As has been the case in previous years, there appears to be significant depth in the forthcoming 2016 draft, but few elite prospects. After the top-10 spots, there is very little separation towards number 20 of the first round in what I class the ‘second tier' prospects, and then again in the ‘third tier' from the 21st to 50th spots.
I want to stress that this is not a mock draft, nor does it take into account any team needs. This is the first edition of my top 50 NFL Draft Big Board for the 2016 NFL Draft class based upon pure talent and position value. So lets check out what I believe are currently the top 15 prospects. Be sure to check back in in the next few days, as I take a look at my top 16-30 prospects.
1. Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, 6-5, 310 Lbs
Laremy Tunsil is a quarterback's best friend, with the rare blend of athleticism, balance and light feet to handle speedy pass rushers at the next level. He also has good size and length for the position, although could use some work in the weight room to get stronger. Teams will need to keep an eye on his injuries (left knee sprain, partially torn right bicep, fractured right fibula and dislocated ankle), but he is projected to be one of the better left tackles in the NFL next season.
2. Jalen Ramsey, FS, Florida State, 6-1, 209 Lbs
A world class athlete, starring in track and field for Florida State, Jalen Ramsey may just be the most athletically gifted player in this year's draft. Has experience at corner, but his best fit may be at safety or nickel where he has natural playmaking skills.
3. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State, 6-5, 269 Lbs
It wasn't long ago that Joey Bosa was hands-down considered the best prospect, and may still get picked first when all is said and done. Bosa has all the physical traits needed to succeed at defensive tackle, but most importantly also possesses the instincts and football bloodlines to be a star in the NFL. He's also flexible and will be a fit in any NFL defense. Coaches will find a place for him in the team, he's that good.
4. Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota, 6-5, 237 Lbs
Carson Wentz is by no means an elite quarterback prospect in the same league as an Andrew Luck, but he looks the part with a tall, solid frame and great arm strength with a tight release to make the deep throw. While not overly athletic, he has enough to move out of the pocket to avoid those speedy pass rushers. A model professional on and off the field, I almost consider him a lock to go in the top-5 come April, for a quarterback-needy team.
5. Myles Jack, OLB, UCLA, 6-1, 245 Lbs
It's not often that linebackers in the 4-3 defensive alignment get considered as a top-5 pick, but Myles Jack is just one heck of a football player and a ton of fun to watch. He has the rare combination of agility, speed and awareness to cover those big tight ends that are so in vogue in the NFL at present. He can make an impact for any team next season.
6. Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame, 6-6, 312 Lbs
Stanley may not be pro-ready from day 1, as he needs to refine his skill-set and get stronger physically, but his terrific size, length and athleticism means he will lock up one of the tackle positions for a long time for a team willing to allow him to learn the position. He could start on the right, and then move to the left over time.
7. Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State, 6-0, 225 Lbs
While running backs may not be as highly paid as other positions, offensive coordinators around the league recognize the importance of having a very good one to take the pressure off the quarterback. Elliot brings elite burst, balance, quick feet and vision. Every time he touches the football he has the ability to break tackles for the long gain. Excellent football player.
8. Jared Goff, QB, California, 6-4, 215 Lbs
Has the body size and smarts for the position, but just does not possess the arm strength, and that's why he falls to number 8 here. Still, he recognizes his areas of improvement and is a very coachable player. Some team will fall in love with him.
9. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, 6-2, 221 Lbs
A three-year starter, Treadwell can line up both inside and outside. He's not a sprinter by any means, but has elite ball skills to go with his exceptional catching radius and strong hands. He'll be a matchup nightmare against cornerbacks next year.
10. DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon, 6-7, 291 Lbs
Is Buckner a defensive end, nose tackle, or defensive tackle? Wherever his future position may lie, he is very explosive, with strong hands to pack a punch against offensive linemen. With good coaching, he could end up being the best player of this year's draft in a few years time.
11. Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida, 5-10, 204 Lbs
Hargreaves has stated that he compares himself to Brent Grimes, and for good reason. He's one of the smaller top-tier cornerback prospects, but is heads and shoulders the best cover corner in the draft. While not the fastest, he displays great positioning, instincts and timing to make the interception (6 in the last 2 seasons).
12. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama, 6-4, 307 Lbs
A raw, but ascending player, Robinson's stats don't jump out at you. But he is a 2-year starter in Alabama's 3-4 defensive alignment, where he was asked to clog up things as a nose tackle in order for his teammates to make the play.
13. Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama, 6-3, 307 Lbs
Like his teammate, A'Shawn Robinson, Reed has a solid combine and projects as a nice fit in the 3-4 defensive alignment. A very strong player that is tough to move around, Reed can line up almost anywhere on the defensive line. He'll start for a long time.
14. MacKensie Alexander, CB, Clemson, 5-10, 190 Lbs
Alexander looks more like a running back with his compact build, but will be a valuable asset for a team looking for a man-for-man cornerback. Also known as a student of the game who will always stay after practice to watch more film to improve himself. Hasn't recorded an interception in his career.
15. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson, 6-3, 269
Shaq Lawson has nice big hands to not only power his way through offensive lines at the next level, but also to hold his very own on the edge against the run. Doesn't have the ideal height for the position, but is a low risk, high reward prospect who will earn a living for a long time in the NFL.
Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter@AlexParish89.