NFL Draft: best prospects cheat sheet
Ben Volin examines the best NFL draft prospects at each position with bios on each player and a projection for when he’ll be selected (* denotes underclassman):
Wide receivers/tight ends
|WR Sammy Watkins*||Clemson||6-1||211||4.40||1|
Best receiver prospect since A.J. Green; had 101 catches for 1,440 yards and 12 TDs last season; great size-speed combo; capable blocker.
|WR Mike Evans*||Texas A&M||6-5||231||4.53||1|
Biggest, most physical receiver in the draft is a lock to go in the top 10; turned in dominant 2013 season with 69 catches for 1,394 yards and 12 TDs; great 40 time at the Combine.
|TE Eric Ebron*||North Carolina||6-4||250||4.60||1|
Total size-speed mismatch, he had 62 catches for 973 yards and 3 TDs in 2013; can play traditional tight end or H-back; could be the first TE taken in the top 10 since Vernon Davis in 2006.
|WR Odell Beckham Jr.*||LSU||5-11||198||4.43||1|
Polished receiver who can play in the slot or outside; had 59 catches for 1,152 yards and 8 TDs last year; is electrifying kick returner as well.
|WR Kelvin Benjamin*||Florida State||6-5||240||4.61||1|
Teams concerned about keeping his weight down; a monster of a receiver and red zone target, catching 15 TDs last year; ran a great 40 at the Combine.
|WR Brandin Cooks*||Oregon State||5-10||189||4.33||1|
Diminutive speedster is instant offense and impossible matchup in the slot; caught 128 passes for 1,730 yards and 16 TDs last year; has ability to return kicks.
|WR Marqise Lee*||USC||6-0||192||4.52||1-2|
Coming off a disappointing 2013 season because of knee injury and quarterback play; a polished receiver who can play inside or outside; had 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 TDs in 2012.
|TE Jace Amaro*||Texas Tech||6-5||265||4.74||1-2|
Athletic slot receiver who had 106 catches for 1,352 yards and 7 TDs last year; probably would go higher if he were more polished blocker or ran better at the Combine.
|TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins*||Washington||6-5||262||4.68||1-2|
Phenomenal athlete and red zone threat; would likely be a first-round pick if not for a DUI arrest in college and foot injury that knocked him out of the Combine.
|WR Davante Adams*||Fresno State||6-1||212||4.56||2|
Declared for the draft after two monster seasons for Bulldogs; caught 233 passes for 3,130 yards and 38 TDs, but didn't play highest quality of competition.
|Blake Bortles*||Central Florida||6-5||232||4.93||1|
Nowhere near a finished product, but has the most checkmarks of all the prospects and should be the first one off the board; big body and good ability to extend plays has earned him comparisons with Ben Roethlisberger.
|Johnny Manziel*||Texas A&M||5-11||207||4.68||1|
Too tantalizing a prospect not to go in top 15 picks; two key questions: can his body withstand the hits, or can he change his running style? Can he learn to stick to his progressions and throw from the pocket?
|Derek Carr||Fresno State||6-2||215||4.69||1-2|
Might be the most NFL-ready quarterback; threw for 12,731 yards and 113 touchdowns in three years as a starter; doesn't have ideal size, but has a good arm and athleticism.
Still recovering from torn ACL suffered at the end of 2013 but has great size, a good arm, and excelled last year under Cam Cameron and his NFL-style offense.
|Jimmy Garoppolo||Eastern Illinois||6-2||226||4.97||2|
A bit undersized and played weaker talent at FCS level, but has great mechanics and arm strength and is shooting up draft boards after performing well at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl.
An accurate passer in college, completing 71 percent last year, but didn't play great competition and has a thin frame; teams concerned about his durability.
Has drawn intrigue this spring and visited 22 teams after a nomadic college career took him from Rutgers to Arizona to Pitt; threw for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns in a pro-style offense last season.
Has pedigree after starting three seasons and winning two national titles, but questions remain about arm strength and perception his teammates carried him.
|Rehabbing torn ACL, and undersized; great athlete and polished passer who threw for 121 touchdowns in four years as a starter.|
|Logan Thomas||Virginia Tech||6-6||248||4.61||4-5|
|Interesting to see if he sticks at QB or is moved to a skill position such as tight end or Wildcat quarterback given his impressive size-speed combo, and deficiencies as a passer.|
|Carlos Hyde*||RB||Ohio State||5-11 7/8||230||4.66||1-2|
No running back went in the first round last year, but this big-bodied runner could buck the trend. He gained 1,521 yards with 15 rushing touchdowns in 2013 and is an option for the Patriots at No. 29 to replace LeGarrette Blount.
Two elements boost his stock — he ran a faster-than-expected 40 at the Combine, and also caught 28 balls for 304 yards and a touchdown last year, proving himself to be an every-down running back.
Another big, powerful running back that could help the Patriots replace Blount, Hill averaged 6.9 yards per carry with 16 touchdowns last year and also caught 18 passes .
Decisive runner with good pad level averaged 5.9 and 5.7 yards per carry in the last two seasons, leading Auburn to the national championship game last year with 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns.
|Ka'Deem Carey*||RB||Arizona||5-9 3/8||207||4.7||2-3|
Ran a disappointingly slow 40 at the Combine, but could be a solid all-around back after rushing for 1,885 yards and 19 touchdowns with 26 catches for 173 yards in 2013.
Ran for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns on an impressive 7.4 yards per carry last year, but how much was due to Baylor's high-powered offense? Also didn't catch a pass in 2013.
|Devonta Freeman*||RB||Florida State||5-8||206||4.58||3-4|
Solid all-around combo back rushed for 1,016 yards with 14 touchdowns last year while also catching 22 passes in helping Seminoles win BCS Championship.
Another power option for the Patriots in the middle rounds, rushed for a school-record 1,709 yards with 21 touchdowns last year while also catching 15 passes.
Terrific natural runner with size and speed rushed for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns last year, but bad hands and lack of receiver skills make him more of a situational running back.
|Jerick McKinnon||RB||Georgia Southern||5-9||209||4.41||4-5|
College QB who will switch to running back for the NFL, he had several big runs at the Senior Bowl and had a great Combine, with one of the top performances in the bench press (32) and 40-yard dash.
|T Greg Robinson*||Auburn||6-5||332||4.92||1|
A third-year sophomore who started 25 games the past two seasons; a bit raw but displayed freakish athleticism at the Combine and has franchise tackle potential.
|T Taylor Lewan||Michigan||6-7||309||4.87||1|
Explosive athlete, dominated Big Ten competition in 48 games over four seasons, and dominated Combine in February. Zone blocking teams may prefer Lewan over Robinson.
|T Jake Matthews||Texas A&M||6-5||308||5.07||1|
Could be first tackle off the board. The Son of Hall of Fame center Bruce Matthews is an NFL-ready left tackle for zone blocking teams, but needs to improve run blocking.
|T Morgan Moses||Virginia||6-6||314||5.35||1|
Three-year starter comes from good line of Virginia tackles, including D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Branden Albert; Moses's best fit may be at right tackle in the NFL.
|T Zack Martin||Notre Dame||6-4||308||5.05||1|
Started a school-record 52 games, but doesn't have ideal length for left tackle; excellent athleticism and ability to pull and trap; best fit might be as a guard and swing tackle.
|C Weston Richburg||Colorado State||6-3||298||5.19||1-2|
Solidified spot as top interior offensive lineman in draft with a strong showing at Senior Bowl; can play guard as well.
|G Xavier Su'a-Filo*||UCLA||6-4||307||5.04||1-2|
Athletic, polished blocker in run and pass game; top guard in a year without elite talent; sat out two years for a Mormon mission but started all 27 games the past two seasons.
|T Ja'Wuan James||Tennessee||6-6||311||5.34||2|
Shows good athleticism for his size; started 49 games in four seasons with the Vols; held Jadeveon Clowney without a sack in 2013 matchup.
|T Cyrus Kouandijo*||Alabama||6-7||322||5.59||2|
|Has makeup and size to be a dominant left tackle, with a couple of warning signs; was inconsistent his senior year and generated concern about his surgically repaired knee after a poor Combine showing.|
|DE Jadeveon Clowney*||South Carolina||6-5||266||4.53||1|
Subpar junior season is a bit of a concern, but Clowney is a physical freak, a perfect edge rusher for a 4-3 defense and most likely the No. 1 overall pick. The only question is, will it be made by the Texans?
|DT Aaron Donald||Pittsburgh||6-1||285||4.68||1|
Undersized for a defensive lineman, Donald is otherwise a relentless pass rusher who dominated the Senior Bowl and can play multiple positions on the line. Possible top 10 pick.
|DE/DT Stephon Tuitt*||Notre Dame||6-5||304||5.00||1-2|
Versatile player who could provide solid pass rush and run defense from the inside or outside. Has good size and length, is an excellent athlete, and could be an option for the Patriots at the end of the first round.
|DE Kony Ealy*||Missouri||6-4||273||4.92||1|
Strong, quick, and tough, Ealy had 9.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss last year and looks like a natural three-down defensive end in a 4-3.
|DE Demarcus Lawrence||Boise State||6-3||251||4.80||1-2|
Didn't have a great combine, but still had a fantastic senior season (10.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss) and is gaining buzz as a late first-round pick.
|DT Ra'Shede Hageman||Minnesota||6-6||310||5.02||1-2|
Showed impressive quickness and an ability to take on double-teams as a senior, but also lacked consistency and production, with only two sacks in 2013.
|DT Louis Nix*||Notre Dame||6-2||331||5.42||1-2|
Perfect fit as a 3-4 nose tackle, Nix wasn't the most explosive player at the combine but can take on a double-team and was the linchpin of the Irish defense for three seasons.
|DT Dominique Easley||Florida||6-2||288||4.85||1-2|
Would likely be a lock for the first round if not for a torn ACL suffered in practice last season. Can play inside or outside and has the best burst of any prospect not named Clowney.
|DT Timmy Jernigan*||Florida State||6-2||299||5.06||1-2|
Reportedly failed a drug test at the combine in February, which certainly won't help his stock, but despite only 6 sacks the last two seasons is a versatile, disruptive lineman who can play in multiple fronts.
|DT Ego Ferguson*||LSU||6-3||315||5.00||2|
Started only one season for the Tigers and probably should have returned to school, but showed excellent quickness and strength in the pass and run games. Solid fit as a 4-3 defensive tackle.
|CB Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State||6-0||202||4.37||1|
Most polished defensive back prospect in draft; is big enough, has long enough arms to excel in press-man coverage. Had seven interceptions in 2013; is a blazing-fast kick returner, too.
|CB Darqueze Dennard||Michigan State||5-11||199||4.51||1|
Alfonzo Dennard's cousin doesn't have elite size or speed, but more than makes up for it with excellent football instincts and cover skills.
|S Calvin Pryor*||Louisville||5-11||207||4.58||1|
The best strong safety prospect in draft; a thumper who can play in the box as an extra run defender, but fast enough to cover tight ends. Forced seven fumbles last two seasons.
|S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix*||Alabama||6-1||208||4.58||1|
Could leapfrog Pryor as first safety off board if a team wants a free safety/center fielder; has good speed and length and can cover a lot of ground on deep passes.
|CB Bradley Roby*||Ohio State||5-11||194||4.39||1|
Hurt stock with subpar 2013 season and a couple of off-field incidents; still has elite speed and good measurables to project as future No. 1 cornerback.
|CB Kyle Fuller||Virginia Tech||6-0||190||4.49||1-2|
Unclear if best position will be cornerback or safety; three-year starter who showed good press-man and zone-coverage skills; ran faster than expected at the Combine.
|CB Jason Verrett||TCU||5-9||189||4.38||1-2|
Doesn't have ideal size, but is extremely quick and technically proficient; could be a great fit as nickel/slot coverage guy.
|S Deone Bucannon||Washington State||6-1||211||4.49||1-2|
Drawing buzz as late first-round sleeper; best fit is likely as a strong safety and run defender, but showed nice ball skills and coverage ability in 2013.
|S Jimmie Ward||Northern Illinois||5-11||193||4.61||2|
Undersized for a free safety, which hurts his stock; excellent coverage safety and reliable run-stopper who had seven interceptions in 2013.
|CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste||Nebraska||6-3||218||4.61||2|
Big, physical cornerbacks are en vogue thanks to Seahawks; switch to safety is possible, but showed good coverage skills at Senior Bowl.
Mack followed dominant senior season (10½ sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, 19 tackles for loss) with a great Combine performance (40-inch vertical). Likely to play 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL.
Potential 3-4 outside linebacker likely to go in the top half of first round. Dominant senior season with 10 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, and 5 forced fumbles, plus huge games against Oregon and Stanford.
Ball-hawker can play inside or weak side; had 102 tackles (nine for loss) in 2013 and showed good ability in all three phases — blitzing ability, run defense, pass coverage.
|Ryan Shazier||Ohio State||6-1||237||4.45||1-2|
Likely a 4-3 weak-side LB; exhibited outstanding speed at the Combine and recorded an incredible 143 tackles in 2013, including 22½ for losses.
Auburn's best pass rusher, finished with 10½ sacks and 14½ tackles for losses last year; might have to put on a little weight to be a 3-4 rush LB
|Christian Jones||Florida State||6-3||240||4.74||2|
Played out of position at DE a lot last season, but can rush the passer, drop in coverage, play inside or outside LB and performed well at the Senior Bowl.
|Kyle Van Noy||BYU||6-3||244||4.71||2|
Versatile, solid as a pass rusher (4 sacks, 17½ tackles for loss last year) but even better in coverage, finishing with 7 passes defended and 2 interceptions.
Might be best pure run-stuffer in draft, but will drop because of size and slow 40 time. Still, physical player who can rush the passer or be a thumper in the run game.
Likely fit at 3-4 OLB, he was slow at Combine but is a solid all-around pass rusher; 15 sacks in 2013 led nation, plus 24½ tackles for losses.
|WR Sammy Watkins||Clemson||6-1||211||4.40||1|
Top receiver prospect also doubles as an electric kickoff returner. Averaged 22.9 yards on 60 kickoff returns in three seasons, including an 89-yard TD.
|WR Odell Beckham Jr.||LSU||5-11||198||4.43||1|
Likely top-20 pick has added value as a punt returner, scoring two TDs as Tigers' primary punt returner the past two seasons.
|CB Justin Gilbert||Oklahoma State||6-0||202||4.37||1|
One of the top cornerback prospects also is an electric kickoff returner, with six TDs in four years with the Cowboys.
|WR De'Anthony Thomas||Oregon||5-9||174||4.50||2-3|
Diminutive speedster and likely slot receiver returned four kickoffs and one punt for TDs in three seasons with the Ducks.
|RB Dri Archer||Kent State||5-8||173||4.26||3-4|
Hybrid slot receiver/running back ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine and second-fastest of the last decade (4.26); returned four kickoffs for TDs.
|WR John Brown||Pittsburg State||5-10||179||4.34||5-6|
Division 2 speedster named conference's special teams player of the year in 2013, and scored two kickoff return TDs and three punt return TDs in three seasons.
|WR Bernard Reedy||Toledo||5-8||174||4.44||6-FA|
Speedy slot receiver whose primary value might initially be as kick returner; scored three kickoff return TDs in 2012.
|WR Jeremy Gallon||Michigan||5-7||185||4.49||6-FA|
Small frame will drop him down draft despite big senior season (1,373 receiving yards, nine TDs) but returned kickoffs and punts at Michigan to help his value.
|K Nate Freese||Boston College||5-11||185||NA||5-FA|
|Hard to predict if a kicker will get drafted, but Freese has as good a shot as any after hitting all 20 field goals as a senior (two from 50-plus) and 18 of 20 as a junior.|
|P Tom Hornsey||Memphis||6-3||221||NA||5-FA|
Won the Ray Guy Award last year after averaging 45.2 yards per punt, with a long of 79.