There are hundreds (thousands?) of hours of work to be done on the 2016 NFL draft class, but as is custom, I have a first look about 355 days early. The usual question I get before you read this one: How was last year's offering? Actually, not terrible, at least at the top of the board. About 52 weeks ago, I had Jameis Winston at No. 1; Marcus Mariota at No. 4; Leonard Williams at No. 5; Amari Cooper at No. 6; Brandon Scherff at No. 7; Dante Fowler Jr. at No. 8; and Andrus Peat at No. 9. A couple of top-10 guys who fell dramatically were No. 3 Randy Gregory (off-field issues) and No. 2 Cedric Ogbuehi (knee injury), but both of those weren't about football.
As for this class? My initial thought is it looks more unpredictable, just because there's SO much sorting to be done with the quarterbacks. It's just a really unsettled group at this stage. But that's part of the fun.
A couple of parameters: This includes all players who could be eligible for the 2016 NFL draft based on time spent in college, which means juniors and redshirt sophomores qualify. I'm not going to provide a lot of scouting notes at this point, with most of the evaluation work on this class still to come. Note that in two weeks, I'll release early rankings across every position group, about 200 players in total.
An asterisk denotes a junior for the 2015 season; two asterisks denote a redshirt sophomore.
John Bosa was the No. 3-ranked defensive end in my 1987 draft guide coming out of Boston College and eventually went No. 17 overall to Miami. I'd put No. 17 overall on the low end of any projections for his son. Joey has size (6-foot-6, 275 pounds), versatility that will fit any scheme and the ability to go around blockers or right through them. He has piled up 34.5 tackles for loss in two seasons, and that's without a developmental redshirt season.
He will be coming back from a fibula fracture suffered in the Peach Bowl, but Tunsil is still just a true junior with two sparkling seasons of play against top competition, all following a highly celebrated prep career. A nimble but powerful left tackle prospect, he has all the traits you look for at that spot.
A does-it-all secondary talent who has already started 28 college games heading into his junior season, Ramsey would have been the top safety taken in the 2015 draft had he been allowed to enter. He has length, range and exceptional instincts to make plays all over the field.
4. *Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss Rebels
The top name in the incredible Ole Miss recruiting Class of 2013, Nkemdiche moved inside after starting his Rebels career on the edge. He has exceptional movement skills for a player his size (6-4, 280 pounds). And although I want to see more production from him, he has been thrown into the mix early, all while making position adjustments, and has the potential to break out in 2015 as he gets comfortable.
What Hargreaves lacks in size, he makes up for in instincts and effortless fluidity in moving with receivers. He's not that small, really, at 5-11 and about 195 pounds, and I think he would have been the top CB taken in the 2015 draft, if available. And this isn't just projection; he has played in 24 games and already has picked off six passes before his junior season.