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A look at the top names ahead of the NFL Draft

A look at the top 20 players that teams will want to sign in the NFL Draft

Feature 19 Jan 2015, 23:30 IST
Where will one of the best players end up in the NFL draft?

The NFL season is in the conference championship games, which means 28 of the 32 teams are looking towards next season. Many begin to look towards the NFL draft and produce mock drafts, however I don’t believe in doing them this early with free agency and coaching vacancies still being filled. With that being said, the best available list is very important to some teams and many fans following the draft so with this in mind, here is the pre-combine Barry Sports Report Big Board:

1. Leonard Williams DT, USC

Williams is the clear top choice for this draft class as he can overpower tackles and speed past guards. He’s the rare defensive lineman that can play every down whether it’s against the run or pass, Williams was able to make an impact this year. Many were comparing him to the Houston Texans JJ Watt because of his ability to still make plays against double teams with such ease.

2. Jameis Winston QB, FSU

The off-field concerns are very present with Winston and if it weren’t for them he would be the clear top prospect on this big board. His on the field success is well marked and his ability to move around and create plays with his big frame reminds me of Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger. His arm and the fact he played in a pro-style offense makes him easily adaptable to the NFL.

3. Randy Gregory DE, Nebraska

Not one of the more popular names among the average college football fan this season, but Gregory did it all for Nebraska this season. The 6 ft 6, 245 lb end has a quick burst off the edge and is the best pass rusher in this draft. Not only can he play the pass but he also has that rare Lawrence Taylor-like ability to chase down a runner on the other side of the field in the backfield. Truly one of my favorite players in this draft.

4. Marcus Mariota QB, Oregon

Throughout much of the season, it seemed like Mariota would not only be the top QB in this class, but the overall top spot. Mariota’s playmaking ability and the way he’s able to make throws outside the pocket deep down the field make him a top five prospect for this draft. However, teams will need to work on his accuracy inside the pocket – which given his work ethic doesn’t seem to be too much of an issue.

5. Brandon Scherff OT, Iowa

This mauling tackle is an easy choice for top offensive lineman. His run blocking makes for some great YouTube clips and his quick drops on pass plays is something that most pro linemen don’t do correctly. The real key is his quickness off the ball and ability to be the lower man which is the golden rule.

6. Amari Cooper WR, Alabama

The Heisman finalist has the ability to break the big play every time he touches the ball. Cooper also has the ability to stretch the defense deep down the field as he is able to get separation in a single man coverage. Cooper is going to work on how he breaks off against jam coverage at the next level as OSU was able to keep him at bay using jam technique with a safety over the top.

7. Vic Beasley OLB, Clemson

Beasley is a pass rushing extraordinaire as his quick first step and ability to get around the edge produced many sacks for him at Clemson. His film is a reminder of Denver’s Von Miller on film because although he’s undersized on the edge his speed is too much for any tackle to be able to handle.

8. Kevin White WR, WVU

The biggest improvement and draft stock player is West Virginia’s Kevin White. The 6 ft 3 wide receiver became a crisp route runner who attacks the ball at the highest point. The underrated part of his game is how he makes defenders miss one on one in the open field combined with his underrated speed that allows him to break big gains.

9. Landon Collins SS, Alabama

This is a safety with a Kam Chancellor type of feel as Collins is able to come up and lay big hits in the run game. His game doesn’t end there though, he also can read QB’s eyes and is very intelligent to pick his spots to separate the ball from the WR as well as play in zone coverage.

10 Shane Ray DE, Mizzou

Much like Beasley Shane Ray uses a quick first step off the edge to get ahead and push the tackle toward the backfield. He got stuck sitting behind Kony Ealy and Michael Sam, but really had a big season his junior year and is that edge rusher many teams will be looking for in this draft.

11. Davante Parker WR, Louisville

6 ft 3 and quick for his size, Parker has the best after catch ability in this draft class as he is a constant threat to take one to the endzone.  Parker needs to improve his route running at the next level to get himself into space to make the catch and break those big plays.

12. Cedric Ogebuchi OT, Texas A&M

His pass blocking in the fast moving A&M offense makes him an instant top prospect as he was able to use his big hands and ability to get out quick to keep ends at bay all season. Run blocking will need work at next level as he fails to get to second level on plays where he should be able to.

13. Danny Shelton DT, Washington

Shelton is a disruptive defensive tackle who stopped many rushing attacks up the middle for Washington this season. He would be an instant boost to almost every run defense in the NFL next season with his ability to get in the backfield and strength to plug up holes.

14. Benardrick McKinney ILB, Mississippi State

The best inside backer in this draft. He showcased his skills to get involved in the run defense banging with guards, but also proved he has the athleticism to go man to man with tight ends and running backs.

15. Melvin Gordon RB, Wisconsin

Another Heisman finalist. Gordon was a tank at Wisconsin racking up yards almost at a Barry Sanders pace. Behind the Wisconsin system, he showed he can battle in the trenches for the “3  yards and a cloud of dust” and also can get to the outside and break a big play.

16. Dante Fowler Jr.  DE, Florida

He gets high marks for his effort as he is quick and strong, but what stands out most is how he will never give up on a play whether it’s in pursuit or getting after the QB. His effort at the next level should allow him to turn into a solid pass rusher.

17. Trae Waynes CB, Michigan State

This draft isn’t very deep at the cornerback, however Waynes is a raw prospect with great size and speed coming out of a Dantonio defense he knows how to come up and make tackles.

18. Todd Gurley RB, Georgia

The trend of running backs not going in the first round should end between Gurley and Gordon. If not for the torn ACL, Gurley would be a top ten prospect as he seemed like a man amongst boys this season up until his suspension/injury. His power and speed, if healed correctly, would allow him to be an instant starter and big play runner upon entry to an NFL game.

19. Andrus Peat OT, Stanford- Peat’s game tape is very underwhelming, but he has all the tools to be a good tackle at the NFL level with big hands, the size and strength look for his game to continue to grow and improve from year to year.

20. Shaq Thompson OLB, UCLA

I don’t know whether he will play outside backer at the pro level, but he will fit somewhere on the defense as he has far too much size and speed not to play somewhere. Very raw player with big splash plays in coverage as well as in the backfield that wows on film. The worry is he disappears on film and is, as stated before, very raw so would need work on fitting the scheme of defenses.

This article has been contributed by a member of the SK Featured Bloggers Club. It was originally published on the blog 'The Barry Sports Report' here.

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