Get all of Chris Burke’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.
The prevailing argument throughout much of the 2016 draft process was that while this year’s class was shy on an abundance of obvious superstars, it drew strength in its depth. A look at the names left available through two days helps prove that point.
Connor Cook and Andrew Billings jump off the page as players who have “fallen” this weekend, but they will be joined for Saturday’s Rounds 4–7 by a long list of capable prospects. The best of the best among what’s left, by position:
1. Connor Cook, Michigan State
2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
3. Vernon Adams, Oregon
4. Cardale Jones, Ohio State
5. Kevin Hogan, Stanford
Cook falling out of Round 1 wasn’t necessarily a surprise, but the Michigan State star lingering past the second and third rounds is among the biggest unsettled developments—especially sinceJacoby Brissett and Cody Kessler leapfrogged him late in Round 3. He, Prescott, Jones and Hogan all could find homes within the next 50 picks or so. Adams remains more of an enigma due mainly to his size. He deserves a shot, though.
1. Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
2. Jordan Howard, Indiana
3. Alex Collins, Arkansas
4. Paul Perkins, UCLA
5. Devontae Booker, Utah
This may be the position with the most talent remaining headed into Day 3, with just four RBs off the board thus far. Dixon is a complete, three-down back—some predicted him to be the second back drafted after Ezekiel Elliott. There is very little separating the other prospects on this list, and Perkins may wind up being the best rookie of the bunch. A name to watch that’s not listed: Marshaun Coprich, from Illinois State.
1. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
2. Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia
3. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
4. Tajae Sharpe, UMass
5. Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
The 2016 wide receivers were ranked differently just about everywhere you looked, and how they stack up headed into Saturday will follow the same pattern. Charone Peake, Kenny Lawler, Keyarris Garrett, Mike Thomas (of Southern Miss, not Ohio State) and even slot guy Daniel Braverman could be next taken and no one would blink. Higgins stands out because he has the game of a rookie starter on the outside.
1. Kyle Murphy, Stanford
2. Joe Dahl, Washington State
3. Jerald Hawkins, LSU
4. Joe Haeg, North Dakota State
5. Spencer Drango, Baylor
The chances at landing a surefire starting tackle have come and gone, but that doesn’t mean the positional group is a wasteland. Murphy, in particular, should appeal to needy teams—he comes from Stanford’s pro-style system and played alongside first-round guard Joshua Garnett. At least Dahl and Drango could have futures at guard. Figuring out where the remaining tackles fit (left, right, guard) will be a bit of a challenge.
1. Christian Westerman, Arizona State
2. Connor McGovern, Missouri
3. Jack Allen, Michigan State
4. Austin Blythe, Iowa
5. Vadal Alexander, LSU
A rather strong crop of interior linemen still remain, including Arkansas’ Sebastian Tretola—he just missed the cut here. Westerman’s availability through three rounds is at least a minor upset. He can play center or guard, just like McGovern. Allen and Blythe were centers in college. And Alexander has guard and tackle experience.
1. Jerell Adams, South Carolina
2. Henry Krieger-Coble, Iowa
3. Jake McGee, Florida
4. Thomas Duarte, UCLA
5. Kyle Carter, Penn State
The remaining tight end group is a mish-mash of skills, with new-breed receiving types like Adams and Duarte (the latter of whom may wind up at receiver) and the old school in Krieger-Coble. Keep an eye on intriguing athletes Stephen Anderson and Temmarick Hemingway. Not listed: Western Kentucky’s Tyler Higbee, whose arrest for assault earlier this month probably dropped him off a ton of team boards.
1. Ronald Blair, Appalachian State
2. Matt Judon, Grand Valley State
3. Charles Tapper, Oklahoma
4. Jason Fanaika, Utah
5. Dean Lowry, Northwestern
Any GM who pounces on a defensive end early Saturday still can do so with the expectation of landing a player who can make an impact. Blair and Judon offer six-to-eight sack potential in the right scheme, while Tapper and Fanaika could appeal to 3–4 schemes. Lowry is a high-motor player without a real fit but there’s plenty to like in his game.
1. Andrew Billings, Baylor
2. Willie Henry, Michigan
3. Sheldon Day, Notre Dame
4. Anthony Zettel, Penn State
5. Hassan Ridgeway, Texas
What in the world is going on with Andrew Billings? Projected all along to be an option in mid- to late-Round 1, the Baylor product has taken a significant tumble. Something is going on, to be sure—there have been rumors of a possible knee injury but nothing has been solidified yet. The names behind him on this list all carried at least a little buzz into the draft season. Day could be an early Round 4 pick, because he is dangerous from a three-tech but also showed some chops outside. Baylor’s Shawn Oakman remains in the top-75 of our official draft big board, but a recent sexual assault arrest very well could drop him out of the draft.
1. Blake Martinez, Stanford
2. Joe Schobert, Wisconsin
3. Kentrell Brothers, Missouri
4. Joshua Perry, Ohio State
5. Antonio Morrison, Florida
Those defenses still hunting for an inside or weakside producer should feel good about how Saturday sets up. The entire quintet here can be high-volume tacklers next season as rookie. Add Tyler Matakevich, Scooby Wright, Nick Kwiatkowski and others to the list. There will be a run at this position somewhere Saturday.
1. Jalen Mills, LSU
2. Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
3. Harlan Miller, Southeast Louisiana
4. Maurice Canady, Virginia
5. Deiondre’ Hall, Northern Iowa
Mills may be the best player available outside of Billings. He can help at either safety or corner, and that versatility alone seemed to point toward a Round 2 or 3 selection, so count on him getting the nod among the early-afternoon choices Saturday. Add Tavon Young and Anthony Brown to the list of cornerbacks that could help teams immediately. There will be a few selections at this position we’ll look back as steals in October or November.
1. Jeremy Cash, Duke
2. Miles Killebrew, Southern Utah
3. Tyvis Powell, Ohio State
4. K.J. Dillon, West Virginia
5. Jayron Kearse, Clemson
Cash spent the Senior Bowl and combine answering questions about whether or not he could cover—obviously, a key trait for a safety. Even if he’s viewed mainly as a linebacker hybrid, he has lingered too long. Powell could challenge Cardale Jones to be the next Ohio State product off the board, after what felt like approximately 80% of picks on Days 1 and 2 consisted of Buckeyes.