Star Tribune staff writer Andrew Krammer sorts out the college stars and ranks the top NFL prospects for this year’s draft.
1. Chase Young, DE, Ohio State: The top talent in this draft, Young should follow the Bosa brothers — Nick and Joey — as former Buckeyes and top picks transforming the front of whichever defense drafts him.
2. Joe Burrow, QB, Louisiana State: The Heisman Trophy winner and national champion-winning QB is the projected No. 1 pick for Cincinnati. He is not a strong thrower at this point, but he is a quick on his feet and throws with rare anticipation.
3. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama: Extremely accurate and improvisational, Tagovailoa has the talent to lead an NFL team for the next decade if his surgically repaired hip is OK. He threw for 87 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions when healthy for the Crimson Tide.
4. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama: The most refined route runner in a highly anticipated wide receiver class, Jeudy can make an instant difference for any quarterback.
5. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma: The complete package with short-area quickness and long speed to dominate at every level of the field, Lamb averaged 21.4 yards per catch last fall for the Sooners.
6. Mekhi Becton, T, Louisville: An NFL general manager will jump at the chance to draft a 6-7, 364-pound giant as agile as Becton.
7. Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson: Modern secondaries need talents like Simmons, a hybrid defender capable of stepping into the box against the run with speed to cover deep.
8. Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State: The top cornerback in a strong class, Okudah was sticky in coverage for the Buckeyes and is expected to be among the next wave of shutdown NFL corners.
9. Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa: After an impressive career in Iowa City, where he was the first true freshman tackle to start for coach Kirk Ferentz, Wirfs proved to be an athletic freak at the combine, strengthening his case as a top-10 pick.
10. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina: Not a lot of people on Earth are built like Kinlaw, who at 6-5 and 324 pounds could develop into the next unstoppable interior presence.
11. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn: Brown could’ve been a first-round pick last year, but returned for his senior season and led the Tigers with a career-high 12.5 tackles for a loss. Now he’ll definitely be a first-round pick.
12. Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama: With a skill set compared frequently to Tyreek Hill, Ruggs is a burner (4.27-second 40-yard dash) and can run through defenders as well as past them.
13. Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia: He needs refinement as a pass protector but is a mauler in the run game and billed as ready to start Day 1 with experience at left and right tackle.
14. Justin Jefferson, WR, Louisiana State: LSU’s slot receiver who caught 111 passes last fall. He is a well-polished route runner capable of doing even more for an NFL offense.
15. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: Not getting the shine of the top two QBs, he still will be picked plenty high because he’s 6-6, 236 pounds and has a rocket arm.
16. C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida: An underrated prospect with fixable issues who is what draft analysts call “explosive” — or having the quick feet of an elite cover corner. He just needs to clean up his tackling.
17. Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama: Rounding out the top four offensive tackles, Wills has all the skills of the previous three without the rare size. He’s still 6-4, 312 pounds and quick enough to stay in front of NFL defenders.
18. Ross Blacklock, DT, Texas Christian: Two years removed from an Achilles tear, Blacklock will need time to develop as a three-down player. But he’s got the raw talent and pass-rushing upside of a future Pro Bowler.
19. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia: A potential Dalvin Cook clone, Swift is an equally versatile back with elite vision and open-field elusiveness that might make him the first running back selected in this draft class.
20. Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama: McKinney played multiple roles — safety, slot cornerback and linebacker — for the Crimson Tide and is expected to arrive ready to learn multiple jobs for an NFL defense. Intelligent and versatile, he is like fellow Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, who starts for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
21. Patrick Queen, LB, Louisiana State: This draft is considered poor at linebacker, but Queen is the unquestioned leader after a rapid ascension for the Tigers. In his only full season as a starter, Queen was fast, physical and dominated in LSU’s biggest games.
22. K’Lavon Chaisson, edge defender, Louisiana State: Another Tigers defender, a long and limber pass rusher with coveted speed and acceleration to collapse the pocket. He will need refinement against the run, but a team needing a pass rusher will jump to draft him.
23. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State: Like Deebo Samuel’s rookie season for San Francisco last year, Aiyuk is a menace after the catch and expected to immediately boost an offense as a gadget player while developing as a downfield threat.
24. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah: Despite reportedly undergoing surgery last month to repair a torn labrum he played through in 2019, Johnson is the type of press/man-to-man corner who could replace Xavier Rhodes for the Vikings.
25. Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma: A fast linebacker with range and long arms necessary to corral the speed of modern offenses, Murray has the talent to be great if he can become more consistent.