you need from a No. 1 corner, needs to learn to keep it between the whistles. Without (on film) maturity issues would grade even higher.
- LB – Shaq Thompson – Washington – 6-1/228 – Grade: 7.2 Versatility, athleticism, speed, and aggressiveness to be a queen on a defense’s chess board. Can play out of control at times and take lots of chances. Needs to be reeled in a bit but has the talent to be a big time playmaker quickly.
- Edge – Dante Fowler Jr. – Florida – 6-3/261 – Grade: 7.2 Most well-rounded edge player I’ve studied. Doesn’t have one “wow” factor to him but rather a lot of very good traits. Converts speed to power very well and is an underrated athlete. More disruptive than the numbers indicate. Excels blitzing the “A” gaps w/heavy hands and good foot fire.
- WR – DeVante Parker – Louisville – 6-3/209 – Grade: 7.2 Very long frame with best long speed of the top 3 WRs (on film). Silky in his movements, fearlessness over the middle, and will make his living in the intermediate game.
- Edge – Shane Ray – Missouri – 6-3/245 – Grade: 7.2 Lack of sand puts him into the one-trick pony conversation (until he can develop his frame more). Has rare anticipatory ability and nobody on film plays with a higher motor.
- WR – Amari Cooper – Alabama – 6-1/202 – Grade: 7.1 Supremely productive in pro system, dominant on the ground receiver and best route runner in the class. Plays snap to whistle and explodes out of cuts. Polished and ready to contribute immediately.
- WR – Kevin White – West Virginia – 6-3/210 – Grade: 7.1 Most physically imposing of the three graded receivers plus possesses the best ball skills in the class. Only 2-years of D1 football with a lot of room to grow. Ran faster at Combine than his film indicates.
- NT – Danny Shelton – Washington – 6016/343 – Grade: 7.1 Massive space-eater with surprising agility. Has enormous strength/power in his hands and at lockout to hold up at POA & stack/shed but not much sheer explosion. Has incredibly valgus knees that can lead to ACL issues.
- LB – Paul Dawson – TCU – 6-0/230 – Grade 7.1 Special FBI with exceptional play recognition ability. While possessing only average speed and explosiveness he is extremely coordinated, aggressive, and aware. Has a feel for the position that cant be taught and it results in a myriad of disruptive plays.
- ILB – Denzel Perryman – Miami – 5105/242 – Grade: 7.0 Incredibly thick and equally explosive in his hips on contact. High FBI and got better each of the last three years. Will be limited in man coverage but is a very instinctual player with a very good feel for the position.
- CB/S – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu – Oregon – 5-10/192 – Grade 7.0 Spark plug in the run game and superb tackler. Possesses a high level of toughness, physicality, and twitch. Elite ball skills but has some footwork and balance issues in man tight/off coverage that need to be worked on (gets too narrow at times).
- Edge – Eli Harold – Virginia – 6-3/247 – Grade 6.9 Elite burst & bend around the corner. Very strong hands & top shelf athlete (very twitchy). Needs to add weight/strength & develop an inside counter. Has the tools to become a force off the edge.
- OT/OG – Brandon Scherff – Iowa – 6-5/315 – Grade: 6.8 Explosive hips that generate plenty of movement. Very fast to second level and when locked on he’s a bully. Very tough but limited due to average length. Looks like a long-time fixture as a starting OG.
- Edge – Hau’oli Kikaha – Washington – 6024/246 – Grade: 6.8 Judo background shows on the field; deepest arsenal of pass rush moves in the draft, powerful stack, excellent hand placement, sheds easily. High motor but lacked fluidity at the Senior Bowl in space and is an average athlete. Low ceiling, high floor type of guy.
- CB/S – P.J. Williams – FSU – 6-0/196 – Grade 6.7 Up and down tape. Has elite level athleticism, very springy legs with smooth transitions. Lots of technique issues in man coverage with his jams and footwork. Has the tools to build from and become a very good starter. I want to see him get a crack as an FS.
- ILB – Benardrick McKinney – Mississippi State – 6-5/249 – Grade: 6.6 Very fluid in his movements with long arms and a strong upper body. Has sideline to sideline range but has poor footwork on contact. Needs to refine his technique (and possibly drop weight) as he has a tendency to lounge at blockers and over pursue ballcarriers.
- CB – Trae Waynes – Michigan State – 6-0/186 – Grade 6.5 Highly coordinated player with a smooth backpedal and patience in coverage. High cut with a bit of a windup to get to top speed but possesses a 5th gear to catch. Lacks premier ball skills and instincts. I don’t see a lot of scheme versatility rather a player who can really excel as primarily a press cover corner.