Early 2016 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings

Who are the best NFL prospects to watch in college football in 2015?

The 2015 NFL Draft is over and more than 400 players have begun the next chapter of their football careers.

 

So what better time than now to look ahead to next spring and the 2016 NFL Draft. Here are the top 32 prospects that could be drafted in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft:

 

1. Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State (6-4, 230)

He got no support from his running game or offensive line last fall, but Hackenberg has all the NFL tools to be the best QB prospect in the draft next year. He's a more athletic version of Eli Manning. It's hard to keep elite QBs from being the top pick.

 

2. Laremy Tunsil, OL, Ole Miss (6-5, 305)

He could easily be the top pick as the best offensive tackle in the draft. He has the size, the athleticism and is significantly better than any offensive lineman in the 2015 NFL Draft.

 

3. A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama (6-4, 320)

He won't stuff the stat sheet but tackles rarely do. Yet, Robinson is a beast in the middle who must be accounted for on every play — more often than not by more than one blocker. He's big and extremely physical.

 

4. Robert Nkemdiche, DE, Ole Miss (6-4, 280)

From a size and strength standpoint, few players in the country can match Nkemdiche's ability. He played end early in his career and has shifted inside and dominated in both spots. Look for him to take the next step in 2015.

 

5. Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State (6-4, 265)

The best pure pass rusher in this class, Bosa has already proven himself as one of the best in college football. He is likely to be avoided by most offenses in '15 so the numbers may not improve, but his stock won't go anywhere. He's one of the best players in the nation period.

 

6. Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State (6-2, 235)

The freakish redshirt sophomore had a coming-out party in the College Football Playoff, earning MVP honors of the Sugar Bowl. He could blossom into the best linebacker in the nation due to elite speed, instincts and physicality.

 

7. Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn (6-2, 255)

The knee injury may scare some scouts away, but Lawson can clear away all the doubt with a huge '15 campaign. He was essentially the best player on the Auburn defense two years ago as just a freshman and will become a household name in short order this fall.

 

8. Ronnie Stanley, OL, Notre Dame (6-5, 315)

He's got the size and talent to be an elite blocker on the next level and has held his own very well against elite defensive talent (Leonard Williams, Stanford, LSU).

 

9. Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss (6-2, 230)

A broken leg isn't nearly as concerning as knees or hips so once Treadwell steps back onto a field, it won't take long for his elite talents to show that he's the top receiver in the '16 class.

 

10. Vernon Hargreaves III, CB, Florida (5-11, 195)

An elite freshman All-American, teams were already staying away from VH3 last season. So he might be avoided completely this fall. That won't have much impact on his overall stock — which is the best cover corner in the nation.

 

11. Myles Jack, LB, UCLA (6-1, 235)

Jack matches Lee from a talent standpoint and has produced on both sides of the ball a la Shaq Thompson. His numbers are huge and he's poised for another monster season as the star of the UCLA defense.

 

12. Su'a Cravens, S, USC (6-1, 225)

He has elite-level athleticism, size, range and has been making big-time plays the second he stepped onto the field. The former five-star prospect has completely lived up to the hype and is poised for a massive junior year.

 

13. Shawn Oakman, DE, Baylor (6-8, 275)

"Scary athlete" doesn't begin to explain what Oakman is along the defensive line. He's intimidating, massive and could be leading Baylor to a third consecutive Big 12 title.

 

14. Scooby Wright, OLB, Arizona (6-1, 240)

He may not have a true position in certain NFL defensive schemes but he's a guy who simply makes plays wherever he is slotted. Case in point: 163 tackles, 29.0 for a loss, 14.0 sacks and six forced fumbles don't happen on accident.

 

15. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (5-11, 195)

The Hokies' star coverman might actually be as good as Hargreaves. The five-star recruit has started every game of his two-year career and is going to be an All-American entering '15.

 

16. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State (6-1, 204)

How many five-star recruits start all 13 games as a true freshman for a team that goes 14-0 and wins a national title? Ramsey is now an upperclassman, the veteran star of the Noles' defense.

 

17. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State (6-3, 218)

He's got the size, the arm and is an above-average athlete. He wins games and takes care of the football as well. He's a pure leader who could be on the only team capable of knocking off Ohio State.

 

18. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State (6-0, 225)

The top Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season was an absolute monster in the Playoffs. He carried his team to a national championship and should be the top back taken if he can stay healthy.

 

19. Cardale Jones, QB, Ohio State (6-4, 255)

There is a good chance he's the starter for Ohio State when the season opens, and his overall arm talent is what makes him the best QB prospect on the OSU roster. And a second national title could cement his first-round status.

 

20. Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame (6-2, 235)

He can play inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end in a 3-4 or just about anywhere else on the field. He's a freakish athlete who will vault himself into the first round.

 

21. Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor (6-6, 310)

He's a beast who anchored the Bears' two Big 12 titles the last two years. He could have easily entered the draft and been one of the top picks in the '15 Draft but could work his way into the top 10 with another stellar season in Waco.

 

22. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pitt (6-2, 190)

He regressed as a sophomore but his freshman season was no fluke. He has excellent athletic ability and can run all of the routes in the stem. Look for a huge bounce-back season from the Panthers wideout.

 

23. O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama (6-6, 240)

The best all-around tight end prospect in the nation unfortunately has been extremely underused by the Crimson Tide offense. He is an elite blocker and an elite pass catcher as well.

 

24. Leonard Floyd, DE/LB, Georgia (6-4, 238)

The dynamic, hybrid edge player flourished in Jeremy Pruitt's system last fall and should produce another huge season for what could be the best defense in the SEC. He's rangy, athletic and productive.

 

25. Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State (6-5, 255)

Calhoun could have left school early last fall but elected to return. His stock can't change much but as long as he continues to deliver on his tremendous ability on a championship-level defense, he will be a first-rounder.

 

26. Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, UCLA (6-4, 310)

When it comes to upside, Vanderdoes has as much as anyone in the nation. The big-time prep star has delivered quickly on his potential and should blossom into a superstar this fall.

 

27. Cam Sutton, CB, Tennessee (6-0, 190)

He may not have the flashy speed and quickness of other cornerbacks ahead of him in the draft, but few players in the nation are as instinctual and make as many plays as the Vols' star defensive back.

 

28. Vadal Alexander, OL, LSU (6-6, 340)

He's a massive road-grader and will produce big numbers in the running game. There is more than one solid LSU O-Line prospect in this unit, but Alexander is the best of the bunch.

 

29. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama (6-3, 240)

He's an absolute beast. Cut from the Larry Johnson/Steven Jackson mold, few players have ever had the size-athleticism combo that Henry possesses. Now, if Lane Kiffin could just give him the ball a few hundred times.

 

30. Dak Prescott, QB, Mississippi State (6-2, 230)

He may not have the arm talent of the pure pocket passers in the NFL but few have his heart, toughness, physicality and leadership. He's a great athlete who is a better thrower of the ball than scouts think.

 

31. Tony Conner, S, Ole Miss (6-0, 217)

The fourth member of the highly-touted 2013 Rebels' signing class could find himself in the first round alongside Tunsil, Treadwell and Nkemdiche. Conner flies around the field and makes big plays consistently.

 

32. Nate Andrews, S, Florida State (5-11, 210)

The less-heralded of the two star FSU safeties isn't any less talented. He's got great size and could be just as highly regarded as Ramsey come draft time.

 

Next Best: Eddie Jackson, CB, Alabama; Jared Goff, QB, Cal; DeForest Buckner, DL, Oregon; Travin Dural, WR, LSU; Demarcus Robinson, WR, Florida; Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State; Duke Williams, WR, Auburn; Reggie Ragland, LB, Alabama; Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma; James Conner, RB, Pitt; 

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