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  • The impact players set to hit the market, from defensive stalwarts, to a couple of foundational running backs, to a Super Bowl MVP…
By Andy Benoit
February 19, 2019

Note: Ages as of May 1, 2019.

1. DeMarcus Lawrence (27), EDGE, Dallas (UPDATE: Cowboys have franchise-tagged Lawrence)
A productive pass rusher who is even better in run defense, all thanks to his ability to play low and move laterally. (His incessant motor also helps.)

2. Jadeveon Clowney (26), EDGE, Houston (UPDATE: Texans have franchise-tagged Clowney)
He doesn’t have the pliability to bend the edge, which is why he’s never recorded a double-digit sack season. But his sheer explosiveness is off the charts, which is why his run-defending numbers are, too.

ORR: Clowney Set to Benefit From Defense-Friendly Free-Agent Market

3. Grady Jarrett (26), INTERIOR DL, Atlanta (UPDATE: Falcons have franchise-tagged Jarrett)
He’s quick off the snap, mechanically savvy and tenacious in how he finishes plays. He doesn’t deserve Aaron Donald or Fletcher Cox money, but becoming football’s third-highest paid defensive tackle makes sense.

4. Earl Thomas (29), S, Seattle
Plenty of safeties have flourished in their 30s, but most were box players (John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Charles Woodson, etc.). Thomas is a rangy centerfielder hoping for a Rod Woodson-type second act. Even coming off the leg injury, he’s worth the gamble. He’ll be an alpha in your secondary who can give a defensive play-caller invaluable peace of mind.

5. Landon Collins (25), S, N.Y. Giants
He has corrected the man-to-man deficiencies that plagued him early in his career and has become a formidable cover artist against tight ends. In zone coverage, blitzing and run support, he checks every box. When he’s unblocked (which is often for a strong safety), he’s as dangerous a playmaker as anyone in football.

ORR: Why the Giants Should Franchise-Tag Pending Free Agent Landon Collins

6. Tevin Coleman (26), RB, Atlanta
He’s a less patient but more explosive Le’Veon Bell. Coleman must play in an outside zone running scheme that encourages him to attack the perimeter—which, thanks to deceptive, long-striding speed, Coleman does better than anyone. He is also a superior passing game weapon than some teams’ No. 3 receiver, with the flexibility to align out wide or in the slot.

7. Frank Clark (25), DE, Seattle (UPDATE: Seahawks have franchise-tagged Clark)
He might be football’s quickest off-the-snap mover, and his ability to change directions so fluidly makes him lethal in most schemed pressure designs.

8. Trey Flowers (25), DL, New England
He’s arguably football’s most mechanically sound defensive lineman, which buttresses his versatility.

9. Le’Veon Bell (27), RB, Pittsburgh
His unique running style and multidimensional skill set still make him elite, but mild off-field concerns and average top-end speed are legitimate marks against giving him the type of deal he sought during his 2018 holdout.

ORR: Le’Veon Bell Is Ready to Return, But Where?

10. Dee Ford (28), EDGE, Kansas City (UPDATE: Chiefs have franchise-tagged Ford)
His compelling combination of burst, speed and leverage make him the type of force you must assume will wreck two or three plays a game.

11. C.J. Mosley (26), STACK LB, Baltimore
He’s outstanding in coverage and—most of the time—decisive against the run. Sign him and the middle of your defense instantly stabilizes.

FRANCHISE TAG PREVIEW: Candidates to Be Tagged From All 32 Teams

12. Brandon Graham (31), EDGE, Philadelphia (UPDATE: Graham re-signed with Philadelphia)
He’s an explosive and sound low-to-the-ground player who is as effective rushing from inside as he is from outside.

13. K.J. Wright (29), LB, Seattle
He does everything exactly how you want a 4-3 linebacker to do it. His only questions are durability and age, neither of which looked like an issue down the stretch last season.

14. Mitch Morse (27), C, Kansas City
Few things bring dimension to an offense like injecting mobility at center. A guy like Morse can expand your running game and backfield screen game.

15. Nick Foles (30), QB, Philadelphia
He’s the most difficult guy to rank because you must decide how the value of an average QB compares to the value of a great defensive playmaker. And you also must decide whether he is an average QB. There are arguments for him being much more and much less than that.

BENOIT: Ranking the NFL’s Neediest Teams Ahead of Free Agency and the NFL Draft

16. Anthony Barr (27), STACK LB, Minnesota
His struggles in coverage early last season were not his norm. He can take on run-blocks (including from O-linemen), chase down ballcarriers, blitz effectively and close most passing lanes.

17. Tyrell Williams (27), WR, L.A. Chargers
His long frame lends to a large catch radius and rangy downfield speed. He’s not always the most reliable route runner, though he’s certainly better now than he was early in his career.

18. Sheldon Richardson (28), DT, Minnesota
His off-field concerns seem to have forever tied him to one-year “prove it” deals. Will this be the year that his combination of suppleness and strength pushes a team into a multi-year risk?

19. Malcom Brown (25), INTERIOR DL, New England
Without a powerful defensive line, the Patriots would not have won Super Bowl LIII. Meet the steadiest anchor along that D-line.

NFL DRAFT BIG BOARD: The Pre-Combine Top 50

20. Rodger Saffold (30), G, L.A. Rams
Like the Rams’ entire offensive line, he was better in the first three quarters of last season than he was down the stretch. That will concern some teams given that he turns 31 in June. Smart teams will still pursue Saffold—with more high-level defensive tackles than ever, strong guard play has become critical.

21. Kwon Alexander (24), LB, Tampa Bay
Assuming he bounces back from last October’s ACL tear, he can be one of football’s top run-and-chase linebackers. He’s probably better in a predominantly zone-based scheme than man-based scheme.

22. Ronald Darby (25), CB, Philadelphia
He’s far from flawless, but he has shown he can make important individual plays in difficult coverage assignments. He’s at his best when the action is in front of him and he can rely on transitional movement to attack the ball.

23. Za’Darius Smith (26), DL, Baltimore
He dominates at times with inside moves, thanks to deceptively loose hips and quick, violent hands.

24. Pierre Desir (28), CB, Indianapolis
He’s a sturdily built veteran corner who traveled for much of last season with the opponent’s most physical wideout. The strength of his game is jamming receivers at the snap.

25. Bryce Callahan (27), SLOT, Chicago
He has a phenomenal sense of zone spacing and matchup principles in coverage, and has blossomed into one of football’s best slot blitzers. He’s likely better in a matchup zone scheme than straight man coverage scheme.

26. Trent Brown (26), OT, New England
The NFL’s largest man moves better than most left tackles, in both the run game and pass game.

27. Darqueze Dennard (27), CB, Cincinnati
We always hear about a “10-year left tackle” who you plug in and cease to worry about on your O-line’s blind side. Meet the “5-year slot corner” who you can plug in at what’s maybe football’s most difficult position and never worry about, be it man or zone coverage.

28. Lamarcus Joyner (28), S, L.A. Rams
He understands how to patrol centerfield and can also drop down and play low, both as a pass defender and hitter, despite being undersized. His history at cornerback also provides added schematic flexibility.

29. Donovan Smith (25), LT, Tampa Bay
He has quietly improved each year. He’s not quite athletic enough to dominate, but when he wins off the snap, he’s almost guaranteed to win the entire down.

30. Adrian Amos (26), S, Chicago
Any safety who has started 56 games in a Vic Fangio-led defense knows how to play.

31. Mark Ingram (29), RB, New Orleans
He has shared snaps with others throughout his career, making his 29 years of age less concerning than with most running backs. He’s also a sneakily effective backfield receiver and a highly professional base-down runner who consistently gets the yards that are blocked and then some.

32. Jared Cook (32), TE, Oakland
He’s at his best as a detached receiver by himself on the weak side of the formation. Not every team uses its tight end like this, but the ones that do tend to flourish.

33. Tyrann Mathieu (26), DB, Houston
He looked healthy in 2018, but wasn’t as electrifying as early in what has turned out to be an injury-dampened career. He can still be a top-10 safety, but diminished change-of-direction prowess hinders him against in-breaking routes. His unusual number of mental mistakes in 2018 are not indicative of the type of player he’s normally been.

34. Markus Golden (28), EDGE, Arizona
He had a quiet 2018 season coming off his 2017 knee injury, but is worth taking a flyer on given the burst he showed down the stretch in 2016.

35. Jamison Crowder (25), WR, Washington
Few players offer such acute body control on underneath routes. He can win 1-on-1 or as a puzzle piece in a larger multi-receiver design.

36. Ndamukong Suh (32), DL, L.A. Rams
He appeared to be declining last season but then came alive in the playoffs. What to make of that?

37. Demetrius Harris (27), TE, Kansas City
He’s a three-down player who can align almost anywhere in the formation. He was understandably overshadowed by Travis Kelce in Kansas City but can be a 55-catch contributor as someone’s No. 1 tight end.

38. Bradley Roby (27), CB, Denver
He has mostly lived up to his 2014 late-first-round status, but wild ups and downs in iso coverage last season give you serious pause. Is he really a quality No. 2 or better suited to be a No. 3?

BENOIT: Why Broncos Are Banking on a Flacco Return to Form

39. C.J. Anderson (28), RB, L.A. Rams
He proved down the stretch in L.A. that he’s a perfect fit in a sustaining outside zone-based offense. He’s not a threatening receiver, but acute blocking awareness makes him viable in third-down packages for teams that like to use six blockers in pass protection.

40. Golden Tate (30), WR, Philadelphia
He’s at his best inside, but can also be productive outside, especially in a system that features quick throws and stack/bunch receiver alignments.

41. Darius Philon (25), DT, L.A. Chargers
He’s a gap penetrator who has flashed the past few years against both the run and pass. Can he take on 12-15 more snaps a game?

42. Matt Paradis (29), C, Denver
He’s a stabilizer who can win with short-area quickness, but wear-and-tear was a concern even before he fractured his fibula last November.

43. Randall Cobb (28), WR, Green Bay
In 2014, he had 1,287 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns and we buckled up for his ride to greatness. But that year was the outlier—in his other seven seasons he has battled injuries and averaged 605 yards.

44. Deone Bucannon (26), LB, Arizona
Don’t let his early benching under the Steve Wilks regime mislead you: His raw speed poses problems for an offense, especially blockers in a zone-based scheme.

45. Jay Ajayi (25), RB, Philadelphia
He’s hard to tackle when he’s playing well. The question is whether he still can after tearing his ACL last October.

46. Adrian Peterson (34), RB, Washington
He was an outstanding first- and second-down back in Washington, particularly on zone runs between the tackles. He no longer possesses breakaway speed, but still has terrific lateral burst and finishing power.

47. Daryl Williams (26), RT, Carolina
He’s coming off a major knee injury. When healthy, he often went unnoticed in Carolina, which is not a negative for a right tackle (especially in the passing game).

48. Preston Smith (26), EDGE, Washington
His film was better than his numbers in 2018. He’s by no means a world-beater, but a solid rotational edge piece, particularly in a 3-4 scheme.

49. Jordan Phillips (26), DT, Buffalo
He’s one of football’s most athletically gifted defensive tackles—which makes his dismissal from Miami all the more unsettling.

50. Dante Fowler (24), EDGE, L.A. Rams
He’ll probably never be the pass rusher many hoped when he was drafted third overall in 2015, but he showed with the Rams late last year that he can be a sturdy three-down player, given his bouts of destructiveness against the run.

51. Jordan Hicks (26), LB, Philadelphia
He understands coverage and can hold up against the run. It will be fascinating to see his open-market value.

52. Ezekiel Ansah (29), EDGE, Detroit
He’s a fast, fluid, long-bodied bender who closes well on the ball—when he’s healthy (which, lately, has not been often).

53. Breshad Perriman (25), WR, Cleveland
A first-round bust in Baltimore, last year in Cleveland he figured out how to win on intermediate and perimeter routes. He can be an effective No. 3 in a deeper dropback passing game.

54. Quinton Spain (27), G, Tennessee
He’s inconsistent, but when he’s on, he plays with one of football’s best blends of power and athleticism.

55. Brent Urban (27), DL, Baltimore
He’s an overachieving plug-and-play guy who will handle your scheme’s dirty work.

56. Jamon Brown (26), G, N.Y. Giants
He’s a strong-hand enforcer who can move the line of scrimmage.

57. Dontrelle Inman (30), WR, Indianapolis
He has long been one of football’s sharpest route runners. It makes no sense that he’s been a fringe journeyman—he’d be an upgrade at No. 2 receiver for several teams.

58. Thomas Davis (36), LB, Carolina
He has had a remarkable career after suffering major knee injuries in 2009, 2010 and 2011—and still played with burst in 2018. That said, how many players transition well to a new city, team and scheme this late in their career?

59. Cole Beasley (30), WR, Dallas
He’s a premiere underneath option-route runner. He can win inside out of spread formations (like in Dallas) and he would be good in highly schemed offenses that features stack releases (like what you see from New England, Washington, etc.).

60. James Carpenter (30), G, N.Y. Jets
He’s constricted mostly to north-south movement, which makes him suited for an inside zone-based ground game that features straight double-team blocks.

61. A.J. Cann (27), G, Jacksonville
See “James Carpenter” and magnify the limitations by, say, 15%.

62. Rodney Gunter (27), DT, Arizona
His stout frame and lack of flash make his athleticism “deceptive.” That deceptive athleticism leads to splash plays every game.

63. John Brown (29), WR, Baltimore
His top-end speed makes him best suited for a specialized deep threat role off the bench, though he has the quickness and body control to run more than just Go routes.

64. Jermaine Kearse (29), WR, N.Y. Jets
He’s a fast-learner who can play the slot or outside. He’ll always be about 20% better than opponents expect.

65. Tre Boston (26), S, Arizona
He fills the alley well in run support and can make the occasional play on the ball. He won’t change your secondary, but certainly won’t hinder it either.

66. Pierre Garcon (32), WR, San Francisco
He’s in decline, but can survive another year or two on detailed route running and strong contested catch ability.

67. Demaryius Thomas (31), WR, Houston
He was not in serious decline last year, though his late-season Achilles injury really complicates matters. The best-case scenario: He becomes a viable No. 2 in a highly schemed offense.

68. Kareem Jackson (31), DB, Houston
He’s up and down in coverage, but was far and away the NFL’s best tackling cornerback in 2018. His history at inside corner, outside corner and safety improves his market.

69. Chris Hogan (30), WR, New England
He’s not quite the vertical weapon in 2018 that he’d been in previous years, but still understands the details of playing wide receiver. He’s at his best in a highly schemed passing game.

70. Henry Anderson (27), DL, N.Y. Jets
He’s an underrated first- and second-down rotational player who found his niche as a pass-rushing nose tackle in New York’s unique “odd” sub-package fronts last season.

71. Ja’Wuan James (26), RT, Miami
Miami never quite trusted him, but he’d be an upgrade at right tackle for about half the league’s teams.

72. Jesse James (24), TE, Pittsburgh
His moderately smooth athleticism makes him a solid No. 2 receiving tight end.

73. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (26), S, Washington
His body and athleticism are tantalizing, but he has not developed the necessary discipline to fulfill his potential.

74. Eric Rowe (26), CB, New England
Like many corners, he got better after arriving in New England. His long, strong frame makes him best-suited for a Cover-3 type scheme where he can play bump-and-run with help from the sideline, but in certain scenarios he has played inside. More teams are matching corners on tight ends these days; that helps his status.

75. Denzel Perryman (26), LB, L.A. Chargers
He looks good when the men in front of him are playing well, but missing seven games in 2018 (knee) and 10 games in 2017 (ankle) raises concern.

76. Shaq Barrett (26), EDGE, Denver
He’s not quite stout enough to be a base starter and not quite explosive enough to be a bona fide pass-rushing specialist, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a worthy rotational piece.

77. Tyler Eifert (28), TE, Cincinnati
His injury woes obviously make him a major risk, but if he can somehow be the receiver he was when healthy, he changes the face of your offense.

78. Adrian Phillips (27), S, L.A. Chargers
He was a key cog in L.A.’s foundational dime defense, though he was successfully attacked on too many designer “over” routes (i.e. deep crossers) down the stretch.

79. Johnathan Hankins (27), DT, Oakland
He’s a gap-plugger (his lower body is one of football’s biggest) with light enough feet to occasionally shed blocks and make stops himself.

80. Morris Claiborne (29), CB, N.Y. Jets
The rare man-to-man corner who relies more on agility than physicality (though not saying he can’t do both), he’s coming off a disappointing 2018 season after a stellar 2017 campaign.

81. George Iloka (28), S, Minnesota
He has prospered for years in a split-safety zone scheme, playing primarily deep but having the size to work into the box. He must prove he can play with consistent assertiveness after getting passed over for opportunities last year in Minnesota.

82. Jason McCourty (31), CB, New England
He’s a mid-level starter, but his ability to play inside or outside significantly increases his value in the right scheme.

83. Ryan Hewitt (28), H-BACK, Indianapolis
Any team willing to commit to a two-back ground game (and more should) must look closely at the former Bengal/Colt. He’s a very movable piece in your run-blocking structures.

84. Vinny Curry (30), DE, Tampa Bay
His short-area movement and burst have long been massively underappreciated, but those traits vanished during his disappointing 2018 season in Tampa.

85. Devin Funchess (24), WR, Carolina
He’s a big-frame possession target who showed improvements on in-breaking routes, but his dropping off the face of the Earth in the second half of last season raises all sorts of red flags.

86. Kenny Vaccaro (28), S, Tennessee
He’ll get beat in coverage at times, but has the flexibility to play both safety spots, slot corner and, perhaps, even linebacker.

87. Tyrod Taylor (29), QB, Cleveland
His dropback passing limitations constrict his team’s offense, but his scrambling can jolt that same offense. Many teams are comfortable with that profile for their backup QB.

88. Tyeler Davison (26), INTERIOR DL, New Orleans
He’s one of several quietly sturdy enforcers who made New Orleans’s run defense the NFC’s most efficient in 2018. He’s more of an anchor than playmaker, but that’s not to say he’s merely an old-fashioned safe.

89. Brandon Marshall (29), LB, Denver
His speed and openfield prowess still make him viable in nickel and dime packages, the only question is his durability.

90. Adarius Taylor (28), LB, Tampa Bay
He might not quite be a true nickel linebacker, but he moves better than most No. 3 linebackers.

91. Shane Ray (25), EDGE, Denver
He’s at his best as a standup interior pass rusher—which, unfortunately, spells a limited role.

92. Jimmie Ward (27), DB, San Francisco
He never quite found a position in San Francisco, drifting from outside corner to slot to safety. Will teams see him as “versatile” or as “rudderless”?

93. Donte Moncrief (25), WR, Jacksonville
His “good” can look very nice, especially on routes outside the field numbers, but you don’t see that “good” often enough.

94. Bashaud Breeland (27), CB, Green Bay
A somewhat hot-and-cold player who is not viewed as “versatile,” but he has had flashes of success at left, right and slot corner in Washington and Green Bay. He’s an enticing source of secondary depth, if nothing else.

95. Angelo Blackson (26), DL, Houston
He’s built like a first- and second-down player but, thanks to light feet and surprising body control, he was productive on certain third downs within the context of Houston’s multidimensional scheme.

96. Jared Veldheer (31), RT, Denver
The long-armed veteran has missed 15 games over the last three years and isn’t always sound in pass protection, but he’s not someone you must constantly hide and help in your scheme.

97. Steven Nelson (26), CB, Kansas City
Just when you think he stinks, he makes a play. Just when you think he’s great, he gives up a play. Such is the life of a middle-tier man-to-man corner.

98. Christian Covington (25), DL, Houston
He’s a solid rotational piece in schemes where he can align as a tight defensive end or, at times, at tackle.

99. Tavon Austin (28), WR, Dallas
The rise of jet-sweeps should augment his value. Think of him not as a miscast wide receiver but more as another Theo Riddick.

100. Charles Clay (30), TE (reportedly signed with Arizona)
Versatility as a receiver and blocker would make him an excellent No. 2 in an expansive system that’s headed by a sharp quarterback.

• Question or comment? Email us at talkback@themmqb.com.

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