Players began arriving on Thursday and most are already undergoing intense scrutiny in media sessions, team interviews and medical examinations. This weekend will start the real physical evaluations and it should continue all the way through to Tuesday.
Even before the players’ start throwing up ridiculous numbers on the bench and racing through the track for the 40-yard dash, there will be plenty for the 300-plus prospects to prove.
One prospect who significantly hurt his stock over the past week was Georgia linebacker Alec Ogletree. A promising young talent, who at times was Georgia’s best defensive player last season, was arrested for driving under the influence over the weekend.
The arrest certainly raises some red flags for teams and he will be faced with some intense questions from teams to get a better perspective on his character. There is no doubting Ogletree’s talent, but until he can prove he’s responsible and mature, he doesn’t seem worth the risk of a first-round pick.
Getting away from Ogletree’s unfortunate incident, though, let’s take a peek at where the top prospects stack up heading into the combine.
Editor’s Note: Draft order based on end of season NFL standings. Tied records are divided as anticipated.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Mike Mayock listed four guys as potential No. 1 picks, and they were all offensive linemen. Joeckel is the best in this class, and he belongs in the top spot.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
The more I’ve watched Mingo, the more he seems to be the best defensive end in this draft. Bjoern Werner and Damontre Moore are talented, but Mingo could be the next Mario Williams.
Previous pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
The Raiders need to build a stronger defense and it all starts in the front seven. Lotulelei should put up big numbers at the combine and reassert the belief he is a top-five pick.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
Chip Kelly may want an offensive player in the first round, but Werner is better than anyone else on the board and the Eagles would be lucky to get him here.
Previous pick: Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Cornerback is a real need for the Lions, but Jones is arguably the best pass rusher in this class and should make a seamless transition to the NFL game.
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
Warmack is the best player in this draft on film. If he was even two inches taller, he’d be a left tackle and the first player taken without a doubt. Guards are never taken this high, but with Warmack an exception should be made.
Previous pick: Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Bruce Arians need a quarterback, and Smith still appears to be the best on the board. His performance at the combine could definitely change that perception.
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Matt Barkley, QB, USC
Barkley was cool, calm and poised during his media session at the combine on Friday, and he exceeded expectations measuring in at just over 6-foot-2. Plus, new Bills coach Doug Marrone called Barkley “the best quarterback in college” at this time last year. It seems like a fit.
Previous pick: Alec Ogletree, MLB, Georgia
9. New York Jets (6-10): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Pass rush is a need for the Jets, but getting weapons on offense is even bigger. So, if they’re looking for big weapons, there are none bigger than Patterson.
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson is a run stopper, which the Titans need help with on defense. Done. Match made in heaven.
Previous pick: Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
11. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Eric Fisher, OT, Central
Eric Fisher could catapult himself into the top 10 with an impressive showing at the combine, but for now the Chargers are the lucky recipients of his services.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
If Milliner is still around, which is no guarantee, the Dolphins will jump at the opportunity to draft him.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M
Michael Bennett looks primed to hit the free-agent market, and the Bucs will need some help replacing him.
Previous pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
Hankins is a big body and a difference maker against the run. The Panthers need someone like him up front.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Safeties are underrated for the most part, and No. 15 might be a tad high. But when your secondary was as bad as the Saints in 2012, you make exceptions.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Cooper isn’t quite as sound as Warmack right now, but he’s close. The Rams need help on the offensive line, and Cooper is just the guy to do it.
Previous pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
The Steelers pass rush is influx. James Harrison might not be back and LaMarr Woodley is apparently a locker room cancer. So, getting a big-time rusher like Jordan would be building for the future.
Previous pick: Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
Monte Kiffin is poised for a return to the 4-3 defense, which should make a player like Floyd more attractive to the Cowboys.
Previous pick: Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
19. New York Giants (9-7): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Jake Ballard was gone last year and Martellus Bennett seems like the next guy to peace New York. Eifert is a solid talent and Eli Manning would be lucky to have him.
Previous pick: Dion Jordan, DE, Oregon
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
Fluker dropped almost 20 pounds ahead of the combine. He’s still a behemoth, just a little quicker on his feet now. Plus, Jay Cutler needs someone keeping him upright.
Previous pick: Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Johnson and Fluker are in a dead heat to be the third tackle off the board as of now. The Bengals shouldn’t care which one it is, as long as they get some line help.
Previous pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
22. St. Louis Rams [via Washington Redskins (10-6)]: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen’s persistent knee injury, which is keeping him from working out at the combine, is concerning. Teams need to be cautious about such an injury, but he’s still a first-round talent.
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Hopkins is quickly climbing up draft boards, and looking back at his incredible season at Clemson, rightfully so.
Previous pick: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennesse
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
Dwight Freeney isn’t coming back and the Colts need a replacement going forward. Ansah might have the highest ceiling of any pass rusher in this draft, which was on display at the Senior Bowl and should be again this week.
Previous Pick: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
25. Seattle Seahawks (11-5): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
If Williams is able to break the combine bench press record, as he intends, then he should see a significant boost in his draft stock, which may mean even higher than Seattle.
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Manti Te’o, MLB, Notre Dame
Some of the character questions will be answered this weekend, but until then Te’o’s stock won’t get quite as high as it could be.
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennesse
Having Hunter and Andree Johnson on the field at the same time just isn’t fair. Matt Schaub sure would be happy.
Previous pick: Matt Barkley, QB, USC
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
The Broncos need help in the secondary. Banks is the second best corner in the draft on paper, he can improve his status with a show of speed in Indy.
Previous pick: Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida
29. New England Patriots (12-4): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Austin talked about molding his game after Wes Welker during his media session in Indy. He could be the future at the slot receiver in New England.
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama
The Falcons are planning to cut Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez may return next season. So, drafting a running back wouldn’t be too crazy here.
Previous Pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Jonathan Jenkins, DT, Georgia
The 49ers need to get younger up the middle and start building the future base of that defense. Jenkins has the potential to be just that.
Previous pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Kevin Minter, MLB, LSU
Ray Lewis is gone. Now, the Ravens need to find the next leader in the middle of their defense.
Dropped: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia; Matt Elam, S, Florida; Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Newcomers: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson; Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama; Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama