Richner: 2015 Offensive Prospects
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This year's crop of prospects is one of the deepest I have seen in several years. There are a handful of first- or second-round draft-eligible quarterbacks. There were three quarterbacks taken in the first round in the 2014 NFL Draft. I count at least eight NFL teams that will either need an immediate upgrade at the quarterback position or begin to develop a long term starter.
While the running back position has been devalued in terms of players going in the first round, no running back was selected until the latter half of the second round in 2014. This year's possible crop of prospects might just change that. Barring any injuries, I wouldn't be surprised if at least three players were selected in next year's first round. It is the deepest and most talented position group on the offensive side of the football in terms of NFL ready talent.
A lot will change between the start of college and next year's NFL draft; some prospects will continue to shine while others will falter. Inevitably, a small handful of players come out of nowhere–a player who was lost on a lot of scouts' radars will, without notice, burst onto the national scene and rise all the way to a top-ten draft pick.
The prospects are not ranked; they are listed by their schools in alphabetical order. At the end of each month throughout the season I will be posting a top-35 ranking of the top NFL prospects currently in college.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Quarterback Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Player||Height||Weight||School||YPA||TD/INT||Career Starts||Career Wins|
|Taylor Kelly||6-2||211||Arizona State||7.9||2.7||27||18|
|Shane Carden||6-2||221||East Carolina||5.0||0.5||24||18|
|Jameis Winston||6-4||230||Florida State||10.6||4.0||14||14|
|Connor Cook||6-4||218||Michigan State||7.2||3.3||13||12|
|Braxton Miller||6-2||215||Ohio State||7.9||3.1||34||26|
|Sean Mannion||6-5||227||Oregon State||7.5||1.5||31||17|
|Chuckie Keeton||6-2||200||Utah State||7.7||4.3||27||16|
Hundley is the top rated quarterback on my board. He has the size and athletic ability that allows him to extend plays, while at the same time showcasing the precision passing needed from a future NFL starter. He will need to become more accurate on third downs, his completion percentage dropped from 70% on first and second down to 56% on third downs.
Kevin Hogan is a physical pocket quarterback who plays in a traditional pro-style offense and has a 16-3 record as a starter for Stanford. He has the third highest YPA average at 8.35 of all the quarterbacks on this list. He will need to show scouts that he has taken the next step in his development by mastering his playbook and taking command of his offense. Hogan has stepped up and filled the void left by Andrew Luck. If he has a fantastic season he might just join his fellow teammate as a possible number one overall pick.
The last of the big three is Oregon's Marcus Mariota who has been one of the most consistent quarterbacks over the past two seasons as a starter. In 26 career starts, he has a 65.7% completion rate, 63 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions and a TD to INT ratio of 6.3. At 6'4” and 219 pounds, he has the frame and world class speed needed to be a difference maker on every play. He will need to work on his intermediate and deep passes as he misses his target too often. Mariota will also need to prove to scouts that he can develop into a top tier signal caller and not just a product of the system in which he plays in.
The rest of the quarterback class is led by the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Jameis Winston, and a Heisman contender, Bryce Petty. Both of these players have a combined total of 27 career starts between them. Still raw, both have shown glimpses of amazing physical capabilities to go along with some inconsistent quarterback play. Small school prospect Chuckie Keeton (Utah State) looks to rebound from an injury that plagued his 2013 campaign. Sean Manninon (Oregon State), a prototypical pocket passer, will need to show scouts that he is capable of evading pressure and avoiding sacks. With -498 rushing yards for his career, he will need to improve on this mark.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Running Back Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Player||Height||Weight||School||Career YPC||Career Total Yards|
|Jay Ajayi||6-0||216||Boise State||6.0||2,225|
|Karlos Williams||6-1||225||Florida State||8.0||1,407|
|Jeremy Langford||6-1||208||Michigan State||4.8||1,602|
|Mike Davis||5-9||223||South Carolina||5.7||1,845|
As I have stated earlier, this year's running back prospects might be the deepest position in terms of top end talent on offense. Most of these players have an elite combination of both speed and power that allow them to consistently produce at a high level. The top three rated running backs on my board are Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin), Todd Gurley (Georgia) and Duke Johnson (Miami).
Gordon is a flat out monster on the field. At 6'1” and 213 pounds, he has the size to break through some of the toughest tackles. His speed is outstanding; once he hits the corner and gets his shoulder square, he can't be stopped. Though he shared carries during the past two seasons, for his career he has averaged 8.3 yards-per-carry. If he can stay healthy, Gordon should be in a position to set single season rushing records at Wisconsin.
Todd Gurley from Georgia had to fight through some injuries last season. When he is healthy, he is an almost unstoppable talent. With 27 career rushing touchdowns, highest amongst all prospects on this list, Gurley has consistently shown the ability to pound the football in between the tackles and he will not shy away from contact. One overlooked aspect of his game is his ability to be a difference maker in the passing game; with 53 career receptions, he leads all prospects on this list.
Lastly, Duke Johnson, who broke his ankle last season, is fully healed and looking to make one more lasting impression on the college football landscape. Miami started last season with a 7-0 record before Duke got hurt, then limped to a 9-4 record. In just 20 career games, Johnson has amassed 1,867 rushing yards on 284 carries, an average of 6.6 YPC, to go along with 16 rushing touchdowns. At only 5'9”, he will need to show scouts that he can stay healthy for a full season and maintain his production.
The rest of the class is filled with exciting, dynamic playmakers who could vault themselves into the top tier with a productive season. Jay Ajayi (Boise State) is a player who might not be on everyone's radar right now, but he will face Ole Miss in the first game and will have a chance to make a name for himself. Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) and Mike Davis (South Carolina) will be compared to Darren Sproles come draft season. Both of these players are outstanding young athletes who have shown the consistent ability to dart through the line of scrimmage, take on would be tacklers and grind forward to pick up crucial extra yards for their teams.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Player||Height||Weight||School||Career YPR||Career Total Yards|
|Jalen Strong||6-3||212||Arizona State||15.0||1,170|
|Matt Miller||6-2||213||Boise State||12.0||2,588|
|Rashad Greene||6-0||180||Florida State||14.4||2,921|
|Tyler Lockett||5-11||175||Kansas State||15.4||4,295|
|Quinshad Davis||6-4||215||North Carolina||13.8||1,507|
I know, I know. This is not the top five or even top ten list, it's the top 18 wide receiver prospects. The talent stretches across the country from the Pac-12 to the SEC and every conference in between. While they might not be the top three wide receivers in the country, three players that I think might just be the most dynamic and well-rounded are Amari Cooper (Alabama), DeVante Parker (Louisville), and Ty Montgomery (Stanford).
Cooper has been an outstanding wideout for the Crimson Tide. With 26 career games, he has over 100 receptions and over 1,700 receiving yards. Cooper has a wonderful combination of speed and athletic ability to go along with his incredible route running ability. He can run all the routes as well as go across the middle to make the tough catches. With a new starting quarterback at Alabama this season, look for Cooper's numbers to drop.
DeVante Parker is a touchdown scoring machine. At 6'3” and 208 pounds, he has the frame to shield smaller defenders and the jumping ability to go up and high point the football in traffic. He leads all prospects on this list with 28 career touchdown receptions. He has averaged one touchdown for every four receptions throughout his career.
While he doesn't get the national spotlight, Ty Montgomery has quietly been a force to be reckoned with in the Pac-12. At 6'2” and 220 pounds, he is physically able to break through press coverage and has showcased wonderful speed and athletic ability. Stanford isn't afraid to use Montgomery as a rusher and a kickoff returner. For his career, he has three rushing touchdowns and three kickoff return touchdowns. Once Montgomery is able to get to top speed, there are few players in the country who can keep up.
Some smaller school or lesser known prospects to keep an eye on are Tyler Lockett (Kansas State), Jordan Taylor (Rice), Matt Miller (Boise State) and Deontay Greenberry (Houston). Lockett is a classic overachiever who has steadily become one of the best pass catchers in college football. Another name to keep an eye on is Devin Funchess (Michigan). While he is listed as a wide receiver, there are some scouts who believe that he could eventually slide inside and play the tight end position. At 6'5” and 230 pounds, he is a big body wideout who can play a role similar to a Jimmy Graham.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Tight End Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Player||Height||Weight||School||Career YPR||Career Total Yards|
|Nick O'Leary||6-3||247||Florida State||14.7||973|
|E.J. Bibbs||6-3||264||Iowa State||11.8||462|
|Clive Walford||6-4||263||Miami (FL)||14.0||1,077|
|Ben Koyack||6-5||254||Notre Dame||15.4||215|
|Jeff Heuerman||6-5||255||Ohio State||16.7||585|
|Connor Hamlett||6-7||266||Oregon State||10.7||767|
|Jesse James||6-7||254||Penn State||13.3||333|
|Rory Anderson||6-5||227||South Carolina||17.8||694|
The running back position has dropped from a position of emphasis and priority throughout the NFL, while the tight end position has started to gain in importance. The 2014 NFL Draft saw just three running backs drafted in the first two rounds compared with four tight ends. Eric Ebron was drafted with the tenth overall selection. This year's crop of tight end prospects are more traditional players at their respective positions than the recent crop of hybrid, pass-catching, specific tight ends that we have seen in recent years. The top players in this group are Nick O'Leary (FSU), Jeff Heuerman (Ohio State), and E.J. Bibbs (Iowa State).
O'Leary is a physical monster capable of playing on the line or split out wide who can hold his own at the point of attack. He quietly became one of Winston's primary targets last season. With 66 career receptions and 11 touchdowns, he leads all tight ends in this group.
Heuerman is your traditional three down tight end who is a quarterback's dream in a short yardage situation. At 6'5” and 255 pounds, he can be a headache for defenses, has the size to out muscle corners, and the speed to get behind linebackers.
Bibbs, a Junior College transfer last season, quickly rose amongst the ranks and made an instant impact for the Cyclones. His 39 receptions are the second most for a tight end in a single season at Iowa State. In what he lacks in overall height, he makes up for in sheer size and strength. If Bibbs can dominate and showcase his full potential, he could become a possible first round prospect by the end of the season.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Offensive Tackle Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Cameron Erving||6-5||304||Florida State|
|Cedric Ogbuehi||6-5||305||Texas A&M|
With nine offensive tackles taken in the first two rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft, a number of top prospects this year have the makings and the production to be considered for one of the top spots in next year's draft class.
This year's draft prospect list is led by Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M), a former guard and right tackle who will slide over to the left slide this season. He has a ton of experience going head to head with some of the best pass rushers in college football during the last two seasons. He has shown the ability to handle both speed and power rushers while consistently shutting down an opponent's pass rushing attack.
Another young and dynamic player to keep an eye on is Andrus Peat (Stanford). At 6'7” and 316 pounds, he is a mountain of a young man who started all 14 games last season. During the 2013 season, Stanford only allowed 16 sacks. Peat leads a veteran unit that is capable of road grading opponents while providing his team with multiple running lanes. The rest of the prospects are all solid athletes and offensive tackles who just need to show consistency and gain some more experience. Don't be surprised if three or four of these young men are drafted in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Offensive Guard Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|Tre Jackson||6-4||330||Florida State|
|AJ Cann||6-4||311||South Carolina|
The size of the average offensive guard has risen the last couple of years and this year's top offensive guard prospect showcases that size and speed can be found along the interior offensive line. My top rated guard is Laken Tomlinson (Duke); an absolute road grader and one of the more physically over-powering offensive lineman in the country. A first-team ACC last year, Tomlinson has the experience and versatility to play both guard positions. At 6'3” and 330 pounds, he is an absolute load and can eliminate an opponent's interior pass rushing capabilities.
Tre Jackson out of Florida State teams up with fellow offensive lineman Cameron Erving (left tackle) to make one of the nation's toughest and most dominant offensive lines. They will need to work together and improve their pass rushing mistakes. Last season Florida State allowed 33 sacks.
Top 2015 NFL Draft Center Prospects (alphabetical by team)
|BJ Finney||6-4||303||Kansas State|
|Isaac Seumalo||6-4||297||Oregon State|
A quality center is smart enough to be another quarterback; he has to understand not only his assignment, but everyone else's on the field. Experience and intelligence are bigger factors in playing the position at a high level than physical capabilities in certain situations. Hroniss Grasu (Oregon) leads this prospect group as a three year starter and a second team All-American selection last year. An athletic lineman, though you have to be to play in the Oregon offense, he has the mobility to quickly get up to the second and third level and pick up key blocks. If he can stay healthy, Grasu should be the first center selected in next year's draft.
Reese Dismukes (Auburn) is another outstanding athlete who is able to showcase his athletic ability, mobility and versatility with playing in the hyper speed of Auburn's offense. Dismukes and his fellow offensive line teammates were one of the top rushing attack teams last year and gave up only 18 sacks. With another season of experience, scouts will inevitably take notice and he could become a day two draft selection.
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