It’s never too early to think about the NFL Draft. While many things can change throughout the course of a season, the top prospects in the conversation to be selected with the first overall pick come April usually don’t. A pick, which in most cases, is held by a franchise in dire need of a rebuild, usually lean towards a QB to turn their team around. Dating back to 1998, a QB has gone first in the draft all but 4 times in that 17 year stretch. The only other positions to be taken were offensive tackle and defensive end. Two of the past three drafts have represented that with Eric Fisher in 2013 and Jadeveon Clowney in 2014.
Here we’ll take a look at the top 5 prospects in the early conversation of being selected with that coveted 1st overall pick:
QB, Jared Goff, California, Junior, 6’4’’, 215
If history tells us anything, it’s that QBs are typically taken with the first pick in most drafts. With the most consistent play in weeks 1 and 2, Goff has created some distance over other QBs as the top QB prospect in all of college football. While Goff may not “wow” you with his physical attributes, his mental game is that of a seasoned veteran; which is more important for a QB expected to come in and transform a franchise right off the bat. Goff does an exceptional job at going through his progressions and finding open receivers. He makes active reads before throwing the ball. Combine that with good arm talent and great accuracy, Goff has the makings of a top tier QB prospect. While he isn’t on the same level of a Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota, a team desperate for a QB at the top of the draft will have his name called.
QB, Cardale Jones, Ohio State, 6’5’’, 250
While Jones isn’t on the same level of Goff mentally, he is far and away the better prospect based on upside and physical tools. Jones’ game is reminiscent of a Cam Newton based on their exceptional arm strength, huge stature and impact they have when running the ball. He plays with a confidence and swagger, which a team will either love or hate. The starting QB for the Buckeyes still has strides to make, there’s definitely a learning curve with him. However, a team may very well fall in love with the upside he presents and make him the #1 overall pick over a safer bet like Goff.
OT, Laremy Tunsil, Ole Miss, Junior, 6’5’’, 305
The blindside tackle for the Rebels is a straight up brick wall. Tunsil is the definition of a franchise tackle due to his exceptional ability in pass blocking. He possesses tremendous footwork which allows him to slide with the best of the best when it comes to pass rushers in the SEC. A very strong, athletic specimen, Tunsil also excels in run blocking and presents an all around great game on the offensive line. Notre Dame offensive linemen, Ronnie Stanley is up there with Tunsil in terms of talent, but it’s Tunsil’s athleticism which sets the two apart. A team needing some protection up front may very well pull the trigger on Tunsil and make him the top pick in the draft.
DE, Joey Bosa, Ohio State, Junior, 6’6’’, 275
The man who has been at the top of most mock drafts throughout the preseason was none other than Ohio State’s Joey Bosa. His potential as an elite pass rusher at the next level is what makes him such a special prospect. Bosa is a tremendous athlete with a good frame that could stand to add even more weight. He has a quick first step along with great lateral quickness along the line. He makes big plays when his team needs them the most and is an absolute gamer on game day; the type of player who never takes a play off and always gives 110%. Bosa has drawn comparisons to J.J. Watt and perhaps can develop into that type of player down the line. His tools as a pass rusher and difference maker on defense make him the most legitimate candidate to be taken first overall come April, no matter the need of the team at the top.
DL, Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss, Junior, 6’4’’, 296
The biggest wildcard of the bunch is Robert Nkemdiche out of Ole Miss. The prized recruit from the 2013 class has a lot to prove after racking up only 4 sacks through his first 2 college football seasons. Still, he remains one of the top prospects of this year’s class due to his excellent combination of: size, strength and athleticism. He is very explosive and disciplined on the inside for Ole Miss. While better suited as a defensive tackle, he offers versatility as an end as well. His potential and upside make him a candidate to be selected first overall in this year’s draft. While it’ll be an extremely rough task to surpass a player like Bosa on team’s big boards, a big season for Nkemdiche could do just that.
*photo credit – Micca de Joya via Flickr