Another year, another record set for underclassmen declaring early for the NFL draft.
While the official numbers and names won't be released by the league until later this week, the final tally is expected to easily eclipse the 106 players who made the jump last year, locking in an incredible boost in talent, including a class of defensive linemen that two-time NFL general manager Scot McCloughan has repeatedly said on the Instinctive Scouting Podcast is the best he's ever seen - a sentiment I agree with.
Quality talent is also available at cornerback, tight end and offensive tackle. Buzz-worthy prospects like Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, Duke's Daniel Jones, Oklahoma's Kyler Murray (pictured), Alabama's Josh Jacobs and Texas A&M's Trayveon Williams upgraded the available talent at quarterback and running back but teams that can afford to wait until projected better classes at both positions next year largely should, in my opinion.
The Big Board is not a mock draft. No attention is paid to team needs. It is simply my personal ranking of the top 50 prospects in the 2019 NFL draft.
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State, Jr
6-4, 270, 4.76, # 97
2017: 34 tackles, 16 TFL, 8.5 sacks, 1 FF, 2 PD
2018: 14 tackles, 6 TFL for loss, 4 sacks, 1 Fumble recovery, TD (three games)
One shouldn't blame Big Ten tackles or NFL scouts for confusing Nick with his older brother Joey as Bosa has emerged as one of the dominant defenders in the country. Before suffering a core muscular injury that ultimately required surgery and ended his college career, Bosa lived up to his billing. While perhaps slightly shorter than Joey, Nick offers a similar blend of power, technique, functional athleticism and instincts, making him arguably the safest NFL prospect in the country and a good bet to at least match Joey's No. 3 overall selection two years ago.
2. Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama, rSoph
6-3, 295, 4.96, # 92
2017: 20 tackles, 6.5 TFL, two sacks
2018: 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, zero forced fumbles, one pass defensed (15 games)
Simply put, Williams was the most dominant player in college football in 2019, exhibiting a combination of raw power and quickness that I haven’t seen from an interior defensive lineman since then-Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh went No. 2 overall (to Detroit) nearly a decade ago.
3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston, Jr
6-2, 290, 4.92, # 10
2017: 73 tackles, 16.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 FF
2018: 54 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, one forced fumble two passes defensed (eight games)
While a sideline incident with head coach Major Applewhite raised some concerns about Oliver's maturity, there is no denying his talent. Oliver lacks prototypical size for defensive tackle but he offers exceptional quickness and agility for a big man. His ability to penetrate from the interior makes him a difference-maker against the pass and run, alike - a rarity among defensive tackles. He possesses a slippery explosiveness that has earned comparisons to reigning 2018 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald.
4. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, rJr
6-4, 260, 4.78, # 99
2017: 66 tackles, 18 TFL, 9.5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 PD
2018: 55 tackles, 20 tackle for loss, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, one TD (15 games)
Bosa, Williams and Oliver have earned most of the buzz (and for good reason), but Ferrell is essentially 1D on my board as the best combination of size, athleticism and consistency. The three-year starter was the most productive player on the country's best defensive line the past two seasons, Though he's only 21 (and won't turn 22 until May), Ferrell already shows impressive strength, ripping free from pass blockers and re-setting the line of scrimmage in the run game to go along with the burst and bend to take the edge.
5. Andraez "Greedy" Williams, CB, LSU, rSoph
6-1, 182, 4.50 # 29
2017: 38 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 10 PD, 6 INTs
2018: 33 tackles, two interceptions, nine pass breakups (11 games)
No program in the country has a more impressive track record when it comes to producing NFL defensive backs than LSU and insiders there suggest that Williams may be the best out of Baton Rouge since Patrick Peterson. I wish Williams was more physical but he offers exceptional length, agility (especially for his size) and ball-skills and has dominated elite competition the past two seasons.
6. Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan, Jr
6-4, 281, 4.67, # 3
2017: 58 tackles, 11.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 1 FF
2018: 38 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks (nine games)
Gary signed with Michigan as one of the most highly regarded preps in the entire country and lived up to his billing, standing out on a defense loaded with future NFL draft picks since his true freshman season. While perhaps lacking the elite burst and bend off the edge of this year's top pass rushers, Gary can effectively harass the quarterback because of his prototypical blend of size, strength, awareness and refined technique - traits which allow Michigan to slide him up and down the defensive line.
7. Byron Murphy, CB, Washington, rSoph
5-11, 182, 4.45, # 1
2017: 16 tackles, 3 TFL,10 PD, 1 INT (six games)
2018: 58 tackles, four for loss, 13 pass breakups, four interceptions (14 games)
Boasting an almost unfair combination of agility, ball-skills and physicality that compares favorably to top-drafted cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward the past two years, Murphy ranks as one of the elite prospects of the 2019 draft.
8. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama, Jr
6-5, 301, 5.02, # 73
2017: 2.5 sacks allowed in 831 snaps
2018: Zero sacks allowed, helped team average 522 total yards per game (15 games)
Alabama's ability to control the line of scrimmage is the single "biggest" factor in the Crimson Tide's remarkable success since Saban took over the helm. Like his predecessor, Cam Robinson (now the Jaguars' starting left tackle), Williams possesses the blend of length, strength and light feet to remain a blindside protector in the NFL. While not quite as large as Robinson, Williams is a smoother athlete and does not come with the off-field concerns which pushed Robinson just outside of the first round two years ago.
9. Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky, Sr
6-4, 258, 4.59, # 41
2017: 66 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks
2018: 88 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 17 sacks, five forced fumbles (13 games)
Too often overshadowed over his career by the "other" dominant defensive linemen in the SEC, Allen emerged as one of the elite players regardless of position in the power conference as a senior, taking home the conference's Defensive MVP Award, as well as the Bronko Nagurski, Outland Trophy and Lott IMPACT as the nation's top defender. Long and slippery with explosive closing speed, Allen is a threat to wreak havoc on every snap.
10. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, Sr
6-3, 300, 5.04, # 42
2017: 60 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 PD
2018: 51 tackles, 14.0 tackle for loss, 5.5 sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumble (15 games)
In terms of his production, versatility and leadership, Wilkins might just be the most unique player in the 2019 draft. He is a proven difference-maker regardless of where Clemson lined him up the past three seasons, showing shocking agility and energy (on and off the field) for a man of his size and seeing time at defensive tackle, defensive end and even fullback.
11. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State, rSoph
6-2, 220, 4.59, # 7
2017: 40 of 57 (70.2%), 565 yards, four TDs, one interception
2018: 373 of 533 (70.0%) 4,853 yards, 50 TDs, eight INTs (14 games)
Haskins only started one season at Ohio State but what a year it was, guiding the Buckeyes to a whipping of rival Michigan and a Rose Bowl championship to send Urban Meyer off in style. Unlike most quarterbacks of his tenure,
12. Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State, Jr
6-3, 301, 4.98, # 94
2017: 60 tackles, 12 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 FF, 1 INT
2018: 63 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, two sacks, four passes defensed, one forced fumble (13 games)
An easy mover with grown-man strength, Simmons would compete for top billing among defensive linemen in most drafts and the fact that he falls just outside of the top 10 is a reflection of this year's extraordinary talent at the position, as well as the fact that he does come with some off-field concerns. Perhaps due to the fact that his teammate, Montez Sweat (14th overall on this board) is beating him to the punch, Simmons recorded just two sacks in 2018, a noteworthy drop off from the five he recorded as a sophomore.
13. Deionte Thompson, FS, Alabama, rJr
6-1, 193, 4.45, # 14
2017: 25 tackles, 1.0 TFL. 1 INT
2018: 78 tackles, 3.5 for loss, six PBUs, three forced fumbles, two INTs (14 games)
Cornerbacks are generating most of the buzz among pass defenders but don't forget about Thompson, who has boosted his stock this year as much as defensive back in the country. Thompson possesses all of the traits scouts look for in a modern day safety, including the range to cover sideline to sideline, the ball-skills to punish quarterbacks who challenge them and reliable open-field tackling.
14. Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State, SR
6-5, 240, 4.78 # 9
2017: 48 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 10.5 sacks
2018: 53 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, one forced fumble (13 games)
With his massive wingspan, Sweat casts an imposing shadow off the edge, terrorizing quarterbacks in the SEC and Big Ten, alike, over his career. Teams will want to investigate what led to Sweat's transfer from Michigan State but there is no denying his raw talent. Among the most gifted players heading to Mobile for the Senior Bowl, Sweat could play himself into a top 20 pick with his performance there.
15. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke, rJr
6-4, 220, 4.68, # 17
2017: 257 of 453 (56.7%), 2691 yards, 14 TDs, 11 interceptions (13 games)
2018: 237 of 392 (60.5%), 2,674 yards, 22 TDs, nine interceptions (11 games)
While intrigued by Haskins’ upside, the quarterback to watch as the draft process unfolds could be Jones, a prototypically-built pocket passer hand-picked and molded for the NFL by Blue Devils’ head coach (and highly regarded QB guru) David Cutcliffe. Tape review suggests that Jones may lack ideal arm strength but he will have a chance to ease these concerns at the Senior Bowl. An impressive performance there could send Jones’ stock skyrocketing.
16. D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi, rSoph
6-3, 230, 4.55 (est.), # 14
2017: 39 catches, 646 yards (16.6), seven touchdowns
2018: 26 catches, 569 yards (21.9), five touchdowns (seven games)
In terms of upside, Metcalf is the most intriguing receiver in the 2019 NFL draft, boasting a prototypical combination of size, speed and leaping ability to project as a legitimate No. 1 target at the next level. Teams have gambled and lost big on injury-prone receivers in the first round in recent years and, unfortunately, Metcalf comes with medical concerns of his own, including the neck surgery which limited him to just seven games this season. Potentially easing concerns about his durability is the fact that Metcalf has rich NFL bloodlines with his grandfather (Terry), father (Terrence) and uncle (Eric) all enjoying long NFL careers.
17. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia, rJr
5-11, 180, 4.49, # 18
2017: 44 tackles, 1 TFL, 9 PD, 3 INTs
2018: 40 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, nine passes defensed (12 games)
Georgia's front seven earned much of the credit on defense for the Bulldogs' SEC crown a season ago but Baker got his due in 2018, taking home the Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in part due to the ball-skills and penchant for making big plays against top opponents you see on the clip below. Baker isn't the biggest or fastest but the third-year starter has been forged by fire, showing the mental and physical toughness to succeed in coverage and run support in the NFL.
18. Devin White, ILB, LSU, Jr
6-0, 240, 4.64 # 40
2017: 133 tackles, 13.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 1 INT
2018: 123 tackles, 12 for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles, six passes defensed (12 games)
White rivaled top 10 pick Roquan Smith as the top linebacker in the country last season and, not surprisingly, took the mantle as the Butkus Award winner in 2018. A battering ram with impressive closing speed and excellent strength to wrestle ball-carriers to the ground, White worked hard to prove that he is a full service linebacker, recording a career-high six passes defensed in 2018.
19. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma, rJr
5-10, 195, 4.42, # 1
2017: 18 of 21 (85.7%), 359 yards, three TDs, zero interceptions (seven games)
2018: 260 of 377 (69%), 4,361 yards, 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions (14 games)
It is hard to discuss Murray and not venture into hyperbole. What he has already accomplished – winning the Heisman Trophy in his only season as a starting quarterback and being selected No. 9 overall in the 2018 Major League Baseball – already suggest that he is among the world’s best all-around athletes. Projecting him to the NFL as a franchise passer is more difficult, especially given his size. But make no mistake, besides a combination of elusiveness and speed similar to what Lamar Jackson offered a year ago, Murray also flashes rare accuracy.
20. Zach Allen, DE, Boston College, Sr
6-5, 285. 4.92, # 2
2017: 100 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, INT
2018: 61 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, seven passes defensed (12 games)
In terms of size and style, Allen could not be much different than former teammate and flashy edge rusher Harold Landry, whom the Tennessee Titans selected 41st overall this past spring. Whereas Landry's burst and bend made him a constant threat off the edge, Allen is more of bully at the line of scrimmage, simply overpowering and out-working would-be blockers while playing up and down the line.
21. Greg Little, OT, Mississippi, Jr
6-5, 325, 5.23, # 74
2017: Started 12/12 at LT, Second Team SEC
2018: Four sacks allowed, helping team average 510 yards per game (12 games)
Little is anything but at a rock-solid 6-5, 325 pounds and possesses all of the other traits scouts are looking for in a potential left tackle -- including light feet, balance, long arms and core strength. He is considerably less polished than Alabama's Williams (11th on my board), but that isn't surprising given that last year was his first as a full-time starter. His inconsistency showed up vs. Auburn in a Week Eight loss, where he was part of an offensive line that allowed five sacks to the Tigers, including three to edge rusher Nick Coe, who often matched up one on one with Little. While still a work in progress, Little's bulk gives his future NFL team the option to slide him inside early in his career to help him acclimate.
22. Dexter Lawrence, NG, Clemson, JR
6-3, 340, 5.27 # 90
2017: 33 tackles, 2.5 TFL, two sacks, 1 FF
2018: 36 tackles, seven tackle for loss, 1.5 sacks, three passes broken up (13 games)
Given how the quick passing game has taken over the NFL, traditional run-stuffers like Lawrence do not hold the same value they once did. The NFL remains a big man's game, however, and few boast Lawrence's combination of size, power and athleticism. If there are no other skeletons in his closet, I do not anticipate Lawrence's draft stock being significantly affected by his surprising and well-documented positive test for a performance-enhancing substance which got him suspended for Clemson's title run.
23. N'Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State, Jr
6-3, 216. 4.52, # 1
2017: 82 catches, 1,142 yards (13.9), 8 TDs
2018: 73 catches, 1,088 yards (14.9), nine TDs (12 games)
Harry was a dominant force from the moment he joined the Sun Devils, beating up on smaller cornerbacks with his exciting blend of size, body control and sticky hands. Perhaps due to how he was used early in his career, Harry developed a reputation as more of a possession receiver than a true, all-around No. 1 type. In 2018, however, Harry showed improved agility to make defenders miss in tight quarters, including on a dazzling punt return against Southern California.
24. Taylor Rapp, SS, Washington, Jr
6-0, 212, 4.59, # 21
2017: 59 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FF
2018: 58 tackles, five tackles for loss, four sacks, three fumble recoveries, two interceptions (13 games)
Given all of its physical and mental requirements, safety is one of the most difficult positions to evaluate. Rapp, however, excels in two areas absolutely critical to success in the NFL at this position: producing turnovers and tackling in the open field. In a draft blessed with a lot of talented of defensive backs, Rapp might offer the highest floor.
25. Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama, Jr.
5-09, 216, 4.49, # 8
2017: 46 attempts for 284 yards (6.2 ypc average), one TD; 14 catches for 168 yards, two TDs
2018: 120 attempts for 640 yards (5.3 ypc average), 11 TDs; 20 catches for 247 yards, three TDs
Jacobs served as a backup to Damien Harris (among others) throughout much of his college career but that fact may actually help him as the draft approaches. In direct contrast to most of the other top backs available this year, Jacobs remains relatively fresh (299 career touches) and offers an exciting combination of burst, elusiveness and explosive power, projecting similarly to the next level as former Alabama star Mark Ingram.
26. Jachai Polite, OLB, Florida, Jr
6-2, 242, 4.65 (est.), # 99
2017: 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks
2018: 45 tackles, 19.5 tackles loss, 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, four passes defensed (13 games)
Polite was decidedly rude in Florida's 41-14 smackdown of rival Florida State, registering 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks among his six total stops, while also recording his fifth forced fumble of the season. While lacking the height scouts would prefer off the edge, Polite possesses remarkable burst and bend off the edge, making him one of the more slippery and sudden pass rushers in the country - a skill-set that has helped previous "undersized" edge rushers like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and T.J. Watt enjoy steady rises up the board during their respective final seasons in college football.
27. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State, Sr
6-1, 201, 4.50, # 21
2017: 28 tackles, seven passes defensed, four interceptions
2018: 50 tackles, one tackle for loss, 11 passes broken up, three interceptions, one forced fumble
Similar to my top-rated running back, Josh Jacobs (25th overall), Oruwariye is going to earn a first round selection in the 2019 NFL draft because of his remarkable athletic traits, not because he was a dominant force at the college level. Oruwariye, in fact, only emerged as a fulltime starter for the Nittany Lions as a senior but one can’t draw up a more prototypical combination of size, fluidity and ball-skills.
28. Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida, Jr
6-5, 330, 5.35, # 65
2017: Started 11 of 11 games (first nine at right tackle, last two at left tackle)
2018: Three sacks allowed, helped the Gators average 426.7 yards per game (13 games)
Teams looking for a dominant run blocking right tackle will certainly be intrigued by the massive Taylor, a three-year starter with experience playing both sides. Taylor is surprisingly light on his feet for his size and uses his long arms to push rushers out wide. And in the running game, he’s a monster, simply bulldozing opponents, at times, to create easy rushing lanes.
29. A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi, Jr
6-1, 225, 4.50, # 1
2017: 75 catches, 1,252 yards (16.7), 11 TDs
2018: 85 catches, 1,320 yards (15.5), six TDs (12 games)
While speed is the trait most look for at wide receiver, I'm also a big believer in competitiveness, which has helped some NFL receivers who perhaps didn't run so well for the stop-watch still enjoy plenty of success in the NFL. This is where Brown (like Keenan Allen and Anquan Boldin before him) excels, using his frame and physicality to badger smaller cornerbacks to get open or when generating yards after the catch.
30. Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State, rJR
6-3, 285, 4.96, # 85
2017: 20 tackles, five TFL, one sack
2018: 43 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, one INT, one forced fumble, one TD (14 games)
Jones is not as big or powerful as some of the other top defensive tackles in this class but his initial quickness and active hands make him difficult to contain, projecting as a Michael Bennett-like disruptive force.
31. Drew Lock, QB, Missouri, Sr
6-3, 225, 4.89, # 3
2017: 242 of 419 (57.8%), 3,964 yards, 44 TDs, 13 INTs
2018: 275 of 437 (62.9%), 3,498 yards, 28 TDs, eight INTs (13 games)
When he feels comfortable in the pocket, Lock's accuracy and competitive fire is undeniable, though his play can get frenetic when he's taken some hits. It is a skill-set that reminds me a bit of current Oakland Raiders' standout Derek Carr, keeping Lock as my top-rated senior quarterback.
32. Devin Bush, OLB, Michigan, Jr
5-11, 232, 4.78, # 10
2017: 95 tackles, 10 TFL, 5 sacks. 7 PD, 1 INT
2018: 66 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes defensed, zero forced fumbles (12 games)
It is appropriate that Bush played for the Wolverines as few defenders are more aggressive or tenacious than the despite his less-than-imposing frame. As has been proven over and over again, height can be one of the more overrated elements when grading prospects and that includes Bush, whose instincts, speed and eye-popping physicality certainly are first round caliber. The loss of Bush to a hip injury against rival Ohio State contributed to the Buckeyes turning one of the year's most heavily anticipated showdowns into a laugher.
Best of the Rest
Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
Brian Burns, OLB/DE, Florida State
Cody Ford, OG, Oklahoma
Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State
Mack Wilson, ILB, Alabama
Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa
David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Joe Jackson, DE, Miami
Irv Smith, Jr., TE, Alabama
Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
Gerald Willis III, DT, Miami
Nasir Adderley, FS, Delaware
Big Board updates will be posted weekly until the 2019 NFL draft officially kicks off April 28.