To break up the monotony of normal NFL Draft coverage, I decided to go back in time. I have been watching and writing about draft prospects since I was a wee child in the year 2012. Obviously my skills of observation, football philosophies and various other things have evolved since 2012, so evaluations take on different meanings the further I go back. Every year I give “blue chip” designation to a few players, so everyone listed will have been under that category. I am trying to dispel recency AND hindsight bias as much as possible, but ultimately remember that we’re just here to have fun.
10. Isaiah Simmons, Linebacker, Clemson (2020): Simmons is not only an elite athlete, but he produced at an extremely high level for Clemson and he isn’t done improving yet. Simmons is a new age defender who can play all over the field at a very high level. It’s pretty scary to think he could still get better.
9. Marshon Lattimore, Cornerback, Ohio State (2017): Lattimore was a lockdown cornerback at Ohio State and had a great athlete to boot. His pure coverage skills was some of the best I have seen. Lattimore won DROY and has, overall, been a very good cornerback for the Saints.
8. Jalen Ramsey, Cornerback, Florida State (2016): Jalen Ramsey was not only a phenomenal athlete and cover cornerback, but he also played with the physicality and tenacity of a safety. Ramsey has played up to expectations despite some locker room disputes and has ended up on the Rams where he is still playing at a high level.
7. Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State (2018): Saquon Barkley’s freakish athletic ability made him one of the best running backs in college football history. He was powerful, fast, agile and a phenomenal receiver. He has since become the focal point of the Giants Offense, winning OROY in the process. Barkley fought through some injuries last year, but he is likely going to be the franchise guy for a very long time.
6. Luke Keuchly, Linebacker, Boston College (2012): Luke Keuchly decided to retire this offseason, ending a short but decorated career. In eight seasons, Keuchly won DROY, DPOY, was named to seven Pro-Bowls and five All-Pro Teams. Keuchly lived up to the expectation of his draft hype, but injuries unfortunately kept his career short.
5. Myles Garrett, Edge, Texas A&M (2017): The Browns got some heat for drafting Myles Garrett over the talented crop of quarterbacks, but Garrett has delivered in a big way in Cleveland. After producing at a high level at Texas A&M for three years, Garrett has posted 30.5 sacks in his three NFL seasons and that doesn’t even begin to illustrate his overall impact. Garrett got into some hot water this season after an on field altercation landed him with a multi-game suspension, but he will be back next year and likely among the favorites to win DPOY.
4. Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back, Ohio State (2016): By my estimation, Ezekiel Elliott is still the best running back to come out of college football in a very long time. Elliott was a very good athlete, but was also as polished of a ball carrier as you can ask for from a college back. Elliott has been an outstanding contributor for the Cowboys and has been (arguably) central to their offensive success. It will be interesting to see how his career continues under a new coaching staff in Dallas.
3. Jadeveon Clowney, Edge Defender, South Carolina (2014): Jadeveon Clowney was a college football legend and it would be revisionist to underplay his draft hype based on his professional career. Clowney had a monster sophomore year at South Carolina and battled through injuries to stay on the field for his final season. Clowney basically missed his entire first professional season, but grew into one of the NFL’s more disruptive defensive linemen. Clowney is likely going to be on his third NFL team in a few days, as he is still a free agent. While Clowney might not have lived up to his lofty draft expectations, there is no doubt he is one of the better defenders in the league.
2. Chase Young, Edge Defender, Ohio State (2020): Okay, so I might get some recency bias accusations here, but it is hard to argue with the resume Chase Young has put together. Young has been dominant in every measurable way the last two years at Ohio State and has all the athletic tools to contribute at a high level in the NFL. Young is a special prospect and I expect his impact in the league to be immediate.
1. Andrew Luck, Quarterback, Stanford: Any surprise? Luck came into the league championed as a generational talent at any position. Luck immediately delivered with a Cinderella season where he brought the Colts to the playoffs. While Luck played great football, the Colts were never able to successfully support him or protect him. Years of battling through injuries mounted up until this past offseason where he abruptly retired. Few can dispute his reasoning for stepping away from the game, but god it would have been fun to see the next act of his career.
Best Of The Rest: All the Other “Blue Chip” Designations (By Year)
- Fletcher Cox, Interior Defensive Lineman, Mississippi State (2012)
- Russell Wilson, Quarterback, Wisconsin (2012)
- CJ Mosley, Linebacker, Alabama (2014)
- Jake Matthews, Offensive Lineman, Texas A&M (2014)
- Jason Verrett, Cornerback, TCU (2014)
- Vic Beasley, Edge, Clemson (2015)
- Leonard Williams, Interior Defensive Lineman, USC (2015)
- Myles Jack, Linebacker, UCLA (2016)
- Laremy Tunsil, Offensive Tackle, Ole Miss (2016)
- Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia (2018)
- Quinnen Williams, Interior Defensive Lineman, Alabama (2019)
- Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky (2019)
- Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State (2019)
- Ed Oliver, Interior Defensive Lineman, Houston (2019)
- Greedy Williams, Cornerback, LSU (2019)
- Jeff Okudah, Cornerback, Ohio State (2020)
- Johnathan Taylor, Running Back, Wisconsin (2020)