Mike Mayock picks NFL draft's best, risers and sleepers at each position

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Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson throws during the first half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Alabama, in Glendale, Ariz. The pool of candidates for the Heisman Trophy is deep. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey and Clemson's Deshaun Watson are among the obvious ones, and others could enter the race if things break right for them.

FOR THE LAST 15 years, NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has broken down the draft for the Daily News, selecting the best player, the riser and the sleeper at each position.

Mayock, who resides in Newtown Square, is a graduate of the Haverford School and was a three-year starting safety for Boston College. He was a 10th-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1981 and played two seasons with the New York Giants.

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QUARTERBACKS

THE BEST

Deshaun Watson

Clemson

6-2, 221

40 time: 4.66

Vertical jump: 32½ inches

Hands: 9¾ inches

Round projection: 1 (top 15)

Mayock's take: "Watson plays his best football when the lights are bright. And that's an important characteristic at any position, but especially quarterback. He's a quiet leader. A little bit like Marcus Mariota. He's not a screamer, but his teammates really respect him. He threw 17 interceptions last year and that's a concern. Like a lot of spread guys, I think he didn't see some underneath coverage. When his first look was available, I thought he was outstanding. When he had to go beyond that, I thought his decision-making really went downhill. He's got a long way to go. But I really like the kid and I really like his skill set."

THE RISER

Josh Dobbs

Tennessee

6-3, 216

40 time: 4.64

Vertical jump: 33 inches

Hands: 9¾ inches

Round projection: 3

Mayock's take: "He's played a lot of football. He's long and athletic. He has a whippy arm, which I like. A very live arm. After his pro day, I got several texts from coaches and scouts telling me how impressive he was. He's a very smart kid. Majored in aerospace engineering. Interned with Pratt & Whitney. He's a very athletic kid. His downside is a lack of consistency with his accuracy and the spread-quarterback thing. But he's a guy a lot of people look at and feel he has starter traits, starter physical traits. But he's going to take time to develop."

THE SLEEPER

Chad Kelly

Ole Miss

6-2, 224

40 time: N/A

Vertical jump: N/A

Hands: 9¼ inches

Round projection: 6-7

Mayock's take: "With the medical and the off-the-field character concerns, he's going to get pushed way down. But strictly on talent, I would argue that he's one of the top five quarterbacks in this draft. I think somebody is going to draft Kelly in the sixth or seventh round and get a really talented kid who, two to three years from now, might compete for a starting job. He's got a big arm. If you look at his two Alabama tapes – we make a big deal about Watson's tapes against Alabama – but if you watch Kelly against them, it's just about as good. He's a little bit of a gunslinger. He throws some interceptions. But there's no question about arm strength. He's a competitor. He's not your typical sleeper because he's pretty well known. He's going to go late if he goes at all. But somebody is going to get a bargain with starting-caliber traits you can work with."

RUNNING BACKS

THE BEST

Leonard Fournette

LSU

6-foot, 228

40 time: 4.51

Vertical jump: 28½ inches

Hands: 9¼ inches

Round projection: 1 (top 10)

Mayock's take: "He's an old-school, downhill runner. He's got the physical traits of an Adrian Peterson. His combination of speed and power is frightening. He runs angry. But you've got to get him touches. You've got to get him 20 to 30 touches a game. That means if you draft him, your team has to philosophically commit to the run game. If you draft him, that's who you are. He's a commitment. A different type of commitment. There's a bunch of good backs in this draft. But the other top ones – McCaffrey, Cook, Mixon, Kamara – all of those guys are more today's NFL running back. They'll be on the field on third down as well as first and second down. Fournette is a first- and second-down back."

THE RISER

Alvin Kamara

Tennessee

5-10, 214

40 time: 4.53

Vertical jump: 39½ inches

Hands: 9¼ inches

Round projection: 1-2

Mayock's take: "For whatever reason, he was behind the other running back at Tennessee (Jalen Hurd). I don't understand why. It wasn't until Hurd got hurt and then left the team that Kamara finally got his first start. When I watched his first start (against Texas A&M), I was blown away. I thought he was a first-round talent all day long. He's 215 pounds. He's quick and explosive. He's outstanding in the pass game. People were buzzing at his pro day about his ability to catch the football. He's not afraid to block on third down. The biggest questions about him are, he signed with Alabama and then left. And he didn't start at Tennessee. If you can answer those questions to your satisfaction, then he's a first-round talent.''

THE SLEEPER

Matt Dayes

North Carolina State

5-8, 205

40 time: 4.44

Vertical jump: 28 inches

Hands: 10½ inches

Round projection: 6-7

Mayock's take: "He's more of a third-down change-of-pace guy. He's one of the best pass-protection running backs in this draft, which is why I like him. There aren't many of those guys coming out that have a clue how to pass protect. He didn't run well, so he's going to get pushed down. Probably into the sixth or seventh round. But from my perspective, he's just a really solid third-down change-of-pace guy.''

WIDE RECEIVER

THE BEST

Mike Williams

Clemson

6-3, 218

40 time: 4.53

Vertical jump: 32½ inches

Hands: 93/8 inches

Round projection: 1 (top 12)

Mayock's take: "I love his toughness and his size. He and Deshaun Watson just took over the national championship game against Alabama. Watson threw the ball up in the fourth quarter and let this kid go get it, and he did. He's today's NFL big receiver. He's a 4.55 40 guy, but I don't really care. Dez Bryant only ran a 4.52. This kid is physical. He's back-shoulder fades. He's red zone. He's today's big NFL wideout."

THE RISER

Zay Jones

East Carolina

6-2, 201

40 time: 4.45

Vertical jump: 36½ inches

Hands: 9 inches

Round projection: 2

Mayock's take: "He and Haason Reddick have done the most since the season ended to embrace the draft process at every juncture and raise their stock. He had incredible production at East Carolina. The knock on him was he couldn't run because their offense was a lot of bubble screens, tunnel screens and hitches. He ran a lot of short routes in their offense. But I was impressed by his toughness. He was their best player and got double-teamed. Linebackers and safeties were hitting him and he caught everything. At the Senior Bowl, he won every one-on-one route. He didn't drop a ball. Then he went to the combine and ran a 4.45. I think initially, most people had him as a late-three to a fourth-round pick. NowI think he's a solid second-round pick. Teams and coaches love him.''

THE SLEEPER

Mack Hollins

North Carolina

6-4, 221

40 time: 4.53

Vertical jump: N/A

Hands: 9¾ inches

Round projection: 5

Mayock's take: "He's probably the best special- teams player in this draft not including return guys. He'll be a core special-teams player, which is rare for a wideout. He'll probably go in the fifth round and he'll be your third or fourth wide receiver, while he's also becoming one of your best special-teams players."

TIGHT ENDS

THE BEST

O.J. Howard

Alabama

6-6, 251

40 time: 4.51

Vertical jump: 30 inches

Hands: 10 inches

Round projection: 1 (top 15)

Mayock's take: "He reminds me of (Carolina's) Greg Olsen in that you can line him up inline and he'll compete as a blocker. But you can line him up anywhere on the field. In the slot, out wide, at h-back, anywhere. He can help you in the run game. He was underutilized as a receiver at Alabama because of the type of team they were. But he can get intermediate. He can get deep. He can run all of the NFL seam routes that tight ends run. He's got excellent hands. And he's as competitive as can be. He apparently went back for his senior year because he wanted to improve as a blocker and show people he would embrace it, which he did. Worst case, he's a top-20 pick. But I think he'll go earlier than that."

THE RISER

Adam Shaheen

Ashland

6-6, 278

40 time: 4.78

Vertical jump: 32½ inches

Hands: 95/8 inches

Round projection: 3

Mayock's take: "He dominated at Ashland, which he should have. They moved him everywhere. A lot of it was 3x1 (one tight end, three wide receivers). He was the one into the sideline. They'd just throw him jump balls. There's been a lot of attention paid to this kid. He might even get overdrafted because he's risen so far. I thought, at 278 pounds, he should've been a better blocker. I thought he was a very average blocker. But at 278, he's got good movement skills. He ran 4.78. He looks faster than that. He catches the ball well."

THE SLEEPER

Jason Croom

Tennessee

6-4, 246

40 time: 4.63

Vertical jump: 34 inches

Hands: 9½ inches

Round projection: 7-FA

Mayock's take: "He ran a 4.63 at his pro day. There's a little buzz about him all of a sudden just because he had some injuries early on in his career. He was a wide receiver and was moved to tight end this year and then he got hurt again. He made just five starts and only had 21 catches. Long story short, athletically he can help you in the pass game Year 1 as a former wideout. It's going to take him some time to learn to be a run-game guy. But he's athletic and can catch the football."

OFFENSIVE TACKLES

THE BEST

Cam Robinson

Alabama

6-6, 322

40 time: 5.15

225 bench press: N/A

Arms: 35½ inches

Round projection: 1 (10 to 20)

Mayock's take: "I'm a little bit conflicted about where to put him position-wise. When I watch his tape, I see (Raiders left guard) Kelechi Osemele, who was a college tackle that became a Pro Bowl guard. And that's who I think Robinson is. However, it's such an awful tackle year in the draft that most of the teams are going to want to draft him at tackle because he has the physical skill set to start at left tackle. He's long. He's got good feet. He's a really gifted kid. So I think somebody is going to draft him and put him at left tackle and see if he can handle it. My issues with him were I thought he had some balance issues. He gets overextended a lot. Overreaches. Gets beat back underneath. I thought he was confused at times with stunts. I think he'd be better-suited just exploding off the ball inside (as a guard). But if he ends up somewhere with a good teacher and develops some of his physical traits, he could be a good left tackle. Either way, he's a very gifted kid."

THE RISER

Taylor Moton

Western Michigan

6-5, 319

40 time: 5.18

225 bench press: 23 reps

Arms: 341/8 inches

Round projection: 2

Mayock's take: "He played right tackle in college. He's either a right tackle or a guard. I watched him against Illinois. Illinois had a pretty good edge guy named Dawuane Smoot and Moton played really well against him. I think he can play right tackle in the NFL. He's one of those guys who could get pushed up and go in the second round. He probably should go in the third, but because of the lack of talent in this tackle class, he probably goes in the second."

THE SLEEPER

Julie'n Davenport

Bucknell

6-7, 318

40 time: 5.45

225 bench press: 18 reps

Arms: 36½ inches

Round projection: 5-6

Mayock's take: "He has the longest wingspan in the draft (87½ inches). The wingspan is what makes him interesting. He's got pretty good feet, but coming out of Bucknell, he's a developmental tackle. He has starter traits for a left tackle. Good feet and all kinds of length. But he needs to get way stronger. He needs two years on a practice squad or a roster just getting confident and developing his technique."

INTERIOR

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN

THE BEST

Forrest Lamp

Western Kentucky

6-3, 309

40 time: 4.98

225 bench press: 34 reps

Arms: 32¼ inches

Round projection: 1 (20 to 32)

Mayock's take: "He's my favorite lineman in this draft. His game against Alabama was the best offensive line tape I've seen against Alabama in several years. He handled speed. He handled power. He played left tackle at Western Kentucky. But he's going to get kicked inside. I think he's going to be very similar to Zack Martin, Joel Patonio, Mitch Morse and Cody Whitehair. All of them were college left tackles who kicked inside to guard or center and played very well very quickly. I think (Lamp) will be moved inside immediately just because of his lack of length. Some teams like him at center because he's a smart kid. I think he could play all three interior spots and also help you out at right tackle in a pinch."

THE RISER

Dion Dawkins

Temple

6-4, 314

40 time: 5.11

225 bench press: 26 reps

Arms: 35 inches

Round projection: 2

Mayock's take: "Another position conversion. I think his best football is ahead of him. He played left tackle at Temple, but likely will be moved inside. Some teams may try him at right tackle. He's got a little edge to him, some toughness to him, which teams really like. He's another guy who helped himself throughout the draft process. He played well at the Senior Bowl and he tested a little better at the combine than people expected. He's got 35½-inch arms even though he's under 6-4. He ran well and tested OK. Coming out of Temple, my perception was he was a guy with a lot of fourth-round grades. But I think he's moved up and is going to end up going in the second round."

THE SLEEPER

Nate Theaker

Wayne State

6-5, 315

40 time: 5.41

225 bench press: 23 reps

Arms: 325/8 inches

Round projection: 7-FA

Mayock's take: "He was a three-year starter at Wayne State. Dominated most of the smaller d-ends and edge rushers he faced at the Division II level. He plays with a nasty edge. He's a tough kid. He played tackle at Wayne State but will move inside. He's a little bit of a project, but a lot of teams like him. He needs to learn how to play lower in the NFL or he won't be there very long."

INTERIOR

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

THE BEST

Jonathan Allen

Alabama

6-2, 283

40 time: 5.00

225 bench press: 21 reps

Arms: 335/8 inches

Round projection: 1 (top 10)

Mayock's take: "I love the way he plays. His highest and best use is as a defensive end in a base 4-3 package who gets kicked inside in sub (packages). But the beauty of this kid is if a 3-4 team drafts him, he's already played that position at Alabama. So, he fits any front. Three-man front, four-man front. The key is, in sub-packages, at 285 pounds, he can kick inside and be quicker than most centers or guards and be just as tough as them.''

THE RISER

Dalvin Tomlinson

Alabama

6-3, 310

40 time: 5.19

225 bench press: 22 reps

Arms: 33½ inches

Round projection: 3

Mayock's take: "He was a three-time state wrestling champion in high school in Georgia, which I love, because he understands balance and leverage and stays on his feet. He's overcome two ACLs – one in high school and another at Alabama. With Alabama, you're never sure with some of these kids what year they are because they have so many good players. I was watching tape of Jonathan Allen and kept saying, who is this guy? Tomlinson will play in the league for 10 years. He's ideally a 5-technique on a 3-4 team. He plays with balance. He's really good against the run. He can get a little bit of pressure in the pass game, but he's as solid as the day is long."

THE SLEEPER

Grover Stewart

Albany (Ga.) State

6-4, 334

40 time: 5.12

225 bench press: 30 reps

Arms: 33¼ inches

Round projection: 5-6

Mayock's take: "He's a big boy with a lot of talent. He got in the NFLPA all-star game and played really well. He reminds me of a kid from Delaware State that Arizona took in the fourth round a couple of years ago, Rodney Gunter. This kid could go anywhere from the fourth to seventh round. There's a lot of curiosity about his movement skills. He ran well, moved well. Did 30 reps at 225 at his pro day. He's a small-school kid with good physical traits. He's moving up boards.''

EDGE RUSHERS

THE BEST

Myles Garrett

Texas A&M

6-4, 272

40 time: 4.57

225 bench press: 33 reps

Arms: 35¼

Round projection: 1 (top 2)

Mayock's take: "All you have to do is put the UCLA tape on from Week 1 when he was healthy. He just decimated UCLA. They couldn't block him. Most teams couldn't block him with two people. He tried to play with an ankle injury this year and struggled at times. But he has every bit the movement skills of Von Miller, and he's 20 pounds heavier. He's got quite a physical package. What I like about him is he has speed, and he can convert speed to power."

THE RISER

Tanoh Kpassagnon

Villanova

6-7, 289

40 time: 4.83

225 bench press: 23 reps

Arms: 355/8 inches

Round projection: 2-3

Mayock's take: "There's some intrigue out there about him. He didn't have a lot of early football experience. Villanova was one of the few schools to offer him a scholarship. So, he's coming from nowhere to the point where every NFL team is intrigued by him because of his physical stature and look and the possibility of developing his physical traits. He's moves really well. He performed well at the Senior Bowl and even better at the combine. He's raw. He's somewhat developmental. But I think he's a base 4-3 end with the skill set to rush the quarterback.''

THE SLEEPER

Pat O'Connor

Eastern Michigan

6-4, 276

40 time: 4.81

225 bench press: 17 reps

Arms: 32¾ inches

Round projection: 7-FA

Mayock's take: "He's off the radar. But he's a tough guy. A more physical run stuffer. He's a late-draftable or priority free agent. But he plays with an edge. He has some strength and power. I just like his physicality."

LINEBACKER

THE BEST

Reuben Foster

Alabama

6-foot, 229

40 time: N/A

225 bench press: N/A

Arms: 323/8 inches

Round projection: 1 (top 15)

Mayock's take: "He had the best linebacker tape I've seen since Luke Kuechly. He can play all three linebacker positions in a 4-3. He has an innate feel for the game. He can run, chase, take on blockers directly. He's good in the pass game. He's a top-20 pick in any draft. People are evaluating and trying to figuring him out off the field. He had a tough upbringing. His issues are injuries and off-the-field stuff. On the field, there are no issues. He can play in any system. Inside guy in a 3-4, a WILL or MIKE in a 4-3. He's just always around the football.

THE RISER

Haason Reddick

Temple

6-1, 237

40 time: 4.52

225 bench press: 24 reps

Arms: 32¾ inches

Round projection: 1 (11-20)

Mayock's take: "Between his tape and taking it to another level in the draft process, he's jumped up draft boards into the middle of the first round. He was an edge rusher at Temple with a lot of production. He gets to the Senior bowl and they move him to off-the-line linebacker. He shows he can cover tight ends and running backs. A lot of people didn't know he was a high school safety, so he was comfortable with that. He's big enough and tough enough to handle that position. He showed his movement skills at the combine and his pro day. His highest and best use is as an inside linebacker in base packages. A creative defensive coordinator can work with him in sub-packages. He can stay at inside linebacker (in sub-packages) or he can move outside and be a pass rusher. He can be an A-gap rusher. He's a pretty intriguing chess piece and he's got all the physical traits."

THE SLEEPER

Dylan Donahue

West Georgia

6-3, 248

40 time: 4.76

225 bench press: 26 reps

Arms: 30¼ inches

Round projection: 6-7

Mayock's take: "He was a defensive end at West Georgia. Like Reddick, he's going to have to stand up (in the NFL). He's big and ran a 4.76. On tape, he had one of the best motors I'd seen all year. He was just relentless. I think his toughness and physicality will translate to a roster spot. He'll be a late draftable - fifth, sixth, seventh round. But he'll make somebody's team.''

CORNERBACKS

THE BEST

Marshon Lattimore

Ohio State

6-foot, 193

40 time: 4.36

Vertical jump: 38½ inches

Arms: 31¼ inches

Round projection: 1 (top 10)

Mayock's take: "Once you get comfortable with the fact that he's a one-year starter and his hamstring history, there's very little not to like. His physical traits are really outstanding for a No. 1 NFL corner. He's big and fast. A natural press corner who doesn't get intimidated at all. He can find the ball with his back to the quarterback. He will tackle. He's going to be a No. 1 corner for a team for a lot of years. The hamstring issues worry me a little bit, though. He and (Ohio State teammate Malik) Hooker are a similar conversation. Hooker's even more of a (injury) concern from that respect. So you'd better be sure your medical people have signed off on it before you draft them."

THE RISER

Kevin King

Washington

6-3, 200

40 time: 4.43

Vertical jump: 39½ inches

Arms: 32 inches

Round projection: 1 (20-32)

Mayock's take: "He 6-3 and 200 pounds and ran a 4.43 at the combine. His 10-yard split was 1.49, which is outstanding, especially for a guy his size. He jumped 39½ inches. So he's got great speed and movement skills. His measurables have moved him up into the first-round conversation. But I didn't see it transfer to tape on a consistent basis. I didn't see that (4.43) speed on tape. I saw some people running by him. That said, I still think single-high (safety) teams like Seattle, Atlanta, Jacksonville and San Francisco are going to love him. Because that's what he played at Washington and you can see how transferrable it is.''

THE SLEEPER

Nate Hairston

Temple

6-foot, 196

40 time: 4.52

Vertical jump: 35½ inches

Arms: 31 inches

Round projection: 5-6

Mayock's take: "He's a shade under 6-foot and has long arms. He ran a 4.52, which is fast enough. I was really impressed by him at the East-West game. What I like about him is he's only spent a year-and-a-half at corner. He's a conversion guy. He played more physical this year than last year. If he gets a good defensive backs coach in the NFL, I actually think he has starter traits. He has good size. He runs OK. And he'll tackle. He's probably going to have to be a special-teams guy for a while. But like I said, if he gets with a good position coach, in 2-3 years, he could surprise people."

SAFETIES

THE BEST

Jamal Adams

Alabama

6-foot, 214

40 time: 4.38

Vertical jump: 31½ inches

Arms: 333/8 inches

Round projection: 1 (top 10)

Mayock's take: "He's a top 10 pick. I was at his pro day. He ran a 4.38 at 212 pounds. He's physical, tough. He will tackle. He can also cover the deep middle, the deep outside. He should play in the league for 10-plus years and be a Pro Bowl player. I love (Malik) Hooker as well. He's the prototype centerfielder. But I'm very worried about Hooker's tackling and the durability of his frame. Adams is a little better in the box than he is on the back end. But he can cover."

THE RISER

Obi Melifonwu

Connecticut

6-4, 224

40 time: 4.40

Vertical jump: 44 inches

Arms: 32½ inches

Round projection: 1 (20-32)

Mayock's take: "His tape was good. Very solid. His performance at the combine was crazy. Ran a 4.40, had a 44-inch vertical and an 11-4 broad jump. I mean, at 220 pounds, that's stupid. That's ridiculous. Because of his length and speed, people are going to look at him as a potential matchup guy. I think that's really crucial. I think he'll go in the first round because of that. The fact that he could line up and cover a big wideout one week and kick inside and cover a tight end the next week,or line up over a slot, I think those are really important things.''

THE SLEEPER

Lorenzo Jerome

St. Francis (Pa.)

5-10, 204

40 time: 4.63

Vertical jump: N/A

Arms: 305/8 inches

Round projection: 6-7

Mayock's take: The 4.7 40 is going to kill him. Despite that, he's a helluva football player. He had two interecptions in the NFLPA game. Got a late promotion to the Senior Bowl and had two interceptions and a forced fumble there. The kid competed all week at the Senior Bowl. Like I said, he's going to get dinged for the poor 40 time. But I just think he's a flat-out football player and is going to end up playing somewhere. He's smart, instinctive, tough, and has great ball skills."

>> Click here for more coverage of the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia

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