2016 NFL draft position rankings

0:43 | NFL
NFL draft: 2016 quarterback class has strong arms but no elite star
Tuesday April 12th, 2016

The beauty (and perhaps the annoyance) of the NFL draft is that no two people see the exact same things when looking at prospects. That’s why there is so much discussion—and disagreement—leading up to the league’s annual showcase.

Pinning down a draft board can be particularly difficult because of the cross-positional comparisons it requires. Jared Goff may be the No. 1 quarterback prospect, but would he make for a better pick than DeForest Buckner? Is Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson a more worthwhile Round 1 selection than Sheldon Rankins?

Step one toward figuring out those questions is getting all the players sorted within their own positions. Who is the best at each spot? Who might be a sleeper? Check out our positional rankings below to get an idea of where each class stands.

• FARRAR: Scouting the top 50 | BURKE: NFL draft team needs

Rank

Player

School

The Skinny

1

Jared Goff

Cal

Goff’s feet and release are as quick as any QB in this class, giving him the ability to snap off a pass in a split second.

2

Carson Wentz

North Dakota State

Looks the part, with size, height and a composed, confident personality that should benefit him at the next level. 

3

Paxton Lynch

Memphis

The Memphis offense featured a lot of one-read passes, but Lynch looks most like an NFL QB when he gets out of the pocket.

4

Connor Cook

Michigan State

He’s not afraid to give his receivers a chance—many of his big plays came vs. tight, one-on-one coverage.

5

Dak Prescott

Mississippi State

Prescott has a long way to go, but his quick release and ability to read a defense give him upside.

6

Vernon Adams

Oregon

Adams is most dangerous as an improviser. He can throw from a variety of arm angles and tests all areas of the field.

7

Christian Hackenberg

Penn State

Hackenberg still has the size teams covet, and his best days came in a pro-style attack.

8

Cardale Jones

Ohio State

Jones creates huge plays with the deep ball and can frustrate pass rushes by escaping trouble spots.

9

Kevin Hogan

Stanford

If a team wants to gamble on a high-ceiling project, look elsewhere. Hogan is a what-you-see-is-what-you-get option.

10

Brandon Allen

Arkansas

Allen’s best fit would be in an offense with play-actions and rollouts built in—he does well in those spots.

•​ MMQB: The Christian Hackenberg riddle | Carson Wentz at Gruden’s camp

Rank

Player

School

The Skinny

1

Ezekiel Elliott

Ohio State

What’s not to love? Elliott is a true three-down back built to withstand the rigors of being a workhorse.

2

Derrick Henry

Alabama

Henry almost always generates an extra push to close his runs, wearing down defenses in the process.

3

Kenneth Dixon

Louisiana Tech

He looks tailor-made for a zone-blocking scheme thanks to his burst upfield.

4

Jordan Howard

Indiana

His athletic traits fall shy of other backs, but Howard makes up for it with outstanding vision.

5

Alex Collins

Arkansas

Collins’s gait can be a little choppy at times, but when he makes it through the line, he is very difficult to bring down.

6

Paul Perkins

UCLA

Video-game level elusiveness in confined spaces—Perkins can cut side to side in a heartbeat without sacrificing his balance.

7

Devontae Booker

Utah

Profiles like a poor man’s Ezekiel Elliott. He can handle all the duties of a three-down NFL back, he's just less dominant.

8

Marshaun Coprich

Illinois State

He does his best work on the perimeter. Inside, he is decisive and runs bigger than his size would hint.

9

Jonathan Williams

Arkansas

He makes a lot of defenders miss, not so much with wiggle but with burst and balance.

10

Daniel Lasco

Cal

Athleticism is his calling card—he can turn nothing plays into home runs by dodging tackles and stepping on the gas.

• BURKE: Two-round mock draft | The Case For ... D.J. Foster

Rank

Player

School

The SKinny

1

Laquon Treadwell

Ole Miss

He may not create huge gaps in coverage, but he makes up for it by dominating in the air.

2

Josh Doctson

TCU

Doctson is more athlete than burner. Like Treadwell, he has the body control to go up and over cornerbacks. A potentially dominant No. 2 receiver.

3

Tyler Boyd

Pittsburgh

Boyd’s versatility overshadows how good he is as a pure receiver. He boasts terrific hands and picks apart underneath coverage.

4

Sterling Shepard

Oklahoma

If you were to bet on a receiver most likely to make a substantial impact this year, Shepard might be the recommended pick.

5

Corey Coleman

Baylor

A home-run hitter capable of blowing past defenders off the snap or battling for contested passes downfield.

6

Michael Thomas

Ohio State

Thomas will be more productive as a pro than he was in Columbus, where there were plenty of mouths to feed on offense.

7

Braxton Miller

Ohio State

Incredible footwork makes Miller appears as if he’s moving at twice the speed of defenders in front of him.

8

Will Fuller

Notre Dame

His speed spooks defenders into giving him extra cushion. He made a bevy of tough, clutch catches.

9

Rashard Higgins

Colorado State

Higgins’s numbers dipped in 2015 after his coach and QB headed elsewhere. His talent remains.

10

Malcolm Mitchell

Georgia

Defenses must get multiple people to him when he has the ball, because he’s not easy to tackle.

11

Pharoh Cooper

South Carolina

The team that lands Cooper will have a variety of possibilities in front of them. Even the best athletes have a tough time sticking with him out of the slot.

12

Leonte Carroo

Rutgers

When he wasn’t serving suspensions, Carroo often dominated. He sets up defenders with crisp routes and is unafraid of contact.

13

Tajae Sharp

UMass

Among the most underrated players in this draft class. Sharpe puts CBs on their heels by bursting off the line.

14

Aaron Burbridge

Michigan State

Connor Cook’s go-to target bailed out the potential first-round QB a number of times with acrobatic grabs in traffic.

15

Keyarris Garrett

Tulsa

Out of the gate he should be a deep threat and a red-zone option—he has the speed for the former and size for the latter.

BASKIN: Why is Garrett overlooked? | NIESEN: Ex-walk-on Doctson a star

Rank

Player

School

The SKinny

1

Hunter Henry

Arkansas

He lined up inline, in the slot and as a fullback, with the athleticism to get open from all spots.

2

Nick Vannett

Ohio State

Like 2015 third-rounder and former teammate Jeff Heuerman, Vannett projects to be a better receiver than he got to show in college.

3

Austin Hooper

Stanford

Plays a big game over the middle, using all of his listed 254 pounds to box out defenders and fight for extra yardage.

4

Tyler Higbee

Western Kentucky

There is no easy way to cover him man-to-man on the second or third level, but his recent arrest sends his stock into the tank.

5

Jerell Adams

South Carolina

Adams is developing as a blocker, but he’ll make his mark as a versatile, field-stretching target.

•​ SINGLE: Small-school prospects to watch | The draft’s big red flags

Rank

Player

School

The Skinny

1

Laremy Tunsil

Ole Miss

He is about as good as it’s going to get for an OT prospect. The footwork, the hands, the size ... it’s all there.

2

Ronnie Stanley

Notre Dame

He has the footwork of a pass-catching tight end, a skill he puts to use dropping in protection and releasing to the second level.

3

Taylor Decker

Ohio State

A dominant force for the Buckeyes’ high-octane rushing attack, Decker plays with an edge that the NFL will love.

4

Jack Conklin

Michigan State

His experience at tackle in a pro-style scheme is invaluable, but he has the power to move inside.

5

Joshua Garnett

Stanford

The mauling guard often led the way for Stanford’s ground game, between the tackles and pulling outside.

6

Jason Spriggs

Indiana

To no one’s surprise, Spriggs was among the combine stars at his position. A zone-blocking team could plug him in on either side.

7

Cody Whitehair

Kansas State

A 51-game starter and an Academic All-Big 12 honoree, Whitehair is strong, smart and reliable.

8

Ryan Kelly

Alabama

A slightly overlooked potential Round 1 pick at the always underappreciated center position, Kelly gets the job done with smarts and strength.

9

Christian Westerman

Arizona State

Westerman will fall right in the wheelhouse of an offensive coordinator who likes to get his guards on the move.

10

Germain Ifedi

Texas A&M

Ifedi has experience at guard and tackle but never made a transition to the left side.

11

Le’Raven Clark

Texas Tech

Clark’s height/weight combo checks off a box for NFL teams, but it is his length that ultimately may sell him as a future franchise left tackle.

12

Connor McGovern

Missouri

McGovern’s beastly phone-booth strength likely means he will land inside, but don’t mistake him for being squatty or immobile.

13

Jack Allen

Michigan State

Trust the tape: Allen often gets an edge off the snap, then uses technique and tenacity to move defenders.

14

Kyle Murphy

Stanford

His best fit may be in a man-heavy run scheme, where he can best use his ability to push back defenders.

15

Joe Dahl

Washington State

Dahl brings a non-stop motor, to the point of cleaning up teammates’ mistakes in protection.

• O-line scouting reports: Decker | Conklin | Garnett | Spriggs

RANK

PLAYER

School

The Skinny

1

Joey Bosa

Ohio State

Bosa plays mean, with power to overwhelm blockers. He best fits at DE, where he can blend his punch and movement skills.

2

DeForest Buckner

Oregon

With his overwhelming stature, Buckner is hard to move off the edge, plus he can bully his way into the backfield.

3

A’Shawn Robinson

Alabama

Robinson can make an immediate impact vs. the run, and he plays quicker than what we saw at the combine, providing hope that he can be a pass rusher.

4

Vernon Butler

Louisiana Tech

The 320-pound Butler has the muscle and agility to be a standout run stuffer as a 3–4 end, but he has the versatility to be so much more.

5

Shaq Lawson

Clemson

Odds are, Lawson will bring the most heat as a rookie vs. the run. He’s a powerful presence with a nose for the ball. Just turn him loose off the edge.

6

Sheldon Rankins

Louisville

Rankins can line up nearly anywhere in a 3–4 or 4–3. An undersized but dominant three-tech with a tremendous first penetrating ability.

7

Andrew Billings

Baylor

Billings does not budge easily. He backs his power with active hands, which make him a consistent headache for 60 minutes.

8

Kevin Dodd

Clemson

Dodd, who matched Lawson’s 12.5 sack total, uses his length to his advantage on the edge, against the run and pass.

9

Kenny Clark

UCLA

Clark possesses the size, power and instincts to wreak havoc against the run. He displays great awareness of where to find the ball.

10

Jarran Reed

Alabama

Reed frequently is too much for one-on-one blockers to handle, coupling his raw strength with a respectable amount of agility for his size.

11

Chris Jones

Mississippi State

Between his punch and versatility, Jones could fit into either a 3–4 or a 4–3 role. But locking him into one role might be a mistake. 

12

Robert Nkemdiche

Ole Miss

Nkemdiche has the athletic gifts necessary to dominate as a DT or 3–4 DE, but it’s all up to how motivated he is.

13

Emmanuel Ogbah

Oklahoma State

Ogbah wins by swiping blockers’ hands off his body, then finishing with power. He also has the balance to take a low block and keep pursuing.

14

Jonathan Bullard

Florida

Bullard often gets off the snap faster than the lineman opposing him. He also may see reps on the edge vs. the run.

15

Shilique Calhoun

Michigan State

Calhoun’s combo of frame and footwork could make him a future 3–4 OLB, but he can bend the edge and maneuver through traffic to the QB.

RANK

PLAYER

SCHOOL

The SKinny

1

Myles Jack

UCLA

A healthy Jack is up there with Jalen Ramsey as the draft’s most dynamic defender. He can tackle, he can defend the run, he can cover the slot.

2

Noah Spence

Eastern Kentucky

He was among the Senior Bowl standouts, consistently blowing by OTs on the outside, and he’s experienced in two- and three-point stances.

3

Reggie Ragland

Alabama

Ragland steps down and buries RBs by finding holes and stepping through traffic. His pass defense potential has been undersold.

4

Darron Lee

Ohio State

Lee can cover, including up against receivers, and he can go sideline to sideline. He has a chance to be great, given time to mature.

5

Leonard Floyd

Georgia

The tall, lanky Floyd with quick feet and hands might have to live off-ball, where his length and athleticism would stay clear of bulldozing blockers.

6

Jaylon Smith

Notre Dame

Assuming Smith fully recovers from his injury, his agility could make him a gem as a multi-dimensional threat for any scheme.

7

Su’a Cravens

USC

He wastes little time diagnosing the play in front of him before attacking, then beating opponents to their spots. His coverage background is a plus.

8

Kyler Fackrell

Utah State

Fackrell is an obvious fit as a pass rusher but motors after running backs and anticipates routes well in coverage.

9

Deion Jones

LSU

He has the game of a classic, if undersized, run-and-chase linebacker that can work in all schemes.

10

Blake Martinez

Stanford

An old-school linebacker, Martinez brings a punch and has the necessary footwork to survive in the NFL.

11

Jordan Jenkins

Georgia

The 260-pound Jenkins stands his ground, but he also can plow through blockers or bend the edge to make plays.

12

Joe Schobert

Wisconsin

Schobert’s ability to process plays and slip through creases could push him to a 3–4 ILB spot, but he got to the QB last year.

13

Kentrell Brothers

Missouri

Brothers, a true hammer up the gut, almost never misses a tackle, nor does he hesitate when met by a blocker in the hole.

14

Josh Perry

Ohio State

The well-built, intense Perry fights hard to get off blocks—he can free himself, recalibrate and finish on a ball carrier.

15

Antonio Morrison

Florida

Morrison usually plays much faster than his reported pro day numbers, and his downhill style makes him intriguing as a blitzer.

Rank

PLayer

School

The Skinny

1

Jalen Ramsey

Florida State

He fits at either CB or S because of his breathtaking athleticism, backed by size and awareness.

2

Vernon Hargreaves III

Florida

Hargreaves displays extremely quick feet when mirroring receivers, and he also has the fluid hips to change direction in a heartbeat.

3

Mackensie Alexander

Clemson

Plays physical but can also guess which routes are coming at him. Alexander doesn’t shy away from a tackle, either.

4

William Jackson III

Houston

A six-foot tall corner who can run a sub-4.4 40 is the dream for most NFL franchises. Jackson fits those numbers.

5

Darian Thompson

Boise State

Those 19 career interceptions hint at a centerfielder type safety, but Thompson is an all-around defender.

6

Eli Apple

Ohio State

Apple is big, long and nasty outside—knocking WRs off their routes and battling for the ball.

7

Karl Joseph

West Virginia

There are some inherent dangers in playing the devil-may-care game that Joseph does, such as penalties and injuries.

8

Jalen Mills

LSU

At corner, Mills is at his best in zone coverage; at safety, he has the size to play in the box.

9

Jeremy Cash

Duke

Cash is not the wasteland he is made out to be in pass coverage, especially when he can use his physicality against a tight end.

10

Kendall Fuller

Virginia Tech

Fuller has superior ball skills with the mental acumen for jumping routes, but he’s a bit suspect in run defense and man coverage.

11

Vonn Bell

Ohio State

Bell hits his mark on most plays and provides a presence in pass coverage as long as he’s not asked to cover too much ground.

12

DeAndre Houston-Carson

William & Mary

Had he stayed at corner instead of switching to safety in ’15, he might be destined for a top-50 pick. He was that good.

13

Keanu Neal

Florida

Think of him as Karl Joseph light. Neal wants to clobber anyone on the field with the ball.

14

Artie Burns

Miami

He has so many of the desired cornerback traits that his fate depends on how well he gets coached up.

15

Xavien Howard

Baylor

He crowds receivers and is aggressive—to a fault, on occasion—when high-pointing the ball.

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