2019 NFL Draft Big Board: Top 100 Prospects
With the NFL Combine approaching, now is a good time to delve into the top-100 prospects in this draft class. This big board will see some major changes following the combine and this will provide us with a useful tool for comparative purposes. It will help us identify the biggest winners and losers of the combine, and answer athleticism concerns for many of the prospects. Developing a big board is a cumbersome, but entertaining exercise, as you allow yourself to enter the mind of an NFL GM or scout and try to marry yourself to their varying processes.
One important thing to note when it comes to big boards is that they are not intended to give a depiction of where certain prospects will be drafted, as is the case with mock drafts. Instead, big boards are reflective of player grades as opposed to expected draft slot. There are quite a few players on this list that may not go in the top 100, especially at running back and wide receiver. This, however, does not mean that they are not top-100 talents, but that positional depth and the scarcity of talent at other positions as the draft progresses sometimes necessitates opting for a player that may not be as highly graded, but fills a need at a position with a higher value attached to it. An example of this is both defensive or offensive tackle. Even the third- and fourth-tier prospects could find themselves drafted before some of the first-tier running backs or wide receivers.
When evaluating prospects it is imperative to make use of both tape and analytics. Tape is the primary grading method, but without stats and analytics to put what you see in context, you may not get a full depiction of a prospect. Analytics are utilized to confirm or dispel what you see on tape, especially if you do not have the opportunity to evaluate every single game of a prospect’s college career.
Projection and translation are two important aspects of evaluating prospects. We are not looking for the most productive college prospects, but the ones whose skills project and translate to the next level the best.
Projection involves what a prospect could develop into with NFL coaching, personal growth, and maturity. For example, linebacker Mack Wilson currently looks no better than the fifth to seventh prospect at his position. By projecting his skill set and using the reasoning that he should be able to find more consistency as he matures, we are able to assign a higher grade to a player that has more long-term upside than players that may be more complete products as of today.
Translation involves evaluating a prospect’s skill set and how it will translate to the next level. For an example, take another Alabama player in offensive lineman Jonah Williams. Williams was one of the most dominant left tackles in college, but the growing consensus seems to be that he does not have the athleticism or arm length to play at left tackle in the pros. Instead, many (including myself) feel that he is better suited to try his hand at right tackle before shifting inside to left guard. In this case, his tools and skill set do not translate well to him being able to be an above average left tackle, whereas they do translate better to the right and extremely well to left guard.
Since this is a pre-combine big board, players with question marks about their athleticism naturally find themselves much lower than their talent may dictate when compared to others at their position. Let’s use Taylor Rapp as an example. Rapp is one of the elite coverage safeties in this draft, but needs to tackle athleticism concerns before he can be placed above other prospects whose athletic ability, and the translatability of said ability, is more apparent. Likewise, if Jonah Williams measures with long arms and tests well athletically, we can surmise that the issues we saw on tape may indeed be able to be corrected with technique refinement and NFL coaching. With these things in mind, let us take a look at the top-100 prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft.