NFL Draft Player Rankings
by Josh Nagel - 02/28/2008
Now that dozens of young professional football hopefuls have shown off their size, skills and speed for NFL scouts in the annual meat market called the Combine, teams now must get ready for the moment of truth and decide which players they believe will best change their team's fortunes. Of course, the Combine results and the scouting reports don't always mean a whole lot … we all know by now that Tom Brady was a sixth-round afterthought on the heels of spending most of his Michigan career backing up Drew Henson, whereas once can't-miss prospects like Akili Smith and Tim Couch have long since played their way out of the league.
Having said this, speculation and prognostication regarding the draft is our job this time of year, and it never hurts to pretend you are an NFL general manager or owner for a day, decide who you would draft, then see how the prospects work out for teams on the gridiron in real life. Miami has the No. 1 overall pick and the general consensus is that the Dolphins will take Virginia defensive end Chris Long, and the pick looks like a solid one. With an increasingly aging and suspect defense, getting a franchise player on the defensive line is a great place to start. Even though running back Ronnie Brown has been injury-plagued, the Dolphins still evidently believe he is capable at the position, thus making Long the choice over Arkansas running back Darren McFadden.
Although teams prefer to draft by need first, sometimes the player they have their hopes set on already is gone by the time they are on the clock, in which case they often turn to the "best player available" strategy, regardless of position, and hope for the best. Most teams drafting high need help everywhere, regardless. In that spirit, the following is a list of the Top 50 NFL Draft player rankings regardless of position and not by team need. This is not a mock draft, but rather, simply an overview of the top talent out there.
NFL Draft player rankings:
1. Darren McFadden, RB, Arkansas. Rumors of his stock dropping are perplexing; if you've seen any college football the past few years, you know this guy is a game-changer who is likely to follow Adrian Peterson's lead and make an immediate impact wherever he lands.
2, Chris Long, DE, Virginia. Dominated the college game from the defensive side of the ball like no other player in recent memory. Should be a franchise player for several years to come.
3. Jake Long, OT, Michigan. There are typically fewer draft busts from the offensive line than from the higher-profile positions. Bet the Browns are glad they took Joe Thomas No. 3 overall last year instead of Brady Quinn, who appears destined for more clipboard-holding. Long appears to be a can't-miss prospect, and a lot of teams need his help.
4. Glenn Dorsey, DE, LSU. Yes, he has had injury concerns in college, but his insistence on playing through them should impress NFL teams and, talent-wise, this seems like a very safe pick.
5. Matt Ryan, QB, Boston College. Ryan appears to be the most NFL-ready of an otherwise weak class of quarterbacks. He did show pro-style accuracy and decision making in many of the Eagles' games last season.
6. Vernon Ghoslton, DE, Ohio State. Beware of the Combine sweetheart, and this guy's stock has exploded since he gave an impressive showing last week. Even so, he seems to deserve the attention he has been getting.
7. Sedrick Ellis, DT, USC. Some scouts believe he is the most NFL-ready defensive player out there. He'll provide havoc for opposing backfields for whomever picks him up.
8. Keith Rivers, LB, USC. NFL defenses are built around linebackers, and Rivers has had scouts salivating ever since he dominated the Senior Bowl. An immediate impact player.
9. Brian Brohm, QB, Louisville. Despite a disappointing season for his Louisville team, Brohm still put up great numbers and showed an NFL-caliber arm and touch in his passes.
10. Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan. Surprisingly, only one major scouting outlet agrees with me that Mannigham is the best receiver available in the draft, and some have him dropping to the second round. To the naysayers, I say, which Michigan games were they watching? His size and hands make him the prototype NFL receiver.
11. Ryan Clady, OT, Boise State. General consensus that he is the second-best offensive lineman in the draft.
12. Dan Connor, LB, Penn State. Rated higher than former teammate Paul Posluszny, who was drafted early last year by the Bills. Could fill LB needs for many teams.
13. Mike Jenkins, CB, South Florida. A ball hawk in the mold of Baltimore's Ed Reed; sure to shore up a team's secondary.
14. Derrick Harvey, LB, Florida. Has great size at 6-3, 250 pounds and NFL playmaking ability.
15. Joe Flacco, QB, Delaware. A small-school, big-body QB (6-6. 235); comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger are inevitable, and perhaps warranted.
16. Aqib Talib, CB, Kansas. Some concern about his timed speed, but Talib was the cornerstone of a solid Kansas defense and appears to have pro cover skills.
17. DeSean Jackson, WR, Cal. Has game-changing skills, but fell off dramatically when the Bears slumped last season.
18. Leodis McKelvin, CB, Troy. A prototype NFL cover man who also has return skills; Troy is earning a reputation for grooming defensive gems.
19. Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, CB, Tennessee State. Defensive MVP of the Senior Bowl, his stock just seems to keep rising.
20. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt. Has good foot work and all-around fundamentals.
21. Jeff Otah, OT, Pitt. Good versatility and steadily improved with every game at Pitt.
22. Calais Campbell, DE, Miami. A relatively subpar senior season slowed the comparisons to Warren Sapp, but this 6-8, 280-pounder will have no shortage of takers.
23. Early Doucet, WR, LSU. Seems to be the latest NFL-ready receiver to be turned out by LSU.
24. Limas Sweed, WR, Texas. There's never been a question of his talent, but he has been injury prone in his career at Texas.
25. Felix Jones, RB, Arkansas. Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown of Auburn lore are proof that a two-back system can work. Playing behind McFadden has an advantage in that he has taken less wear and tear.
26. Antoine Cason, CB, Arizona. Won the Thorpe Award last year and excelled against several prolific passing teams in the Pac-10.
27. Malcom Kelly, WR, Oklahoma. Many draft prognosticators believe Kelly is the best receiver in the draft.
28. Quentin Groves, DE, Auburn. Tough player from the country's most physical conference should have no problem transitioning to the NFL.
29. James Hardy, WR, Indiana. Didn't get a lot of attention being in the same conference as Manningham, but caught 16 touchdowns and showed a lot of potential.
30. Andre Woodson, QB, Kentucky. A poor showing during the Senior Bowl has damaged his stock, but he would be a steal in the second round.
31. Jamaal Charles, RB, Texas. Probably could use another year of seasoning in college, but his explosiveness will prove irresistible to a team looking for a game breaker.
32. Ali Highsmith, LB, LSU. Some questions about his speed, but you usually can't go wrong with a standout from the SEC.
33. Chad Henne, QB, Michigan. Has proven he can make all the throws, but there are questions about his durability after an injury-plagued senior season.
34. Philip Wheeler, LB, Georgia Tech. Anchored what is a traditionally strong defense at Georgia Tech.
35. Erin Henderson, LB, Maryland. You've got to figure any man who spells his name "Erin" is probably one tough dude.
36. Jonathan Stewart, RB, Oregon. His stock skyrocketed with his dynamic showing in the Sun Bowl, and he's a solid prospect in the second round.
37. Kenny Phillips, S, Miami. Another standout playmaker turned out by the U; might be the best in the draft at his position.
38. Kentwan Balmer, DT, North Carolina. His stock soared after a solid season for the Tar Heels and impressive pre-draft workouts.
39. Phillip Merling, DE, Clemson. Once projected as high first-rounder, it's hard to imagine a player of his talent dropping too far.
40. Ray Rice, RB, Rutgers. This powerful rusher would be the perfect compliment on a team that has a breakaway back to provide a 1-2 punch.
41. Fred Davis, TE, USC. Great hands and a solid blocker, Davis should be the first tight end picked.
42. Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee. Some great late-season performances boosted his stock among NFL scouts.
43. Lawrence Jackson, DE, USC. Has the skills to anchor the defensive line of several teams looking for help in this area.
44. Andre Caldwell, WR, Florida. Showed his playmaking skills as Heisman winner Tim Tebow's favorite target.
45. Sam Baker, OT, USC. Anchored USC's rock-solid offensive line, and is likely capable of doing the same for an NFL team.
46. Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois. A good showing in the Rose Bowl helped his stock, but there are a handful of running backs rated ahead of him.
47. Tashard Choice, RB, Georgia Tech. The ACC rushing leader might make a nice complimentary back for a team lacking depth.
48. Adarius Bowman, WR, Oklahoma St. A big, physical receiver who seems to fit the mold many NFL teams are looking for these days.
49. D.J. Hall, WR, Alabama. Showed great hands and a flare for the dramatic as a member of the Crimson Tide.
50. Dwight Lowery, CB, San Jose State. Superb playmaker who could be the steal of the draft for a team willing to overlook his size. Look how Devin Hester turned out.