As of this moment, college football stars are restricted from entering the NFL until they are three years removed from high school. This is the largest restriction out of any of the three major sports (football, basketball, and baseball). Baseball recruits can enter the MLB right out of high school and the NBA has the infamous one-and-done rule for college basketball prospects.
But what if the NFL adopted the one-and-done rule? How would the landscape of the 2016 NFL Draft change if many of the talented freshmen and sophomores could declare for the draft?
Let’s take a look.
1. Tennessee Titans – Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M, sophomore – Myles Garrett might be the most talented player in college football at the moment. He will draw major comparisons to current Denver Broncos star Von Miller both for their schools and his style of play. He broke Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC sack freshman sack record and dominates offensive linemen on a week to week basis. He’d be a perfect fit in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme opposite of Brian Orakpo.
2. Cleveland Browns – Juju Smith-Schuster, WR, USC, sophomore – By signing RG3, the Browns have opened themselves up to taking a talented playmaker instead of a quarterback. They seriously need wide receiver help and Juju Smith-Schuster is the most talented receiver available. He is physical, aggressive, and plays with a “my-ball” mentality. The best pro comparison for Smith-Schuster? Current Dallas Cowboys star Dez Bryant.
3. San Diego Chargers – Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss, junior – With Phillip Rivers getting up there in age, the Chargers grab Tunsil to be their franchise left tackle. Tunsil might be the best offensive tackle prospect since Tyron Smith and will be the star of the Chargers’ offensive line long after Rivers is gone.
4. Dallas Cowboys – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, freshman – Normally, the Cowboys would consider a defensive playmaker here to help them on a Super Bowl run. But with Tony Romo playing the final seasons of his career, they have to consider a future starting quarterback. Josh Rosen is the perfect option for the Cowboys. At only 19 years old, he will have plenty of time to sit and learn behind Romo. Rosen flashed a lot of potential during his single season at UCLA and still has to develop a bit, but there might not be a better quarterback prospect in this draft.
5. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jalen Ramsey, CB, Florida State, junior – The Jaguars sit patiently and are rewarded with Jalen Ramsey. Perhaps the best overall prospect in this class, Ramsey can play any position in the defensive backfield and will be a star in a Jaguars uniform. He will be that playmaker that Gus Bradley has missed in his defense ever since he came from Seattle.
6. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, freshman – Part of the reason why Baltimore struggled last season was because Joe Flacco had no weapons to throw to. With 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman’s status still unknown, the Ravens grab Calvin Ridley here to be their No. 1 receiver. Despite being only a freshman, Ridley was the best wide receiver on Alabama’s championship team. While he isn’t Amari Cooper as a prospect, he can still be a talented receiver in the league.
7. San Francisco 49ers – Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson, sophomore – Chip Kelly grabs the perfect quarterback for his offense. Deshaun Watson is a great fit for Chip Kelly’s hurry-up offense and can make a smooth transition to the NFL in San Francisco. While there may be lingering concerns over his torn ACL as a freshman, he stayed healthy as a sophomore and can be a building block as the 49ers look to rebuild their franchise.
8. Philadelphia Eagles – Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU, sophomore – The Eagles traded away Demarco Murray, but the grab Fournette here to be their workhorse running back. Fournette is a generational talent at running back and proved during his sophomore year that he has all the tools to be an every-down back in the NFL.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State, junior – With pass rusher a big need for the Bucs, they grab Joey Bosa here. Bosa is perhaps the most NFL-ready pass rusher in this class and has dominated the college level for the past three years. He will pair up nicely with Gerald McCoy on the defensive line.
10. New York Giants – Myles Jack, LB, UCLA, junior – Myles Jack drops a bit here, possibly due to any lingering concerns about his knee injury, but the Giants stop his fall. Jack is a talented linebacker prospect who has also shown versatility as a slot cornerback as well. Linebacker was a major weakness for the Giants last season and Jack is a player that can start immediately.
11. Chicago Bears – Cameron Robinson, OT, Alabama, sophomore – The Bears grab Cam Robinson here to be their franchise left tackle. A former five-star prospect, Robinson started as a true freshman for Alabama at left tackle, an impressive feat in itself. Robinson showed throughout his two years in Tuscaloosa that he is a powerful player and was able to shut down SEC pass rushers.
12. New Orleans Saints – DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon, senior – The Saints need help on their defensive line, so they draft Buckner after his brief fall. Buckner is a versatile defensive lineman, able to play both end and tackle. He isn’t a great pass rusher, but is stout against the run and is able to dominate offensive linemen on a play-to-play basis.
13. Miami Dolphins – Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State, sophomore – The Dolphins let Lamar Miller go in free agency, but they draft Dalvin Cook to be his replacement. Cook is one of the best running back prospects in this class and will be a great complementary piece for a rebuilding Miami offense. There may be lingering concerns over his hamstring injuries, but he is the most explosive running back available.
14. Oakland Raiders – Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida, sophomore – With defensive secondary a major concern, the Raiders grab Jalen Tabor to be their No. 1 cornerback. His Florida teammate might get all the attention, but Tabor arguably has the higher ceiling due to his size and length. He has the ball skills to contend for double-digit picks every season.
15. Los Angeles Rams – Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State, senior – The Rams are moving to Los Angeles and they need a new identity at quarterback. Carson Wentz is available in this scenario and they grab him to be the face of their franchise. With Todd Gurley in the backfield, Wentz will have an easier transition into the NFL.
16. Detroit Lions – Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State, sophomore – With defensive interior a big concern, the Lions draft Malik McDowell to pair alongside Haloti Ngata. McDowell has been a playmaker for the Spartans and hasn’t even scratched the surface on his potential.
17. Atlanta Falcons – Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State, sophomore – Linebacker is a position of need for the Falcons so they grab McMillan here, somewhat of a surprise, over his Buckeye teammate. Darron Lee might have the speed, but McMillan is the more pro-ready prospect. McMillan has a knack for finding the ball, whether that be in the run game or defending passes.
18. Indianapolis Colts – Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State, junior – The Colts need help at running back to relieve pressure off of Andrew Luck. Luckily for them, Zeke falls to them in this scenario. An every-down back at the next level, Zeke is a great runner and is an excellent pass protector as well. Perfect for a team looking to protect Luck more.
19. Buffalo Bills – Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson, junior – The Bills draft Shaq Lawson to be a playmaker at pass rusher with Mario Williams departing in free agency. Lawson is a very powerful pass rusher who prefers to go through offensive tackles rather than around them. With great players on the interior of the defensive line, Lawson should be able to thrive in Buffalo.
20. New York Jets – Jared Goff, QB, California, junior – Ryan Fitzpatrick put up some impressive numbers last season for the Jets, but they need a quarterback of the future. Jared Goff might not be the most pro-ready option, but he will push Fitzpatrick for playing time as soon as he steps on the field.
21. Washington Redskins – Daylon Mack, DT, Texas A&M, freshman – Daylon Mack is a monster of a man and the Redskins draft him here to be their nose tackle. Mack dominated as a true freshman at Texas A&M and hasn’t even begun to crack the ceiling on his potential.
22. Houston Texans – Malachi Dupre, WR, LSU, sophomore – The Texans need a receiver to pair with Nuk Hopkins so they grab Dupre here to be a complementary piece for Brock Osweiler. Dupre’s production has been limited by poor quarterback play at LSU, but he has all the tools to be a very good pro player.
23. Minnesota Vikings – Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss, junior – The Vikings need a go-to receiver for Teddy Bridgewater to throw to. Who better than Laquon Treadwell? He might not be the fastest receiver on the field, but he catches everything. The Vikings can let Stefon Diggs be their deep threat while Treadwell works the middle of the field.
24. Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee, sophomore – Pass rusher is a need for the Bengals and Derek Barnett is a great complementary piece for their defensive line. Barnett struggled a bit as a sophomore, but proved during his freshman campaign that he has all the tools to be a franchise pass rusher.
25. Pittsburgh Steelers – Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida, junior – Hargreaves falls a bit in this scenario, but the Steelers snatch him up here. The Steelers might have some shorter cornerbacks on their roster at the moment, but Hargreaves plays like he’s five inches taller. He has great ball skills and will punish quarterbacks who target him for his size.
26. Seattle Seahawks – Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State, sophomore – Russell Okung departed in free agency, leaving a void at left tackle. Luckily, the Seahawks grab “Big Rod” Johnson here. Johnson might not be the most pro-ready prospect, but he has a high ceiling and will learn quickly in a rough NFC West division.
27. Green Bay Packers – O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama, junior – With tight end a position of need, the Packers grab O.J. Howard, banking on his potential and not his production. A former five-star prospect, Howard has been relatively quiet in college, save for his incredible performance in the national championship game. However, he is incredibly athletic and might be the best tight end prospect in the past couple years of the draft.
28. Kansas City Chiefs – Derwin James, S, Florida State, freshman – The Chiefs grab Derwin James here to pair alongside Eric Berry, immediately giving them the best safety tandem in the league. James dominated as a true freshman and showed a knack for making big hits as a safety. He will draw some major Kam Chancellor comparisons.
29. Arizona Cardinals – Desmond King, CB, Iowa, junior – The reigning Jim Thorpe award winner, Desmond King will fit nicely in the Arizona secondary. They can move Tyrann Mathieu back to safety or nickel cornerback and pair King with Patrick Peterson on the outside.
30. Carolina Panthers – Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame, junior – The Panthers’ offensive line overachieved in 2015 and a repeat performance should not be expected. As such, they grab Stanley to be their franchise left tackle for another Super Bowl run or two.
31. Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis, junior – Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. Currently, the Broncos best option is Mark Sanchez. That needs to be fixed. Paxton Lynch isn’t the best playmaker right now at quarterback, but the Broncos proved they have the pieces in place to make a playoff run without a star under center.