2018 College Football Preview

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post, but like I mentioned in the past, I’m a very busy man now. In addition to doing some work for Pro Football Focus, I’ve also landed a position with the Collegiate Baseball Scouting Network as a Northeast Baseball Scout. So the blog has kind of gotten put on the backburner. However, with the college football season rapidly approaching (there will be some games on this weekend, including Colorado State vs Hawaii), I have found myself with a craving to get back into things. So let’s preview the college football season. I will be giving my preseason rankings, All Americans, Heisman winner, conference champs, and national champ. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Preseason Top 25

2018 University of Alabama Spring Football

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

2. Clemson Tigers

3. Georgia Bulldogs

4. Wisconsin Badgers

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

6. Auburn Tigers

7. Penn State Nittany Lions

8. Miami (FL) Hurricanes

9. Washington Huskies

10. Oklahoma Sooners

11. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

12. Michigan State Spartans

13. Michigan Wolverines

14. UCF Knights

15. Stanford Cardinal

16. USC Trojans

17. West Virginia Mountaineers

18. Virginia Tech Hokies

19. TCU Horned Frogs

20. Florida State Seminoles

21. Oregon Ducks

22. Boise State Broncos

23. LSU Tigers

24. Mississippi State Bulldogs

25. South Florida Bulls

A couple things to note about my rankings. Alabama mainly has the top spot again because they’re the reigning champs and I tend to lean towards the mantra of “you’re number 1 until someone proves otherwise.” But I actually think Clemson on paper is better. They’re basically returning everybody from the team that won the ACC and made the playoff last year. All they really lost were receivers Deon Cain and Ray Ray McCloud along with linebacker Dorian O’Daniel. Other than that, they’re returning QB Kelly Bryant, RB Wayne Etienne, OT Mitch Hyatt, DE’s Austin Bryant and Clellin Ferrell, and DT’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins. They also landed 5-star QB recruit Trevor Lawrence, who has reportedly looked so good in training camp that Kelly Bryant’s starting job may not be all that safe. It wouldn’t shock me at all to see part 4 of Alabama v. Clemson but unlike Cavs-Warriors, this one wouldn’t be a foregone conclusion as to who the victor ought to be. But basically I’ve got Alabama and Clemson as 1A and 1B in my preseason rankings. I’ve got UCF as my top non-Power 5 team despite the fact they lost head coach Scott Frost to Nebraska. McKenzie Milton is back at quarterback and if he has another strong season like he did last year, UCF could find themselves as not only the champs of the AAC, but potentially as the first non-Power 5 school to make the playoff. Florida State is coming off a horrid season and lost Jimbo Fisher to Texas A&M (who barely missed the cut in this top 25), but they still have plenty of talent. Deondre Francois is returning from the ACL injury he suffered in Week 1 and Cam Akers was a revelation as a freshman last season. New head coach Willie Taggart’s task may not be as difficult as some may suspect.

Preseason All Americans

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QB: Khalil Tate-Arizona

RB: Bryce Love-Stanford, Jonathan Taylor-Wisconsin

WR: AJ Brown-Ole Miss, N’Keal Harry-Arizona State

TE: Noah Fant-Iowa

OT: Jonah Williams-Alabama, David Edwards-Wisconsin

OG: Martez Ivey-Florida, Michael Jordan-Ohio State

C: Ross Pierschbacher-Alabama

DE: Nick Bosa-Ohio State, Rashan Gary-Michigan

DT: Ed Oliver-Houston, Dexter Lawrence-Clemson

LB: Devin White-LSU, Devin Bush-Michigan, Cameron Smith-USC

CB: Greedy Williams-LSU, David Long, Michigan

S: Khaleke Hudson-Michigan, Lukas Denis-Boston College

K: Rodrigo Blankenship-Georgia

P: Mitch Wishnowsky-Utah

Return Specialist-Kavonte Turpin-TCU

Heisman Standings:

Valero Alamo Bowl - Stanford v TCU

1. Bryce Love-RB-Stanford

2. Khalil Tate-QB-Arizona

3. JK Dobbins-RB-Ohio State

4. Jonathan Taylor-RB-Wisconsin

5. Ed Oliver-DT-Houston

6. Nick Bosa-DE-Ohio State

7. Justin Herbert-QB-Oregon

8. Will Grier-QB-West Virginia

9. Trace McSorley-QB-Penn State

10. Rashan Gary-DE-Michigan

Bryce Love is the obvious favorite here. He was last year’s runner-up after exploding on the scene by rushing for over 2000 yards on 8.1 yards per carry. I actually anticipated Love to declare for the NFL Draft, which was why in my way-too-early Heisman rankings a few months ago, I picked Arizona QB Khalil Tate to take home the prize. But Love returned to Stanford and with Baker Mayfield now a member of the Cleveland Browns, he’ll be number 1 in most people’s initial rankings.

Conference Champs:

ACC: Clemson Tigers

Clemson University Defensive Line, 2018 College Football Preview Issue

 

As I mentioned before, Clemson lost very little from a team that made the playoff last season and they look primed for another National Championship run. I’m expecting a decline from Miami after the phenomena that was the Turnover Chain and while I do think Virginia Tech could sneak up on people, I don’t think they have the talent to unseat Clemson.

Big 10: Ohio State Buckeyes

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JUL 24 Big Ten Football Media Days

This one could be very tricky, especially considering all the controversy surrounding Urban Meyer right now. If Meyer gets canned as a result of the investigation about his potential knowledge of an assistant’s domestic abuse, the Big 10 gets a LOT more interesting. The last time Ohio State lost a coach due to investigation, Jim Tressel, they went 6-6 under Luke Fickel despite the extremely talented roster. Meyer is probably the second-best coach in college football after Nick Saban at Alabama so losing him could be catastrophic for this Ohio State team despite all its talent. And there isn’t a huge dropoff from Ohio State to the next-best teams in the Big 10 like Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, and Michigan State so Meyer could make all the difference.

Big 12: Oklahoma Sooners

UTEP v Oklahoma

Losing Baker Mayfield is going to hurt but Oklahoma’s got Kyler Murray as his replacement for at least this season. Murray was a top-10 pick in the MLB Draft by the Oakland A’s and he has signed with the club, however they are allowing him to play out this season in Norman. Murray was a former 5-star recruit who transferred from Texas A&M to Oklahoma and has an abundance of talent. While he isn’t the passer Mayfield is, he’s a much better runner and the tandem of him and Rodney Anderson in the backfield could be deadly. After them, though, I don’t see a whole lot coming out of the Big 12. Oklahoma State lost a LOT in Mason Rudolph, James Washington, and Marcell Ateman while TCU is losing Kenny Hill at quarterback (though they’re returning plenty on defense). West Virginia seems to be everybody’s dark horse pick to win the conference but I’m not sold on them just yet. Overall I think TCU is Oklahoma’s biggest threat but they still have some work to do offensively.

PAC-12: Washington Huskies

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

The PAC-12 is a crapshoot right now as there isn’t a clear best team in the mix. Washington on paper looks like the best but Stanford, USC, and even Oregon all have legitimate shots at taking home the title. Also keep an eye out for Arizona as we could see Khalil Tate have a similar impact on that squad that Lamar Jackson had on Louisville.

SEC: Alabama Crimson Tide

CFP National Championship presented by AT&T - Alabama v Georgia

While there are a ton of good teams in the SEC, it’s once again Alabama’s conference to lose. They did win the National Championship last season despite not winning the SEC (a poorly-timed loss to Auburn saw to that) but now they have an interesting quarterback situation on hand between Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts had played well for most of the season but was struggling mightily in the National Championship game against Georgia. Enter Tua and he not only throws a better ball, but leads the comeback for the Alabama win. In truth, I think it would be better for everyone if Hurts move to runningback, not only for the depth chart situation but for his potential in the NFL. He’s not as good a thrower as Tua is but he can do a lot of damage with his legs, something he’ll have more opportunities to do as a runningback. Check out what happened with Braxton Miller when he took his name out of Ohio State’s QB battle a couple years ago. He goes from probably an undrafted quarterback to a third round pick as a wide receiver by the Houston Texans (hasn’t quite panned out yet, though). Hurts could see something similar. But as for the rest of the SEC, Georgia has a lot of production to replace in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are in the NFL with the Browns and Patriots, respectively, but Jake Fromm is back and so is much of the defense, though losing Roquan Smith is going to hurt.

Playoff/Championship Prediction:

1 Alabama Crimson Tide vs 4 Oklahoma Sooners

Alabama’s defense will suffocate Oklahoma’s high-flying offense and will lead the Tide to a surprisingly easy victory.

2 Clemson Tigers vs 3 Ohio State Buckeyes

Again, Ohio State’s involvement in the playoff will hinge entirely on the Urban Meyer investigation. If he’s cleared, though, I expect Ohio State to be back in the playoff. However Clemson destroyed them in the playoff a couple years ago and while I do think it’ll be closer this time, it’ll be another Tigers victory.

National Championship: 1 Alabama vs 2 Clemson

The fourth straight year these teams will meet in the playoff and the third time they face off for the National Championship. Alabama won the first and third time while Clemson won the second. Clemson sorely missed Deshaun Watson in last year’s matchup and got beaten relatively easily. However I think they exact revenge and win their second title in three years, evening the rivalry to 2 wins apiece as Dabo Swinney cements himself as one of the best coaches of the last decade.

National Champion: Clemson Tigers

Clemson v Louisville

That’s going to do it for my college football preview. Please don’t save this to shove in my face in January, thanks. Let me know what your predictions for this season are in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

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.

 

2018 NFL Mock Draft #1

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

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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

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

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

3. Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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

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

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

5. Denver Broncos-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9. Oakland Raiders-Arden Key-EDGE-LSU

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Washington Redskins-Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU

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

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

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

15. Arizona Cardinals-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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

16. Baltimore Ravens-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

19. Dallas Cowboys-Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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

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

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

21. Buffalo Bills-Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville

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

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

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

23. Tennessee Titans-Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson

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

24. Carolina Panthers-Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma

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

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

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

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

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

27. Jacksonville Jaguars-Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama

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

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

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

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

29. Pittsburgh Steelers-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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

30. Minnesota Vikings-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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

31. Philadelphia Eagles-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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

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

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

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

NFL Draft Big Board 1

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

50. Lamar Jackson-QB-Louisville*

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49. Anthony Averett-CB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

48. Frank Ragnow-C-Arkansas

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47. Tegray Scales-LB-Indiana

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46. Mitch Hyatt-OT-Clemson*

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45. Tremaine Edmunds-EDGE-Virginia Tech*

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44. Shaun Dion Hamilton-LB-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

43. Jaire Alexander-CB-Louisville*

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42. Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia*

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41. DeShon Elliott-S-Texas*

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40. James Washington-WR-Oklahoma State

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39. Braden Smith-OG-Auburn

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38. Dre’Mont Jones-DT-Ohio State*

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37. Dorance Armstrong-EDGE-Kansas*

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36. Tarvarus McFadden-CB-Florida State*

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35. Marcus Allen-S-Penn State

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34. Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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33. Mark Andrews-TE-Oklahoma*

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32. Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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

31. Ronald Jones II-RB-USC*

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30. Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State*

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29. Sam Hubbard-EDGE-Ohio State*

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28. Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas*

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27. Mason Rudolph-QB-Oklahoma State

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26. Derrius Guice-RB-LSU*

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25. Orlando Brown-OT-Oklahoma*

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24. Vita Vea-DT-Washington*

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

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22. Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama*

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21. Christian Wilkins-DT-Clemson*

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20. Joshua Jackson-CB-Iowa*

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19. Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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18. Clellin Ferrell-EDGE-Clemson*

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17. Da’Ron Payne-DT-Alabama*

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16. Ronnie Harrison-S-Alabama*

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

15. Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado*

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14. Courtland Sutton-WR-SMU*

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13. Maurice Hurst-DT-Michigan

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12. Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame*

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11. Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama*

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

10. Connor Williams-OT-Texas*

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9. Arden Key-EDGE-LSU*

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8. Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming*

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7. Harold Landry-EDGE-Boston College

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6. Derwin James-S-Florida State*

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5. Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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4. Saquon Barkley-RB-Penn State*

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3. Sam Darnold-QB-USC*

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2. Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA*

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1. Minkah Fitzpatrick-S-Alabama*

Alabama at Vanderbilt

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