2018 NFL Draft: Full Recap

This is the last I’ll post of the 2018 NFL Draft, which is one of my favorite sporting events of the year and it never ceases to disappoint. With all 256 picks made, I’ve gotten a chance to scour them all and decide what I think of each team’s class, which players got screwed, which players god overdrafted, etc., etc. So let’s get to the recap.

Best Draft Class: Green Bay Packers

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The Packers had the most picks (12) going into this Draft and they made very good use of them. This class is getting bonus points for the wheeling and dealing they did. First, they acquired the Saints’ 2019 first round pick to move down, then they gave up one of their third rounders to move back up and get a cornerback in Louisville’s Jaire Alexander. Then they doubled down on corner in round 2 and got a first round talent Iowa’s Josh Jackson, who led the nation in picks last season. The secondary was such a huge need for the Packers that I don’t mind that they hit the same position multiple times, especially considering both players they got were first round-caliber prospects. Aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, that unit is garbage. I would have liked to have seen them get another safety, but if I’m a Packers fan, I’m more than happy with the corners they got. The Packers also got great value for their wide receivers in an effort to find a replacement for Jordy Nelson as they landed Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the 4th and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the 6th. Here’s every pick the Packers made.

18. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

45. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

88. Oren Burks-LB-Vanderbilt

133. J’Mon Moore-WR-Missouri

138. Cole Madison-OG-Washington State

172. JK Scott-P-Alabama

174. Marques Valdes-Scantling-WR-South Florida

207. Equanimeous St. Brown-WR-Notre Dame

232. James Looney-EDGE-California

239. Hunter Bradley-LS-Mississippi State

248. Kendall Donnerson-EDGE-Southeast Missouri State

Honorable Mentions: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Washington Redskins

Worst Draft Class: Oakland Raiders

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Jon Gruden’s first Draft in 10 years didn’t go great in my opinion. First, he traded down to take Kolton Miller. I liked the trade down and I like Miller, but there were far more pressing needs for the Raiders than offensive line and there were some damn good players available. There were a ton of needs on the defensive side of the ball, pretty much every position could have used a pick dedicated to it. When the Raiders took Miller, the following defenders were available: Tremaine Edmunds, Derwin James, Jaire Alexander, Leighton Vander Esch, and Rashaan Evans, all of whom would have started immediately on that defense. Then in the second round they took a defensive tackle named PJ Hall. At first I thought it was a typo and they meant NC State’s BJ Hill and I thought to myself “it’s good they addressed DT, and I like Hill, though I think this is a little rich for him.” Turns out it wasn’t a typo and they drafted some guy named PJ Hall from Sam Houston State, a player I had never heard of. They traded up for another tackle in the third, this time North Carolina A&T’s Brandon Parker, a guy I think I heard of in passing but never paid much attention to. I don’t know why they needed to trade up for a tackle from NC A&T of all places, but what do I know, I’m a blogger who lives in his parents’ basement. They took Arden Key in the third round, which I thought was a good value, but he’s a guy that has struggled with drug abuse and has failed to maximize his potential and I’m not so sure the Raiders would be the best place for him, especially with the eventual move to Las Vegas. They get bonus points for landing Maurice Hurst in the 5th round, though, so that keeps this Draft from being an utter shit show. There’s talent in this class, don’t get me wrong, and I think some of the guys taken later in this class could wind up being steals, but I thought the value of a lot of these picks, especially given who else at their positions were available, was pretty poor. I can’t in good faith give this class a good grade out of the gates. Here’s the rest of the class.

15. Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

57. PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State

65. Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T

87. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

110. Nick Nelson-CB-Wisconsin

140. Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

173. Johnny Townsend-P-Florida

216. Azeem Victor-LB-Washington

228. Marcell Ateman-WR-Oklahoma State

Honorable Mention: San Francisco 49ers, Los Angeles Rams, New York Jets

Best Bargain: Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan-Oakland Raiders (140th Overall)

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If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times during this draft process, but Hurst fell in this draft due to being diagnosed with a heart condition at the Combine. I expected him to fall out of the first round, but I didn’t expect him to fall all the way to the 5th. Oakland got a tremendous value with this pick. I at one point had Hurst as the 12th best player on my Big Board. His reaction to the snap is basically perfect. As soon as the center even flinches his wrist, Hurst is off. The only knocks against Hurst for me was that he was a bit undersized (which didn’t bother me so much because Aaron Donald is considered undersized) and I felt that he would often be so consumed with the guy who is trying to block him that he’s not looking in the backfield to see where the play is going. But that’s something that’s easily coachable. The Raiders got a goddamn steal with this kid, which significantly helps what was otherwise a weak class.

Honorable Mentions: Bo Scarbrough-RB-Alabama-Dallas Cowboys (236th Overall), Shaquem Griffin-LB-Central Florida-Seattle Seahawks (141st Overall), Deshon Elliott-S-Texas-Baltimore Ravens (190th Overall), Josh Sweat-EDGE-Florida State-Philadelphia Eagles (130th Overall), Tyrell Crosby-OT-Oregon-Detroit Lions (153rd Overall)

Biggest Reach: Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech-Pittsburgh Steelers (28th Overall)

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I had 8 safeties rated ahead of Terrell Edmunds, including one that went undrafted (Quin Blanding). Yet the Steelers still made him their first round pick, 28th overall. In fact, Edmunds was so surprised he was taken by the Steelers, he was in the bathroom when they called him. He had been sitting in the green room with his brother Tremaine, who was taken 12 picks earlier by the Bills and despite not technically having been invited to the green room, he still got to hold his jersey with the commissioner and Ryan Shazier because they had the Edmunds Steelers jersey lying around for his brother. It made for a nice story, but the Steelers could’ve gotten this guy in the third, maybe even the fourth round.

Honorable Mention: PJ Hall-DL-Sam Houston State-Oakland Raiders (57th Overall), Brandon Parker-OT-North Carolina A&T-Oakland Raiders (65th Overall), Joseph Noteboom-OT-TCU-Los Angeles Rams (89th Overall)

Notable Undrafted Free Agents and Where They’ve Signed

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Every year there are extremely talented players that get overlooked. Here are just a few.

Simmie Cobbs Jr-WR-Indiana-Washington Redskins

JT Barrett-QB-Ohio State-Indianapolis Colts

Josh Adams-RB-Notre Dame-Philadelphia Eagles

Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana-Los Angeles Rams

Akrum Wadley-RB-Iowa-Tennessee Titans

Allen Lazard-WR-Iowa State-Jacksonville Jaguars

Chase Litton-QB-Marshall-Kansas City Chiefs

Nic Shimonek-QB-Texas Tech-Los Angeles Chargers

Kurt Benkert-QB-Virginia-Atlanta Falcons

Kyle Allen-QB-Houston-Carolina Panthers

Kevin Toliver-CB-LSU-Chicago Bears

Jeff Holland-LB-Auburn-Denver Broncos

Davin Bellamy-EDGE-Georgia-Houston Texans

Riley Ferguson-QB-Memphis-Miami Dolphins

Hercules Mata’afa-DL-Washington State-Minnesota Vikings

Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State-San Francisco 49ers

Holton Hill-CB-Texas-Minnesota Vikings

And those are just the big names that didn’t hear their name called. There were hundreds of others. But as I said in yesterday’s blog, just because you weren’t drafted doesn’t mean your NFL dream is dead. Not by a long shot.

The Quarterbacks That Were Taken

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Football’s most important position is definitely quarterback and there was no shortage of signal callers in this year’s class. Here’s every QB that was selected.

1. Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma-Cleveland Browns

3. Sam Darnold-USC-New York Jets

7. Josh Allen-Wyoming-Buffalo Bills

10. Josh Rosen-UCLA-Arizona Cardinals

32. Lamar Jackson-Louisville-Baltimore Ravens

76. Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State-Pittsburgh Steelers

108. Kyle Lauletta-Richmond-New York Giants

171. Mike White-Western Kentucky-Dallas Cowboys

199. Luke Falk-Washington State-Tennessee Titans

203. Tanner Lee-Nebraska-Jacksonville Jaguars

219. Danny Etling-LSU-New England Patriots

220. Alex McGough-FIU-Seattle Seahawks

249. Logan Woodside-Toledo-Cincinnati Bengals

Of the 13 quarterbacks, all 10 from my rankings ended up getting drafted, a first for me (last year I had 9 out of 10, UPenn’s Alek Torgersen being the lone undrafted quarterback). Of the 3 that weren’t ranked, Lee, Etling, and McGough, none of them probably would’ve cracked my “first 5 out.” Lee is the most talented of the three but his play at Nebraska was far below his talent. I’ve seen Alex McGough (pronounced “Mah-GOO”) play a couple times, since Indiana and FIU have a home-and-home series and I’ve gotta say, I don’t know what Seattle sees in him. He just looked lost every time I watched him play (which, to be fair, was only against IU, which has a pretty solid defense). The Patriots and Saints were two teams I figured would be going after a quarterback in the middle rounds as hard as anybody, but the Saints didn’t take any and the Patriots took a guy that had defenders stacking the box to stop the run because they knew he wasn’t a threat. Perhaps both teams weren’t high on this year’s class and elected to try and find their Hall of Fame quarterbacks’ successors in next year’s Draft.

Most Confusing Draft Day Decision

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The Draft Day decision that confused me more than any other was the Cowboys not electing to take a wide receiver until the third round, and even then they took a pretty raw Michael Gallup out of Colorado State. They did trade a 6th rounder to the Rams for Tavon Austin, but Austin hasn’t lived up to his 8th Overall pick billing and has been a guy that you just get creative with rather than a real threat to the defense. They also didn’t address pass rusher until the 4th round with another raw player in Kansas’ Dorance Armstrong Jr. I know they took Taco Charlton in the first round last year but pass rusher is still a big need, especially if they can’t sign DeMarcus Lawrence long-term. Overall I thought the talent the Cowboys got in the Draft was good, I just think they had their positional priorities out of whack a bit.

Secretly Genius Draft Day Decision

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A move that didn’t make sense to me at first but has really grown on me is Bill Belichick’s decision to take Georgia runningback Sony Michel with the 31st pick. I was a little taken aback by the decision at first since the Patriots had a very crowded runningback room, but then I thought some more about it. Only one of Jeremy Hill and Mike Gillislee is going to remain on the roster as the goalline power back. James White is just the pass catcher who never gets carries. Rex Burkhead is a wildcard who is only back on a 2-year deal. The Patriots were at their best last season when Dion Lewis was torching defenses in the second half with his all-around style of play. Michel is a very similar style of player and he was the most explosive player on Georgia’s offense that was a quarter away from a National Championship. There are people who are going to complain that the Patriots should’ve addressed the defense that got torched in the Super Bowl to which I say this: they kind of already did. The Patriots’ defense was riddled with injuries last year, particularly to Dont’a Hightower and 2017’s top Draft choice Derek Rivers (who was having a nice training camp before tearing his ACL). They’ll be getting those guys back and healthy They also signed Adrian Clayborn and traded for Jason McCourty to fill the holes for the meantime while also stockpiling on picks for next year’s Draft. The defense looks to be fine and in a win-now mode while the plethora of picks for next year’s class will likely be used to re-stock as this group gets older. So no surprise, but to me, the most genius Draft Day decision comes from the mind of Bill Belichick.

Some Prospects to Keep an Eye Out For in 2019

For scouting departments, when Mr. Irrelevant is announced, they get to work on next year’s class. Here are some guys that I think will go high next year.

Ed Oliver-DL-Houston

Nick Bosa-EDGE-Ohio State

Rashan Gary-DL-Michigan

Drew Lock-QB-Missouri

Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

AJ Brown-WR-Ole Miss

Dexter Lawrence-DL-Clemson

Christian Wilkins-DL-Clemson

Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

Austin Bryant-EDGE-Clemson

Just a few guys to look out for next college football season (you’ll notice a lot of defensive linemen. Next year’s class might be the best ever class for that position group).

And that’s a wrap on the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

NFL Draft Recap: Round 1

The first round of the 2018 NFL Draft came and went and holy shit was it a doozy. Something to note at the beginning though. When announcing the players in attendance, the PA guy noticeably messed up. He went out of order a couple times (they announce the players alphabetically). He completely forgot Sam Darnold, who had to enter last. He then accidentally skipped Shaquem Griffin and went straight to Derrius Guice, which is why Guice was so late exiting the tunnel, he was probably confused because Griffin was supposed to be ahead of him. Josh Jackson was then announced but he didn’t come out, then the PA announcer finally got to Griffin, who came out, before going back to Jackson, who then came out. A little bit of pre-Draft entertainment. We’ve got 32 picks to sort through so let’s cut the intro short and get into it.

1. Cleveland Browns-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma (My Big Board Rank: 13)

This started gaining a TON of steam the morning of the Draft. Mayfield’s a great story, he had to walk on twice, first at Texas Tech, then at Oklahoma. He won the Heisman Trophy last season and is now the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft. I’m not in love with the Browns’ decision but I think Mayfield is a better passer than people might give him credit for. Sitting behind Tyrod Taylor will be helpful for him because he really needs it. Also, you gotta respect this effort.

Also, fun fact, this is the first time since I started doing mock drafts in 2008 that I got the #1 overall pick wrong.

2. New York Giants-Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State (1)

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Not a surprise here. Saquon Barkley is basically the perfect back and the Giants lack a running game. He’ll be a star in New York. The Giants still need some offensive line help but a guy like Barkley can help alleviate some of those pains. The Giants are able to land the best player in the draft and add another superstar to their roster.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC (9)

Great pick here by the Jets. Darnold is the safest quarterback in the draft and even if he does need a year, the Jets brought back Josh McCown and signed Teddy Bridgewater to start over him. I have an issue with his throwing motion but other than that I think Darnold is a very quality quarterback. He did turn the ball over a lot but the talent around him was VERY subpar. The talent with the Jets isn’t great either so they’re going to need to get him some weapons very soon if he’s going to be successful.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State (4)

Denzel Ward comes as a bit of a surprise, but they need corners. Ward’s definitely the best corner in this draft and he’ll likely be the Browns’ #1 corner from Day 1. He doesn’t have to go very far, having come from Ohio State. Ward may have benefited from Marshon Lattimore’s tremendous season last year with the Saints. I think he has the chance to be a Hell of a corner in Cleveland.

5. Denver Broncos-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State (2)

A little surprising given the fact that two quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, were both still available. But damn does this create a terrifying pass rush duo in Denver with Chubb and Von Miller. Denver is starting to rebuild their defense and getting a great pass rush is the easiest way to do it. Getting pressure on the quarterback makes life easier for everyone behind you and now with this pass rush duo, the Broncos look to be in great shape.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame (5)

This pick was clearly made with protecting Andrew Luck in mind. Nelson’s as good a guard prospect as I’ve seen in a looooooong time. He’s basically a perfect run blocker. On pass blocking, I’ve seen him get confused by some complex blitz packages, but usually he’s excellent.

7. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Tampa Bay Buccaneers)-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming (16)

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Shocker, the Bills traded into the top 10 to get their quarterback. According to Adam Schefter, the Broncos and Bills had a deal in place but when Chubb fell the Broncos backed out. The Buccaneers receive the 12th pick and both of Buffalo’s second round picks. The Bills take Josh Allen, who fell as a result of some pretty tough tweets he sent out in high school, which included the word “faggot,” talking about how he was against gay marriage, saying “if it ain’t white it ain’t right,” and saying he loves “touching kids’ peeters.” Now a lot of the questionable tweets were movie quotes or song lyrics but they’re still pretty questionable. Obviously he was an idiot in high school and I’m sure he’s grown since then. From a talent standpoint, Allen is about as physically gifted as they come, but he’s raw as Hell. He needs to sit at least a year before he’s ready. AJ McCarron should start at first and then they work their way to Allen.

8. Chicago Bears-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia (10)

When the Bears are good, they have imposing linebackers. From Dick Butkus to Mike Singletary to Brian Urlacher, a great middle linebacker is essential for the Bears. Roquan Smith needs to get tougher against blockers, but his instincts are second to none and his fundamentals are excellent. The Bears have some talent on the defensive line that can take on some blocks for him but they will need to shore it up a little bit in order to maximize his potential.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame (21)

Jimmy Garoppolo faced a ton of pressure in his short period of time as the starter and this pick is meant to make sure he doesn’t have to rush his throws like he did. McGlinchey is probably better on the right side, but the value of a right tackle has been skyrocketing of late. I thought this was a bit of a reach but given that this is a poor tackle class, if you need a tackle you have to get the very best as soon as you can. You can’t risk your guy falling and then getting the next best guy later in this situation.

10. TRADE!!! Arizona Cardinals (from Oakland Raiders)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA (8)

The Cardinals trade up with the Raiders, right ahead of the Dolphins who were rumored to be interested in drafting a quarterback. The Raiders get the 15th pick, a 3rd rounder, and a 5th rounder. Given how desperate the Cardinals reportedly were to take one, this doesn’t come as a surprise that they moved up to 10 from 15. Rosen was my number 1 quarterback but he’s the 4th taken in the top 10 (first time that’s ever happened). I think Rosen could start right away but he doesn’t have to with Sam Bradford in town. There are concerns with Rosen’s injury history and his commitment to football, but the tape is easily the best of any quarterback in this class.

11. Miami Dolphins-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama (3)

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The Dolphins missed out on a quarterback thanks to the Cardinals jumping up ahead of them, but they do end up with the very talented Minkah Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is at his best roaming the deep middle of the field but he’s also very capable of playing outside and slot corner and I’ve even seen him wreak some havoc at the line of scrimmage. Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke can get really creative with this guy.

12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Vita Vea-DL-Washington (18)

I’m not sure how you’re going to run on the Buccaneers now. With linebackers like Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander now able to run free because Gerald McCoy and Vita Vea are taking up all the blockers? Forget it. Considering the Saints, Panthers, and Falcons all have pretty solid ground games, I can see why they went with the pick. Not the pick I would’ve made with Derwin James available, I felt a secondary player was the bigger need, but it makes a strength even stronger.

13. Washington Redskins-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama (17)

I had Payne ranked right above Vea and I think he’s a more well-rounded guy. He was great in the CFP and he will be reunited with former Alabama line-mate Jonathan Allen with the Redskins. The Redskins ranked last in the NFL against the run so beefing up the interior of their defensive line was a must.

14. TRADE!!! New Orleans Saints (from Green Bay Packers)-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA (7)

The Saints trade up 13 spots to get Marcus Davenport. They’re sending Green Bay the 27th pick, a fifth rounder, and their first rounder next year to make the selection. This was an interesting decision. Davenport is a crazy athlete, but should they have traded up so high to get a guy as raw as he is? I’m not so sure because they essentially spent two first round picks to get this guy, given that Green Bay will be making their pick next year. I love Davenport, but I’m not in love with the selection by the Saints. Sure they don’t have a great pass rush outside of Cameron Jordan, but again, I thought they gave up too much for one.

15. Oakland Raiders (from Arizona Cardinals)-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA (22)

I didn’t figure that offensive line was a need for the Raiders, but they go for a raw but extremely talented tackle prospect in Miller. I’m not going to lie, as a Patriots fan, I wanted Miller. I may or may not have cursed out loud when he was announced as the Raiders’ pick. Donald Penn is up there in age so perhaps they took Miller to groom behind Penn. The Raiders also traded the 3rd rounder they acquired to the Steelers for Martavis Bryant, meaning Jon Gruden is trying to build an elite offense in Oakland.

16. TRADE!!! Buffalo Bills (from Baltimore Ravens)-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech (6)

The Bills acquired a fifth rounder and the 16th pick in exchange for the 22nd pick and a third rounder from the Ravens. The Bills get one of my favorite players in this class in Tremaine Edmunds. He doesn’t turn 20 for another week so he’s about as raw as you’re going to get. But at 6’5 250 pounds with 4.5 speed, you’re not going to find a better physical specimen at the linebacker position. He can play the edge or he can play up the middle and from a speed standpoint, he compares favorably to a lot of receivers in the league.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Derwin James-S-Florida State (12)

The Chargers have a pretty scary secondary now with the addition of Derwin James. At corner, they have Casey Hayward and Jason Verrett, now at safety they have James and the underrated Jahleel Addae. The Chargers had a pretty good defense already, now they may be looking at a powerhouse.

18. TRADE!!! Green Bay Packers (from Seattle Seahawks)-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville (31)

Green Bay is involved in a trade yet again, this time trading up with the Seattle Seahawks for the 18th overall pick in exchange for the 27th pick, a 3rd rounder and a 6th rounder in order to select Jaire Alexander. Alexander is probably the most athletic corner in the Draft after blowing up the Combine. He’s a little small, but his athleticism makes up for it. The Packers were in dire need of corners and Alexander’s not a bad choice here.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State (27)

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I’m surprised this pick wasn’t a wide receiver. Vander Esch was a late riser and he’s got the thickest neck I’ve ever seen. He’s a big linebacker and he shores up a group in Dallas that seems to always be battling injuries. Sean Lee is always hurt and Jaylon Smith still isn’t all the way back from his ACL tear in college. There’s still a big need at wide receiver, though, after Dez Bryant’s release. As it stands, Terrance Williams is the #1 receiver. Every receiver was still available when the Cowboys made this pick so they must not be a huge fan of this class.

20. Detroit Lions-Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas (N/A)

Ragnow is one of the best centers in the nation, though I felt that pass rusher was the biggest need for the Lions. The offensive line is still a big need, though, and Ragnow has the size to play every position on the offensive line and I think he could upgrade every spot for the Lions. Reportedly the Patriots were “all over” him so Matt Patricia may have stolen one from his former club. The Bengals were also reportedly going to take Ragnow 1 pick later so the Lions probably frustrated two teams by picking a center.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-Billy Price-C-Ohio State (N/A)

Billy Price might not be quite as good as Ragnow as a center, but he can also play guard, which is another position on the offensive line that the Bengals need. So Marvin Lewis has a lot of options here with Price and will be able to fill whatever need he wants.

22. Tennessee Titans (from Baltimore Ravens via Buffalo Bills through Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama (23)

The Titans jump ahead of the Patriots and Panthers to take Rashaan Evans This pick has been held by 4(!) different teams but it ends up in Tennessee, who gave up a 4th rounder to move up. I figured the Titans would target this guy when they made the trade. The Patriots were reportedly interested in him and the Titans are in desperate need of a middle linebacker. Evans has had some injury problems but he’s a Nick Saban linebacker, which has proven to be pretty valuable lately, considering Reuben Foster, CJ Mosley, and Dont’a Hightower are the most recent of the bunch.

23. New England Patriots (from Los Angeles Rams)-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia (28)

The Patriots needed a left tackle and that’s what Wynn played at Georgia, however I think he projects better as a guard since he’s a little on the smaller side for a tackle at about 6’2 302 pounds. Dante Scarnecchia is the best offensive line coach in the game, though and he’ll be able to do some good things with Wynn. We’ll have to see how he performs. Besides, if he doesn’t work out at tackle, he can slide into guard where I think he’s much better suited.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland (26)

First wideout off the board. I like Moore, but his film didn’t really wow me. The stats were really good and so were his workouts, but a lot of the routes he ran were tunnel screens. He’s a talented guy, though and a big need for the Panthers.

25. Baltimore Ravens (from Tennessee Titans)-Hayden Hurst-TE-South Carolina

Hayden Hurst is a guy I liked, but didn’t love. He’s 24 years old and will be 25 when the season starts. That late age is mainly because he played minor league baseball for a little bit before returning to school. He was my #3 tight end but there were a lot of analysts who had him as their best at the position. But he is one of the better athletes at the position who you can line up all over the field and is a very good blocker.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama (11)

Wide receiver might not have been the biggest need for the Falcons (that being defensive tackle), but Ridley is my favorite receiver in this class and I think that he will be an absolute stud with Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu also on the field. I would say he’s an upgrade over the departed Taylor Gabriel, for sure.

27. Seattle Seahawks (from Green Bay Packers via New Orleans Saints)-Rashaad Penny-RB-San Diego State (N/A)

Whoah…..uh, Seattle, I know you’re not usually accustomed to making first round picks, but this guy would’ve been there much later. Don’t get me wrong, I like Penny. He’s a bruiser and was the leading rusher in all of college football last season. But Derrius Guice, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb, and Ronald Jones II are still there for runningbacks. Maybe the Seahawks know something about the kid that we don’t.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Terrell Edmunds-S-Virginia Tech (N/A)

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It was pretty cool seeing Ryan Shazier walking to make the pick. I was really impressed in the montage video that he was able to do pull-ups as well. He announced the choice of Terrell Edmunds, whose brother Tremaine was selected earlier in the night. It’s the first time ever that two brothers were taken in the first round of the same draft. I thought this was a BIG reach by the Steelers. He was my 9th-rated safety. Guys I had ahead of him who were still available are Justin Reid, Deshon Elliott, Jessie Bates, Jordan Whitehead, and Quin Blanding. But like with the Seahawks pick, maybe the Steelers know something we don’t. I thought Edmunds would be there in the third round, maybe the fourth.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida (40)

The Jaguars bolster a strength of this team on their defensive line. Bryan does a good job of disrupting guys in the backfield and creates plays for other guys on the defense. Defensive line wasn’t a need by any means, as Malik Jackson, Calais Campbell, and Marcell Dareus are already there on the interior defensive line. Good luck getting playing time as a rookie, kid.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Mike Hughes-CB-Central Florida (33)

Hughes had a troubled past in college but is one of the best talents in the class. I figured the Vikings would go corner with Trae Waynes’ contract set to expire at the end of the 2018 season, though I had Josh Jackson and Isaiah Oliver rated ahead of Hughes. He can hit, he can cover, and he can return kicks, but again, the troubled past led me to lower him a bit in my rankings (got in a huge fight at a frat house at UNC, then was accused of rape at Kansas, though those charges were dropped). Given the quality of receivers in the NFC North, getting as many good corners as you can is going to be huge.

31. New England Patriots-Sony Michel-RB-Georgia (N/A)

I’m shocked the Patriots didn’t trade this pick. But they’re able to land Sony Michel, one of the more exciting running backs in college football. Michel is a similar player to Dion Lewis and I think he fits in nicely with the offense. He tore up the CFP running behind fellow Patriots first rounder Isaiah Wynn. My concern here is that is now a VERY crowded running back room with the newly-signed Jeremy Hill, Rex Burkhead, James White, and now Sony Michel, so I’m not so sure getting a running back in the first round was the best route to go. It should be interesting to see what New England has in mind for him.

32. TRADE!!! Baltimore Ravens (from Philadelphia Eagles)-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

The Ravens gave up a couple second rounders, one this year and one next year, to trade back into the first round for the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. Lamar Jackson will be sitting behind Joe Flacco for at least a year to develop, which is what he needs. Jackson has work to do as a passer, but the athleticism is off the charts. He has Michael Vick-like quickness. It’ll be interesting to see how the Ravens develop not only him, but their gameplan to accommodate him. He’s probably going to sit for a long time a la Aaron Rodgers, and we’ve all seen how that worked out.

Well that was a Hell of a first round. My mock did pretty poorly, but I kind of expected that considering it was such an unpredictable draft that we didn’t even know who the first overall pick was going to be until it was made. The only picks I nailed were Saquon Barkley at 2, Sam Darnold at 3, and Rashaan Evans at 22 (even though I got the team wrong). Here’s a list of my best players available for Day 2, ordered by their ranking on my Big Board:

14. Connor Williams-OT-Texas

15. Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

19. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

20. Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

24. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

25. Justin Reid-S-Stanford

29. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

30. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

So still plenty of talent still available for Day 2. I won’t get to watch the first half of it since I will be broadcasting a softball game between Indiana and Michigan at 6. So if you’re sick of the Draft, you can turn that on and hear my seductive voice. But that’s going to do it for the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Let me know what you thought of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Final Mock Draft

We made it, folks. It’s Draft Day! Round 1 starts tonight at 8 and the Cleveland Browns stated that they received no acceptable offers for the top pick, so it looks like they’re going to make the selection, not that there was a ton of doubt about it. As promised, here is my final mock draft of the year and my official guesses at what’s going to happen. The Draft is always damn near impossible to project. The best my mocks have ever done was 10 out of 32 correct picks in 2012. The worst was 3 the following year (that one got published in my high school’s newspaper). Last year I got 5, which is typically what I’m around. I’m going to do things a little differently with this mock than what I typically do with my mock drafts. I’m going to predict what I think will actually happen rather than what I would do if I were making the picks. Since I’m going to be predicting what I think will happen, I’m going to break one of my cardinal rules for mocks: I’m going to project trades. That’s where I’m probably going to get in trouble with the picks so at the end of the blog I’m going to link to the mock draft I made on NFL.com’s Predict the Pick with my picks on what I would do, which does not project trades so that you get both. As for the mock itself, these decisions are going to be based on not only what I think the team is going to do, but also based on what I’m hearing. The picks also may not necessarily reflect my rankings, either, since each team has rankings of their own. So with that, let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

Not what I would do by any means, but I am hearing that the Browns have narrowed the top pick down to Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. Since Mayfield has been compared to Johnny Manziel, I think there’s a fear in the front office about repeating their mistake from 4 years ago and they go with Allen. With Tyrod Taylor in place, Allen won’t have to start right away and can sit and develop for a year, which is what he needs. Allen is as talented as they come but the tape and stats have me a bit nervous.

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

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The Giants could choose to select a future franchise quarterback, but I think they go with the best player in the Draft. The Giants don’t have any runningbacks that make teams nervous and having a guy like Barkley around would force defenses to pay more attention to him, which can lead to more opportunities for ODell Beckham Jr to get open (as if he needed them). I think Eli Manning has another year or two left so they can draft his replacement in a later round or next year.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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I’ve heard the Jets are considering between Darnold and Mayfield and since the Jets have a poor track record of developing quarterbacks (see: Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg), I think they go with the guy who probably needs the least development in this class in Darnold. Darnold will have an opportunity to start right out of the gate but I don’t think it would hurt to have Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater start and have Darnold develop behind him.

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans)-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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I think Minkah Fitzpatrick would be the better selection for the Browns here, but this is what I’m hearing they want to do. If they do pull the trigger on Bradley Chubb, they could have one of the most dominant defensive lines in the NFL. With Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah already looking like stud pass rushers, adding Chubb would give opposing offensive lines nightmares.

5. PROJECTED TRADE: Miami Dolphins (from Denver Broncos)-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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First big trade projection here. I think the Dolphins give the 11th overall pick and their 2019 first rounder to the Broncos to go up and take the guy they’ve reportedly been in love with for some time. I don’t think quarterback is the biggest need for the Dolphins, but Ryan Tannehill’s contract is up after this season and I doubt the Dolphins are going to want to give him the big contract he’s probably going to command, making quarterback an eventual need. Because Tannehill will still be on the roster, Mayfield can sit and develop, which is exactly what he needs.

6. PROJECTED TRADE: Buffalo Bills (from Indianapolis Colts via New York Jets)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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Another big trade, this time I think the Bills give up both of their first rounders to the Colts to move up. The Cardinals are trying to move up as well and I think the Colts will use that as leverage because the Bills are reportedly “desperate” to draft a quarterback in the first round. In this scenario, I have them taking Josh Rosen, who I think is the best quarterback in this class. He can start right away and there isn’t a huge financial commitment to AJ McCarron so there isn’t any pressure to have the former Bengals quarterback start over Rosen like there was with Mike Glennon over Mitchell Trubisky last season for the Bears.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Derwin James-S-Florida State

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Again, not the pick I would make but I’m hearing that the Buccaneers are “in love” with Derwin James and I think he would instantly become the enforcer on this defense. When the Buccaneers were wreaking havoc on the NFL in the late-90’s early-2000’s, they did it with a star defensive lineman (Warren Sapp), a star linebacker (Derrick Brooks), and a star safety (John Lynch). On their current roster, they’ve got their star defensive lineman (Gerald McCoy) and two star linebackers (Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David). They just don’t have that safety. Enter James, who would become the enforcer type that Lynch was.

8. Chicago Bears-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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The Bears need to aid Trubisky in any way they can. They already accomplished some of that in free agency by getting him some receivers to throw to in Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, now they need to shore up the offensive line and there isn’t a better offensive line prospect in this year’s class than Quenton Nelson. Nelson’s a dominant run blocker and a very good pass blocker and I think he’ll make life a lot easier for both Trubisky and Jordan Howard.

9. San Francisco 49ers-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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With the uncertainty surrounding Reuben Foster’s future, middle linebacker all of a sudden becomes a need for the 49ers. Tremaine Edmunds is probably the most physically gifted middle linebacker we’ve seen this generation, as he’s 6’5 250 pounds and runs a 4.5 40 yard dash so I think he could be the guy for them. And if Foster does manage to get cleared, Edmunds can play outside linebacker and rush off the edge as well.

10. Oakland Raiders-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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Everybody seems to single this out as a “Jon Gruden pick.” Roquan Smith is about as instinctive a linebacker as you’re going to find and he would be a leader on this Raiders’ defense. He doesn’t shed blocks very well so the defensive linemen may need to step it up a bit, but if he can go unblocked, your play is done.

11. PROJECTED TRADE: Denver Broncos (from Miami Dolphins)-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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The Broncos trade down, get an extra first rounder next year, and still get the guy they probably would’ve taken at 5 anyway in Denzel Ward. After losing Aqib Talib in the offseason, the Broncos have a need at corner opposite Chris Harris. Bradley Roby is a capable replacement, but he’s proven to be very useful at nickel and I don’t think tampering with that would be in Denver’s best interest. Ward is the best in a pretty good corner class and I think he will be a step in the right direction towards rebuilding this defense.

12. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Cincinnati Bengals)-Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama

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This isn’t the best fit in the world, as I think Fitzpatrick is best suited to be a centerfielding safety, which the Colts already have in Malik Hooker. However I think the Colts go “best player available” and find a way to get Fitzpatrick on the field any way they can. Fitzpatrick can play anywhere in the secondary so there won’t be a lack of options for him on a very thin Colts defense.

13. Washington Redskins-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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I’ve already stated before I’m not in love with Vita Vea, but you can’t deny he’s a space clogger. The Redskins’ run defense was poor last season but adding a guy with Vea’s size could alleviate a lot of those pains. Pair him with a healthy Jonathan Allen and the Redskins could see a huge shift in the right direction in their run defense.

14. Green Bay Packers-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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The Packers NEED secondary help and it wouldn’t shock me to see them try and move up ahead of the Broncos to try and land Denzel Ward or Minkah Fitzpatrick. But I don’t think they’ll be successful and I think they’ll settle for Josh Jackson, whose instincts and ballhawking skills will make him a very valuable asset in Green Bay’s secondary.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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Here’s a shocker that may shake the entire draft. The Cardinals are reportedly trying very hard to trade into the top 10 to land a quarterback but I don’t think they have the ammunition to do so. Therefore, I think they’ll stay put and take a chance on Lamar Jackson, one of the most exciting playmakers in the nation. The former Heisman trophy winner won’t have to start right away, as the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford to a 3 year deal in the offseason, so he can work on his passing mechanics in the meantime.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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Terrell Suggs will turn 36 during this NFL season so it’s high time the Ravens started grooming his replacement. Enter Davenport, who was one of the most entertaining film watches in recent memory. Granted, the talent he was going up against was subpar, but he was dominating like you’d expect a potential high draft choice to do. He’s still pretty raw, but pairing him with a great pass rusher like Suggs would be the perfect environment for him to take up the mantle as the Ravens’ pass rush extraordinaire.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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This could easily be a right tackle like Mike McGlinchey, but I think the Chargers are going to go with Leighton Vander Esch here to shore up their defense. Vander Esch reportedly may go higher than a lot of people might expect and the Chargers make a lot of sense, as they need that physical run stopper in the middle of their defense.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Isaiah Wynn-OG-Georgia

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The Seahawks appear to be preparing for a rebuild after blowing up their defense and I think the most important thing for them to do is address their offensive line. Isaiah Wynn would be a godsend for Pete Carroll’s staff because the Seahawks need help all over their offensive line and Wynn can play anywhere on it, filling whichever need they so choose.

19. Dallas Cowboys-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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The Cowboys recently met with Sutton and I think with the release of Dez Bryant, this makes him the likely pick here. While Sutton is my 4th rated receiver, I have him going to Dallas because of his similarities to Bryant and I think it’s the best fit not only for him, but for the Cowboys as well. He’s a big guy with a large catch radius and I think he and Dak Prescott could form a fun connection.

20. Detroit Lions-Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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The Lions managed to franchise tag Ziggy Ansah but even with him back for another year, pass rusher is still a major need as there’s nobody opposite him that teams need to worry about. Harold Landry has some work to do against the run but his pass rushing skills are so good that I think a pass rush-needy team like the Lions would be willing to overlook his flaws against the run.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills)-James Daniels-C-Iowa

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After losing Russell Bodine in free agency, there’s a huge hole at center. Considering how thin the rest of the offensive line class is, center is actually pretty deep and Daniels is the best of the bunch. He’s easily the best athlete in this class of centers and could kick out to guard if need be. You can get a lot more creative with your blocking schemes with an athlete like Daniels, which I think could really be helpful to the development of Joe Mixon.

22. PROJECTED TRADE: Indianapolis Colts (from Buffalo Bills via Kansas City Chiefs)-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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This is the other Bills pick that would be acquired for the 6th overall pick. The Colts have numerous needs so stocking up on picks would be huge. Rashaan Evans was a leader on one of the top defenses in the country and this would be the second Alabama stud the Colts would be adding to their defense if my mock draft comes true. He’s a good athlete with some injury concerns. Despite not being “the guy” last year with Alabama with Reuben Foster being around, Evans still found ways to make plays an impact the game and continued to do so when he was given the reigns as the team’s MIKE linebacker.

23. New England Patriots-Kolton Miller-OT-UCLA

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A lot of people think the Patriots made this pick to put themselves in a better position to draft Tom Brady’s successor. I don’t think they will in the first round. There’s too big a hole at left tackle that even a great coach like Dante Scarnecchia can’t fill. Kolton Miller is basically a carbon copy of the recently-departed Nate Solder and I think he can slide in Day 1 protecting Tom Brady’s blind side (and perhaps another quarterback in this draft class a few years down the road).

24. Carolina Panthers-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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I think the fact that Calvin Ridley is 24 years old will cause him to slide. I think he’s the best receiver in this class but there are plenty of people who disagree with me and think that honor belongs to DJ Moore. But Ridley is an excellent athlete and a great route runner and the Panthers can use all the receiver help that they can get. Yes they added Torrey Smith but Smith hasn’t really been relevant for years now so I think the addition of Ridley will be really helpful for the Panthers offense.

25. Tennessee Titans-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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The Titans need a middle linebacker but there really isn’t one available here for them. This pick could be on the move, whether the Titans try and trade up for that middle linebacker or they trade back and add more draft capital. The Titans could also use some help on the defensive line to aid Jurrell Casey and Da’Ron Payne is a guy I think could be useful for them. This is a case of “best player available” as interior line wouldn’t be their biggest need, but beefing up a strength can pay dividends.

26. PROJECTED TRADE: Jacksonville Jaguars (from Atlanta Falcons)-Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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I’ve got the Jaguars sneaking up ahead of the Saints to take a tight end. Dallas Goedert is the only first round talent at the position and the Saints have shown some serious interest in tight ends after having been rumored to be trying to bring back Jimmy Graham before the Packers snatched him up. Jacksonville has none so I think they take the risk and trade up. Goedert can help round out their offense and the more help you can get Blake Bortles, the better.

27. PROJECTED TRADE: Cleveland Browns (from New Orleans Saints)-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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With Goedert gone, I think the Saints try and build some draft capital. I think the Browns use their plethora of picks to trade back into the first round to have 3 first round picks for the second consecutive year. With Joe Thomas’ retirement, there’s a huge hole at left tackle and while there are people that think that Connor Williams should play guard, I think he’ll be fine as a left tackle and could be Thomas’ heir.

28. PROJECTED TRADE: New York Giants (from Pittsburgh Steelers)-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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The Steelers really don’t have a ton of needs so I think they listen to some trade offers. The Giants need offensive linemen and I think they’ll trade back into the first round to take Mike McGlinchey. McGlinchey is probably better suited to play right tackle but anything is better than Ereck Flowers on the left side right now so I think McGlinchey will start out there while a pretty solid Justin Pugh mans the right side.

29. PROJECTED TRADE: Atlanta Falcons (from Jacksonville Jaguars)-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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The only real hole for the Falcons right now is defensive tackle after the departure of Dontari Poe. Grady Jarrett doesn’t really have anyone to line up alongside him in a base 4-3 front. I have Michigan’s Maurice Hurst ranked above Taven Bryan, but the heart condition Hurst was diagnosed with at the combine has scared some teams so badly that they took him off their board entirely. Bryan isn’t too far behind Hurst from a talent standpoint though so I don’t think the Falcons will complain too much about settling for him.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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Trae Waynes’ contract is up soon and even so, he hasn’t been great for the Vikings. I think they try and draft his replacement in Isaiah Oliver, who might be a different style of player, but is perfect to cover bigger receivers in the division like Allen Robinson and Marvin Jones.

31. PROJECTED TRADE: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from New England Patriots)-Derrius Guice-RB-LSU

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The Patriots like to move their picks so I think they will listen to offers. The runningback position is currently a black hole for the Buccaneers and there will be several teams ahead of them in the second round who could jump ahead and take Derrius Guice so I think they’ll decide not to risk it and will jump ahead to take the talented back, who will almost certainly start right away for them.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville

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Jaire Alexander is a really talented corner and after having to cut Daryl Worley shortly after acquiring him due to his recent arrest, corner is once again a need for the Super Bowl champs. Alexander had a big combine and his athleticism will make him popular in Philly.

Notable Players Still Available: DJ Moore-WR-Maryland, Justin Reid-S-Stanford, Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan, Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State, Mike Hughes-CB-UCF, Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

Also, as promised, here’s the link to my NFL.com Predict the Pick Draft that does not project trades and is based on what I would do given each team’s situation. I’m not sure if it will link to my actual draft or to a blank one for you to make your own. If it doesn’t link to my draft, let me know through your method of choice and I’ll send it to you. That’s going to do it for my final mock. Let me know what you think of the picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Every Team’s Biggest Draft Steal of the 21st Century

Yesterday I listed each team’s biggest miss in the Draft. Today we’re going to be a little more positive. We’re going to take a look at the biggest steal for each team since 2000. Some ground rules for this. First off, the steal cannot come in the first two rounds, so Brett Favre and Drew Brees going in the second round will not qualify. The 2017 draft class will once again be excluded because even though guys like Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara shined as rookies despite being later picks, we don’t know if they were just flashes in the pan yet. Later rounders will also carry more weight when I consider this, so a steal in the 7th will be worth much more than a steal in the 3rd. Also, their candidacy as a steal applies only for the team that drafted them. So even if Favre were eligible as a steal, he was drafted by the Falcons and traded after his rookie year. I will also be including some players who were taken before the steal in question that were much less successful in their careers to hype up the steal.

Cleveland Browns-Ahtyba Rubin-DL-Iowa State (190th Overall in 2008)

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Not a flashy name by any means, but Rubin has quietly been one of the best interior defensive linemen for some time. He’s a space eater and made life for Browns linebackers much easier.

Players picked ahead of him: Glenn Dorsey-LSU, Sedrick Ellis-USC, Kentwan Balmer-North Carolina, Trevor Laws-Notre Dame, Andre Fluellen-Florida State, Marcus Harrison-Arkansas, Dre Moore-Maryland, DeMario Presley-North Carolina State, Jason Shirley-Fresno State, Carlton Powell-Virginia Tech

New York Giants-Justin Tuck-EDGE-Notre Dame (74th Overall in 2005)

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I still get nightmares over Justin Tuck’s performance in Super Bowl XLII. He absolutely battered the Patriots offensive line in that game and, quite frankly, I think Eli Manning won Super Bowl MVP for that game due to quarterback bias. Tuck was the biggest reason the Giants pulled off the biggest upset in recent memory and he parlayed that success into an excellent NFL career.

Players picked ahead of him: Erasmus James-Wisconsin, Matt Roth-Iowa, Dan Cody-Oklahoma

New York Jets-Demario Davis-LB-Arkansas State (77th Overall in 2012)

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During training camp of his rookie year, Davis was compared to Ray Lewis by his own head coach, Rex Ryan. Pretty high praise for a rookie third rounder out of tiny Arkansas State. Davis hasn’t quite been Ray Lewis, but he’s been one of the best linebackers in the game since he entered it in 2012.

Players picked ahead of him: Nobody ahead of him really sucked, 2012 was a REALLY good year for linebackers.

Houston Texans-Eric Winston-OT-Miami (FL) (66th Overall in 2006)

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This was almost Glover Quin, but I had to go with Winston for two reasons. Number 1, he’s been one of the best right tackles in the game seemingly from the get-go. Number 2, he’s so well-respected around the league that he’s the player’s representative in the Players Association. He’s one of the main guys that negotiates new deals with the NFL. Hard to argue with that.

Players picked ahead of him: Winston Justice-USC, Daryn Colledge-Boise State, Marcus McNeill-Auburn

Denver Broncos-Malik Jackson-DL-Tennessee (137th Overall in 2012)

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There were a lot of options for this spot, such as Brandon Marshall (the wide receiver) and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m going with Jackson just because he went much later than the other two. Jackson has been a dominant force on the interior defensive line for both the Broncos and the Jaguars.

Players picked ahead of him: Kendall Reyes-UConn, Jerel Worthy-Michigan State, Devon Still-Penn State, Mike Martin-Michigan, John Hughes-Cincinnati, Alameda Ta’amu-Washington

Indianapolis Colts-TY Hilton-WR-FIU (92nd Overall in 2012)

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This could’ve been Pierre Garcon or Antoine Bethea, but Hilton hit the ground running as a rookie and he’s been the Colts’ best offensive player and one of the top receivers in the league. In fact, I would argue that he’s the Colts’ best player, period.

Players picked ahead of him: Justin Blackmon-Oklahoma State, Jonathan Baldwin-Pittsburgh, AJ Jenkins-Illinois, Stephen Hill-Georgia Tech, Ryan Broyles-Oklahoma, DeVier Posey-Ohio State

Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Kwon Alexander-LB-LSU (124th Overall in 2015)

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Alexander is one of the most underrated linebackers in the game and he’s formed a deadly 1-2 punch with Lavonte David in Tampa’s linebacking group.

Players picked ahead of him: Stephone Anthony-Clemson, Paul Dawson-TCU, Ramik Wilson-Georgia

Chicago Bears-Jordan Howard-RB-Indiana (150th Overall in 2016)

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This might be a little bit of a bias because we’re both IU guys, but Howard IS the Chicago Bears right now. The entire offense has revolved around him since he took over the starting job as a rookie, when he finished 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards.

Players picked ahead of him: Tyler Ervin-San Jose State, Kenneth Dixon-Louisiana Tech, Paul Perkins-UCLA

San Francisco 49ers-Frank Gore-RB-Miami (FL) (65th Overall in 2005)

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I really wanted to pick NaVorro Bowman or Delanie Walker, mainly because Gore is the earliest pick in this steals list (he was the first pick of the 3rd round). But Gore is the all-time leading rusher for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history. That’s going to win out. Plus, most of Walker’s success came with the Titans.

Players picked ahead of him: Ronnie Brown-Auburn, Cedric Benson-Texas, Cadillac Williams-Auburn, JJ Arrington-California, Eric Shelton-Louisville

Oakland Raiders-Jared Veldheer-OT-Hillsdale (69th Overall in 2010)

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Veldheer went to Hillsdale, a college I’ve never heard of, yet was still a third round pick. Not only that, but he’s been one of the best tackles in the game. There weren’t a ton of options for the Raiders, whose draft track record this millennium has been pretty poor. But Veldheer was definitely a steal.

Players picked ahead of him: Vlad Ducasse-UMass, Charles Brown-USC

Miami Dolphins-Lamar Miller-RB-Miami (FL) (97th Overall in 2012)

of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

This was almost Jay Ajayi, however Ajayi got traded midway through last season to the Eagles after ineffectiveness and attitude, so Miller’s going to get the nod. He was able to turn his success with the Dolphins into a big contract with the Texans. This also could’ve been Olivier Vernon, but I thought Vernon’s best year came with the Giants this past season and he was kind of irrelevant for most of his Dolphins career.

Players picked ahead of him: Trent Richardson-Alabama, David Wilson-Virginia Tech, Isaiah Pead-Cincinnati, LaMichael James-Oregon

Buffalo Bills-Kyle Williams-DL-LSU (134th Overall in 2006)

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Williams has been one of the best defensive tackles and personalities in the game and it says a lot about a guy when he was a 5th round pick in 2006 and he’s still with the team that drafted him. Williams finally made it to the postseason for the first time in his career last season and watching it unfold was a joy.

Players picked ahead of him: Brodrick Bunkley-Florida State, John McCargo-North Carolina State, Claude Wroten-LSU, Dusty Dvoracek-Oklahoma, Gabe Watson-Michigan, Orien Harris-Miami (FL)

Washington Redskins-Kirk Cousins-QB-Michigan State (102nd Overall in 2012)

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Cousins never got the respect he deserved from the Redskins organization. He wasn’t even the first quarterback Washington took in that year’s draft (he went 100 picks after RG3) and they refused to give him the extension he wanted despite his being the best quarterback they’d had in some time. Cousins just got a huge deal with the Vikings, though so we’ll have to see how that goes.

Players picked ahead of him: Brandon Weeden-Oklahoma State, Brock Osweiler-Arizona State

Green Bay Packers-Mike Daniels-DL-Iowa (132nd Overall in 2012)

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Daniels has been the enforcer on the Packers defense and has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines for years.

Players picked ahead of him: See Malik Jackson (Daniels was the DL taken right before Jackson)

Arizona Cardinals-Tyrann Mathieu-S-LSU (69th Overall in 2013)

XXX at University of Phoenix Stadium on November 26, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona.

This was ALMOST David Johnson, who might be my favorite runningback in the NFL. However Mathieu gets the nod because Johnson had one season of dominance before getting hurt last season while Mathieu had been doing it for 5 years. He just signed with the Texans, though. The Cardinals are going to miss him.

Players picked ahead of him: Matt Elam-Florida

Baltimore Ravens-Marshall Yanda-OG-Iowa (86th Overall in 2007)

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Yanda was drafted as a tackle but upon moving to guard, he flourished. Yanda is arguably the best guard in the NFL and has been for quite some time.

Players picked ahead of him: Arron Sears-Tennessee, Justin Blalock-Texas

Los Angeles Chargers-Keenan Allen-WR-California (76th Overall in 2013)

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This very easily could’ve been Darren Sproles, but I think Sproles’ best years came with the Saints. As for Allen, he’s been terrific when healthy for the Chargers. Last season he got to prove it and one could argue he’s the Chargers’ best player.

Players picked ahead of him: Cordarrelle Patterson-Tennessee, Justin Hunter-Tennessee, Aaron Dobson-Marshall

Seattle Seahawks-Richard Sherman-CB-Stanford (154th Overall in 2011)

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There are a LOT of candidates for this spot, such as Russell Wilson and Kam Chancellor, but Sherman’s getting the nod here. Sherman has been arguably the game’s best corner and he’s become the prototype for big-bodied corners in today’s game.

Players picked ahead of him: Ras-I Dowling-Virginia, Brandon Harris-Miami (FL), DeMarcus Van Dyke-Miami (FL), Johnny Patrick-Louisville, Curtis Marsh-Utah State, Chimdi Chekwa-Ohio State, Jalil Brown-Colorado, Roc Carmichael-Virginia Tech, Robert Sands-West Virginia, Brandon Burton-Southern Utah, Rod Issac-Middle Tennessee State

Dallas Cowboys-Jason Witten-TE-Tennessee (69th Overall in 2003)

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Another guy that went 69th overall. I swear I’m not doing this on purpose. But Witten is the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver despite being a tight end and he’s still going strong 15 years later. A first ballot Hall of Famer if ever there was one.

Players picked ahead of him: Bennie Joppru-Michigan, LJ Smith-Rutgers, Teyo Johnson-Stanford

Detroit Lions-Cliff Avril-EDGE-Purdue (92nd Overall in 2008)

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This one might be a bit of a stretch because Avril’s best years are probably as a Seahawk, but he was playing very well with the Lions even before getting picked up by Seattle. This easily could’ve been DeAndre Levy as well but Avril was more consistent than Levy was.

Players picked ahead of him: Vernon Gholston-Ohio State, Derrick Harvey-Florida, Lawrence Jackson-USC, Phillip Merling-Clemson, Quentin Groves-Auburn, Chris Ellis-Virginia Tech

Kansas City Chiefs-Jamaal Charles-RB-Texas (73rd Overall in 2008)

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Tyreek Hill was also considered here, but Charles wins out. Owner of the best career yards-per-carry of all time, Charles has been the most electrifying runningback in the game despite having been a third round pick.

Players picked ahead of him: Felix Jones-Arkansas, Kevin Smith-Central Florida

Cincinnati Bengals-Geno Atkins-DL-Georgia (120th Overall in 2010)

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Atkins has been one of the most dominant interior defenders since he came into the league despite being considered undersized coming out of college. Despite the fact he just turned 30, he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

Players picked ahead of him: Brian Price-UCLA, Torell Troup-Central Florida, Terrence Cody-Alabama, D’Anthony Smith-Louisiana Tech

Los Angeles Rams-Richie Incognito-OG-Oregon (81st Overall in 2005)

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Despite some apparent attitude concerns, Incognito has been one of the best guards in the league. He just retired a couple weeks ago. Incognito was a driving force on the offensive lines of the Rams, Dolphins, and Bills. This might’ve been a stretch because Incognito’s best years were probably in Buffalo, but there weren’t a ton of options to choose from for the Rams.

Players picked ahead of him: Marcus Johnson-Ole Miss

Carolina Panthers-Steve Smith-WR-Utah (74th Overall in 2001)

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Josh Norman and Charles Johnson were considered here, but Steve Smith was the face of the Panthers when he was there. Smith was able to show that his diminutive stature didn’t matter, as his leaping ability more than made up for it. He was also one of the game’s best trash talkers and he will surely be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he’s eligible.

Players picked ahead of him: David Terrell-Michigan, Koren Robinson-North Carolina State, Freddie Mitchell-UCLA, Quincy Morgan-Kansas State, Robert Ferguson-Texas A&M

Tennessee Titans-Jurrell Casey-DL-USC (77th Overall in 2011)

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People are just now starting to appreciate just how good Casey is and has been for the Titans. He’s one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game and he wreaks tons of havoc in opposing backfields.

Players picked ahead of him: Phil Taylor-Baylor, Jarvis Jenkins-Clemson, Marvin Austin-North Carolina, Terrell McClain-South Florida

Atlanta Falcons-Devonta Freeman-RB-Florida State (103rd Overall in 2014)

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Freeman broke out in his second season with the Falcons and is one of the quickest backs in the game. He and fellow draft steal Tevin Coleman form arguably the deadliest runningback 1-2 punch in the NFL. Freeman’s getting the nod over Coleman because Freeman went a round later and typically gets more touches.

Players picked ahead of him: Bishop Sankey-Washington, Tre Mason-Auburn

New Orleans Saints-Marques Colston-WR-Hofstra (252nd Overall in 2006)

at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 1, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Saints’ all-time leading receiver was drafted 4th-to-last out of a school that doesn’t even have football anymore. Had Colston played one more season, he likely would’ve joined the exclusive 10,000 yards club (he’s 241 yards away).

Players picked ahead of him: Too many to list. 28 receivers were picked before him, only about 3 or 4 of them ended up being really good.

Pittsburgh Steelers-Antonio Brown-WR-Central Michigan (195th Overall in 2010)

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What more can you say about Antonio Brown? Not a lot of people realize that the best wide receiver in the game today was drafted around the same spot as Tom Brady, just ten years later. 194 players went before a guy who makes extraordinary catches like it’s nothing.

Players picked ahead of him: Arrelious Benn-Illinois, Damian Williams-USC, Jordan Shipley-Texas, Armanti Edwards-Appalachian State, Taylor Price-Ohio, Mardy Gilyard-Cincinnati, Marcus Easley-UConn, Jacoby Ford-Clemson, David Reed-Utah, Kerry Meier-Kansas, Carlton Mitchell-South Florida, Dezmon Briscoe-Kansas

Jacksonville Jaguars-Telvin Smith-LB-Florida State (144th Overall in 2014)

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Smith has been one of the league’s very best for a while now even though he didn’t start getting the recognition he deserved until the Jaguars broke out in 2017. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline tackler and is amongst the most athletic linebackers in the game.

Players picked ahead of him: Carl Bradford-Arizona State, Khairi Fortt-California, Prince Shembo-Notre Dame

Minnesota Vikings-Everson Griffen-EDGE-USC (100th Overall in 2010)

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It took Griffen a couple of years to really get going, but now that he has he’s become the best pass rusher on arguably the league’s best defense. Stefon Diggs was also considered but I feel that Griffen is more valuable to the Vikings right now than Diggs is.

Players picked ahead of him: Alex Carrington-Arkansas State, Daniel Te’o-Nesheim-Washington

New England Patriots-Tom Brady-QB-Michigan (199th Overall in 2000)

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Biggest draft steal of all time. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by trying to defend this pick any further than that.

Players picked ahead of him: Giovanni Carmazzi-Hofstra, Chris Redman-Louisville, Tee Martin-Tennessee, Spurgon Wynn-Texas State

Philadelphia Eagles-Trent Cole-EDGE-Cincinnati (146th Overall in 2005)

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Cole was the premiere pass rusher for the Eagles for nearly a decade and for a while was the most dangerous player they had. Brian Westbrook was also considered here, but Cole’s lengthy run near the top of the pass-rushing charts gets him over the top.

Players picked ahead of him: everyone ahead of Justin Tuck as well as Vincent Burns-Kentucky, Chauncey Davis-Florida State, David McMillan-Kansas

I hope this blog was your friendly reminder that just because a guy was picked late doesn’t mean he doesn’t matter. Often times these are the guys that change franchises. So don’t sleep on Day 3 of the NFL Draft. You never know when your team picks a Tom Brady. Let me know what you think of these draft steals in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

General Sports: April 5

-Patriots receiver Julian Edelman helped thwart a potential school shooting. A user commented on one of Edelman’s Instagram photos saying he was going to shoot up his school and to “check the news tomorrow.” Another user went to Edelman’s DM’s and notified him of this comment. Edelman found it and, thinking of what happened in Parkland, Florida, had his assistant notify police. They were able to identify the subject as a 14 year-old in Michigan who admitted to being the user that made the threat and he was apprehended. There is a crowd that wonders why Edelman didn’t just call the cops himself, but I’m not one of them simply because I don’t care who calls the cops in this situation, as long as they get called. You can’t take these threats lightly, whether the kid meant it or not.

-Von Miller may be in trouble for catching a hammerhead shark on a fishing trip. For evidence, look no further than his Instagram.

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PETA wants to make sure that Miller didn’t catch this shark illegally, which apparently he may have done so since it’s a hammerhead (Group 3, whatever that means) and catching one is punishable by $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Miller did say that he threw it back, though. I really don’t think anything is going to come of this but I just have to say holy shit, Von. That’s a 9 and a half foot hammerhead fucking shark! The tail fin is almost as big as he is! As if Miller weren’t badass enough being one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, now he’s out here in Miami catching hammerhead sharks. This was off the coast in Miami, which has me a little retroactively nervous because I was just there a few weeks ago for spring break and I went swimming in the ocean a couple times. Sharks are up there on my “most-feared animals” list with bears and alligators/crocodiles, though I did work on my fear of the latter, as you can see below.

Gator? I hardly knew her

A post shared by Jim Wyman (@jimwyman10) on

Who cares if it was just a baby or if it’s mouth was tied up? Just let me take it one step at a time, dammit!

-The Ravens signed Robert Griffin III to a 1 year deal to back up Joe Flacco. I’m happy to see RG3 signing with a new team. The former Heisman Trophy winner is one of the biggest what-if’s in recent memory and I’m a firm believer in the sentiment that Mike Shanahan ruined RG3’s career by rushing him back from that ACL tear he suffered in the playoffs against Seattle far too soon. There was no reason he should’ve torn that thing in the playoffs then returned for Week 1. But I digress, Griffin seems like a good dude and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does. It’s also curious that the Ravens seem to be taking an interest in running quarterbacks of late. They drafted Tyrod Taylor a few years ago, were going to sign Colin Kaepernick if their owner didn’t veto it, and now they sign Griffin. I’m not sure what exactly this points to, if anything, but it’s good to see RG3 with a job again after not being on a roster in 2017.

-The Rockies gave Charlie Blackmon a 6-year extension worth up to $116M which will take him through his age-38 season, all but assuring he spends his entire career in Colorado. Blackmon is one of the most underrated athletes in all of sports, let alone baseball, as last season he set a Major League record with 104 RBI’s out of the leadoff spot to go along with a .331 batting average, 37 home runs, and a 6.5 WAR. He would’ve had my vote for NL MVP if I had one. This season he’s continuing his excellent play as he was hitting .316 with 4 homers, 6 RBI, and a 1.462 OPS in 5 games entering Wednesday night’s tilt with the Padres. Blackmon’s been in the Majors since 2011 but he didn’t really break out until 2016 and since then he’s been the best leadoff hitter in the game so this extension is well-warranted for the late bloomer.

-Shohei Ohtani is quickly making everyone forget how bad his Spring Training went. After going 4-32 at the plate and allowing 9 runs in 2.2 innings, Ohtani has been excelling now that the games count. In his first start on the mound, he went 6 innings giving up 3 runs, however all came on a 3-run homer and he was lights out otherwise. He went 1-5 in his first game as DH on Opening Day, then in his first game in Anaheim he homers in his first at bat then got a couple more hits. He homered again in Wednesday’s tilt with the Indians off reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and as of this writing, he’s hitting .444. It’s still early, but Ohtani is looking like he’s worth the hype a few games into his career.

-Giancarlo Stanton struck out 5 times in his Yankee Stadium debut and received a chorus of boos for the showing. For a lot of guys, this would be crushing. But the thing about baseball is you play everyday so there’s always the chance to redeem yourself. Well…

I love how Michael Kay knew the ball was gone seemingly before it even touched his bat, that’s how hard Stanton crushed it. He’s going to strike out his fare share, but he’s also going to do that. You take the good with the bad with him.

That’s going to do it for this edition of General Sports. Let me know what you think of the topics discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

Patriots Trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams

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Last season, the Patriots traded the 32nd overall pick to the New Orleans Saints for the speedy wide receiver Brandin Cooks. Cooks was being phased out of the Saints offense as the emergence of Michael Thomas proved that any wide receiver could succeed in that offense (which is pretty true) and that Cooks was expendable. The Patriots got a good season out of Cooks while the Saints used the 32nd pick acquired from the Patriots on Wisconsin tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Ramczyk was my top-rated tackle in that class and he did not disappoint, as he was very productive as the Saints’ starting right tackle. For the Patriots, Cooks had 65 catches for 1082 yards and 7 TD’s. Really good numbers considering how much the Patriots like to spread the targets around between what was a plethora of receivers even with the absence of Julian Edelman.

However the Patriots found themselves in a similar situation as to that of Chandler Jones a couple years ago. Jones had a year left on his contract when he was traded to the Cardinals for a 2nd round pick (which was used on Cyrus Jones, who has been a disaster in his first 2 seasons). The Patriots felt they wouldn’t be able to afford Chandler Jones so they felt like they ought to get something for him instead of letting him walk in free agency. This is the same situation with Cooks, as his contract expires after the 2018 season. The Patriots likely weren’t confident in their ability to re-sign him so they sent him to the Rams, who have a big need at receiver after the departure of Sammy Watkins in free agency. In exchange, the Patriots will receive the 23rd overall pick in the draft and a 6th rounder while also sending a 4th to the Rams with Cooks.

So what does this mean for both teams? Well for the Rams, it seems like they’re all in on the 2018 season. They made some big splashes this offseason, acquiring both Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib at corner, signing Ndamukong Suh at defensive tackle, and now trading for receiver Cooks. The Rams now have a receiving corp of Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods and Tavon Austin. Lots of speed at wideout. However they’re taking a risk investing in so many 1-year contracts. Cooks has 1 year left, Suh has 1 year left, Peters has 1 year left, and Todd Gurley may only have one year left if his club option isn’t exercised (which I can’t imagine the Rams not doing). So this all points to a big run at a Super Bowl in head coach Sean McVay’s second year as head coach. A Super Bowl win in 2018 would make McVay the youngest head coach ever to win the Super Bowl. However their draft prospects for this season take a hit, as barring a blockbuster trade they won’t have a first round pick for the second consecutive year and their first pick in 2018 isn’t until 87th overall, midway through the third round due to a trade made with the Bills for their second rounder.

As for the Patriots, a lot of people are saying this opens the door for them to make a run at ODell Beckham Jr. I’m going to put the breaks on that REAL quick. Beckham is a transcendent talent, sure, and the Patriots have 2 first rounders to offer the Giants, which is their minimal asking price. But Beckham doesn’t fit the Patriots culture. Now yes, the Pats have had success with “diva” receivers before…well, really they only had success with the one, Randy Moss. Beckham, like Cooks, also only has one year left on his contract and he wants to be the highest paid receiver of all time. There’s no chance the Patriots pay that so trading for Beckham doesn’t put them in any better situation than Cooks, only they’ll be out two first rounders.

So what do the Patriots do here? Well for starters, this puts them in a much better position to get a tackle to replace Nate Solder. Left tackle is the biggest hole on the Patriots roster right now, as La’Adrian Waddle is currently the guy. He couldn’t crack the Lions starting lineup, to think he can start for the Patriots is just laughable, no matter how good a line coach Dante Scarnecchia is. I’ve been hearing a lot of people saying UCLA’s Kolton Miller is most likely, as he compares favorable to the departed Solder and I’d have to say they’re not wrong. He is the 4th-rated tackle on my board, but he is the better fit for the Patriots amongst the three ahead of him (Texas’ Connor Williams, Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, Pittsburgh’s Brian O’Neill). It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see them go that route with the 23rd pick. It does create a little more intrigue with the 31st pick, though. Quite frankly, I don’t think the Patriots make the pick. The last time Belichick made two first round selections was 2012 when he took Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Now, both picks were home runs, but I don’t think this class is as strong as the 2012 one. I think they’re going to trade back a couple picks with a team that picks in the early 2nd round trying to get back into the first in order to build some draft capital.

So as a Patriots fan, I’m sad to see Cooks go. I enjoyed the threat he posed with his great speed and he was an exciting playmaker. But it was a necessary move to make for New England as they simply wouldn’t be able to afford him and now they have an extra first round pick for their troubles. Let me know what you think of the Cooks trade in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

2018 MLB Season Preview

Thank you all once again for sticking with me and reading my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series. Now is the part it’s all been leading up to: the 2018 MLB Season Preview. In this preview I’m going to use what I wrote in my 30 Clubs in 30 Days series to paint a picture of how this season is going to go. This will range from player rankings to World Series predictions and everything in between. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

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Season Predictions:

Here’s the compilation of the regular season standings from the projected records I did for each team. An asterisk (*) represents the teams that I predict will win the Wild Card spots.

AL East

1. New York Yankees: 98-64

2. Boston Red Sox*: 95-67

3. Baltimore Orioles: 81-81

4. Toronto Blue Jays: 78-84

5. Tampa Bay Rays: 68-94

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians: 99-63

2. Minnesota Twins: 84-78

3. Kansas City Royals: 74-88

4. Chicago White Sox: 70-92

5. Detroit Tigers: 64-98

AL West

1. Houston Astros: 101-61

2. Anaheim Angels*: 86-76

3. Seattle Mariners: 85-77

4. Texas Rangers: 82-80

5. Oakland Athletics: 77-85

NL East

1. Washington Nationals: 95-67

2. New York Mets: 84-78

3. Philadelphia Phillies: 75-87

4. Atlanta Braves: 71-91

5. Miami Marlins: 62-100

NL Central

1. Chicago Cubs: 94-68

2. Milwaukee Brewers*: 88-74

3. St. Louis Cardinals: 85-77

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: 76-86

5. Cincinnati Reds: 69-93

NL West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 100-62

2. Arizona Diamondbacks*: 91-71

3. San Francisco Giants: 85-77

4. Colorado Rockies: 81-81

5. San Diego Padres: 70-92

So based on this information, we can see which teams are ready for success in 2018. Now let’s take a look at my postseason predictions even though game 1 out of 162 hasn’t been played yet.

Wild Card Games:

Boston Red Sox defeat Anaheim Angels

Arizona Diamondbacks defeat Milwaukee Brewers

LDS:

Houston Astros defeat Boston Red Sox

Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Arizona Diamondbacks

Washington Nationals defeat Chicago Cubs

LCS:

Cleveland Indians defeat Houston Astros

Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Washington Nationals

World Series:

Cleveland Indians defeat Los Angeles Dodgers

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Congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on your 2018 World Series victory. In my predictions, the Tribe exorcise their postseason demons from the last couple seasons and win their first World Series since 1948 and third overall. For the Dodgers, their first title since 1988 continues to elude them as they fall in the World Series for the second year in a row. It is also worth mentioning that this matchup is between the two previous World Series losers, as the Indians lost to the Cubs in 2016 and the Dodgers lost to the Astros in 2017.

Power Rankings:

1. Houston Astros

2. Los Angeles Dodgers

3. Cleveland Indians

4. New York Yankees

5. Boston Red Sox

6. Washington Nationals

7. Chicago Cubs

8. Arizona Diamondbacks

9. Milwaukee Brewers

10. Anaheim Angels

11. St. Louis Cardinals

12. Seattle Mariners

13. San Francisco Giants

14. New York Mets

15. Minnesota Twins

16. Texas Rangers

17. Colorado Rockies

18. Baltimore Orioles

19. Toronto Blue Jays

20. Philadelphia Phillies

21. Oakland Athletics

22. Pittsburgh Pirates

23. Kansas City Royals

24. Atlanta Braves

25. Chicago White Sox

26. San Diego Padres

27. Cincinnati Reds

28. Tampa Bay Rays

29. Detroit Tigers

30. Miami Marlins

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Gotta put the reigning champs atop the initial Power Rankings. Plus, they lost virtually nothing in the offseason while getting even stronger with the addition of Gerrit Cole to a pitching rotation that already features two former Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. I also have to put the Marlins as the worst team in baseball simply for how much they gave up in the offseason. I also don’t think they will be any good for at least another 3 or 4 years, maybe even 5 because of the generally weak prospect pool they received for their troubles. I still can’t believe Giancarlo Stanton didn’t warrant a return of everything the Yankees had in their farm system. The guy hit 59 home runs and was NL MVP last season. Now let’s get into the positional rankings for this season.

Positional Rankings:

Catcher

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1. Buster Posey-San Francisco Giants

2. Gary Sanchez-New York Yankees

3. Salvador Perez-Kansas City Royals

4. Willson Contreras-Chicago Cubs

5. Yadier Molina-St. Louis Cardinals

6. Tucker Barnhart-Cincinnati Reds

7. Mike Zunino-Seattle Mariners

8. Yasmani Grandal-Los Angeles Dodgers

9. Martin Maldonado-Anaheim Angels

10. Brian McCann-Houston Astros

1st Base

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1. Joey Votto-Cincinnati Reds

2. Paul Goldschmidt-Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Freddie Freeman-Atlanta Braves

4. Anthony Rizzo-Chicago Cubs

5. Cody Bellinger-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Eric Hosmer-San Diego Padres

7. Jose Abreu-Chicago White Sox

8. Ryan Zimmerman-Washington Nationals

9. Greg Bird-New York Yankees

10. Matt Carpenter-St. Louis Cardinals

2nd Base

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1. Jose Altuve-Houston Astros

2. Robinson Cano-Seattle Mariners

3. Daniel Murphy-Washington Nationals

4. Jonathan Schoop-Baltimore Orioles

5. Dustin Pedroia-Boston Red Sox

6. DJ LeMahieu-Colorado Rockies

7. Javy Baez-Chicago Cubs

8. Brian Dozier-Minnesota Twins

9. Jason Kipnis-Cleveland Indians

10. Starlin Castro-Miami Marlins

3rd Base

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1. Kris Bryant-Chicago Cubs

2. Josh Donaldson-Toronto Blue Jays

3. Nolan Arenado-Colorado Rockies

4. Jose Ramirez-Cleveland Indians

5. Anthony Rendon-Washington Nationals

6. Justin Turner-Los Angeles Dodgers

7. Mike Moustakas-Kansas City Royals

8. Alex Bregman-Houston Astros

9. Evan Longoria-San Francisco Giants

10. Adrian Beltre-Texas Rangers

Shortstop

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1. Francisco Lindor-Cleveland Indians

2. Carlos Correa-Houston Astros

3. Corey Seager-Los Angeles Dodgers

4. Manny Machado-Baltimore Orioles

5. Andrelton Simmons-Anaheim Angels

6. Xander Bogaerts-Boston Red Sox

7. Didi Gregorius-New York Yankees

8. Elvis Andrus-Texas Rangers

9. Trea Turner-Washington Nationals

10. Jean Segura-Seattle Mariners

Left Field

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1. Marcell Ozuna-St. Louis Cardinals

2. Christian Yelich-Milwaukee Brewers

3. Yoenis Cespedes-New York Mets

4. Andrew Benintendi-Boston Red Sox

5. Justin Upton-Anaheim Angels

6. Tommy Pham-St. Louis Cardinals

7. Brett Gardner-New York Yankees

8. Corey Dickerson-Pittsburgh Pirates

9. Trey Mancini-Baltimore Orioles

10. Marwin Gonzalez-Houston Astros

Center Field

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1. Mike Trout-Anaheim Angels

2. Charlie Blackmon-Colorado Rockies

3. George Springer-Houston Astros

4. Lorenzo Cain-Milwaukee Brewers

5. Jackie Bradley Jr-Boston Red Sox

6. Byron Buxton-Minnesota Twins

7. Chris Taylor-Los Angeles Dodgers

8. Odubel Herrera-Philadelphia Phillies

9. Ender Inciarte-Atlanta Braves

10. Michael Conforto-New York Mets

Right Field

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1. Bryce Harper-Washington Nationals

2. Aaron Judge-New York Yankees

3. Mookie Betts-Boston Red Sox

4. Andrew McCutchen-San Francisco Giants

5. Yasiel Puig-Los Angeles Dodgers

6. Steven Souza Jr-Arizona Diamondbacks

7. Josh Reddick-Houston Astros

8. Jay Bruce-New York Mets

9. Avisail Garcia-Chicago White Sox

10. Domingo Santana-Milwaukee Brewers

Designated Hitter

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1. Giancarlo Stanton-New York Yankees

2. JD Martinez-Boston Red Sox

3. Edwin Encarnacion-Cleveland Indians

4. Nelson Cruz-Seattle Mariners

5. Khris Davis-Oakland Athletics

Starting Pitcher

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1. Clayton Kershaw-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Max Scherzer-Washington Nationals

3. Corey Kluber-Cleveland Indians

4. Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

5. Stephen Strasburg-Washington Nationals

6. Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

7. Madison Bumgarner-San Francisco Giants

8. Luis Severino-New York Yankees

9. Zack Greinke-Arizona Diamondbacks

10. Robbie Ray-Arizona Diamondbacks

Relief Pitcher

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1. Kenley Jansen-Los Angeles Dodgers

2. Craig Kimbrel-Boston Red Sox

3. Corey Knebel-Milwaukee Brewers

4. Roberto Osuna-Toronto Blue Jays

5. Aroldis Chapman-New York Yankees

6. Andrew Miller-Cleveland Indians

7. Archie Bradley-Arizona Diamondbacks

8. Zach Britton-Baltimore Orioles

9. Wade Davis-Colorado Rockies

10. Pat Neshek-Philadelphia Phillies

And now onto the preseason awards where I award people for things they haven’t done yet and may not even do at all.

American League MVP: Aaron Judge-RF-New York Yankees

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National League MVP: Bryce Harper-RF-Washington Nationals

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American League Cy Young: Chris Sale-Boston Red Sox

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National League Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard-New York Mets

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American League Rookie of the Year: Willy Adames-SS-Tampa Bay Rays

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National League Rookie of the Year: Ronald Acuna-OF-Atlanta Braves

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American League Manager of the Year: Mike Scioscia-Anaheim Angels

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National League Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell-Milwaukee Brewers

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And finally, on to my bold predictions for the 2018 MLB season. Some will be as harmless as saying “I don’t think the Yankees are going to hit as many home runs as everybody says they will,” and others could get me fired if I had a real job. So let’s get to some predictions.

Prediction: Clayton Kershaw will show slight signs of slowing down now that he’s 30 years old, will post an ERA over 2.50, something he hasn’t done since 2012. People will freak out and panic accordingly.

Prediction: The Yankees’ season will be filled with peaks and valleys en route to 98 wins. Considering Judge and Stanton strike out as often as anyone in baseball, this could lead to some rough slumps at times for the two and their team as a result. However, when they’re on, nobody will be able to beat the Yankees.

Prediction: The Baltimore Orioles will trade Manny Machado to a contender at the trade deadline. The Orioles won’t be super competitive in 2018 and Machado’s contract is up at the end of the year. The smart thing to do would be to trade him to a contender and load up on top prospects. Predicted landing spot? Uhhhh…how about the Brewers? I would say the Yankees but the Orioles’ brass has made it clear they’d prefer not to trade Machado within the division.

Prediction: The Yankees will not break the team home run record. This is mainly because I think teams are going to try and pitch the Yankees a little more carefully this season. Knowing the type of power this team possesses, I doubt they’re going to get great pitches to hit. This may lead to higher walk rates for the team, though.

Prediction: The Marlins won’t be nearly as bad as people think. But let’s be honest, the opinions of the Marlins’ talent can’t be much lower at the moment. However every season there’s a team that everyone thinks is going to be the worst and yet somehow they find ways to be just bad, not historically bad.

Prediction: The American League’s home run king will be an Oakland Athletics player. I can envision this happening, considering the power Khris Davis and Matt Olson showed last season. Matt Chapman could also be a sneaky home run threat as well.

Prediction: Mike Trout will finish outside the top 2 in AL MVP voting for the second consecutive season. This isn’t to say that I think Trout will struggle this season. Far from it. Last season was the first time in Trout’s Major League career (since 2012) that he didn’t finish in the top 2 in AL MVP voting and I think it’s going to happen again. As you saw in my awards predictions, I have Aaron Judge taking home top honors and Trout will have to compete with the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Giancarlo Stanton, and many, many more.

Prediction: Don Mattingly will be out as Marlins manager before June. This won’t be Mattingly’s fault, nobody can succeed with this roster. However new ownership has pretty much let go of everyone else and Mattingly just logically seems to be the next domino to fall, especially when the Marlins inevitably struggle.

Prediction: Pace of Play will continue to be a topic of discussion and the new mound visit rule will be hated by catchers even though we could probably count the number of issues this rule causes on one hand. The new mound visit rule limits non-pitching-change mound visits to 6 per 9 inning games. There have already been players such as Willson Contreras who are outspoken against this, however if you think about it, catchers don’t really visit the mound all that much, especially if their guy is pitching really well. I don’t think this will cause nearly as many problems as some guys think it might.

Prediction: The newly-signed pitchers (Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta) will struggle. Darvish has had injury problems throughout his Major League career and Arrieta has been trending downward since winning the 2015 NL Cy Young Award. Im predicting both guys finish with ERA’s in the low-4’s.

So that’s going to do it for my MLB 2018 season preview. Words can’t express how excited I am for Thursday’s Opening Day to roll around, when all 30 teams will be opening on the same day for the first time in over 50 years. Let me know how you think this season’s going to go in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Tampa Bay Rays

Some positives from Justin Turner’s broken wrist, he won’t need surgery. It’s unknown when he will return but the term “weeks,” not “months” was used when talking about his return, which is a good sign. On a lesser front, Nationals star second baseman Daniel Murphy is expected to miss Opening Day as he’s still recovering from October knee surgery. Since joining the Nationals in 2016, Murphy has been on the best run of his career, including hitting .322 last season. Also, the Orioles signed Alex Cobb to their rotation, basically just leaving Greg Holland as the last remaining free agent of note. With that, let’s get to today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the Tampa Bay Rays.

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2017 Results:

Record: 80-82, 13 games behind Boston Red Sox, 5 games behind Minnesota Twins for 2nd Wild Card Spot

Notable Offseason Additions: OF Carlos Gomez, 1B CJ Cron, RP Daniel Hudson, RP Dan Runzler, SS Christian Arroyo, CF Denard Span,

Notable Offseason Subtractions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Steven Souza Jr, LF Corey Dickerson, SP Alex Cobb, 1B Lucas Duda, 1B Logan Morrison, SP Jake Odorizzi,

Best Offensive Player: CF Kevin Kiermaier

Best Pitcher: Chris Archer

Depth Chart:

C-Wilson Ramos, Jesus Sucre

1B-CJ Cron

2B-Brad Miller, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle

3B-Matt Duffy

SS-Adeiny Hechavarria, Christian Arroyo

LF-Mallex Smith

CF-Kevin Kiermaier, Denard Span (DH)

RF-Carlos Gomez

SP-Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, Nate Eovaldi

Bullpen-Alex Colome (CP), Dan Jennings, Matt Andriese, Sergio Romo, Daniel Hudson, Chaz Roe, Jose Alvarado, Dan Runzler

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Kevin Cash (4th season with Rays)

Hitting Coach-Chad Mottola

Pitching Coach-Kyle Snyder

1st Base Coach-Ozzie Timmons

3rd Base Coach-Matt Quatraro

Bench Coach-Charlie Montoyo

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The Rays blew the everloving shit out of their lineup from last season. In 2017, the Rays as a team hit 228 home runs, 6th best in baseball. In the offseason, they lost each of their top 4 home runs hitters in Morrison, Souza, Dickerson, and the former face of their franchise Longoria. It’s going to be weird seeing a Rays team without Longoria manning the hot corner. It’ll be the first time since they dropped the “devil” out of their name before the 2008 season that he wasn’t the everyday third baseman. With all that subtraction, here’s how the Rays are slated to line up in 2018.

1. Carlos Gomez-RF

2. Kevin Kiermaier-CF

3. Brad Miller-2B

4. CJ Cron-1B

5. Wilson Ramos-C

6. Matt Duffy-3B

7. Mallex Smith-LF

8. Adeiny Hechavarria-SS

9. Denard Span-DH

Not great. There’s not a single bat in that lineup that puts fear in the heart of pitchers. Sure there’s some quality defense in that lineup, particularly in centerfield with Kevin Kiermaier, but at the plate there’s a lot to be desired. Kiermaier spent a lot of time on the DL last season but was still able to provide a lot of value to the Rays. He hit .276 last season with 15 home runs, 39 RBI, 16 stolen bags, and was worth 3.0 WAR. He’s better known for being arguably the best defensive centerfielder in the game and that’s where a lot of his value comes from but he’s also a pretty good hitter in his own right. I can’t toot his horn too much because he went to Purdue so I’m going to stop right there. Brad Miller has had a weird tenure in his two seasons with the Rays. His first season with the team saw him hitting 30 bombs after a previous career-high of 11. In 2017, he hit 9. Injuries played a big part in that but the dropoff is pretty enormous, especially when you consider how big a dip his rate stats took as well. In 2016, Miller hit .243 but also slugged a pretty good .482, resulting in a league average 2.0 WAR. That dropped significantly to a .201 average and .337 SLG, resulting in a -0.1 WAR, all of which are abysmal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see which Brad Miller we get this season, the one that was one of the biggest power-hitting middle infielders in the game? Or the one who can’t hit the broad side of what Jabba the Hut calls an ass?

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The pitching situation is going to be interesting in Tampa. I always find that they seem to develop good pitching every year and this season is no different, as there are a lot of talented young arms in the rotation. But that’s where the intrigue lies. The Rays are going to experiment with a 4-man rotation as opposed to the traditional 5, which you may have noticed when I listed the Rays’ depth chart. You gotta wonder how that’s going to affect their preparation. However the oldest guy between Chris Archer, Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Nate Eovaldi is Archer at 29 (wait, shit, seriously? Guy looks like he’s 19) so it’s not like they’re dealing with some old dogs who refuse to change their routine. But it’ll be interesting to see how this works out because like I said, this is a talented bunch. Archer is one of those guys who is a much better pitcher than his stats might indicate. Last season Archer had a 4.07 ERA but a 4.6 WAR (All Star-level) and a 3.40 FIP with the 5th best K/9 rate at 11.15. Apparently he’s just been the victim of bad luck. Blake Snell has shown some flashes of being an ace-level pitcher but so far he hasn’t been able to put it all together. Faria had a 3.43 ERA last season and may quietly be one of the better pitchers in the American League. I remember hearing one anecdote that said if you were to start a pitching staff with no names, based on just the eye test alone, Nate Eovaldi would probably be the #1 choice. I can’t really argue with that, since the guy’s fastball consistently touches 98 and he’s got a pretty good curveball to boot but for whatever reason, he just seems to get hit. He hasn’t pitched since 2016 thanks to Tommy John surgery but he appears to be ready to go in 2018.

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The Rays bullpen leaves a lot to be desired. Alex Colome is the only real pitcher of note, being their closer, and he saved 47 games last season, the most in baseball by about 6 saves over Kenley Jansen, however his rate stats aren’t nearly as impressive as the Dodgers’ stopper. Colome had a 3.24 ERA and only struck out about 7 batters per 9. That’s by far the lowest number out of any closer in the top 10 in saves last season (next lowest is Fernando Rodney at 10.57). If he can’t bring that K/9 rate up, the Rays could be in trouble in the 9th inning. After him, Sergio Romo was quietly really good for Tampa last season, posting a 1.47 ERA in 25 appearances, which is really encouraging because he’s had a rough tenure since losing his closer’s job with the Giants so many years ago. Other than those guys, though, nobody in the Rays’ ‘pen is really worth talking about here.

Overall, I don’t think the Rays are going to be any good. They blew up their team in the offseason and I sincerely doubt they’re going to be any threat for a Wild Card spot, let alone the AL East. Yet they always find some way to play the role of pesky spoiler and I wouldn’t put it past them to be that team that costs another team a playoff berth. That just seems to be what the Rays do. But in all, I wouldn’t argue you too hard if you were to tell me the Rays are going to be the worst team in the American League in 2018.

Projected Record: 68-94, last in AL East

That’s going to do it for today’s edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Texas Rangers, who may need to take a long look at whether or not to blow up the team and start a rebuild after toying with being a World Series threat the last couple years. Let me know what you think of the Rays’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.