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.

Draft Rumors A Week Ahead of Round 1

I’m baaaaaack. The longest of my papers coming up just got finished a week ahead of its due date so I’m pretty comfortable with returning to the blog on a regular basis. I appreciate all the patience. My family also got the puppy I mentioned a few blogs back, we went with the name Maizie Blue. Izzy and Fred were caught off guard by her presence. Fred seems to like her and Izzy seems to be confused by her. More updates to come. But anyhow, we’re about a week away from the Draft and there are rumors GALORE, most of which concern the Browns, who hold the first and fourth picks in the Draft. So I’m going to go down the list of some of the more interesting rumors I’ve heard and talk about whether I think they’re bullshit or not because this is the time of year when teams try and push fake stories, or smokescreens, to try and trick other teams as to what their plans are. It’s like the NFL’s Game of Thrones. So let’s get to the rumors. I’m going to try and limit them to just rumors that pertain to the first round, otherwise we’ll be here all day.

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Browns GM John Dorsey knows who he wants at #1, isn’t telling anybody (not even Browns owner Jimmy Haslam) until the night before the draft

I’m actually a little surprised we, the public, don’t already know who the pick is going to be. Typically by this time in the process there is a clear favorite for the draft’s top pick. Last year it was Myles Garrett, the year before it was Jared Goff, before that Jameis Winston, before that JaDeveon Clowney. By the time the Draft typically rolls around, there’s very little mystery about who is going first. This year is completely different. There are three guys who are all still being linked to the top pick: USC QB Sam Darnold, Wyoming QB Josh Allen, and Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. I like the move by Dorsey not to tell anyone in the organization who he’s taking. Not only does it make the Draft more intriguing because the risk of that choice getting leaked is minimized significantly, but the Browns have been run so incompetently for so long that you have to imagine if somebody got wind of who their pick was going to be, they’d muck it up. I think Dorsey’s known who he wants for a while now. He’s likely been thinking about this pick since the fall and he’ll have certainly done his due diligence at this point.

Verdict: Probably True

Browns are considering drafting two QB’s at high spots

This isn’t something that’s unheard of. The Redskins did it back in 2012 by taking Baylor QB Robert Griffin III second overall then taking Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins in the fourth round. While Griffin’s career flamed out after a spectacular rookie season, Cousins has gotten better every year and just got a big fat paycheck from the Vikings. Cousins was kind of an insurance policy to RG3 and he ended up paying dividends for the Redskins, even if they refused to recognize it by giving him a long-term deal. However the Redskins’ quarterback situation was a little more dire than Cleveland’s currently is. At the time, the Redskins were fielding Rex Grossman and John Beck as their quarterbacks. The Browns at least have a competent quarterback in Tyrod Taylor to hold things down for a year so their rookie quarterback can have time to develop. Plus, the only quarterback in this class who compares to RG3 is Lamar Jackson and Jackson doesn’t have the injury history RG3 did coming out of college, so I doubt the need for an insurance policy like what the 2012 Redskins went with.

Verdict: Doubtful, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they take a guy like Toledo’s Logan Woodside in the 5th or 6th round

The Jets are preparing to make Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield the 3rd overall pick

According to an article I read on Bleacher Report, Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com is claiming that Mayfield to the Jets is a “done deal.” I’ve also read that the Jets are also seriously considering Sam Darnold perhaps suggesting they think Darnold will go to the Browns first or the Giants second. I have no doubt in my mind the Jets swapped picks with the Colts in order to take one of the quarterbacks in this class. But I’m not so sure it’s going to be Mayfield. I’ve blogged this several times, but the Jets’ division rival Dolphins are reportedly “enamored” by Mayfield, the Bills are trying to trade into the top 5 for a quarterback, and even the Patriots have been linked to the Heisman Trophy winner. I think the Jets may be throwing this name out there to try and entice their division rivals, all of whom hold picks outside of the top 10, to make a blockbuster trade with the Jets to try and stockpile picks, or get another desperate team to move up with them, perhaps Denver at 5. I would be a little surprised if the pick was Mayfield, as he’s a guy who needs more development than others and the Jets have shown they develop quarterbacks about as well as I develop proper eating habits. Not great. Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are the more finished products that will require less seasoning and it’s very likely that Rosen is the one that will still be there at #3. But if the Jets aren’t totally sold on him, then I think it would be wise of them to stockpile draft picks.

Verdict: Smokescreen

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UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen is expected to slide in the draft and may fall to the Patriots

A lot of people have been starting to mock Josh Rosen out of the top-10 in the Draft, let alone out of the top-5. Apparently the concerns about his love for the game are very real in NFL circles. This also, according to reports, has the Patriots’ ears perking up. It’s being reported that the Patriots may try and trade up to take Rosen to be Tom Brady’s successor should he slide in the Draft and considering New England has 2 first rounders and 2 second rounders this year, they seem to have the ammunition to do so. However they will likely have to trade with the Raiders at 10 at the very latest, considering the Dolphins and Bills hold the 11th and 12th picks, respectively, and both teams are going to be salivating watching Rosen fall. However it’s also being reported by NESN’s Mike Kyed that the 49ers may make a deal with the Patriots at 9th overall, saying so much as the 49ers “owe it” to the Patriots for the Jimmy Garoppolo trade despite the Browns making a better offer. As a Patriots fan, I’d rather see them get a left tackle and get a developmental quarterback later on rather than spend all their assets for the latter, even though Rosen is my top-ranked quarterback. But if the Patriots do pull the trigger on Rosen, I won’t complain. Just make sure he and Brady will be able to stay upright.

Verdict: Rosen’s slide seems likely, but he won’t fall within New England’s reach

Broncos looking to trade the 5th overall pick

John Elway has stated that the Broncos are very open to trading the 5th overall pick and given the teams that sound like they’re desperate to move up, it seems like a good chance that they’ll get an offer they like. Buffalo seems to be most desperate and they’ve also got a lot of ammunition (2 first rounders, 2 second rounders) to make a big splash. Denver needs a developmental quarterback, though with the newly-signed Case Keenum, the desperation isn’t as great as it was prior to the signing when the quarterbacks were Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. The Cardinals have also been rumored to be looking to trade up for a quarterback even after signing Sam Bradford to a 3-year deal. The Broncos will have a number of suitors should they make the 5th overall pick available.

Verdict: Very Likely

The Colts are trying to trade down again from 6th overall

The Colts originally held the third overall pick but they made a trade with the Jets to move down to #6 and acquired 3 second rounders in the process. Again, Miami and Buffalo are two teams to keep an eye out for as teams that may try and make a move with the Colts, especially if one or more of the top 4 quarterbacks falls out of the top 5. The Colts have needs pretty much everywhere and they aren’t going to fix all their problems with one pick so it’s very likely that they try and acquire as many picks as they can. However there’s a game-wrecking edge rusher in this class in Bradley Chubb from North Carolina State that I think could really be useful to the Colts and it’s very possible he falls to them at #6 given the quarterback craze that’s expected. The Giants have been linked to him at #2 overall, though and I think they’re the Colts’ biggest threat to getting him. Plus if the Giants do take Chubb, that’s one less QB-needy team that spent their high pick on a quarterback, meaning teams that are trying to trade up will have one more quarterback option to consider, meaning more suitors for the Colts.

Verdict: If Bradley Chubb is gone, I guarantee this happens

Packers are either going to take Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick or Iowa corner Josh Jackson

The secondary in Green Bay is LOADED with holes and you really can’t go wrong with either of these two guys at this spot. However there’s little to no chance that Fitzpatrick falls this far. Fitzpatrick is my #3 overall prospect and top safety and teams like the Browns at #4, the Buccaneers at #7, the 49ers at #9, and the Raiders at #10 are all very possible landing spots for him. However, Jackson isn’t as highly-touted by all teams as Fitzpatrick is and I think it’s very likely that he’ll be around for Green Bay at #14. Jackson’s ball-hawking skills led him to being #1 in the nation in interceptions and he played a similar role with the Hawkeyes as former teammate Desmond King, who had a very successful rookie season with the Chargers. However if Florida State safety Derwin James is still available when the Packers pick at 14, I think they should seriously consider him.

Verdict: Fitzpatrick won’t be there, but Jackson is very likely. Also don’t rule out James

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Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch may go higher than people expect

I’ve been consistently mocking the Boise State linebacker to the Steelers at 28, however something interesting occurred a couple weeks ago. The Titans reportedly cancelled their visit with Vander Esch because they felt he “wouldn’t be there when they picked.” Tennessee holds the 25th overall pick. Vander Esch is an excellent physical specimen who seems like he’s still really learning how to play linebacker even though he’s played it for most, if not all of his career. As mentioned above, I have him as a late first round prospect but the fact the Titans cancelled their workout with him because they didn’t expect him to be there is telling. Among teams that pick ahead of them that need a linebacker include the Raiders, Dolphins, Chargers, Lions, Bills, and Patriots.

Those are just a few of the rumors I’ve been hearing that pertain to the first round of the Draft. Amongst later round rumors are the Chargers wanting to draft Philip Rivers’ successor in the 2nd round, Arizona State linebacker Christian Sam garnering significant interest in the middle rounds, and Ronald Jones II being very high on the Colts’ board. Let me know what you think of these rumors 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.

2018 NFL Mock Draft #3

With about a month left until the 2018 NFL Draft, I figured it’d be a good time to do another NFL Mock Draft now that the Combine and Pro Days are pretty much concluded. I will do one more to publish the morning of the Draft on April 26. So look out for that. As for this mock, it’s going to follow the same rules they always do: I won’t be projecting trades and I base the selections on what I would do if I were making decisions. So let’s get to the mock.

1. Cleveland Browns-Sam Darnold-QB-USC

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I’ve let it be known that Sam Darnold isn’t my #1 QB, but I think that he’ll be the Browns’ top selection in the Draft. Darnold had a really good pro day, if reports are to be believed, and a large portion of the Browns’ brass was present for it. My one knock against Darnold is his throwing motion and that’s something that needs to be worked on, but after the Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor, whose contract expires after the 2018 season, Darnold is under no pressure to start right away and can get the prep work he needs. So it’s a rare case of actually being in a good position being drafted by the Browns for once.

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

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This very easily could be a quarterback or an edge rusher like Bradley Chubb after the Giants traded Jason Pierre-Paul to the Buccaneers. But I think Barkley’s the pick here as the Giants take the best player in the Draft. With ODell Beckham’s future in New York suddenly in doubt, the Giants’ need for a playmaker in the backfield intensifies. Barkley is the safest runningback prospect since Ezekiel Elliott and upon joining the Giants, there will be a RAGING debate over who is better between him and Barkley between the arch rival fans of the Cowboys and Giants.

3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts)-Josh Rosen-QB-UCLA

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After the Jets traded 3 second round picks to the Colts to move up 3 spots, it makes me think that they are adamant about taking one of the top quarterbacks. Rosen is my top-ranked quarterback and really the only knock against him is off the field as there are concerns over his love of football and his being kind of a douche. But on the field he has everything you look for and I think is the only quarterback in this class I genuinely believe could start right away. The Jets signed Teddy Bridgewater and are bringing back Josh McCown so he doesn’t need to be rushed into a starting role if he is the pick here.

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

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Browns go best player available here and they fill the need of a playmaker in the secondary. Fitzpatrick is a very similar player to Jabrill Peppers, whom the Browns took 25th overall last year, but Fitzpatrick is better suited as a centerfielder-like safety while Peppers is better suited as a slot corner. This selection would allow both guys to slot in where they fit best as the Browns tried Peppers in that centerfielder role, where he struggled.

5. Denver Broncos-Baker Mayfield-QB-Oklahoma

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I’m going based on my rankings between the picks of Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. The Broncos signed Case Keenum so Mayfield doesn’t have to start right away, which is perfect for him as he played in an air raid system that translates poorly to the NFL. He, like Pat Mahomes last year, needs a year to learn how to run an NFL offense and his playmaking ability could make him a star in Denver. There are concerns over his character but I’m not worried about that. I see his on-field antics as intensity and passion rather than arrogance like it was with Johnny Manziel.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets)-Bradley Chubb-EDGE-North Carolina State

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If the Colts are still able to land Chubb after moving back from the third overall pick and acquiring 3 second rounders in the process, new GM Chris Ballard is going to look like a freaking genius. Chubb and Fitzpatrick are 1A and 1B in terms of best defensive players in this class and Chubb was a monster at the NFL Combine, further cementing himself as the top edge prospect. The Colts need help pretty much anywhere on the defensive side of the ball so getting a game wrecker like Chubb helps every unit.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Denzel Ward-CB-Ohio State

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I can see the Buccaneers going for another edge rusher even after acquiring JPP from the Giants, however I think Marcus Davenport might be a bit of a reach at this point given how raw a player he is so I think getting some secondary help would be huge here. Vernon Hargreaves is a solid corner but his lack of size limits who he’d be able to cover. Denzel Ward is a decent size for a corner at 5’11 190 pounds and his coverage skills are tremendous so it’ll allow Hargreaves to focus more on the smaller, shiftier receivers while Ward takes the bigger guys.

8. Chicago Bears-Calvin Ridley-WR-Alabama

Alabama at Vanderbilt

Despite acquiring Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, you can never have enough weapons for Mitchell Trubisky. Calvin Ridley is the best receiver in the class and he had a decent combine. I think this is a bit of a reach at this slot and the Bears could easily go for Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson to help shore up the offensive line, but we’ve seen what having a ton of weapons to throw to has done for a guy like Carson Wentz (and eventually, Nick Foles) and new head coach Matt Nagy likes to run basically the same offense that Doug Pederson and the Eagles ran (both are former OC’s with the Chiefs).

9. San Francisco 49ers-Quenton Nelson-OG-Notre Dame

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I’ve seen some people have Quenton Nelson as high as second overall to the Giants, which is unheard of for a guard. Nelson’s really good but I don’t know if he’s second overall pick good. I saw too many instances where he looked caught off guard by complex blitz packages in pass protection. However he would be an immediate upgrade over anyone on the 49ers offensive line, which needs some serious help to protect Jimmy Garoppolo, who too frequently had to rush his throws.

10. Oakland Raiders-Tremaine Edmunds-LB-Virginia Tech

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Tremaine Edmunds is a genetic freak at 6’5 250 pounds and playing middle linebacker. He runs a 4.5 40 yard dash as well, a blazing time for a linebacker and was only overshadowed because Shaquem Griffin ran a 4.38. But Edmunds’ only real concern is his occasional mental lapses. Otherwise he’s as good a linebacker prospect as you’re going to find. Jon Gruden’s defense NEEDS linebackers and why not start with a guy whose potential is as unlimited as Edmunds’.

11. Miami Dolphins-Roquan Smith-LB-Georgia

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I like Roquan Smith but I think he gets pushed off the ball a little too easily by offensive linemen. If he gets stronger, then combine that with his instincts and pursuits, we could be talking about another Ray Lewis (who was considered undersized when he was drafted in the mid-90’s). The Dolphins are reportedly enamored with Baker Mayfield and I’m sure they’ll try and make a trade into the top 5 to take him, but if that fails, getting Smith should be the next best option. They lack linebackers outside of Raekwon McMillan.

12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati Bengals)-Josh Allen-QB-Wyoming

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Josh Allen is the most polarizing quarterback prospect I’ve ever seen. He has everything you look for in a quarterback prospect in terms of dimensions and arm. The problem is all his physical gifts seem to go out the window when he plays. Perhaps it’s poor talent around him at Wyoming, perhaps it’s poor coaching, perhaps he’s not even that good, but it’s really confounding. I think the Bills will try and trade up to take him, but since I don’t project trades, they luck into him after making a trade with the Bengals to move up here. Allen needs some time to grow and the Bills signed AJ McCarron so he can have a couple years to sit and learn.

13. Washington Redskins-Marcus Davenport-EDGE-UTSA

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Davenport’s a monster and the only reason he’s not in discussion for number 1 overall pick is because he played at UTSA and the competition he was going up against was horse crap. Granted, he destroyed opposing tackles like you would expect a guy of his talent at that level of competition, so that’s encouraging. He got off to a slow start at the Senior Bowl but was dominating by the end of it, which suggests that he may face a smoother transition to the NFL than we might think. The Redskins could use somebody opposite Ryan Kerrigan now that Trent Murphy is gone and Davenport could be the impact pass rusher they need.

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

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The Packers need DB help as aside from Haha Clinton-Dix, they don’t really have a whole lot to be excited about especially after trading Damarious Randall to the Browns. While any of the remaining corners would be a little rich at this point in the first round, getting a safety like James would not only help the secondary, but also the linebackers as he’s very effective in the box.

15. Arizona Cardinals-Christian Kirk-WR-Texas A&M

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After signing Sam Bradford to a 3-year deal, quarterback is no longer an immediate issue in the wake of Carson Palmer’s retirement. Now they need to move on to wide receiver as Larry Fitzgerald isn’t getting any younger (though you’d think otherwise based on how he’s played these last couple years) and their other receivers have disappointed. Christian Kirk is one of the best athletes in this class and he would not only help the Cardinals’ receiving corps, but he’s also dynamite in the return game.

16. Baltimore Ravens-Da’Ron Payne-DL-Alabama

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Da’Ron Payne really helped his stock in the CFP games, as he was the most dominant player on the field in both the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game. The Ravens’ top need is no longer wide receiver after acquiring Michael Crabtree and John Brown so they can look to bolster their defensive line, which could use some 3-4 defensive ends like Payne.

17. Los Angeles Chargers-Connor Williams-OT-Texas

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The Chargers need offensive linemen and Connor Williams is the top tackle on my board. They appear to have hit the mark on Dan Feeney at left guard and the jury is still out on Forrest Lamp, who missed his rookie year due to injury, but tackle is still a concern. Some think Williams may be better served as a guard but I think he’s fully capable of playing left tackle for this team. He’s coming off a rough knee injury but he did manage to make a return.

18. Seattle Seahawks-Mike McGlinchey-OT-Notre Dame

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After gutting their entire defense, the Seahawks could go a number of routes with this pick but I’m a firm believer in the necessity of a good offensive line. Duane Brown was good as their left tackle and Ethan Pocic showed some flashes that he could also be really good. They have nothing at right tackle and that’s where Mike McGlinchey is best suited to play. McGlinchey could also slide in at guard if need be (which the Seahawks also need).

19. Dallas Cowboys-Josh Jackson-CB-Iowa

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Josh Jackson has slid down some boards after a mediocre combine, but his tape is still some of the best amongst all corners and he has the numbers to back it up, leading the country in interceptions last season. The Cowboys got a solid season out of rookie corner Jourdan Lewis but there is still a need at the position and Jackson is the type of playmaker that they’re going to need in order to keep up with some of the other athletic receivers in that division.

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

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The Lions just franchise tagged Ziggy Ansah but that doesn’t solve their pass rushing woes. They still need someone opposite him to draw pressure away from their star pass rusher. Harold Landry is one of the best athletes in this draft class. He’s not great against the run but the Lions are in greater need of his pass rushing abilities, especially if they can’t lock up Ansah long term.

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

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After acquiring Cordy Glenn in a trade with the Bills, the Bengals’ left tackle situation seems to be in good shape. However they lost center Russell Bodine in free agency, making an already weak offensive line even weaker. James Daniels is a guy whose stock has skyrocketed in recent weeks. Not only is he a better athlete than what you traditionally find with a center, but he also has a very high football IQ and his presence alone could be a huge boost for this Bengals offensive line.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs)-Vita Vea-DL-Washington

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Kyle Williams is in his mid-30’s and the Bills traded Marcell Dareus at the trade deadline so defensive tackle will quickly become a big need. Vita Vea is about as athletic as you’ll find in a 350-pounder. My one issue with him is his slow get-off. I feel like whenever I watch tape of him, it’s as if a whole second passes before he reacts to the snap, which could be really problematic at the next level. If he can improve on his reactions, he could be a deadly force on the interior defensive line.

23. Los Angeles Rams-Rashaan Evans-LB-Alabama

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After trading Alec Ogletree, there’s suddenly a hole in the middle of the Rams’ defense. Rashaan Evans is an athletic linebacker in the mold of CJ Mosley and he set the tone of the National Championship-winning Alabama defense. Evans has been dealing with injuries, but when on the field, he’s an impact player at one of the most important positions on defense.

24. Carolina Panthers-DJ Moore-WR-Maryland

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This is a little bit of a reach for my tastes, but the Panthers lack wide receivers after the trade of Kelvin Benjamin. DJ Moore is a guy I like but don’t love, however he put on a show at the Combine, which quelled some of the fears I had about him (such as his overall speed, which turns out is 4.4). Maryland used him on screens a lot and Moore could fit right in to this Panthers offense with that role as they already have the big red zone threat in Devin Funchess. Curtis Samuel underwhelmed as a rookie and I think Moore better fits the slot receiver role than Samuel does.

25. Tennessee Titans-Maurice Hurst-DL-Michigan

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On tape, Maurice Hurst is my favorite interior defensive lineman in this class. His snap reaction and getoff are incredible. The big concern is the heart condition he was diagnosed with at the Combine that caused him to have to miss the event. He has since been cleared by doctors, however the fact it popped up in the first place has me concerned and is the reason he drops out of the top 20 for me. That being said, the Titans will be thrilled to have him line up alongside Jurell Casey and wreak havoc up the middle. The bigger need is edge rusher right now but there isn’t anybody available at this point that merits this high a selection. Having a good interior can set up one-on-ones for the edge rushers, though, and allow them to create more pressure.

26. Atlanta Falcons-Taven Bryan-DL-Florida

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The Falcons need some interior line help after the departure of Dontari Poe and quite frankly I think it’s the team’s only weakness right now. Taven Bryan is one of the more underrated players in this Draft class and I think his raw strength could be valuable to this Falcons defense that relies a lot on speed. Bryan is also athletic for his size and I think the Falcons could move him all over the defensive line.

27. New Orleans Saints-Dallas Goedert-TE-South Dakota State

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Dallas Goedert might not be well known to most who follow college football, having played at South Dakota State, but he’s got a similar build to Rob Gronkowski at 6’5 255 pounds and he dominated at the FCS level. The Saints are clearly in the market for a tight end as they tried to bring back Jimmy Graham in free agency before he signed with the Packers. Right now the Saints’ top tight end is Coby Fleener so an upgrade could be in order with the addition of Goedert.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers-Leighton Vander Esch-LB-Boise State

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Ryan Shazier has already been ruled out for the 2018 season due to his spinal injury and his football career is in question, which makes middle linebacker a sudden need for the Steelers. I flip flop between Leighton Vander Esch and Malik Jefferson for this spot in the linebacker rankings as they’re pretty similar players. However Vander Esch gets the slight nod because I think he fits the Steelers’ scheme a bit better and I’m going to go with him at this spot. He’s a big, physical linebacker and while he’s not quite as athletic as Shazier was (hard to be much more athletic than him as a linebacker), he brings a certain level of fight to his game that I enjoy watching.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars-Brian O’Neill-OT-Pittsburgh

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I don’t know if anybody on the offensive side of the ball helped his stock more than former Pitt tackle Brian O’Neill. O’Neill outran some linebackers in the 40 yard dash and looked good in drills and I think he propelled himself from mid-second rounder to late first. I’ve got him going to the Jaguars and lining up on the right side in this situation. The Jaguars’ biggest need is tight end but with Goedert gone, there aren’t any first round-caliber tight ends available at this slot so I think the Jags would be wise to get some O-Line help. SMU receiver Courtland Sutton could be the pick here, but the Jaguars reached the AFC title game with an undrafted rookie as their leading receiver so I’m not so sure they’ll put a high priority on the position.

30. Minnesota Vikings-Isaiah Oliver-CB-Colorado

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The Vikings have very few holes, if any now that they signed Kirk Cousins and Sheldon Richardson so they can afford to go for a luxury pick. Isaiah Oliver is a corner I’m a little higher on than most, as he’s a bigger corner whom I’ve never seen truly get beat. He’s a little underwhelming in terms of overall athleticism but given the big receivers in the NFC North like Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Marvin Jones, the Vikings could use a guy who can match up with them.

31. New England Patriots-Malik Jefferson-LB-Texas

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Left tackle is the biggest need for the Patriots after Nate Solder signed a huge deal with the Giants, but I think this spot’s a little rich for UCLA tackle Kolton Miller, who I think will still be there when New England picks next at 43. I think they’d be smart to invest in a linebacker like Malik Jefferson after the patchwork linebacking group the Patriots sent out there after Dont’a Hightower’s injury. Kyle Van Noy played well in Hightower’s absence but after that the linebackers left something to be desired and it showed in the Super Bowl. Jefferson is a good athlete who has solid sideline-to-sideline speed and can line up pretty much anywhere a la Jamie Collins.

32. Philadelphia Eagles-Carlton Davis-CB-Auburn

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I think Carlton Davis could be a steal in this Draft. He’s a big corner who runs pretty well and can cover, which is something the Eagles are lacking and it really showed in the Super Bowl as they were the first defense in Super Bowl history to let up a 500-yard passer in the big game despite the fact they came out on top. A safety could also be an option here but my next best safety, Ronnie Harrison of Alabama, doesn’t really fit the type of safety the Eagles need, which is a ballhawk rather than an enforcer. I think Davis better fits what the Eagles are looking for.

So that’s it for the third edition of my mock draft. Like I said in the intro, I’m going to do one more to publish the morning of the Draft. I haven’t decided if I’m going to do multiple rounds or just stick to the first just yet but again, I’ve got a whole month to decide. Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

General Sports: January 24

NBA All Star Teams Announced

<> at Pepsi Center on January 22, 2018 in Denver, Colorado.

So the NBA announced who will be playing in the all star game in Los Angeles. The players that will compete are LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, LaMarcus Aldridge, Bradley Beal, Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Kevin Love, Kyle Lowry, Victor Oladipo, Kristaps Porzingis, Klay Thompson, Karl Anthony-Towns, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. I found it interesting how Oladipo made the team but Paul George didn’t, which is making Pacers’ GM Kevin Pritchard look pretty smart right now. I’m also very happy for Damian Lillard for making the team for the first time, though I could’ve done without his annual bitching about his getting snubbed. All in all I’d say they did a pretty good job with the rosters. Interesting how the game’s in LA but there aren’t any Lakers or Clippers being featured. Often times you’ll see them try and shoehorn a player to ignite some excitement in the home crowd, but the league will probably save that for the skills competition. Though I wouldn’t have objected to them sneaking DeAndre Jordan onto the team over someone like Al Horford or Kevin Love, which pains me to say because Horford’s on my Celtics and I still believe in Love.

Milwaukee Brewers Are a Team to Keep an Eye on for the Next Few Days

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I say this mainly because there are a boatload of rumors surrounding the Brewers and what kinds of moves they’re open to, yet there is one player that has been linked to these discussions that I’m particularly interested in, that being free agent pitcher Yu Darvish. The Brewers have reportedly made a 5-year offer to the former Rangers and Dodgers pitcher who would immediately become the ace of their staff (Jimmy Nelson has earned that nod after his stellar 2017, but come on, it’s Yu Darvish. You’re not going to shell out the kind of money he’s going to command to have him be the #2). I also heard rumblings that the Brewers were looking to trade an outfielder for an impact bat. Immediately when that was said I thought of 2011 MVP Ryan Braun because I’ve seen several articles suggesting Milwaukee should trade him. There is some young talent in the Brewers outfield so it could also be one of them in order to acquire a bigger impact bat. Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, Hernan Perez, prospects Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips could also be on the move as Milwaukee looks to build on an 86-76 season where they missed out on the Wild Card Game by 1 game. I’ve also seen that they’ve made an offer to the Marlins for disgruntled outfielder Christian Yelich. So perhaps some of these outfielders will be involved in that potential trade.

Josh Allen is Saying Things

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So last time I did this type of blog I ripped Mel Kiper Jr for making Josh Allen his #1 pick in his first mock draft. Well just a few days later, Allen conducted a few interviews at the Senior Bowl where he stated that he “sleeps with a football” and devotes all his free time to playing football, which includes playing Madden. He has also said that it would be “special” to “be the guy” for the Browns, making his case for number 1 pick. As you may have read, Sam Darnold allegedly made a statement that he would return to school if the Browns had the top pick, a statement he has since denied and further enforced his denial by entering the Draft despite the Browns owning the first and fourth picks. Josh Rosen, on the other hand, has blatantly stated he does not want to play for the Browns, saying he’d rather fall in the Draft than go to the wrong team. So I guess some pros for the Browns considering Allen: he actually wants to be there. It’d be super risky for the Browns to take a Wyoming quarterback, where the competition is pretty low and didn’t even put up that great of numbers. And as for the “sleeping with a football” line, I’m sure it’s an exaggeration. If not, then damn dude, don’t know how that helps your game but whatever floats your boat. Also, that photoshoot that I included a picture from above. Uncle Rico must be salivating.

Patriots Will Wear Their White Uniforms In Super Bowl LII

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The AFC and NFC alternate on who is the “home team” in the game and therefore gets to choose their jerseys. This year, it’s the AFC’s turn and the Patriots are going to go with their white uniforms. Now before you say “Jim, you’ve lost your goddamn mind blogging about this, in what way is this important,” I present to you this stat: Since 2004, every Super Bowl winner with the exception of the Packers in Super Bowl XLV wore their white uniforms. Literally all of them (except the Packers). Plus the Patriots are undefeated in their whites in the Brady-Belichick era at 3-0 and are 2-2 in their blues. You may resume telling me that it doesn’t matter what uniforms the teams wear.

LeBron James Becomes Youngest Player to 30,000 Career Points

I would congratulate LeBron on his achieving this milestone, except for one thing. He already did that. For himself. Before the game in which he’d reach the milestone even happened. To clarify for those who don’t know, LeBron posted this on Instagram.

View this post on Instagram

Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you’ll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it’s never been a goal of yours from the beginning try(please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you’ve done it! The House you’re about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it(as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There’s so many people to thank who has help this even become possible(so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment(alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King 🤴🏾! 1 Love! #striveforgreatness🚀 #thekidfromakron👑

A post shared by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Now granted, LeBron getting the 7 points he’d need was pretty much a foregone conclusion, especially since his opponent, the Spurs, are without defensive stud Kawhi Leonard, who undoubtedly would’ve drawn the assignment. 30K points is a fantastic achievement and LeBron has earned every bit of praise. But come on dude. Congratulating your past self on the accomplishment is pretty cheesy, even for LeBron. But making the post before the game even happens is downright disrespectful to Danny Green, who had to guard him. If it were anybody else, I would love this cocky move. But it’s LeBron, who is the poster child for the stereotypical primadonna NBA player that we get today, so he’s not getting a pass.

That’s going to do it for today’s blog. Let me know what you think of the topics I discussed in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

The Quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Class

As much as people like to say that the 2018 draft class is the weakest since 2013 (which it kind of is), there is still at least one redeeming factor: the quarterback class. I think this group has the potential to be as good, if not better, than the 2012 group that saw the likes of Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Robert Griffin III (for one season) emerge. I’m going to go through a few guys that I like that have the potential to go in the first round. These aren’t necessarily rankings as much as they are just going down the list of guys and saying what I like and don’t like about them and what type of future I see in them.

Josh Allen-Wyoming

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So far, for the underclassman quarterbacks, Allen is the only one who has declared for the Draft. There were talks that he could’ve come out last year and potentially been a high pick, but he elected to return to school to develop, which I thought was a smart move. However his season didn’t go that great, though a bum shoulder can certainly be a contributing factor. But he did deliver his best performance of the 2017 season in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (what a stupid fucking name) yesterday against Central Michigan. He didn’t throw the ball much, only 11 completions on 19 attempts, but he made the most of his throws, including 3 touchdowns in the first quarter. Wyoming ran the ball a TON in that game (42 times) but it was what they needed as they scored an easy victory over the Chippewas.

Strengths: Size, Arm, Mobility

Just look at this throw from Allen as you try not to vomit from looking at the uniform/field combinations.

That, folks, is what we call a laser. Allen has an absolute cannon and as you saw right up there, is accurate enough to squeeze the ball into tight spaces. He’s got the prototypical size you look for in a QB, as he stands at 6’5 233 pounds, which puts him at about the same size as Carson Wentz. He’s also deceptively quick for a guy his size, as Wyoming would often have him running the football, which he did as many as 18 times in a game this season.

Weaknesses: Level of Competition, Poor Showings Against Power-5 Teams, Health

As far as physical traits go, Allen is about as perfect a specimen as you could ask for. It’s the other stuff that might make you nervous. He played in a very weak conference in the Mountain West and the Cowboys couldn’t even win it, as they went 7-5 prior to their bowl win. He also had a chance to show what he could do against tougher competition like Iowa and Oregon, but both games were disasters for him, as he combined to go 32-64 (50% completions), 238 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. That’s just awful. To be fair to Allen, the talent around him is pretty bad, so perhaps he can be forgiven for those showings, but for being as highly touted a quarterback as he is, he needs to be able to elevate the play of his teammates. These aren’t fair comparisons to make, I know, but you see guys like Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers make their teammates significantly better by just being on the field. I don’t see that from Allen. Health is also a concern, as he missed the final two games of the regular season while nursing that bum shoulder. He also missed basically all of his 2015 season with a broken clavicle, a bone located in the shoulder region.

Draft Thoughts: I wouldn’t draft Allen in the first round unless I had a veteran who was on the way out that he could sit behind and not only learn from, but adapt to the higher level of competition as well as a strong supporting cast around him. This kid has all the ability in the world but he really hasn’t shown it to the extent that one would think of with a kid who has been in the discussion for number 1 overall pick. Some potential landing spots could be the Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Pro Comparison: 

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Carson Wentz. Both came from small schools where they played against inferior competition but showcased some high level skills and prototypical measurables that get scouts excited.

 

Sam Darnold-USC

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Before the season began, Darnold was the consensus number 1 overall pick in the Draft. He had won the starting job for USC midseason and led the Trojans on an absolute tear en route to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State. However, his encore left a lot to be desired. He struggled MIGHTILY with turnovers this season, leading all players in that category, whether it be interceptions or fumbles. Darnold’s throwing motion also became widely criticized as being “funky.” Nonetheless, he showed some really good things as well, such as his ability to make big time throws and great mobility.

Strengths: Size, Arm, Mobility, Elevating Teammates, Winner

When Darnold took over the starting job in 2016, USC was 1-3 and head coach Clay Helton’s job was in SERIOUS danger. Once Darnold took over for Max Browne, however, USC’s fortunes flipped and they didn’t lose another game the rest of the season. He’s got excellent arm strength and can put balls in spots that a lot of quarterbacks can’t. I watched a couple of games this year and a few of his 12 interceptions were the result of his receivers dropping the ball and it landing in a defender’s arms. I think Darnold really missed Juju Smith-Schuster this past year because the only quality receiver on the Trojans was Deontay Burnett and he’s a marginal NFL prospect at this stage. This is also something Darnold does that Allen doesn’t: he makes his teammates better. Guys like Burnett really aren’t that great of talent, but they perform beyond their talent because Darnold gives them the opportunity to make plays with where he puts the ball at times. Also has very good footwork in the pocket, as he’s always in a position to scurry away from the rush when needed.

Weaknesses: Delivery, Decision-Making

Watch how long it takes Darnold to throw the ball after beginning his motion.

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Now look at how Tom Brady throws it, which is widely considered to be the ideal throwing motion.

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What’s different is where the ball is when they begin their throwing motion. Darnold basically has the ball at his hip where he starts, Brady’s is practically at his shoulder. Darnold’s also kind of winding up like a pitcher in baseball instead of just slinging it like what the best quarterbacks do. That’s something that can be worked with though, as a good coach can help tweak that. But the reason Darnold’s isn’t great is because that extra split second is the difference between the pass rusher getting a sack or just getting pressure. Or a receiver open and a safety cutting him off. His elongated throwing motion very easily could have led to a lot of his interceptions or strip sacks. Perhaps on some picks the guy was open when he started his motion, but he took so long to get the ball there that the defender was in position by the time the ball was out.

Draft Thoughts: I personally think that returning to USC for one more season could be really beneficial for Darnold to have a full season to refine a new throwing motion before getting thrown to the wolves like he would be in the NFL. But I think he’s going to declare for the Draft and he’s so gifted and played against such good competition, he’s not going to make it past the top 5 picks. How he performs against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl will be a huge barometer for how well he might transition to the pros. That’s about as close to an NFL defense as he’ll face all year and if he performs really well, he could justifiably be the top pick. I think quarterback-needy teams such as the Browns, Giants, and Broncos should all be in on this kid.

Pro Comparison: 

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Philip Rivers. Both guys have similar thick builds and have similar throwing motions and have a tendency to make the best of what they have. Rivers rarely ever has Pro Bowl-caliber receivers (Keenan Allen has been the one exception the last few years) but he gets them to play beyond their ability (Tyrell Williams, Dontrelle Inman, among others).

Lamar Jackson-Louisville

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Lamar Jackson is the most exciting player in college football. He won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and actually improved in 2017. At first, I thought no chance is he an NFL quarterback, but after watching some throws he was making, I started re-evaluating things. I still think he would make a better wide receiver in the NFL, where his elusiveness can be better utilized, but if he can continue to grow as a passer the way he did between 2016 and ’17, then we could be looking at the next Michael Vick

Strengths: Running Ability, Arm Strength

If a defense isn’t careful, Jackson can take over games with his legs. I mean, human beings shouldn’t be this athletic.

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But Jackson is. Not only that, but in 2017 his passing numbers skyrocketed while his rushing totals kept pace with his monstrous 2016 season. Just look at this throw right here.

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This is a beautiful job of reading the safeties and hitting his receiver in stride.

Weaknesses: Size, Gimmick Play Style

You might notice that Lamar Jackson is PAINFULLY skinny, especially at a position where it’s become of heightened importance to have some build to you due to how much damage you take. Add in the fact that Jackson is a running quarterback that by nature will take a lot of hits, and you have the potential of a guy who may have a shortened career. Also, when was the last time a run-first quarterback had long-term success in the NFL? The only one I can think of is Michael Vick and he was a once-in-a-generation talent. You could argue Russell Wilson, but his passing game has developed so well that he’s kind of shed the mold of a run-first quarterback. Jackson will need to follow Wilson’s developmental model if he wants to have a long career in this league.

Draft Thoughts: Again, I would prefer it if Jackson were to move to wide receiver, as I think that would be where he’d have the most success in this league. I wouldn’t take him in the first round just on the reputation of running quarterbacks and their lack of sustained success alone. However I do think that there will be a team that will be interested enough to take a chance on him in the first round, though I think as a quarterback he’s a third rounder. I think a team like the Buffalo Bills could be a landing spot for him, as he plays a similar style of game to the incumbent Tyrod Taylor, who has been handled about as poorly as an organization can handle a quarterback.

Pro Comparison: 

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Colin Kaepernick. They basically have identical frames with great athleticism and strong throwing arms. Kap is one of the aforementioned run-first quarterbacks that fizzled out as their careers went along.

Baker Mayfield-Oklahoma

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Baker Mayfield is about as polarizing a quarterback prospect as I can find. On the one hand, I see a lot of Russell Wilson in him. He’s short for a quarterback (6’0) but he plays with a lot of intensity and is able to use his legs to make plays, whether that be scrambling for a first down or moving out of the pocket to buy his receivers time to get open. On the other, he shows some Johnny Manziel traits that scare me. Mayfield is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and has led Oklahoma to a CFP berth for the second time in the last 3 years.

Strengths: Playmaking Ability, Athleticism, Accuracy, Intensity

Look at this play from Oklahoma’s bowl game last year.

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Notice how he never took his eye away from downfield but was still able to react accordingly to the unblocked defender that his guard absolutely WHIFFED on. A lot of quarterbacks in that situation will panic and chuck it away or into coverage, including Tom Brady. But Mayfield is so confident in his running ability that he doesn’t panic and uses his peripherals to his advantage, then drops a dime to Dede Westbrook. Which brings me to another point of strength with him: his accuracy. Mayfield led the nation in completion percentage this season and being accurate is something that translates to the NFL extremely well. Also that play above was on a fourth down, showing how cool under pressure he can be.

Weaknesses: Height, Decision-Making (not interception-related)

My main concern with Mayfield is that despite having the potential to be the next Russell Wilson, I could also just as easily see him being the next Johnny Manziel. Mayfield’s had three instances this season where his maturity was called into question. The first came in the offseason when he was tackled by campus police after trying to flee while publicly intoxicated. The next time was planting the OU flag at midfield after their win against Ohio State. Finally, the whole grabbing his nuts and cussing at the Kansas bench. The first his just him being an idiot college kid, but Manziel had a host of incidents like that. The other on-field incidents could result in fines and some unwanted media attention were they to occur in an NFL game.

Draft Thoughts: As much as it seems like I might be criticizing Mayfield’s antics, I actually chalk this up more to just him being really intense and getting really amped up during games rather than him just being a prick, which was the vibe I got when Manziel would do his antics. I think it’s more likely that Mayfield becomes the next Russell Wilson than the next Johnny Manziel but I’d like to see him sit a year behind a veteran before being thrust into a professional offense, as he was in an air raid system at Oklahoma, which translates about as poorly to the NFL as any offense in college football outside of the wishbone. I personally would take him in the second round, but I think someone will take a chance on him in the first. I think some potential landing spots could be the Jaguars, Bills, and Cardinals.

Pro Comparison: 

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Russell Wilson. I’ve already made the comparison enough in this so I’m just going to leave it at that.

Josh Rosen-UCLA

at Rose Bowl on November 24, 2017 in Pasadena, California.

This is my favorite quarterback in this class and if I were the Cleveland Browns, I’m taking him #1. He literally has everything, the only issue I’ll get into later. I was extremely impressed by some of the throws he made when he squared off with Darnold to the point where I couldn’t believe they were even being compared to each other. Rosen has been the starting quarterback at UCLA since he set foot on campus. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman, but was lost in his sophomore season due to injury. Then his junior season he picked up right where he left off from his freshman season, opening the season with an incredible comeback against Texas A&M.

Strengths: Arm Talent, Pocket Presence, Experience

Are you kidding me with this ball placement right here?

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If this is thrown in any other spot, it’s picked off and based on how few Bruins are in the vicinity, it likely would’ve resulted in great field position for the Aggies. But he’s able to thread the needle and put the ball in the spot where only his receiver could get it. He’s also great in the pocket, as he seamlessly navigates the pocket and avoids pressure.

Weaknesses: Personality, Winning Percentage

The main knock I keep hearing from NFL scouts is that Rosen is a huge turnoff, with one scout going so far as to call him an “entitled prick.” They didn’t go into much detail about why that was, but it wasn’t a one-time occurrence. Rosen also hasn’t generated a ton of wins for UCLA, as his career record is only 17-13 (Darnold’s is 20-2 for comparison). However I think that has more to do with the talent around him, as his defense was pretty bad this season.

Draft Thoughts: I would take Rosen with the top pick in the Draft. I think he has all the measurables you could ask for in a quarterback and despite complaints from scouts about his personality, he has gotten the backing of his teammates, who seem to like him, which matters significantly more to me than whether scouts think he’s a dick or not.

Pro Comparison: 

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Matt Ryan. Both have similar builds and similar play styles with great pocket presence.

Mason Rudolph-Oklahoma State

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Mason Rudolph was the orchestrator of some of the most exciting games in college football this season, particularly his duel with Baker Mayfield in the Bedlam Game. Despite losing the game 62-52, Rudolph was spectacular against his Heisman-winning counterpart. Rudolph also seems to develop great relationships with his receivers, as both James Washington and Marcell Ateman had tremendous seasons catching passes from Rudolph.

Strengths: Arm Talent, Size

Rudolph is basically the exact same size as Allen, 6’5 230 so the benefits between these two are basically identical. Rudolph played in an offense that elevated your stats, but he took advantage of that better than anybody outside of Pat Mahomes. He may have run an air raid offense, but his ball placement and arm talent often made up for the lack of playbook. Look at this throw right here.

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Yes his receiver missed the catch, but that ball went right through his hands and that ball could not have been thrown more perfectly. You’ve got to catch that if you’re the OK State receiver. Also, notice where that ball was thrown from: the 50. He was able to hit a touch throw 50 yards downfield and he didn’t even have to get much of a crowhop under there. Rudolph’s arm will be very enticing to NFL Teams.

Weaknesses: Type of Offense Run, Mobility

The type of offense run is a big one, mainly because he hasn’t had to make very many different kinds of throws. The routes the Cowboys receivers run are about as simplistic as they come and he’s never had to learn a playbook, which is what he’ll need to be able to do in the NFL. He’s probably going to have the biggest learning curve out of all the guys on this list but the talent is there. He’s also slow as dirt and his pocket presence and his ability to avoid pressure could use some work.

Draft Thoughts: Rudolph has a lot of talent but he might need a year or two to learn how to operate an NFL offense before being thrust into a starting role. I wouldn’t take him higher than the second round but I also wouldn’t be surprised if a desperate team falls in love with him and takes him earlier than they probably should. I think the Saints would be the perfect landing spot for him, as that would probably be the smoothest transition for him, the Saints offense being the closest we have to an Air Raid offense in the NFL. Plus their success on the ground could take a lot of pressure off him when Drew Brees decides to hang them up.

Pro Comparison: 

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A better version of Bryce Petty. Both guys had similar skillsets and flaws coming out of college, however I think Rudolph is a bit more refined than Petty, who has shown the occasional flash in the NFL but the entire body of work hasn’t been great. I think if Rudolph is thrusted into the starting role too soon, then his career will be disastrous.

Those are my thoughts on a potentially stacked 2018 quarterback class. Agree? Disagree Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman 10 and contribute to my Patreon.

College Football Bowl Picks

Regular Season Record: 86-34       Conference Title Record: 8-0        Army-Navy: 0-1

This is going to get interesting. Bowl season is totally unpredictable but I’m going to do my damndest to try. I nailed the conference championship games but the task is a little more daunting this time around, as I’ve got about 40 games to do. For that reason, I’m going to keep this intro short. Let’s get to it.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-6) vs North Texas

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Troy is best remembered this season for beating LSU at their Homecoming but they really were a lot better than just that. These guys won the Sun Belt Conference this year and while that’s probably the least impressive conference in all of college football, it still says a lot about the success you’ve had this season. They face a tough offense in North Texas, led by quarterback Mason Fine, who could eclipse 4000 yards passing on the season in this game, which would be the first time in school history that has happened. He’s already CRUSHED the previous school record set back in 1994. I’m going with Troy in this one. They’ve shown they’re capable of winning the big game, North Texas hasn’t (their only win that can be deemed as quality is Army).

Projected Score: Troy 31 North Texas 27

Autonation Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-4.5) vs Georgia State

Despite losing former head coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue before the start of the season, Western Kentucky hasn’t lost much of a step in terms of the passing game. Hilltoppers quarterback Mike White should eclipse 4000 yards on the season barring an unbelievable performance from the Georgia State defense, which has been pretty inconsistent this season. They shut out Charlotte for their first win of the season but that came a week after losing to Penn State 56-0. Now yes, it’s Penn State, but that’s still not a good look to have a score like that on your resume. They also only barely beat god-awful Georgia Southern 21-17 towards the end of the season. I’ve got Western Kentucky big in this.

Projected Score: Western Kentucky 41 Georgia State 17

Las Vegas Bowl: #25 Boise State vs Oregon (-6.5)

I find the Las Vegas Bowl often has some pretty good matchups and this year is no exception. Boise State is the first ranked team to play their bowl game this year and they’re playing an Oregon team that’s just a couple years removed from appearing in the National Championship game. Now granted, a LOT has changed for the Ducks in that time, but there are still some players from that team on the current roster. However, not on the roster is head coach Willie Taggart, who was hired away by Florida State. His interim will be Mario Cristobal, who does have some head coaching experience, as he was the head man at FIU from 2007-2012. I don’t think it will help a whole lot, though, I think Boise State is going to come away with this one.

Projected Score: Boise State 28 Oregon 24

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State (-5.5)

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If you do manage to catch this game, look out for Colorado State receiver Michael Gallup. He’s among the best there is in the country and doesn’t get a lot of exposure due to the fact he plays for Colorado State. 94 catches for 1345 yards and 7 TDs on the year for the senior from Monroe, GA. I don’t care what your level of competition was, that’s impressive. They face a Marshall team that is ice cold right now, losing 4 of their last 5 games, though 3 of those 4 games were decided by 5 or fewer points and the one that wasn’t was decided by 11. I’m giving the edge to Colorado State, I just think they have too many weapons on offense for Marshall to keep up with.

Projected Score: Colorado State 35 Marshall 28

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee State vs Arkansas State (-4)

What’s Camellia? I’ve never heard that word in my life, but my autocorrect seems to think it’s fine. Seems like an odd thing to name your bowl game, but I’m sure Middle Tennessee State and Arkansas State aren’t complaining, as MTSU had to win their final game of the season to become bowl eligible while Arkansas State had their game against Miami (FL) cancelled due to Hurricane Irma and were put at a slight disadvantage in having to reach the required 6 wins in 11 games. Well they got 7 and will try and carry that season-long success into back-to-back bowl wins. I think they’ll do it, too. They’ve had a lot of success throwing the ball this season and I think MTSU will have some problems defending the plethora of receivers they have.

Projected Score: Arkansas State 38 Middle Tennessee State 27

Cheribundi Tart Cherry Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs Florida Atlantic (-18.5)

I’m not going to get too deep into this one. Akron is a team that kind of lucked into a bowl appearance while Florida Atlantic has one of the best rushing attacks in the nation. I think they’re going to stampeded the Zips. This is one of the few bowl lines that is in double digits and there’s a reason for that, Lane Kiffin’s ground attack is too dominant.

Projected Score: Florida Atlantic 45 Akron 14

DXL Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs SMU (-5.5)

Louisiana Tech is a pretty average team and that’s going to be a problem when you face an offense as potent as SMU’s. Not only can quarterback Ben Hicks sling it, but he’s got two of the best receivers in the nation in Trey Quinn and potential first round draft pick Courtland Sutton. The Mustangs are going to score a ton of points as they also have an effective ground game, as Xavier Jones is over 1000 yards rushing on the season. I’ve actually got SMU in a blowout.

Projected Score: SMU 52 Louisiana Tech 24

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. What a name for a bowl game. I’d argue it’s an even better name than the now-defunct Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl. This game will also be played at my least favorite baseball stadium in Tropicana Field, so that’s about as perfect a combination of complete crap as you could ask for. Classic random-ass bowl games. Oh and there’s a football game that’s going to be played between Temple and Florida International. Temple has very little going for them offensively and defensively they’re not much better. Looking at their overall stats, I’m amazed they made it to 6-6. I think Florida International is going to come away with this one relatively handily.

Projected Score: Florida International 34 Temple 21

Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-8)

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What a journey it’s been for UAB. A few years back they got their football program cut despite going 6-6, which resulted in an exodus from many top players, including Jordan Howard to my Indiana Hoosiers, who as you may know is currently tearing it up in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. There was enough backlash from the UAB faithful that the school brought the program back. Now, in their first year back after a 2-year hiatus, the Blazers are bowl eligible for only the second time in school history. This is probably going to wind up being my favorite storyline of the college football season when the Blazers lift that Bahamas Bowl trophy in their victory over Ohio. Also UAB’s logo is a fire-breathing dragon and that’s awesome. Can’t not subconsciously root for them.

Projected Score: UAB 27 Ohio 21

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (pick ’em)

This is going to be a battle between two talented quarterbacks. Central Michigan quarterback Shane Morris showed all the talent in the world at Michigan but just couldn’t put it together before transferring to the Chippewas while Wyoming features potential top-10 draft pick Josh Allen. Despite being as talented as he is, Allen didn’t really have that great of a season. That can be due in part to a lack of real talent around him and in part due to the fact that Wyoming didn’t throw it a whole lot. But it is also most likely due to the fact that Allen has been playing on a bum shoulder for much of the season, which of course is a pretty big deal for a quarterback. I’m still looking for that one big performance that tells me that Allen is going to be a successful NFL QB but I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards. That shoulder injury is going to hurt Wyoming’s chances.

Projected Score: Central Michigan 31 Wyoming 24

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs South Florida (-2)

This could be the highest-scoring game of the bowl season. We all know how much Texas Tech likes to throw the ball, it’s been pretty well-documented, but USF’s Quinten Flowers is one of the most dynamic players in the country and has the ability to score on anybody at any time. Add in the fact that the Red Raiders can’t defend for shit and you’ve got the makings of a 5-hour game that ends with both teams over 50 points. I think that’s what we’re going to get and I’ve got South Florida taking home the trophy.

Projected Score: South Florida 55 Texas Tech 52

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (no line)

If Army’s going to have any shot at this game, they need to keep Rashaad Penny off the field. Penny is a monster with the ball in his hands and Army will need to dominate the time of possession if they’re going to stop him. If any team can do it, though, it’s the men at West Point. Their offense is built around the ground game and controlling the tempo. I think they’ll have some success early, but I think they will struggle to contain Penny and the Aztecs will pull away late.

Projected Score: San Diego State 31 Army 20

Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-8)

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Toledo is among the best mid-major teams in all of college football. Quarterback Logan Woodside is one of the more underrated passers in the game today and while the Appalachian State Mountaineers have a pretty good defense, they’re going to struggle to contain all of Toledo’s weapons. Appalachian State won a share of the Sun Belt title with Troy and it was on the strength of an effective ground game. They’re going to struggle to keep up with Toledo, though.

Projected Score: Toledo 35 Appalachian State 30

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs Houston (-2)

I don’t know why this game is a Christmas Eve tradition, but it is. Usually it’s kind of a shitty matchup but this year it pits two of the best mid-major teams in the country. Fresno State nearly won the Mountain West a year after going 1-11 and Houston has continued to play well despite losing Tom Herman to (arguably) greener pastures in Texas. It’s going to be a defensive battle as Fresno State has one of the toughest defenses in the nation while Houston features perhaps the nation’s best overall defensive player in defensive tackle Ed Oliver. I’m going to give the edge to Houston in this one, as it’s more of a gut feeling than anything at this point.

Projected Score: Houston 17 Fresno State 10

Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-5) vs West Virginia

Utah started out the season so nicely but then face-planted so hard. They started the year 4-0 but finished the season losing 6 of their last 8 and had to win the season finale over Colorado in order to even be bowl eligible. Normally, I would say they’re screwed for their game, but West Virginia isn’t sure if they will have quarterback Will Grier, who is nursing a broken finger on his throwing hand. Had it been his left hand, you could probably wrap it up with another finger and have him go out there, but not when it’s on your right hand where it will directly affect how you throw. But to be honest, his replacement, Chris Chugunov (what a name) didn’t play that badly against Oklahoma in his start. Was he particularly good? No, but he kept West Virginia reasonably in the game. They still ended up losing by 28, but that’s because Oklahoma scored 59 points. Leading your team to 31 points against the second best team in the country isn’t half bad. That’s why I’m going with the Mountaineers in this game, with or without Grier.

Projected Score: West Virginia 38 Utah 24

Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-3.5) vs Northern Illinois

Duke’s offensive line is going to have their hands full with Northern Illinois. The Huskies have arguably the best pass rusher in the nation in Sutton Smith, who led all of college football with 14 sacks to go along with 28 tackles for loss. Duke started the year 4-0 before losing 6 straight and had to win their last two in order to become bowl eligible, but they were able to pull it off, beating two pretty good teams in Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. But I think Duke is going to struggle to protect quarterback Daniel Jones in this one. They were 80th in the nation in sacks allowed and they go up against the team that led the nation in sacks. I’ve got Northern Illinois taking this one.

Projected Score: Northern Illinois 20 Duke 17

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA

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Kansas State is going to struggle to throw the football in this one. They used three different quarterbacks this year and none of them were particularly successful. Despite this, they have one of the better defenses in the Big 12, which is saying nothing.  This team is going to get eaten alive by Josh Rosen, though. They simply can’t keep up with him on offense and I think this is going to be the game that solidifies him as the number 1 pick in the Draft.

Projected Score: UCLA 42 Kansas State 24

Walk On’s Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-15)

Normally, I would wonder how in the Hell this matchup is even legal. But losing Deondre Francois in Week 1 derailed Florida State’s season so hard, Jimbo Fisher skipped town for Texas A&M. They’ve still managed to become bowl eligible, though and will look to try and pick up the win against Southern Miss. Southern Miss has one of the best rushing attacks in the country, led by Ito Smith and his 1300 yards on the ground. The defense has also been solid this year, as they’ve pitched two shutouts. But I’m going with Florida State here, but I don’t think it will be nearly as big a blowout as the line might suggest.

Projected Score: Florida State 27 Southern Miss 24

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa (-3) vs Boston College

This is the one bowl I’ve ever attended, when Indiana played Duke and Indiana lost in OT after a Griffin Oakes field goal was incorrectly called no good. It traditionally has some pretty good games in their Big Ten-ACC matchup. Iowa has perhaps one of the most damaging victories all season in that their 31-point win over Ohio State most certainly knocked the Big Ten out of the playoff picture. Boston College, meanwhile, has been one of the more up-and-down teams I’ve seen in a while. One week they’ll absolutely DESTROY Florida State and then the next they’ll lose to NC State (not a knock against the Wolfpack, but BC’s offense in particular can’t seem to find a consistent rhythm). I’m going with Boston College for this one, as aside from that one performance against the Buckeyes, Iowa hasn’t been that impressive this year.

Projected Score: Boston College 24 Iowa 20

Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue

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So as you may have read, Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate is my favorite to win the Heisman next season because of the dominant stretches he displayed. However he does need to improve as a passer if he’s going to reach those heights. Purdue is a pretty solid run defense, especially with Ja’Whaun Bentley at linebacker. Tate might need to whip out that passing ability if Arizona is going to keep pace, but I think they will. Tate is such a talented runner that I think overall he’s going to overpower Purdue and Arizona will get the win.

Projected Score: Arizona 28 Purdue 21

Academy Sports+Outdoors Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-1)

Both teams were quietly pretty solid this season mainly because it was below their traditional standards, but definitely better than the last couple years. Texas showed some promise under Tom Herman but it may be a couple of years before they return to the Longhorns of old. Missouri’s Drew Lock had a fantastic season throwing the football, as he led the nation in passing touchdowns this season. I’m going to give the edge to Texas in this one. It’s a toss up but the game is being played in Houston, where the Longhorns will essentially have a home field advantage, which is big in college sports.

Projected Score: Texas 30 Missouri 27

Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (no line)

Virginia actually had a pretty good season this year. After going 2-10 in Bronco Mendenhall’s first season at the helm, the Cavaliers turned it around nicely and find themselves in a bowl game. Also, quarterback Kurt Benkert is getting some looks from the NFL as a result of his successful season. They face a Navy team that lost a heart breaker to Army in the snow and I just don’t know if they have what it takes to take down this surprisingly talented Virginia squad. I’ve got the other Cavs in this one.

Projected Score: Virginia 24 Navy 14

Camping World Bowl: #22 Virginia Tech vs #19 Oklahoma State (-6.5)

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This is too good a matchup to be relegated to the likes of the Camping World Bowl, but at least in most cases by the time the game actually kicks off, you kind of forget which bowl you’re playing in. The number 3 scoring offense in Oklahoma State vs the number 5 scoring defense in Virginia Tech. Something’s gotta give. I think I’m going to give the edge to Oklahoma State here. Yes, I know, a matchup of this type usually ends up favoring the defense, but the Cowboys have far too many weapons that the Hokies have to compete with.

Projected Score: Oklahoma State 35 Virginia Tech 30

Valero Alamo Bowl: #13 Stanford vs #15 TCU (-2.5)

This is going to be a really close game as both teams have the ability to be really explosive on offense while also featuring some of the best defenses in their respective conferences. Heisman runner-up Bryce Love leads the Cardinal to face TCU and their duo of talented defensive ends in Ben Banogu and Mat Boesen. While I do think Love is going to have a big game for the Cardinal, I don’t think it will be enough to compete with the TCU offense. Kenny Hill’s been having a tremendous season for the Horned Frogs and I think he leads them to an Alamo Bowl victory over Stanford.

Projected Score: TCU 28 Stanford 23

San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: #18 Washington State (-2.5) vs #16 Michigan State

Like the Oklahoma State-Virginia Tech matchup, this game features one of the top offenses in the country in Washington State vs one of the top defenses in Michigan State. The Cougars are the second best passing offense in the nation, trailing only the aforementioned Oklahoma State while the Spartans allowed under 200 passing yards per game this season. It’s going to be a tough matchup but I think Washington State is going to come out on top. Michigan State has been too careless with the football offensively, as they’ve fumbled it more than any team in the country that doesn’t run a run-only offense, which I think the Cougars will find ways to capitalize on.

Projected Score: Washington State 31 Michigan State 24

Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M

Wake Forest was quietly a pretty good team this season, as they went 7-5 this season, including wins over a Lamar Jackson-led Louisville team and a late-season win over then-#19 NC State. They take on a Texas A&M team that is getting a major face lift, as they fired Kevin Sumlin only to turn around and hire Jimbo Fisher away from the Florida State Seminoles. Fisher, however, will not be leading the Aggies in this game, as that task will fall on Jeff Banks. I’m actually going to go with the Demon Deacons in this game. There’s too much turmoil going on with the Aggies in this game and I think it could become a distraction, which is the last thing you want when you face a pesky team like this.

Projected Score: Wake Forest 24 Texas A&M 21

Hyundai Sun Bowl: #24 NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State

Like Texas A&M, Arizona State also hired a new head coach in Herm Edwards, who has previously coached in the NFL with the Jets and Chiefs. It’s an odd situation because despite firing the incumbent Todd Graham, Graham will still be coaching this game for the Sun Devils. This could go one of two ways: Graham could be salty and sabotage this game for his former employer, or he could try and go out with a bang and give his best performance. I don’t think it’ll matter a whole lot what he ends up doing because I think NC State’s Bradley Chubb is going to give a similar performance to what we saw Solomon Thomas give for Stanford in their bowl game last year: a performance that will solidify him in the Top-5 pick discussion. I’ve got the Wolfpack in this game.

Projected Score: NC State 27 Arizona State 20

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs #21 Northwestern (-8.5)

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Kentucky is quietly a pretty good team this year as they went 7-5, including wins over South Carolina, Missouri, and Tennessee. Mark Stoops has done a Hell of a job with his team this year, but I think they’re going to run into some problems against Northwestern. The Wildcats had one of the best seasons in school history, as they went 9-3, including winning each of their last 7 games, including an OT win over Michigan State. Northwestern plays some really sound and fundamental football and I think they’re going to frustrate this Kentucky offense that is predicated on being able to run the football. I’ve got Northwestern in this game.

Projected Score: Northwestern 23 Kentucky 13

Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl: New Mexico State vs Utah State (-3)

The battle of the Aggies, this game might slip under the radar a bit because it’s not a matchup of household names. Which is a shame, because when they’re on, they can be two of the most exciting offenses in college football. New Mexico State’s Tyler Rogers ranked among the best passers in the game with his 3825 passing yards this season while Utah State preferred a more balanced attack that spreads the ball around to various different options. I’m going to go with New Mexico State for this game. Utah State’s defense has had its struggles this season and I think Rogers is going to have a field day.

Projected Score: New Mexico State 38 Utah State 27

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: #8 USC vs #5 Ohio State (-7)

So in an 8-team playoff format, this would be the 4 vs 5 matchup and dammit if I’m not pumped for it. Getting a chance to watch Ohio State live twice this season, I was able to see firsthand just how much better this team got over the course of the season. Their defense, which struggled to contain Indiana’s Richard Lagow and Simmie Cobbs, were lights out in the Big Ten championship, absolutely shutting down Heisman hopeful Jonathan Taylor. Their defense will put potential top pick Sam Darnold to the test, as this will be by far the toughest defense he faces all year. How he performs in this game will go a long way in determining whether he really is the top quarterback everybody projected him to be. I think he will have his struggles, though I don’t think it will necessarily be because of him. I think USC’s offensive line will struggle to protect him against the monster of a front that Ohio State has and they will wreak havoc on the Trojans.

Projected Score: Ohio State 30 USC 20

TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-6) vs #23 Mississippi State

Lamar Jackson may have finished third in the Heisman voting this year, but I would argue that he actually played better in 2017 than he did in his banner 2016 season. Louisville wasn’t quite as good as they were last year and that’s really what hurt Jackson’s Heisman chances. They face a Mississippi State team that can be very dangerous, as they came the closest to beating Alabama before Auburn was able to pull it off in the Iron Bowl. But I think they will struggle to contain Lamar Jackson. Limiting Jalen Hurts is one thing, but Jackson is so much better a passer that it’s going to be too much for the Bulldogs to keep track of.

Projected Score: Louisville 38 Mississippi State 30

Autozona Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs #20 Memphis (-3)

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Memphis’ Riley Ferguson can sling it with the best of them, as he showed in Memphis’ early-season win over Josh Rosen’s UCLA Bruins, where Ferguson was able to outduel the potential top draft pick. He’s also got a lot of weapons on offense that will cause Iowa State a lot of problems, however if anybody is up to the task, it’s the Cyclones. Iowa State is the only team to beat Oklahoma this season and they also were able to hand TCU their first loss of the season. Both teams ended up playing in the Big 12 title game, so Iowa State does a great job of playing up to their competition. However I think the combination of Ferguson and receiver Anthony Miller is going to be too much for Iowa State to handle and I think Memphis will come away with this one.

Projected Score: Memphis 42 Iowa State 38

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #11 Washington vs #9 Penn State (-3)

This is a matchup made in heaven. Two teams that boast not only talented offenses, but talented defenses as well. They each had a couple of rough goes, Penn State likely would have played for the Big Ten Title game had JT Barrett not pulled off a miraculous comeback to knock off the then-second-ranked Nittany Lions. Then they lost to Michigan State after a 3-and-a-half-hour storm delay midway through the contest that likely threw off their groove. Washington also had a couple of ugly defeats, as they were upset by Arizona State midway through the season, then a loss to Stanford that effectively eliminated them from Pac 12 title contention. Both teams will be looking for a bit of redemption for their once promising seasons and I think this will go down to the wire. I’m going to go with Penn State to get the win, though. I think their offense is too explosive for Washington to keep up with for four quarters.

Projected Score: Penn State 31 Washington 28

Capital One Orange Bowl: #6 Wisconsin (-6.5) vs #10 Miami (FL)

The Turnover Chain is dead. Clemson buried it.

The Hurricanes are suddenly ice cold as they’ve delivered back-to-back duds to close out their schedule. They lost in embarrassing fashion to Pittsburgh, then got obliterated by Clemson in the ACC Championship game with a playoff berth on the line. Then Dabo Swinney’s bunch destroyed what had been the emblem of the Hurricanes’ season in the Turnover Chain and Miami fans can’t be feeling much lower right now. They take on a Wisconsin team that may have been exposed a little bit in their loss to Ohio State. While the Badgers did manage to keep the game close, it was mainly because Ohio State shot themselves in the foot on multiple occasions. That being said, I think this defense is going to cause a lot of problems for Malik Rosier and company and Wisconsin will come away with the victory.

Projected Score: Wisconsin 24 Miami (FL) 10

Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8.5) vs South Carolina

These two teams have met in the Outback Bowl before.

However South Carolina doesn’t have anybody who evenly remotely resembles JaDeveon Clowney this year. Michigan has had their struggles at the quarterback position this year but if they can get the ground game working, then I think they will be okay. Defensively they’re so good they can practically take over games. I’ve got the Wolverines winning this one.

Projected Score: Michigan 21 South Carolina 17

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl: #12 UCF vs #7 Auburn (-10)

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Why Auburn is ranked 7th despite being a 3-loss team is beyond me, but it doesn’t really matter anymore as long as they aren’t in the playoff. They looked good to start the SEC Championship game, marching down the field and scoring a touchdown on their first possession. Then Georgia unraveled them and scored 28 unanswered. They face the lone unbeaten team in college football in UCF. Despite being hired by Nebraska, UCF head coach Scott Frost will coach the Knights in this game to close out the season, which I wish more coaches would do. It is for that reason that I think UCF will compete with Auburn, even give them a scare for most of the game, but I think the Tigers will outlast them. Eventually, talent often wins out, though if any team were to be on upset alert for this bowl season, I’d say it’s Auburn.

Projected Score: Auburn 20 UCF 17

Citrus Bowl presented by Overton’s: #14 Notre Dame vs #17 LSU (-2.5)

These are two teams that like to run the ball and play physical defense and on paper are pretty evenly matched. LSU has recovered really well after their homecoming debacle against Troy, as they’ve won 6 of 7 games since that loss, their one defeat being Alabama. The Fighting Irish, on the other hand, ended the season rather meekly, losing 2 of their last 3 after having been in the playoff hunt for much of the season. Granted, those two losses were Miami and Stanford, but both teams ended up getting beaten in their conference title games, Miami pretty soundly while Stanford kept it close. Notre Dame is capable of beating up on good teams, though, and I think the difference is going to be quarterback play. I trust Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush more than I do LSU’s Danny Etling and for that reason, I’m picking the Irish.

Projected Score: Notre Dame 31 LSU 27

Rose Bowl: #3 Georgia vs #2 Oklahoma (-1)

The first of the two playoff games, this will be Baker Mayfield’s first game after winning the Heisman Trophy. It will also be an opportunity for him to increase his draft stock even further, as he goes up against a really tough Georgia defense. If he can have a big game, then I think NFL teams will be far more intrigued by the possibility of drafting him high. As for Georgia, they look to break the 3-seed curse, as the team in that slot has yet to win a playoff game (Florida State, Michigan State, and Ohio State have all failed to get the job done). It’s going to be an uphill battle for them, as they will have to ask Jake Fromm to outduel the Heisman-winning Mayfield. It won’t be impossible, as Oklahoma will likely be without stud runningback Rodney Anderson as he faces domestic assault charges, but I don’t see that happening, and I’m picking the Sooners reaching the National Championship for the first time since the 2008 season, when Sam Bradford was outplayed by Tim Tebow.

Projected Score: Oklahoma 31 Georgia 26

All State Sugar Bowl: #4 Alabama (-2) vs #1 Clemson

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Part 3 of this CFP rivalry, though it’s the first matchup in this series that won’t be taking place with the National Championship on the line. Alabama will be very thankful it’s not Deshaun Watson under center for Clemson, as he absolutely lit them up in each of the previous matchups. Kelly Bryant will be tasked with taking on the Crimson Tide defense. He’s not Watson, but he has proven capable of winning big games, as he led Clemson to wins over the likes of Auburn, Virginia Tech, and a blowout of Miami for the ACC title. Offensively, Alabama will have to compete with the most efficient defense in the country in Clemson, as their defensive front that includes the likes of Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, and Clellin Ferrell will make it tough to move the ball. Having seen eachother each of the last few years, I think both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney will have made the adjustments they will need to come away with the victory. In the end, I think Clemson will come away as the winner of this best-of-3 series and will take on Oklahoma for the National Championship.

Projected Score: Clemson 34 Alabama 31

*Exhales.* Finally, I’ve made all the picks and it only took me 5530 words, more than doubling my previous high word count (which I think was an NFL picks segment). I’m going to wait to do the National Championship game until the night before, as I don’t want to predict a matchup that hasn’t been set up yet. But based on what I’ve predicted, I think that Clemson will beat Oklahoma to win back-to-back championships. I just think they’re more well-rounded than Oklahoma is and I think the Sooners’ deficiencies on defense will come back to haunt them in this one. Agree with my picks? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.