NFL Draft Pre-Combine positional tiers and early overview
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At the end of the day when it comes to the NFL Draft, there are no good drafts or bad drafts in terms of the quality of the prospects, only good evaluations and misevaluations.

Most players that get drafted – with the emphasis on most – do manage to make an NFL team or practice squad for at least a year or two, and in most years there will be more quality prospects at some positions than others.

But if a team scouts players properly it can find help at almost any position.

Separating the stars from the very good, the starters and the backups is the key to good drafting – and that work has really just begun.

Prior to this week’s Senior Bowl, the Combine and then Pro Days, it is impossible to grade players or rank them with any accuracy at all.

No, none of these prospects are going to become better or worse football players than we can see them be on tape of their college games, but what kind of pros they are going to be is a very different question.

Accurate measurements of heights, weights, strength and speed is critical to be able to project these players at the next level against a much higher level of competition than they faced in college, and even more important are medical evaluations to assure there are no chronic injury issues or that some aren’t at greater risk of physical issues than others.

More important than any of that are one-on-one interviews between the players and NFL coaches and scouts. They are the only way to get a sense of what’s in the hearts and minds of these young men, and the biggest single determining factor between the haves and have nots.

We won’t have any of that information until at least after the Scouting Combine, beginning the final week in February.

Still, we do have their college careers to judge them on, which is more than enough to tier or group them into most likely Day 1 (Round 1), Day 2 (Rounds 2-3) and Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) prospects.

Even these rankings will change, but not dramatically for most prospects.

So with all of that said, it appears to be a good year to be in the market for quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive tackles and centers, defensive tackles and cornerbacks.

There is enough depth at those positions to ensure every pick in the first round will offer a crack at a first-round talent, and some Day 1 talent will fall to Day 2.

It does not look to be a great year to be in the market for running backs, tight ends, offensive guards, edge rushers, linebackers or safeties.

There is talent at all those spots to be sure, but Day 1 blue chippers will be scarce.

Adding to this draft’s intrigue will be the Miami Dolphins’ three first-round picks, and the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Raiders – each with two first-rounders – while teams such as the Bengals, Lions and Giants will all consider trading out of this year’s top five if the bounty is plentiful enough.

The closest to a sure thing in this draft is that Joe Burrow and Chase Young will be the first two picks, but which goes first and where they end up is still anyone’s guess.

With that as your primer, here’s your early look at this year’s likely top prospects.

QUARTERBACKS

Day 1 Prospects

Joe Burrow – LSU

Tua Tagovailoa– Alabama

Justin Herbert – Oregon

Jordan Love – Utah State

Jacob Eason – Washington

Day 2 Prospects

Jake Fromm – Georgia

Jalen Hurts – Oklahoma

Cole McDonald – Hawaii

Anthony Gordon – Washington State

RUNNING BACKS

Day 1 Prospects

Jonathan Taylor – Wisconsin

D’Andre Swift – Georgia

Day 2 Prospects

J.K. Dobbins – Ohio State

Cam Akers – Florida State

Zack Moss – Utah

Kylin Hill – Mississippi State

Ke’Shawn Vaughn – Vanderbilt

Clyde Edwards-Helaire – LSU

WIDE RECEIVERS

Day 1 Prospects

Jerry Jeudy – Alabama

CeeDee Lamb – Oklahoma

Tee Higgins – Clemson

Henry Ruggs III – Alabama

Jalen Reagor TCU

Laviska Shenault Jr. – Colorado

Day 2 Prospects

Tyler Johnson – Minnesota

Justin Jefferson – LSU

Donovan Peoples-Jones – Michigan

Brandon Aiyuk – Arizona State

Michael Pittman Jr. – USC

KJ Hamler – Penn State

Collin Johnson – Texas

Aaron Fuller – Washington

TIGHT ENDS

Day 2 Prospects

Cole Kmet – Notre Dame

Brycen Hopkins – Purdue

Jacob Breeland – Oregon

Hunter Bryant – Washington

Jared Pinkney – Vanderbilt

Albert Okwuegbunam – Missouri

Colby Parkinson – Stanford

Harrison Bryant – Florida Atlantic

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

Day 1 Prospects

Andrew Thomas – Georgia

Austin Jackson – USC

Tristan Wirfs– Iowa

Jedrick Wills Jr. – Alabama

Trey Adams – Washington

Prince Tega Wanogho – Auburn

Day 2 Prospects

Isaiah Wilson – Georgia

Josh Jones – Houston

Mekhi Becton – Louisville

Lucas Niang – TCU

Calvin Throckmorton– Oregon

OFFENSIVE GUARDS / CENTERS

Day 1 Prospects

Tyler Biadasz – C – Wisconsin

Solomon Kindley – G – Georgia

Shane Lemieux – G – Oregon

Day 2 Prospects

Jake Hanson – C – Oregon

Nick Harris – C – Washington

Ben Bredeson – G – Michigan

Logan Stenberg – G – Kentucky

Hakeem Adeniji – G – Kansas

Cesar Ruiz – Michigan

Frederick Mauigoa – C – Washington State

Netane Muti – G – Fresno State

Darryl Williams – C – Mississippi State

DEFENSIVE TACKLES & 5-TECHNIQUES

Day 1 Prospects

Derrick Brown – Auburn

A.J. Epenesa – 5-Tech – Iowa

Javon Kinlaw – South Carolina

Raekwon Davis – Alabama

Day 2 Prospects

Justin Madubuike – Texas A&M

Neville Gallimore – Oklahoma

Jordan Elliott – Missouri

James Lynch – 5-Tech – Baylor

Rashard Lawrence – LSU

Davon Hamilton – Ohio State

Marlon Davidson – 5-Tech – Auburn

Leki Fotu – Utah

Joe Gaziano – 5-Tech – Northwestern

Trevis Gipson – 5-Tech – Tulsa

EDGE RUSHERS

Day 1 Prospects

Chase Young – Ohio State

Yetur Gross-Matos – Penn State

Curtis Weaver – Boise State

Day 2 Prospects

Terrell Lewis – Alabama

Julian Okwara – Notre Dame

Jabari Zuniga – Florida

Josh Uche – OLB – Michigan

Darrell Taylor – Tennessee

Jonathan Greenard – Florida

Kenny Willekes– Michigan State

Khalid Kareem– Notre Dame

Bradlee Anae – Utah

LINEBACKERS OLB & ILB

Day 1 Prospects

Isaiah Simmons – OLB/S – Clemson

Kenneth Murray – ILB – Oklahoma

Day 2 Prospects

Zack Baun – OLB – Wisconsin

Patrick Queen – ILB – LSU

Troy Dye – ILB – Oregon

K’Laivon Chaisson – OLB – LSU

Jordyn Brooks – ILB – Texas Tech

Akeem Davis-Gaither – OLB – Appalachian State

Malik Harrison – ILB – Ohio State

Chris Orr – OLB – Wisconsin

Jacob Phillips – ILB – LSU

Evan Weaver – ILB – California

SAFETIES

Day 1 Prospects

Grant Delpit – LSU

Xavier McKinney – Alabama

Day 2 Prospects

Ashtyn Davis – California

Shyheim Carter – Alabama

Antoine Winfield Jr. – Minnesota

Brandon Jones – Texas

Terrell Burgess – Utah

J.R. Reed – Georgia

K’Von Wallace – Clemson

Antoine Brooks Jr. – Maryland

CORNERBACKS

Day 1 Prospects

Jeff Okudah – Ohio State

Kristian Fulton – LSU

Trevon Diggs – Alabama

CJ Henderson – Florida

Damon Arnette – Ohio State

Cameron Dantzler – Mississippi State

Bryce Hall – Virginia

Day 2 Prospects

A.J. Terrell – Clemson

Jeff Gladney – TCU

Jaylon Johnson – Utah

Lamar Jackson – Nebraska

This article originally ran on profootballweekly.com.

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