2018 NFL DRAFT OUTLOOK

April 20, 2018

 

Here is a brief look, position-by-position, at the 2018 NFL Draft.

 

After each player’s name you will see a number in brackets – this indicates where the player is ranked on my draft board. So, for example, RB Saquon Barkley (1) is the number one i.e. top rated player on my board.

 

My board rankings are based on where I think a player should get selected for a team to get value for that player – i.e. the best available player approach. It is not an indication of where I think a player might actually be selected - a good example of this is QB Josh Allen (14) who is likely to get selected much higher than the fourteenth overall pick, meaning that in my view, the team that selects him isn’t quite getting value for their pick.

 

Some things to watch for:

  • The Giants, picking no.2 overall, could hold not only the key to the potential run on quarterbacks but also where the top ranked players at other positions will end up. Will the Giants select their successor to Eli Manning or draft the best player available (e.g. Barkley) with their pick?

  • Look out also for a QB needy team (e.g. Arizona) to trade up into the top 10 or even the top 5 to get a potential franchise QB.

  • If Michigan DT Maurice Hurst drops down the draft board because of his health scare, somebody could get a real bargain.

  • I keep hearing that Arizona CB Patrick Peterson is on the trade block. If so, this will impact teams (such as the Packers) who could be looking for a corner in the draft.

  • Where will tackle Orlando Brown go? Despite plummeting down draft boards after the combine I still think he will be a solid player in the pros. If he continues to drop, then he’s a possibility for teams looking for a huge run blocking tackle – could he be the Packers answer at RT?

  • If LSU’s edge rusher Arden Key drops down the board any lower than round 2 because of character concerns, then somebody could get a steal.

  • Wisconsin’s CB Nick Nelson suffered a knee injury in a recent pro workout and will slip down draft boards because of it (despite reportedly successful surgery). Taking a chance on him in the fourth or fifth round would certainly be worth it – especially for a team with a lot of picks …Packers?

 

Quarterback

 

    It is extremely likely that four quarterbacks will be selected in the top 10 overall picks and not beyond the realm of possibility (although I think unlikely) that they could go with the top 4 picks. Josh Rosen (4), Sam Darnold (6), Baker Mayfield (11) and Josh Allen (14) are all in contention to be the number one overall pick (for Cleveland) – all have draft pundits who are high on them but all also have a number of detractors. As a group, what really worries me about them is that they didn’t seem to be consistently dominant quarterbacks in college – not a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck amongst them. I don’t see too much to choose between Rosen and Darnold. Mayfield is smaller but has a super-confident (cocky?) attitude that teams tend to like. Allen is a worry and I’m still unsure if I have overrated him. He has great physical skills and an unbelievable arm but his production and numbers at Wyoming just don’t jump off the page at you – if he can’t dominate or deliver big numbers against Wyoming’s opponents, can he do it in the NFL?

 

    A fifth QB, Lamar Jackson (22) from Louisville is also likely to go in the first round. Jackson has been likened by many to Michael Vick in terms of his playing skills. Whilst Mason Rudolph (50) has a second round grade on my board, there are teams picking late in round one who are believed to be high on him, so he could sneak into the first round as the sixth quarterback selected.

 

Running Back

 

    In the view of this writer, the best overall player in the draft is a running back – Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (1). Barkley has a great combination of size and speed – with the strength to run inside and the quickness to get to the outside and head upfield. Good pass receiver and also the ability to return kicks (which he won’t be doing much of in the pros!). However many NFL teams believe that running back is the easiest position for a college player to transition from into the pros and this, coupled with the potential run on quarterbacks (see above), means that Barkley could go as high as no.2 overall or as low as no.10 overall.

 

    I only have one other RB with a first round grade – Derrius Guice (19), who is a powerful, strong and patient runner with good but not great speed. There are a number of others who have high second round grades that I can envisage rising into the lower reaches of the first round. These include Ronald Jones (36) and Georgia teammates Sony Michel (41) and Nick Chubb (42). Jones is an “almost-Barkley” player – similar skill types and can play every down. For the longest time, I had Michel ranked 20-30 places higher than Chubb, but in my final reviews I feel I may have undervalued Chubb’s ability to get the tough yards, particularly near the goal-line. Their running proficiency is similar, although Michel has demonstrated a slightly greater penchant for being a receiver out of the backfield.

 

I expect Rashaad Penny (63) to be selected late in the second round.

 

Wide Receiver

 

    I see real value in this group of wide receivers in the second round, but more of that in a moment. I expect Alabama’s Calvin Ridley (16) to be the first WR selected, somewhere around the 15 mark in the first round. Ridley has super speed and runs great routes. Some scouts believe that he can be knocked off his game by physical defensive backs but under current rules that’s difficult to do.

 

    D.J. Moore (29) from Maryland may also be selected in the first round. Moore is a fine receiver in the short to intermediate area. He could be a 90-100 receptions a year receiver in today’s league but to me doesn’t at this stage feel like he’s one that‘s going to dominate games with big plays.

 

    On to the group that I have as having second round grades. Some have Courtland Sutton (33) ranked higher than Ridley – not me, but he may sneak into the first round or be a steal for somebody in the second. My major concern about Sutton was his lack of production in the bigger games. Also in the second round, any of Christian Kirk (40), Anthony Miller (43), James Washington (47) and D.J. Chark (60) would be a good addition for a team prepared to sit and wait until day two to improve their receiving corps.

 

Tight End

 

    I have no tight ends with first round grades, but there are a number who could go in the second round.  Any of Dallas Goedert (39), Mike Gesicki (48), Hayden Hurst (56) and Mark Andrews (64) would be a good pick for a team looking for help at this position – and it’s possible that a team will reach for one of these men late in the first round. There really isn’t too much to choose between this group and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them selected in a slightly different order. They are all excellent pass catchers with deficiencies in the blocking side of their game.

 

    Tight ends available in the middle rounds who would be solid additions to pro teams include H-Back type Jaylen Samuels (111) and Ian Thomas (115). Samuels is an interesting guy who has carried the ball and can catch. A little of a jack of all trades type. Packers fans will be interested in Badgers’ tight end Troy Fumagalli (154) who I have projected as a fifth round pick.

 

Interior Offensive Line

 

    Quenton Nelson (3) is probably the top rated guard to come out of college in a number of years and whilst it is extremely unusual for a guard to be selected this high, he is a certainty to get picked in the top 10 (and probably would be top 5 if it weren’t for the likely run on quarterbacks). Nelson has the on the field nasty, tough demeanour that you would expect from a standout lineman. Isaiah Wynn (21) has played both tackle and guard at Georgia but likely projects inside in the pros – he’s worth a mid-late first round pick. Could be a dominant guard. There are some scouts who reportedly see him as a center but he doesn’t have the look of that position to me.

 

    Others with first round grades are Will Hernandez (30) and James Daniels (32). Hernandez has risen from a mid-second round grade in recent weeks and the more I look at him, the more I wonder if I’m still ranking him too low. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was chosen closer to 20 than 30. Ohio State’s Billy Price (37) has an early second round grade and could sneak into the first round to a team looking for a guy who can play both center and guard.

 

Later on in the second round, Arkansas center Frank Ragnow (58) will be a solid pick up. Ragnow can also play guard.

 

Offensive Tackle

 

    Offensive tackle is always a popular position in the draft, with teams looking for the guy who is going to protect their franchise quarterback for the next decade. There are two, possibly three, who could go in the first round.

 

    Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchy (18) is likely to go somewhere between 10th and 20th overall, whilst Connor Williams (28) from Texas seems to split opinion – some seeing him going quite high in the first round with others viewing him as a later first round pick…I’m in agreement with the latter. Perhaps I’m swayed by his not being as dominant in 2017 as I would have expected. By the way, for you long-time Packers fans, McGlinchy reminds me a bit of 1990’s tackle Ken Ruettgers. Not physically dominant but great technique. Kolton Miller (35) has been rising on draft boards since the combine and should go in the late first or early in the second round as he projects to be a solid pro left tackle.

 

    Also likely to go in the second round are Tyrell Crosby (49) and Orlando Brown (57). Brown intrigues me a lot. He was high on many draft boards until the combine when he put in a less than impressive performance. He could be a steal or flop.

 

Edge Rusher

 

    The best of this year’s defenders playing on the edge is NC State’s Bradley Chubb (2). Chubb is one of the best players available regardless of position this year and should be selected in the top 5 overall. Chubb not only looks and measures the part, but most importantly delivers on the field. He is not one dimensional and can play the run as well as rushing the passer.

 

    UTSA’s Marcus Davenport (13) is likely to go somewhere between picks 10 and 20 and many have suggested that he could be the Packers’ pick in the first round. Davenport has great physical skills but his early showings at the Senior Bowl practices raised some question marks about his ability to play against a higher level of opposition. However, he impressed as the week went on and came out on the plus side of the ledger. He has great speed and the body to bulk up even further if a team requires it.

 

    Also likely to go between picks 10 and 20 is Harold Landry (19). Landry was fantastic in 2016 but struggled due to an ankle injury in 2017. If the 2016 Landry is the one that comes to the pros then somebody is getting a great prospect.

 

Edge rushers likely to be selected in the second round are Sam Hubbard (44), Lorenzo Carter (53), Arden Key (54), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (59) and Josh Sweat (61)

 

Interior Defensive Line

 

    Vita Vea (12) is a huge inside presence on the line – either as a 3-4 NT or 4-3 DT. Looks like an immovable object against the run on film. Vea is the highest ranked interior DL on my board but confusingly may not be the best of those interior linemen. Michigan’s Maurice Hurst (27) has great speed and moves for an inside man and had been projected to go very high on a number of draft boards but suffered a health scare (heart condition) at the combine. Whilst he has been cleared to play, this scare will certainly put off some teams and has to be factored into his overall ranking.

 

    Also projected to go in the first round are Da’Ron Payne (17) and Taven Bryan (24). Payne is very physical and great against the run but needs to learn a pass rush move or two. Bryan may need to bulk up a little to be dominant in the pros.

 

I expect Nathan Shepherd (62) to go late in the second or early in the third round. He’s a small school (Fort Hays State) prospect with a lot of potential.

 

Linebacker

 

    I see four linebackers likely to go in the first round – Roquan Smith (9), Tremaine Edmunds (10), Rashaan Evans (25) and Leighton Vander Esch (26). These are four different types of player, so where they end up will depend on what you want and what system you are going to run.

 

    Smith is a tackling machine who is always around the ball and is good in coverage. Could play middle/inside or weakside linebacker in the NFL. Will be picked in the top 10. Edmunds has a huge upside and can rush the passer and cover. Very athletic. Some have projected Edmunds to the Packers in mock drafts and certainly if he drops to them at 14, he would be a great pick for the Green and Gold. Evans projects to middle linebacker or weakside linebacker in a 4-3 defense. He’s an every down player who plays the run well and is good in pass coverage. Vander Esch has been climbing draft boards in recent weeks and is a dynamic, athletic player.

 

Cornerback

 

    Draft experts have varied quite dramatically over the past few months as to the top cornerbacks available in this draft and where they rank overall. I’ve included Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick (5) as a safety (see below), although some see him as a corner.

 

    Outside of Fitzpatrick, the top available is Denzel Ward (7) of Ohio State – although there are some that also see his pro future as a safety. Not me, I think he is excellent in coverage and I expect Ward to be selected somewhere between 5 and 10 in the first round. If he slips any further than this, then you have to believe that the Packers will be very interested.

 

    I have three other corners with first round grades – Jaire Alexander (15), Josh Jackson (23) and Mike Hughes (31). All three of these have at some point been mentioned as possible picks for the Packers in the first round. Each of the three of them has different positives and negatives. Jackson plays the ball excellently and has great hands, but just one real season of competition. Hughes has great speed and is excellent in coverage. Has had some off the field issues which are a concern. Isaiah Oliver (34) has a high second round grade and could possibly get picked late in the first.

 

Carlton Davis (46) and the speedy Donte Jackson (55) are both likely to be selected in the second round.

 

Safety

 

    As mentioned above, Minkah Fitzpatrick (5) is a free safety seen by some as a cornerback in the pros. Certainly, he has the physical skills to play safety in the base and then cover slot receivers in the nickel. He is also a fine player in run support. Fitzpatrick has started to drop slightly on some draft boards in recent weeks but I believe that’s about teams not being sure as to whether he’s a safety or corner. In my view, he makes plays and ought to go in the top 5 overall, but the early run on quarterbacks means that he may be selected anywhere between picks 4 and 10. Like Ward (see cornerbacks), if he starts to drop towards pick 10 you have to imagine that the Packers will start to get very interested.

 

    The second safety available is FSU’s Derwin James (7). James is more of a strong safety who many see playing close to the line of scrimmage – but I think he has better than advertised skills in coverage. Could be a replacement for Morgan Burnett were he to drop as far as the Packers.

 

Also out of Alabama is the third best safety available – big-hitting Ronnie Harrison (38) who projects as a second round pick. Also going in the second round will be Justin Reid (45) and Jessie Bates (52).

 

Find Peter on twitter here: @The_IT_Hedgehog

 

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