These are the rankings I would use if I were a GM who had a low-end starting quarterback and was trying to win a championship in 2-5 years. That means I’m factoring in positional value and ceiling/floors of prospects all in one list. If I were just ranking the players who were most likely to succeed at their position, then Chase Young and Jeffery Okudah would be No. 1 and No. 2.
1st Round Grades
1. Joe Burrow – QB1
Burrow (6’3/221) became the consensus No. 1 overall prospect after setting the new FBS record for passing touchdowns (60) in his Heisman winning season at LSU. His accuracy, poise, and ability to read defenses led to the second-best completion percentage (76%) since at least 1956, and are traits that typically translate to the NFL. His arm strength is quite average for a first rounder pocket passer, but doesn’t limit him from making downfield and sideline passes. A former all-state high school basketball player, he was able to average 24.5 rushing yards per game as an underrated scrambler, although he does most of his damage within the pocket. As a 23-year-old rookie with elite mental makeup, Burrow should be considered as a Rookie of the Year favorite and potential decade-long NFL starter.
2. Tua Tagovailoa – QB2
Two ankle surgeries and a dislocated hip likely cost Tagovailoa (6’0/217) the No. 1 overall pick, but post-Combine medical scans have been relatively positive, although a redshirt rookie season can’t be completely ruled out. When healthy, Tagovailoa is a very accurate and aggressive in-pocket passer. He finished second in Total QBR among FBS quarterbacks in each of his last two seasons, averaging 11.2 and 11.3 yards per attempt respectively. His arm talent also translates out of the pocket where he can throw on the move to all depths of the field. Alabama head coach Nick Saban used a lot of run-pass options to utilize Tagovailoa’s decision making and athletic ability, but his maneuverability and longevity are in doubt given those injuries. His 22-2 career record and off-the-field charm should be enough to get Tagovailoa off the board within the first handful of picks. The potential rewards of that selection just may not be felt until 2021.
3. Chase Young – EDGE1
I’m not going to waste your time here. Young (6’5/264) had a 99th percentile Adjusted Production score and would’ve been an elite tester at the NFL Combine. He’s an absolute stud.
4. Jeffrey Okudah – CB1
Once again, I’m not going to waste your time here. Okudah (6’1/205) allowed 5.2 yards per target as a 20-year-old at Ohio State locked down Tee Higgins in the College Football Playoff, and showed 96th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism with 4.48 speed and a 41-inch vertical at the NFL Combine. Okudah could be a Pro Bowler as a rookie and an All-Pro within a few seasons. He’s an elite corner prospect.
5. Justin Herbert – QB3
Herbert (6’6/236) opted to stay at Oregon for all four seasons despite receiving top-five buzz ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft. He ended his collegiate career with an 8.2 YPA average and 95:23 TD:INT ratio, largely because of his high-end arm strength. Arguably too reserved in college, Herbert’s traits are best-suited for a vertical-attacking passing offense, assuming he’s willing to take more deep shots. A gifted athlete with 4.68 speed, Herbert also has the ability to scramble for first downs when the pocket collapses and can handle a few designed runs per game, which increases his odds of panning out as a rookie starter and franchise quarterback. While his size, arm talent, and mobility are prototypical of a top-10 selection, he needs to improve upon his awareness and decision making to reach the upside of his physical tools.
6. Isaiah Simmons – LB1
Simmons (6’4/238) was a two-year starting hybrid specialist at Clemson who earned the 2019 Dick Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. A three-star out of high school, Simmons added lean muscle mass to his track frame to become an 99th percentile athlete with 4.39 speed and a 39-inch vertical. He played snaps at linebacker, safety, and nickel corner in college and demonstrated a high-end ability to cover in space. Per PFF, he only allowed 5.6 yards per target in coverage while intercepting three passes. In the NFL, Simmons will be deployed as an elite coverage defender against tight ends and pass-catching backs with the athletic ability to work downhill against the run. He compares stylistically to a bigger and faster version of Derwin James as a versatile safety/linebacker hybrid.
7. Jedrick Wills – OT1
Wills (6’4/312) was a five-star recruit and two-year Alabama starter at right tackle, which is where he also played in high school. It’s unclear if NFL teams view him as a potential left tackle, but he did excel on the right side against SEC competition. As a true junior, he was a second-team AP All-American and was PFF’s No. 11 offensive tackle among 249 qualifiers with 500 snaps. Despite only being 21 years old, Wills arguably has the best technique in this stacked offensive tackle class, which explains how he’s only allowed one sack across 970 career pass-blocking snaps. On top of his on-field performance, Wills showcased 74th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism at the NFL Combine, which includes an 87th percentile 5.05-second 40-time and 97th percentile vertical jump. Overall, Wills profiles as a high-upside tackle prospect who has the technique to win in pass protection and the competitiveness and athleticism to open up rushing lanes.
8. Tristan Wirfs – OT2
Wirfs (6’5/320) was a state champion wrestler and two-time state champion shot putter in high school before he was a three-year Iowa starter at right tackle. He was the Big 10 Offensive Lineman of the Year and earned second-team AP All-American honors as a true junior, plus was PFF’s No. 4 offensive tackle among 249 FBS qualifiers with at least 500 snaps. Over the last 2 seasons, he has only allowed 2 sacks and 5 quarterback hits thanks to his sturdy base and quick feet. He’s rarely off balance in pass protection, staying planted against power rushers and sliding well against speed rushers. He’s also a mauler in the run game while remaining very disciplined, only compiling three penalties in all of 2019. At the NFL Combine, he showed 97th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism, which included a 98th percentile 40-time of 4.85 seconds and 100th percentile vertical jump of 36.5 inches. A 21-year-old early declare, Wirfs’ profile has no major holes, making him a high-upside left or right tackle prospect with the floor of being a quality guard.
9. CeeDee Lamb – WR1
Lamb (6’2/198) is an elite producer with above average athleticism, instincts, and competitiveness, making him a potential top 10 receiver in the NFL. Last season, he averaged 15.1 yards per target — easily the best in the class — and finished inside the 99th percentile in my predictive adjusted production score, partially because he will barely be 21 years old on draft night. On tape, he wins at the line of scrimmage with quick feet, creates separation at the next level with his combination of speed and route running ability, and finishes off plays with in-air adjustments and yards after the catch. Per PFF, he averaged 11.0 yards after catch, the most among Combine invitees. In the NFL, he’ll be utilized in the screen game and on vertical routes as an all-around WR1 despite being an average sized player with non-elite speed.
10. Mekhi Becton – OT3
Becton (6’7/364) was a three-year starter at Louisville with experience at both left and right tackle. On tape, his size and athleticism pop. He has the strength to pancake edge rushers in pass protection and is hard to beat around the edge with his 94th percentile arms. Becton’s competitiveness matches his size and athleticism, too, making him a dangerous run blocker who can find defenders at the second level. He was PFF’s No. 18 offensive tackle among 249 FBS qualifiers with 500 snaps, and only allowed one sack and three quarterback hits as a junior. If he can quit overextending in pass protection, he will be among the best offensive tackles in the NFL. Few players in the league’s history have ran a 5.10-second forty at 364 pounds.
11. Derrick Brown – DT1
Brown (6’5/326) was a former top-10 high school recruit and productive multi-year starting defensive tackle at Auburn. He had at least 9.5 TFLs and 3.0 sacks in all three of his seasons as a starter and was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year as a senior after posting 11.5 TFLs and 4.0 sacks. His combination of burst and strength at the snap forced opponents into using double teams on Brown, who primarily lined up at nose tackle and three-technique in college. An interior disruptor and relentless finisher, he looked far more athletic on tape than what his 45th percentile Adjusted SPARQ score would indicate. Brown offers Pro Bowl upside at multiple positions across the defensive line and should be one of the better interior run stoppers immediately.
12. Jerry Jeudy – WR2
Jeudy (6’1/193) is a multi-year producer at Alabama with exceptional route running that allows him to win at all depths of the field, making him a probable WR1 in the NFL. Despite being very young and facing top-notch competition (not just in the SEC but for targets on his own team), he averaged at least 86.0 yards per game in back-to-back seasons, leading the FBS in 15+ yard receptions over that span. He also finished inside the 96th percentile in my adjusted production metric last season. On tape, he creates separation with the best route running in the class and finishes plays with stop-start moves after the catch. An extremely polished receiver with just one very forgivable question mark (38th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism), Jeudy can be a high-end slot receiver or go-to target on the outside in the NFL.
13. Henry Ruggs – WR3
Ruggs (5’11/188) declared for the NFL Draft after a 40-746-7 junior season at Alabama. He operated as the No. 3 target in a stacked offense, which limited his career reception count to just 98 passes. While he doesn’t check some production boxes, he did average 13.5 yards per target last season, the second-best mark in the draft class. On tape, he’s more than just a deep threat. His route running is underrated, particularly on slant ins, slants, and shallow crossers, and he’s electric after the catch on underneath targets. He unsurprisingly showed 99th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism with 4.27 speed and a 42-inch vertical at the NFL Combine. Already coming off a highly-efficient season as a 20-year-old, Ruggs should only get better with more in-game reps, profiling as a matchup mismatch in Year 1. He should end up on the Will Fuller/Tyreek Hill spectrum by the end of his rookie contract.
14. Andrew Thomas – OT4
Thomas (6’5/315) was a five-star recruit and three-year starting tackle at Georgia. He was a Freshman All-American at right tackle and earned back-to-back first-team All-SEC honors as a sophomore and junior while playing left tackle. As a true junior in 2019, Thomas only allowed one sack and was PFF’s No. 3 offensive tackle among 249 FBS qualifiers with 500 snaps. He is very technical in pass protection but also has the ability to win with above-average athleticism and nastiness, which makes him a very strong run-blocker. At the NFL Combine, he showcased 71st percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism with 97th percentile arms and 75th percentile burst. Despite only being 21 years old, Thomas profiles as a rookie year starter and potential Pro Bowl-level player who is equally good in the pass game as he is in the run game.
15. Justin Jefferson – WR4
As a 20-year-old junior, Jefferson (6’1/202) compiled 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, and 18 touchdowns as a go-to target in the most prolific offense in college football history. Primarily a slot receiver, Jefferson wins with nuanced route running, steady hands, and yards after catch ability. His 11.5 yards per target average was among the best in the class, and he only trailed Jerry Jeudy in 15+ yard receptions over the last two seasons. Per PFF, 41% of his receiving yards came on ins, outs, and crosses, which are the routes he’ll run most often in the NFL. He occasionally won on vertical routes at LSU and may be the part of his game that can be developed the most in the NFL, especially after showing 4.41 speed at the NFL Combine. Jefferson can be a reliable underneath target as a rookie and has WR1 upside within a couple of seasons.
16. K’Lavon Chaisson – EDGE2
Chaisson (6’3/254) was a two-year starting outside linebacker and one-year team captain at LSU who earned first-team All-SEC honors as a redshirt sophomore last season. He made 60 tackles, 13.5 TFLs, and had 6.5 sacks despite being asked to drop into pass coverage 96 times. In the NFL, he’ll be a stand-up speed rusher who wins with elite bend and burst off the edge. Chaisson needs development in his technique, particularly with double moves, but he offers Pro Bowl upside, especially since he’ll only be 20 years old on draft night.
17. Patrick Queen – LB2
Queen (6’0/229) was a one-year starter at LSU who shined in the College Football Playoff as a speedy inside linebacker with high-end pass-coverage upside. Buried behind Devin White, Queen was a late-bloomer but flashed immediately as a plug-and-play starter. His 4.50 speed pops on tape while coming downhill against the run and in pass coverage against running backs. He made 85 combined tackles, 12 TFLs, and forced two turnovers, and more importantly only allowed 5.5 yards per target in coverage per PFF. Queen’s combination of natural instincts, 81st percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism, and youth — he’ll only be 20 years old on draft night — make him a high-upside three-down linebacker in the NFL. His best football is ahead of him.
18. Javon Kinlaw – DT2
Kinlaw (6’5/324) went from a homeless upbringing to being a three-year starter at South Carolina. Constantly faced with double teams, his production was modest. He finished with just 15 solo tackles, 6.0 TFLs, and 6.0 sacks as a junior, but he blew up plays by moving linemen off the block on tape. His length, strength, and burst make him a potential interior disruptor in the NFL, both as a pass rusher and run defender. He was more reliant on his athleticism than his technique in college, so further development is needed for him to hit his Chris Jones-level ceiling. Kinlaw’s raw physical tools make him a first-rounder, but his overall profile is one of a boom-or-bust prospect.
1st-2nd Round Grades
19. Yetur Gross-Matos – EDGE3
Gross-Matos (6’5/266) was a two-year starting edge rusher at Penn State who earned first-team All-Big 10 honors as a junior by compiling 14.5 TFLs and 9.0 sacks. His 97th percentile arm length and first-step explosion allow him to get upfield in a hurry as a pass rusher from the edge or interior, but he needs more pass-rushing moves and raw strength to be more than an average starter in the NFL. An ascending early declare with solid college production, Gross-Matos figures to develop into a more all-around player at the next level, making him a potential quality three-down starter and passing game disruptor.
20. Cesar Ruiz – IOL1
Ruiz (6’3/307) was a three-year starting center at Michigan who earned second-team All-Big 10 honors as a true junior in 2019 by allowing zero sacks and just two quarterback hits per PFF. More athletic than most interior linemen, Ruiz wins with his first step and fluidity throughout the play. His patience and body control make him great in pass protection, but his 84th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism really pops as a run blocker, especially whenever asked to pull or find a defender at the second level. Only 20 years old, Ruiz has time to fix the few holes in his game to reach his Pro Bowl upside and is more than good enough to be a rookie-year starter in the meantime.
21. Xavier McKinney – S1
McKinney (6’0/201) was a two-year starter at Alabama who earned third-team AP All-American honors by making 95 tackles and forcing seven turnovers as a true junior. Nick Saban put him in the “Minkah Fitzpatrick” role where he split his snaps at box safety (285), free safety (271), and slot corner (227). He made a ton of impact plays from multiple alignments using his natural instincts, including as an occasional rusher off the edge. Also a noted leader in the secondary, McKinney’s lone weakness is his 8th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism and 4.63 speed. With better testing, McKinney would have been a consensus top-15 prospect, but he still offers Pro Bowl upside given his intangibles, versatility, and instincts and could be an opening day starter.
22. Jaylon Johnson – CB2
Johnson (6’0/193) was a two-year starting outside corner at Utah who earned back-to-back All-PAC-12 honors as a true sophomore and junior. He had a lot of success early, primarily using press-man coverage. Per PFF, he only allowed 4.9 yards per target and a 44% catch rate in coverage as a 20-year-old. Johnson was a slightly below-average athlete with 4.50 speed at the NFL Combine, but he makes up for it with high-end awareness, intelligence, and competitiveness. More physical than his size would indicate, Johnson offers Day 1 starting ability and the upside to be a team’s CB1 with more development, especially in a pressure-heavy system where he can win within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage.
23. C.J. Henderson – CB3
Henderson (6’1/204) was a three-year starter at Florida where he earned Freshman All-SEC in year one, second-team All-SEC in year two, and first-team All-SEC last year as a junior. Lengthy with 91st percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism and 4.39 speed, Henderson is at his best in press man coverage, but he needs to clean up the rest of his game to be a more all-around player. Perhaps due to effort, he was a below-average tackler and was average at playing the ball in the air, which led to a very high 10.5 YPT allowed last season. Arguably an underperformer relative to his elite traits, Henderson will need to get back on track to reach his CB1 ceiling. He has the potential to chase opposing WR1s on Sundays, and we saw that level of play in 2018.
24. Grant Delpit – S2
Delpit (6’2/213) was a three-year starter and captain at LSU who earned first-team All-American honors as a sophomore and won the Jim Thorpe Award as a junior. He split his snaps between free safety (385), slot corner (316), and box safety (149), and figures to continue playing a versatile role at the next level. He was a downhill attacker against the run and instinctual as a coverage safety when healthy but was slowed by an ankle injury in 2019, which partially explains his horrendous tackling stats. A fiery competitor and leader on the field, Delpit offers Pro Bowl upside as an athletic, versatile safety if his tackling and injuries are cleaned up.
25. Kenneth Murray – LB3
Murray (6’2/241) was a three-year middle linebacker at Oklahoma who averaged 128.5 tackles over his last two seasons. His best trait is his 4.52 speed. He can get downhill in a hurry and deliver a pop against the run and is fast enough to be a rangy in coverage. Only 21 years old, Murray has room for development. He can be late on reads and misdiagnose running lanes, and he rarely was tasked with covering tight ends or running backs man-to-man. A leader off the field and a high-energy player on it, Murray has Day 1 starter athleticism and competitiveness, profiling as a productive tackler and average coverage middle linebacker in the NFL.
26. Jalen Hurts – QB4
Despite only losing two games as a true freshman and sophomore, Hurts (6’1/222) was unseated by Tua Tagovailoa as Alabama’s starting quarterback, which ultimately led to a transfer to Oklahoma. Under head coach Lincoln Riley, Hurts’ passing motion, comfortability, and efficiency took a massive leap in 2019. He led the nation in YPA (11.5) on non-play action passes, finished with PFF’s No. 4 overall grade, and was the Heisman runner-up to Joe Burrow. His accuracy is underrated — he had the fourth-best completion percentage over expected season since 2011 — but he must continue to improve his processing and willingness to stay inside the pocket. Luckily, he’s only 21 years old and is by all accounts very coachable. Even if those traits remain weaknesses, Hurts is a valuable runner. He led college football, including running backs, in red zone rushing touchdowns (17) last season and can have a short-yardage role as a backup quarterback. That may be selling him short, however. Hurts has starting-level upside with some development.
27. Denzel Mims – WR5
Mims (6’3/207) flew up draft boards after stringing together a productive 2019 season with strong showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. At Baylor, he broke out as a sophomore and set new career highs as a senior with a 66-1,040-12 receiving line. An 89th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athlete with 4.38 speed, Mims is at his best on vertical routes — 29% of his receiving yards came on the go route per PFF — where he makes acrobatic contested catches near the sideline. He flashed the ability to run a full route tree during the Senior Bowl but likely needs some rookie contract development in that area. The primary knock on his profile is that he was a 22-year-old non-declare. It’s just not enough to fade Mims as a borderline first round talent and potential WR1/2 in the NFL.
28. Tee Higgins – WR6
Higgins (6’4/216) is an efficient deep threat with a massive catch radius who profiles as an NFL team’s WR2. As a 20-year-old last season, he produced a 59-1,167-13 receiving line, averaged the third-most yards per target (13.4) in the draft class, and came down with 15-of-23 deep targets for 565 yards per PFF. The combination of his size, physicality, and contested catch ability make him a mismatch for undersized corners, but he needs to improve as a route runner to reach his ceiling because he’s not bursty, as evidenced by his 31-inch vertical jump and bottom 2nd percentile 10-yard split. Higgins needs a runway to build up to his 4.54 speed, which is why he doesn’t profile as a go-to target in the NFL, but a Mike Williams-level role still makes him a worthwhile selection around the Round 1/2 turn.