NFL Draft 2016: Top 50 prospects; Ohio State, Alabama football lead the way

By Dane Brugler, The Sports Xchange  |  March 4, 2016 at 12:30 PM
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As the calendar changes from February to March, NFL teams switch their focus from the combine to the pro day circuit, which means an update to the top 50 draft board.

My second top 50 draft board has five new names: Appalachian State defensive end Ronald Blair, Boise State defensive end Kamalei Correa, Baylor cornerback Xavien Howard, Colorado State wide receiver Rashard Higgins and Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard.

The top seven has not changed from the first draft board with Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, UCLA linebacker Myles Jack and Florida State safety Jalen Ramsey holding the top three spots. Due to multiple teams failing his physical at the combine, Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith was not included in this update.

This board will fluctuate somewhat throughout the process with two more updates (one after pro days and the medical re-checks and a final update the week before the draft).

1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss (6-5, 305, 5.23, Jr.)

Despite never earning SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors in his three-year Ole Miss career, Tunsil is the best prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft. He is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill set for the position and his flaws are more nit-picking than true weaknesses.

2. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (6-1, 245, 4.56, Jr.)

Jack is an athletic specimen with above average pursuit speed, contact balance and mental processor to know everything going on around him. He doesn't have ideal size or power and his medicals need to be vetted (meniscus), but Jack has the athletic skill set to be a difference-maker.

3. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State (6-1, 202, 4.49, Jr.)

If you combined a safety, cornerback and linebacker into one prospect, the result would look something like Ramsey, who was blessed with the inherent instincts and an impressive size/athletic profile. It's rare to see defensive backs mentioned as worthy of the top pick, but he deserves it.

4. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6-5, 275, 4.82, Jr.)

Bosa is very physically gifted, but even better, he knows how to use those gifts and works his tail off to maximize his potential. He might never be a consistent double-digit sack artist in the NFL, but he is scheme versatile with the power, athleticism and instinctive traits to disrupt the pocket.

5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 225, 4.42, Jr.)

Elliott has the résumé of a playmaker and is extremely well-rounded, doing some of his best work away from the ball. He is outstanding at syncing his eyes with his feet to read, cut and go in a fluid motion, displaying the playmaking traits to make an impact runner from day one.

6. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss (6-2, 210, 4.52, Jr.)

Although he's not a sudden athlete, Treadwell plays with athletic twitch and power to be a threat before and after the catch. He has exceptional ball skills and catching radius with strong hands to pluck away from his body, drawing comparisons to a lesser-dynamic version of Dez Bryant.

7. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon (6-7, 290, 4.87, Sr.)

Buckner plays with explosive movements and terrific body control for a man his size, flashing heavy hands and initial power to be a disruptive force. He's still learning how to string together rush moves, but developed into more of a consistent playmaker as a senior.

8. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville (6-1, 303, 4.92, Sr.)

A balanced athlete for his size, Rankins is a physical presence with the hand strength to press blockers off his frame, create separation and disrupt the backfield. He keeps his eyes trained on the ball and understands different hand tactics -- an ascending player.

9. Jared Goff, QB, California (6-4, 210, 4.82, Jr.)

Goff has good, but not great, physical traits and arm strength, but his best qualities are his intelligence, pocket mechanics and ability to self-evaluate. He undoubtedly faces a learning curve in the NFL, but he has the passing traits and mental process to find success early in his pro career.

10. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State (6-5, 231, 4.84, RSr.)

Although his internal clock and eye use need maturing, Wentz boasts a NFL-style skill set with his size, athleticism and arm talent. He lacks ideal experience against top competition, but his tape shows the anticipation and field vision to work through reads and make sound decisions.

11. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame (6-6, 315, 5.17, RJr.)

A dancing bear, Stanley was blessed with the athleticism, long arms and above average feet to handle speed and mirror rushers in space. He needs to fine tune his mechanics before he's ready for NFL snaps, but his upside and athletic skill set should land him in the top 10.

12. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (6-1, 235, 4.48, RSo.)

A high school quarterback, Lee is still young in linebacker years, but he is a fantastic athlete with long arms, aggressive hands and the striking ability to finish through his target. He is a versatile run-and-hit defender with an attacking mindset that fits today's NFL. Lee's combine performance could make him the first linebacker drafted.

13. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson (5-10, 195, 4.43, RSo.)

Alexander didn't record an interception in college, but he wasn't consistently targeted, not allowing a touchdown the final 24 games of his career. While his route anticipation and technique need work, he is able to smother receivers with his lower body fluidity and quick reflexes.

14. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson (6-3, 270, 4.67, RJr.)

Despite losing eight defensive starters from 2014, Clemson's defense ranked top 10 nationally in 2015 and Lawson was a substantial reason for that, leading the nation in tackles for loss (25.5). He isn't a long-armed, twitchy athlete, but his efficient pass rush process makes him productive.

15. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida (5-11, 199, 4.48, Jr.)

Although he has only ordinary size, Hargreaves is above average in three main areas for the position: play speed, instincts and competitive toughness. He needs to improve his timing and spacing in coverage, but has a coachable attitude and decisive reactor.

16. Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky (6-3, 261, 4.68, RJr.)

An Ohio State transfer, Spence is one of the top wild cards in the 2016 class due to his immense talent, but heavy baggage off the field. He is a slippery rusher with the initial burst, lateral quicks and natural leverage to threaten the pocket on a regular basis.

17. Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama (6-2, 252, 4.72, Sr.)

An excellent point of attack defender, Ragland has terrific play speed and it's no coincidence that he's always around the ball with his diagnose skills. He can be overaggressive at times, but he's a punishing tackler and flashes violence in his hands to detach himself from blocks.

18. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama (6-3, 313, 5.14, Sr.)

Although not a rangy player, Reed is a smooth athlete for his size, scraping down the line of scrimmage and pushing the pocket (led all Alabama defensive linemen in tackles each of the last two seasons). He is the draft's top nose tackle due to his stout anchor and balance.

19. Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis (6-6, 230, 4.95, RJr.)

A late bloomer, Lynch needs mechanical work and on-field reps, but he checks boxes for his size, athleticism, arm talent and appetite for football. Although his pro transition requires time, the ingredients are there for Lynch to develop into a NFL starter.

20. Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State (6-6, 318, 5.43, RJr.)

Conklin will struggle with speed at times, but no one is going through him due to his wide base and contact balance, always ready for action, which compensates for his elite quickness in pass protection. He is well-coached, physical and a natural competitor.

21. Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State (6-1, 200, 4.52, RSo.)

Apple isn't afraid to be physical and contest at the top of routes, but he's still learning what he can get away with and what will draw flags. He has several traits for the position that translate well to the next level with his size, length and athleticism to stay in phase with receivers.

22. Cody Whitehair, G, Kansas State (6-4, 309, 5.08, RSr.)

Whitehair left an indelible mark at KSU with his leadership, work ethic and high level of play the last four years at both tackle and guard. He doesn't have the length to hold up consistently on the edges in the NFL, but Whitehair has the base strength and instincts to start at guard right now.

23. Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss (6-3, 296, 4.86, Jr.)

A boom or bust type of prospect, Nkemdiche has above average athleticism for his size with the movement skills to skirt blockers and win with power. He is one of the top 10 talents in this draft class, but not one of the top 10 football players at this point in his development.

24. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (6-3, 312, 5.18, Jr.)

Nicknamed the "man child" growing up, Robinson has the look and power of a full grown man. His flashes are very good, but they don't happen consistently, mostly because he was asked to two-gap, clog things up and occupy blockers, which doesn't show up in the box score.

25. Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor (5-10, 190, 4.42, RJr.)

Baylor's wide-open offense is mostly half-field reads and unchallenged routes, making it difficult to compare Coleman's college film to what he'll see in the NFL. However, he has the athletic traits and competitive temperament that suggest it's only a matter of time before he finds success.

26. William Jackson, CB, Houston (6-1, 195, 4.52, Sr.)

Jackson, who leaves Houston with a school-record 48 passes defended, was a wide receiver in high school and does a lot of receiver-like things at the catch point with his tracking ability, length and ball skills. He can struggle in zone, but he plays sticky coverage in press-man.

27. Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State (6-7, 315, 5.21, Sr.)

Although he can struggle at times with speed off the edge, especially flexible rushers who can bend underneath him, Decker has the frame, balance and forceful hands to neutralize quickness and control the point of attack. He doesn't have a high NFL ceiling, but he's a day one starter.

28. Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor (6-1, 310, 5.04, Jr.)

Billings, who was a record-setting weight-lifter in high school, flashes dominant qualities when he keeps his pad level low, rolls his hips and pushes his momentum into the pocket. As the technique and discipline catch up, Billings should continue to get better.

29. Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech (6-3, 309, 5.06, Sr.)

Butler's flashes are impressive due to his lower body athleticism and upper body power to stack blockers and make stops at or behind the line of scrimmage. He needs to develop his pass rush technique, but his relentless playing temperament fits every scheme.

30. Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida (6-3, 283, 4.86, Sr.)

A player who benefited by returning for his senior season, Bullard is a wrecking ball at the line of scrimmage due to his anticipation off the snap and quick reflexes to find the ball. He is limited as a pass rusher, but scheme diverse due to his play recognition at the point of attack.

31. Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA (6-2, 310, 5.14, Jr.)

A former high school wrestling champ, Clark translates several of those techniques from the mat to the football field. He is powerful at the point of attack and flashes the violence, agility and motor to twist and drive blockers backwards, projecting in an even or odd front.

32. Josh Doctson, WR, TCU (6-2, 195, 4.49, RSr.)

Although his experience is in a spread offense that didn't ask him to run a full route tree, Doctson shows outstanding effort on throws in his zip code, expanding his catch radius, contorting his body and finding ways to finish catches -- often bailing out his quarterback.

33. Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson (6-4, 275, 4.84, RJr.)

Although he didn't start until this past season, Dodd made it count with 23.5 tackles for loss and a dozen sacks, numbers that fell just shy of Lawson's for the team lead. Dodd is still raw in areas, but with his size and quickness off the ball, he has been steadily rising.

34. Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama (6-4, 297, 5.23, RSr.)

The glue of the Crimson Tide offensive line, Kelly was a three-year starter in Tuscaloosa and a model of consistency. He tends to get overaggressive and fall off blocks, but he is quick in his movements and works hard to maintain leverage, projecting as the draft's top center.

35. Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State (6-3, 210, 4.54, RJr.)

Although not the fastest or most explosive, Thomas is a good-sized athlete and detailed route runner with little wasted movements to create spacing at the stem. He will need time to adapt to a NFL playbook, but his savvy footwork, body control and ballskills are starter quality.

36. Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State (5-11, 205, 4.52, Jr.)

Although his tackling mechanics need some refinement, Bell plays with the requisite mental and physical toughness and can hold his own in man coverage. His athleticism, timing and savvy at the position translate well to the next level, along with his decisive reactor.

37. Pharoh Cooper, WR, South Carolina (5-11, 208, 4.52, Jr.)

A playmaker with the ball in his hands, Cooper displays the play speed, elusive cuts and start/stop movements to create on his own, before and after the catch. Similar to Randall Cobb when he came out of Kentucky, Cooper is a jack-of-all-trades weapon on offense.

38. Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame (6-0, 184, 4.42, RJr.)

A dynamic deep threat, Fuller has the uncanny ability to create separation late in his route, using an extra gear when the ball is in the air, a burst that most cornerbacks can't match. His dropped passes are frustrating, but he is a big-time playmaker due to his ability to stretch the field.

39. Su'a Cravens, S/LB, Southern California (6-1, 225, 4.58, Jr.)

Cravens was asked to do a little bit of everything for the Trojans in a hybrid safety/linebacker role. His take-on strength and physical nature as a tackler are both below average, but he's a fluid athlete with excellent reaction skills and instincts to cover on an island.

40. Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State (6-2, 284, 5.15, RSr.)

Although his combine numbers don't accurately reflect his impressive tape, Blair belongs in the second-round discussion. He plays with violent hands and aggressive pass rush moves to rip through blockers, showing the effort to finish in the pocket.

41. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (6-0, 197, 4.48, Jr.)

Fuller looked like a future high round pick his first two years in Blacksburg, but 2015 was a lost season for him due to a torn meniscus. Nonetheless, he has the short-area quickness, controlled footwork and natural feel in coverage to be a reliable NFL starter.

42. Kamalei Correa, DE/LB, Boise State (6-3, 243, 4.69, Jr.)

Correa lacks much variety with his pass rush at this point in his development and his production is based more on effort and raw athleticism than technique and discipline. But he has the movement skills and competitive toughness worth grooming in a 3-4 scheme.

43. Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor (6-0, 201, 4.58, RJr.)

Howard won't be featured as the prototype for fundamentals in coverage, but his ability to find the ball in flight and use his ballskills to disrupt the catch point is above average. Although his long-speed isn't ideal, he mixes things up and does a lot of receiver-like things in coverage.

44. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State (6-3, 275, 4.76, RJr.)

A native of Nigeria, Ogbah is a "coach's dream" according to Mike Gundy due to his strong work ethic, intelligence and discipline. He is still learning the complexities of the position and lacks elite burst, but he's a balanced athlete with a coachable mentality that can be molded.

45. Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia (6-3, 232, 4.73, RJr.)

Floyd will likely be drafted higher than this ranking, especially after he blew up the combine. He has impressive rush skills to dip and flatten around the edge, but his lack of functional strength is a glaring concern -- once blockers make contact, he's too easily shut down.

46. Artie Burns, CB, Miami (6-0, 193, 4.53, Jr.)

Although undisciplined as a tackler and with his hands in coverage, Burns has the requisite play speed, lower body explosion and hip fluidity to play in both man and zone coverage in the NFL. He will be a special teams stand-out while his route anticipation and hand tactics improve.

47. Rashard Higgins, WR, Colorado State (6-1, 196, 4.64, Jr.)

Higgins doesn't have elite size or speed for the position, but he might be the best receiver in this class at finding open zones and giving his quarterback a clean target. He is a natural catcher of the football with the production that matches the tape.

48. Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma (5-10, 194, 4.48, Sr.)

Although his lack of size and strength will limit him in some areas, Shepard has above average body control and route savvy, using tempo and multiple gears to get open. Despite his limitations, Shepard is a very natural pass-catcher with the skills to be a YAC monster.

49. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (6-2, 242, 4.54, Jr.)

Since 2011, Alabama has had four running backs drafted in the first two rounds (with mixed results) and Henry should be the fifth. He is a powerful, yet graceful north-south athlete who can fit through tight spaces, using patience and instincts to gash defenses.

50. Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State (6-3, 325, 5.27, RJr.)

A prospect whose production matches his tape, Johnson is built well to take on multiple blockers and clog the middle of the field. His motor is always revving and he moves well in small areas, showing the strong hands to stack and create movement in even and odd fronts.

--Dane Brugler is senior analyst of, owned and published by The Sports Xchange in cooperation with

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