With free agency winding down, and the 2016 NFL draft fast approaching, it’s time for all 32 NFL teams to finish the process of getting their draft boards in order and ranking players based on their own preferences. At SI, it’s time for us to do that as well. To that end, Doug Farrar has assembled his own Big Board, with his top 50 players.
The SI 50 uses tape study to define the best prospects in this class, and why they’re slotted as such. The bottom six players in this year’s 50 can be found here and here, and the next trio of players includes a spread-offense tackle who beats the modern narrative, and two defensive ends who have a ton of potential... and an equal amount of technique work to be done.
44. Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
Height: 6' 5" Weight: 316 pounds
Bio: NFL line coaches often say that college spread offenses leave offensive linemen ill-prepared for the next level. Not only are they generally unfamiliar with deeper drops and the protection that requires, but they’re also not terribly experienced with the power, counter and trap blocking required of most NFL schemes.
Clark could be an intriguing exception to the rule. Even a cursory look at his tape shows repetitive power and nascent abilities in several of those non-spread concepts, despite three straight All-Big 12 seasons in Texas Tech’s offense.
“We did a lot of things out of two-point stances, we did some three-point stance in short yardage situations, but I feel pretty comfortable in my three-point stance when I come off the ball for sure,” Clark told me at the scouting combine. “There's definitely a misperception there—most people don’t think we have any combo blocks or power blocking in our plays. They think it’s just inside zone and outside zone. But we have a few running plays, and we run the ball more than people think. Our running back [Deandre Washington] ran the ball for [1,492] yards last year, and you have to run the ball a little bit to get that many yards.”
It’s true that Clark will have some work to do in certain areas, but to dismiss him as a mere product of his college offense would be a mistake.
Strengths: Clark is a naturally-built athlete for the left tackle position. Had the longest arms (36 1/8") among any tackle at the Senior Bowl. Creates an effective shuffle back to the pocket on longer drops, though full kick-slide is a work in progress. Has among the quickest feet in this class, and has the short-area speed and agility to perform all manner of pulls and zone moves. Locks on to his target fairly well when he gets to the second level. When Clark plants and fires out in run-blocking or run-action, he has all the power and aggressiveness required, and a level of technique that shows more reps with power blocking than the narrative may say. Has a good sense of assignment on zone hand-offs and defensive stunts. Has the raw power to make any kind of run block, though the technique is a little raw at this point.
Weaknesses: Doesn’t yet have a fully-developed kick-slide, as he was asked to retreat a couple steps in pass protection most of the time in Texas Tech’s offense. Tends to lunge too often to catch defenders outside of his area, as opposed to re-setting his feet and getting his hands involved. Needs work on catching edge-rushers to the outside—occasionally, he’ll just let rushers right by. Tends to use an arm-bar too often when rushers get to the backside of the pocket, and needs to learn to take the last few steps of a complete pass rush without adjustments that amount to holds. High percentage of quick throws means that he needs work with engaging as a blocker on longer-developing pass plays—he’ll sometimes let his guy go too quickly. At times, needs to play with better body control.
Conclusion: As more and more college offenses run spread and spread-style systems, the need to adapt to the talents of these players, and to understand the training time required to help their adaptations to the NFL, is of paramount importance. One must look beyond the biases and to the tape, and the tape says that Le’Raven Clark has the potential to succeed in the pros.
Pro Comparison: Lane Johnson, Eagles (First round, 2013, Oklahoma)
43. Jonathan Bullard, DE, Florida
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 285 pounds
Bio: In what looks to be the deepest defensive line draft in recent memory, there’s an absolute smorgasbord of different types of pass-rushers and run-stoppers seemingly instantly ready for the next level. Bullard may be such a player, and at more than one position. Though he played primarily end for the Gators, he said at the combine that he’d like to play inside at the three-tech position for his NFL team.
“Just being closer to the ball, mismatching with the guards, quicker first step and you can key the ball faster [as a] three-technique,” he said. “If you put me in a one gap, three technique at the college level, it’s going to be different in the pros, but it’s a mismatch for that first step getting down, having a tackle trying to block down on me and reach me, it’s kind of hard coming off the ball the way I do. I think that’s a big part of my game, and what’s making me make big plays.”
Bullard improved his sack and tackle for loss totals in each of his four seasons with Florida, topping out last year with 6.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss. And in today’s hybrid NFL defenses, he’s an interesting option as either a one-gap or two-gap player.
Strengths: Active run-stopper who fires off the snap (has the 10-yard burst of a man 30 pounds lighter) and tracks his targets from the backfield past the line of scrimmage. Good, strong wrap tackler. Has the physical strength to kick inside from end to one- and three-tech—he was a frequent target of double-teams inside, and should be considered a plus player with potential at multiple positions. Outstanding raw power player with an estimable bull rush when his pad level is right. Moves forward through trash with a purpose. Has the athleticism to track from sideline to sideline and back off into short coverage. Has a nice knack for getting his hands up to force quarterbacks to rethink their passing lanes. More a tackle-for-loss guy than a sack artist, though he’ll be consistent in the first area and may surprise with sacks down the road.
Weaknesses: Bullard is more of a reactive player than a gap-splitter—he charges through open space nicely, but doesn’t stack and shed as much as he should. Needs to work on reading gaps and timing zone slides. Limited palette of hand moves. Estimable burst off the snap is mitigated by his inconsistent pad level, and he’ll get washed out too often, especially when blockers are looking to seal him to an edge. Needs to understand and use his natural leverage on a more consistent basis. Sacks against major opponents more a result of through-pocket effort than consistent technique. Tends to wrestle too much when double-teamed, and doesn’t have a signature move to get himself out of trouble. Edge technique is very much a work in progress.
Conclusion: Some may debit Bullard because of his ‘tweener’ frame, and there’s something to that. He would need to be a few inches taller and about 15 pounds heavier to fit the prototype of the 3–4 end, but he’s a bit too heavy to look like an elite rush end. What will keep Bullard from failing as tweeners generally do is a coaching staff that refuses to put this square peg in a round hole, instead understanding what he can do best, and turning him loose in those areas. Ideally, Bullard would find himself with a 4–3/hybrid team that uses him as both a strong-side, run-stopping end, and as a hybrid tackle. Once that coaching staff adds a set of next-level hand moves to his palette, Bullard may just reward with a series of fine NFL seasons.
Pro Comparison: Datone Jones, Packers (first round, 2013, UCLA)
42. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
Height: 6' 4" Weight: 273 pounds
Bio: Ogbah came to the United States with his family from Nigeria when he was nine years old, and showed his athletic prowess early on—he was a finalist for the greater Houston Defensive Player of the Year in high school. He chose to play at Oklahoma State partly due to recommendations from Seahawks tackle Russell Okung, who attended and is also of Nigerian descent.
As a redshirt freshman in 2013, Ogbah racked up four sacks and six tackles for loss, and upped his game over the next two seasons as a starter. He had 13 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in ’14, and ended his collegiate career with 16.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks in ’15. Ogbah really hit the national radar in the first game of the ’14 season, when he amassed six-tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two passes defensed against No. 1 Florida State, and he’s been rising in the minds of NFL talent evaluators ever since. Also, he became the first OSU player to win the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award when he secured the honor in ’15.
Strengths: Tough, lean, powerful player who has grown into his body and has the prototypical body type to rush from the strong and weak side. Productive rusher who amassed sacks and/or tackles for loss in a high percentage of his games. Comes off the snap with a quickness you’d expect from a man 30 pounds lighter. Has the raw quickness to shoot right past his blocker at times. Athletic enough to chase ballcarriers down from the middle of the field to the sideline. Gets most of his pressures by simply outrunning his blocking, but is talented enough to actually do that. Will occasionally pop off a block and just wreck a running play, revealing his athletic potential. Has the size and speed to create an impressive bull rush. Exciting open-field tackler. Shows interesting, underserved potential as a wide-nine end and stand-up pass-rusher. Looked great when running stunts and reading different gaps when asked. By all accounts, a high-character player and a coach’s dream. Tons of potential in just about every conceivable fashion.
Weaknesses: Ogbah plays far too upright far too often, and negates his natural momentum as a result—he can get washed out of plays, and he’s too easily thrown to the ground, especially when he’s lining up inside the tackle’s inside shoulder. No real hand moves to speak of at this time, which leaves him wrestling with blockers when he should be hand-fighting and getting past his opponents. Doesn’t yet have any sort of ‘dip-and-rip’ to get around tackles, and no real inside counter to cross a blocker’s face and disrupt from outside to inside. Looks like a fish out of water when asked to play inside at three- or five-tech. Absorbs punches from blockers too easily. Was exposed against Laremy Tunsil in the Cowboys’ Sugar Bowl loss to Ole Miss.
Conclusion: Ogbah understands the game naturally and he works very hard at it, but there are simply things he doesn’t know how to do just yet—and the team that selects him may have to understand that his potential may not transfer to immense sack totals immediately. But he’s got every raw attribute that NFL teams want. The Lions had to be patient with Ziggy Ansah—the BYU alum recorded 15 total sacks in his first two NFL seasons, and then exploded last season with 14.5 quarterback takedowns—and Ogbah could be in a similar situation. Teams running a 4–3 may be wise to use him as a wide-nine rusher to start, while 3–4 teams may see him as more of an outside linebacker. Whatever the case, and whatever the fit, the only thing standing between Emmanuel Ogbah and double-digit NFL sack totals is that he has a lot of learning to do. He’s got everything else.
Pro Comparison: Ziggy Ansah, Lions (first round, 2013, BYU)