NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock ranks the top five players in the NFL draft at each position, and released his third edition of the rankings on Wednesday. The initial rankings were posted prior to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and the first update followed the week after the combine. The NFL draft will be held April 30-May 2 in Chicago.
A look at some of the key movement in Mayock's latest rankings:
1. Mariota on top
Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota of Oregon has spent the entirety of the draft season somewhat in the shadow of Florida State's Jameis Winston, who is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mayock's latest quarterback rankings represent a counter argument to the notion that Winston is the easy choice as the draft's top prospect at the position. Mariota is certainly the more athletic of the two, and his off-field character history, unlike Winston's, is impeccable. Because of Winston's comfort level with a pro-style offense, the FSU product is widely expected to be ready to contribute sooner. But that doesn't mean Mariota won't pass him in time. ... Elsewhere in Mayock's quarterback rankings, Colorado State's Garrett Grayson passed UCLA's Brett Hundley as the No. 4 quarterback, behind Mariota, Winston and Baylor's Bryce Petty.
2. Flowers makes move
Miami offensive lineman Ereck Flowers, who led the entire combine in bench-press testing with 37 reps at 225 pounds, jumped from No. 4 to No. 2 among Mayock's top offensive tackles. There's a lot of money in between. The second offensive tackle taken in last year's draft, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews, got a $16.4 million deal with more than $10 million guaranteed. The fourth, if you count Cowboys first-round pick Zack Martin as the guard he became as a rookie, was Ja'Wuan James to the Miami Dolphins at No. 19 ($8.4 million, $4.45 million guaranteed).
3. Ray tumbles
Missouri's undersized but explosive pass rusher, Shane Ray, slipped significantly. Ray exited the combine as Mayock's No. 2-ranked edge rusher, despite an injury that prevented him from running the 40-yard dash and other testing in Indianapolis. He dropped to No. 5 Wednesday. Several NFL clubs with a big need for pass-rush help are drafting in the top 10 picks, so the pass rusher who is the favorite of the right team at the right time could hit quite a jackpot. Nebraska's Randy Gregory, whose draft stock is less certain after a failed drug test at the combine, moved up to No. 2 behind Florida's Dante Fowler in Mayock's latest release.
4. Shaq still at safety
Washington's versatile Shaq Thompson remained in Mayock's safety rankings, the second-best in fact, behind Alabama's Landon Collins. The former Huskies star has said he prefers playing linebacker and is drawing most of his interest from NFL clubs as a weakside linebacker. But Thompson also conceded that some NFL clubs like him at strong safety. He also played some running back at Washington, but remains adamantly against that as a pro position, in part because of the shorter careers running backs face. Given that safety might be the weakest position in the entire draft class, Thompson just might be picked earlier at that position than he would at linebacker.
5. Armstead, Shelton switch spots
Among interior defensive linemen, a pair of former Pac-12 stars changed places in Oregon's Arik Armstead and Washington's Danny Shelton. Armstead moved up from No. 4 to No. 2, while Shelton slipped from No. 2 to No. 4, while Texas' Malcom Brown held steady at No. 3. One thing Armstead will bring to his NFL team that Shelton won't is versatility. When College Football 24/7 asked Armstead at the combine about his ability to move around on the defensive line, he rattled off five different techniques he played along the front for the Ducks. Shelton, by contrast, is best suited to play nose guard in a 3-4 defense at 340 pounds. And while a 4-3 team could certainly make room for him, Shelton will always line up on or very near the center in the NFL.