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 ESPN Insider: Mel Kiper's way-too-early 2018 rankings: Top NFL draft prospects at every position

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PostSubject: ESPN Insider: Mel Kiper's way-too-early 2018 rankings: Top NFL draft prospects at every position   Mon May 29, 2017 10:46 am

Mel Kiper's way-too-early 2018 rankings: Top NFL draft prospects at every position
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Todd McShay's mock draft is out, and two things are clear: It's never too early to look ahead, and the quarterback class is deep. (1:01)
May 19, 2017


Mel Kiper Jr.Football analyst

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I released last week the way-too-early 2018 Big Board of my top 25 prospects, but that short list was pulled from a huge number of prospects currently in the evaluation pool for next year's draft. We have a long way to go, but here's an early look at the top prospects at every position.

This is a mix of seniors and underclassmen, but early on, I separate the two so you'll see more senior players, who are certain to be in the draft. By "underclassmen," I mean players who technically could return to school for another season. Those are true juniors and third-year sophomores. I've denoted the third-year sophomores with asterisks.

One more note: I'm still waiting to see how a few big-name quarterback transfers fare at their new schools, and so they're not included. Underclassmen Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Jarrett Stidham and Blake Barnett are prospects to keep an eye on.

On to the position rankings:
Baker Mayfield led FBS in Total QBR last season (92.9). AP Photo/LM Otero
Quarterbacks

Seniors

1. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
2. Luke Falk, Washington State
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
4. Matt Linehan, Idaho
5. Mike White, Western Kentucky

Underclassmen

1. *Sam Darnold, USC
2. Josh Allen, Wyoming
3. Josh Rosen, UCLA
4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
5. Clayton Thorson, Northwestern

Darnold (6-4, 225), Allen (6-5, 216) and Rosen (6-4, 210) were in the top seven in my way-too-early Big Board. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Jackson (6-3, 196) is a supreme athlete but a work-in-progress as a quarterback. He needs to show major improvement as a passer in 2017. It will be fun to watch Rudolph (6-4, 217) and Mayfield (6-1, 220) duel for the Big 12 title.

Running backs

Seniors

Editor's Picks

Kiper's way-too-early 2018 Big Board: Playmakers, studs galore

So long, Class of 2017. We're on to '18. Among Mel Kiper's top 25 prospects in the (potential) draft class: a big-armed USC QB, more Ohio State defenders and Leonard Fournette's apprentice.
McShay's way-too-early 2018 mock draft: Promising QB class awaits

Todd McShay takes a preliminary look at the 2018 NFL draft, which could feature a talented group of quarterbacks atop the board.
Kiper's 2017 NFL draft grades

Myles Garrett and Mitchell Trubisky provided drama at the beginning of the draft, and now Mel Kiper's here to bring the heat at the end. Which teams fared the best -- and worst? It's grades time.

1. Nick Chubb, Georgia
2. Royce Freeman, Oregon
3. Akrum Wadley, Iowa
4. Sony Michel, Georgia
5. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt

Underclassmen

1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. Derrius Guice, LSU
3. Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
4. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn
5. Damien Harris, Alabama

Chubb (5-10, 228) was actually on my way-too-early Big Board last year, and so I'd like to see him get back to his form from 2015, when he averaged 8.1 yards per carry. The Bulldogs also have Michel (5-11, 208), who has 48 catches over the past two seasons. Scarbrough (6-2, 240) broke out in the Peach Bowl and is a physical specimen, but Harris (5-11, 205) had the better all-around season.
Fullbacks

Seniors

1. Jaylen Samuels, NC State
2. Khalid Hill, Michigan
3. Austin Ramesh, Wisconsin
4. Dimitri Flowers, Oklahoma
5. J.D. Moore, LSU

Underclassmen

1. Winston Dimel, Kansas State
2. George Aston, Pitt
3. Chandler Cox, Auburn
4. Alec Ingold, Wisconsin
5. Ryan Nall, Oregon State

Samuels has 120 catches the past two seasons as a tight end for the Wolfpack, but at 5-11, 240, he'll have to move to a fullback/H-back role to make it in the NFL. Hill (6-2, 255) is more of a traditional fullback.
Alabama is loaded again in 2018, and playmakers Calvin Ridley and Damien Harris will be a huge part of its run toward another national title game. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Wide receivers

Seniors

1. James Washington, Oklahoma State
2. D.J. Chark, LSU
3. Darren Carrington, Oregon
4. Dante Pettis, Washington
5. Jester Weah, Pitt

Underclassmen

1. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
2. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
3. Antonio Callaway, Florida
4. Courtland Sutton, SMU
5. Deon Cain, Clemson

Pettis (6-0, 177) had 15 touchdown catches last season. Sutton (6-3, 200) had 76 catches and 10 touchdowns last season and played some basketball at SMU as a freshman.
Tight ends

Seniors

1. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
2. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
3. DeAndre Goolsby, Florida
4. Marcus Baugh, Ohio State
5. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State

Underclassmen

1. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
2. C.J. Conrad, Kentucky
3. Ryan Izzo, Florida State
4. Dalton Schultz, Stanford
5. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

Fumagalli (6-5, 233) could have a big 2017 after having only two touchdown grabs last season. Andrews (6-6, 247) has 14 career touchdowns on only 50 catches.
Offensive tackles

Seniors

1. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
2. Jamarco Jones, Ohio State
3. Mason Cole, Michigan
4. Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
5. Tyrell Crosby, Oregon

Underclassmen

1. Trey Adams, Washington
2. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
3. Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
4. Brian O'Neill, Pitt
5. Dalton Risner, Kansas State

At 6-8, 355, Brown is massive. Hyatt (6-6, 274) is a former five-star recruit who has started at left tackle for the Tigers since Week 1 of his freshman year. Okorafor (6-5, 275) started at left tackle for the Broncos while 2016 second-round pick Taylor Moton played right tackle.
Billy Price could move to center in the NFL. Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
Guards

Seniors

1. Billy Price, Ohio State
2. Will Hernandez, UTEP
3. Cody O'Connell, Washington State
4. Braden Smith, Auburn
5. Scott Quessenberry, UCLA

Underclassmen

1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
2. Martez Ivey, Florida
3. William Clapp, LSU
4. Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama
5. Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin

Nelson (6-5, 325) was on my preseason Big Board last year. He's incredibly powerful. Price (6-4, 305) has already started three seasons for the Buckeyes.
Centers

Seniors

1. Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State
2. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
3. Bradley Bozeman, Alabama
4. Coleman Shelton, Washington
5. Brian Allen, Michigan State

Underclassmen

1. Brendan Moore, Maryland
2. James Daniels, Iowa
3. Drew Kyser, Memphis
4. Alec Eberle, Florida State
5. Michael Deiter, Wisconsin

Rankin (6-5, 307) showed some athleticism while playing left tackle last season, but he could move to center in 2017. I'm projecting him as a center in the NFL. Ragnow (6-5, 312) is a two-year starter.
Defensive ends

Seniors

1. Bradley Chubb, NC State
2. Da'Shawn Hand, Alabama
3. Tyquan Lewis, Ohio State
4. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest
5. KJ Smith, Baylor

Underclassmen

1. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
2. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
3. Josh Sweat, Florida State
4. Porter Gustin, USC
5. Jaylon Ferguson, Louisiana Tech

A former five-star recruit, Hand (6-4, 273) goes unnoticed sometimes among Alabama's talent, but he has first-round ability. Gustin (6-5, 250) has 11 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in two seasons. Ferguson (6-5, 256) had 14.5 sacks in 2016.
Harrison Phillips, who had 7.5 sacks last season, is expected to be the leader of Stanford's defensive line in 2017. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Defensive tackles

1. Maurice Hurst, Michigan
2. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State
3. Lowell Lotulelei, Utah
4. Andrew Brown, Virginia
5. James Looney, California

Underclassmen

1. Christian Wilkins, Clemson
2. Vita Vea, Washington
3. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
4. Trenton Thompson, Georgia
5. Harrison Phillips, Stanford

At 6-5, 340, Vea is a mountain, but he did have five sacks last season. Phillips (6-4, 258) is likely to be a 3-technique in the NFL. He had 7.5 sacks last season.
Inside linebackers

Seniors

1. Azeem Victor, Washington
2. Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
3. Micah Kiser, Virginia
4. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
5. Josey Jewell, Iowa

Underclassmen

1. Cameron Smith, USC
2. T.J. Edwards, Wisconsin
3. Kendall Joseph, Clemson
4. Andre Smith, North Carolina
5. Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii

Dion Hamilton (6-0, 233) is coming off an ACL tear suffered late in the season. Cameron Smith (6-2, 245) started as a freshman for the Trojans. Kiser (6-2, 235) had 6.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 2016.
Outside linebackers

Seniors

1. Harold Landry, Boston College
2. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
3. Marquis Haynes, Mississippi
4. Matthew Thomas, Florida State
5. Mike McCray, Michigan

Underclassmen

1. Arden Key, LSU
2. Malik Jefferson, Texas
3. Jerome Baker, Ohio State
4. Denzil Ware, Kentucky
5. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

Okoronkwo (6-1, 240) had nine sacks last season and will probably play defensive end in 2017. Ware (6-2, 255) had 5.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2016.
Iman Marshall broke up eight passes for the Trojans last season. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports
Cornerbacks

Seniors

1. Jordan Thomas, Oklahoma
2. Anthony Averett, Alabama
3. Greg Stroman, Virginia Tech
4. Donovan Wilson, Texas A&M
5. Deion Harris, North Dakota

Underclassmen

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
2. Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
3. Jaire Alexander, Louisville
4. Iman Marshall, USC
5. Denzel Ward, Ohio State

Thomas had an up-and-down season in 2016 but finished with two interceptions after having five in 2015. Marshall (6-2, 200), another former five-star prospect, has six interceptions in two seasons.
Safeties

Seniors

1. Quin Blanding, Virginia
2. Marcus Allen, Penn State
3. Godwin Igwebuike, Northwestern
4. Damon Webb, Ohio State
5. Kieron Williams, Nebraska

Underclassmen

1. *Derwin James, Florida State
2. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
3. Chase Hansen, Utah
4. Jordan Whitehead, Pitt
5. Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech

I'd like to see Blanding (6-4, 210) make more plays. He has six interceptions and only 5.5 tackles for loss in three seasons. Hansen (6-3, 216), who has also played quarterback for the Utes, had three interceptions, including a pick-six, in 2016.
Kickers

Seniors

1. Daniel Carlson, Auburn
2. Jonathan Barnes, Louisiana Tech
3. Gary Wunderlich, Mississippi
4. Drew Brown, Nebraska
5. Jason Sanders, New Mexico

Underclassmen

1. *Eddy Pineiro, Florida
2. Emmit Carpenter, Minnesota
3. John Baron II, San Diego State
4. Parker Shaunfield, So. Mississippi
5. Matthew Wright, Central Florida

Wunderlich (6-0, 175) led the country in field goal percentage (95.7), missing only a 55-yard kick.
Punters

Seniors

1. JK Scott, Alabama
2. Johnny Townsend, Florida
3. Trevor Daniel, Tennessee
4. Austin Barnes, Eastern Michigan
5. Joe Davidson, Bowling Green

Underclassmen

1. Michael Dickson, Texas
2. Jake Bailey, Stanford
3. Mitch Wishnowsky, Utah
4. Dylan Klumph, California
5. *Mason King, Louisville

Scott (6-4, 185) averaged 47.2 yards per kick last season.
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ESPN Insider: Mel Kiper's way-too-early 2018 rankings: Top NFL draft prospects at every position

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