Leading up to the 2019 NFL draft, which starts April 25, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down 10 at a time, followed by profiles on our top 30 overall players.
The lowdown: Daley made a fairly smooth transition from junior college to SEC trench warfare, and despite a few ugly outings he acquitted himself very well overall the past two seasons. Turn on the Kentucky tape this past season, and you might need to shield your eyes. Josh Allen scorched him in the fourth game of the season for eight tackles (four for loss), three sacks and a forced fumble, but Allen is a possible top-five selection. Allen’s speed taxed Daley, although he deserves credit as he finished the season very strong, especially in standout performances against Georgia’s D’Andre Walker (a Day 2 prospect) and Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (a likely first-rounder).
Some NFL teams might consider Daley more of a guard prospect, but others will try him first at tackle, possibly on the right side. Athletically, he’s nothing special, as his middling scouting combine testing numbers showed, but there’s enough good tape of Daley at left tackle vs. SEC edge rushers to give him a shot on the outside.
He uses his length effectively (despite average arm size), bends well and has good feet. Don’t bother bull rushing him, either. Daley might be a late bloomer, too, with some potential for growth under the watchful eye of a strong OL coach to develop his footwork and set points against speed rushers. It appears that Daley is a strong mental processor who could end up a leader of a unit in time.
Fun fact: Daley was named to the SEC fall academic honor roll in 2017 and was one of four Gamecocks seniors picked by his peers for the team’s Unselfish Teammate Award on offense.
The lowdown: Savage started the season finale as a freshman for the Terrapins in 2015 and then never relinquished that post as a safety the following three seasons. He intercepted eight passes over his final three seasons and proved to be a threat with the ball in his hands (153 return yards on picks, with two TDs; also blocked a punt and returned it for a TD vs. Indiana last season). He was named one of four team captains in 2018.
Savage had a banner scouting combine, earning a spot in our “Winners” category from the event. In addition to running a 4.36-second 40 and turning in very good numbers in the vertical jump (39 1/2 inches) and broad jump (126), Savage impressed NFL talent evaluators with his football IQ, maturity and makeup. “Very polished and personable,” one team told us.
Size is a concern, although Savage routinely can be seen crashing down into traffic and making his presence felt. He’s by no means a thumper as a hitter, and challenging big tight ends in one-on-one coverage might always be a shortcoming. But there’s a lot to like about Savage’s versatility and ability to close in on plays downfield from a deep safety position. He’s a nice player a team can win with in its starting lineup.
Fun fact: Savage was a two-way standout in high school as a running back, receiver and defensive back despite suffering a broken right femur during his junior season at Caravel Academy in Delaware.
The lowdown: A high school quarterback and basketball standout, Howard has made amazing strides as an offensive line prospect who is receiving significant interest from NFL talent evaluators. When he first arrived on campus, Howard said his maximum bench press was “probably about 175 pounds,” but at the scouting combine he put up a respectable 21 reps on the 225-pound bench (with 34-inch arms).
After redshirting as a freshman in 2014 at tight end, Howard converted to offensive line and started a combined 13 games at right tackle over the following two seasons. He then replaced Jylan Ware (2017 seventh-round pick of the Oakland Raiders) at left tackle in 2017 before shifting back to the right side in 2018, when he was named first-team all-SWAC by the conference’s coaches.
Strength and technique remain concerns for Howard, as does his level of competition, but one look at his tape against Auburn shows that this is not a completely green prospect as he mostly held his own in that game. With a year of grooming, weight training and refinement, Howard easily could emerge as a fine swing tackle or eventual starting right tackle in the NFL.
Fun fact: As a freshman in high school, Howard said he was 5-foot-8 and weighed a scant 150 pounds. “My nickname back home was ‘Weenie,’ because I was so skinny,” Howard said at the scouting combine. “I got to college and got bigger and they said we can’t call you that no more.”
A growth spurt put him up to 6-2 and 225 pounds by the time he left high school, and he’s grown 3 inches and gained almost 100 more pounds since then.
“I was kind of a late bloomer, I guess,” he said. “I thought I was done [growing at 225 pounds]. When I got to college, I grew even more. Everybody was like, ‘Dang.’”
Draft range: Round 3 to 4
87. Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger
6-foot-5, 251 pounds
The lowdown: Sternberger signed with Kansas and caught one pass for 5 yards in 10 games as a redshirt freshman in 2016 before transferring to A&M with head coach Jimbo Fisher’s arrival after a stop at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. In his one season with the Aggies, Sternberger made the most of it by being named team MVP, various first-team all-America honors and was a finalist for the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end, after catching 47 passes for 804 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games.
Sternberger’s ability down the seam is clear on tape, as he registered at least one 20-yard catch (or longer) in all but one game last season. His toughness is also a major plus, as he fearlessly goes over the middle and will fight through contact for extra yards. Sternberger carries a chip on his shoulder when he plays, and it’s even evident in his blocking, which is sub-standard by NFL expectations, but the effort is visible.
I am increasingly impressed by Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger.
Explosive player with great hands away from his frame; better YAC ability than I thought. No-nonsense route runner who eats up cushion w/ some snappy breaks.
In a great TE class, I think he’s gonna crack my Top-5 pic.twitter.com/EAfulUJLYL
— Benjamin Solak (@BenjaminSolak) February 5, 2019
Sternberger also will need to work on refining his routes and adding a layer of sophistication to his game, but there’s a lot for NFL teams to like. His athletic testing numbers at the scouting combine were disappointing, but his athleticism appears to show up on tape. Sternberger also won an award at the A&M team banquet at season’s end for his strength and conditioning work, so you can bet he’ll continue to develop physically.
Fun fact: His father played football and his mother was a two-time All-American basketball player, both at Southeastern Oklahoma.
Draft range: Round 3
86. Alabama CB Saivion Smith
6-foot-1, 199 pounds
The lowdown: A converted prep QB who switched to defense at Bama, Smith is still new to cornerback at the intricacies of the position, but his upside as a long-levered, press corner is obvious. His height, wingspan, arm length and hand size all check the boxes for the growing number of NFL teams that seek bigger corners these days, although his combine testing numbers left a little something to be desired even at that size.
Smith suffered an ankle injury in the national championship game, and he opted not to run a 40-yard dash in Indy, so it will be interesting to see whether he does so at Bama’s pro day (Tuesday). Smith also will be back in Indy for the combine medical re-test just to get a second look at that ankle, although it’s not considered to be a serious injury. He declared for the 2019 NFL draft after his junior season.
In Smith’s one season in Tuscaloosa after transferring from junior college, he picked off three passes – two vs. Missouri QB Drew Lock – in 15 games (12 starts). Teams such as the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys, who favor length in their corners, will be especially interested in Smith’s services.
Fun fact: Smith committed to LSU as a five-star recruit before going the junior-college route at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for two years prior to enrolling at Bama.
Draft range: Round 3 to 4
85. Ole Miss TE Dawson Knox
6-foot-4, 254 pounds
The lowdown: The redshirt junior declared early for the 2019 NFL draft after walking to Ole Miss as a quarterback. He cut his teeth on special teams at first, moved to tight end and made his impact with a great athletic profile. A former track standout and high-school dunk-contest winner, Knox turned in very good athletic testing numbers at the NFL scouting combine, as you might expect. Although his bench-press number (16 reps) was low for the position, Knox reportedly has good core strength with a max squat of 550 pounds and a max clean of 375 pounds.
This biggest concerns with Knox are his lack of experience and production. Even on an offense littered with NFL-caliber pass catchers last season such as D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge, Knox’s statistical totals (39 receptions, 605 yards, zero TDs in 18 career games) are quite low. But his yards-per-catch average clearly indicates what shows up on tape: a strong ability to threaten the seam with good speed and impressive quickness and fluidity in and out of his breaks.
There’s also a competitive fire that shows up in his games, as he gives good effort in his blocking (and has room for growth in that department) and will fight through tackle attempts on the second level. Every indication is that Knox will be a far better pro than a college player. He’s a tricky evaluation because of the low usage in the pass game, but a fun player to watch and one who figures to surprise some people.
Fun fact: When then-starting QB Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending injury in 2016, former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze almost moved Knox back to his high-school position of QB. The team needed players to take reps in practice, but that never happened and by the next season, Knox started at tight end. His senior year of high school, Knox suffered a season-ending injury in the first half of the first game, which hurt his recruiting opportunities and forced him to walk on for the Rebels.
Draft range: Round 4
84. Baylor WR Jalen Hurd
6-foot-5, 226 pounds
The lowdown: It’s hard to believe that at a shade shorter than 6-5 not only was Hurd a former running back, but he was a darned good one in the SEC before ending up with the Bears. Hurd was a star back as a true freshman at Tennessee (in the same backfield as Alvin Kamara), twice leading the Vols in rushing before a difficult junior year led him to eventually transfer to Baylor. Hurd suffered two concussions that year and asked to be moved to another position, but the coaches refused, so he left the program.
But Baylor was more than happy to acquiesce the uniquely talented Hurd in their system. He shifted to receiver primarily and after sitting out the 2017 season, Hurd won the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2018 after leading the Bears in receiving (69-946-4) and also rushing 48 times for 209 yards and three TDs as a moonlight running back in the team’s goal-line sets. Although he’s still learning the finer points of the position, we suspect some team will view Hurd as a Trey Burton or Cordarrelle Patterson type of contributor who is able to fill a number of roles.
You won’t get much in the way of blocking production from Hurd, and his route running and technique will need some refinement. He also had his knee operated on in December, which forced him to miss Baylor’s bowl game as well as the Senior Bowl workouts. But there’s a ton of upside in this fascinating offensive weapon who plays with power and speed.
Fun fact: Hurd was such a ballyhooed recruit at Tennessee, he once had a fellow student come up to him to autograph a football during class – in the middle of a test, no less – as a freshman. (Of course, when he left the school Vols fans were less enamored with him.)
Draft range: Round 4
83. Missouri WR Emanuel Hall
6-foot-2, 201 pounds
The lowdown: A little-known recruit from Tennessee, Knox worked his way up the Mizzou depth chart and built a strong rapport with QB Drew Lock as his favorite deep target. His breakout came in 2017 when Hall led the Tigers in receiving with 817 yards on only 33 catches (a 24.5-yard average) and eight TDs in 10 games. Although Hall struggled to stay healthy in 2018, playing only eight games (and leaving early in a few of them), he averaged 22.4 yards on his 37 catches and added six more TDs.
It was clear that Missouri’s offense, which switched to more of a pro-style scheme in 2018 under coordinator Derek Dooley, was vastly different with Hall on the field and without. Defenses really choked out Lock and the passing game when Hall was hurt (or was merely a decoy in some games when he fought through a hamstring injury). The injuries created a weekly battery of questions for the coaching staff about his availability, and Hall will have to answer to NFL teams about his toughness and football character even though the injuries were believed to be completely legit.
On my 4th game of Emanuel Hall. Has impressed me in every one. Love how varied his releases are. How about this swim to get on top of the corner and then the finish? pic.twitter.com/t6Ma7j1ShJ
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) November 19, 2018
Hall opted to skip the Senior Bowl (after committing to play in the game) to better prepare for combine testing and his pro day. When healthy, he’s an explosive glider who often blew the tops off of defenses and can be seen camped under some passes from Lock, one of the strongest-armed QBs in this year’s class, waiting for the ball to arrive. For an NFL team that needs a vertical threat, Hall could be a perfect addition – if he can stay healthy. He gives off a Miles Austin-ish vibe when watching him play.
Fun fact: Hall was set to commit to Vanderbilt – before they pulled their scholarship offer. “They ended up kind of taking it (the scholarship offer) back a little bit at the end,” Hall told STLToday.com in 2017. “I wasn’t good enough, or whatever. I don’t know what it was, but they weren’t really serious. It was the first year of the new coaching staff. They kind of just dropped me as a recruit.”
Hall vowed to show the Commodores what they missed out on, but he missed that game with an injury. He did return to catch three passes for 22 yards in the 2018 game against Vandy, and Missouri won that one.
Draft range: Round 3
82. Michigan EDGE Chase Winovich
6-foot-3, 256 pounds
The lowdown: The colorful, long-haired Winovich has been a Wolverines fan favorite the past few seasons for his hell-on-wheels style – as well as it making him an easy player for Michigan’s opponents to dislike. But he had a terrific college career by finishing in the top 10 in school history with 44.5 tackles for loss and was named third-team All-American and first-team all-Big Ten as a senior.
Lacking ideal NFL-caliber traits in terms of size and athleticism, Winovich wins with his tremendous effort, short-area burst, off-field preparedness and by studying the game. He has trained in Jiu-jitsu, boxing and ballet, crediting those disciplines to helping him improve as a football player, and he said he’s even incorporated some MMA maneuvers into his pass-rush training. Scouts believe he can stand up as well as rush from a three-point stance in the league and find a home as a high-energy rusher and special-teams contributor.
Sometimes his style can work against him, as Winovich is prone to overrunning plays, losing containment and letting his technique get a little sloppy. But he’s a potent hand fighter who will win battles and earn effort sacks and pressures if given the chance to rush the quarterback.
Fun fact: Not fun, but rather scary: Winovich suffered a fractured skull and subdural hematoma after tripping and falling outside his house as a high-school freshman, stumbling over a garbage bag at his house. Despite the injury being life-threatening, Winovich recovered enough in time to play football in the fall.
Draft range: Round 3 to 4
81. Texas DL Charles Omenihu
6-foot-5, 280 pounds
The lowdown: With 36-inch arms, some good to very good athletic qualities and a frame big enough to survive in the trenches, Omenihu has some really appealing traits for NFL folks. The debate: Where to play him exactly? Is he a power defensive end? A subpackage interior rusher? Could he play on his feet? At Texas, Omenihu played mostly as an end in their three- and four-man fronts, rushing from both sides, but he also kicked inside on passing downs.
Watching the tape, it’s easy to see some burst as Omenihu gets off the snap very well and can close fast. He also has come up with some clutch plays in big games and appears well-respected by teammates. But Omenihu lacks the twitchiness that most edge rushers possess, doesn’t appear to have ideal instincts and wasn’t as much of a playmaker as you’d like. His lateral quickness is a concern, so he’ll have to win with power, but small hands (9 3/8 inches) are a concern when having to grapple with bigger, stronger interior blockers.
Still, there’s enough to like about the big-framed, high-effort defender to think he’ll be a good rotational piece capable of playing multiple techniques. If he’s not asked to play every snap, that is, and try to turn the corner against quicker-footed NFL tackles.
Fun fact: The son of Nigerian immigrants, Omenihu thought about declaring for the draft a year ago after growing immensely in his three seasons (he showed up on campus at 215 pounds). That is until his coaches and NFL officials talked him out of it.
“You look at the tape, and you have to be honest with yourself,” Omenihu said about his decision to return to Texas. “Those dudes in the NFL are not playing no games with you. If you’re not honest with yourself, who is?”
Draft range: Round 3
More from Yahoo Sports: