Now that the college football season has officially ended, it’s time to start talking about the National Football League draft, although it’s happening in May. As more players declare or decide to stay in college, the issue of who will go where should become clearer. For the time being, teams’ needs and the players available will change so much that predicting where specific players will be drafted is nigh impossible.
But the field of prospects is almost set. Whether it’s an underclassmen leaving early or a graduating senior, NFL teams will begin scouting potential draft picks as soon as this month. It’s difficult to rate different positional players on the same scale — for example, comparing an offensive lineman to a running back — because they’re talented in their own right.
A team may also draft a player who has a “lower” rating earlier because of that team’s needs and not necessarily the quality of the player. This list is not the order in which the players will be drafted according to the team’s slot in the draft. It’s the top seven prospects with the most talent who have either declared or are likely to declare for the NFL draft.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
No, this rating isn’t based on the crushing blow he delivered against Vincent Smith in last year’s Outback Bowl. Though Clowney is just a junior and will forgo his senior season, he’s been NFL-ready since the day he stepped on the collegiate gridiron. Clowney has everything an NFL team desires in a future defensive end: size, speed, and athleticism. His only downside, a recent development this season, is a potential lack of motivation. But if history’s any indication, Clowney will be just fine when he’s forced to compete for a starting spot in the trenches. Either way, he’s by far the most talented and athletic player for his position in this draft class — it will just depend on if he can live up to the hype.