Inspired by the excellent rankings posts of Ball_Coach and Archie, I'm throwing my attempt into the fray. One thing I've learned by doing this...it's a lot harder than you might think!
1. Khalil Mack, DE/OLB, Buffalo - I know this guy didn't play in a big program, but I have to put him as my #1 overall prospect. The 2013 MAC Defensive Player of the Year winner finished his career tied for first in the NCAA records books with 75 tackles for loss and set a new record for most forced fumbles (16).
2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina - He has the biggest upside of anyone in this draft. The only reason he is below Mack is because he has a bust potential that I don't see in Mack. The biggest question is, how did he only manage three sacks in 2013? I can't have the top player in my rankings sitting there with that stat. I can't accept that he only had three sacks because he was double teamed or triple teamed or whatever the excuses are. The great ones overcome that.
3. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M - Matthews is not the tackle with the highest ceiling, but he certainly has the highest floor and is perhaps the safest pick in the entire draft. I know a lot of people have moved Robinson ahead of Matthews on their boards, but I cannot deny this guy’s pedigree. Matthews comes from perhaps the greatest NFL family in league history and I believe he has several Pro Bowl appearances ahead of him. Matthews does everything well and has experience both on the left and right side.
4. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn - I feel like pulling a Mayock and having a 3a and 3b when it comes to Matthews and Robinson. At 6'5" and over 330lbs, Robinson dominates his opponents with his length and power. He's the best run-blocking tackle in the draft. He only slips behind Matthews in these rankings because he's not totally accomplished as a pass blocker. However, he has the skills to develop into an elite protector and claim the title of top offensive tackle in the 2014 class.
5. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson - If Watkins stood at 6'3" or more, he could very well be the #1 player on most boards. Watkins does everything great that a wide receiver needs to do. He has tremendous hands, balance and route running skills. He can run around you, past you, or through you.
6. Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA - An insane athlete, Barr is as close to Mack as can be in terms of his playmaking ability. Although 2013 was only his second year on the defensive side of the ball, he collected 20 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles and four fumbles recovered. At 250lbs, he's very close to Mack's weight, but his 6'5" frame will allow him to put on more weight without losing his explosion. His inexperience is the only reason analysts aren't talking about him more as an elite prospect.
7. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina - Ebron is everything you look for in a tight end except thoroughly consistent. I've seen him play in several games and there are a few times when the ball will hit him right in the hands and then it will hit the turf. It doesn't happen often enough to say he's not a blue-chip player though. With his skills, measurables and all-around athletic freakishness, he'll be in a lot of defensive coordinators nightmares.
8. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M - It's possible Evans drops to the middle of round one and that's not an indictment of his ability as much as it is a testament of how deep the talent is in the first round. At 6'5" and weighing around 230lbs, Evans would be a the top receiver in several drafts over the last ten years. He's not as dynamic as Lee or Beckham, but with his size, he is a true number one receiver with the measurables that will make him a matchup nightmare. With his catching radius and playmaking abilities, he bailed Johnny Manziel out of countless jams and he can start for some team on day one and do the same thing for they're QB.
9. Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State - I see a lot of people saying he's strictly a one-tech, but I disagree completely. He has the skills to play all over the defensive line with the exception of weak-side DE. He's an excellent disruptor that has quickness and power. That versatility is what puts him as my number one defensive tackle in the draft. His best position may be at the one, but don't confuse that with the lack of ability to play elsewhere.
10. C.J. Mosley, ILB, Alabama - Mosley is one of the most dynamic and instinctive players in this draft. The leader of the Crimson Tide defense, Mosley led by example with his playmaking abilities. He can do it all, but could drop all the way into the 20's because of medical concerns. He would be an excpetional player at middle linebacker in the 4-3 and has the skills to play any position in that alignment.
11. Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State - The first corner in my rankings was a tough one, but Dennard is the most complete, plug-and-play corner in the draft. The 2013 Thorpe Award winner only allowed 3 receptions of 15 yards or more in 31 attempts. He didn't wow with his 40 time at the combine (4.51), but his fastest verified time is 4.38 (per CBSSports.com). His pro day included a vertical jump of 36" and a broad jump of 11'2" so the athleticism, even though it's not talked about as much with Dennard, is certainly there.
12. Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh - I don't have much to say on him that hasn't already been said in countless posts. The awards are there, the production is there, but unfortunately, the size is not. His lack of size will limit him to the 3-tech spot and without versatility He ends up here in my rankings; however, he is so good in the 3-tech role that I can see him earning multiple trips to Hawaii. He has such excellent skills that I probably would have made him my number one overall prospect if he were two inches taller and 10 pounds heavier.
13. Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State - On paper, Justin Gilbert, looks like a top five pick. The 6' 200 pound corner lit up the combine being among the leaders at his position in most categories including the 40 yard dash where he ran a blazing 4.37 and an impressive 20 reps at 225lbs. He is a true playmaker in the secondary registering six interceptions in 2013 and returning two of those for touchdowns. Add amazing return skills and you have one of the top talents in this draft. He has a few short-comings including a bit of inconsistency, but if that's corrected, he'll become one of the top corners in the NFL.
14. Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame - I put a lot of weight into a prospect's versatility and this guy may be the most versatile in the entire draft. Although he was the starting left tackle (for a school record 52 games) for Notre Dame, analysts have stated he has the ability to play all five positions, but his best place would be inside at guard where some believe he can attain All Pro credentials. I believe he would also make a Pro Bowl appearance or two as a right tackle and would be very solid on the left side.
15. Hasean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama - Clinton-Dix is well-rounded and can play up close or in centerfield. In the passing game, he shows good awareness and can diagnose plays as their developing which allows him ot make a jump on the ball. When he arrives, he's has the ability to make finish the play. A lot of Alabama secondary players haven't panned out well in the NFL, but I think he's one that will.
16. Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame - I'm a fan of Bill Parcell's "planet theory", which in a nutshell states there are a limited number of big, athletic men in the world and when you find them, you take them. Nix is not just a 340 pound fire hydrant. He actually has some decent skills to penetrate and be disruptive, which makes him an option as a 1-tech in the standard 4-3 scheme, but his natural position is as a nose in the 3-4.
17. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri - Ealy is a bit of an enigma for me. At 6'4" and over 270lbs, he has ideal measurables for a 4-3 defensive end. He blew up the 3-one drill at the combine and one report had him running the 40 in 4.57 seconds at his pro day. However, his production ratio isn't what you'd want in a top prospect. Maybe with the right coach, he could flourish and become a real force on defense.
18. Marqise Lee, WR, USC - At an even 6' and under 200lbs, Lee doesn't have the dimensions of a dominating number one receiver. What he does have is electrifying ability with the ball in his hands. He didn't run as fast as expected at the combine, but he moves at a different speed on the football field. He's like a big DeSean Jackson the way he cuts in and out of his breaks and eludes would-be tacklers after making the catch. He's a big play waiting to happen.
19. Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan - Measuring in at around 6'8", Lewan is very long and ideally built to be an NFL left tackle. He's not a lumbering behemoth either as he showed everyone at the NFL Combine with a remarkable workout. If he had come out last year, he could have been a top five pick and maybe even first overall as I feel he's better than any of the tackles taken in 2013. He has some red flags for off-field issues that have been covered on this site previously. If he didn't have those issues, he'd come in at number nine in these rankings.
20. Blake Bortles, QB, UCF - The first QB in my rankings, Bortles has a huge upside, but it's not enough for me to rank him higher than this. I don't believe he's a plug-and-play QB from day one, but he could surprise many with how quickly his skills allow him to adapt to the game. He has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback.
21. Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State - A human "joystick" type player, Cooks could go very high in this draft when you consider how quickly Tavon Austin was snapped up last year. Cooks is better than Austin: hands down. In 2013, Cooks racked up 128 catches for 1,730 yards and 16 TDs and won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver.
22. Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn - The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Dee FOrd is his explosiveness. When the ball is snapped, he's typically the first linemen moving on either side of the ball and he looks an awful lot like DeMarcus Ware in that regard. I do see a bit of a bust factor with him only because he reminds me a little of Brandon Graham, who I thought would be a star in this league as an OLB in the 3-4, but was drafted as a DE by the Eagles and has had a less-than-stellar career thus far.
23. RaShede Hageman, DT, Minnesota – Hageman is being pigeon-holed as a 5-tech defensive end in the 3-4 scheme. I agree that he could be very successful in that role, but with his physical abilities, he could take over a game in a variety of schemes. You don't see many 6'6", 310 pound 3-techs, but Jason Hatcher proved if you have the athletic ability and burst off the snap, you can be very effective even at that size. Hageman could play the 3-tech, but would probably be a better fit as a 1-tech or a 5-tech (the Red Bryant role) in the 4-3. His main problem is he looks like a top ten pick on some tape and a JAG on some others.
24. Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M - Everyone knows the scoop on Manziel. He could end up being a better version of Russell Wilson or he could end up being a total bust if his game doesn't translate well to the pros. I think he has a lot of upside, but I'm simply not a fan of short QBs. Maybe I'm a bit old-school in that regard, I don't know, but I just think you have to be truly special (ala Drew Brees) to play at that size. Even as good as Wilson is, he hasn't shown me he is the type of QB that can put his team on his shoulders and win despite their play. Manziel definitely took over games in college, can he do the same for an NFL team?
25. Jimmy Ward, SS, Northern Illinois - You probably won't find many rankings where Ward is ahead of Pryor, but I like him more. I value ball skills in a safety and Ward has proven he would make a good centerfielder. In 2013 alone he had seven interceptions. His size is a bit of a concern, but he doesn't shy away from contact as he lead his team with 92 tackles. I see him as more of a free safety than his listed position of strong safety.
26. Calvin Pryor, SS, Louisville - At the end of 2013, Pryor was thought of as a second round pick, but has shot up into the first round after scouts and analysts watch his tape and realize what a difference maker he is. I don't think he has the range of Clinton-Dix and at 5'11", I don't know that he has the length to handle tight ends he may be asked to cover, but there's no denying he is a very skilled safety.
27. Xavier Su'a-Filo, OG, UCLA - This guy has pro bowl guard written all over him. He anchors very well, has a powerful punch and quick reaction off the snap. With this flexibility and agility, he can fit any blocking scheme you put him in. He played his senior year at tackle and although he doesn't project to a great starter on the outside, it's always good to know he can fill that role in a pinch.
28. Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State - You can't teach speed and this guy plays on a different level than most players on the field. Add that speed to intangibles like anticipation and vision and you have an ideal weak-side linebacker in the 4-3 scheme.
29. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU - Beckham is one of the top playmakers on offense both on offense and in the return game. He has tremendous acceleration and knows how to make defenders miss in the open field. His lack of elite measurables and can be a bit inconsistent, but he'll be a dangerous weapon that any offensive coordinator would love to have.
30. Kyle Van Noy, OLB, Brigham Young - Van Noy is an underrated prospect in my opinion and will be an absolute steal if he is taken in the second where most projections have him. He's not the most physically gifted linebacker, but he may possess the best instincts of any in this class. He does everything very well.
31. Jason Verrett, CB, TCU - At 5'9", Verrett will have a hard time cracking the starting lineup as an outside corner, but in today's NFL, the slot corner is considered a starter in most circles. He may be the best pure corner in the draft and add three inches on him and he's in the discussion as a top 10 selection.
32. Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech - If you're looking for a well-rounded tight end that can catch passes and block, Amaro is not your guy. If you're looking for a tight end that can line up conventionally, in the slot or out wide ala Jimmy Graham, this is the selection to make. Amaro is a fluid route runner with great hands and is exceptional at making something happen after the catch. His skills remind me of Aaron Hernandez and I think he can be a star in the league.
As you can see from my rankings, I'm not bullish on any of the quarterbacks in this draft. I think several can be starters and I imagine a few will make my rankings look bad as they end up earning some Pro Bowl appearances, but I can't inflate how I view them just because they're quarterbacks. In fact, I may be lowering them more than I should because they play the most important position in the game and they need to be elite to justify a high rank in my opinion.
As for the most obvious omission, Teddy Bridgewater, I was on the fence about him as a first rounder for a while and his pro day did not help him. He was all over with many of his passes. Then, I watched an interview with him and he just didn't impress me there either. I'm probably totally wrong on him and I hope I am. These guys have all dreamed of being in the NFL and I wish them the best if they're not knuckleheads off the field.
So there you have it, now let me have it!