With the NFL Draft just a week away (finally!), front office personnel aren’t the only ones finalizing their draft boards, as Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and NFL.com all have released updated rankings of the top prospects this week.
Perhaps the most interesting takeaway is the varied opinions on Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, who is ranked by one outlet as the top running back in the draft yet considered by others to be outside the top five at his position. Sports Illustrated is the Carey supporter, ranking the two-time All-American at the top of its positional chart and 43rd overall. Sports Illustrated writes, "Carey is dealing with a lack of next-level speed on the field, but his productivity and overall skillset should see him go fairly early in the second day of the draft."
NFL.com’s Mike Mayock, however, disagrees with that, omitting Carey from his list of the top five running backs available and placing Washington’s Bishop Sankey at the top. CBS Sports sides with Mayock, ranking Carey seventh among running backs and 104th overall, with Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde (second on both SI.com’s and Mayock’s list) at the top.
While Mayock’s rankings are positional only, neither SI.com nor CBS Sports has a running back in the top 40 overall, an indication both of the relative weakness of this year’s class of running backs and the overall decline in value of elite running backs in the NFL as the game has become more and more quarterback-oriented. If those rankings holds true come draft weekend, there would be no running backs selected in the first round for the second year in a row.
Also of much debate is another in-state standout, Arizona State defensive tackle Will Sutton, who has found himself the subject of much criticism this offseason. Sutton had a statistically modest senior year while playing at a higher weight than in his monstrous junior campaign, although he was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season. He then had a seemingly disastrous NFL Combine performance, posting among the worst numbers of all defensive linemen in the 40-yard dash, broad jump and other athleticism-related tests despite weighing in at a reduced weight of 303 pounds.
Despite his on-field success, Sutton has been projected in many mock drafts as a late-round pick, but Sports Illustrated has him much higher, ranking him No. 56 overall as the seventh-best defensive tackle. Their synopsis: "Sutton’s ability to deal with double teams is something that really stands out on tape. He’ll have to answer questions about his weight issues at the Senior Bowl and the fact that his sack totals dropped from 13 in 2012 to just four last season."
Once again, though, SI.com would seem to be the positive outlier. Mayock does not include Sutton on his list of the top five defensive tackles available, and although the top five are all considered potential first-round picks, making it hard to gauge Sutton’s estimated value, NFL.com has been among Sutton’s biggest critics throughout the offseason. Meanwhile, CBS Sports ranks him 10th among defensive tackles and 86th overall, which would put him in the latter portion of the third round.
While these sorts of overall rankings are able to strip out the mock-draft variables of team needs and draft-day trades and whatnot and thus often end up with very similar results, that obviously isn’t the case with regards to Carey and Sutton.