- Bryce Young: The Alabama product's processing and anticipation are as good as any quarterback prospect to come along in years.
- Bijan Robinson: The Texas product registered 90.0-plus PFF rushing grades in each of the last two seasons and has excellent receiving skills.
- Jordan Addison: The USC product may be the most NFL-ready receiver in the draft and has shown across multiple teams and quarterbacks over the last two seasons that he can be an outstanding threat.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
One of the debates that surround draft prospects each year is how ready they are for the NFL. Drafting good players is difficult enough, but rookie contracts drive surplus value so much that how quickly prospects hit their NFL ceiling quickly becomes vitally important. If it takes a player three years to become an elite playmaker, teams may only benefit from that for a year or two before having to pay him like the superstar he has become, passing up years of potential surplus value from alternative options in the process.
You could easily argue that being “NFL ready” has never been more important or more valuable to teams. With that in mind, here are five of the most NFL-ready prospects in the draft.
QB Bryce Young, Alabama
The analysis surrounding Young centers around his extreme size concerns. He measured at just over 5-foot-10 at the NFL combine and while he somehow reached 204 pounds in weight, NFL teams are likely assuming his true playing size is closer to 190 pounds. It’s not that the NFL has never seen a successful quarterback at that size, but you need to go back a long time to find one. Young is noticeably slighter than even Kyler Murray or Russell Wilson and is coming out of a college program that may as well be a professional organization. Young’s size will scare teams, but his tape speaks for itself in terms of how ready he is to play the game right now. His processing and anticipation are as good as any quarterback prospect to come along in years, and he ranks at least in the 79th percentile in each key metric of stable and unstable play that PFF measures.
Young is accurate, has an elite 2.0% turnover-worthy play rate in each of the last two seasons and can make improvisational plays with the best of them. He can start Day 1 and hit the ground running.
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Running back is a position that is typically ready to perform immediately at the NFL level. Elite playmakers can struggle to get on the field due to performing poorly in pass protection, but even those players can get plenty of playing time to maximize their impact. Robinson is a special talent who may be the best running back prospect PFF has seen enter the draft (since 2014). He registered 90.0-plus PFF rushing grades in each of the last two seasons and has excellent receiving skills as well. Pass blocking may be the weakest area of his game, but he still showed an improvement over his college career, as he didn’t allow a sack last season on 60 pass-blocking snaps.
Robinson has game-changing ability in the backfield and will likely be at the peak of his powers over his entire rookie contract. He can step in and be the lead back in a backfield right away.
WR Jordan Addison, USC
It’s an unusual group of wide receivers in this draft, with no sure-fire superstar available. TCU‘s Quentin Johnston, Ohio State‘s Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Addison are all likely first-round draft picks, but the focus has been largely on what's missing from their game and how high they could justifiably be drafted.
Addison may be the most NFL-ready receiver in the draft and has shown across multiple teams and quarterbacks over the last two seasons that he can be an outstanding threat. He has generated at least 2.78 yards per route run in each of those two seasons and has shown the versatility to win at all levels and from different alignments. At Pitt, he lined up out wide just 31.8% of the time, but at USC, that number jumped to 75.5% despite his size. Addison may not have the elite physical tools to be a truly dominant receiver at the next level, but he is very well-equipped to be a good one immediately.
S Brian Branch, Alabama
Branch plays a role perfect for modern NFL defenses. Ostensibly a safety, Branch has been deployed covering the slot at Alabama (over 1,100 snaps over his career) and fits the mold of where NFL defenses are looking to move to with that position. Branch is an exceptional tackler and brings elite run defense to the table in addition to his coverage skills. He missed just four tackles in his entire collegiate career despite attempting 174 tackles and making 74 defensive stops. Covering the slot hasn’t just become a more valuable role in today’s defenses — and a de-facto starter — but the job requirements are changing. Therefore, being a player that can answer the bell in all areas of play not just in coverage makes Branch a hugely desirable prospect who should be able to succeed right away.
C John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
Few prospects have the kind of PFF grades that Schmitz can bring to the table. Boasting a 92.8 career grade, he has by far the best grades of any interior lineman in this draft and puts him in the same conversation as Tyler Linderbaum from a year ago. In four years starting in the Big-10, Schmitz allowed just two sacks and 21 total pressures, and his run blocking consistently improves as his career progressed.
Center can be a difficult position to hit the ground running in the NFL, and often requires the self-fulfilling investment of a first-round draft pick before the player gets the opportunity to do so, but Linberbaum's pathway from a season ago is one that Schmitz could tread a season later.