2018 NFL Draft Big Board: Top 50 Prospects
Now that we’ve watched the 52nd Super Bowl in the history of the NFL, it’s time to shift our focus to the NFL Draft. As most of you know, we had draft coverage last year, including mock drafts and scouting profiles. This year, we’ll be stepping up our game, from both a real-life perspective and a dynasty perspective. We’re going to have more NFL Draft content than ever before, because it’s what you wanted, as a reader.
Here’s the first of many NFL Draft articles to come, our “big board” of the top 50 prospects in the draft. No, this doesn’t mean it’s the order that I predict they’ll be selected in, but rather how I’d rank them in order from a talent perspective, while factoring in the importance of their position (obviously, quarterbacks get a bump). This list of players will change as we get more information, measurements, and see them perform at the NFL Combine, but it should give you an idea as to some of the names you’ll hear over the first couple rounds. We’ll be publishing our top-100 in two weeks, so stay tuned for updates!
- Bradley Chubb (DE – NC State)
Chubb was primarily listed as an outside linebacker, but he played with his hand in the dirt quite often. He’s might have the best instincts of anyone in this draft class, and moves extremely well for a guy who is 270-plus pounds. He plays with fluidity that is hard to find, and excels against the run. He’s one of the shorter edge rushers in the draft, which is really the only knock on him.
- Saquon Barkley (RB – Penn State)
When you talk about complete running backs in the NFL like Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, and Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley is the next guy to join that list. He’s a patient runner who has excellent lateral ability, and is expected to run a high 4.3-second 40-yard dash. He’s shown that he can handle a large workload on the ground, but is also ready to contribute to the passing game right away, as a true three-down back. He will take big losses at time due to his patience, but you’ll live with it when he breaks off one of his signature 50-plus yard runs.
- Minkah Fitzpatrick (S – Alabama)
Most consider Fitzpatrick a “can’t-miss” prospect who can play both cornerback and safety, though safety is where he projects in the NFL. He’s got great size (6-2, 216 pounds) and knows the player he is/isn’t. You won’t see him lay out a defender like Jamal Adams, but he’s much better in his play-recognition. He knows how to stay in his zone/lane, even when the offense tries to disguise something else, which takes great discipline. He has the athleticism/size to play anywhere on the field, but I wouldn’t compare him to Jalen Ramsey, as some have done.
- Mike McGlinchey (OT – Notre Dame)
He’s a mammoth of a man, standing at 6-7, 310 pounds, yet you’ll almost never see him off balance. He’s extremely strong and isn’t just a good pass-blocker, but will sometimes take on multiple defenders while run-blocking. Notre Dame almost never gave him guard help while blocking, a sign of the confidence they had in him to win one-on-one situations. At one of the most important positions on the field, McGlinchey has all the makings of a dominant tackle in the NFL.
- Baker Mayfield (QB – Oklahoma)
If you’ve heard the Mayfield to Johnny Manziel comparison, wipe it out of your head right now. It’s one of the laziest comparisons I’ve heard about a player in quite some time. Mayfield is short, yeah, but that doesn’t stop players like Russell Wilson and Drew Brees from succeeding. If that’s your reason, you need to re-evaluate your process. In fact, I’d say Mayfield’s closest comp is Wilson, and that’s high praise. Both possess excellent escapability and can take off running, but make no mistake about it, they want to throw the ball. Mayfield’s accuracy is second to none, and has the arm strength to throw the ball while his feet aren’t set, if needed. He’s a gamer and one you want on your side.
- Calvin Ridley (WR – Alabama)
If you’re a fan of route-running technicians, you’re going to love Ridley. He’s one of the older wide receivers in this draft (24), but that shouldn’t deter a team with selecting him with a high first-round selection. He can play all over the formation, run every route, and has the intelligence to know when to sit down in a route when a defense is playing zone. The lone issue with Ridley is that he’s very thin (6-1, 188 pounds), which could give him issues with bigger cornerbacks who play a lot of press coverage, though his footwork should help compensate. He plays a lot like Antonio Brown. Don’t let the fact that he played in a run-heavy offense fool you.
- Josh Rosen (QB – UCLA)
While some will have concerns about Mayfield’s height, Rosen is arguably the “safest” pick at the quarterback position. He’s got everything you look for in a franchise quarterback – height, weight, arm is strong enough, and has great awareness. The knock on Rosen has always been his attitude, as there have been an awful lot of reports about his inability to get along with coaches. If there’s a team who is looking for the safe, lower-upside option at quarterback, Rosen has the looks of what should be a franchise quarterback. My comparison for him would be Matt Ryan.
- Vita Vea (DT – Washington)
The first time you watch Vea play, it’s a treat. He’s a massive 6-4, 330-plus pounder who consistently fights through double teams on the offensive line, and one who I’d compare to a slightly bigger version of Haloti Ngata. He’s got solid burst for his size, better than some who weigh 20 pounds less than him. He’s also got a high-motor and doesn’t give up on plays until the whistle blows. He’s going to be a handful for both centers and guards on the next level.
- Da’Ron Payne (DT – Alabama)
One of my favorite players in the draft, Payne is going to be a difference maker in the NFL. He’s an incredibly tough man to move at 320 pounds, but also moves very well for a big man. He’s extremely fluid in his movements and keeps his head up, allowing him to make plays and get his hands up when he cannot break through a double-team. He’s the type of player that made everyone on the Alabama defense look better. He’s a major disruption in the middle of the trenches.
- Maurice Hurst (DT – Michigan)
Hurst has a very good motor for a defensive tackle, though he’s undersized compared to others atop the draft class. He’s not overly pushy, but make no mistake, he’s a force to be reckoned with, as you can tell offensive lineman have their hands full with him. He’s another one who will get his hands up quite often, as he keeps his head on a swivel. He’s also tough to move against the run, holding his ground, which is what you want out of your interior lineman, to stop the offensive line from getting that push.
- Roquan Smith (ILB – Georgia)
He’s a bit undersized, but he makes up for that with his play. He’s an extremely strong tackler, and has the speed to cover tight ends, as well as slot receivers. You’ll almost never see him miss in a one-on-one situation, which is what you want out of your interior linebackers. He’s also got very good instincts when dropping back into coverage, and never gives up on a play. He’s one of the better all-around defensive players in the draft.
- Marcus Davenport (DE – UTSA)
When taking notes on all of the draft prospects while watching film, there was one note that stuck in my head like a song that will remain in your head all day. It was, “he might just kill a quarterback.” That was one of my notes on Davenport, who is a ridiculous 6-foot-5 and 259 pounds of pure angst. He plays with the aggression/violence you want on your team, and not on the opposing one. He’s got an excellent combination of size/strength/speed. The competition (or lack thereof) he faced while at the University of Texas San Antonio is the biggest question mark, but his initial punch should translate to the NFL just fine, just as it did at the Senior Bowl. This guy is a monster, in a good way.
- Quenton Nelson (OG – Notre Dame)
It seems to be a trend where Nelson is moving up draft boards, with some placing him as high as No. 1 overall. While I believe he’s talented, my stance is that his teammate Mike McGlinchey is the superior prospect. While it’s possible that both benefitted from each other, Nelson is a rock-solid pick in his own right. He’s strong and isn’t afraid to pancake a defensive lineman. If anything, Nelson is too aggressive at times, as he doesn’t like to sit still. He moves extremely well for a guy who is 325 pounds, which should only help in the run-game.
- Sam Darnold (QB – USC)
He’s got just two years of college playing experience, which will likely make his transition to the NFL a bit tougher, but he’s shown traits of what can turn into an above-average NFL starter. His pocket awareness is off the charts, helping him evade pressure and he’s got just enough athleticism to present a threat while on the run. He’ll try to do too much at times, which can get him in trouble, throwing into tight coverage even when he should just tuck the ball and take a sack. Noticed some inconsistencies throughout his game logs, but that’s likely to do with his limited experience. There’s a bit more risk with him than Mayfield and Rosen, but the potential keeps him inside the top-15.
- Connor Williams (OT – Texas)
If Williams was slightly bigger, he’d be near the top of this board. His 6-foot-5, 290-pound stature is going to be considered small at the NFL level, but Williams is talented, without a doubt. He is relentless when he knocks someone down, as he’s not afraid to keep them down on the ground. He keeps his hands inside the defender extremely well, and could see him playing the guard position if a team so chooses. He doesn’t get beat by speed very much at all, though he can be bull-rushed at times due to his size. He stays with his blocks and doesn’t let up until the play is over.
- Holton Hill (CB – Texas)
Let’s be clear about this one – he’s not going this high in the draft. He was suspended during the 2017 season for violating a team policy, though it was never released what it was. But from a clear talent standpoint, Hill has the tools of what looks to be a standout cornerback in the NFL. He’s got tremendous size (6-3, 200), makes a great initial break on the ball, and is a very solid tackler. From the film I’ve seen, Hill helps out more in the run game than potentially any other prospect at his position. After shutting down some big-name wide receivers, most teams simply started avoiding Hill in coverage. He’s also an exceptional athlete who can return punts/kicks, which is just an added bonus. Had he not been suspended, Hill would be in the first-round conversation.
- Denzel Ward (CB – Ohio State)
He’s a player you can fall in love with on tape. Ward is smaller than you’d like (5-10, 191), but everything he does in coverage makes you forget about that. He’s very quick and twitchy with phenomenal footwork, which allows him to play on both the perimeter and the slot. He flips his hips with ease and moves stride-for-stride seemingly effortless with most wide receivers. He’s not a great tackler, which comes from his lack of size, and forces him to wrap-up and just hang on for dear-life. As you’d expect, he offers very little in the run-game.
- Frank Ragnow (C – Arkansas)
In what is likely one of the toughest positions to project in the pros, Ragnow is my top prospect at the center position for right now. When watching him, I see a player who gets his arms extended right away in pass-blocking and has excellent size (6-5, 319) to handle the brunt of the defensive line. He’s the type of guy to block multiple players while leading the charge in the run-game, and should contribute to an offensive line right away.
- Josh Jackson (CB – Iowa)
Some view Jackson as the top corner in this draft after he led the nation with eight interceptions in 2017, though I’m hesitant to say that I’m completely sold. He doesn’t seem to ‘own’ opposing wide receivers like top-tier cornerbacks do, as he lacks the initial burst that some wide receivers have off the line of scrimmage, and he can get spun around at times. What he lacks there, though, can be made up for his amazing ball-tracking skills. He’s got what looks to be extremely long arms, helping him high-point the ball in coverage. He keeps his eyes on the quarterback a bit too much, because even though it’ll lead to interceptions at times, it’ll also lead to him getting beat by double moves.
- Rashaan Evans (OLB – Alabama)
Playing for Alabama has its benefits, as some players may look slightly better than they are. Evans has the looks of a solid player, but one who can get overaggressive against the run, taking the easy route that the defense gives him, rather than wait for the play to develop in front of him. He’s got solid speed breaking on the ball and always gives you max effort. He’s also got experience on the edge, which should allow teams to use him in a variety of ways. The issue with him is that I don’t see anything elite about his game, but rather a solid player who does what you ask of him.
- James Washington (WR – Oklahoma State)
The first thing you’ll notice about Washington is that he’s built like a running back. He’s got deceptive speed, especially downfield, as he can seemingly gain separation with ease despite his bigger frame. He’s very strong and won’t be bullied off the line of scrimmage, which also comes in handy when he’s asked to run-block. The way he adjusts to the ball in the air is special, and his great hands allow him to consistently make catches in traffic. The only issue is that you’d like to see more burst off the line of scrimmage, but overall, he’s got the makings of a starting NFL wide receiver.
- Josh Sweat (DE – Florida State)
Sweat was a fun player to watch film on, as he’s got the aggression you want on your defensive line. He has very long arms and legs, which he uses to leverage defenders and get the push you want. The only issue with him is consistency, as he appears to take plays off from time-to-time. The talent is clearly there, he just needs someone to coach him up on a consistent basis. He’s a straight-up athlete who comes with a massive ceiling. He did dislocate his knee in high school, which is an ongoing concern.
- Mark Andrews (TE – Oklahoma)
Instead of giving you my take on Andrews, which is extremely solid, I’ll give you a quote from his coordinator Mike Stoops, who recruited and coached Rob Gronkowski when he was the head coach at Arizona. “Gronk is probably an inch taller. Maybe a little more length… But their ability to run routes and get open are what’s unique about those guys.” Standing at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, Andrews is going to be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses.
- Will Hernandez (OG – UTEP)
Hernandez is built like a fullback, and even wears the big neck pad that most do, though you won’t confuse him as one when blocking. He’s huge, coming in at 6-3 and 340 pounds, you should have no concern about his size coming into the league. He’s consistently getting under opposing players’ skin, as he continues his blocks and holds them until the whistle blows, and sometimes after. He’s got extremely strong hands and holds his ground well, though it’d be nice to see him get a bit more aggressive in his blocking, as he relied on holds more than strength a majority of time. He’s got the size to use his strength.
- Derrius Guice (RB – LSU)
Following in Leonard Fournette’s shadow is never an easy task, but Guice built a name for himself even while Fournette was with him at LSU. He’s not an easy tackle at 5-11 and 212 pounds, and will usually make the first defender miss in the open field. For a bigger back, he doesn’t just lower his head and dive into the pile, but rather looks for a way to break a long run, whether that be inside or outside the tackles. He uses his body extremely well, knowing when to use the power, as well as knowing when to stay upright. He did have some knee issues in 2017 that they say limited his production, though he had just one game with less than 71 rushing yards. He’s not quite the three-down back that Barkley is, but he’s going to be carrying a big workload for someone.
- Ronald Jones II (RB – USC)
Probably my favorite running back to watch on film, Jones is electric and gives you that Jamaal Charles/Alvin Kamara vibe. He’s extremely bouncy and has the quick twitch that can excite you. He’s not going to move a pile with his size, but his jump cuts will break ankles. He likely benefitted from the offense he was in with Sam Darnold, but scoring 31 rushing scores in the final two seasons is quite the accomplishment. Similar to Kamara, he isn’t going to be arm-tackled very often, as he keeps his legs moving. He’s likely best suited for a timeshare, but if he lands in the right offense, look out. The talent is clearly there.
- Courtland Sutton (WR – Southern Methodist)
I can see the appeal, I really can. He’s 6-4, 218 pounds, has really long arms/legs and looks like a prototypical No. 1 wide receiver. With that being said, Sutton doesn’t have great hands and lacks what I’d consider to be elite route-running skills. Part of that likely stems from his length, as he takes extremely long strides. Instead, he relies on high-pointing the ball, which he does well, but if his hands aren’t natural, how often does he come down with those balls? He’s not a very willing blocker and seems to get agitated on the field rather easily, something NFL cornerbacks will take advantage of. He was a bit up-and-down in his production, which matches what I saw on the field – inconsistency. There’s upside here, but there’s also plenty of risk.
- Harold Landry (OLB – Boston College)
Landry is a versatile player who can play as a defensive end, as well as an outside linebacker. His size is more of a linebacker, though, so look for him to land in a 3-4 defense. His play-recognition isn’t on the level as Bradley Chubb (who is listed near the top of this list), but he does offer speed on the edge to get around the tackles. The issue with him is that he may be caught in between a linebacker and an edge rusher, which would likely make him a pass-down specialist.
- Michael Gallup (WR – Colorado State)
He’s someone you’re going to see move up a lot of draft boards very soon. Gallup comes with solid size (6-1, 202), has excellent burst off the line of scrimmage, and can get separation at every level. If he had a better quarterback, his numbers would’ve been even more ridiculous over the last two seasons. He started at a community college due to poor SAT scores, but made it to Colorado State for his junior and senior seasons. One thing he can work on is his ball-tracking, as his timing is slightly off at times. His game speed is very impressive and I’m curious to see just how much he moves up draft boards after the Combine.
- Sony Michel (RB – Georgia)
Some will have Michel’s teammate Nick Chubb in this spot, but Michel is the true three-down capable back. His first step is killer and he gets up to speed rather quickly. He’s solid in all phases, including pass-protection. He can be a bit jumpy at times, but he does demonstrate patience with that. He moves laterally extremely well, jump cutting, shifting, and is a natural hands-catcher out of the backfield. We haven’t seen him carry a full workload very often, but he’s never given a reason to doubt he can handle it. Scored a touchdown every 9.9 carries in 2017. He reminds me of LeSean McCoy, though not quite at that level, he’s that type of player.
- Christian Kirk (WR – Texas A&M)
With how often NFL offenses are going three-wide nowadays, Kirk is going to make some team very happy with their selection. He’s a possession-style slot receiver who isn’t particularly fast, but is very stable throughout his movements. He isn’t a tackle-breaking machine like Golden Tate, but resembles him in a uniform. He’s got solid hands that will attract a pass-heavy team who lack a presence over the middle of the field. My comparison for him would be Randall Cobb.
- Tim Settle (DT – Virginia Tech)
Really enjoy watching Settle, who left school after his sophomore year at Virginia Tech. I’ll say this… 330-pound men are not supposed to be able to move the way he does. He comes with both strength and burst, leaving those who get in his way feeling pain afterwards. When he tackles, you often know it’s him. Due to his burst off the line, he’ll be blowing up some run-plays in the backfield. Despite being very young and inexperienced, Settle might be a steal in a draft that’s very top-heavy with defensive tackles.
- Kolton Miller (OT – UCLA)
A sturdy presence at left tackle for Josh Rosen, Miller doesn’t quite have the strength that Mike McGlinchey does, but he still gets a solid push, especially when he’s got undersized defenders on the edge. His footwork is solid, though he could use work in his initial punch to get the speedy edge rushers off their game. He keeps the play in front of him the majority of time, but isn’t quite an immovable object. One knock on him would be that he seems to get crossed up when multiple players are rushing his side, though sometimes protection can call for odd things that we cannot see. Overall, looks like a solid prospect.
- Jaire Alexander (CB – Louisville)
For those of you who follow baseball, Alexander reminds me of A.J. Pierzynski. You are going to hate him if he’s on the opposing team, but you’ll like him if he’s on yours. He plays with an absurd amount of swagger, and though he play doesn’t quite match that level, it’s important for a cornerback to have confidence. Alexander isn’t afraid to jump up to the line of scrimmage acting to press, only to back off in coverage. The issue is that he can get beat deep, and lacks what I’d call makeup speed. He’s solid in most areas, reminds me of a lesser version of Brent Grimes due to his smaller frame (5-11, 188).
- Dallas Goedert (TE – South Dakota State)
There are a lot of people out there who are looking for the next Gronk, but let me remind you that he’s the best of all-time. Some are already dubbing Goedert as “Baby Gronk,” though we’ve heard that one a few times now. Goedert has good size at 6-4 and 250 pounds, but make no mistake about it – he’s not the next Gronk. He actually resembles Gronk when the ball is in his hands, as he almost never gets tackled very cleanly and looks incredibly hard to tackle, but he’s nothing like Gronk before or during the catch. His hands are inconsistent and he looks a bit sluggish off the line. His blocking is solid, though he was lined up out wide more often than he wasn’t. There is clearly a ceiling here with Goedert, but I don’t think he’s a “can’t miss” prospect or anything.
- Arden Key (DE – LSU)
He’s a player I expected more out of when watching, as his length and speed are extraordinary. When you’re 6-foot-6, you shouldn’t be able to move as fast as he does, but he looks a bit awkward because of it. He’s not the most fluid in his movements, almost as if it doesn’t come as natural as you’d like. He isn’t going to beat tackles with anything other than speed, which isn’t ideal for a one-position player, though he may be able to play in a 3-4 defense. He is an excellent tackler and someone who plays until the whistle, but there are warning signs here. He also left his team in 2017 for personal reasons, which is another issue to tackle.
- Mason Rudolph (QB – Oklahoma State)
You might see Rudolph down here and think I don’t like him, but that’s not really the case. He’s just extremely raw at this point in his development and he was working with two of the better receivers in college football. His accuracy can be a bit hit-or-miss, and he’s not going to fit a ball into the tightest of windows. It may sound weird, but he doesn’t throw the prettiest ball, spiral-wise. He’s the type of quarterback who’ll throw the ball up to a wide receiver if he’s one-on-one, and that wasn’t a bad thing with James Washington and Marcell Ateman at his disposal, but he’ll need to be more careful. He gets tons of zip on the ball when he steps into his throws, but again, it’s something he doesn’t do often enough, as he seems to be leaning back a lot of the time. He can also hold the ball for too long, something that they’ll need to work on at the next level. I’d be shocked if he was taken in the first round.
- Derwin James (S – Florida State)
James is an interesting prospect, because he is a large safety, and one who’ll be able to come down to the box and stuff the run. He’s clearly a strong safety with a strong approach, who takes the optimal angle the majority of the time. He’s somewhat of a liability in coverage, and isn’t as fast/athletic as Minkah Fitzpatrick. Knowing that he plays his angles well, his blitzing is also top-notch. Knowing that his ability to stay back and cover is lacking, it’s no guarantee he’ll be a full-time player immediately.
- Billy Price (C – Ohio State)
Price is an above-average prospect heading into the NFL, but he doesn’t come without flaws. He does this weird thing where he’ll look behind him while run-blocking to see where his running back is. This can be fixed, but is something I noted while watching his film. He moves like he wants to be a bully, but he lacks some of the strength I saw with other centers. Overall, though, he should be a contributor almost immediately. He’s really quick for a big man and can likely play both guard and center in the NFL.
- Justin Reid (S – Stanford)
The younger brother of 49ers safety Eric Reid, Justin is built extremely well and is clearly an athlete. He’s a rock-solid tackler, but he’s also able to go up and snag the ball out of mid-air. While watching his tape, he makes splash plays in what seems like every game. He should be able to play both free and strong safety, though he may not have the makeup speed to play cornerback. He has the looks of an all-around solid safety.
- Derrick Nnadi (DT – Florida State)
Nnadi is a plugger, heavy. He’s a hassle to move, but doesn’t display as much strength in his push as you’d like. He’s got tree-trunk thighs, which is likely why he’s able to hold his ground against offensive lineman. You’re better off diving at his legs to block him, rather than trying to shove him back. For a big guy, his play-recognition is solid, and that’s because he keeps his eyes ahead of him, rather than ducking down like some do. Don’t think he’s an elite player, though.
- Royce Freeman (RB – Oregon)
A no nonsense runner who gets downhill in a hurry. He keeps his head up and has really good vision for a bigger back (5-11, 230). He’s not particularly elusive and doesn’t have much laterally, but he really knows how to follow his blocks. While some running backs try to do too much, Freeman doesn’t have that issue. He also doesn’t lose much speed on his cuts, which is important considering his lack of lateral movement. He struggles a bit in pass-protection and doesn’t offer too much in the passing game, meaning he likely won’t start right away. But if he lands on the right team, he’ll have an impact in fantasy leagues as one of the more consistent runners in this draft.
- Tremaine Edmunds (OLB – Virginia Tech)
Edmunds is a tough prospect to crack, because he most definitely looks the part and has the burst you love to see out of a guy who is 6-5 and 250 pounds. He has very good length in his arms, is a solid tackler, but appears to be extremely raw when in coverage. It seems he’s not sure of his movements at times, almost hesitates. Rather than pay attention to everything that’s going on around him, he’ll keep his eyes on the quarterback. While that will pay off at times, it’ll hurt him more often than not. But he’s a prospect who is oozing with upside.
- Jordan Whitehead (S – Pittsburgh)
A solid player with really good instincts, tackling form, and closing speed, but there’s a catch. He’s extremely small for a starting safety in the NFL, measuring in at 5-10 or 5-11 (depending on where you look) and just 190 pounds. While watching him on the field, he has the looks of a smaller slot receiver. No matter how good his instincts are, it’d be extremely difficult for him to cover tight ends, or get any push against the run. He was also suspended for the start of the 2017 season for violating a team policy, adding another wrinkle. He can likely add value as a punt/kickoff return man on special teams.
- Tyrell Crosby (OT – Oregon)
Crosby is somewhat of a project, because he isn’t quite polished yet, but has a lot of good tools. He has a solid initial push, but doesn’t hold his block long enough. Defenders are able to slide off his blocks because of this, so he needs work on squaring his body up with the defender. He is a very big and strong man, so he can provide a solid push in the run-game. He moves very well for a guy who’s 6-5 and 310 pounds. Definitely a better run-blocker, though he’s not awful against the pass. Curious to see who takes a shot on developing him and refining his game.
- James Daniels (C – Iowa)
Daniels is someone who you’d definitely like to see add weight, as most centers come in around 310-320 pounds, but he’s 295, and it shows. He’s very athletic, though, which allows him to get where he needs to go, especially when run-blocking. He does get some push despite his smaller frame, but everything goes up a notch in the NFL. Gets his arms out in pass-blocking rather quickly, just worried about the push of the bigger interior lineman. The skills and traits are there, but can he get bigger?
- Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (OLB – Oklahoma)
It was odd watching Okoronkwo play on the edge during his time at Oklahoma, because you could clearly see he was overpowered by offensive lineman. He’s built like a big running back and has plenty of endurance, so he’ll more than likely be drafted to play outside linebacker. He won’t take the easiest route to the ball carrier, which is what a lot of players do, only for the ball carrier to be gone. Okoronkwo has fluid movements and anticipates plays very well. The fact that he’s got the experience on the edge does help in his ability to blitz, so he’s definitely appealing.
- Lamar Jackson (QB – Louisville)
One of the more controversial picks in the draft, Jackson is a straight-up athlete. He moves like Michael Vick did back in the day, but Jackson just doesn’t have the presence of a quarterback in the traditional sense. He stands flat-footed in the pocket, but when he finds his target, he has a lightning-fast release, though his accuracy is consistently mediocre, and below average. Don’t get me wrong, he can be a weapon in the right offense, but you’re going to have to tailor the offense to his strengths, something most coordinators don’t like to do. Don’t be surprised if he’s experimented with in the NFL.
- Braden Smith (OG – Auburn)
A versatile player who played both tackle and guard for Auburn, Smith uses leverage very well in his blocking. He kind of has to, considering he’s undersized at just 300 pounds. I know what you’re thinking… Undersized? At 300 pounds? Well, he’s 6-5 and should likely be in the 320-340 territory. He’s not as strong as Quenton Nelson, but he knows how to shift weight. He’s got a lot of fight in him, which is what you want on the offensive line. There were times where he was pushed back in pass-blocking, but not horribly. Add some weight and he moves up the board.
- Hayden Hurst (TE – South Carolina)
I was shocked to learn that Hurst is 6-5 and 250 pounds, because he looks much smaller on tape. Maybe it’s because of the way they used him, which was out of the backfield on handoffs at certain times, and he didn’t look bad while doing it. He’s a top-notch athlete who appears to be extremely fast for a tight end. He lined up in the slot a lot more than in-line, utilizing his strengths in the passing game. He was also a minor league pitcher for the Pirates, highlighting the whole ‘athlete’ thing. I’d love to see a creative coordinator get ahold of this versatile player.