NFL Draft Primer

So I’m taking a brief break from my hiatus. This will be the one blog I post before one of my papers is done, though. My Hulk Hogan paper is most of the way done and the due date got pushed back a couple days so I feel comfortable briefly getting back to the blog for today. I won’t be regularly posting again until I’m done with both papers, however. I’ve got an interview for my other paper set up for Wednesday, though. He’s a guy who gives great insight so hopefully his interview will write a large chunk of my paper for me. So anyways, with the blog, the original plan with this week’s Draft thing was going to be just a Big Board, however I thought about it and I think I want to do a little bit more. Basically superlative stuff that will lead into the Big Board. I think that would be a little more interesting than just ranking 50 prospects with no explanations. So let’s get to the Superlatives. The one superlative I won’t do is “best prospect” because that would spoil my Big Board rankings.

Most NFL-Ready Quarterback: Josh Rosen-UCLA

Rosen is the one quarterback I’d be comfortable with starting Day 1. He does everything well on the field. The complaints about him are mainly questions about his love of football, but I doubt that it’s as profound as people are making it out to be. He’s just a guy who has lots of interests, football being one of them. He’s about as good a quarterback prospect as I’ve seen since Jameis Winston and Rosen doesn’t have the off-field baggage the former Florida State Heisman winner had.

Prospect I Just Don’t Understand the Hype For: Vita Vea-DL-Washington

Vita Vea is huge (6’5 340 pounds) and a really good athlete for his size. But every time I watch footage of him to try and understand why scouts love his game so much, I leave just as confused as before. Yeah he clogs space, but his get-off is so slow that any quality NFL offensive lineman is going to get the edge on him. He also kind of just plays patty-cake with offensive linemen when he does eventually get off the ball. Granted, he is my #2 interior defensive lineman, but that’s mainly because I do see potential with him. If he can work on his reaction to the snap, then I think he could be a beast and be impossible to run on.

Prospect I Like More Than Other People Do: Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

Elliott’s a guy that a lot of people have going in the third or fourth round of this year’s draft. I think he’s a high second-rounder, maybe even late-one if my defense needs a centerfielder-type safety. His instincts are really impressive to me and he always seems to be around the football, as he takes good routes to the ball-carrier. My one issue with him is that he looks like he lacks confidence as a tackler. He’ll make the tackle, but he seems hesitant to shoot the gap and deliver the hit. But he is as good a ball-hawk as there is in the nation. Just watch the USC game. He seemed to have Sam Darnold’s number all night. And one thing to note about guys that I like more than others. In the past, that honor has been held by the likes of Keenan Allen, Justin Houston, and Alex Collins. Just saying.

Most Impressive Prospect: Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

It kills me that I haven’t gotten a real chance to blog about this dude yet because he really is an inspirational story. He had to get his hand amputated when he was young due to a birth defect and for a lot of people, that would be the end of their usefulness. But Griffin instead became one of the top linebackers in the country and absolutely blew up the NFL Scouting Combine. He needed to use a prosthetic hand so that he could do the bench press, but he then went on to do 20 reps at 225 pounds. I have 2 perfectly functioning hands and the best I’ve done on the bench press is 5 reps at 165 pounds. Oh and there’s the whole thing about how he ran the fastest 40-yard dash ever recorded by a linebacker at 4.38. I watched his Auburn tape after this and he pretty much took over that game. He’s so quick that he can make offensive linemen look really stupid when he’s rushing the passer. He’d probably be a top-5 pick if he had two hands based on the tape I’ve seen and his Combine performance. But the guy has 4 career interceptions for God’s sake. I really do think he could be the steal of the Draft.

Most Intriguing Prospect: DJ Chark-WR-LSU

I had heard nothing about this guy until the Combine. Then he measured at 6’4 and ran the fastest 40-yard dash at 4.34. Those are Calvin Johnson-like measurables. However his production at LSU was limited. He did have over 800 yards as a senior but poor quarterback play I think hindered his ability to reach his potential. He could be one of those lesser-known guys that really blows up once he hits the NFL.

And now, on to the Big Board.

50. Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida

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49. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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48. James Daniels-C-Iowa

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47. Harrison Phillips-DL-Stanford

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46. Donte Jackson-CB-LSU

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45. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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44. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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43. Mike Gesicki-TE-Penn State

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42. Uchenna Nwosu-EDGE-USC

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41. Deshon Elliott-S-Texas

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40. Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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39. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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38. Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

37. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State

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36. Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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35. Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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34. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

at Neyland Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee.

33. Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida

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32. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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31. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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28. Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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27. Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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26. DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

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24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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23. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama 

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22. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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21. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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18. Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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16. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

during the first half of a game on December 21, 2016 in San Diego, California.

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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13. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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12. Derwin James-S-Florida State

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11. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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10. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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9. Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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8. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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7. Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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6. Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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5. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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4. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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3. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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2. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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1. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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So that’s it for today’s blog. Again, I won’t be posting consistently until my papers are done. But I will guarantee that I will have my mock draft ready for next Thursday’s event. Let me know what you think of the primer in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 NFL Draft Positional Rankings

With the 2018 NFL Draft just a couple weeks away, I thought I’d do things a little different. The week of the Draft (more specifically, April 26) I will have my final Mock Draft published. The week before, I’ll have my final Big Board. This week, as you can see because you’re reading it, we’ve got my positional rankings. These rankings are based on my personal feelings about each prospect. I haven’t gotten to watch film on all of them so there are a bunch that will be there based on reports I’ve read and other rankings I’ve seen. These rankings also won’t be reflective about where I think they’ll go in the Draft, as team fits and needs will play a factor in that. However, they will somewhat reflect my Big Board. So without further ado, let’s get to the positional rankings.

Quarterback

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1. Josh Rosen-UCLA

2. Sam Darnold-USC

3. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

4. Josh Allen-Wyoming

5. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

6. Lamar Jackson-Louisville

7. Luke Falk-Washington State

8. Mike White-Western Kentucky

9. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond

10. Logan Woodside-Toledo

Runningback

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1. Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2. Derrius Guice-LSU

3. Ronald Jones II-USC

4. Sony Michel-Georgia

5. Nick Chubb-Georgia

6. Rashaad Penny-San Diego State

7. Nyheim Hines-North Carolina State

8. Bo Scarbrough-Alabama

9. Royce Freeman-Oregon

10. Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

Wide Receiver

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 16, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

1. Calvin Ridley-Alabama

2. Christian Kirk-Texas A&M

3. DJ Moore-Maryland

4. Courtland Sutton-SMU

5. DJ Chark-LSU

6. Anthony Miller-Memphis

7. James Washington-Oklahoma State

8. Tre’Quan Smith-Central Florida

9. Jaleel Scott-New Mexico State

10. Dante Pettis-Washington

Tight End

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1. Dallas Goedert-South Dakota State

2. Mike Gesicki-Penn State

3. Hayden Hurst-South Carolina

4. Ian Thomas-Indiana

5. Mark Andrews-Oklahoma

6. Troy Fumagalli-Wisconsin

7. Durham Smythe-Notre Dame

8. Dalton Schultz-Stanford

9. Jaylen Samuels-North Carolina State

10. Tyler Conklin-Central Michigan

Offensive Tackle

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1. Connor Williams-Texas

2. Mike McGlinchey-Notre Dame

3. Kolton Miller-UCLA

4. Brian O’Neill-Pittsburgh

5. Tyrell Crosby-Oregon

6. Jamarco Jones-Ohio State

7. Geron Christian-Louisville

8. Martinas Rankin-Mississippi State

9. Orlando Brown-Oklahoma

10. Chukwuma Okorafor-Western Michigan

Offensive Guard

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1. Quenton Nelson-Notre Dame

2. Isaiah Wynn-Georgia

3. Will Hernandez-UTEP

4. Braden Smith-Auburn

5. Wyatt Teller-Virginia Tech

6. Tyrone Crowder-Clemson

7. Sean Welsh-Iowa

8. Taylor Hearn-Clemson

9. Colby Gossett-Appalachian State

10. Sam Jones-Arizona State

Center

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1. James Daniels-Iowa

2. Billy Price-Ohio State

3. Frank Ragnow-Arkansas

4. Bradley Bozeman-Alabama

5. Mason Cole-Michigan

6. Will Clapp-LSU

7. Austin Corbett-Nevada

8. Brian Allen-Michigan State

9. Scott Quessenberry-UCLA

10. Coleman Shelton-Washington

Edge Rusher

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1. Bradley Chubb-North Carolina State

2. Marcus Davenport-UTSA

3. Harold Landry-Boston College

4. Sam Hubbard-Ohio State

5. Uchenna Nwosu-USC

6. Lorenzo Carter-Georgia

7. Josh Sweat-Florida State

8. Arden Key-LSU

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr-Kansas

10. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo-Oklahoma

Defensive Line

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1. Da’Ron Payne-Alabama

2. Vita Vea-Washington

3. Maurice Hurst-Michigan

4. Taven Bryan-Florida

5. Harrison Phillips-Stanford

6. Rasheem Green-USC

7. BJ Hill-North Carolina State

8. Tim Settle-Virginia Tech

9. Derrick Nnadi-Florida State

10. Will Geary-Kansas State

Linebacker

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1. Tremaine Edmunds-Virginia Tech

2. Roquan Smith-Georgia

3. Rashaan Evans-Alabama

4. Leighton Vander Esch-Boise State

5. Malik Jefferson-Texas

6. Shaquem Griffin-Central Florida

7. Josey Jewell-Iowa

8. Jerome Baker-Ohio State

9. Tegray Scales-Indiana

10. Micah Kiser-Virginia

Cornerback

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1. Denzel Ward-Ohio State

2. Josh Jackson-Iowa

3. Isaiah Oliver-Colorado

4. Jaire Alexander-Louisville

5. Mike Hughes-Central Florida

6. Carlton Davis-Auburn

7. Donte Jackson-LSU

8. Duke Dawson-Florida

9. MJ Stewart-North Carolina

10. Anthony Averett-Alabama

Safety

Alabama at Vanderbilt

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-Alabama

2. Derwin James-Florida State

3. Justin Reid-Stanford

4. Ronnie Harrison-Alabama

5. Deshon Elliott-Texas

6. Jessie Bates III-Wake Forest

7. Jordan Whitehead-Pittsburgh

8. Quin Blanding-Virginia

9. Terrell Edmunds-Virginia Tech

10. Marcus Allen-Penn State

Those are my positional rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Let me know what you think of them in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Post Super Bowl 2018 NFL Mock Draft

It took me about 24 hours but I managed to get over the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss and overall I find that I’m more happy for the Eagles fans than I am sad about the Patriots. I mean, what other fan base celebrates their team winning a football game by eating horse shit? Go google it for yourself, I’m not linking it here. But as much as I’d love to blog about any sport other than football right now, there really isn’t anything going on that isn’t football-related to blog about. So I’m going to try and quell my sadness by doing a post-Super Bowl Mock Draft because I love doing those for some reason and it’s a good time to do it since the draft order is now set (with the exception of the 9th and 10th picks, which will require a coin toss but I don’t think they’re going to steal eachother’s picks so I don’t think that particular order matters too much). I did a mock draft earlier this year, which I’ll link here, which is now suddenly out of date because two players (Clemson defensive linemen Clellin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins) announced they’re returning to school. Clemson’s going to be loaded next year because they have basically everybody except Deon Cain returning. But without further ado, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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This doesn’t reflect how I’d rank the quarterbacks, I think UCLA’s Josh Rosen is better than Darnold. However the main thing is that Darnold isn’t on record as saying he doesn’t want to be a Brown like Rosen is. Granted, there was that time when he had to deny saying he’d return to school if the Browns had the number 1 pick, but again, we don’t have definitive proof he said it. That being said, I’ve said in the past that Darnold should’ve returned to school. I’m retracting that statement after watching the Ohio State bowl game. Not because Darnold played particularly well, his numbers weren’t that great and USC could only score 7 points. But the talent around him is holding him back. Ohio State was able to abuse him by rushing three. While the Browns are far from the most talented team (them going 0-16 being one indicator), they have a pretty good offensive line which can go a long ways towards helping a quarterback’s development, just look at Dak Prescott. So I don’t think it’d be the worst idea in the world for the Browns to take a chance on Darnold. I mean, they can’t really do much worse, can they?

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Giants’ biggest need is on the offensive line, however I wouldn’t take any of the offensive linemen in this class at this stage. They could also use corners and linebackers, but again, I’m iffy about taking one this high. That leaves runningback. Orleans Darkwa is currently the best runningback on the roster and that’s just not going to take the pressure off the passing game. Saquon Barkley may be the most complete runningback I’ve ever seen and imagine what guys like ODell Beckham can do when the defense also has to focus on the guy in the backfield and vice versa. I think Barkley could help transform the Giants’ offense into a juggernaut.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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Like the Giants, I think Indy’s biggest need is on the offensive line, as they gave up the most sacks this season. However, the same thing applies to them as the Giants, as I think it’d be more useful to hit other needs here than reach for an offensive lineman. So I’m going to go with edge defender Bradley Chubb. Chubb terrorized ACC offensive lines all season to the tune of 10 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, which was his second consecutive season with 10 sacks and 20+ TFLs. I don’t think the Colts have ever had a good defense in the history of their franchise but adding a great edge rusher like Chubb can mask a lot of deficiencies.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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This is the second pick in the top 4 for the Browns after their trade with the Texans in last year’s draft. After getting their potential quarterback of the future, they can look to just take the best player available and for me that’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a guy you can pretty much line up anywhere on your defense and despite how skinny he looks, he’s no slouch as a tackler to go along with his skills in coverage. I think he could be a valuable asset to a Browns defense that really underachieved last season.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This is assuming the Broncos don’t land Kirk Cousins. If they don’t, they’ll be thrilled to see Josh Rosen land in their laps like this. Quarterback has been what’s held the Broncos back from being relevant since Peyton Manning retired. Rosen is my favorite quarterback in the draft because on the field I don’t see anything wrong with his game. Scouts think he’s a dick, that’s really his only flaw but he seems to have the backing of his teammates so I’m totally fine with his attitude. However people also said similar things about Ryan Leaf and we all know how that turned out.

6. New York Jets-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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Like the Broncos, this is assuming the Jets don’t land Cousins. But Baker Mayfield could provide some excitement in this Jets offense that we haven’t seen since the early years of Rex Ryan’s tenure. There’s very little talent on the Jets offense right now so Mayfield might be better served to sit behind Josh McCown for a year to develop with what they have rather than get thrown into the fire right away, but based on what I saw at Oklahoma, Mayfield has the ability to elevate the play of his teammates.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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I saw the name of a defensive end from UTSA on some big boards and I thought to myself “what the Hell?” Their mascot is the Roadrunners for god’s sake. Naturally I wanted to see what all the fuss was about so I turned on a couple games for him and holy shit. This kid is a freak. He absolutely abused every offensive lineman he went up against. Now granted, the talent he faced was atrocious, but he beat the shit out of them like you’d expect a top talent to do. He got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl, but he finished strong which is encouraging for me. The Buccaneers NEED pass rushers in the worst way possible and getting a guy like Davenport would be huge for the growth of this defense.

8. Chicago Bears-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I’m a huge fan of Calvin Ridley except he has one major flaw that I learned about after I scouted him: he’s 24 years old. That actually hurts a lot more than you might think because that puts him about 2-3 years behind the other players in this class. However I think his overall talent is going to win out over how long he’s actually able to play and I think the Bears will reap the benefits because this guy does pretty much everything well. Mitchell Trubisky showed some flashes as a rookie but he didn’t perform as well as he could have because he didn’t have anyone to throw to.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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A healthy Connor Williams probably lands in the top 5, maybe even to the Giants at #2. However some people have him falling out of the first round altogether in light of his knee injury during this past season. It’s possible he may not even play his rookie year, or at the very least be limited, which is why he may fall. But I think the long-term value will be worth it as the 49ers need some more help to protect Jimmy Garoppolo. Joe Staley isn’t getting any younger and the rest of the offensive line is pretty much garbage.

10. Oakland Raiders-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has dealt with injuries in the past but I think he’s the most complete linebacker in this class. He’s not quite as good as his former teammate Reuben Foster, who was excellent as a rookie with the 49ers, but I think he compares more to CJ Mosley of the Ravens while Foster compared more to Dont’a Hightower of the Patriots. Both guys are the leaders of their defenses and I think Evans has that capability, which is something the Raiders need badly because their linebacking core is easily the weakest in the NFL.

11. Miami Dolphins-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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The Miami Dolphins really need a middle linebacker. Lawrence Timmons just hasn’t panned out after being signed away from the Steelers. There are a lot of solid pieces on the Dolphins defense but they need that one centerpiece that holds everything together. Enter Roquan Smith. While Smith is a bit undersized for a middle linebacker and I think he could stand to get stronger, there’s no denying his instincts and high football IQ. Plus when he does square players up, he can really lay the lumber. He’s just pushed off the ball a little too often for my tastes.

12. Cincinnati Bengals-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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The Bengals desperately need help all over their offensive line. Usually a left tackle would be ideal but the only tackle worth taking at this stage currently available is Mike McGlinchey and he profiles better as a right tackle. Either hit left tackle in free agency or give Cedric Ogbuehi another year to improve. But I think if you can get a stud elsewhere, then do it. Quenton Nelson is probably a top-5 talent, but the low value of guards causes him to drop here and the Bengals will reap the benefits for the next ten years if they make this pick. Nelson does everything well.

13. Washington Redskins-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is the cream of the crop for this solid cornerback class and I think he could potentially go as high as fifth overall depending on how his workouts go. But the Redskins suddenly have a need at corner either opposite Josh Norman or in the slot after they traded Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs as part of the Alex Smith trade. I think Ward is talented and athletic enough to play both on the outside and in the slot so he can be plugged in wherever Jay Gruden wants him.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Morgan Burnett is set to hit free agency this offseason and I don’t anticipate the Packers resigning him due to his age (29) and the fact that he’s been trending downward these last couple of years. The secondary for Green Bay is overall pretty weak and Derwin James can be a huge upgrade. He’s an enforcer against the run and does really well in coverage. Injuries are a concern, though, but as long as he checks out medically, I don’t see any reason for the Packers to pass on him.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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There’s a lot to be excited about with Josh Allen and there’s equally as much to be concerned about. He’s got all the physical tools you can ask for but his accuracy is inconsistent and he played against lesser competition. However based on the weapons that he’d have at his disposal, namely Larry Fitzgerald and a healthy David Johnson, I think Josh Allen may have a smoother transition than people think. It will just depend on how well he gels with first year head coach Steve Wilks.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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The Ravens need receivers. Mike Wallace is really only good for deep balls and Breshad Perriman hasn’t been on the field enough to be productive. Enter Christian Kirk, a guy who can really do it all. The Ravens have shown in the past that they can get creative with some of their offensive schemes with the likes of Danny Woodhead and they can use Kirk in a similar manner. He can also have an impact in the return game as well. I won’t go into too much depth with the receivers in general, as I already scouted the ones I like.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Chargers shored up the interior of their offensive line in last year’s draft by taking Forrest Lamp (who missed the entire year due to injury but was my #1 offensive lineman last year) and Dan Feeney (who became the starting left guard midway through the season and played well. I also sat next to him in my Issues in Intercollegiate Athletics class, no big deal). Now they need to shore up the tackles and they’re very fortunate that McGlinchey falls into their laps in this scenario. McGlinchey wasn’t great this past season but he’s still arguably the best tackle in an overall weak class. He profiles better on the right side, which works just fine for the Chargers as they were sending out Joseph Barksdale in that spot all year.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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In this scenario, the Seahawks are probably pissed that McGlinchey was taken right ahead of them. I don’t project trades in my mocks, otherwise I think Seattle will try and sneak ahead of the Chargers to try and snag the Notre Dame product. However I’m sure they’ll be more than happy with Derrius Guice, as right now their best runningback is Mike Davis, which hardly strikes fear in the hearts of opposing defenses. Seattle hasn’t had much of a run game since Marshawn Lynch left and Guice could be the guy to revive it.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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While Courtland Sutton does scare me in terms of his inconsistencies, he’s too talented to drop much lower than this. The Cowboys need more receivers as Dez Bryant’s injury issues have started to take their toll on his productivity while Terrance Williams is just okay. Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer are nice options in the slot but with Bryant not being healthy, they really miss that major threat that keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Sutton has that potential.

20. Detroit Lions-Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE/LB-Virginia Tech

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Edmunds is an interesting player because he played middle linebacker at Virginia Tech last year despite the fact that he’s about 6’5 250 pounds, which is the prototypical size for a 3-4 outside linebacker. He shows great athleticism which makes me think he could excel as an edge rusher in new head coach Matt Patricia’s defense. But I suspect Patricia will use Edmunds the same way he used Jamie Collins a few years ago, as a big and athletic linebacker that can play pretty much anywhere on the field.

21. Buffalo Bills-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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After trading Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline to the Jaguars and with Kyle Williams being 35 by the start of the 2018 season, the Bills will have a need at DT. Payne played very well on the biggest stages in the CFP and I think he could be a huge asset to this Bills defense as the team looks to improve on their first playoff run in the 21st century. Payne has the ability to take over games if he gets in a groove and that kind of game wrecker can free up their edge rushers like Jerry Hughes and Lorenzo Alexander to wreak even more havoc.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Tyrod Taylor is going to be a free agent after the 2018 season and it’s been pretty apparent that the Bills won’t bring him back beyond that so one has to imagine they’ll look for a quarterback that they can develop and mold to be their franchise savior. Mason Rudolph has a lot of arm talent but there’s going to be a steep learning curve as he transitions from the air raid scheme at Oklahoma State into a more traditional NFL offense.

23. Los Angeles Rams-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Josh Jackson led the nation with 8 interceptions last season including 3 against Ohio State. He showcased excellent coverage skills and was a real playmaker for the Hawkeyes. The Rams may lose Trumaine Johnson in free agency and even if they do retain him, they’ll need someone to line up opposite him. Jackson can fill that role and make a potentially deadly defense even tougher.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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I think this would be a bit of a reach, but I trust Moore a little more than I trust Carolina’s other real option, Oklahoma tackle Orlando Brown. After Devin Funchess there really isn’t much in the Carolina receiving core for Cam Newton to throw to and while that hasn’t stopped him before (he won an MVP and led the Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance with Ted Ginn as his top receiver), it’d make life a whole lot easier with more help.

25. Tennessee Titans-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry has been slipping a bit due to concerns over his ankle and his inconsistency against the run. However the Titans probably won’t care as much about that last bit as others might because they already have plenty of run stuffers but they’re set to be in big trouble in the pass rushing department, as Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are approaching free agency. Landry is one of the fastest defensive ends I’ve seen and he can blow up plays like no other when he times the snap right.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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Vita Vea is a crazy athlete for his size (340 pounds) and I suspect he’s going to blow up the NFL Scouting Combine in a couple weeks. We’re not sure what the Falcons are going to do in regards to Dontari Poe and after him there really isn’t any defensive tackle depth so if Vea is still available at this stage, then they ought to swoop right in and snatch him up. My only beef with Vea is that his get-off isn’t great, which could be a huge detriment if not improved upon.

27. New Orleans Saints-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

This is a slight reach at this stage but the Saints need safety help and the next best safety on my board is Harrison. They may also look at a linebacker like Malik Jefferson, but I think a safety that is capable of playing in the box like Harrison could be more valuable, especially given his coverage skills. He’s more of a thumper, but he has better coverage skills than most linebackers and really it was coverage skills that ended the Saints’ season.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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We don’t know if Ryan Shazier will be able to play football again after his spinal injury, though good news is he’s regained feeling in his legs. The Steelers will need to find his replacement, though because even if he does return, it may not be for much longer given the severity of his injury. Jefferson isn’t anything special, however he does all the little things right and he makes the smart plays that you look for and won’t be the guy that goes for the big flashy play. He’s the type of guy the Steelers need right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Will Hernandez-OG-UTEP

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The Jaguars’ biggest need is at quarterback but I think they’re going to stick it out with Blake Bortles for one more year. My next highest-rated quarterback is Lamar Jackson and I think that’d be a huge reach for the Jaguars, especially considering Jackson may not fit their offensive system very well. Hernandez is a heck of a guard and can not only help keep Bortles upright and keep pressure off of him, but he could also create more holes for Leonard Fournette to improve on his 4.0 YPC.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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Defensive Tackle is a weak spot for the Vikings with Linval Joseph’s age and Sharrif Floyd’s injury history. Taven Bryan is a great physical specimen that’s pretty raw at this stage but with enough seasoning under Mike Zimmer’s tutelage he could become the next Cameron Heyward.

31. New England Patriots-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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If you saw what I saw in the Super Bowl, then you’ll agree that A. Malcolm Butler is not returning to the Patriots and B. They need corners to replace him. Luckily for New England, this is a solid class for corners and I think Isaiah Oliver is a guy that can step in and contribute from Day 1. He’s got good size (6’1 190 pounds) and he does really well locking down receivers. I really think he can be a quality starter in this league, which is really all the Patriots will be looking for.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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The Eagles’ secondary got absolutely destroyed by Patriots receivers and that was without Brandin Cooks for most of the game. Tom Brady threw for 505 yards and quite frankly, if Brandon Graham doesn’t poke that ball out, I don’t think they stop Brady driving down the field and winning the game. Like I mentioned with the Patriots’ pick, the Eagles are fortunate that this year is a good year for corners and they’re going to get one of the more athletic ones in Carlton Davis, who is about the size of Oliver but he’s also been clocked at running as fast as 4.33, which is insane and means he can keep up with anybody while not sacrificing on size. He may rise up this board once I get around to really scouting the corners.

That’s going to do it for my second mock draft, let me know what you think in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

The Runningbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

A little while back I scouted the quarterbacks class and I’m going to do something similar for the runningbacks. This is me highlighting a few of my favorites where I talk about what I think they do well and what I think they need to work on as well as where I would take them in the Draft as well as what current or former NFL players I think their game most resembles. These can run a bit long so without further ado, let’s get into my backs. These are going to be in alphabetical order, so don’t think of these like rankings. I’ll have a whole blog for that in the future.

Saquon Barkley-Penn State

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I say these aren’t rankings, yet I put Barkley first. That’s just a coincidence, settle down. But yeah, Barkley is the best runningback in this Draft class and I’ve seen many people suggest that the Browns should take him #1 overall. Barkley’s good, really good, but I wouldn’t go that far. He was destroying college football for the first half of the year, then started fading down the stretch a bit. But there are a lot of things to love about the junior out of Penn State.

Strengths: Size, Explosiveness, Versatility

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Saquon Barkley is thick in the legs, which he should be when you’re 5’11 and 230 pounds like he is. He doesn’t really have the reputation of a bruiser, but he’s built like one and he can cut on a dime about as efficiently as LeSean McCoy. He’s also fast as Hell. One report has clocked him running as fast as a 4.33 40-yard dash. A guy at that size should not be anywhere near that fast. So here’s a 230-pound back who runs a 4.3 40 and is as elusive as they come. Oh and did I mention he’s a pretty good receiver and return man as well? Because he can do those things, too. Last year Barkley rushed for 1271 yards and had 632 yards receiving as well and even took a kick to the house against Indiana. So with all that, what weaknesses are there?

Weaknesses: Route Running, Hop Step

I mentioned that Barkley was a good receiver. However when he has to run actual routes out of the backfield, not just drifting towards the flat, he tends to get a little lax in his route running. This kind of surprised me because when he’s running with the football, his cuts are so sharp. But when he’s running routes, he tends to kind of bend on his turns instead of planting his foot and turning. Also, when he’s about to be handed the football, he does this little hop. This can be both beneficial and detrimental. On the one hand, it looks like that hop gives him an extra burst of speed. On the other, it’s costing him a split second that allows defenders to close in on him at the start of the handoff. But that’s really all I could come up with for weaknesses, I was really digging to be honest, Barkley’s great.

Draft Thoughts: I think Barkley is worthy of going in the top 5 picks. I’m not so sure I’d take him number 1 just because I think that spot should be reserved for the more crucial positions such as quarterback, left tackle, and edge rusher and in many offenses it doesn’t matter who is at runningback. But when you’re this freaky an athlete with so few flaws, it’s hard not to at least consider it, especially considering this year’s class as so many question marks and Barkley feels like one of the safest picks in the draft. He would be EXTREMELY beneficial to a team like the Giants, who do have other weapons on offense like ODell Beckham Jr and Evan Engram that could have their play elevated by there actually being a threat in the backfield.

Pro Comparison: 

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Ezekiel Elliott. He and Barkley both have similar frames and were damn near perfect draft prospects at the runningback position. I think a lot of the reason that Barkley kind of faded down the stretch was that opposing teams were gearing more resources towards stopping him, which allowed quarterback Trace McSorley to shine through.

Derrius Guice-LSU

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Derrius Guice burst on the scene last year when Leonard Fournette spent much of the season injured and really came into his own. 2017 was expected to be a huge year for Guice but he really didn’t explode the way I hoped. However, he was still the most important piece of the LSU offense and still managed to put together some solid numbers despite a decline in overall performance (his yards per carry dropped over 2 whole yards between 2016 and 17). However I still think he can be an excellent back in this league.

Strengths: Running Style, Speed, Receiving Ability

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When I looked up Guice’s measurables, I was SHOCKED to learn that he plays at just 212 pounds. He plays like he’s so much bigger than that. His running style is so aggressive, too. It’s almost as if he enjoys getting hit and punishes any defender who is brave enough to try and tackle him. He’s also a lot faster than you might expect. He’s just as fast as Barkley, as he was clocked at 4.32 seconds in his 40 yard dash during LSU minicamp. He’s also a decent receiver, as he had 18 catches for 124 yards on the season. Not nearly as good as Barkley but there was better quarterback play at Penn State than there was at LSU.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Running Style

Yes I included Guice’s running style as both a positive and a negative. This is because the manner in which he invites contact at his size is a recipe for injury. The defenders are a Hell of a lot bigger at the next level and if Guice is throwing his body around at them, that could lead to some IR trips if he’s not careful. He also kind of brings his aggressive running style into play when he’s blocking. Instead of absorbing defenders, he tends to go for the knockout block on seemingly every play. When he lands it, he de-cleats the defender. However if the defender puts on a slight move, Guice is lying facedown in the dirt and the rusher is disrupting the pass. He needs to play more disciplined when he’s back in protection.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t mind taking Guice in the first round as long as I was comfortable in my stable of backs behind him. He has all the makings of a feature back but his running style can kind of scare me at times. While I love his aggression, he’s a lot more valuable to me on the field than in the training room.

Pro Comparison: 

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Tevin Coleman. Coleman is a guy who is kind of stuck behind DeVonta Freeman in Atlanta but I feel if he is given the reigns to be the man, he could be a really electrifying back in this league, like Guice. Both have great athleticism and can shine as a receiver when given an opportunity. However both have pretty violent running styles that could result in potential injury. Coleman played on a broken foot at Indiana.

Kerryon Johnson-Auburn

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Kerryon Johnson was an intriguing prospect for much of the year but very few scouts really entertained the thought of him being a potential first rounder until he took over the Iron Bowl in Auburn’s victory over eventual national champion Alabama. Johnson was all over the place and was a part of seemingly every impactful play in that game. Scouts started taking notice and as a result, Johnson’s stock has skyrocketed.

Strengths: Vision, Agility, Patience

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Johnson can hit some holes that I didn’t even know were there. His peripherals are a marvel to behold. He’s also pretty slippery and it’s almost like he’s covered in grease when guys try and tackle him because of the way he kind of slips through people. He also clearly models his running style after Le’Veon Bell because he’s definitely waiting for his blocks to develop before attacking.

Weaknesses: Blocking, Hitting the Hole, General Explosiveness

I wouldn’t say Johnson is a bad blocker, just an inconsistent one. There are some plays where he makes really nice blocks that bought quarterback Jarrett Stidham at least another second or two to throw. There are others where he’s an absolute turnstile. There really wasn’t any in-between. Also, I mentioned his patience as a strength, but at times it appears to be a weakness because I think he’s so caught up in trying to be patient and waiting for his blocks to set up that he forgets he’s got to blast through them. He kind of hits the hole like a dainty butterfly and he lacks that one-step explosion that a lot of teams like to see out of their backs.

Draft Thoughts: Quite frankly, I think Johnson is getting a bit overhyped. He seems like an instinctive player, sure, but he’s the same size as Derrius Guice but seems so much slower despite the generally leaner frame. It’s more his intangibles that I think are the real positive rather than what he really brings to the table physically because watching some film on him, I wasn’t particularly blown away by anything he did. I’d probably wait until the 4th round before I started thinking about taking him.

Pro Comparison: 

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Jerick McKinnon. McKinnon is versatile kind of like Johnson and both have experience running out of some sort of wildcat formation. However neither really blows anybody away with their overall athleticism and in the grand scheme of things, I think they’re just decent backs.

Ronald Jones II-USC

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Ronald Jones II was a guy I hadn’t heard a whole lot about coming into this season, but I watched the Texas-USC game and was blown away by what this kid can bring to the table. I was watching that game looking to see what Sam Darnold can do, I left the game thinking about how great a back Ronald Jones is.

Strengths: Athleticism, Receiving, Blocking, Ability in Space

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Ronald Jones is at his best when he’s in space. He’s shifty and a great athlete and sometimes his cuts are so brutal he leaves defenders on skates. He’s also a good receiver, though I don’t think USC utilized him enough in this fashion. His blocking is an odd type of good. I thought he was decent as a blocker in the backfield, but in formations where USC had him line up out wide then throw a screen to a receiver, I thought he was fantastic. Again, Jones is at his best when he’s got space around him.

Weaknesses: Running Between the Tackles, Power

Jones was very unimpressive to me when he had to run up the middle. It seemed like he isn’t totally looking for the holes when asked to run straight. When he is running stretch plays outside the tackles to the edge, his vision seems to be great, but it’s when he’s forced to run into traffic where he tends to struggle. He’s also not going to knock anyone over with his 200-pound frame, but that’s not really his game anyway so it’s not TOO much of an issue, I just have a preference towards power backs.

Draft Thoughts: Ronald Jones could be downright dynamite when put in an offense that allows him to play to his strengths. I don’t think he fits in with everybody, which I think will hurt his draft stock. However if the right team picks him, look out because when this guy gets the ball in space, good luck. I think a team like the Lions would be perfect for him, as they’ve shown with Theo Riddick that they’re willing to play to each individual’s strengths, which is where I think he could shine. I think he could be worth a late first round pick as long as you have a specific plan set for how you want to use him because he’s not going to plug into just any system.

Pro Comparison: 

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Alvin Kamara. Both guys excel in their own systems and are at their best when in space as well as being talented receivers. Jones is a little bigger than Kamara but they both play similar games.

Bryce Love-Stanford

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Out of all the guys on this list, Bryce Love was the big breakout star. After backing up Christian McCaffrey for the last couple of years, Love was phenomenal upon being thrust into the starting role after McCaffrey was drafted 8th by the Panthers in the 2017 Draft, rushing for over 2000 yards and finishing 2nd in the Heisman voting. A lot of scouts are curious as to how well he will transition to the NFL and are wondering if his breakout season was a fluke.

Strengths: Speed, Shiftiness

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I don’t know if anybody in this draft class changes direction better than Love. Maybe Barkley. But when Love plants that foot in the dirt and cuts the other way, good luck catching him. And he’s fast, too. He’s been clocked at a 4.35 40 but there have been times where he was looked even faster. Once he gets to the second level, you’re done. He’s hard to tackle in open space and you’re going to need some serious athletes if you’re going to keep him in check. In fact, the one game where he was kept in check was the game where he was coming off an ankle injury. And even then he ran for 69 yards (it was the one time all year where he was held under 100).

Weaknesses: Size, Receiving

Out of all the backs I’m scouting in this blog, Love is easily the smallest. He’s 5’10 196 pounds, so he’s not built to handle the bulk of the carries in an NFL offense. And for a guy as quick as he is, I’m surprised to see that he’s not very involved in the passing game. He only had 6 catches for 33 yards on the season, which really works against you when you’re a smaller back. A lot of coaches like using their scat backs as receivers out of the backfield and Love hasn’t shown that he’s capable of doing that.

Draft Thoughts: I like Love a lot, but he has his limitations. He may be the most athletic runningback in this class, rivaling even Barkley, but his lack of size and receiving ability is a big knock against his draft status. I think if he were to add 10 pounds of muscle and work on his routes, he could be a DANGEROUS player in this league. But as things stand right now I think we’re looking at a third rounder.

Pro Comparison: 

at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Dion Lewis. Lewis was drafted in the 6th round by the Eagles a few years back and was used mainly on kick returns before bouncing around the league and finally finding a home in New England, where they were able to use his skillset in a way that allowed him to thrive. This year he added on some muscle and he’s become a complete back, which is a similar path I think Love could find himself going down if he works at it.

Sony Michel-Georgia

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Sony Michel was part of arguably the deadliest runningback duo of all time with Nick Chubb (who I thought about including in this blog, but his injury history scares me so much I wouldn’t touch him until round 5). Michel was particularly dominant during the playoff, as he nearly led Georgia to a national championship single handedly. He scored the walkoff touchdown against Oklahoma and was the only consistently good member of Georgia’s offense in their championship loss to Alabama.

Strengths: Size-Speed Combination, Explosiveness, Shiftiness, Vision

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I was surprised to see that Sony Michel is 215 pounds because he runs like a gazelle. Granted, he only runs a 4.45, but he plays a lot faster than that. He hits the hole so hard that if you don’t square him up, he’s going to blow right by you. And when he’s in the open field you stand no chance. He does a great job of reading blocks as well. There’s a lot of untapped ability with this kid and I think sharing a backfield with Chubb kind of held back what he can really do when given the reigns.

Weaknesses: Power, Blocking, Receiving, Running Style

I put receiving down as a weakness mainly because he was barely utilized as a receiver throughout most of the season. He was used a lot more as a receiver in the Rose Bowl, as he got 4 out of his 9 catches on the season in that game, and I think he did pretty well so I think there’s some untapped potential there. But as it stands, we just don’t know enough about his abilities as a receiver to justify listing it as a strength. Also, he’s not a power runner in any sense of the word. He’s not going to barrel over anybody and he might struggle against NFL-caliber pass rushers. He also runs very upright, which might hinder his speed some and can cause injury if hit a certain way.

Draft Thoughts: I think Sony Michel could creep into the first round depending on how his combine goes. If he can run a sub 4.4 40, then I think he’s automatically in the discussion. He’s very good in space and I think there is so much untapped potential with this kid that I think we could have something really special here.

Pro Comparison: 

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David Johnson. Johnson is a guy that had a lot of raw and untapped potential at Northern Iowa that was unlocked when the Cardinals were able to utilize what he does best and got him involved in the passing game. I think Michel could have similar success if given similar attention.

That’s a wrap on my scouting report on some of my favorite runningbacks in this year’s draft class. Did I miss anyone? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

 

 

2018 NFL Mock Draft #1

As promised, the series finale of my NFL postseason series, here is my first NFL Mock Draft. Now a lot is expected to change between now and April. Some of these guys I select to be drafted may even return to school and not even be in the Draft. The top 20 picks are pretty much set in stone (I think there’s a tie breaker between the Raiders and 49ers for the 9th and 10th picks that has yet to be decided). Also, for picks 21-32, since those aren’t solidified yet, I’m going to order them based on their current playoff seeding, but keep in mind that those slots are more than likely going to change based on how the playoffs work out. I will also not being projecting trades, though I may mention if a trade is a possibility. I’m going to provide explanations for each pick, so here goes nothing.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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This could be a bit controversial because Rosen has gone on the record stating that he does not want to play for the Browns and that he would rather fall down the draft board a little bit and play for the right team. We could see wind up seeing a similar situation to what happened in 1983 with John Elway and the Colts or 2004 with Eli Manning and the Chargers if Rosen gets taken by the Browns. Knowing this, perhaps the Browns could continue to build draft capital and trade this pick to a QB-needy team desperate for one of the top 2 arms. In fact, I think the Broncos at 5 could try and move up and send the Browns an absolute haul. With their newly acquired pick, the Browns could take a chance on someone like Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield with the 4th or 5th pick. But for now, as it is, I think Rosen is the top pick, though I wouldn’t be surprised come April if it’s another team making that pick.

2. New York Giants-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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A lot of people have hopped on the “Sam Darnold is Overrated Bandwagon” after getting his ass kicked by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. I am not one of them. While I have been critical of his delivery and propensity for turnovers, I think Darnold will be fine given more talent around him. I don’t think returning to school to develop would have been the best idea because there really isn’t much of a supporting cast at USC right now to help him grow like there would be in the NFL. Especially a team like the Giants, where he’d have a healthy ODell Beckham and a continuously developing Evan Engram to throw to. I think Darnold made the right decision by declaring for the Draft. Granted the Giants will also need to solve their offensive line problems, but this isn’t the class to do it. I think free agency would be a better bet.

3. Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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This might be a bit of a reach because Connor Williams is merely the best of a weak tackle class, however the need for the Colts is so great that it trumps overall value. Williams is talented, sure, but he missed most of the year with a knee injury, which is something that has haunted the Colts the last few years. But Indianapolis NEEDS offensive line help. They gave up the most sacks in the NFL last year and have been a big reason why Andrew Luck has yet to reach his potential and missed the entire 2017 season due to injury. I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade down to settle for a similar talent in Mike McGlinchey and build draft capital, much like I think the Browns could.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State

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The Browns need playmakers. Period. Aside from Josh Gordon, there is nobody on their offense that opposing defenses really need to worry about. Isaiah Crowell isn’t a bad runningback, but he’s not the difference-maker the Browns need to get them over the top. Saquon Barkley could be that back. I think wide receiver is a bigger need, as Josh Gordon needs a battery-mate to take some of the pressure off and Corey Coleman can’t seem to stay healthy, but I think the Browns would be better off waiting until the second round for a guy like DJ Moore or Simmie Cobbs. Barkley reminds me a bit of Ray Rice in that he’s not the biggest guy, but he packs so much punch and can be so quick in his cuts that it really doesn’t matter. Plus he hasn’t openly stated that he doesn’t want to play for the Browns, so that’s a positive.

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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This could be a fallback option if the Broncos can’t strike a deal for the top 2 picks and are forced to remain at number 5. While I don’t think Josh Allen is a finished product by any means, I do think he has all the potential in the world. Whether the Broncos are going to be able to develop that talent remains to be seen. I think they’ve gotten the most out of Trevor Siemian but Paxton Lynch has been a major disappointment and we’ve all seen what Brock Osweiler can do in a starting role, so quarterback is really what’s holding this team back from returning to contention. But don’t be surprised if the Broncos also go for a free agent acquisition or some kind of trade (Kirk Cousins, perhaps?).

6. New York Jets-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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The Jets’ approach to the Draft has typically been “best player available.” Chubb isn’t my best available player at this stage, but that’s mainly because my highest ranked player from my initial big board, Minkah Fitzpatrick, is a safety; a position that the Jets have a plethora of young talent at. However, I’m of the belief that a team can never have too many pass rushers and the Jets could use a guy like Bradley Chubb to wreak havoc on offensive lines. They have a ton of holes on offense, but aside from the guys I have already being taken, there is nobody worth this draft slot on that side of the ball. I think they’ll start addressing the offense in round 2.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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Minkah Fitzpatrick is the top player on my big board, yet I have him going 7th to the Buccaneers. That’s just the way the Draft shakes out sometimes. The Buccaneers ranked last in yards allowed in 2017 and can use an upgrade pretty much anywhere on the field. I could also see this pick being Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry, however I think Fitzpatrick’s versatility will earn him the Bucs’ preference. He can play both corner and safety and I’ve seen him play up on the line of scrimmage at times (and seen him cause problems in the backfield to boot!). Fitzpatrick could add a much-needed boost to this Bucs defense that’s a long ways away from the days of Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, and John Lynch.

8. Chicago Bears-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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Harold Landry is one of the quickest and fastest defensive linemen I’ve ever seen, which is something the Bears need more of. Leonard Floyd is a nice player, but aside from him there isn’t much of a pass rush to speak of. Chicago’s secondary played reasonably well in 2017 but an improved pass rush could help them out immensely. Enter Landry, who led the nation in sacks in 2016 and actually managed to show improvement in 2017. I think he could be a big lift for the Bears defense.

9. Oakland Raiders-Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

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Arden Key’s a little raw, but he is oozing with talent. He kind of reminds me of Aldon Smith given his skinnier frame and elite athleticism. I watched some highlights on him and he has a tendency to disappear from games at times, but I think the right coach can get the most out of him. Enter Jon Gruden, who appears to be the next Raiders head coach. Gruden is a guy who has a history of firing up his team and getting the most out of his guys. Plus, Key will have Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin to learn from as this Raiders defense looks to improve on a very unimpressive 2017 season.

10. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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Watching Jimmy Garoppolo play well with the 49ers is like watching my son succeed. That’s why is pains me when I see him get drilled by pass rushers while trying to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. He needs a better offensive line so that he can go through his reads more easily. A lot of scouts think McGlinchey would be better at right tackle as opposed to left, where he played in college, and that’s probably where the biggest hole on the 49ers offensive line is. At least, when I watch Garoppolo highlights it is. McGlinchey can step in day one and protect Garoppolo for at least the next 10 years.

11. Miami Dolphins-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Derwin James showed a lot of promise as a freshman before getting injured and missing most of his sophomore season, then having a disappointing junior season in 2017. However that talent would emerge in flashes and I think given the right circumstances, he can reignite the spark that had scouts so excited for him when he was a freshman. James is a similar type of player to Jamal Adams of the Jets, who went 6th overall last year, in that he’s a traditional all-around safety in the mold of Brian Dawkins who can not only cover well, but bring the boom. The Dolphins need a guy like this roaming the secondary, as they really lack an enforcer away from the defensive line.

12. Cincinnati Bengals-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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Quenton Nelson is probably the safest pick in this year’s class, as he consistently goes up against top competition on the defensive line and puts up great performances. Plus, I find that top-end guards tend to transition to the NFL really well. The Bengals need someone like that badly. After the departure of Kevin Zeitler, Cincinnati’s offensive line was a mess and was a big part of the team’s struggles offensively. Nelson won’t fix their problems by himself, but he could become this team’s version of Zack Martin.

13. Washington Redskins-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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This one was kind of tough because Calvin Ridley is also a very viable option here and I’m not 100% sold on Courtland Sutton’s ability to transfer from playing at SMU to the pros. I think he has the highest ceiling of any of the receivers in this class, as he reminds me a lot of Alshon Jeffery, but I also think he has the lowest floor, as he never really had to face any top-caliber corners. The Redskins need more receivers. Josh Doctson is still figuring out how to play in this league and Jamison Crowder can’t be your top guy if you hope to compete in the NFC East. If Sutton can have the type of impact I think he’s capable of, the Redskins will be right back in the hunt for a division crown.

14. Green Bay Packers-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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Overall I thought Derrius Guice was kind of a disappointment in 2017. As Leonard Fournette’s backup for the first couple years of his college career, Guice showed to practically be his counterpart’s equal, as he would torch defenses on days that Fournette couldn’t go. Perhaps it was for a similar reason to Todd Gurley in 2016 as to why Guice didn’t have the breakout year I hoped for, as he was his team’s only real option on offense, allowing defenses to stack the box to stop him. Nonetheless, he still finished with over 1000 yards rushing on the season and could provide a huge boost to a running game in Green Bay that has had its struggles since Eddy Lacy’s rookie year.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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With the retirements of head coach Bruce Arians and quarterback Carson Palmer, the Cardinals may be in a state of panic, as they appear to be in limbo. They need a new quarterback and they need him now because the ACL-less Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert aren’t going to cut it for the long haul. Baker Mayfield is a guy I think has an extremely high ceiling but an extremely low floor. We saw a bit of both in Oklahoma’s Rose Bowl defeat against Georgia. When Mayfield was on, like in the first half and fourth quarter, the vaunted Bulldogs defense stood no chance at stopping him. When he was off, like he was in the third quarter, he played like how I would in that spot. There’s plenty of talent on offense in Arizona and I think this could be a great spot for Mayfield to land depending on who the Cardinals’ brass decides on for their next head coach.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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Calvin Ridley is a lot of peoples’ favorite receiver in the 2017 class, and he might even be mine, too. However he doesn’t do a whole lot that really stands out to me. He’s got good hands, good route running skills, and he’s reasonably quick. But there isn’t really anything that just makes you say “wow!” However, a team in need of a good receiver like the Ravens probably won’t care too much about “wow” factor as long as he can move the sticks. Ridley has kind of been kept under wraps since Jalen Hurts became the starting quarterback and Alabama became a more run-heavy offense (they’ve always been run-heavy, but under Hurts it feels like it’s gone up a notch). With a guy with an arm like Joe Flacco, I think Ridley can unlock his full potential.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Rashaan Evans-ILB-Alabama

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Rashaan Evans has battled injuries throughout the year but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the best linebackers that have come out in a while. He’s not as polished as Reuben Foster was coming out last year, but he does a lot of things similarly to the young 49ers stud. For a team that missed out on the playoffs, the Chargers surprisingly don’t have that many holes. Ideally, I think they’d like to get someone opposite Keenan Allen, but I’d give Mike Williams a chance to get healthy before pulling the trigger on another guy this early. I think the Chargers can afford to go with the best on the board and for me, that’s Evans.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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Denzel Ward is a guy I’ve gone back and forth on. He didn’t impress me in the season opener against Indiana, but he was lights out against Wisconsin. Granted, he was on Simmie Cobbs much of the night against Indiana and Wisconsin doesn’t have anybody near that caliber, but still, holding any opponent to zero catches when targeting you is something special, which is what Ward did on the Big Ten’s biggest stage. Offensive line is still the biggest need for the Seahawks, but I don’t see any quick fixes in this class worth spending a high pick on so I think solidifying their secondary should be a priority. Shaq Griffin looks like he could be a solid player, but after him and Richard Sherman, there isn’t a whole lot in terms of long-term ability. The Seahawks’ secondary was super inconsistent after Sherman and Chancellor went down for the season and adding a guy like Ward could make Pete Carroll a little more comfortable with their depth.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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Maurice Hurst is a guy I want to highlight on future scouting segments so I won’t go into TOO much detail about why I like him so much, but just know now that he’s probably the best defensive tackle in the nation in my opinion and I think he could really help the Cowboys, who once again dip into the Michigan well after taking two Wolverines defenders with early picks in last year’s Draft (Taco Charlton and Jourdan Lewis). Dallas could be losing DeMarcus Lawrence to free agency and they’ll need other guys to pick up the slack in case Taco Charlton doesn’t develop the way they hope. This pick could be Clemson’s Clellin Ferrell if they aren’t confident in him, however.

20. Detroit Lions-Ronald Jones II-RB-USC

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The Lions have no ground game whatsoever. Ameer Abdullah has struggled in the feature back role and I think he’s better suited as a change of pace guy. Theo Riddick is purely a pass catching option. They really lack that one guy that can carry the load. Ronald Jones II can do that and then some. He kind of reminds me of a bigger Alvin Kamara with his skills not only as a runner, but as a receiver running routes. Watch his performance against Texas early in the season to see what I mean. He could be the feature back the Lions haven’t had since Barry Sanders.

21. Buffalo Bills-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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I’m not in love with Lamar Jackson as a passer, I’d be a lot more intrigued by his potential if he were to convert to wide receiver, where I think is where teams can best utilize his abilities for the long term. However the former Heisman trophy winner does bring a lot to the table in terms of athleticism and he did improve his passing game from 2016-17, so it’s not unreasonable to think he can continue to grow in an NFL system. The Buffalo Bills clearly don’t envision Tyrod Taylor as their future, hence why he was randomly benched for Nathan Peterman midseason. Jackson plays a similar type of game to Taylor so they won’t have to adjust their playbook too much to accommodate his skillset like they might have to with a less mobile quarterback like Mason Rudolph. Plus the Bills already have a guy like LeSean McCoy at runningback, who could form a DEADLY read-option combination with Jackson.

22. Atlanta Falcons-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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Da’Ron Payne was the star of Alabama’s Sugar Bowl semifinal win over Clemson, as he had an interception AND a touchdown reception as a 310-pound defensive tackle. That’s the big man’s dream right there. Payne is also an excellent run stuffer, which could be very useful for a team like the Falcons, who currently employ Grady Jarrett and had to release Ra’Shede Hageman amidst domestic violence charges. Jarrett is set to become a free agent after the 2018 season, so establishing a running mate or potential heir would be beneficial in clogging the middle of the defense for the foreseeable future.

23. Tennessee Titans-Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

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The Titans are fairly old on the pass rushing front, as both Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are hovering around the age of 30 (Orakpo is 31, Morgan is 28). Both are also set to become free agents after 2018, heightening the need for an heir. Ferrell isn’t a finished product, but he’s super athletic and can really benefit from learning from the veteran pass rushers.

24. Carolina Panthers-Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma

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The Panthers have always been in need of offensive linemen, though in 2017 they weren’t too bad, though Cam Newton was sacked 35 times, tied for 9th in the league. You’d like to bring that number below 30 if you can help it and if you’re going to grab an impact tackle in this Draft, you have to pull the trigger right now because after Orlando Brown there is a pretty steep drop-off in offensive line talent. Brown is pretty raw, but he is so freaking huge (6’7 340 pounds) that you can’t help but take a chance on him. He was Baker Mayfield’s chief protector at Oklahoma and helped Rodney Anderson rush for over 1000 yards.

25. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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Time to give Lamar Jackson a new toy to play with. Bills receivers had a pretty rough year in 2017, even after the acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin from the Panthers, as Antonio Brown outpaced their entire group by himself. They’ve got some size to them, as Benjamin, Jordan Matthews, and Zay Jones are all at least 6’2, but they lack that quick route runner that can act as kind of a safety blanket. Enter Christian Kirk. What he lacks in size (5’11 201 pounds), he makes up for in quickness and agility. No matter who is quarterbacking the Bills in 2018, I’m sure they’d love to have this guy in the slot.

26. New Orleans Saints-Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

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Christian Wilkins was a guy a lot of people had in their preseason top 10 players, but he kind of fell off as the season went along, with some experts leaving him out of the first round altogether. I watched footage from the Auburn game and I can kind of see why Wilkins might have fallen off. He doesn’t really do anything particularly special. His technique is good, but I think he lacks the ideal strength you want out of your interior linemen, though I will admit, watching that tape, he improved in that as the game went along. But he is pretty quick and athletic and I think with a few more trips to the weight room, he could become a dangerous force. The Saints don’t have a single hole on their team that I can see so they can afford to draft and stash a guy like Wilkins and bank on his development.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

Quarterback is the biggest need for the Jaguars, but given that Blake Bortles is set to hit free agency after this season, you would need that quarterback to start immediately and none of the remaining QBs are day one starters. I think the Jaguars will franchise tag Bortles before looking for a potential replacement (though he has looked really good these last few weeks). They could also go receiver here, but I think they’ll get another defender to add to that ruthless defense like Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison. Barry Church is up there in age and finding another enforcer-type in the secondary could help turn the Jaguars defense from a really exciting one to an all-timer. Harrison’s hit in the photograph above was one of my favorite plays from the Iron Bowl, as Kerryon Johnson was trying to make his way for the pylon before getting earholed by Harrison.

28. Los Angeles Rams-Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Joshua Jackson led all of college football with 8 interceptions and the Rams could use a ball hawk like that at corner. Trumaine Johnson has been in the perpetual franchise tag so finding a potential successor could be in the Rams’ benefit. Jackson played with Chargers rookie standout Desmond King at Iowa so one would be forgiven for thinking he could provide a similar boost to an already strong defense. Plus, like with pass rushers, I feel that one can never have too many good corners.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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I disagree with a lot of scouts on Malik Jefferson when watching footage. I read that he’s super athletic and he’d be best suited as an edge defender. Watching that footage, I didn’t think Jefferson looked that athletic, though I did like his technique a lot and he looked like he had a solid future as an off the ball linebacker. He rarely ever goes for the risky knockout hit, he consistently wraps up, and he’s pretty good in zone coverage (his man coverage leaves some to be desired). The Steelers could be in need of an inside linebacker soon. Vince Williams was a revelation this season, but the scary injury to Ryan Shazier could be career threatening and the Steelers may need to find a guy to fill the potential void.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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A guy built like Vita Vea should not be as quick as he is. He’s 6’5 340 pounds but he moves like a guy 100 pounds lighter. Analysts, myself included, seem to be all over the map about where his projected value is and I think how he does at the Combine could be a huge barometer as to where he might end up. My main beef with him is I think he has a slow get-off. When I watched some of his early-season highlights, it seemed like the ball would be snapped, a whole second would pass by, and then he’d break out of his 3-point stance. If he can work on anticipating the snap, he’ll be unblockable. As if the Vikings need another impact defender, though I think defensive tackle is a weak spot for them. Sharrif Floyd is a really good player, don’t get me wrong, but he’s often injured and the Vikings fear they may have seen the last of him in the NFL. Plus, current starters Linval Joseph and Tom Johnson will each be in their 30’s next season, so getting younger at that position seems to be the wise move.

31. Philadelphia Eagles-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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On paper, it seems that the Eagles’ weakest position would be runningback and Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrogh, or Damien Harris could all be the pick here. However they seem to have found a way to make it work so I don’t think they will go that route. Instead, I think they go with the big corner in Isaiah Oliver. I only watched footage of one game on Oliver, I don’t even remember who they were playing, but he never got beat once in coverage by any receiver. He doesn’t appear to be particularly fast, but that’s not really his game a la Richard Sherman. I think he could struggle against smaller, shiftier receivers, but in a division with bigger receivers like Dez Bryant, Josh Doctson, possibly Courtland Sutton based on this mock draft, and ODell Beckham, a big corner to match up is a must.

32. New England Patriots-Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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Patriots fans, settle down. I can explain. Quite frankly, I think the Patriots’ biggest needs are edge defender and potentially cornerback, depending on what happens with Malcolm Butler. If there isn’t a guy they like when they pick, I fully believe they will trade out of the pick. However I’m not projecting trades, so they have to stick here and in this mock I have them drafting a potential successor for Tom Brady. Bill Belichick is always grooming quarterbacks and they’ve all been used as trade pieces in the past. In fact, I thought Jacoby Brissett was far more raw than Mason Rudolph is when the Patriots took him in the third round of the 2016 Draft and he was able to start an entire season for the Colts. Rudolph has some pretty good arm talent, which I highlighted in my scouting quarterbacks blog, he just comes from a system that transitions pretty poorly to the NFL. However if he lands with the Patriots, I think he will be in the perfect situation to develop. Who better to learn from than Tom Brady and what better offense to work with than the Patriots? Plus, if Brady continues to play well into his 40’s and Rudolph impresses in practices and preseasons, the Patriots could have another trade chip on their hands.

That’s it for my first mock draft of the year. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

NFL Draft Big Board 1

I know it might seem a little bit early to do an NFL Draft Big Board, but look at it this way: some teams’ seasons are over and they need to look towards the draft. How can they know who’s good and who’s not if I don’t post this thing? The college football regular season is over anyway so why not? When football season ends, I’m going to end up doing a bunch of Draft-related stuff because I love this event more than a 21-year old dude probably should. I don’t know what it is that gets me so excited for the Draft, but I almost made my family late for a wedding to try and squeeze in one more pick during the 2009 Draft (that pick ended up being the Broncos taking Knowshon Moreno. Not super exciting I guess). I’ll probably post a new Big Board at select intervals, the next one will probably come after the National Championship Game next month. My Big Boards will consist of my Top 50 players, regardless of position. So without further ado, here are my Top 50 favorite Draft prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Players with an asterisk (*) next to their name still have eligibility remaining and could return to school.

50. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville*

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49. Anthony Averett-CB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

48. Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas

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47. Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana

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46. Mitch Hyatt-OT-Clemson*

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45. Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE-Virginia Tech*

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44. Shaun Dion Hamilton-LB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

43. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville*

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42. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia*

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41. DeShon Elliott-S-Texas*

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40. James Washington-WR-Oklahoma State

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39. Braden Smith-OG-Auburn

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38. Dre’Mont Jones-DT-Ohio State*

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37. Dorance Armstrong-EDGE-Kansas*

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36. Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State*

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35. Marcus Allen-S-Penn State

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34. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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33. Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma*

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32. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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You know you go to a small school when Getty Images doesn’t have a single picture of you (photo credit: HERO Sports)

31. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC*

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30. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State*

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29. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State*

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28. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas*

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27. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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26. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU*

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25. Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma*

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24. Vita Vea-DT-Washington*

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23. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M*

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22. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama*

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21. Christian Wilkins-DT-Clemson*

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20. Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa*

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19. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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18. Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson*

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DT-Alabama*

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16. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama*

at Jordan Hare Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Auburn, Alabama.

15. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado*

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14. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU*

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13. Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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12. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame*

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11. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama*

at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

10. Connor Williams-OT-Texas*

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9. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU*

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8. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming*

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7. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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6. Derwin James-S-Florida State*

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5. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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4. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State*

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3. Sam Darnold-QB-USC*

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2. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA*

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1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama*

Alabama at Vanderbilt

So that’s my first edition of my Big Board for the 2018 NFL Draft. I expect a lot to change by the time I do this again. I’ve only been able to get around to watching footage (mainly Youtube highlight videos) on some of these guys so many of these aren’t set in stone. Is there anybody I forgot about? Did I rank somebody too high or too low? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.