Josh Norris


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Norris: Top 50 Big Board

Monday, April 10, 2017

I took my time this year. I won’t bore you with the details as to why, but I appreciate your patience. Plus, this has allowed me to not stick to horrible opinions from the fall and instead insert a fresh perspective from the fluid draft process. Once my friend Zach Whitman updates, I will input SPARQ scores for each prospect. Also, the age is for week one of the 2017 season.

These are obviously not full evaluations. These snapshots are mostly positive, and that is the goal: to identify where a prospect succeeds and where he can help his future team.

1. EDGE Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: A unique, almost rare, mover. Difficult for offensive tackles to win from behind, since Garrett creates separation and sustains it. Escapes target area with shoulders and hips. Cannot leave him one on one versus a tight end or running back. Closing speed to finish is outstanding.

Forecast: Locked in with the top pick. Plays a premier position.

2. EDGE/DL Solomon Thomas, Stanford (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: Outstanding combination of size and speed. Attempts to attack the edges/shoulders. Can be an asset looping or twisting. Will spin to release once at pocket depth. Arm over swim used as inside move.

Forecast: The big questions is if he can be a full-time outside pass rusher, or if his pass rushing success will come from the interior. Best alignment might be 4i.

3. FS Malik Hooker, Ohio State (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: So much range. Best in a cover 1 or cover 3 system, where he can work the middle of the field. Will extend or elevate at the catch point to make a play on the ball. Lethal with the ball in his hands post-interception.

Forecast: I’ve seen many question his tackling. Plenty of examples of strong tackling, so I guess consistency is the only holdup? Will his talents be fully used in a split safety scheme?

4. TE O.J. Howard, Alabama (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Straight line speed to sustain separation to pick up yards after the catch. Inline or edge blocker. Absolutely can be moved around. Will leave his feet for the football. Balance on contact. Will threaten the seam, intermediate and deeper portions of the field.

Forecast: Everything a team wants to see is on tape, which is tough to find at TE. Tight Ends rarely produce at a high level early in their careers, which is worth bringing up with Howard as a top 10 pick.

Pro Comparison: Greg Olsen

5. WR Corey Davis, WMU (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: A 6-foot-3 receiver who can dominate in the small game: creating separation, sustaining it and picking up yards after the catch. Has run practically every route from the outside and the slot, both sides of the field. Big frame allows him to naturally win contested in some opportunities. Aggressive for a receiver after the catch and on final contact.

Forecast: The premiere receiver in this class and just turned 22 years old. Only question is if he can be a focal point of a passing game. Minor ankle surgery has limited his draft process.

6. T Garett Bolles, Utah (Age: 25)

Where He Wins: Athletic left tackle with a finishers mentality. Right now he is better as a run blocker than in pass pro. Movement to pull or work to the second level. Natural strength is there, likely will improve with NFL conditioning.

Forecast: One-year starter, but really even less than that. Rotated in game one, only played half of game two. Settled in after that. Tackles get paid and go off the board early. Bolles will be 25 years old as a rookie.

Pro Comparison: David Bakhtiari

7. LB Reuben Foster, Alabama (Age: 23)

Where He Wins: An absolute missile at the second level. Closes on ball carriers when given a lane or meets them quickly on the edge. Finishes with aggression. Outstanding special teamer. Not out of place in coverage.

Forecast: Combine incident might cloud things. Likely the first off-ball linebacker off the board, but will face competition from Haason Reddick due to extra pass rushing possibilities.

8. DL Malik McDowell, Michigan State (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: An incredibly fluid athlete for his size. Plenty of winning snaps from 1-tech, 3-tech and on the outside. Balance and hip flexibility allowing with push and pull to disengage and bend from the outside or the interior. Slippery at his size. Natural anchor is evident, can take on doubles.

Forecast: Who knows. There’s plenty of talk that McDowell was not loved by the Michigan State program, and his season was shut down early. Likely a second or third round pick.

9. EDGE/DL Jon Allen, Alabama (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Hand use to create space. High motor. Snaps winning from the outside and inside. Backfield vision to shed with good timing on runs near his gap at the line of scrimmage. Can win early or late off the line.

Forecast: Question if he will stay on the edge and offer pass rushing ability outside. Overall, his biggest impact might come from the interior… which is difficult at 286 pounds.

10. OL Forrest Lamp, WKU (Age: 23)

Where He Wins: Athleticism plus positioning plus placement.

Forecast: I’d give Lamp a shot at left tackle, and if it doesn’t work out move him inside. It seems the NFL is set on making him a guard or center, and likely the first of that group off the board.

11. RB Christian McCaffrey, Stanford (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: Patience and vision between the tackles. Anticipates defenders’ angles so well. Can run behind pulling blockers, run on the edge or be used as a receiver in any area. Kick returner.

Forecast: The NFL seemingly questions if he can be a primary running back. I don’t, as it did it for two seasons. Possible first running back off the board.

12. CB Marshon Lattimore, Ohio State (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: Quickness and patience. Keeps positioning to mirror in a variety of coverages. Will come up to tackle.

Forecast: His best is outstanding. However, one season of work and a history of hamstring issues might give some pause. Likely the first corner off the board, but Conley might ultimately be better.

13. CB Gareon Conley, Ohio State (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Outside and inside, which is a major advantage. So good at finding the football when in phase. Physical in routes.

Forecast: Should be the second corner off the board, and his ability to play the slot will only help his evaluation. Might end up being the top corner in this class in three years.

14. TE David Njoku, Miami (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: So athletic. The best after catch threat in this class at tight end. Size and willingness to work inline, then a total matchup nightmare against linebackers or defensive backs. Will help a team in short, intermediate and potentially downfield areas.

Forecast: I doubt he makes it past the Steelers. Tight ends might be slow to impact, but Njoku is a plug and play starter with tremendous upside. The different ways personnel groupings can be used with him in the lineup is intriguing.

15. EDGE Takk McKinley, UCLA (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: He will be successful if only because of his closing speed and motor. Difficult to slow down once gaining a momentum or positional advantage. Used to attack a number of alignments.

Forecast: We really don’t know much about Takk’s hand use, as the shoulder injury he played through the last two years really impacted his play.

16. RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: Patience and vision. So smooth to cut off blocks at the line of scrimmage or at the second level. Excellent receiver, both pre and post catch. Straight line speed to maximize big lanes.

Forecast: Missed the entire 2014 season due to suspension. Likely early second round pick despite video showing him hitting a female. Why? The decision will be up to head coach, GM and owner, and the two might sell the third on “we don’t want to play against him on Sundays.”

17. WR John Ross, Washington (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: So much speed. Threatens as a vertical threat, then creates separation off of it. One of the best red zone receivers in college football last year, as he consistently won in the tighter areas of the field. Kick returner.

Forecast: Two meniscus surgeries, and MCL injury, microfracture surgery, and a shoulder operation… and he still ran a 4.22. Chance to be the first receiver off the board.

18. LB/EDGE Haason Reddick, Temple (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Comfortable from practically any alignment. Bend and athleticism as a pass rusher. Closing speed and patience as an off-ball linebacker. Can stick with the assignment in coverage.

Forecast: Real shot of being the first linebacker off the board, especially if a team prefers a bit of pass rushing upside.

19. TE Evan Engram, Ole Miss (Age: 23)

Where He Wins: Detached, slot or Joker, whatever you want to call him, Engram is a receiver who wins in the short and intermediate areas. Makes catches with contact and will pick up yards after the catch. Tremendous athlete.

Forecast: Likely a second round pick, but I could see late first. He’s a better blocker than given credit for.

Pro Comparison: Jordan Reed, but worse after the catch

20. EDGE Charles Harris, Missouri (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Primary then counter rusher. His primary move is explosion up the line and bend or a tight line to turn the corner. Once the offensive tackle compensates for that outside lane, he hits them with a spin move.

Forecast: Terrible Combine turned into an amazing pro day. Rest possibly a major factor.

21. WR Mike Williams, Clemson (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: 50-50 situations turn into 75-25 contested catches. If he has the positional advantage and the pass is on target, it is over. Converts some real circus catches, the game slows down for him on tipped passes. Creates separation on inside breaking routes. Wins vertically by playing big.

Forecast: Just like the other two, he has a real chance of being the first receiver off the board. Big program and clean season/process.

22. EDGE Derek Rivers, Youngstown State (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Fluid athlete. Takes a tight line around the outside with bend, then can work inside with a rip after an offensive tackle compensates. Hand use to create a balance advantage, then springs off his plant foot to close. Left defensive end. Solid against the run.

Forecast: Will be even more disruptive in the NFL when allowed more runway to work with. Likely a second round selection.

23. EDGE/LB Tyus Bowser, Houston (Age: 22)

Where He Wins: Athleticism from a variety of positions. Fluid pass rusher who mainly takes the outside line or loops inside. Asked to drop or cover man to man on a number of occasions, and trusted. Solid run defender off the ball.

Forecast: Likely a drop end for a team who uses five-man fronts in one gap or two gap schemes. Has enough pass rush upside to take attention, but moves like a linebacker when in space.

Pro Comparison: Julian Peterson

24. S Jamal Adams, LSU (Age: 21)

Where He Wins: Dominates on edge runs, short throws and screen passes. Very sure tackler and is aggressive in space. Typically a split or strong safety.

Forecast: I know many love Adams. He could be a top 10 pick. But I question the value for his role. Will he help to that level in intermediate and downfield coverage?

25. RB Leonard Fournette, LSU (Age: (22)

Where He Wins: Straight-line explosion. Maximizes lanes to create big plays. Highlights show punishing power on contact as well as excellent balance against defensive back tackles. Falls forward on final contact to pick up an extra two to four yards. Can pick up the difficult yards as well.

Forecast: Possible first running back off the board. Definite first round pick. I do wonder if NFL teams will factor in the drop off from under center versus shotgun runs. Running game will have to be centered around him.

2017 NFL Draft: More coverage here

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Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris

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