The more general managers, scouting directors, and team scouts around the league watch the senior prospects of the 2016 NFL Draft class, the more intrigued they will become with the available talent.
This was certainly the case for me. Despite outlining 100 of the top seniors in the country in three previous articles, I continued to find additional top-flight players (or players with the potential to be top-flight prospects) that will contend for early round consideration in next year's draft. With a limited number of spots available in the top half of the draft, some players dropped into lower tiers -- though this is more a reflection of the depth of the class than of their ability.
The prospects listed in the Top 200 tier might not have broken into the top groups yet, but all have interesting characteristics that will attract NFL teams. And don't be surprised if some players on this list unseat the higher-rated prospects by the end of the draft process.
Jerell Adams, TE, South Carolina
Adams (6-6, 231) took over as the primary target after Rory Anderson went down with an injury last fall and excelled, using his height and strider's speed to finish with 21 catches for 279 yards and one score on the year. Finding a player of Adams' size in the middle rounds would be a great value for an NFL team.
Derrick Alexander, DE, Tulsa
Though a bit of a tackle-end 'tweener for some NFL scouts' liking, Alexander (6-2, 270) brings exceptional hustle to every play. The second-team All-AAC pick in 2014 (12 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks) is difficult to keep away from the ball and will earn comparisons to Green Bay Packer Mike Daniels and other undersized 3-4 rush linemen.
Dante Barnett, FS, Kansas State
Barnett is a slight (6-1, 193), tough-minded defender who can make plays in the secondary (three interceptions, eight pass breakups in 2014) and throw his body into running backs. The second-team All-Big 12 pick could move up boards if he proves he has the strength and speed to start at the next level.
Justin Bell, G, Ole Miss
To say that Bell (6-2, 347) is a load on the offensive line would be an understatement. His compact build makes him difficult to move, and he shows enough mobility to pull inside when needed. Scouts also like the versatility he's shown lining up on the left (18 starts) and right (8 starts) sides over the past two seasons.
Adrian Bellard, OT/G, Texas State
A second-team All-Sun Belt pick last season, Bellard (6-5, 315) has thick legs, powerful arms and surprising mobility given his build. He's a force in the run game who could potentially move inside in the NFL, but should be given the opportunity to prove himself at right tackle to see if he's athletic enough to handle that job.
Zeek Bigger, ILB, East Carolina
His last name is a bit of a misnomer in terms of size (6-2, 216), but it is apt in terms of his talent. The second-team All-AAC selection is a solid tackler (140 stops last season, 3.5 for loss) and uses his athleticism in coverage, as well (two interceptions, four pass breakups). Bigger is a cinch to be a special-teams stalwart at the next level, but don't be surprised if he earns playing time on defense in the right kind of system.
Trey Braun, G, Georgia Tech
Michael "Trey" Braun (he's the third member of his family to carry the name, following his father, who played football at Army) has fit in well in Paul Johnson's offensive scheme over the past season and a half, showing mobility and excellent technique to fire off the ball low and hard from the left guard spot. Teams looking for agility and intelligence over pure brawn will value Braun (6-5, 294) in the middle of the draft.
Kentrell Brice, SS, Louisiana Tech
Brice's competitive nature was on display in the 2014 season opener, as he lit up Oklahoma ball carriers nine times to show Big 12 fans he could have played on that level instead of staying home in Ruston. Brice, the Bulldogs' leading tackler last season with 86, not only makes plays in coverage (two interceptions, five pass breakups in 2014) but is also a very effective blitzer (four sacks last year) and could offer help in slot coverage. If Brice (5-foot-11, 198 pounds) tests well at the NFL Scouting Combine, teams will be very interested in acquiring his services in the top half of the draft as a special-teams demon and eventual starter in the secondary.
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
A big body (6-3, 309) in the middle of the Bulldogs' defense, Butler won't threaten quarterbacks often (just two career sacks) but his girth and nimble feet allow him to clog up running lanes (13.5 tackles for loss in 2014) and push the pocket. He should be a solid rotational inside player.
Kivon "Kiki" Cartwright, TE, Colorado State
After garnering honorable mention All-Mountain West honors in 2013 with 27 catches for 462 yards and six touchdowns, Cartwright missed all but one game of the 2014 season due to an injury suffered in the spring. The NCAA granted Cartwright (6-4, 245) a sixth year of eligibility; if healthy, he'll consistently threaten defenses over the middle and down the seam as a senior.
Bryan Chamberlain, G/OT, Georgia Tech
The honorable mention All-ACC pick by league media last season was a big part of Tech's success in the run game (led the NCAA with 342 yards a game). Whether Chamberlain (6-4, 295) plays left tackle or left guard for the Yellow Jackets this year, his movement skills and technique give him a chance to be solid pass protector as well as a run blocker in the NFL.
Theiren Cockran, DE/OLB, Minnesota
This tall, lean defensive end (6-6, 257) has been a thorn in the side of Big Ten offensive lines the past two seasons, racking up 17 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Cockran has the get-off to pressure the edge and the long strides to chase plays from behind, potentially setting up a move to the rush linebacker position. If scouts think he's strong enough to handle containment responsibilities against NFL tackles, he'll rise up this list.
Jake Coker, QB, Alabama
Yes, I know Coker (6-5, 232) hasn't won the starting job for the Crimson Tide as of this writing. His lack of experience (just 17 games played for Florida State and Alabama in three years, no starts) will be a strike against him in some scouts' eyes. But even in the limited time he's had on the field as a backup, Coker has shown mobility and arm strength to be a solid NFL backup/spot starter in the T.J. Yates mold. If he has a solid season as a starter for Nick Saban this year, Coker should land at least a fifth-round draft slot (Yates was a fifth-rounder); he could go much higher if he lights up the scoreboard this season.
James Cowser, DE/OLB, Southern Utah
One of the most productive players in the Football Championship Subdivision (29 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks in 2014), Cowser (6-4, 258) uses strong hands and a great motor to beat tackles off the edge. He appears to have the change-of-direction ability to play standing up in the NFL, as well. Another All-American season in 2015 will force all teams, regardless of scheme, to take a long look.
Jared Dangerfield, WR, Western Kentucky
It didn't take long for Dangerfield (6-3, 200) to adjust to the Hilltoppers' offense as a transfer from Fort Scott Community College; he was voted second-team All-Conference USA after grabbing 69 passes for 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. Dangerfield has quick feet to go along with his height and length, which makes for an interesting mid-to-late round prospect.
Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
Dixon joined Dangerfield as a second-team All-Conference USA honoree in 2014, as he hit 1,000 yards rushing (1,299) for the second time in his three years in Ruston (he had 917 yards as a sophomore while fighting a knee injury). Dixon's low center of gravity (5-10, 212) and churning feet have helped him reach the end zone 53 times as a rusher during his career, and he's not a bad receiver, either (30 catches, 385 yards, six scores in 2014).
Kenyan Drake, RB, Alabama
If he wasn't coming back from a broken leg suffered against Ole Miss last October, Drake (6-1, 210) would be a bit higher in the preseason rankings. A healthy season duplicating his 2013 effort (694 rush yards, 135 receiving yards, eight total touchdowns, four special teams tackles) should convince teams Drake would be a valued member of their squad.
Kenneth Farrow, RB, Houston
Farrow (6-1, 218) might not be the fastest back in the country, but he might be the most difficult to bring down once out of the backfield. He broke out for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2014, earning second-team All-AAC honors while running through linebackers and over defensive backs on his way downfield.
Christian French, DE/OLB, Oregon
We haven't seen the best of this young man as of yet, as he hasn't been able to crack the starting lineup very often with the Ducks' older talent holding him back. In limited action last season, however, he managed to lead the team with 6.5 sacks. If French (6-5, 250) shows he has added bulk to his frame while proving himself an all-around defender, he could earn at least a mid-round spot.
Jamal Golden, FS, Georgia Tech
Golden (6-0, 193) had a hand in seven turnovers last season (four interceptions, three forced fumbles), which is no surprise given the way he comes downhill to attack receivers and ball carriers. He was also one of the top kick and punt returners in college football earlier in his career, ranking in the top 10 nationally in both categories. Displaying special-teams acumen with that sort of playmaking ability again this year should earn him high marks from scouts.
Darius Hamilton, DE/DT, Rutgers
Darius' father, Keith, was a longtime defensive tackle for the New York Giants -- so it's not surprising that Darius played well enough to be the Rivals.com National Defensive Player of the Year his senior year of high school. Hamilton is undersized for a tackle (6-2, 265), and he moves off the line against better blockers. However, he does a lot of damage in one-on-one situations using his length and athleticism to bull-rush or out-quick his man, making 23 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks over the past two seasons. A special senior campaign and outstanding postseason showing will force NFL teams to overlook his size and focus on his skills.
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State
The MEAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014 had 16 sacks on the season -- a whopping six against Bethune-Cookman, a figure that tied the FCS single-game record. He's used his size (6-2, 300) and brute strength to overwhelm his competition throughout his career, racking up 12.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2013 after a FCS Freshman All-American season the year before. He'll need to prove himself against major college players in an all-star game, displaying the quickness and technique needed to excel at the next level, to earn something more than a late-round or priority-free-agent grade.
Josh Hawkins, CB, East Carolina
Hawkins (5-10, 185) had to bide his time as a part-time starter and nickelback for two seasons before shining on the outside in 2014. His five interceptions and 11 pass breakups showed off his outstanding athleticism and tenacity in coverage (even if he gives up size and strength to larger receivers), but Hawkins' toughness also shows in his ability to play the run. Look for him to complete an inspiring journey from walk-on to first-team all-conference pick as a senior, then hear his name called during the 2016 NFL draft.
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU
Hill looks to be everything an NFL team would want in a backup quarterback prospect. He's athletic, smart, and has enough arm strength and accuracy to move his team effectively when given the chance. He began 2014 with a bang, leading the Cougars to wins on the road at UConn and Texas, throwing for nearly 500 yards and rushing for about 200 more. However, his size is average (6-2, 232) and injuries ended his freshman (knee) and junior (broken leg, torn ligaments) seasons. He'll need to stay on the field this year for any team to seriously consider him as a long-term project.
Tyler Hunter, SS, Florida State
Hunter (5-11, 198) suffered a serious neck injury in the third game of the 2013 season. He returned to start all 14 games at strong safety last season, making plays on the sideline in two-deep looks (one pick, seven pass breakups) and also pounding receivers and running backs in the box (65 tackles). FSU's secondary has a lot of talent, but Hunter shouldn't be overlooked.
Dominick Jackson, OT/G, Alabama
Although Jackson didn't get a chance to start in his first year with the Tide, there's little doubt he has the talent to be an NFL-caliber lineman. He was one of the top junior college players in the country at the College of San Mateo, dominating his competition on an every-play basis. Last season, Jackson played as a reserve and as a blocking back in goal-line situations because of his athleticism and willingness to take on defenders in the hole. Whether he starts at guard or right tackle in 2015 (he could play either in the NFL), it won't be a surprise if he establishes himself as one of the nastiest blockers in the conference.
Paul James, RB, Rutgers
When James is healthy, he's tough to stop. The 6-0, 215-pound back can wiggle his way through a crease, power through arm tackles and has enough of a burst to break off big runs. Unfortunately, he hasn't been healthy often enough the past two seasons, missing six weeks in 2013 and then tearing his right ACL in the fourth week of his junior year. In his last 13 games, however, James has 1,244 rushing yards and 14 scores, along with 15 catches for 227 yards and two touchdowns. Accumulating those sort of stats in a full final collegiate year should pay big dividends come next April.
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
Jones (5-10, 196) switched from receiver to cornerback for his sophomore campaign in 2013, and then blossomed into a second-team All-SEC pick by league media in 2014 (three interceptions, 13 pass deflections) in spite of a torn labrum in his hip, which was surgically repaired in the offseason. He could move up draft boards this season if he continues to improve his technique and instincts in coverage as a senior, but the injury and a domestic violence charge that was dropped against him this spring will make teams take a hard look.
Jamaal Jones, WR, Montana
Feeling buried on the depth chart at the University of Washington, Jones was granted his release after the 2012 season and made an immediate impact for the Griz. The second-team All-Big Sky pick (67 catches, 1,044 yards, eight TD in 2014) is a fantastic hands-catcher with fair size (6-1, 191) and strength for a receiver that works from the slot. Montana has had more players selected since 2000 (10) than any other non-FBS school, but only one (CB Trumaine Johnson, 2012) picked in the top 150; Jones has the game to get through that barrier.
Ted Karras, G, Illinois
Talk about a football family -- seven members of the Karras clan have played Big Ten football, and four of them went on to the NFL, including the late Pro Bowler Alex Karras, who is Ted's great uncle. Growing up around the game certainly aided his development as a player, but name recognition isn't why he's on this list. The 2014 honorable mention All-Big Ten pick has been a starter for the Illini since arriving on campus, although he missed the final four games of last season with a torn left ACL and MCL. Before the injury, Karras (6-4, 310) showed the strength and mobility to be a starter at the next level. A healthy season should land him a draft slot.
Drew Kaser, P, Texas A&M
Nearly every year, one punter hears his name called in the top 200 picks; it could be Kaser (6-3, 210) in 2016 because he possesses the leg strength and hang time to consistently change field position. He was a Ray Guy Award finalist in 2013 after leading the SEC with a 47.4 yard average (beating perennial Pro Bowler Shane Lechler's school record), and had a nice follow-up season in 2014 (44.5 yard average, 19 of 56 punts inside the 20).
Nile Lawrence-Stample, DT, Florida State
Lawrence-Stample is a run-stuffer, pure and simple. The 6-1, 323-pound nose tackle eats double teams for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If single-blocked, however, Lawrence-Stample can find the ball and has the short-area quickness to make the play, so NFL teams looking for a pure nose tackle could be interested. A pectoral injury limited him to four games in 2014, although he came back for the team's Rose Bowl appearance against Oregon (blocking an extra point). A healthy year in 2015 would mean a lot for his draft stock.
Kolby Listenbee, WR, TCU
After two seasons of providing minimal production, Listenbee (6-1, 183) received his chance to shine in 2014, earning honorable mention All-Big 12 accolades with 41 catches for 783 yards and four scores. Scouts are very interested in his track success, as well; Listenbee was an All-American in 2014 for his work in the 4x100 relay -- that speed jumps out on film. As with most track star/football players, he must demonstrate sufficient physicality and consistent hands to earn high grades from NFL teams.
Tyler Marz, G/OT, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's starting left tackle the past two seasons, Marz (6-7, 318) was given honorable mention All-Big Ten notice by coaches and league media in 2013 and 2014 due to his strength and footwork in the run game. It's probable Marz will need to move to right tackle or inside at the next level, unless he can improve his agility and recovery ability against better defensive ends this season.
Adrian McDonald, SS, Houston
The best word to describe McDonald is "ballhawk." The first-team All-ACC selection in 2014 has compiled 13 interceptions and five forced fumbles in his career, and is a solid tackler despite his average size (5-10, 190). He'll be a force on special teams, as well, which is a requirement for any defensive back picked on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7) of the draft.
Jaydon Mickens, WR, Washington
NFL offensive coordinators looking for a quick receiver to work inside will be very interested in Mickens. Even though he's a reliable target (125 catches over the last two years), the Los Angeles native might be too thin (5-11, 171) for some general managers' tastes. However, if he can bulk up to the 180 mark for the NFL Scouting Combine and still display the short-area speed that makes him an effective threat in the slot, he'll be a nice value in the middle rounds.
Doug Middleton, FS, Appalachian State
Middleton's versatility and read/recognition skills are impressive. He's started at cornerback and free safety for the Mountaineers, makes plays in the box (74 tackles, six for loss in 2014), and diplays enough range to play in single or two-deep coverage (four interceptions, six pass breakups last season). All-star games and postseason workouts will allow him to show he can make plays against a higher level of competition and that he possesses the speed to succeed at the next level.
Harlan Miller, CB, Southeastern Louisiana
Miller was named third-team FCS All-American by The Associated Press last season despite fighting through a dislocated shoulder that cost him three games. Miller (6-1, 180) picked off seven passes and broke up 12 others over the past two years; if he performs as well as former teammate Robert Alford did as a senior and in the postseason before being drafted in the second round by Atlanta in 2013, Miller might soon join him in the league as a late-round pick.
Antonio Morrison, OLB, Florida
On physical talent alone, Morrison would probably rank make the Top 100 category of this list. The second-team All-SEC pick is undersized (6-1, 229), but should be a very good chase linebacker in the NFL because he has the speed to make plays (101 tackles, six for loss) and the toughness to disengage from blocks inside. Teams will have to check into his background due to multiple off-field incidents during his career.
Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
Murphy (6-7, 298) is a solid right tackle prospect who could slide inside to guard. The second-team All-Pac-12 pick is coming off of his first full year as a starter and does not have elite footwork in pass protection. However, he does have enough movement skills and the requisite intelligence and toughness to succeed as a pro.
Pat O'Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan
A throwback defensive end, O'Connor (6-4, 252) is a tough, hustling competitor who can play on either side of the line. Offensive tackles shouldn't underestimate his athleticism, as he'll make them pay for that error in judgment. The first-team All-MAC pick made 7.5 sacks last year (14 total tackles for loss), using strong hands, good length, high effort and some natural bend to win the corner.
Kyle Peko, DT, Oregon State
Now that it appears Peko is eligible to play for the Beavers after sitting out the 2013 and 2014 seasons to get his academics in order, watch for him to make an instant impact. The cousin of longtime starting NFL defensive tackle Domata Peko and former Michigan State and NFL defensive tackle Tupe Peko, Kyle Peko is a short but thick (6-1, 317) interior presence with relatively light feet, which he used to wreak havoc during his two years in junior college and while practicing with OSU last season.
Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt
Scheu (pronounced SHOY) found Vandy's new offense to his liking in 2014, grabbing 39 passes for 525 yards and four touchdowns. The second-team All-SEC pick has an excellent catch radius at 6-5, 250 pounds. He also has just enough speed to make his way down the seam for big gains whether in a three-point stance or lined up on the hash. With an outstanding NFL Scouting Combine workout, he could end up cracking the top 100.
Ian Seau, DE/OLB, Nevada
The nephew of the late NFL star linebacker Junior Seau is making his own name in Reno. After one season at Grossmont College, he transferred to Nevada for 2013 and earned second-team All-Mountain West honors (8.5 sacks) as a junior. He plays with his hand in the dirt and standing up for the Wolfpack, but his 6-2, 255-pound frame projects to 3-4 'backer in the pros. His skill set is not reminiscent of his uncle's, but Seau has enough get-off and bend to be selected in the third or fourth round as a pass rusher.
Canaan Severin, WR, Virginia
In Severin's breakout 2014 season (42 catches, 578 yards, five scores), he made highlight reels all over the country for a spectacular one-handed catch that helped the Cavs beat Miami on Senior Day. Scouts will look for more of that this year. They'll also be looking for him to be more consistent as a strong (6-2, 215), possession receiver who can run all of the NFL routes.
Tevaun Smith, WR, Iowa
The Hawkeyes' top receiving threat grew up in Toronto, Ontario, but is now very familiar with American football. Smith (6-2, 200) has flashed potential in a part-time starting role the past two seasons (honorable mention All-Big Ten in 2014 with 43 catches for 596 yards and three scores), and is ready to become the team's go-to playmaker. He has the ability to be a solid No. 2 option for an NFL team within a couple of seasons.
Duke Thomas, CB, Texas
The 2014 honorable mention All-Big 12 pick received his nickname as a child because he had a bowlegged gait reminiscent of John Wayne, who was also known as "The Duke." Thomas' first name is Orlando. Thomas doesn't have a tall, thick frame (5-11, 178) like Wayne did, but he's willing to get dirty (53 tackles in 2014) and fight receivers for the ball when in position to do so -- as evidenced by his team-leading 10 pass deflections and three interceptions last season. He should be a solid mid-to-late round pick as a fourth/fifth defensive back and special-teams contributor.
Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
In his first year as a starter for the Bison, all Wentz did was throw for 3,111 yards and 25 touchdowns, leading the team to its second straight FCS Championship. He has NFL size (6-6, 222), arm strength to use the entire field and quickness as well as toughness as a runner to make first downs. Most importantly, he flashes the accuracy to lead receivers open and put the ball in tight spaces. A strong year in 2015 will earn him all-star game berths, where he could begin to rise.
Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina
Williams (6-2, 220) is known for his running ability; after all, he led the Tar Heels in rushing the past two years (788 yards, 13 touchdowns last season). Williams also completed 63 percent of his passes in his first full year as a starter for more than 3,000 yards, and also worked with quarterback coach George Whitfield and attended the Manning Passing Academy to work on his craft. The signs are there -- he could grow into a solid NFL quarterback in time, or get a look as an athlete if he shows the aptitude.