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2018 QB Rankings

Sam Darnold

  1. Sam Darnold USC 6’3 ⅜ 221 Soph He ran a 4.85 40, ‘26 ½ vertical, 8’9 broad, 4.4 shuttle, and 6.96 3 cone. Overall a very mediocre Combine though his 3 cone was elite for a QB. He redshirted in 2015, had a great year in 2016 (3,086 yds 31/9 67% 161 QB Rating), and a less efficient but still good year in 2017 (4,143 yds 26/13 63% 148 QB Rating). I’ll try and keep the love fest to a minimum but Darnold has been my boy for two years now as I fell in love with him in 2016 as the redshirt freshman showed glimpses of being the best QB I’ve ever graded. He’s tall, accurate, athletic (he plays faster than his 4.85 40), threads the needle about as well as any QB I’ve graded, understands offensive concepts, is a leader on the field, is a high character/spotless resume guy off the field, and he’s one of the most clutch QBs I’ve ever graded. It’s high praise but he reminds me of a mixture of Tom Brady and Carson Weintz. He has an extremely quick release and is one of the best I’ve ever graded at seeing something on the field and reacting to it instantly. Both his release and his quick thinking, along with his accuracy and timing, are why he’s so good at threading the needle. He’s especially impressive with his ball placement as he’s great at throwing a WR open and he should be elite in the red zone. Some of his film bouncing from one read to the next and then throwing low and away for a WR to make a diving catch despite a defender right next to him made me instantly think of Brady and honestly it’s a comp I almost never make. His issues are that he’s not very experienced (only 24 starts), he has a huge fumbling problem (18 fumbles-11 lost including 8 in 2017 alone), he has only mediocre arm strength, and his numbers went down in his final year. I don’t have a major issue with any of those issues as 24 starts isn’t terrible like Mitch Trubisky’s 13 starts and 24 starts at USC in that prime time atmosphere with two big time Bowl games (Ohio State in 2017, Penn State in 2016) is worth more than 36 games somewhere else. Also his fumbling issue is concerning but very correctable as he almost always had only one hand on the football. I was very disappointed in OC Tee Martin not getting that corrected before the Ohio State game as someone just needs to tell Darnold to always have two hands on the ball unless he’s throwing it. Some point to his hand size (‘9 ⅜) but that is only slightly below average and isn’t a big deal. Yes, Josh Allen has ‘10 ⅛ hands and some QBs like Troy Aikman and Tom Brady have huge hands but ‘9 ⅜ is very reasonable and I only worry about very small hands like Romo (‘8 ⅞) or Vick (‘8 ½). I think the fumbling issue was part of an overarching issue with Darnold last year that he tried to do too much at times and is easily correctable. Also arm strength is important but I don’t see it being a huge thing. Luck, Brady, both Mannings, Brees, Rivers, Romo, etc. all have average arm strength. Having a cannon helps but isn’t necessary and I don’t see it hurting Darnold as he has enough zip to make all the throws. Finally his down year would be concerning if it wasn’t so obvious that it was related to his supporting cast. He lost his star receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and his OL wasn’t very good so he wasn’t always on the same page and had worse protection than in 2016 and his turnovers went up. That’s it. Put any game on this past year for Darnold and you can see a dozen NFL caliber throws with many of them being, thread the needl/in traffic completions. He’s a gunslinger and I’m all for that. Yes, his decision making at times was questionable but Matt Ryan had a high INT total at Boston College, Jameis Winston had one at FSU, and I consider it important to have a QB that can make plays on 3rd and long in dire situations and Darnold can do it. Also people need to remember that he doesn’t turn 21 until later this summer so he’s still a young kid. He’s not a finished product so it’s important to see the difference between a fixable problem and an unfixable one. He is a gunslinger so he will probably have a higher INT total than some QBs who are risk averse but that is fine to a degree and I saw how he played in 2016 with a stud WR so I think the issue is more about supporting cast than about him in particular as he plays the hand that is dealt to him. In 2016 he could be more conservative and they won with him in a supporting role (9-1 record) but in 2017 the team was less talented so he had to make more plays for them to stay in ball games. It resulted in more turnovers and more losses (11-3 record) but is definitely a chicken or the egg type question. Overall though 20-4 is a very impressive beginning to a career and shouldn’t be overly nitpicked. Darnold’s lack of arm strength worries me a bit as he sometimes throws a weak ball when his hips don’t turn correctly or when he can’t get his feet set and has to throw it entirely with his upper body but he’s a pocket passer with good mechanics so I doubt it will affect him most of the time. Also he has great film as an outside the pocket passer on the run and really excels at the ad lib portion of the game. That’s something you can’t really coach so it’s another aspect of Darnold’s game that excites me. Going into the 2017 season I was expecting great things from Darnold and would elevate him ahead of Luck as the best QB prospect I’ve graded in the past decade but it didn’t happen. That being said, Darnold still has almost everything you’re looking for in a franchise QB (minus great arm strength and great experience) and gets the third highest grade of a QB this decade (1st-Luck, 2nd-Stafford, 4th-Johnny Manziel-painful to admit, 5th-Jameis Winston). Top 5 as my #1 QB who I think will be an immediate star in the NFL and a Top 10 QB in the league by the end of his 2nd year 4/20/18.
  2. Baker Mayfield Oklahoma 6’0 ⅝ 215 Sr. He ran a 4.84 40, 29 vertical, 9’3 broad, 4.28 shuttle, and 7.00 3 cone. He had an odd college career as he was a walk on at Texas Tech in 2013 and played okay (2,315 12/9 64% 128 QB Rating) yet was upset that Kingsbury was going to make it a QB competition between him, Davis Webb, and Michael Brewer. He then transferred to OU, sat out the 2014 season and had a great season in 2015 (3,700 36/7 68% 173 QB Rating), and then two monster seasons in 2016 (3,965 40/8 71% 196 QB Rating) and 2017 (4,627 43/6 71% 199 QB Rating). His TD/INT ratio of 119/21 is absolutely absurd and is the greatest I can remember (almost +100 In 3 years!). Due to his 5 years out of HS he’s 23 years old and is an older prospect. PFF loves him as he has the two highest QB grades they’ve given in the past 4 years and 3 of the top 7! His NFL QB Rating (different from college QB Ratings by the way) was 143.8 last year when kept clean in the pocket, 20 points higher than any of the other top QBs in this class. Under pressure he’s still elite with a 111.6 QB Rating. He’s the most accurate QB in this draft class and it isn’t even close as he’s one of the most accurate QBs I’ve ever graded and is why I compare him to a Drew Brees/Russell Wilson mix. He’s also the quickest reader of defenses in this class (Rosen is a close 2nd) and he’s the third best improviser in this class (Lamar Jackson is first, Darnold is 2nd) so he has a lot of elite traits to work with. Watching his film, it is hard not to be a fan as the kid plays with a passion that you rarely see in QBs, who are usually more stoic. He’ll be a team’s vocal leader as he takes pride in rallying his guys and he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I understand the criticism of his on and off the field behavior but you just have to accept him for who he is as he isn’t going to change so you’re either fine with the all encompassing competitor that he is, which sometimes does get the best of him, or you move on to the next guy. I’m fine with his personality for the most part as Brady has that fire in him too which sometimes crosses the line as does Phillip Rivers, Brett Favre, and other top QBs. Opposing fan bases will hate Baker but the home team fans will love him and I think he’s going to do just fine. I love his tape and think he has superstar potential but he falls below Darnold as he has obvious weaknesses (lack of height, lack of maturity at times, comes from a spread offense, might not be athletic enough to improvise at the next level, possibly system specific). Darnold is that rare guy that fits every offense and seems like a sure thing. Baker arguably has a higher upside but I worry that if he’s put in a completely traditional offense he might be just mediocre. Some people criticize his arm strength and that’s just dumb and usually is from a guy that doesn’t scout people but just looks at his frame as Baker has a very strong arm and the zip he has on his balls is either 2nd or 3rd (Allen clearly 1st, Rudolph probably 2nd but it’s close). He’s great at progressing through his options (he went to his 3rd option or later more than any other QB in this class and it isn’t even close) but if a team runs max protect with two route options that isn’t very valuable. The more pass routes he has, the better but many teams don’t run spread systems. He’s good at improvising and making plays with his feet, at least to buy extra time downfield, but if a team is conservative and tells him to throw the ball away at the first sign of trouble then that will take another aspect of his game away. Add in the fact that he always seemed overrated to me as an athlete, and far more athletic guys in college like EJ Manuel or Brett Hundley lost a lot of their “dual threat” vibe when they transitioned to the NFL, and you have the potential that Baker becomes just a short pocket passer. His calling card though is his accuracy as he’s among the most accurate QBs I’ve ever scouted and it’s high up on my list of preferred traits for my QB to have so I really like Baker. He has more tape than any other prospect of hitting a guy perfectly in stride for YAC and that accuracy was essentially the basis of their offense. He’s a hot head who will at times draw the ire of opponents and maybe embarrass himself a bit after a loss with the media or by screaming at an opponent during a game or something but overall I think the kid works hard, is a good teammate, and will be a very productive player. In the right system I could see him be a franchise QB a la Drew Brees. In the wrong scheme he might bust due to his size but is still likely a Top 20 QB as guys with his accuracy, ability to read a defense, and understand offensive philosophy are rare. I’m all in on Baker and in most years he’d be the #1 QB in the class as he’s special and gets a Top 5 grade on par with Jared Goff a few years ago but a bit below Sam Darnold and his special grade so he settles in as an elite player but my #2 QB 4/23/18.
  3. Lamar Jackson Louisville 6’2 ¼ 216 Jr. He surprisingly didn’t work out at the Combine. He had a good year in 2015 as a true freshman (1,840 yds 12/8 55% 127 QB Rating with 960 yds and 11 TDs rushing), one of the greatest years in NCAA history in 2016 ending with the Heisman Trophy (3,543 yds 30/9 56% 149 QB Rating with 1,571 yds 21 TDs rushing), and then another great year but slightly down in 2017 (3,660 yds 27/10 59% 147 QB Rating with 1,601 yds and 18 TDs rushing). My comparison to him is a mixture of Michael Vick and Marcus Mariota as he has Vick’s rare speed and ability to shake a defender yet has Mariota’s height, touch, and accuracy. Mariota is a more polished passer but Jackson is underrated as a passer as he has great touch and good accuracy, neither of which he seems to get credit for. As a runner he’s in a league of his own as he’s so much more physical than Vick, so much more elusive than an RGIII, Cam Newton, or even Mariota and looks like he’ll be in the running for the greatest rushing QB in NFL History if he can nail down a starting job long term. His cutting ability is unequivocally better than any QB I’ve ever graded with Johnny Manziel, Russell Wilson, and Vick being his only competition. As a passer he’s underrated with how good he is at throwing the ball but he is very raw at footwork, reading defenses, and handling an NFL passing offense. A team committing to him will need to complete revamp their offense otherwise there will be a huge learning curve but if they do that and implement a lot of zone reads, RPOs, and a quick passing game with a few intermediate and deep routes to keep a defense honest then I think it will work. I’m honestly confused at how little love Jackson has gotten from scouts as they nitpick this kid to death. He will be best running QB in NFL History, build a freaking offense around this talent. Vick went 1st Overall 17 years ago at a time when there were no zone reads, RPOs, spread offenses, or shotgun snaps. Now every team runs that stuff yet Jackson might not be a 1st rounder? I don’t get it. He looks like a low 4.4 athlete but what makes him truly rare is that he’s one of the most slippery players I’ve ever seen, regardless of position. His juking ability is just insane for a QB and he’ll be one of the most popular players in the NFL if he’s successful. He’s also a very powerful guy and breaks far more tackles than you’d expect at 216 lbs. As a passer, his footwork is a work in progress as he rarely played under center and at 6’2 and with his speed and elusiveness, makes more sense in a shotgun based offense anyway. He works best in simple read schemes but don’t be fooled by that and think he’s a bad passer as he throws a very good deep ball and had 10 +300 yard passing games the past two years (Josh Allen had 2, Darnold had 12, Rosen had 11) so he can really throw the ball. He shows great touch, has a very quick release, good accuracy, and okay timing it is simply the other stuff of mechanics, reading a defense, and understanding offensive concepts like timing based routes, how to attack a zone defense/man defense, etc. One thing he does do really well details wise is his ball fake which is arguably the best in the class. He has a lot of experience in the zone read and he’ll wait till the last second before keeping the ball in the exchange with it potentially being a deadly weapon at the next level. He uses that same ball fake on play action passes and that should be incorporated into his next system as the ball fake, coupled with his ability to throw the deep ball and then just scramble for yards if nothing is there seems like a working offense itself. With his running ability I think a simpler offense should be successful because his running will always present a threat to a defense and force them to play him more conservatively. Watching the Florida State tape I was amazed at how uber athlete Derwin James struggled to keep up with Jackson. James is about as athletic as any safety in the NFL so Jackson’s running skills will translate, an NFL team just needs to give him the chance. Also he’s only 21 years old and everyone raves about the kid’s character and work ethic so a team should create a simple offense for him as a rookie and then slowly build upon it with more complex route combinations, more terminology, checks at the LOS, etc. I’m in on Jackson as he’s a once in a generation type talent and I really think he’s underrated as a passer. I hope the NFL gives him a chance as he could be great on the field, and off the field he could become one of the faces of the NFL. Top 10 as my #3 QB who will need to have an offense centered around his running and mobility but who projects to be a great dual threat as a mix of Michael Vick and Marcus Mariota 4/22/18.
  4. Josh Rosen UCLA 6’4 226 Jr. He ran a 4.92 40, ‘31 vertical, 9’3 broad jump, 4.28 shuttle, and 7.09 3 cone. He was a top recruit out of HS and had a good true freshman year in 2015 (3,669 yds 23/11 60% 134 QB Rating), an injury plagued 2016 playing in only 6 games (1,915 yds 10/5 59% 139 QB Rating), and a good but underwhelming 2017 (3,756 yds 26/10 63% 147 QB Rating). He never dominated like everyone expected him to as he was only 10-8 the past two seasons (18-13 for his career) but he has good tape. UCLA at times was a mess and he’s always looked to me like a franchise caliber QB as he’s tall, has a good arm, throws one of the best deep balls of any QB prospect I’ve graded, and is very cerebral. His freshman year reminded me of Andrew Luck’s first two seasons at Stanford as they were just so polished and nuanced for young QBs. He’s a very cocky kid and even when his teammate Kolton Miller was defending him he admitted as much, “Josh came in No. 1 high school guy, a little cocky…but as the years went on he really matured.” He has matured but there’s definitely an asshole vibe you get from Rosen and there are lots of rumors that his teammates didn’t like him. A similar dynamic occurred a few years ago with Connor Cook, everyone denied it, and he fell out of 1st round consideration all the way to the 4th round. Rosen won’t fall that far but usually on issues like this the rumor is the truth, but no one wants their name attached to it. Rosen is a dangerous guy to make your franchise QB as he’s opinionated, loud mouthed, cocky, and rubs a lot of people the wrong way. From his teammates not liking him, to sitting out his final game despite saying he was going to play and being cleared medically, to criticizing the NCAA about student athletes not getting paid, he is a guy that will create drama for your franchise. I can only imagine what his take would have been the past few years on the Colin Kaepernick situation. Off the field a team will have to be comfortable with his penchant for speaking about any subject that he wants. Some owners will flat out take him off their board due solely to this. But wait there’s more. We haven’t even gotten to the fact that his own coach didn’t really go to bat for him this offseason. The only two times I can remember something like this happening were with Mark Sanchez (Peter Carroll) and DeShone Kizer (Brian Kelly). It’s a bad sign when the only two times I can remember it happening were two huge busts as QB prospects. Jim Mora said, “(He) needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn’t get bored….He’s a millennial. He wants to know why….If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire.” He backtracked later but really it’s a scathing rebuke and fits with the rumors that he didn’t put in the time expected of him off the field. Also my biggest issue in the statement was his “for a few years” part as I really think Mora expects Rosen to retire early from the game and move on. It’d fit Rosen’s opinion about football that it’s just a game and, while true and noble as a human being, it’s very worrisome for a franchise to take a swing at a QB early in the draft knowing the guy might be a bust but even if he pans out he might be preoccupied during the offseason, cause a media circus during the season when he goes off on Trump/Kaepernick/whatever the hot button issue is at the time, and then retires at 28 years old unexpectedly a la Jake Locker or Jake Plummer. Rosen is one of the most difficult QBs to grade for off the field/character/personality issues that I’ve ever encountered. Moving to on the field stuff though there is a lot to like as Rosen has good accuracy, great mechanics, stands tall in the pocket, anticipates throws, is incredible at throwing accurately under pressure, and he really understands the game. He’s an easy evaluation on film as UCLA played in a pro style offense, he played under center a lot, and he made a ton of NFL caliber throws in tight windows or down the field or with a defender in his face, etc. That last one is arguably the most impressive part of Rosen’s game as he just doesn’t get affected by the pass rush. The best example of this is the 2017 USC game where he kept it close despite having absolutely no protection. It showed how cerebral he was as he kept barely avoiding sacks due to his quick thinking and route anticipation despite defenders in his face all game long. It’s the type of rare skill you see in the best QBs as Brady, Manning (Peyton and Eli), Brees, etc. all are consistently at the top of the league in fewest sacks per year due to their quick thinking and knowledge of where to go with the football. This cerebral approach to the game is why I compare him to Eli Manning and Matt Ryan stylistically as he really has an idea of what the defense is trying to do to him and seems to adjust to it very well. I’m a huge Darnold fan but have to admit Rosen outplayed him in their 2017 matchup but Darnold was bailed out by his superior talent around him. It’s also worth mentioning for those that want to criticize Rosen as an underachiever with his 10-8 record the past two years that the team was 1-7 in the games he didn’t play in that stretch. UCLA had major issues on offense and defense and just wasn’t well coached, reason why Jim Mora was fired, so I take issue with anyone saying Rosen played poorly last year. The hype machine was a bit much on Rosen at times but there were games where the only thing going right for that football team was Rosen. Going solely on his film he’s a Top 10 grade (almost Top 5) as he’s accurate, experienced in a pro style offense, is elite at throwing the deep ball, and has a great football mind with reading defenses and understanding offensive football concepts. Overall as a prospect though I worry about him as he’s kind of a mix between Jay Cutler and Colin Kaepernick in that he’s part asshole, part Millennial save the world crusader and I buy into the narrative that he’s not going to be in this sport long and he’s not going to be that 100% grinder you want at QB. Now Cam Newton, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Jay Cutler, and other successful QBs have notoriously skimped on the offseason/after hours work but had success yet he seems likely to be even worse. I mean the kid had two concussions last year. What happens if he has a concussion as a rookie? Does he shut it down the rest of the year like he did last year for UCLA and piss off his coach and owner? Does he openly talk to the media about considering retirement? Rosen’s a complicated prospect that I don’t get a good feeling about. Due to that I’m not surprised to hear that Rosen might fall on draft day as the call on whether or not to draft him will be more based around an owner’s preference than a scout’s. In the end I’m giving him a Mid 1st grade as my #4 QB with all the off the field issues (Top 10 purely on film) but would take him off my board if I were a GM as this kid will be a handful 4/20/18.
  5. Josh Allen Wyoming 6’4 ⅞ 237 Jr. He ran a 4.75 40, ‘33 ½ vertical, and 6.90 3 cone all of which were above average and shows his good athleticism, especially for his size at basically 6’5 240. In 2015 he barely played (4 attempts). In 2016 he had good numbers (3,206 yds 28/15 144 Rating) except for his completion percentage of 56%. In 2017 his numbers regressed quite dramatically (1,812 yds 16/6 128 Rating) with his completion percentage again being 56%. Allen is a big, strong armed kid with major accuracy issues, limited experience (25 career starts), and a horrible track record against top competition. His worst three games in 2017 by QB Rating were against his best three opponents (Iowa, Oregon, Boise State) with all three being blowouts for a combined score of 97 to 30. In two of the three games his completion was under 45%. In 2016 his only ranked opponent (Nebraska) was again his worst game as he was blown out by 35 points and threw 5 interceptions in that game. Advocates of Allen will point to his lack of supporting cast and his strong arm, big frame and his similarities to Ben Roethlisberger. Critics of Allen will point to his lack of accuracy, questionable decision making, and limited talent outside of his arm strength and site similarities of him to Kyle Boller. I’m a critic of Allen’s and have been for awhile as I just don’t see him being accurate enough to be a quality NFL starter and laugh at the suggestion that he’s better than my man crush Sam Darnold. Allen isn’t just inaccurate he’s shockingly inaccurate at times and can skip or sail the ball on dump offs, screens and the simplest of throws. He also seems to struggle reading defenses and going through progressions. He loves throwing his “fastball” and shows no touch or feel for adjusting his RPMs based on the type of throw. He played in a weaker conference and hardly dominated it as he was 2nd Team Mountain West in 2016 and only honorable mention in 2017. Hardly the type of dominance you expect from a future NFL starter (for reference Derek Carr and Andy Dalton were 2x Conference POYs). Making the case for him though is that he has elite arm strength, is a high character kid who is absolutely loved by his coaches, has quick feet and a good feel in the pocket for pressure, never pouted or stopped being a leader during blowout losses or when he missed 2 games due to injury, and is a raw kid that should improve with time and coaching. That being said I don’t think you can really coach accuracy and consider him to be a questionable thrower on anything that requires touch. His mechanics seem inconsistent which causes a lot of balls to sail on him and he just doesn’t seem to get a lot out of his “elite” arm. I put it in quotations because arm strength is just one aspect of “arm talent” and he is horrible in other areas (ball placement and touch). I watched a lot of Allen to see if I was missing something and continue to see him as a kid that struggles much of the game and then gives you a wow play here and there that make you think he’s on the verge of becoming a great one. It wouldn’t shock me if he put it all together and became a Roethlisberger/Flacco combination but it is far more likely that he struggles mightily with his accuracy and becomes a low end starter a la Bortles or an early career bust a la Kyle Boller or JaMarcus Russell. Late 2nd round as my #5 QB who I think is vastly overrated due to his elite arm strength and will be a bust 3/30/18.
  6. Kyle Lauletta Richmond 6’2 ⅝ 222 Sr. He ran a 4.81 40, ‘31 vertical, 9’5 broad jump, 4.07 shuttle, and 6.95 3 cone with his shuttle and 3 cone being great times. To put it in perspective, Calvin Ridley had a 4.41 shuttle and 6.88 3 cone while being 33 lbs lighter than Kyle! He had a great Senior Bowl with 3 TDs in the second half of the game (1 was a decent deep throw to DJ Chark that was wide open, the other two were very good throws in traffic to wideouts) and was MVP of the game. Many discount that honor but Dak Prescott, Phillip Rivers, and Chad Pennington were all Game MVPs and went on to productive NFL careers. He has an NFL frame with decent height and good size to him to go along with an NFL arm. It isn’t a cannon but he has film of throwing +50 yards in the air and shows decent zip so he checks that box. Teams probably love his sneaky athleticism as he’s a pocket passer but shows his great quickness from the Combine measurements on the field as he jukes people in the open field and is tough to bring down. Also at 222 lbs he’s thick enough to lower his shoulder and get the extra yards, though his QB coach will make him stop doing that in the NFL. He throws a good deep ball putting a lot of air under it so a WR can adjust to it. It’s his best throws as he sometimes looks hesitant to pull the trigger on stuff over the middle and too often stares down his intended target. That being said he’s an accurate thrower who shows good zip on the ball and throws with decent timing. He’s not a guy that reads the field terribly well or anticipates throws but when a WR gets open he gets them the ball accurately and on time, for the most part. He works well in the quick game as he has a quick release and knows how to run that type of offense. I like his film as he has an NFL frame, good mobility, good accuracy, decent arm strength, and looks like he could develop into a starter. I like how he keeps his eyes downfield even when the rush gets to him as he has a lot of film of him stepping away from a rusher and making a throw accurately. He’s a bit like Nathan Peterman, not so much style but talent wise, as he is average or above average in most categories and shows good polish to his game. Lauletta seems a little more raw than Peterman but has a little more of an upside but both seem like good backups who could maybe develop into low end starters. You don’t want to build a franchise around a guy like Lauletta but if I was a team like the Patriots, Saints, Chargers, or Steelers and he’s available after Round 2 then I’d have to think about it long and hard as he seems like a good kid to groom for a year or two and he’d give you options if/when your older franchise QB retires. He shouldn’t start as a rookie as he’s moving up a level of competition and needs to work on his game but I see some tools to be a low end starter or possibly even a mid level Top 20 starter with a QB like Andy Dalton being his ceiling. He has good zip on his throws but doesn’t have an incredibly strong arm as he has to have his feet set and step into throws and he isn’t a scrambler, more of a guy that can make plays with his feet to avoid the rush and gain extra time for a throw. Without any elite trait he’s hard to get too excited about but I think he’ll be a good backup at worst and has a Brian Hoyer/Trevor Siemian feel to him who I think eventually does develop into a low end starter. Considering there is a chance he goes in the mid to late rounds, I’d classify him as a future steal as I think he’ll be in this league a long time as a low end starter or high end backup. Early 3rd round as my #6 QB who I think is very underrated 4/20/18.
  7. Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State 6’4 ⅝ 235 Sr. He ran a 4.90 40 and had 26 reps but didn’t do other drills. He barely played in 2014, had a good year in 2015 (3,770 yds 21/9 62% 149 QB Rating), a similar year in 2016 (4,091 yds 28/4 63% 158 QB Rating), and then a great year in 2017 (4,904 yds 37/9 65% 170 QB Rating). I like how he had three good years as a QB, started 39 games the past three seasons, has three seasons of 62% or higher completion percentage, and has a 86/22 TD/INT ratio (4.3 to 1). Those are all signs of him being very good at what he does. He has a little Ryan Mallett to his game as he’s a big guy with a great arm who can’t move much and throws the deep ball better than the short or intermediate routes. There are some throws he makes that make me go, “maybe this kid can be a mid level starter,” as his highlights are pretty impressive. His issue is he’s just very inconsistent. I think he has a mechanics issue as he consistently throws too high with the 2017 TCU game being a good example as he airmailed lots of throws in that blowout home loss. That game really left a bad taste in my mouth as his INT on a RB screen was just terrible, his overthrows time and again were bad, and he just seemed rattled-albeit often times with no one in his face. Other than maybe kicker, there is no position in the NFL you want consistency from more than your QB and Rudolph just doesn’t have it. He gives you some great throws but he almost invariably follows it up with some bad ones. He has some Kirk Cousins to him and some Ryan Mallett to him with the deep ball being his best throw so it is bad timing for him that Bruce Arians retired as I bet he’d love Rudolph. I’ll be curious how he turns out as if you put on the Pittsburgh film where he has 5 TDs in the first half you’d think he’s a star, put on the TCU film and he looks likes a future bust. Even in that game though he had two wow throws that made me pause on him as he threw a perfect post to James Washington in stride with two defenders right next to him for an 86 yard TD (it shows his great arm strength too as he let it fly from his own 10 yard line and it landed in Washington’s hands at the other 34 yard line-56 yards in the air on a dime!). Also he had a play where he was flushed from the pocket, rolled right, directed his WRs in a scramble drill and threw a bullet in traffic between defenders for a TD. Those flashes are indeed impressive so I’d have no issue with a team taking a chance on him in the 1st round as guys that can make these types of plays are rare but in the end I think his inconsistency will make him a bust so I wouldn’t roll the dice on him. Also the fact that he played poorly vs. OU and TCU each of the past two years and UT and West Virginia this year (he played well vs. them in 2016) makes me worry that he can’t get it done vs. top competition. He throws a great deep ball and that should translate to the pros but he too often struggles making short and intermediate throws against good coverage. A perfect example is the 2017 OU game where he threw his first 5 passes off target (4 high, 1 low) and looked just atrocious on intermediate throws and then he uncorked a perfect post to Marcell Ateman in stride for a 60 yard gain. Sometimes I wonder if he’ll get with a QB coach, clean up his poor footwork, and become a consistent thrower to be the steal of the draft. More likely he’s a guy that throws a great deep ball but is inaccurate on intermediate throws, shows a lack of timing and anticipation on curls and outs vs. man and crosses vs. zone and ends up being a short term starter who is a bust. I am going with the latter and is the reason why I have a late 3rd round grade on him as my #7 QB as I just don’t think he’ll make it in the NFL with his accuracy and consistency issues. I’ll give him a late 3rd due to his very high ceiling and tools but I’d take him off my draft board if I were a GM as I expect him to be a bust 4/20/18.
  8. Mike White Western Kentucky Sr. Played poorly in 6 games in 2013 (1,083 yds 53% 3/9 100 Rating) and 11 games in 2014 (1,639 yds 50% 8/7 112 Rating) and then had a great season in 2016 (4,363 yds 67% 37/7 181 Rating) yet regressed in 2017 (4,177 yds 65% 26/8 140 Rating) due to a coaching staff and scheme change. At the Senior Bowl he showed good accuracy and anticipation, both in the practices and in the game, with his 128 yards and a TD in the first half setting the South up for their dominant 45-16 win. I like White as a highly polished, low upside career backup type with a very small chance of developing into a Josh McCown type starter. McCown is who he reminds me of when I watch White play as he is a very cerebral QB who understands the game of football. His very good play at the Senior Bowl makes me wonder if I’m underrating him as he didn’t have a lot of talent at Western Kentucky and I’ll maybe look back on this and realize I missed a diamond in the rough. He struggled in the 2016 Alabama game and was jittery in the pocket but with good reason as he was outclassed across the board with his O vs. Alabama’s D. He has NFL height (6’4 ⅛ at the Senior Bowl), weight (221 lbs) and a good enough arm, velocity wise. His hands (9 ⅜) are very small and some teams have a 9 ½ cut off but overall he has an NFL frame. He had a very good connection with Taywon Taylor in 2016, drafted by the Titans, and his down year in 2017 has plenty of good arguments for it not being his fault (lost his best WR, new coaching staff, new scheme) but taking a small school kid off a down year is a gamble no matter how you spin it. He has some starter traits to him and it wouldn’t shock me if he ended up developing into a low end starter but the one issue I have with him that tips the scale away from him is that his accuracy is overrated. He has a high football IQ and is decisive with the football but he threw quite a few inaccurate passes on the games I watched of him and I think his backers who raved about his accuracy at the Senior Bowl practices are doing so partially due to the horrible accuracy shown by other QBs at the event (Josh Allen for instance). I like White and think he’ll stick at the next level but consider him a high end backup. Early 4th round as my #8 QB 1/28/18.
  9. Luke Falk Washington State 6’3 ⅝ 215 Sr. He only did two drills with a ‘26 ½ vertical and a 8’7 broad jump with both being terrible. Unsure why he did those two drills only when he was terrible at them but whatever. He played well as a part time starter in 2014 (1,859 yds 13/7 64% 140 QB Rating), great in 2015 (4,561 yds 38/8 69% 146 QB Rating), great in 2016 (4,468 yds 38/11 70% 146 QB Rating), and had a down year but still solid in 2017 (3,593 yds 30/13 67% 137 QB Rating). He comes from the dreaded Leach spread system but it’s changed over the years and is a little more NFL friendly than the Tech version as there are more intermediate and deep throws. That could be because Falk has decent arm strength and can make those throws so Leach incorporates it more into his offense vs. noodle armed QBs like Kingsbury. He throws a great fade as he puts a lot of air under it and throws it much higher than I normally see with it helping the WR and making it more difficult to track for the CB due to the angle. It’s a great red zone weapon and hopefully a QB coach won’t be dumb enough to think it’s broken and make him change it to a more conventional fade. He has great touch and good accuracy with those being his strengths. His weaknesses are that he only has average arm strength (he’s strong armed for a Leach QB but average at best for an NFL QB), was in a system that was not very similar to anything he’d work with in the NFL, and he doesn’t seem to have progressions as the Leach offense is lots of options but all being simple reads. There’s no complex timing or interconnectedness to routes as it’s just spread the defense, look for an open guy type offense. He does get through his reads quickly though so he’ll need to learn how a normal offense operates but might be ahead of the curve scanning a field, think Kurt Warner coming from the CFL where things are quicker and there are more throws but the offense was simpler. I see some intriguing tape of Falk as he makes plays when the offense breaks down, has good accuracy, and shows some NFL traits. He’s for sure a backup to begin his career as he’ll need time to unlearn some of Leach’s stuff but he has an outside chance to develop into a low end starter. Most likely he’s a career backup but in that role he’s intriguing as a mid round guy with decent tools height/weight/arm strength/accuracy wise. Mid 4th round as my #9 QB 4/20/18.
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2018 WR Rankings

NCAA Football: Southern Methodist at East Carolina1. Courtland Sutton SMU 6’3 ⅜ 218 Jr. He ran a 4.54 40, 18 reps, ‘35 ½ vertical, 10’4 broad, 4.11 shuttle-great time for a guy his size, and 6.57 3 cone-elite time for anyone, let alone for his size. He redshirted as a freshman after barely playing (2 27 in two games), had a very good year in 2015 (49 862 9 TD), a monster year in 2016 (76 1,246 10 TD), and a slightly lower but still very good year in 2017 (68 1,085 12 TD). His 22 TD the past two seasons is outstanding and shows his red zone potential. He’s a big, long armed, physical player with good athleticism who immediately conjures up similarities to Alshon Jeffery and Mike Williams. He’s a very feast or famine wideout with 11 games of +100 yards receiving the past two years but also 7 games with sub 50 yards receiving in that time frame. I’m confused how he can have a combined 1 catch for 35 yards vs. Memphis and TCU (two Top 25 opponents by the way) while his offense scored 81 points in those two games? Honestly Sutton is a very tough evaluation due to his offense as it is a spread system, very gimmicky (Mike Leach type), and he basically had no route tree. He also has some drops on film and has an annoying penchant for drawing offensive pass interference penalties, usually when he’s frustrated with a pesky defender. Finally I saw him dogging it a few times on film (end of the 1st half vs. Houston being the worst example) and that concerns me. He isn’t a diva wideout in that he seems to be a high character guy who doesn’t go around wanting fame but when he doesn’t get the ball it frustrates him so he might have a sideline temper tantrum or two. Think Mike Evans not Terrell Owens as he won’t divide a locker room or have his own reality show but he might kick over a gatorade cooler or scream at an offensive coordinator occasionally. That being said the talent is obvious as he’s huge, makes acrobatic catches, and shows good athleticism to potentially be more than a jump ball/red zone threat. I really studied his 2017 TCU tape as that was a quality D and he had 0 receiving yards but I was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t his fault at all. He had 5 targets in that game and only 1 was catchable. He looked big, strong, and fast and was wide open for a would be 32 yd TD (overthrown by 5 yards), open for a 4 yd TD on a zone read RPO play (too high by a lot), and open vs. double coverage on a 9 route (underthrown badly, resulting in offensive PI to avoid CB getting INT). It was just a bad day for everyone but the entire time he was double covered and he still got open for a few big plays but his QB just missed him. Watching the film in detail I see little difference between him and Mike Williams a year ago out of Clemson. Now that doesn’t make it less complicated as Williams was a non-factor as a rookie so maybe I overrated him but I like Sutton a lot and think he could be a dominant 1,200 yd 10 TD type Pro Bowl X receiver for someone. He’s a little more raw than Williams was last year but doesn’t have the injury history and seems a little faster. Overall I have Sutton and Moore neck and neck as my #1 WR and they couldn’t be more different as Sutton is raw and plays the pure outside WR, physical red zone threat while Moore is the versatile playmaker that can move all over the field and run any route. In the end I’m going with Sutton despite his higher bust potential as his ceiling is much higher. Sutton could be a Top 10 WR in this league someday and I don’t think that can be said about anyone else in this draft. In a down year at WR, Sutton barely edges out DJ Moore as my #1 WR and gets a Mid 1st grade 4/19/18.

2. DJ Moore Maryland 6’0 210 Jr. He ran a 4.42 40-very good, 15 reps, ‘39 ½ vertical-elite, 11’0 broad-elite, 4.07 shuttle, 6.95 3 cone. He had a solid year as a true freshman in 2015 (25 357 3 TD), better year in 2016 (41 637 6 TD), and great year in 2017 (80 1,033 8 TD). He added punt return duties to his resume last year and with good but not great success (10.2 avg). He’s a legit outside wide receiver with speed and quickness so he checks all the boxes. He is a YAC machine, arguably best in this draft, as he’s very strong and has a great short area burst which allows him to start and stop with the best of them. Due to that some teams might use him predominantly in the slot but I think it’s a waste as he’s a fast, physical guy with great hands so he should play either everywhere or only outside. A smart team will move him all over the field to avoid him getting doubled as he has that type of versatility and it’d keep defenses guessing. He has some RB playing WR film and really excels in WR screens with his quickness, power, and vision being a perfect fit for that play. He has such good quickness and burst that I assume he’ll be a good route runner but Maryland didn’t have him run much of a route tree so he’s a work in progress in that area. He has incredible strong hands and at 210 lbs he’ll be good at catching the contested ball in traffic. I love Moore in that he can be your possession receiver on 3rd and 10 to move the chains, can be your dynamic player in space on WR screens, can be your punt returner, and can threaten a defense deep both with speed and with the ability to win a jump ball. He has rare versatility and I hope whomever drafts him doesn’t pigeonhole him as a slot receiver only or a deep threat only as that is what makes him so unique. I love his film and think he’s that rare natural playmaker but sometimes I watch him and say, “calm down he’s more likely than not just a versatile #2 WR.” That has value don’t get me wrong but the 1st round is for Pro Bowl guys and I wonder if Moore will ever be in that class. At times he reminds me of Odell Beckham, especially with his frame (5’11 ¼ 198 for Odell vs. Moore’s 6’0 210), speed (Beckham 4.42 vs. Moore’s 4.43), and vertical (Beckham’s ‘38 ½ vs. Moore’s ‘39 ½) and great hands but arguably the best part of Beckham’s game is his elite quickness (6.69 3 cone) and Moore (6.93 3 cone) isn’t quite up to par. I think Moore is on that #1 or #2 WR bubble but even if he ends up just as a high end #2 WR, his versatility and natural playmaking skills (he’s a great trick play guy as he has an accurate arm on WR reverses) make me want him on my team. Also I see a lot of flashes of Odell Beckham so Moore’s upside, if he can improve as a route runner, is immense. 3 years from now I think Moore ends up as a low end #1 WR and is a borderline Pro Bowler year in and year out who is a fan favorite. Sign me up for that fun ride. Mid 1st as my #2 WR 4/18/18.

3. Cedrick Wilson Boise State 6’2 ¼ 197 Sr. He ran a 4.55 40, 9 reps, ‘37 vertical, 10’1 broad, 4.23 shuttle, and 6.89 3 cone. He’s a JUCO kid who transferred to Boise State and had a great 2016 (56 1,129 11 TD) and 2017 (83 1,511 7 TD). He has that NFL wideout look as a tall, angular body with good muscle definition. Despite mediocre long speed he might be a deep threat in the NFL as he has good timing, good hands, a great vertical, and is tall so he looks very impressive on jump ball types. I also am incredibly impressed with how dominant he was his first year from JUCO and think this kid is really improving as a player right before our eyes as he ended his career with 4 straight +100 yard games (only 2 in his first 10 games last year) including his best game as a collegiate (10 221 yds 1 TD) vs. Oregon in his career finale. His upside is very high and I just really like his combination of size, hands, speed, routes, and body control as he has no holes in his game and looks like a very good future #2 WR for someone. He lacks that wow size/speed ratio but otherwise he’s everything you’re looking for in a WR prospect and seems very underrated to me. His father played in the NFL, drafted in the 6th round as a WR by the 49ers, so he has great bloodlines. The more you watch him the more his hands and body control impress as he really excels at adjusting to the ball in the air to make a play. I think he has a little Josh Doctson to him, a little Marvin Jones to him. I think this kid could be a productive red zone threat for someone due to those attributes. I didn’t know much about him before his bowl game vs. Oregon but I came away impressed by his well rounded game. He can really do anything you want for a WR and I give him an early 2nd round grade as my #3 WR as he’ll excel as a very good #2 WR with an outside chance to make a Pro Bowl or two as a low end #1 wideout 4/15/18.

4. Christian Kirk Texas A&M 5’10 ⅜ 201 Jr. He ran a 4.47 40-average, 20 reps-elite, ‘35 ½ vertical-average, 9’7 broad-below average, 4.45 shuttle-terrible, 7.09 3 cone-below average. Overall I was very unimpressed and it confirms my suspicions on Kirk that he’s a little too tightly built and lacks the lateral agility you see in most top wideouts. It’s also why his route running is so mediocre. I think he plays faster than 4.47 but he isn’t a 4.28 guy or anything (I’d argue he’s a high 4.3s athlete) and I’ve always been a bit uncomfortable with him as a blue chip prospect as he’s sub 6’0 (by a lot), has very good but not elite speed, is tightly built, and doesn’t run great routes. I think his best skill is actually his punt return ability as he’s the 2nd best in this class (Mike Hughes and Dante Pettis are both great competition, Pettis being my #1 due to superior vision and elusiveness, Kirk faster and more explosive) and has been dominant in this role all three seasons at A&M (19-24 yard per punt average each season) with 6 career TDs. I also can’t rave enough about this kid’s character as he’s right up there with Minkah Fitzpatrick, Roquan Smith, and Anthony Miller as guys who eat, sleep, and breathe football. Kirk, and his already famous liver smoothies, will join an NFL team and immediately act like a 10 year pro with stretch routines, film watching, ice baths, professional media interaction, etc. Due to that I get how a team will bump him up their board as this is the kind of kid you want in your building for the next decade and he’s your dream prospect character wise. On the field he’s a bit of a question mark as he’s either undersized outside and possibly lacks the route running to consistently get separation, or he’s a career slot guy which really hurts his value, especially considering most teams don’t use their slots to run deep routes which are his best routes. One thing I do love about his film is his explosiveness after the catch as he excelled at taking shorter routes and turning them into big chunk plays due to his speed and vision (punt return skills coming into play again). He doesn’t run good routes, often seems invisible on offense and then boom he has a big play. A team taking him will need a plan of how to get him the ball as he needs touches created for him (screens, reverses, etc.) as he isn’t a pure wideout who can consistently win outside via routes. I’d leave him outside, instead of moving him into the slot, as you want to take advantage of his speed and he should be a decent deep threat but I just wonder if Kirk is in for a fall as a 5’10 wideout who ran a high 4.4 40 and isn’t a good route runner. All the other “elite” WR prospects beat him easily in at least two categories (Ridley-size/routes, Moore-size/speed, Sutton-size/strength). I’d go to bat for Kirk in the early 2nd due to his elite character and elite special teams value but I wouldn’t go earlier on that for him as he has some red flags as a receiver and might be little more than a good #2 with deep speed ala Paul Richardson or Kenny Stills, albeit with rare punt return skills. Early 2nd as my #4 WR 4/16/18.

5. Anthony Miller Memphis 5’11 ⅛ 201 Sr. He only did the bench (22 reps-elite) at the Combine. He didn’t play in 2014 as a freshman, had a good year in 2015 (47 694 5 TD), a monster year in 2016 (95 1,434 14 TD), and an exact replica in 2017 (96 1,462 18 TD). His production and consistency the past two years is elite. His coach calls him the hardest working player he’s ever coached so you know he has elite character and work ethic. He’s my pick for the best hands in this draft as he is consistent but also makes some of the most amazing catches I’ve ever seen. His one handed catch on a shallow cross vs. UConn rates right up there as the best ever as does his one handed catch behind his head vs. South Florida (I call it his Odell Beckham impression). He is a short guy but he’s thick and very quick so I’d leave him outside but many teams likely will consider him a slot receiver which could cost him on draft day. He and his QB had great chemistry and I suspect it will continue in the pros as he just has an incredible catch radius and seems like a high floor prospect who at worst will be a good starting slot WR due to his high football IQ, good routes, talents after the catch, and his elite hands. His issues are obvious though as he doesn’t look that fast and isn’t that tall, again making slot a possibility. He looks 4.50 to me and, at his size, he might struggle to gain separation in the pros. Whether outside or in the slot though he’ll be a red zone threat with his elite hands and great ball skills so even if you put him in the slot you could value him higher than your standard slot receiver. He also excels at the back shoulder catch so it’s another way he could translate as both an outside receiver and as a red zone threat despite his size. I get how some scouts will downgrade him but his production was elite, his film is incredible, his hands are elite, his work ethic is elite, and at some point you say who cares about his 40 time he’ll be a good pro. I’d love to see him in NE with Brady as he’d light the NFL on fire. He had great games this year vs. Houston, UCLA, and UCF all of which have NFL talent on their D so I don’t see any validity to scouts viewing his lower level of competition as a red flag. I don’t like his lack of height but the only red flags I really worry about with him is his lack of speed and his advanced age (turns 24 during his rookie season). Both make me lower his grade a bit but I’m still firmly in the Miller bandwagon as his film was some of the most fun I graded all year and he just projects easily as a slot receiving playmaker who maybe has enough size, quickness, and hands to stay outside. Mid 2nd round as my #5 WR who I love as a prospect and just wish he was a little younger, taller, or faster so I could give him the 1st round grade he probably deserves 4/15/18.

6. Dante Pettis Washington 6’0 ½ 186 Sr. He didn’t work out at the Combine. He was a bit player in 2014 (17 259 1 TD), had a mediocre year in 2015 (30 414 1 TD), a very good year in 2016 (53 822 15 TD), and a down year in 2017 (63 761 7 TD). He’s the best punt returner in this draft class with at least 1 punt return TD all four of his years (9 total-most for a career in NCAA history). He’s actually one of the best punt returners I’ve ever graded and immediately makes me think of comps to Devin Hester and Ted Ginn as guys known more for their special teams work than their DB or WR work. Also he’s a great deep threat with 22 receiving TDs and 6 punt return TDs the past two years, showing rare production in both categories. As a punt returner his vision is elite and his elusiveness is impressive. He’s fast but, like Devin Hester, it isn’t about pure speed as there are faster guys than him but no one returns punts like he does. He set the NCAA record for career punt returns and a lot of people are non-plussed by the accomplishment but it’s somewhat of a decent indicator of future NFL success as when he broke the Pac-12 career punt return record it was held by DeSean Jackson and when he broke the NCAA punt return record it was held by Wes Welker. Not bad company to be in. As a receiver he’s a mixed bag as he has a slight frame and I sometimes wonder if his mediocre production in college was due to the fact that he wore down towards the end of the season. Each of the past two years his final two games were very poor statistically in comparison to the previous 11-12 games. It’s a small sample size but just watching him try and block guys in the run game worries me as he’s very weak. Yet he’s an incredible route runner with a smoothness in and out of breaks that many professional NFL wideouts can’t match. He sinks his hips, gains clear separation, and plucks the ball away from his body. Watching certain plays makes you wonder why he never had a 1,000 yard season as he looks polished and explosive. Due to his great route running he might be outside but slot receiver makes a lot of sense as well. If kept outside he’d be a #2 WR used primarily as a deep threat ala Ted Ginn. It makes some sense but Ginn has that extra gear Pettis doesn’t and Pettis is too small to win a lot of jump balls and has good hands but not terribly strong hands so he doesn’t project as a guy that will make tough catches in traffic. Overall I love Pettis as a punt returner but am unsure on him as a wide receiver as he’s a very mixed bag. He’s an elite route runner with very good speed (seems high 4.3, low 4.4 to me on film) who has a slight frame, might be injury prone as a full time wideout, is weak in a lot of ways (as a run blocker, with his hands on contested balls, in his routes-can be pressed by corners), and has inconsistent production. He had a great rapport with his QB (Browning) and seems to really understand the game. As such I think he’ll end up somewhat like Christian Kirk will be, though doing it in a very different way as a receiver, as he’ll be an elite punt returner who is a #2 WR tweener outside receiver/slot receiver with very good speed who should complement a #1 WR very well. He has some bust potential due to his lack of strength, which influences a lot of areas of his game, but I think his routes, hands, elusiveness, and high football IQ should result in him being a solid starter. Mid 2nd as my #6 WR 4/18/18.

7. Calvin Ridley Alabama 6’0 ½ 189 Jr. He ran a 4.43 40-good, 15 reps-average, ‘31 vertical-terrible, 9’2 broad jump-terrible, 4.41 shuttle-terrible, 6.88 3 cone-above average. His Combine was pretty poor as he was terrible in 3 of 6 measurements and only very good in 1 (40). I’ve heard people complain that it’s cherry picking but his vertical and shuttle measurements are very poor, especially for a smaller wideout expected to be more athletic than bigger guys. For comparison sake, Courtland Sutton had a 4.11 shuttle (vs. Ridley’s 4.41) and a great 6.57 3 cone (vs. Ridley’s 6.88). Sutton is 6’3 ⅜ 218 with long arms and great strength on film so yeah Ridley’s Combine was very poor for the supposed best receiver in the class. He burst onto the scene as a highly rated HS prospect and didn’t disappoint with a great season in 2015 (89 1,045 7 TD). It surprisingly was his best year as in 2016 he had a down year (72 769 7 TD) and a better but still inferior year in 2017 (63 967 5 TD). Ridley is a very polarizing prospect, which to me immediately removes him from elite prospect contention as the best prospects are almost always universally agreed upon, as his defenders point to his highly polished game with great routes, good quickness, and great hands and see a future #1 WR. His critics point to a terrible Combine, plateaued production in college, is a much older prospect (he turns 24 during his rookie year!), and the fact that he doesn’t have the size/speed you need to be a dominant #1 WR at the next level. I see both sides as on film he’s fast but he’s also small and I think he’ll struggle against top CBs as he just doesn’t have the elite athleticism to overcome the length and strength of Jalen Ramsey or the instincts and ball skills of Marcus Peters. He’s compared most often to Amari Cooper due to his Alabama connections and route running but Cooper was 211 lbs AND had a faster 40 time, shuttle time, and 3 cone than Ridley with his shuttle time being much faster. Ridley actually reminds me more of Marqise Lee as they are closer in weight (192 for Lee vs. Ridley’s 189) and athleticism (Lee had a better shuttle, Ridley a better 40). Lee has had an inconsistent career and at times has played slot and at times on the outside. Ridley’s a better route runner so he might stick outside better but both have just the look of a slot receiver frame wise and that really hurts Ridley’s case for being a 1st round wideout, let alone the #1 in the class. He struggled down the stretch last year with 3 straight poor games vs. Auburn, Clemson, and Georgia (no surprise with them all having NFL talent on D) and to me looks like a future high end #2 WR with only an outside chance at the Pro Bowl. He should be an 80 900 5 TD type guy and that has value but sign me up for Moore over Ridley any day of the week as to me it isn’t even close. I also worry that Ridley will be injury prone as he’s very weak and could be beat up by bigger CBs. Ridley’s a highly polished, lower upside prospect who wouldn’t be so polarizing if he had played anywhere but Alabama but those guys are just adored by certain scouts/teams (cough: Ravens). Guys like him have a low bust rate (high floor) but rarely become stars (low ceiling) so he’s not a 1st rounder on my board. Mid 2nd as my #7 WR who is one of the more overrated prospects in this draft but projects to being a good #2 WR who excels as a route runner but has a very poor size/speed ratio and likely will get shut down by top CBs 4/18/19.

8. Michael Gallup Colorado State Ranked as the #1 WR by PFF in 2017, he excelled on the outside for Colorado State showing a good combination of speed, strength and route running skills. His 20 missed tackles last year (ranked 9th) show his run after the catch talents and has some comparing him to Dez Bryant. I see the stylistic similarities but Dez is 6’3 220 and Michael is 6’1 200. You’re not going to be successful in the NFL if you’re only 200 lbs and you rely on strength. Watching the 2017 Alabama game I had the same thought as in that game he didn’t look tall, strong or fast. He’s a combo guy to me as he beats you in a variety of ways but guys without one top notch trait don’t go in the 1st round and Gallup doesn’t have one elite trait. He has a #2 WR type feel to him with Cooper Kupp/Robert Woods being a best case scenario as #2 wideouts with abnormally high TD volume due to their strength and impressive hands and Pharoh Cooper/Laquon Treadwell being a worst case scenario as guys that busted in the NFL due to a lack of athleticism despite good strength and physicality. I do like Gallup’s route running and agility though so I think he projects as a #2 WR that works out and consider Robert Woods to be his best comparison. Gallup has very strong hands, good routes and okay quickness. I wish he were faster as he is going to struggle beating a CB deep and that could end up having some teams to consider moving him into the slot ala Jarvis Landry who is a decent comp to him as well. In the end I think Gallup will stick as a very good #2 WR but I don’t see #1 in him and could see him move inside permanently to the slot or become a bust as the speed, quickness and suddenness are all mediocre. A physical and savvy career #2 WR who could excel in the red zone he ends up as a mid 2nd rounder as my #8 WR 1/28/18.

9. Equanimeous St. Brown Notre Dame 6’4 ¾ 214 Sr. He ran a 4.48 40 and had 20 reps but did no other drills. He barely played in 2015 (1 catch for 8 yds), had a great season in 2016 (58 961 9 TD), and a down year in 2017 (33 515 4 TD). Being a one year wonder is bad enough but having it not be your last year in college is even worse. He’s a huge WR so it must be put into context but he’s very slow twitch on film so I’m confused by his sub 4.5 40. Looking more closely it’s because he’s long legged as he takes awhile to get going but on his long TD runs you see his good long speed. I am not a fan of long legged wideouts as the position calls for quickness and short area burst. That being said he has good long speed and at times flashes star talent. When he gets going his size/speed ratio is impressive and he looks like he might be able to get separation as an outside receiver. That will be the key as he has great height and good weight to go along with good hands and a knack for winning the jump ball so if he can consistently separate with speed on the outside then you have a Pro Bowl player. His film is inconsistent though as one game he looks fast and shows some quickness and in other games he looks like a plodder. It’s important to realize that his great season was with crappy DeShone Kizer at QB and his poor season was with mediocre Brandon Winbush so it’s not likely he had good QB during his time there yet he was still a productive player. St. Brown will be an interesting guy to watch over the next few years as he’s one of the bigger boom/bust type prospects in this draft as he has some Pro Bowl traits and it wouldn’t shock me at all if he ended up as a 6’5 225 lb WR who had 70 900 10 TD type seasons. It took me awhile to get my head around on St. Brown but there’s just too much talent to write him off due to inconsistent tape and a down year production wise. His physical tools are rare and, while he is a long strider, he has some tape of decent quickness and mediocre routes. That’s all he’d need to be a success in the NFL with his 1st round size/speed ratio so I’m in on him as a late 2nd rounder as my #9 WR who has a very high ceiling but a very low floor as one of the bigger boom/bust prospects in this draft 4/18/18.

10. Korey Robertson Southern Miss 6’0 ⅝ 212 Jr. Redshirted in 2014 so he’s 4 years out of HS despite being a junior. He turns 23 before training camp so he’s an older prospect. He ran a 4.56 40, 13 reps, ‘34 vertical, and 10’3 broad. He barely played in 2015 (14 200 3 TD), made some plays in 2016 (37 437 3 TD), and had a huge year in 2017 (76 1,106 12 TD). He’s a one year wonder who has almost a RB like build with a thicker lower body. He has sneaky quickness and it allows him to excel in YAC as he barely squirts between defenders or makes a subtle move to avoid a tackle. He’s thick so it takes a square hit to bring him down and that quickness makes him very difficult to tackle. I wish he was a little taller as it’d even out his weight and make me more interested in him as I see the game he wants to play in the NFL as a big guy with surprising quickness but I just don’t know if he has the height to do it. He reminds me a little of a poor man’s Allen Robinson but Allen was 6’2 220 and was a better overall athlete coming out of college. He’s a tough read for me but I really like some of his film and think he’s a sleeper with his size, strength, and quickness likely making him a good YAC guy in the pros too. He also has enough film of him beating guys deep or bursting past defenders after the catch that I think his 4.56 40 maybe is selling him short. He projects as a #2 WR possession type who will be a red zone threat and will surprise with his sneaky athleticism in the open field. He has major bust potential as a one year wonder, average Combine measurables, and small school status but I was pleasantly surprised by his film. He’s a playmaker and reminds me of a slower Allen Robinson or a little less physical Anquan Boldin as thick guys that win with strength most of the time but have just enough athleticism to surprise defenders. Early 3rd round as my #10 WR who I think is a sleeper and could very well become one of the better wideouts from this class in 2-3 years 4/18/18.

11. Deontay Burnett USC 5/11 ⅝ 186 Jr. He didn’t work out at the Combine. He barely played in 2015 (10 161 0 TD), had an okay year in 2016 as the #2 behind Juju Smith-Schuster (56 622 7 TD), and a great year in 2017 (86 1,114 9 TD). I have a love/hate relationship with Burnett due to my man crush on Sam Darnold as Burnett has some great tape where he shows good quickness, Gumby like hips which allow him to maneuver around defenders with ease, and some highlight reel catches and then he drops the easiest ball on a wide open throw which makes you hate him. A perfect example of this is the first play of the game vs. Ohio State when he beats man coverage, extends his arms for a beautiful fingertips catch on a slant, and then coughs up the ball when he’s hit resulting in a turnover in their own red zone. One good thing going for him is he’s easily projectable as he fits in perfectly as a slot receiver both body and style of play wise. He was Darnold’s security blanket this year which should be a good sign but Darnold was so much better when he relied on Juju as his go to guy that you can’t help but think this is partially a red flag. Juju was consistent and Darnold had great stats in 2016, Burnett was inconsistent and Darnold had worse stats in 2017. I think there is a parallel and teams drafting Burnett will have to live with his inconsistent play as I expect it to continue. He has great body control and his tape reminds me a bit of Brandon Lloyd of the Broncos/49ers years ago. Some of his biggest plays came on Darnold scramble drills which shows his chemistry with Darnold but also makes me downgrade Burnett a bit as some of his stats clearly came from Darnold’s greatness. He’s a thin kid and that shouldn’t hurt him in the slot too much but he can be muscled out of routes at times. He’s quicker than fast but he overall has NFL athleticism and gets separation. I wouldn’t expect him to be a deep threat but occasionally he did beat guys deep at USC so it might be used here and there in the pros. Overall though I like him as he has inconsistently very good hands, good quickness, decent speed, elite body control, and he seems to understand how to get open and zone coverages. He should be an early starter for an NFL team and projects as an average to above average slot receiver. Mid 3rd round as my #11 WR 4/13/18.

12. Deon Cain Clemson 6’1 ⅞ 202 Jr. He ran a 4.43 40, 11 reps, ‘33 ½ vertical, 9’7 broad, 4.37 shuttle, and 6.71 3 cone with everything being below average to bad except his 40 which was average and his 3 cone which was elite. He had a great year as a true freshman for the national championship team in 2015 (34 582 5 TD), improved as a Soph (38 724 9 TD), and had similar numbers last year despite the decline in QB play (58 734 6 TD). Under Watson he was a deep threat guy and became more of a possession receiver in 2017 with the different QB play. Cain is another guy who I’ve known for awhile and always expected him to take that next step to being dominant. In the end he plateaued as a good but not great college player and his draft status might suffer as a result of the lack of growth the past few years and his mediocre Combine. He’s a combo guy and those guys usually make good but not great #2 wideouts in the NFL as he has enough speed to beat a defense deep sometimes but isn’t a 4.3 burner type and has enough size and hands to make the contested catch but isn’t a red zone phenom type. He will work best as a complementary player to an upper echelon #1 wideout and shows enough talent to be able to be productive against lesser CBs and no specific scheming against him. At basically 6’2 he has the size to play outside and likely will but he has underrated quickness and shows some proclivity for making yards after catch so the slot could be an option if a team wanted him to be versatile and play all WR positions. His play vs. Alabama the past two years in the BCS playoff games was always very good and should help his stock as he looked athletic against them and was productive (15 rec for 169 yards COMBINED). One negative of his is that he doesn’t have great hands as he drops the easy one at times and body catches a lot of balls. It really annoys me but I can’t drop him too far as he projects to be a good, cheap #2 WR for someone and makes sense as a mid 3rd rounder as my #12 WR despite his penchant for dropping easy passes 4/13/18.

13. Simmie Cobbs Indiana 6’3 ⅛ 220 Jr. He ran a 4.64 40, 11 reps, ‘30 vertical, 9’5 broad, 4.32 shuttle, 6.70 3 cone. He barely played in 2015 (7 114 0 TD), had a great year in 2016 (60 1,035 4 TD), and a solid but down year in 2017 (72 841 8 TD). He went from a deep threat in 2016 (17.3 avg) to a possession receiver in 2017 (11.7 avg). He’s a one dimensional power wideout who will solely be a possession receiver but might have some success at it as he’s tall (6’3), thick (220), has good hands, good body control, and noticeable strength. He pushed off a lot in college and got away with it so he might have some offensive pass interference go against him early in his career as he adjusts to the tighter officiating. His best game last year was vs. Ohio State where he consistently beat all their talented DBs all game long (11 149 1 TD). That includes a nice fade TD vs. Denzel Ward. I like him as a red zone threat and possession receiver but he’s very one dimensional as he plays like his 4.64 40 would suggest and he won’t separate in the NFL. Due to that his ceiling is very limited but he’ll play well in his niche if put on a team with a QB that throws a good fade and/or back shoulder throw. Late 3rd as my #13 WR 4/16/18.

14. DJ Chark LSU 6’2 ⅞ 199 Sr. He ran a 4.34 40-elite, 16 reps, ‘40 vertical-elite, and 10’9 broad-elite. He didn’t play in 2014 as a freshman and had 0 receptions but 2 carries as a WR in 2015? He had an okay season in 2016 (26 466 3 TD) and then a good season in 2017 (40 874 3 TD). There are few players I’ve ever graded who are 6’3 and run a sub 4.4 40 with a ‘40 vertical to boot so his measurables immediately make you take notice. His production was terrible until his final year in college though and he couldn’t even get on the field his first two seasons so he has some huge red flags to work through. He average 18 and 22 yards per reception his past two seasons and he shows no talent as a route runner and seems to lack quickness so he’s essentially an Ashley Lelie type as a tall guy with great speed who does little else but 9 routes. It’s very one dimensional but it can be helpful for an offense to have those guys as it stretches a field and even when they are just essentially running clear out routes they have some indirect impact. I would only want Chark on a run oriented team that wants teams to fear the deep pass but overall is a low volume passing team as Chark is so one dimensional that I just doubt he’s a starter. That being said he has legit 4.34 speed as there is a lot of film of him getting behind a D and despite his mediocre hands and nonexistent route tree that one skill is valuable so who knows maybe in the right scheme he’s a solid complementary #2 WR. Late 3rd round as my #14 WR who is very one dimensional as a deep threat but who has a rare height/speed blend and makes sense as a situational deep threat or #2 WR in a run heavy offense 4/14/18.

15. James Washington Oklahoma State 5’11 213 Jr. He ran a 4.54 40, 14 reps, ‘34 ½ vertical, 10’0 broad, 4.32 shuttle, and 7.11 3 cone with his Combine overall being poor, especially his 40. He had three straight 1,000 yard seasons and was the Biletnikoff award winner in 2017 (74 1,549 13 TD). His production was very sporadic as he had 6 games with less than 50 yards receiving and 5 games with over 100 yards, 3 with 169 yards or more. Ole Miss, Texas, and West Virginia shut him down with TCU arguably doing it too as he had great stats but mainly on one great play with him being invisible the rest of the day during a home blowout where your QB threw 41 times. Ranked as the #7 WR by PFF in 2017 despite just 7 missed tackles. He’s an easy player to categorize but a difficult player to scout as he was incredible on vertical routes (go and post) and terrible on everything else. Partially this can be attributed to their run and gun type offense but James has serious bust potential due to his flawed game. He has a RB body to him and is definitely faster than quick with his route tree being a major work in progress. One thing working for him is that he has good hands, catches the ball away from his body, and has film catching the low inaccurate ball. That being said the guy doesn’t run great routes, isn’t very elusive after the catch, and can be shutdown by a good corner with speed and technique. He projects as a #2 or #3 WR who can blow the top off a defense but will never be a #1 WR and has major route tree limitations a la a Terrance Williams/Breshad Perriman types. He also has some serious bust potential as his production was so hit or miss despite their offense being so prolific and his QB being one of the best in the nation. How did he only have 1 catch against Ole Miss in his career finale? I’m not a fan of his and think his stats were vastly inflated by Big 12 defenses, the spread offense he came from, and the fact that he had an NFL caliber QB throwing to him his entire career. Late 3rd round as my #15 WR who I think is vastly overrated and could be a bust 4/13/18.

16. Dylan Cantrell Texas Tech 6’2 ⅞ 226 Sr. He ran a 4.59 40, 18 reps, ‘38 ½ vertical-elite, 10’10 broad-elite, 4.03 shuttle, and 6.56 3 cone-elite. His explosion and quickness measurables were great with his 3 cone being incredible for his weight. He barely played in 2013 (9 70 1 TD), was a bit player in 2014 (20 312 2 TD), missed all of 2015 due to an injury (back issues), and then had two solid but hardly amazing years in 2016 (57 669 8 TD) and 2017 (71 816 7 TD). It’s a red flag that he didn’t have a 1,000 yard season despite playing 5 years at one of the most prolific offenses in college football. He turns 24 before training camp so he’s a much older prospect. He’s a big bodied WR with incredible hands so he fits the style of an outside possession receiver who will work the middle of the field on crosses and work the outside on fades and back shoulder throws. He didn’t get separation in college so he won’t in the NFL but it might not matter as his size, body control, and hands are all very good to elite so I’m intrigued with him as a #3-4 WR in that specific role. Also his long speed is very poor but he has really good quickness, with his 3 cone being absolute incredible for 226 lbs. He’s a tough evaluation as some parts of his game make me think he could be a #2 WR and other parts make him look like he doesn’t belong in the NFL. I doubt he ever becomes a quality starting wideout but I think he’ll find a niche and there’s a longshot chance he does become an Eric Decker type #2 possession receiver with his big frame, great hands, and underrated quickness. Early 4th round as my #16 WR 4/13/18.

17. Jmon Moore Missouri 6’2 ⅝ 207 Sr. He ran a 4.60 40, 21 reps, ‘38 vertical, 10’0 broad, 4.04 shuttle, and 6.56 3 cone with the 3 cone being elite. He barely played in 2014 (2 33 0 TD), was a bit player in 2015 (29 350 3 TD), had a great year in 2016 (62 1,012 8 TD), and almost the exact same season in 2017 (65 1,082 10 TD). Moore is a tough evaluation as he’s not that big and gets little separation (his 4.60 40 did not surprise me) yet he is athletic in other ways as he has good short area burst, is quick for his size, has underrated strength, and has great body control so he might make it as a possession receiver who excels at back shoulders, fades, slants, shallow crosses, etc. Most of the time those one dimensional types are bigger than Moore though so I could see him drop on draft day as his size/speed ratio is very poor. His stats also are inflated as he had 15 361 3 TDs last year just against Southern Missouri State and Idaho. He was shut down vs. Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee so his SEC stats were underwhelming. I like his body as he’s long and lean with good muscularity and I like his routes as he is quick in and out of his breaks. He also had questionable QB play and was in a run oriented scheme where he was ignored some games. I can’t get a great handle on him as sometimes he looks like a possible #2 WR and faster than his 4.60 time suggests and other times he looks like a future bust who can’t separate and lacks the size to play the strength/length game in the NFL. I’d roll the dice with him in the mid rounds due to his NFL frame and good routes but his poor size/speed might result in him being a bust. Mid 4th as my #17 WR 4/18/18.

18. Auden Tate FSU 6’4 ⅞ 228 Jr. He ran a 4.68 40, ‘31 vertical, and 9’4 broad jump. He was a 4 star recruit from HS, played in 2015 but had 0 catches, had a mediocre season in 2016 (25 409 6 TD), and then another mediocre year in 2017 (40 548 10 TD) so it’s shocking he left school early. His Combine looked better than his measurables indicate as watching him run routes I was impressed with his burst and then saw his 4.68 40 and wondered what happened. He’s another, like Allen Lazard, who could easily be bulked up 15 lbs to H-back. If kept at WR he’ll be a huge possession receiver who will excel in the red zone but struggle between the 20’s. He’s 6’5 and has long arms (‘33 ¾) and big hands that catch everything thrown his way so he projects to be a guy to be feared in the red zone but probably won’t do a whole lot otherwise. A good example is the Alabama season opener as he only had 2 catches and was invisible much of the game but had a great TD catch on a well contested fade route where he just outmuscled the defender for it. That’ll be his role at the next level and he makes sense as a #3 or #4 situational wideout. One thing to not discount is that the FSU offense was terrible last year with their QB issues and the leading receiver for the team only beat him by 60 yards (tied him in receptions too) so it’s not like he was outshined by teammates. Tate did the best he could in a tough situation, was a top recruit out of HS, and projects as a limited but effective in their role wideout. Despite his poor 40, I like his film more than Ateman and his Combine drills more than Lazard so he passes then despite having the worst stats of the three, by far. His film is nuanced as he knows how to play with his frame and really excelled at highpointing balls in the red zone. I fully expect him to be effective in that role in the pros, I just wonder if he’ll do anything else other than catch TDs. Mid 4th as my #18 WR 4/19/18.

19. DaeSean Hamilton Penn State 6’0 ⅝ 203 Sr. He didn’t run the 40, had a ‘34 ½ vertical, 9’10 broad, 4.15 shuttle, and 6.84 3 cone. He had two great years at Penn State but ironically they were as a freshman in 2014 (82 899 2 TD) and as a senior in 2017 (53 857 9 TD) with two mediocre seasons in the middle (34-45 506-580 1-6 TD each year). Guys like him are difficult to grade as he was the team’s #4 option on offense behind Barkley, Gesicki, and Sorley’s running so he never got much attention from a defense and it can give a guy inflated stats. That being said his film is good as he looked athletic on film and kept a defense honest. I like how 3 of his 4 best games last year were against 3 of their 4 ranked opponents with only Ohio State shutting him down. He has a lot of film of him winning jump balls on deep routes but I worry about that skill a bit as he’s a body catcher and at 6’0, he won’t be winning jump balls by body catching it. His body movement/agility is impressive for a guy his size as he’s a legit outside wideout but has some slot quickness on film so teams that like bigger slot receivers or want a versatile #4 WR will be interested in him. He played primarily last year in the slot but has some outside WR film with him being used to go deep when put there, slot used primarily for crossing routes or deep ins which then turned into crossing routes or scramble drills with Sorley. While he’s quick he’s not fast and it worries me that he’s one of those combo wide receivers who isn’t good enough at any specific thing to make it in the NFL as he has only average height/weight/speed/hands with quickness for his size being arguably his best attribute but even that’s only above average. To me he won’t ever be a starter in the NFL but I like him in the mid rounds as a #3-5 WR and again his versatility to play outside or in the slot might be his best selling point. Mid 4th round as my #19 WR 4/16/18.

20. Allen Lazard Iowa State 6’4 ⅝ 227 Sr. He ran a 4.55 40, 17 reps, ‘38 vertical, and 10’2 broad jump. He’s so big height/weight wise that I wouldn’t be surprised if some teams view him as a TE not a WR as he’d only need to add 10-15 lbs to be in H-back territory. Watching his Combine I was very unimpressed as he was robotic and a big time plodder. Honestly his drills made me think he has no chance at WR and must move to TE but we’ll see. He had a good season in 2014 (45 593 3 TD) and then three straight similarly very good seasons in 2015-2017 (56-71 807-1,018 6-10 TDs). Lazard is interesting as he’s not quick twitch and is a clear plodder out there but he’s gigantic, has great strength, and has decent routes and very good hands so he could find a niche as a possession receiver/goal line guy. I like his tape a lot more than Marcell Ateman and other big wideouts in this class due to his strength as he’s almost a TE in weight. Unfortunately his Combine was terrible, less so measurables than just watching him run routes and results in him getting a similar grade to Ateman despite superior tape. He won’t get much separation so a team will need a plan of how to get him the ball but whether they bulk him up to be a H-back or leave him as a possession receiver and throw back shoulders, fades, and crosses to him predominantly I think he’ll make it as a low end, niche starter. Late 4th as my #20 WR 4/17/18.

21. Marcell Ateman Oklahoma State 6’4 ½ 216 Jr. He ran a 4.62 40-terrible, 13 reps, ‘34 vertical, 10’1 broad, 4.25 shuttle, and 7.07 3 cone. He was a backup WR in 2013-2014 (20-22 receptions, 268-276 yards, 0 TD each year), had a good year in 2015 (45 766 5 TD), missed all of 2016 with an injury, and then had a great year in 2017 (59 1,156 8 TD). His speed isn’t good, both at the Combine and on film, but it is mitigated by his elite height as he’s a possession receiver who will try and make his mark in the red zone. While he lacks speed he has good agility and body control for his size so he might find a niche but he’ll turn 24 early in his rookie season so there are a lot of red flags to him that make me wonder if he’s a future bust. A lot will depend on where he goes as Rudolph was very good at throwing him 50/50 balls which he excelled at. He didn’t create much separation in college so he’ll likely almost never create it in the NFL so if his team’s QB won’t throw him 50/50 balls then he’ll bust for sure. He has a great feel for where he is on the sidelines and has some highlight reel catches dragging his feet or tiptoeing down the line for big plays. His hands are very good, he has elite height, he’s physical, and he has good agility and body control so I’m intrigued by his package as a possession receiver, red zone threat but his speed is pretty poor and his quickness is only a little better so he’s likely a bust. Late 4th round as my #21 WR who likely lacks the speed/quickness to make it in the NFL but shows rare talent as a red zone threat due to his elite height and very good hands so he might be a situational WR or #3-4 WR for a team seeking this specific skill set 4/13/18.

22. Keke Coutee Texas Tech 5’9 ¾ 181 Jr. He ran a 4.43 40, 14 reps, ‘34 ½ vertical, 9’5 broad, 4.15 shuttle, and 6.93 3 cone. He barely played in 2015 (11 105), a good year in 2016 (55 890 7 TD), and then a great year in 2017 (93 1,429 10 TD) before leaving school early for the draft. He’s a small kid with very good speed who was a big play as a deep threat wideout and as a kick returner (31.5 avg though only used sporadically). He’s very small so slot receiver is his only option and he’s tightly built without great quickness or lateral agility so I’m unsure if he’s really that great of a fit in that spot so a team drafting him will need to have a plan of how to use him. As a deep threat he’s legit though as he has effortless speed and actually looks faster than his good 4.43 40 time suggests as 4.35 seems more like his playing speed. He flies past people and had great production last year so there are some interesting aspects of his game but the red flags are numerous and very obvious. He comes from a gimmicky Tech system, is tightly built, is sub 5’10 and barely 180 lbs, doesn’t have great hands, played against poor defenses in the Big 12, and was shut down vs. the best defense he played all year in TCU (2 catches for only 10 yards while his offense scored only 3 points!). It’s interesting as when you see his measurables you expect a small guy with great quickness but he’s short and kind of stocky with a RB build so he’s not that quick but has decent yards after catch and bounces off tacklers fairly frequently due to his surprising strength and bulky build. He has a little Tyreek Hill to his game which intrigues me but I almost don’t want to make that comparison as Hill is so much quicker and more agile than Coutee is. Keke is just very tightly built and he’s more scat back on film to me than slot receiver. In the modern NFL those positions are somewhat interchangeable, think Alvin Kamara or Reggie Bush, but I just am not impressed with his routes, hands, or body control so I wonder just how much he can do for a team other than a 9 route or dump offs like a scat back. Maybe that’s enough for a team but it leaves me wanting more. I like him as a mid round guy due to his pure speed and with the idea that he’d be a swiss army knife guy for a team as a KR, slot receiver, scat back, and deep threat off the bench. I don’t see him being a full time starter as a slot receiver but some might disagree. Early 5th round as my #22 WR who has elite speed but is more RB than WR and who has a high ceiling due to that speed but who is most likely a bust as a tweener slot receiver/scat back 4/15/18.

23. Trey Quinn SMU 5’11 ⅜ 203 Jr. He ran a 4.55 40, 17 reps, ‘33 ½ vertical, 9’8 broad, 4.19 shuttle, and 6.91 3 cone. He started his career at LSU but barely played in 2014 (17 193 0 TD) and 2015 (5 83 0 TD), missed all of 2016 due to transferring, and then had a huge year in 2017 (114 1,236 13 TD). He’s a slot receiver through and through who has the nickname “Baby Beckham.” He has good quickness, runs very crisp routes, and catches the ball away from his frame so he actually deserves the classic white receiver breakdown of being a polished player with sneaky athleticism/lunch pail guy, etc. He has a thick frame and will do good work in the middle of the field as he’s too quick for guys in there and should be able to handle the punishment. He’s in the run for best route runner in this draft class as he’s like a veteran with how patient he is with his double moves being pretty impressive how late in a route he switches it up. You worry about the fact that he couldn’t even get on the field at LSU but they’ve been such an ordeal offensively these past 5 years I’m not putting too much weight into it. He has sneaky athleticism collegiately but that probably means he’ll look slow in the NFL so I expect him to be a below average to average slot receiver who survives due to his crisp routes and great hands but is never more than a #4 or #5 WR for a team. He needs to go to a team that has a good QB as some of his routes are very nuanced and he is great at the back shoulder catch so a good QB could “throw him open” and he’d do well in that situation. He should find his niche in the NFL due to his high polish but he has a very low ceiling due to his mediocre athleticism. 5th round as my #23 WR.

24. TreQuan Smith Central Florida 6’1 ¾ 203 Jr. He ran a 4.49 40, 12 reps, ‘37 ½ vertical, 10’10 broad, 4.50 shuttle-terrible, and 6.97 3 cone. He had a very good freshman year in 2015 (52 724 4 TD), a similar year in 2016 (57 853 5 TD), and a great year in 2017 (59 1,171 13 TD). He’s a future possession receiver as he is slow twitch and doesn’t seem to have any route concepts. UCF ran him on a lot of crosses and zone beater routes with much of his film looking playground esque. He’s a strong guy with a little quickness which makes him decent after the catch but overall his film isn’t very good. He does excel at making the contested catch and could be a red zone threat as UCF threw it into coverage for him a lot and he regularly made the play. That’s his one NFL trait as he just doesn’t look fast enough to separate on the outside so I see a lot of bust potential in him but he could work out put with a QB that trusts him on 50/50 balls as he has a knack for it. Overall I prefer my possession receivers who can’t separate to be taller and heavier so I’m not terrible interested in him but a team seeking a tough possession receiver with great hands and ball skills might take a chance on him in the middle rounds. 5th round as my #24 WR 4/19/18.

25. Daurice Fountain Northern Iowa 6’1 210 Sr. He is a small school kid who wasn’t invited to the Scouting Combine and only made the East-West Shrine game but played well there. He was mediocre until his senior year (huge red flag coming from such a small school) where he was 1st Team All-Conference. Watching his film I was unimpressed as he doesn’t run good routes, has poor football IQ, and didn’t dominate. He has an NFL body and makes sense as a late round or undrafted developmental #5 WR with special teams duties but otherwise I’m not interested. Free Agent as my #25 WR 4/16/18.

 

 

 

 

2018 CB Rankings

Denzel Ward

  1. Denzel Ward Ohio State 5’10 ⅞ 183 Jr. He ran a 4.32 40-elite, 16 reps, ‘39 vertical-elite, and 11’4 broad jump-elite. Like almost all players at Ohio State nowadays he barely played as a true freshman (7 tackles), had a good year as the #3 CB in 2016 (23 tackles, 9 PBU), and then had a great year in 2017 (37 tackles, 15 PBU, 2 INT) earning 1st Team All-American honors. He has some red flags here as he was only a starter one year, though his teammates being Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley (two 1st rounders and the DROY last year) makes it much better, and he only has 2 career INT. He has 2 special teams blocks in 2017 so he might add value to a team that way. He also is an extremely small CB for being a top player as I can’t remember the last sub 190 lb CB that went in the 1st round (Vernon Hargreaves was my first thought but he was 5’10 204). To be short, skinny, and only a one year starter makes you wonder why he’s a top player….and then you put on the tape. No one in this draft class, or in recent memory, sticks in a wide receiver’s hip pocket as easily as Ward does. He flat out shadows his man and effortlessly floats with the wideout. His 4.32 40 is legit on film as he has almost Deion like playing speed. He’s also a very smart player as he knows he can’t be beat deep so he really works on fighting the underneath stuff with his confidence that he can catch up to any ball being the key to his overall success. I can’t remember ever scouting a player that was so dominant against short routes (shallow crosses, slants, etc.). He just never gets beat deep and because of that, along with his incredible quickness and hips, he can overplay everything. Maybe he’ll have to adjust in the NFL but I don’t know as he really just floats with guys and it seems effortless for him to keep up with them. His tape is some of the most dominant I’ve ever graded for a CB prospect. He doesn’t hold, he has great technique, he seems to recognize routes, he has a great burst when the ball is in the air, he doesn’t give up easy passes, he doesn’t get beat deep, and he does all of this consistently. I can’t find bad tape of him and I don’t see anyone beating him consistently. His one weakness on paper (lack of size) is also the only way he gets beat as he has some film (Indiana game vs. Simmie Cobbs as an example) where he’s in perfect position but the WR wins due to height/strength. It will occur in the NFL and might make him a Pro Bowl CB but will need to be matched up as he’ll struggle against a Mike Evans or AJ Green type who excel at boxing DBs out. PFF had QBs complete only 35% of their passes against him last year. If he was 2 inches taller and 15 lbs heavier he’d be a Top 5 grade but I have to factor in his poor height and even worse weight as big wideouts like Mike Evans might have a field day with him (another example I saw was the 2017 Penn State game where he gives up a long TD catch despite being in perfect position and actually being so fast he’s behind the WR because the wideout just outmuscles him for the ball). He isn’t great against the run but he shows toughness and actually has some big hits to his credit so he’s not the liability you’d expect from a guy of his weight, but let’s be honest he’s a cover CB through and through. In the end he barely gets a Top 10 grade as his speed, quickness, technique, and 2017 film are all elite and his ball skills and instincts are above average so he projects as a multiple Pro Bowl cornerback in the Brent Grimes mold as my #1 CB 4/10/18.
  2. Mike Hughes Central Florida 5’10 ⅛ 189 Jr. He ran a 4.53 40, 20 reps, ‘35 ½ vertical, 10’7 broad jump, 4.13 shuttle, and 6.70 3 cone. All of his measurables were average except his 40 which was below average and his 3 cone which was very good. He played at North Carolina as a freshman in 2015 (11 tackles, 3 PBU) as a highly regarded recruit but got into an altercation at a fraternity and was charged with misdemeanor assault and had to transfer to Central Florida. He sat out 2016 and then had a good year in 2017 (49 tackles, 11 PBU, 4 INT, 1 FF) and left school early so he’s a one year wonder and only has 25 career collegiate games to his credit so he’s lacking experience. He’s a great punt returner (16.6 avg with 1 TD last year) and looks like he’ll be a quality special teamer for someone both in that capacity and as a kick returner (31.7 avg with 2 TDs last year). He also is tough and physical so he might be able to be a punt return gunner as well so he’ll get a huge boost in his draft grade for his special teams skills. He and Christian Kirk are neck and neck for the best special teams player in this draft as both could be future Pro Bowlers in that capacity. He plays much faster than his 4.53 40 suggests as he’s clearly 4.4 playing speed and I didn’t see anyone catch him on kick returns or punt returns so low 4.4 seems fair for him. He has great ball skills and really tracks the ball well with one of his INTs last year being a diving INT on a 9 route that was overthrown with him looking like the WR on the play. You wish he was taller and longer (just ‘30 ⅞ arms) but to me he clearly can play outside CB as he has very good speed, great ball skills, and is physical with size never seeming an issue on film. He predominantly plays off coverage but sort of an in between normal off coverage of 5-10 yards and press coverage. He is very agile and shows good hips. Hughes has great football IQ and just knows how to play the game. He’s strong in run support and slips WR blocks very easily. He’s just a natural playmaker and looks like a future steal due to his off the field issue and transfer. UCF was on the national stage this year but still isn’t as highly regarded as it should be so he’ll be discounted for that too. Watch his Auburn film or his Memphis film (the two biggest games of the year for them by the way) and you’ll see a fast, dynamic player that can do anything. Honestly I see some RB potential if he wanted to as he has great vision and good speed. He won’t be that in the NFL but it shows his pure athleticism. If you can’t tell by now, I love this kid’s tape. He could play safety with how physical he is in run support, has elite ball skills so I expect high INT totals from him in the NFL, and he has above average athleticism when you factor in his hips, quickness, and explosiveness. The Combine did him no favors, nor did his transfer from UNC, but it all sets him up as a steal for some team as this kid has 1st round talent in my opinion. There is a lot of film of this kid racing up to flip a guy on his head after he takes out their legs as he’s arguably the best run stopping CB in this class. He also has great nuance to his pass coverage as he’s adept at identifying a pass route and running ahead of the wideout and angling them out of bounds or slowing them down as he gets a head of them. He has an incredibly high football IQ and shows some Richard Sherman to his game. PFF graded him very high (#5 CB in 2017, 43.8 QB Rating when throwing against him, 0 TDs allowed all year). Overall he has some red flags (height, arm length, game experience) but none of it seems to affect him due to his elite ball skills, elite football IQ, and very good physicality and run support. I’d take him any day of the week as my #2 CB as he has everything you want from a CB except elite size or speed. He doesn’t have those rare physical traits but I still expect him to make a few Pro Bowls due to his expected high INT totals as I can’t stress enough just how smart this kid is. He’ll probably have a similar career to Casey Hayward as a guy consistently underrated and considered a #2 CB but who makes a number of Pro Bowls and is a playmaker. Mid 1st as my #2 CB who is a sleeper that people will probably downgrade due to his lack of experience and mediocre Combine 4/12/18.
  3. Jaire Alexander Louisville 5’10 ¼ 196 Jr. He ran a 4.38 40-elite, 14 reps, ‘35 vertical, 10’7 broad, 3.98 shuttle-elite, and 6.71 3 cone-elite. His speed and quickness numbers were all rare and more than mitigates his smaller size to me. Also he has decent arm length (‘31 ⅛) for his height and very big hands (‘9 ½). He was a part time player in 2015 (19 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 INT), had a great year in 2016 (39 tackles, 9 PBU, 5 INT, 1 FF), and then had an injury plagued year in 2017 (19 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 INT in 6 games) so it’s surprising that he declared. He was a quality punt returner in his first two seasons but wasn’t put back there in 2017, I’d try him there in the NFL as he has natural playmaking skills and his change of direction is rare so he could be great in that role. On film he’s a loose hipped, extremely quick ballhawk who I really like. His 2016 Clemson game was his coming out party as he had 2 INT and a FF while blanketing Mike Williams and the best offense in college football that year. He doesn’t just talk trash, he often does penalizable celebrations and dances after plays which is going to get him into trouble with his NFL coaches as it’s unprofessional and will be flagged. It really worries me as he just flat out taunts people and it shows a lack of discipline that likely will pop up at the next level. His film is elite though as he just blankets guys and it’s not hard for me to give him a 1st round grade despite his mediocre size. He’s short but he’s nearly 200 lbs and has good speed and great quickness with decent arm length so I’m actually not even worried about his size. Especially considering how aggressive he is in run support and overall as a tackler. In pass coverage he’s special with only Denzel Ward being better on film in my opinion. PFF actually gave Alexander the top marks among CBs in 2018 as he had an insane 17.7 QB Rating when throwing at him, though he missed half a season so it is a smaller sample size. The small sample size might insinuate it is a fluke but in 2016, with an entire season of film, he was PFF 5th best CB statistically. Despite a 4.38 40 he doesn’t show elite speed but he has good speed and with his elite quickness he’s more than athletic enough but he lacks Ward’s elite type speed despite their 40 times being pretty similar. There is some film of guys catching up to Alexander (on punt returns or INT returns) or beating him deep and makes me think he’s more of a low to mid 4.4s guy, which again is plenty fast enough with his elite quickness, hips, and ball skills but his 40 is a little deceiving as he doesn’t have THAT kind of speed. I do worry a bit about his frame though when it comes to injury history as he missed time in 2017 with a knee injury and then with a broken hand. He really throws his body around despite his smaller stature and he might miss some time with injuries in his career. Overall he looks like a complete prospect with a few small red flags like injury history, lack of height, and lack of discipline/maturity on the field. He has so many Pro Bowl traits though (hips, quickness, ball skills, film consistency) that I will only downgrade him a little for the red flags as I think he’s a Day 1 starter and will make a number of Pro Bowls as a #1 CB. Mid 1st as my #3 CB 4/13/18.
  4. Josh Jackson Iowa 6’0 ⅜ 196 Jr. He ran a 4.56 40-bad, 18 reps, ‘38 vertical-great, 10’3 broad, 4.03 shuttle-very good, 6.86 3 cone-very good. His Combine was mixed but he looked like an explosive and quick player with poor long speed. I also worry about his short arms (‘31 ⅛) so some teams might actually remove him from their board or drop him into the 2nd round due to some of these measurable red flags. He barely played in 2015 (8 tackles) and 2016 (10 tackles, 4 PBU) and then exploded in 2017 (48 tackles, 18 PBU, 8 INT, 1 FF) so he’s definitely a one year wonder type. His ball skills are rare though as 18 PBU (4th in nation) and 8 INT (1st in nation) are both elite for a season. I don’t like his backpedal as he’s very high in it and looks uncomfortable. He isn’t a very physical player so his low tackle total for his career makes sense and is a major red flag to me as I don’t like finesse corners who run +4.50. He played off coverage a lot and it works best for him as he isn’t the most agile guy and his best attribute is clearly his ball skills. The 2017 Ohio State game is a quintessential Jackson game as he didn’t look that athletic or physical all game long and then he makes this amazing INT where he reads the route development, falls off his guy who was running a clear out 9 route and undercuts the 12 yard curl run by another wide receiver for the INT. That is film study, route recognition, instincts, and ball skills all rolled into one and is why many compare him to Richard Sherman. That is also what makes him a tough grade as you take that play away and I’m talking about him as vastly overrated and a 3rd round type guy who will struggle against the run and will need safety help or to play off most of the time to survive in the NFL. Add in that play and I’m just confused as he has A LOT of limitations to his game but the kid is clearly a playmaker and you take CBs that project to have high INT totals in today’s NFL where shutout defenses are no longer the goal, turnovers are. He also had two other INT that game which showed his great hands as he literally stole a 50/50 ball from the WR on one and then had an Odell Beckham one handed leaping INT behind his head on the other. His INT total is legit as they aren’t the “ball deflected high in the air” or “QB overthrew an open WR and airmailed it right into a CBs chest.” His INT are due to instincts and ball skills so he projects to be a guy who needs a team to scheme around his mediocre athleticism but if they do he will have a high INT total in the NFL and that will make him a Pro Bowler. Comps to Sherman or Marcus Peters are legit as he has some of the best ball skills I’ve ever graded for a CB but one caveat is that those two guys were physical and tough on film, he is not. A team will both have to scheme around his mediocre speed AND coach him up to be a MUCH better tackler as he’s one of the worst tacklers in this draft class. Add in his one year production and Iowa’s penchant for having highly polished, low upside prospects and you have a lot of red flags to work through with him. In the end I put a very high importance on playmaking ability as I don’t think it can be taught so I’m giving him a good grade (though maybe a little lower than the consensus) despite his red flags and bust potential as I just think he’ll be a perennial 4-8 INT a year CB if put in the right system. Late 1st as my #4 CB 4/10/18.
  5. Isaiah Oliver Colorado 6’0 ¼ 201 Sr. He ran a 4.50 40 and didn’t do other drills. In 2015 he had a good season (22 tackles, 6 PBU), added punt return duties (10.5 avg in 2016) to his duties as a defender (34 tackles, 7 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF), and had his best season in 2017 (26 tackles, 13 PBU, 2 INT). His 22-34 tackles per season is pretty poor and screams finesse corner. He was their #3 CB his first two years as Chidobe and Akhello were starters (and both drafted in the first 60 picks last year) but was the star DB this year for an emerging DB University in Colorado. He has a great frame that moves well and looks NFL caliber. He has great timing for PBUs and INTs and really knows how to highpoint the ball on jump balls/deep throws. 4.50 40 might be a legit time pure speed wise but he moves so smoothly that he “feels” faster on film and I don’t have a lot of worries about his speed despite the mediocre time. At 6’0 200 with very long arms (‘33 ½) he fits the press corner role perfectly and played that at Colorado, though the less physical type with a lot of shadowing. He has strong tape as he plays with very good technique and is big, smooth, and has good ball skills. I don’t like how little he cared about stopping the run but he could be coached up in this area as it is far more an effort issue than a strength/size issue. That has its own set of problems and motivation comes into play a bit but with the right coaching he could develop into a complete corner. In pass coverage though I have no doubts he’ll be a good pro as he was on an island most of the year and he showed great confidence and ability in that role. He has great film vs. Dante Pettis (1 reception on 4 attempts) and Michael Gallup (4 receptions on 10 attempts, 2 PBU). Some might view his Gallup matchup as a bigger deal than I do but I see it as only a decent comp as both project as #2 types in the NFL to me. His completion percentage against him in 2016 and 2017 was 43% showing consistency and improvement actually since in 2017 he shadowed the opposing team’s best WR so the same low mark vs. better talent is actually an upgrade in my eyes. He projects as a low end #1 CB or a high end #2 CB with some Pro Bowl potential but his average athleticism gives him a lower ceiling than some prospects and I don’t see him being a Darrelle Revis follow the #1 WR all around the field type. Late 1st as my #5 CB 4/11/18.
  6. Tarvarus McFadden FSU 6’2 ¼ 204 Jr. He ran a 4.67 40-terrible, ‘38 ½ vertical-elite, and 10’1 broad-average. At his great height and solid arm length (‘32 ½) he has press corner written all over him. He barely played in 2015 (4 tackles), had a great year in 2016 (20 tackles, 6 PBU, 8 INT), and then a good year in 2017 (30 tackles, 10 PBU). It’s an incredibly strange career as he had 8 INT in one season and 0 in the other two seasons? Also a combined 54 tackles for a career is pretty atrocious, especially for a bigger cornerback. He’s a huge guy on film and gives off an NFL look with a little intimidation factor. He’s supremely confident and talks a little trash and relishes shutting guys down. McFadden has great ball skills and often looks like a WR going after the ball with a smoothness about him that is almost weird to watch from a DB. He plays with good technique as he turns his head to the ball and when a QB tries a jump ball he acts like a wideout, boxing out and timing it for an easy INT. It’s picture perfect but unfortunately pretty much all his INTs look the same so it makes sense his INT total was so low in 2017 as you just can’t throw a 9 route or fade against him. He doesn’t make nearly as many plays when you beat him to the inside or use a comeback/curl vs. him. McFadden would fit perfectly in Seattle’s scheme as Brandon Browner, so much so that I almost expect them to seek him on draft day. He plays inside technique on most stuff which is why teams in 2016 attacked him on the perimeter on 9 routes and fades but it just doesn’t work without a perfect throw due to his elite size and very good ball skills. His hips are mediocre and he really doesn’t even use a backpedal so beat him inside and he’s finished but he has a plan and executes it very well so in the right system I could see him being a good starter. I really wish he was more physical as he is mediocre against the run, not a liability but he should be a monster there and is just average, and his press is usually a slight jab or two against a wideout and then shadowing. His 2017 Alabama tape is really good, he and Calvin Ridley didn’t matchup that often unfortunately but he looked fast, big, and confident. Those last two things are important as if you look big against Alabama and their oversized players you’re big and I’ve seen plenty of quality talent get the dear in the headlights look when facing Alabama and their physicality. McFadden wanted to battle and played quite well. He is faster than his 4.67 40 but he’s not that fast, probably 4.55, so he’ll need to go to a scheme that lets him press and gives him help over the top. That being said his frame, arm length, and ball skills are all good to great so he should be an above average #2 CB with some outside Pro Bowl potential due to his ball skills. He has a natural smoothness during an INT that is rare to see as it seems like he knows where the ball is going more so than the WR. Just a natural ballhawk. Early 2nd round as my #6 CB who would be a mid 1st if he was just a bit faster as he has some Pro Bowl traits 4/12/18.  
  7. Darius Phillips Western Michigan 5’9 ⅞ 193 Sr. He ran a 4.54 40 and didn’t do any other drills. He played WR in 2014 (32 479 2 TD), then switched to CB in 2015 with incredible results (48 tackles, 16 PBU, 5 INT, 2 FF), had another great year in 2016 (40 tackles, 9 PBU, 4 INT, 3 pick six), and another great year in 2017 (40 tackles, 10 PBU, 3 INT, 1 pick six, 2 FF). His 4 pick six is incredible as is his 12 career INT, 4 FF. His past three seasons cumulatively are among the best I’ve ever graded in a CB, at least pure production wise. He played a lower level of competition and is sub 5’10, sub 200, sub 4.50 40 so he has quite a few red flags but you love to see that elite playmaking production. He has great bend and agility with his quickness and movement skills being elite. He immediately looks like a good fit at slot CB and reminds me a bit of Damontae Kazee, with a little more quickness but minus the big hits. Phillips is a weak player who can’t handle outside CB as he struggles getting wideouts to the ground in college but his quickness, instincts, and ball skills are all top notch. He also clearly shows mediocre long speed so he’s an easy read in that he’s solely a slot CB but I love him in that role and probably rate him higher than most as he projects as a playmaker in that spot, albeit one with physical limitations size and long speed wise. Phillips has some of the best instincts and ball skills of any DB in this draft though and I go after guys like him. As a former WR who has consistent film of him winning jump balls, jumping routes, being an impact punt returner (11.7 avg in ‘16, 8.0 avg in ‘17), and showing great quickness and burst all the signs are there that he’ll translate to being a playmaker in the NFL. I expect him to be drafted later than I have him graded at but in the end he’ll be a diamond in the rough and eventually will become a playmaker and steal for somebody. Early 3rd as my #7 CB 4/10/18.
  8. Kevin Tolliver II LSU 6’2 192 Jr. He ran a 4.65 40, 10 reps, ‘33 vertical, and 10’0 broad jump with all being bad to terrible. Measurables wise he’s a late round player at best and many teams will take him off their board entirely. He was a starter as a true freshman in 2015 (35 tackles, 5 PBU, 1 INT), had an injury plagued season in 2016 (21 tackles, 1 PBU in 7 games), and had a good but not great year in 2017 (28 tackles, 10 PBU, 1 INT, 2 FF). 2 INT and 84 tackles for his career is pretty low impact for a guy leaving early so I question his motivation. On film Tolliver looks more athletic than his measurables suggest and at 6’2 with great physicality, he has press corner written all over him. The problem though is he has some of the shortest arms in this CB class (‘30 ⅛) which is shocking for a guy 6’2. Add in the VERY bad speed and you really wonder what you’re getting. I think he’ll end up being a solid starter due to his physicality and confidence as the kid is borderline cocky. He’s one of the more physical CBs in this class and moves well but he doesn’t have great long speed, isn’t really a ballhawk type, and has short arms so he fits the press corner but more of the #2 CB and with safety help over the top. His Combine was very poor so there’s a chance he has a draft day fall and that could set him up as a steal as he just is more athletic than he measured and smart teams will trust the tape over the spreadsheet. Early 3rd round as my #8 CB who is extremely physical but will be downgraded due to short arms and a very poor Combine 4/10/18.
  9. Donte Jackson LSU 5’10 ½ 178 Jr. He ran a 4.32 40, 7 reps, and 10’0 broad jump. He was a bit player as a freshman in 2015 (26 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 INT), had a better year in 2016 (39 tackles, 8 PBU, 2 INT, 1 FF), and another good year in 2017 (49 tackles, 10 PBU, 1 INT). LSU guys just never seem to stay four years so I shouldn’t be surprised but he wasn’t a great player so I don’t think he should have come out early. He’s a short guy with even shorter arms (‘29 ½) but he has elite speed as his 4.32 40 translates to the field. He played a little WR at LSU early in his career and at times looks like he has good ball skills but has his fair share of easy drops on possible INTs with his Auburn would be pick six being just a terrible drop. Jackson is tightly built and doesn’t have the best quickness with his style reminiscent of Trae Waynes out of Michigan State a few years ago. Jackson is smaller and wasn’t as dominant on film so he’s a poor man’s Waynes but the comp makes some sense and it’s important to note that Waynes has had inconsistent tape in the NFL as he excels at defending speed guys on 9 routes but struggles with quick guys on curls, comebacks, crosses, etc. where change of direction is important. Jackson will have similar issues as he’ll need to learn to overplay the inside routes and curls, knowing he can catch up if a guy tries to beat him deep. He has some punt return/kick return appeal to him but the stats show he wasn’t that good at either, a little surprising considering how good he looks returning INTs. Some team might try and move him inside due to him being sub 180 lbs but that’d be a mistake as his biggest weaknesses are his size and his lack of quickness with moving him inside just trading one weakness for another. I think he’d be eaten alive by quick slot wideouts. He’s small but he flashes power on some big hits and on one specific sack vs. Arkansas which was just ferocious and again makes me think he fits best on the outside. There are glimpses of Pro Bowl traits but too often he’s pushed around by bigger wideouts, he is tight in and out of his breaks which makes him a poor fit for the slot, and I just don’t see the consistency you want from him. I’ll be curious where he goes as he has some 2nd round tape and some mid to late round tape. He really should have come back for 2018 and built on his inconsistently good tape as he has the potential to be a starting outside cornerback in the NFL but right now he’s a big time roll of the dice. In the end I’m giving him an early 3rd round grade as my #9 CB as he could easily develop into an above average #2 CB which is very valuable but his tape was inconsistent and he has some bust potential due to his lack of size and mediocre quickness 4/13/18.
  10. Avonte Maddox Pittsburgh 5’9 ⅛ 184 Sr. He ran a 4.39 40-elite, 13 reps, ‘37 vertical-very good, 10’5 broad-very good, 4.00 shuttle-good, 6.51 3 cone-elite. He’s a smaller guy but his measurables are elite with his speed, explosiveness, and quickness all being very good to elite. He had an okay season in 2014 (32 tackles, 3 PBU), great season in 2015 (75 tackles, 12 PBU, 3 INT), good season in 2016 (49 tackles, 8 PBU, 3 INT), and another great season in 2017 (27 tackles, 11 PBU, 2 INT, 3 FF). His 32 PBU, 8 INT, and 3 FF the past three seasons is elite production and shows a varied skill set with 3 FF really surprising me for a guy his size. On film he’s a legit 4.3 guy as he flies and he shows good toughness and strength for a sub 5’10 sub 190 lb corner but a step up in competition might force him inside to slot CB. I love his ball skills as he has some INTs where he drops off his man and jumps another route for an INT and just seems to understand offensive concepts and where the play is really meant to be going. I like this kid a lot and wish he was 2 inches taller because his speed, quickness, and ball skills are all good to great. Unfortunately he’s very small and I think slot CB is where he lines up which seriously hurts his value. He reminds me a bit of Buster Skrine body wise but with better ball skills and Skrine has had some good film over his career and at times played outside corner so who knows, maybe a team will give him a shot to stay outside. In the end he’s one of my sleepers as I haven’t heard his name much at all but project him to be an above average slot corner with some versatility to play outside corner, depending on scheme. Mid 3rd round as my #10 CB 4/13/18.
  11. Duke Dawson Florida 5’10 ⅝ 197 Sr. He ran a 4.46 40 and had 15 reps on the bench. He made a few plays in 2014 as a true freshman (14 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 INT), was a part time player again in 2015 (10 tackles), had a bigger role in 2016 (24 tackles, 7 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF), and a very good year in 2017 (34 tackles, 9 PBU, 4 INT). It’s a red flag that he didn’t consistently play till his junior year but I like his 6 career INT as it shows ball skills. He has great hips and shows outstanding agility so slot probably is his future. I’d give him a small chance of becoming an outside corner though as his tape last year was very good there and he’s actually a pretty strong kid. At sub 5’11 though he will be small compared to the bigger wideouts so slot CB probably is his best bet but he’s a tough kid that battles so at worst you could throw him out there temporarily for injuries or a rep here or there for depth. He looks faster than 4.46 on film and watching his pick six vs. Michigan with great vision, speed, and a nice cut at midfield makes me wonder why he has 0 punt returns for his career as I see potential there. Overall I like him as an above average slot CB with a little versatility to play outside CB due to his sturdy frame. He has good hands, great quickness, great speed, and had good film last year. If he had played more earlier in his career, was a little taller, or had special teams experience as a punt returner I’d move him up even more but I like Dawson and thinks he’s an under the radar prospect that should be a decent starter for someone. Mid 3rd round as my #11 CB 4/18/18.
  12. MJ Stewart North Carolina 5’10 ⅞ 200 Sr. He ran a 4.54 40, 18 reps, ‘35 vertical, 9’10 broad, 4.28 shuttle, and 6.90 3 cone. He played well in 2014 as a backup (26 tackles, 4 PBU, 2 INT), started and had a great season in 2015 (62 tackles, 1 sack, 14 PBU, 4 INT, 1 FF), had another great year in 2016 (66 tackles, 11 PBU, 2 FF), and then a slightly down year in 2017 (45 tackles, 2 sacks, 12 PBU). His 0 INT the past two seasons combined is a big red flag, especially for a guy with 23 PBU those two years. His 37 PBU the past three seasons is an extremely high mark and shows he’s around the action, good or bad. His measurables are exactly how he plays on film as he’s shorter, thicker, and explosive with great strength but subpar quickness and long speed. He’d fit well as a zone corner or possibly as a FS in a scheme that doesn’t have their FS play just centerfield as that wouldn’t be a strength of his. He’s a great tackler and really likes the physical aspects of the sport so safety makes sense in that respect but he has just enough athleticism that I’d try him at CB first and his strength could make him a physical, aggressive press corner. What also makes me consider FS is that he has very short arms (‘31 ¼) and guys with below average speed and short arms aren’t usually good corners. You just wish he was a tenth of a second faster or had two inch longer arms so you could clearly see him working at CB as right now he’s very borderline in my eyes. I really like his film though as he’s physical, he has good instincts, and he makes a lot of plays. I expected poor hands or ball skills due to his 0 INT the past two seasons but he actually seems solid in both areas which I guess makes sense since he had 6 INT his first two seasons. His 37 PBU the past three seasons is rare and shows both his experience and his playmaking ability. If I was a team that ran some zone I’d target him in the middle rounds as he has just enough athleticism to play man if some zone is mixed in and I think that’s his best bet at staying at CB. As a FS he gives up some problems but picks up some new ones so I’d try him at CB first but FS is definitely a possibility as is pure special teams as he should be very good in that role due to his toughness and big hitting ability. Early 4th round as my #12 CB 4/8/18.
  13. Nick Nelson Wisconsin 5’10 ⅝ 200 Jr. He ran a 4.52 40, 17 reps, and 10’3 broad skipping a lot of drills. He had a good year in 2015 (36 tackles, 6 PBU, 1 FF), a great year in 2016 (53 tackles, 15 PBU, 1 FF), and an even more dominant year in 2017 (35 tackles, 21 PBU). The fact that he had 36 PBU and 0 INT the past two seasons COMBINED means teams didn’t shy away from him, he played well, but he has terrible hands and won’t make many INTs at the next level. I like his tape but he isn’t sub 4.50, is short overall (sub 5’11), and has short arms to make it even worse (‘30 ¾). The issue with him also is that he’s built more S than CB and at his size/speed he projects as a slot CB but his film makes me think outside CB or FS as he is more strong than quick. It’s hard to exactly explain it but he has good ball skills, it’s just that he’s always hacking at the ball and always seeking the PBU not INT. His 0 INT make sense and are a big detriment but he gets his head back and locates the ball so he’s not like guys with bad ball skills. He does have bad hands though and that won’t be fixed so it’s a huge red flag for me as I like DBs that are playmakers and cause turnovers and he just isn’t that type. He does have a great knack at timing his swipe and getting his head turned around to make a play on the ball with his high PBU total no fluke. He’s an interesting guy as I keep thinking he’s a career backup but his tape shows just enough promise that he has a chance to become a low end #2 CB and that has a lot of value. Even with me downgrading him noticeably due to his projected low INT total I like him and would roll the dice on him as a good backup or low end #2 CB. Early 4th round as my #13 CB 4/11/18.
  14. Isaac Yiadom Boston College 6’0 ⅞ 190 Sr. He ran a 4.52 40, 8 reps, 10’0 broad, and 4.18 shuttle with all being below average to bad (reps). He was a backup in 2014 (13 tackles) and 2015 (18 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 INT), had a solid year in 2016 (26 tackles, 10 PBU, 1 FF), and his best year in 2017 (53 tackles, 7 PBU, 2 INT). With only 3 career INT but 21 career PBU he looks like a guy that goes for the bat down not interception. He’s a taller CB who is a little top heavy but has long arms (‘32 ¼) and is a good tackler showing solid strength despite his poor 8 reps at the Combine. He doesn’t have good hands and drops INTs while trying to basket catch them at times so he’ll have a low INT total in the pros too. He has the size and strength to play press but lacks the hips or speed to be on an island so if he plays press he’ll need safety help consistently or he’ll need to play the slower, big WR. His best fit to me is as a zone corner as he reads plays well in front of him and is a very good tackler. In either scheme he projects as a big, tough CB with average athleticism at best who is probably a #3 CB, though he isn’t a slot CB. He’s not a perfect fit for any scheme or any role but he has talent and maybe develops into an average #2 CB for someone. On film he does a lot of things well but nothing great and has clear athletic limitations so I’d project him as a high end backup, good special teams type guy with an outside chance to become a low end starter. 4th round as my #14 CB 4/8/18.
  15. DJ Reed Kansas State 5’9 ⅛ 188 Sr. He ran a 4.51 40, 11 reps, and ‘36 ½ vertical. He had an odd career path as he redshirted at Fresno State, went JUCO for only a year, and then joined Kansas State in 2016 (75 tackles, 16 PBU, 3 INT, 2 FF) and 2017 (47 tackles, 9 PBU, 4 INT, 1 FF). He’s an undersized CB who probably fits best in the slot but I’d give him a chance on the outside first as he has great ball skills and maybe could be the next Brent Grimes type. In run support he’s just tiny and it really worries me that teams will exploit him so slot CB is likely his spot unless he gets vastly better in that capacity. He’s a mighty mouse but even in college he was noticeably small. He’s an easy evaluation as he’s a slot CB with great ball skills, very good quickness, average long speed, and a huge red flag for his size as he’ll be one of the smallest players in the NFL. Honestly I wonder if he bulked up for the Combine as I don’t see a 188 lb guy out there but more like 180. For a team that can scheme help for him or wants a part time slot CB who excels against the pass he’s your guy on the cheap but he has obvious weaknesses that could result in him being a bust if not used appropriately. 4th round as my #15 CB who has elite ball skills but is so small that he could be a bust despite them 4/10/18.
  16. Anthony Averett Alabama 5’11 ⅛ 183 Sr. He ran a 4.36 40, 13 reps, ‘31 ½ vertical, 9’11 broad, 4.40 shuttle-terrible, and 6.93 3 cone. He didn’t play in 2014, had 2 tackles on special teams in 2015, had a good year in 2016 (48 tackles, 8 PBU, 2 FF), and a similar year in 2017 (48 tackles, 8 PBU, 1 INT). 1 INT for a career is pretty poor, add in the fact he couldn’t get on the field till his junior year and he has some red flags. He’s a strong CB and he’s strong in run support despite his slender frame. He has good speed but not 4.36 40 level speed as he’s a low 4.4 in my eyes but shadows wideouts well and could work as an outside CB or in the slot. He doesn’t have good instincts and always seems a half step slow, probably part of the reason why his INT total was so low, so I don’t see him ever becoming a playmaker. He projects as an average slot CB with just enough strength to play outside on occasion which should add value for him as a #4 CB. Mid 4th round as my #16 CB 4/18/18.
  17. Davontae Harris Illinois State 5’11 ⅜ 205 Sr. He ran a 4.53 40, 22 reps, ‘32 ½ vertical-poor, 10’3 broad, 4.40 shuttle-horrible, and 6.96 3 cone-very good. His Combine was mixed and makes me wonder if he didn’t practice enough in some events as it is confusingly inconsistent with a bad vertical but solid broad and bad shuttle but good 3 cone? He’s a shorter, thicker CB who is a little tightly built with all that weight he has and is a little top heavy. He moves well and has good athleticism but the best thing about him is his ball skills as he seems to have good instincts and makes plays all over the field. He redshirted in 2013, and stayed five years in college so he’s an older prospect and is coming from a lower level of competition so there are some red flags to him but he was 2x 1st Team All-Conference so at least he played well at that lower level. His final two seasons he had 25 PBU and 4 INT showing off those ball skills but his film is a little inconsistent as he made plays but wasn’t the shutdown corner you want at that lower level of competition and I really worry about his advanced age, tightness and overall athleticism. I think he’ll make it as a backup/special teamer but I’m not buying into this kid as a diamond in the rough, future starter like some are. Late 4th round as my #17 CB who is a mixed bag of strengths/weaknesses and has correspondingly inconsistent film so I am not as high on him as some scouts are 4/13/18.
  18. Grant Haley Penn State 5’9 ¼ 190 Sr. He ran a 4.44 40, 15 reps, ‘34 vertical, 9’11 broad, 3.94 shuttle-elite (best time out of 70 DB at the Combine), and 6.51 3 cone-elite. Just off his measurables you can tell what this kid is: A quicker than fast, undersized slot corner. He was a part time player in 2014 (18 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 INT), started in 2015 (42 tackles, 7 PBU, 2 INT, 1 FF), had a slightly down year in 2016 (39 tackles, 4 PBU), and his best year in 2017 (40 tackles, 9 PBU, 2 INT). On film he’s a little bigger looking (feeling?) than his measurables suggest and he actually lined up off the ball as a safety at times so outside CB might work but most likely slot CB is his one and only spot. He looks pretty small in run support and could struggle in that area but against the pass I’d say he was their best CB and teams seemed to shy away from him. He has great quickness and plays with good technique. Add in his 4 years of experience at Penn State and his special teams prowess (KR as a freshman, blocked a punt, special teams gunner) and he looks like a mid round #4 or #5 CB who could excel in the slot. Early 5th round as my #18 CB 4/10/18.

Carlton Davis Auburn 6’1 206 Jr. He ran a 4.53 40, 16 reps, ‘34 vertical, and 10’4 broad all of which were average to below average. His measurables, including height/weight, all seem more S than CB to me. He had a great freshman year in 2015 (56 tackles, 8 PBU, 3 INT, 1 FF), a good year but not a playmaking one in 2016 (46 tackles, 10 PBU, 1 FF), and a solid but down year in 2017 (36 tackles, 11 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF). 1 INT the past two seasons is concerning, especially with 19 PBUs in that stretch, as is the fact that statistically his best season was his freshman year. He is a tall guy with long arms (‘32 ¾) so press corner is his best spot. He doesn’t have good hips so I worry about him at corner but I’d worry about him at safety too as he doesn’t have great instincts so press corner is likely his best spot. He’s an extremely physical player who has a few INTs where he flat out rips the ball away from the WR so teams that want a physical corner will like him but I’m underwhelmed by his tape for the most part. He is tightly built, is top heavy, doesn’t have great speed, has poor quickness, and has only average ball skills. Basically he’s a big, physical guy that will need help over the top at all times, will be eaten alive by quick wideouts, and won’t have a lot of INTs. He projects as a #4 CB, special teams guy who should have stayed in school another year. 5th round as my #19 CB 4/13/18.

2018 S Rankings

Florida State's Derwin James and Dalvin Cook for ESPN The Magazine

  1. Derwin James FSU 6’1 ¾ 215 Soph He ran a 4.47 40-elite, 21 reps, ‘40 vertical-elite, and 11’0 broad jump-elite. Overall his size/speed ratio is off the charts and puts him in to that rare Sean Taylor, Eric Berry, Jamaal Adams type category all of whom went in the Top 7 of their drafts. He was a blue chip prospect out of HS and started immediately with a great year in 2015 as a true freshman (91 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 2 FF), earning Freshman All-American honors. He only played in two games in 2016 (11 tackles, 1 INT) due to a knee injury but then had another dominant year in 2017 (84 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL, 11 PBU, 2 INT). His 11 PBU is very impressive and shows he has decent skills in coverage but he makes his name as a headhunter with some vicious hits. He would work really well in a scheme that allows him to roam and search route patterns to make big hits as he has some intimidation factor to his game. He isn’t as consistent as Jamaal Adams, instinctive as Sean Taylor, or as pure of an athlete as Eric Berry but overall he isn’t that far removed from that blue chip prospect level. He’s probably more in line with the Landon Collins next tier type and looks like a future Pro Bowler. He has some major swagger to his game and should be a leader of a defense in the future. He’s very agile and easily avoids blockers, either with strength just pushing through most WR blocks or with quickness slipping around OL blocks. This elite agility and bend for a big safety pops up on film time and again and is my favorite part of his game. He could make an elite dime linebacker and that is where I’d put him on passing downs as it’d turn him from a solid guy in coverage to great at that spot comparatively. He has some inconsistent tape and I can see why some scouts view him as overrated and a bit of a workout warrior but he flashes greatness too often for me to side with them. Also he was very productive in both his healthy seasons, he’s young (doesn’t turn 22 until training camp) and his body movement is so smooth for a SS who delivers big hits that I feel he’s a pretty safe prospect. At worst he’s a very good run stopper and is decent in coverage, at best he becomes more instinctive and clears up his occasional missed tackles and he becomes a perennial Pro Bowler. That’s a pretty high ceiling AND a pretty high floor so to me he’s clear a Top 10 prospect as my #1 S who I really like and think the scouting community is too down on just because of a few holes in his game, most of which seem correctable 4/6/18.
  2. Minka Fitzpatrick Alabama 6’0 ⅛ 204 Jr. He ran a 4.46 40-very good, 14 reps, ‘33 vertical-below average, and a 10’1 broad-average. He had a great season as a true freshman at powerhouse Alabama in 2015 (45 tackles, 11 PBU, 2 INT), a dominant season in 2016 (66 tackles, 7 PBU, 6 INT, 1 FF), and a less dominant but more widely acclaimed season in 2017 (60 tackles, 8 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF). His 8 INT the past three seasons is very good and he’s widely regarded as one of the most versatile defenders to come out of college in quite some time. Saban raves about him and calls him one of the most stand up guys he’s ever coached. He also calls him a perfectionist and you know Minka will be constantly working to improve his game. Id view him and Christian Kirk as the two most squeaky clean guys in this draft as they are already professionals with how they study film, take care of their body, handle the media, etc. Some view Minka as a safety, others as a corner, I view him as a FS who can cover the slot as I see his versatility as his best attribute and a safety that is moved all around a la Honey Badger would be his best hope at maximizing his value. Also his Combine was average to at best above average and I just don’t see the elite speed or quickness to dominate as an outside corner like Jalen Ramsey. Finally he just moves like a safety as he doesn’t have the loosest of hips and is better with the play in front of him than in a backpedal attempting to turn as the ball arrives. He’s a dominant special teams guy with blocked FGs, blocked punts, tackles on kickoff coverage, tackles as a punt return coverage gunner, etc. to his credit. He has great ball skills, good instincts, and should be a quality centerfielder if given a chance as he has good film on the back end of a defense. Alabama primarily used him near the LOS where they blitzed him a lot, dropped him to cover a wide out, or used him as a dime linebacker-again his elite versatility on display. When given a chance though to be a true CF FS he played well there too. Honestly Fitzpatrick can do anything, including play outside CB, but if an offense never knows where he’s lining up on any given play or what role he’ll be taking at the snap of the ball then he’ll be dangerous. Now for the negative…Fitzpatrick is a talented player who was used perfectly at Alabama in the “money” position and probably is a bit overhyped. He isn’t a big hitter, he is fast but doesn’t have elite speed, he’s tightly built (his backpedal is pretty poor IMO), and a team that just puts him at outside CB or centerfield at FS won’t be getting a dominant player as he’s above average at most things which combined could make him a star but only in the right scheme. Take Honey Badger who in 2016 was All-Pro when they moved him all over the field but was just a good player, nothing special in 2017 when he was asked to play a more traditional FS role. I like Fitzpatrick but a lot of things will have to fall into place for him to be the dynamic, perennial Pro Bowler some are making him out to be. I don’t buy him as a Top 5 talent, some even argue he’s the best player in this draft, and think he’s another overrated Alabama player. He was used perfectly in that system and when you focus in on each skill of his you realize he’s really not that dominant at anything. As a blitzer he gets a lot of acclaim and they blitzed him a lot but usually it was as a hot blitzer from the slot who had a free shot at the QB yet he still only had 2.5 sacks the past two seasons COMBINED. As a cover guy in the slot he shows good ball skills and is strong against the run but his tight hips make him a liability in space against quicker wideouts and he has a decent amount of missed tackles to his credit (3 vs. Clemson in 2017 for instance). Watching him in coverage makes me not totally sold on him being a FS that can consistently cover slot wideouts as there is a lot of film of him getting beat but the Alabama pass rush bailed him out. A good example is the 2016 Clemson game where he was just destroyed by Hunter Renfroe as he was beat deep with speed and short with quickness. In that one game alone he gave up 2 TDs and a pass interference. Also it could have been worse as Fitzpatrick had a borderline PI in the end zone and fell down on a play which would have been a +30 yarder if DeShaun Watson didn’t airmail the ball out of bounds. Clemson clearly was picking on him and you don’t usually see that with 1st rounders, let alone supposed Top 5 talents like Minkah is. I like Fitzpatrick but I think he’s pretty overrated and projects more as an above average starter if not moved around with Pro Bowl potential being only in a scheme that maximizes his unique versatility. Top 20 as my #2 S who has elite versatility but must be in a scheme that uses that uniqueness otherwise he’s an average athlete who is not worth a 1st round pick 4/12/18.
  3. DeShon Elliott Texas 6’0 ⅞ 210 Jr. He ran a 4.58 40, 15 reps, ‘36 vertical, and 10’1 broad jump. He was an impact player in 2015 despite being only a part time player (13 tackles, 1 PBU, 2 INT, 1 FF), had an okay season in 2016 (30 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 INT), and then a great 2017 (63 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 9 PBU, 6 INT, 3 FF). He had two pick sixes in 2017 including the huge one against USC in the first half which gave them a lead and put them back in the game. He’s a complete safety and offers versatility as he’s a big hitter and would fit quite well at SS but he has good instincts, great hands, was a productive cover guy in college (9 INT in 3 seasons), and shows the agility to play FS. I lean more to SS for him but at that spot he’ll be incredibly versatile for a team and could be moved all over the field. He has a lot of solid tape as a centerfielder showing good instincts and reaction time on the play. He has okay speed but my biggest worry of his is his speed as it isn’t elite like an Earl Thomas so he will have some limitations as a centerfielder but teams that don’t use their FS exclusively in that role would probably still be interested in him at that position. Honestly he’s one of the most versatile safeties in this class and I feel he will be a borderline Pro Bowler at either spot. In the right scheme he could have 100 tackle, 5 INT seasons on a regular basis and that combination of production is rare. He’s flown a bit under the radar this draft season as his Combine was good but not great, Texas didn’t play well the past few years, and he’s an underclassman so he hasn’t been a big time player in college for a long time but I think he’s a stud. He has very good ball skills, is a big hitter, shows good instincts both in run support and against the pass, and is an above average athlete. I think he’s underrated and will likely be a Mayock-Jon comp guy. Late 1st as my #3 S who is very underrated and projects as a very good starter or even potential future Pro Bowl S who gives teams the luxury of playing him at either spot due to his rare versatility 4/7/18.
  4. Jessie Bates III Wake Forest 6’1 ⅛ 200 Soph He redshirted in 2015. He ran a 4.50 40, ‘35 ½ vertical, 9’9 broad, 4.26 shuttle, and 6.78 3 cone with his 3 cone being elite and everything else being a little above average. After a redshirted 2015 he had a great year in 2016 (100 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 5 INT, 1 FF) including being a part time punt returner (1st Team All-American). In 2017 he dramatically improved as a punt returner (4.1 yards per return to 20.1!) and had another good season on defense (79 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF). He clearly is an NFL athlete with good explosion, speed, and quickness. He has great instincts and understands route recognition. His skills as a punt returner are evident on his INTs as he sets up blockers and has two pick six for his career. Some guys are like Troy Apke who run a 4.3 but don’t play like it, Bates ran a 4.50 but looks even faster on film as he’s legit 4.4 speed to my eyes and puts on another gear in the open field and shows a rare burst to the ball. I see him becoming both a quality returner and a quality FS as he has the speed and instincts to play centerfield but also excelled in zone at Wake Forest where he baited QBs into poor throws in traffic. In fact he shows some skills in man and could be that coveted FS who can be a centerfielder one play and play the slot the next. His teammates clearly love him and he seems like a natural leader. I love his film and really like his story as a 2 star recruit that was lightly recruited, redshirted in 2015, and then exploded with great production back to back seasons and is now heading to the NFL. It’s very unexpected but he’s not an overachiever as he has great speed, great instincts, and is a good tackler. He isn’t a big hitter, sometimes misses tackles, and overall is more pass oriented than run oriented so that might turn some teams off but in pass coverage he has some Pro Bowl traits and I wouldn’t be surprised by high INT totals with his combination of speed and instincts. I think he’s vastly underrated and, having just turned 21 years old, he’s a younger prospect. Mid 2nd round as my #4 S 4/7/18.
  5. Kyzir White West Virginia 6’1 ⅞ 218 He didn’t run the 40 but had 21 reps, ‘35 ½ vertical, and 9’5 broad jump. He was a JUCO kid, transferred to West Virginia, played well in 2016 (58 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 5 PBUs, 2 FF) and then dominated in 2017 (94 tackles, 1 sack, 7.5 TFL, 4 PBUs, 3 INT, 3 FF). His 5 FF the past two seasons is elite. I can’t help but think of Karl Joseph when watching him due to the frame, jersey, and even the number. He’s a tall, well built SS type who is a big hitter and moves well enough to not be a liability in coverage. He’s more of an enforcer type but he moves really well and watching the 2017 East Carolina game you’d think he’s a ballhawk as he had two INTs, moved really well, showed good hands, and looked instinctive. I think he’s a late bloomer and I see some Pro Bowl traits in him. He isn’t the fastest guy though so he sometimes struggles when there is too much space for him to cover or track down a ball carrier but due to his very good instincts he usually puts himself in position to make a play and he’s a sure tackler when given the opportunity. I love his tape as he’s a big hitter, versatile, instinctive, and tough. He has some Pro Bowl traits but probably ends up being a step below that due to his mediocre speed. Mid 2nd round as my #5 S who I am a big fan of 4/5/18.
  6. Terrell Edmunds Virginia Tech 6’0 ½ 217 Jr. He ran a 4.47 40-elite, ‘41 ½ vertical-elite, and 11’2 broad jump-elite. He was okay in 2015 (34 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 7 PBU), was great in 2016 (89 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 4 INT), and was good in an injury plagued year in 2017 (59 tackles, 1.5 sack, 2.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 2 INT missing 3 games). He’s a clear SS with his thick, squat frame and he loves to punish people as he lays out and often times doesn’t wrap up after contact. He’s a tightly built guy so his 6 INT the past two seasons is a bit surprising initially but watch his film long enough and you realize that he makes up for his tightness by being incredibly explosive. Also his ball skills are legit and he has very good hands including one amazing diving INT so I have no issues with him in coverage, especially as a SS as most schemes use them in zone or with limited responsibilities. His 4.47 40 speed is legit as he really covers a lot of ground and I’m amazed at how good it makes him in coverage as again his thick, squat, muscular body is more like a LB than a S yet his coverage at times is like a CB. He has good instincts and seems to immediately identify routes which makes me think he’s a film junky. He will likely be a special teams ace as he has great speed, is a big hitter, and has that ferocity which a player needs to really excel in that role. I love his tape and think he’s a sleeper due to leaving a year early despite missing 3 games last year. He’s fast, explosive, instinctive, productive and seems to really understand the game. I think he’ll be a very good SS who has some Pro Bowl traits AND he’ll be a dominant special teams guy. Late 2nd round as my #6 S who is very underrated and surprisingly good in coverage 4/8/18.
  7. Justin Reid Stanford 6’0 ½ 207 Jr. He ran a 4.40 40-elite, 16 reps, ‘36 ½ vertical-very good, 10’8 broad-very good, 4.15 shuttle-good, 6.65 3 cone-elite. He played part time in 2015 (23 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 INT), had a good year in 2016 (57 tackles, 4 TFL, 7 PBU), and dominated in 2017 (99 tackles, 1 sack, 6.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 5 INT). He’s a bit of a one year wonder but he had a decent season as a Soph and as an underclassman it isn’t as big of a red flag than if he was a senior. He’s a pure FS with his frame, agility, and ball skills all looking like a perfect fit for that position. He is a decent run stopper but isn’t that big and is more of a get the guy to the ground than punish him type tackler. He has a few great INTs to his credit from last year with one vs. Arizona State being probably his best as he full out dove for the ball on a low throw and somehow came up with it. He doesn’t play like a 4.40 guy on film, more like a 4.50 guy, but he’s still fast and agile enough to cover TEs and play a little slot corner though I wouldn’t do it too often as good slot receivers would eat him alive. In their scheme he played man on the inside receiver most of the time, usually in off coverage, and never seemed to have an issue with it so he has the experience to handle that role in the NFL if a team wanted him to play a lot of man. He’s a complete player as he’s a strong and consistent tackler (though not a big hitter), has good to great measurables, has good ball skills, and for the most part has good instincts and understands offensive concepts. He was beat for an easy TD by UCLA on a stop and go which was 100% his fault but otherwise he seemed to know where the ball was headed and was a step ahead of the action. I like his film and think he’ll be an above average starter in the NFL. I don’t project star or Pro Bowler but you never know as his ball skills and measurables are both very good so he might have a few high INT totals that get him a Pro Bowl or two down the road. Most likely though he’s an above average starter at FS who offers a team a lot of versatility whether playing man, single high, or crashing down to stop the run. Early 3rd round as my #7 S 4/6/18.
  8. Rashaan Gaulden Tennessee 6’0 ¾ 197 Jr. He ran a 4.61 40-terrible, 8 reps-terrible, ‘30 vertical-terrible, 9’11 broad-average, 4.33 shuttle-below average, 7.16 3 cone-bad. His numbers were all among the worst in the 58 person DB group at the Combine. He barely played in 2014 (7 tackles), missed all 2015 with a foot injury, had a good season in 2016 (68 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF), and another good season in 2017 (65 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 INT, 3 FF). His 4 FF the past two seasons is elite for a DB. With his terrible Combine measurables, 1 career INT, and penchant for tackling and creating forced fumbles it is pretty evident that he’s a FS not a CB. He’s very physical and has a reckless style of play which I really like. He’d fit as a CB possibly in a zone heavy scheme as he really excels in run support but FS makes the most sense to me. Gaulden is outstanding as a blitzer and is savage in the way he takes down ball carriers so I’m not surprised he has elite forced fumble production and think it will continue in the pros. A team drafting him should blitz him regularly as he has a knack for the timing aspect of it. He also plays faster than his 4.61 40 would suggest and he’s very agile with his poor quickness numbers really confusing me as he looks quick and agile on film. I really like his film and think he sets up as a potential steal for someone as the spreadsheet teams will all take him off their board due to his atrocious Combine but his film is that of a NFL athlete so I don’t have any problem with him as a FS. Pound for pound he’s one of the toughest players in this draft and is a dominant tackler. He will be a great special teamer and projects as an above average starter who could be a Pro Bowler in a scheme that blitzes him a lot but likely won’t be enough of a ballhawk to ever be in Pro Bowl consideration. Early 3rd round as my #8 S who likely will be a steal on draft day due to him dropping after an atrocious Combine performance 4/6/18.
  9. Parry Nickerson Tulane 5’10 ⅜ 182 Sr. He ran a 4.32 40 and did 15 reps but didn’t do other workouts. He barely played in 2013 (7 tackles), had a great year in 2014 (51 tackles, 6 PBU, 5 INT), a good year in 2015 (46 tackles, 8 PBU, 1 FF), a good year in 2016 (29 tackles, 9 PBU, 4 INT, 1 FF in only 11 games), and a great year in 2017 (55 tackles, 9 PBU, 6 INT). His 14 career INT is elite and shows his great ball skills. He’s a true ballhawk and really attacks the ball with some of his interceptions being the leaping over wideouts, racing from out of nowhere type INTs. With his size, his best fit is probably as a slot CB but due to his ball skills I’d consider FS in a predominantly centerfield type scheme for him as he has elite speed and very good to elite ball skills. His 4.32 40 speed is legit as he has film vs. UCF where he’s on the opposite side of the play and tracks down a wideout +40 yards downfield with him just flashing past everyone else on the field and stripping him for a forced fumble. He’s my pick for the fastest player in this draft class. Parry’s size is a major issue though as he sticks his head in against the run but is weak and looks like he could be injury prone at the next level due to his very thin frame. He played most of his collegiate career in the 170s and I just don’t know if his body can add much weight. As a CB he reminds me a bit of Josh Robinson out of UCF a few years ago in that they have just crazy speed. Nickerson is smaller but also much quicker, more agile, and more instinctive but both leave me wanting more from their tape considering they have such rare speed. I honestly wonder why coaches didn’t move him to WR (maybe his hands suck) as his speed is rare. His elite speed is far more helpful off the ball in a centerfield role as a free safety and he has enough film of him playing in sort of that role that I think it’d fit him well. He also is easily exploited against the run at CB as they can run directly at him and there is some film of wideouts taking advantage of him on jump balls and outmuscling him on contested catches. Those things will occur when he’s lined up at FS as well but it will be more difficult for an offense to naturally create those mismatches so they’ll happen less frequently. At FS he reminds me of a poor man’s Malik Hooker with elite speed and instincts. Hooker was taller, bigger, and had a better instincts (some of the best I’ve ever graded) but he was a mid 1st. Nickerson could struggle a bit with the transition and is smaller but deserves a high grade nonetheless at FS due to his Pro Bowl traits. As a CB I have a late 3rd/early 4th grade on him but I’m moving him to S, specifically centerfield FS, where he’s an early 3rd rounder as my #9 S due to his rare speed, very good ball skills and good instincts 4/11/18.
  10. Armani Watts Texas A&M 5’10 ½ 202 Sr. He didn’t run, had only 13 reps, ‘35 vertical, 10’0 broad jump, 4.37 shuttle, and 7.25 3 cone. He had a very good freshman year in 2014 (59 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT), his best year in 2015 (126 tackles, 6 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FF), a down year in 2016 (56 tackles, 1 sack, 6 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FF), and then bounced back with a very good senior year in 2017 (87 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 4 INT, 2 FF). He reminds me a lot of Barry Church in that he’s a mobile, big hitting SS who doesn’t make many plays in the passing game but is okay in coverage overall. He was a headhunter and sometimes went for the big hit over the wrap up tackle so he has some missed tackles but overall he’s a very dependable tackler and has range. He’s been one of the leaders of their defense for years now and seems to be a hard worker/high character. He goes for the hit not the INT most of the time but he has good hands and has 10 career INTs so he has a solid all around game and can make plays for a team. I like him as a SS due to his big hits and mediocre speed but a team playing quarters could use him at FS. After his great Soph year I thought he had the chance to become something special but now he projects more as an above average starter at SS who gives you some big hits, high tackle totals, and decent range. He won’t be a dynamic playmaker but he could become a 100 tackle guy like Church was and is a good kid with high character, 4 year SEC starter, etc. so he’s a pretty safe prospect. Mid 3rd round as my #10 S 4/5/18.
  11. Marcus Allen Penn State 6’2 215 Sr. He didn’t run the 40, 15 reps, ‘37 vertical-elite, 10’7 broad-elite, and 4.32 shuttle-bad. He played great as a freshman (58 tackles, 1 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 PBU), improved in 2015 (81 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL, 2 PBU, 2 FF), had his best year in 2016 (110 tackles, 6 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 FF), and then another good year in 2017 (71 tackles, 1 sack, 4 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT, 2 FF). His 1 INT in 4 full seasons shows his lack of ball skills so he’s a SS through and through. He’s a tall, well built SS who has the frame to add weight so maybe some team will consider bulking him up 10 lbs to be a 4-3 WLB. I’d consider it as he’s a playmaker around the LOS in run support and as a blitzer but struggles in space both speed and quickness wise. He’s a big hitter but also a form tackler who has consistent film in run support. His 5 FF the past three seasons is very good and shows some of that force he has at the point of contact. Penn State basically played him like a 4th LB and a team that does that, think Seattle/Atlanta, will like him. He isn’t a great athlete in some respects, not that fast or quick, but he has good body bend and great explosion. His tape is full of plays where he races down from his safety spot to lay a big hit on a player in space. He has great timing, good instincts, and has a good short area burst which is why his vertical and broad jump were so good. He’s an interesting player who will succeed or fail based on scheme as he is great in some areas and very bad in other areas. I honestly would bulk him up and move him to 4-3 WLB but will leave him at S since few teams likely are considering it. I love his motor as he seems to be running all day long. Overall he’s an easy evaluation but tough grade as he is very good against the run and seems lost instinctually and below average athletically against the pass. For a team willing to play him in a scheme that hides his deficiencies he could be a very good player but if put in the wrong system he’ll be a bust. I’d roll the dice on him as his tape is good and his elite motor, big hits, and rare toughness should make him a quality player if used correctly. Late 3rd round as my #11 S who is a SS or maybe even a 4-3 WLB as he’s great against the run and bad against the pass 4/7/18.
  12. Ronnie Harrison Alabama 6’2 207 Jr. He didn’t run but had a ‘34 vertical and 10’0 broad jump. He had a solid season in 2015 as a backup (17 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 6 PBU, 2 INT, 1 FF), a really good season in 2016 as a starter (85 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 2 INT), and a similar season in 2017 (74 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 4 PBU, 3 INT). 7 career INTs is pretty solid as is 17 PBUs. He’s a good blitzer who should excel in that role in the pros (he’s the guy who broke FSU’s Francois’ ankle on a sack ruining their season in the 2017 opener). He has the frame of a FS but the game of a SS as in coverage he’s just okay and is pretty tight body wise but in the box he shows speed, strength, and great tackling ability. He’s a very consistent tackler who gets people to the ground easily. He’ll fit well in a quarters scheme where your SS and FS are interchangeable as he’s either a light SS with above average cover skills or a tight FS with great tackling skills but below average cover skills. I like my FS to be either ballhawks in centerfield (Malik Hooker, Earl Thomas) or versatile players that can cover, blitz and play centerfield (Buddha Baker, Tyrann Mathieu). He’s neither type so I see him as a SS but in either spot he projects as an average starter. I think he’s a bit overrated, who isn’t out of Alabama these days, and just don’t see the size or big hits to be a dominant in the box SS or the ball skills or speed/agility to be a dominant FS. He projects as a starter but from where I am seeing him taken in mock drafts I think he’s overrated. Late 3rd round as my #12 S 4/6/18.
  13. Holton Hill Texas 6’1 ⅝ 196 Sr. He ran a 4.49 40, 14 reps, ‘31 vertical, 10’0 broad, 4.15 shuttle, and 6.83 3 cone. In 2015 he had a solid season (49 tackles, 4 PBU, 1 INT), an injury plagued season in 2016 (23 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FF), and a better but another injury plagued year in 2017 (51 tackles, 6 PBU, 2 INT). Both his INT in 2017 were pick six. I’m not a huge fan of guys leaving early after 0 great seasons and 0 seasons even playing a full slate of games as he only played in 26 games in 3 seasons and had only 11 PBU, 3 INT, and 1 FF so he wasn’t that impactful in his time at Austin. That being said he does look NFL caliber on film and I noticed him in the 2017 USC game as he looked like a playmaker in that one so teams will have to analyze him in depth and see if they can get him for a discounted price after an underwhelming overall college career and a Combine that was mediocre at best. Nicknamed “Hollywood”, Hill has some playmaking talent to him. He has really good height and good arm length (‘32) but is tightly built and doesn’t have great lateral agility. In fact I think FS is in play for him as he’s a good run stopper and has the frame arguably more of a FS than a CB. He gets pretty handsy in coverage, likely due to his mediocre agility, and could be a heavy pass interference guy in the pros if kept at CB. He is a sure tackler and really excels in this area as he has a lot of good sticks where he centers up a ball carrier perfectly. Despite his good size he played a lot of off coverage at UT and I wonder if that means he’s versatile and can play either or they determined his backpedal wasn’t good enough and off coverage made the most sense. He clearly prefers the play in front of him than behind him, another reason why FS might be a better option, but I think he could work well as a zone corner due to this reason so he’s probably a CB/FS depending on scheme. Overall I love his run support, think he has decent ball skills, and has good size and average to maybe above average athleticism so the package is there to be a solid starter. I prefer him as a FS, where I have him as a late 3rd rounder as my #13 S but he could be a zone CB where a team sprinkles in some man coverage as he could hold up in that capacity on an occasional basis. As a CB I have a lower grade, mid 4th, due to his tightness and questionable long speed and preference to have the play in front of him. Late 3rd round as my # S 4/13/18.
  14. Jordan Whitehead Pittsburgh 5’10 ⅜ 198 Jr. He didn’t work out at the Combine except for 21 reps on the bench. Interestingly enough his best year was as a true freshman in 2015 (108 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF) where he was a freshman All-American, followed by a good but less stellar 2016 (65 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF), and another solid but lesser year in 2017 (60 tackles, 1 INT). He missed 3 games in 2017 due to a suspension by the team (he had a 1 game suspension in 2016 as well so he’s a legit character risk guy). He was also used part time at WR and RB with around 250 rushing yards the past two seasons combined. He’s a natural athlete who has the look of a CB/FS combo type guy but I’m shocked he left school early as he hasn’t had a great season in awhile and with 3 career INTs and 12 PBUs he hardly dominated college. He also has some of the shortest arms I’ve ever graded (‘29 ¾) which to me takes CB out of the equation, except in zone schemes or in the slot part time (likely his appeal anyway) and even then it worries me. He has good ball skills and has NFL athleticism but he isn’t the most physical player, has questionable character with his suspensions and leaving school early for no reason, and missing the Combine workouts due to a hamstring injury really hurt his cause. His tape is very inconsistent so it’s hard to get a read on him as one moment he misses a tackle in open space and the next moment he blows someone up looking really good. I love his agility and quickness so I’d take a chance on him as a sleeper type as he really needed to return and have a season like his 2015 season to cement himself as a legit prospect but in the end I think he’ll be a nice steal for someone. Right now he’s in danger of not getting drafted but I see some 2nd-3rd round level talent with his CB level athleticism and inconsistent but at times very good tackling skills as a FS. Due to all of his issues I’d target him in the mid rounds as a potential steal as he could become an above average starter. Early 4th round as my #14 FS 4/5/18.
  15. Dane Cruikshank Arizona 6’1 ¼ 209 Sr. He ran a 4.41 40-elite, 25 reps, ‘38 ½ vertical-elite, 10’1 broad jump-above average, 4.24 shuttle-average, and 6.89 3 cone-above average. He was a JUCO kid who transferred to Arizona and had a good junior year in 2016 (60 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 7 PBU, 2 INT) and a great year in 2017 (75 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 3 INT, 1 FF). He’s a long SS type with good agility and 5 INT the past two seasons so some teams might view him as a FS but he seems like a much better fit as a SS with good cover skills. He is a bit of a loudmouth and loves to talk trash, get the crowd riled up, and has had some unsportsmanlike penalties against him. He’s interesting as he is explosive and makes big hits but is very fast in a straight line and agile and instinctive enough to be above average in coverage. His athleticism surprises you with how big he is but he can really move and has some big time playmaker type traits to him. He’s a bit top heavy and doesn’t have the quintessential S frame. He’s a tough guy to grade as there isn’t a ton of film on him and often times he played off coverage in their scheme, almost more of a safety net zone type scheme with it being difficult to view his hips and agility as the play was usually in front of him. I see some impressive traits in him and consider him an interesting mid round roll of the dice type as guys with his combination of frame, strength, big hits, and elite straight line speed are rare. Early 4th round as my #15 S 4/8/18.
  16. Quin Blanding Virginia 6’2 207 Sr. He ran a 4.63 40, ‘31 ½ vertical, and 10’2 broad with all being bad AND that’s just the drills he did do which is a huge red flag. He had an incredible year in 2014 (123 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 6 PBU, 3 INT) as a true freshman and continued that trend with 4 straight +100 tackle seasons in 2015 (115 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 INT, 1 FF), 2016 (120 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 PBU, 2 INT), and 2017 (137 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 4 INT). His +450 tackles in 4 seasons is elite and he had 10 INT showing good versatility. He’s a taller, skinnier SS type who has some big hits and is a very consistent and productive tackler. He’s more consistent tackler than head hunter and at times can get engulfed by OL as he isn’t that big of a guy for a SS. He also looks legit 4.63, which is a negative, and doesn’t close ground very quickly. He has some cover skills as he moves well and is agile but he lacks the speed to cover guys in the slot or play centerfield. I love his production and like his film but his physical limitations are evident and I worry that he’ll be eaten alive by the step up in competition as he appears to be more of an overachiever type already. He projects as a backup who excels on special teams initially who maybe can develop into an average starter down the road. He has a low ceiling but his production was elite as a four year starter in a Power 5 conference so you have to love his experience. Late 4th round as my #16 S 4/7/18.
  17. Godwin Igwebuike Northwestern 5’11 ⅜ 213 Sr. He ran a 4.44 40-elite, 19 reps-average, ‘35 ½ vertical-good, 10’8 broad-elite, 4.12 shuttle-good, 6.56 3 cone-elite. He had a solid freshman year in 2014 (51 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 PBU, 3 INT), his best two seasons in 2015 (87 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 FF) and 2016 (108 tackles, 6 TFL, 7 PBUs, 2 INT, 1 FF), and a good but slightly down year in 2017 (78 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 9 PBUs, 2 INT, 1 FF). He’s a short, thicker SS type who played deep in a lot of two man high safety for them. He shows a really impressive burst to the ball and has some “shot out of a cannon” type plays with his 4.44 40 maybe being legit. One thing that doesn’t translate to the field for him measurables wise is quickness as his 3 cone is elite for a safety yet he doesn’t look that quick on film. He’s tightly built and seems like a straight line speed guy but doesn’t change direction all that well. You can see that when he’s in man coverage as he just isn’t fluid and easily gets beat on change of direction routes. Northwestern knew that and limited his man coverage (lots of two safety looks) and he was actually a LB in their dime package. He has poor instincts and seems to always be reacting instead of reading his keys or feeling a play out. There is a lot of footage of him being a step behind a play, luckily he has great speed, but it limits his production for sure. His tightness combined with his poor instincts leave him with a lot of poor film in coverage. I don’t think it’s fixable so to me he’s an in the box safety and will need a lot of help in coverage or clear assignments as he just doesn’t read plays quickly and often takes poor angles. In fact he probably takes the worst angles and gets beat over the top more often than any other safety in this draft class. Overall I’m not a huge fan of his but I think Northwestern didn’t play him correctly as he has a great burst to the ball and is a good tackler yet he was consistently 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage. A team using him as a run stopper and occasional blitzer might get a nice surprise and find him to be an impressive playmaker. More likely he’s an okay backup, great special teamer, struggles a lot in coverage, and overall underwhelms despite some elite measurables. 5th round as my #17 S 4/5/18.
  18. Quenton Meeks Stanford 6’1 209 Jr. He didn’t run but had 11 reps, ‘39 vertical, 10’8 broad, 4.23 shuttle, and 6.72 3 cone. He had a very good freshman year in 2015 (35 tackles, 4 PBU, 3 INT), a slightly down year in 2016 (22 tackles, 6 PBU, 2 INT), and then his best year by far in 2017 (65 tackles, 8 PBU, 2 INT) leaving school early. He’s more S than CB in my eyes but either way he’s a very fiery player who has a physicality to his game that some defensive coordinators will love. He doesn’t have good speed and if kept at CB, he’ll be a zone corner. I don’t like him at CB as he moves like a safety, doesn’t have good speed, and only has average ball skills so he’d be an undrafted free agent at CB in my eyes but at FS he has a little intrigue to me. I don’t see him as anything more than a mid rounder who projects as a backup or low end starter but his explosiveness and physicality fit well at safety and his mediocre speed isn’t as big of a negative. I honestly could see him play a little SS so the fact that many have him at CB at 209 lbs with mediocre speed confuses me a bit. 6th round as my #18 S 4/13/18.
  19. Troy Apke Penn State 6’1 ¼ 200 He ran a 4.34 40-elite, 16 reps, ‘41 vertical-elite, 10’11 broad-elite, 4.03 shuttle-elite, 6.56 3 cone-elite and one of the best times I’ve ever graded. His Combine was one of the 2-3 best of any player, regardless of position, this draft. He barely played in 2014 (2 tackles), was a backup in 2015 (26 tackles, 1 PBU, 1 FF), mediocre in 2016 (28 tackles, 1 INT), and then had a good year in 2017 but hardly great (55 tackles, 3 TFL, 5 PBU, 1 INT). His Combine is that of a Top 5 pick, his career production is that of an undrafted free agent. I consider collegiate production to be a key factor in future NFL success so I’m not nearly as high on him as others as he wasn’t anything until his senior season. He has a wide frame that is more LB than S looking. To me he’s the quintessential workout warrior as I don’t see a 4.3 guy on film and the fact that he couldn’t even produce at a starter level until his senior year makes me think the measurables will never translate to the field. There is an outside chance he’s a late bloomer but more likely he’s a future bust who maybe makes it a few years as a backup S and special teamer. Late 6th round as my #19 S who smells like a bust to me 4/7/18.
  20. Tony Brown Alabama 5’11 ⅞ 199 Sr. He ran a 4.35 40, 14 reps, ‘31 ½ vertical, 10’6 broad, 4.11 shuttle, and 6.78 3 cone with his 40 time and 3 cone both being elite. He barely played in 2014 (10 tackles, 1 PBU), again barely played in 2015 (16 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 FF), played more in 2016 but didn’t make many plays (32 tackles, 2 INT), and then had another mediocre year in 2017 (31 tackles, 2 PBU, 1 INT). 2 PBU the past two seasons is flat out confusing for a starting DB, especially considering on film he looks athletic and he’s a former blue chip prospect out of HS. He’s a former track star who always has seemed more athlete than football player to me but don’t call him a track guy as his best attribute probably is his physicality and he’s always been a very good special teams guy for Alabama. I’ve always felt the light was going to flip on for him but at this point he’s probably who he is, an elite size/speed corner with good physicality who has no ball skills whatsoever and who is very tightly built. He’s a flamboyant guy on and off the field as he’s a big trash talker, goes shirtless in pregame warmups, got suspended 4 games in 2016 due to failed drug tests, etc. Honestly I value ball skills too much to put this kid in my secondary if I was a GM and would just consider him a special teams player only but in some systems he’d make some sense as a dime DB in a scheme that blitzes guys from various spots/positions like the Ryan boys do. I’m putting him at safety not CB as he’s tightly built and has shown no ability to turn and find the ball in the air or make plays on it so at least at safety he’d be relegated to stopping the run or being a headhunter in coverage, both mitigating his atrocious ball skills. In the end I’ll give him a 7th round grade as my #20 S as he has great athleticism and projects as a very good special teams guy but I’d want no part of him actually playing DB for a team of my creation due to his horrendous ball skills 4/13/18.

2018 LB Rankings

Roquan

  1. Roquan Smith Georgia 6’0 ⅞ 236 Jr. He ran a 4.58 40 but didn’t do the rest of the workout at the Combine. In 2015 he was a part time player (20 tackles) but in 2016 he had a very good year (95 tackles, 5 TFL, 2 FF) and then a monster year in 2017 (137 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 1 FF). He’s a short, undersized player with very good speed, elite quickness, great instincts, and a knack for slipping blocks and making plays. He’s undersized but he’s tough and very physical so I have no issues with him as a 4-3 MLB, though many teams will want him as a 4-3 WLB. Those are his only spots that make sense for him in the 4-3 and the 3-4 is out in my opinion so his lack of scheme versatility could hurt him on draft day. He makes tackles in space more consistently than any other player in this draft. He shows some rare burst as a blitzer and should have been used more frequently in his career in that role as Georgia only used him that way last year. Smith has very good speed and elite agility and quickness so he’ll be a good coverage linebacker but he’s not a big hitter, can get engulfed at the POA at times, and has some noticeable physical limitations. Also his 0 career INT make me pause a bit while projecting him as a great coverage linebacker as he has the speed and agility to cover his man well but has shown nothing in the way of instincts ala Luke Kuechly or Sean Lee to expect him to be a big time ballhawk, high INT linebacker. I’m a bit on the fence on Smith as an elite prospect as I don’t think people give enough credit for his deep DL that kept blockers off him on most plays and his lack of size and lack of production as an impact cover linebacker all worries me a bit. On a positive note though, my favorite part of Smith’s game is his lateral quickness when he’s bouncing around just outside the grasp of OL, feeling the play, and making his way to the ball carrier. He has good instincts for where a play is headed and should be a consistent +100 tackles a year player in the NFL. He’s probably the most slippery LB I’ve graded in years as OL have a really tough time staying in front of him. The way he can just slide past an OL in space is rare and is the number one reason why I would consider him an elite prospect. Comparing Smith vs. Tremaine Edmunds is interesting as both have incredible upside but couldn’t be any more different players. In the end I give Smith the slightly higher grade as his floor is much higher but Edmunds has a higher ceiling due to his rare physical tools and the fact that he’s 2 years younger than Smith (who just turned 21 and is by no means an old prospect himself). Barely sneaks into the Top 10 as my #1 LB ,despite his poor measurables, as his film is elite and he’s one of the more slippery, difficult to block linebackers I’ve ever graded 4/13/18.
  2. Tremaine Edmunds Virginia Tech 6’4 ½ 253 Jr. He ran a 4.54 40-elite, 19 reps-bad, and 9’9 broad jump-average. He barely played in 2015 (11 tackles) and then dominated in 2016 (106 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 18.5 TFL, 1 FF), and 2017 (109 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 14 TFL, 3 FF). His 215 tackles, 32.5 TF, and 4 FF the past two seasons are all elite for that category showing rare productivity that I can’t remember grading since Luke Kuechly (not counting Scooby Wright). Bud Foster said he’s the best he’s ever had in +20 years of being a defensive coordinator. He has elite tackling skills in open space for a big man and really breaks down and makes form tackles. A lot of 40s you have to take with a grain of salt as they overtrained and it doesn’t translate to the field, Edmunds’ elite 40 translates to the field. He has a rare burst for a LB, let alone one of his size, and he shoots gaps and chases down ball carriers like they’re in quicksand. On top of his elite size/speed ratio he has really good instincts and has long arms which could make him a 3-4 OLB if a team wanted. To me he’s the perfect 4-3 MLB or 3-4 ILB and reminds me a lot of Patrick Willis with that rare package of size, speed, instincts, and toughness. He’s versatile as he can play 4-3 MLB or SLB, 3-4 ILB or OLB. He had a bad game in 2017 vs. Clemson and showed that he has solid instincts but can be fooled and isn’t in the same category instinctually as Willis, Kuechly, Lavonte David, etc. He also often takes too many false steps and is a half second slow to react. When he reads a play though and is sure where a RB is going, look out, as he has rare burst and is special at meeting players behind the LOS. To me those are his only two flaws and they might be correctable due to his age (he doesn’t turn 20 until after the draft!). He’s a raw kid still but his ceiling is ridiculously high and teams passing on him need to understand that he could become the next Patrick Willis. 1st ballot HOF isn’t something I’d put past him but I worry that he’ll never take that next step instincts wise and he’ll be more Lawrence Timmons (elite size/speed but doesn’t understand the game) than Patrick Willis. He’s tough, he’s a hard hitter, he’s a leader, he has rare productivity and did it as an 18 and 19 year old, he has an elite size/speed ratio, his motor is non-stop. He is a special player with a crazy upside, especially if he can be further taught how to diagnose plays, and I don’t think he’s getting nearly as much praise as he should. In the end he’s a blue chip prospect. Top 15 as the #2 LB in this class, and he has Hall of Fame potential but is still somewhat raw and is one of the youngest draft eligible players I’ve ever graded 4/2/18.
  3. Shaquem Griffin Central Florida 6’0 ⅜ 227 Sr. He ran a 4.38 40-borderline historic, 20 reps, and had a 9’9 broad jump. He redshirted in 2013, didn’t play in 2014, and barely played in 2015 (9 tackles). In 2016 (92 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FF) and 2017 (74 tackles, 7 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FF) he had great seasons with 4 FF being elite. He lost his hand at the age of 4 due to a birth defect. It’s interesting he has 2 career INTs with just one hand, that alone should tell you he can do whatever he needs to on a football field despite his malady. His 40 time is elite and while I don’t see 4.38 on film he’s plenty fast and plays like a 4.50 type guy with that making him still one of the fastest linebackers in this draft. His frame says 4-3 WLB but I actually really like him as a blitzer as his one hand gives him an odd movement that seems to make OTs struggle a bit and his 18.5 sacks the past two seasons shows the kind of production he has in that role so 3-4 ILB or 4-3 SLB in schemes that blitz those positions are all options. Most likely he’s a 4-3 WLB, a team blitzes him, and he excels in coverage with his elite speed. A team also will get an immediate fan favorite and probably Top 20 jersey sales player so it will behoove a team financially to draft him. He was a late addition to the Senior Bowl and to the Combine, both of which he ended up dominating. He’s a physical player and has a nice spin move that looks NFL caliber. Again I really like him as a rusher and know that at 6’0 with ‘32 arms and only one hand he can’t be an every down guy but a smart team will incorporate that into whatever position he ends up at as he flashes major potential in that role. As a #3 rusher for a team he makes sense since his unique style takes OTs by surprise and he’s more effective the less he rushes. A lot of people probably think he’s just an inspirational story and more of a social media phenomenon but he’s a really good player who shows great strength and toughness at the POA, elite speed, and doesn’t seem to have any noticeable issues with missing one hand. I really like him as a 4-3 WLB but think he could be a 4-3 SLB or 3-4 ILB, especially if a team focuses on his strengths as a pass rusher and in coverage and less as a stack and shed player. He has a lot of talent and projects as an impact defender. Mid 2nd round as my #3 LB 4/3/18.
  4. Rashaan Evans Alabama 6’1 ⅞ 232 Sr. He did a partial work out, 30 reps, 9’8 broad jump, 4.36 shuttle, and 6.95 3 cone with his reps and 3 cone being elite. He barely played in ‘14-’15 (24 tackles, 5 sacks COMBINED) and then had a good year in 2016 (53 tackles, 4 sacks, 4.5 TFL, 1 FF) and an even better year in 2017 (74 tackles, 6 sacks, 13 TFL, 1 FF). He’s very agile and has good bend to his frame. He is on the smaller side, especially for Alabama and a 3-4 defense, and looks like a better fit in the 4-3 but has versatility beyond 4-3 WLB and could probably play all three LB positions in a 4-3. He’s shorter than small as he’s well built and shows great strength. In fact his combination of speed and strength is impressive and has him as one of the fastest risers in this draft. He doesn’t have the length to play 3-4 OLB but he’s a great blitzer and finishes violently so he should be used in that role occasionally by a 4-3 team. He understands route concepts and shows a very high football IQ with it surprising me that he had 0 career INTs. He has good speed but not great speed (4.60ish) and probably fits best as a 4-3 MLB. I like his film a lot but only 2 productive seasons (none of which had anywhere near 100 tackles) 0 INTs, and 2 FF for his career isn’t anything special so to me he looks like an above average starter who will give you a versatile MLB who won’t struggle in coverage. Few guys can both battle big OL in the trenches and look agile in space in coverage or on outside runs. Evans can do that and I understand how that versatility is appealing but I see some mocks having him in the 1st round and that is crazy to me. He’s physical and has solid speed and agility but he wasn’t a dominant linebacker in college so I don’t understand why he’d be considered a dominant linebacker in the pros. He projects as a guy with a complete game who has great versatility but isn’t dominant in any one area so he likely won’t be a Pro Bowler. Late 2nd round as my #4 LB 4/3/18.
  5. Malik Jefferson Texas 6’2 ¼ 236 Jr. He ran a blistering 4.52 40-elite, 27 reps-great, ‘36 vertical-great, 10’5 broad jump-great so overall he had one of the better Combine of any prospect. He was a blue chip prospect out of HS who, it seems like just yesterday, had a last minute change of heart going from Texas A&M to Texas on signing day. In 2015 he was good (61 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 FF), he had a similar season in 2016 (62 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 1 FF), and then he exploded in 2017 (110 tackles, 4 sacks, 10 TFL). I’m very familiar with Jefferson in his time at Texas and he’s an easy scout as he has all the physical tools you could want in a 4-3 LB, has the versatility to play any of the 3 spots (and ILB in a 3-4 if a team wanted though 4-3 seems like a much better fit), yet he doesn’t have a high football IQ and continues to look raw after all of these years. Don’t get me wrong, he should be a good starter in the NFL but he has elite tools and I just wonder if he’ll ever turn them into the monster of a defender everyone has always been expecting him to become. His highlight reel is very impressive as his size/speed ratio is off the charts and he has some ferocious hits. It’s his penchant for biting on play fakes, false steps on nearly every play, and surprisingly average production up until 2017 that gives you pause. A good example of this is that with his elite speed he has 2 career forced fumbles and 0 career interceptions. That is pretty poor for a physical freak like him. When he sees the play in front of him and can just go he’s a rare player, when he has to process information he becomes mediocre. If I were a team taking him I’d give him limited responsibilities and just tell him to attack, while putting lesser players in a scheme to cover his freelancing. He’s only 21 and has a rare skill set physically so there is still a chance he maximizes his potential but it’s most likely that he’s a very good player who is always a bit of a tease to scouts. He’s also a finesse LB despite his big hit highlights so a team will need to toughen him up a bit AND let him freelance. That’s asking a lot for him to become successful and is why he has some legit bust potential with him. In the end I think he becomes an above average starter but never comes close to realizing his full potential as a sideline to sideline playmaker with speed and strength. Late 2nd round as my #5 LB 4/3/18.
  6. Leighton Vander Esch Boise State 6’4 ¼ 256 Jr. He ran a 4.65 40, 20 reps, ‘39 ½ vertical-elite, 10’4 broad-elite, 4.15 shuttle-elite, and 6.88 3 cone-elite. He was a part time player in 2015 (20 tackles), had an injury plagued season in 2016 (27 tackles, 1 sack, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT in 6 games), and then exploded in 2017 (141 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFL, 3 INT, 4 FF). He’s a one year wonder but what a one year he had with his tackles, INTs, and FF totals all being elite for a LB. His frame says 3-4 ILB but he has a versatile game so he probably could play 3-4 OLB or any 4-3 position, though 4-3 SLB would be my next favorite position for him after 3-4 ILB. For nearly a 260 lb guy he moves really well both speed and agility wise. He doesn’t show as much strength as you would expect for his size but he’s still pretty strong and he is a solid run stopper and very agile which helps him in coverage. I like his all around game but he doesn’t do anything incredibly well as he has only average instincts, isn’t really a big hitter, and isn’t a 4.5 speed guy to become elite in coverage. He is a well rounded, good at everything/great at nothing type player and sometimes those types like Kyle Van Noy a few years back from BYU end up being busts in the modern day NFL where more guys have specific roles. I like Leighton and think he’ll be an above average starter but I don’t see Pro Bowl traits in him and am surprised to hear his name in the 1st round chatter. Watch his 2017 Wyoming tape and he misses a tackle in space, loses the FB out of the backfield for a big play on a wheel route, and gives up a long TD catch in man coverage. I just don’t know where people see future superstar when they put on that film. His 2017 Oregon film is much better and in every game he shows a good motor and an impressive size/speed ratio. He’s a big guy that moves well and has scheme versatility so he’ll likely be an above average starter but he’s nothing special. Early 3rd round as my #6 LB who I consider vastly overrated 4/4/18.
  7. Genard Avery Memphis 6’0 ½ 248 Sr. He ran a 4.59 40, 26 reps, ‘36 vertical, 10’4 broad jump, 4.36 shuttle, and 6.90 3 cone with all being above average to elite. He’s an amazing athlete for his 250 lb frame, especially with his 6.90 3 cone which is better than most guys 10-20 lbs lighter than him. That 6.90 3 cone is good for a CB to put it in perspective. He played consistently all four years with a solid freshman year in 2014 (19 tackles, 5 sacks, 6 TFL), a good year in 2015 (53 tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL), and then two great years in 2016 (81 tackles, 5 sacks, 11 TFL, 2 INT, 2 FF) and 2017 (80 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 22 TFL, 2 FF). His combination of splash plays the past two years with 13.5 sacks, 33 TFL, 2 INT, and 4 FF is elite and shows his versatility. He’s very adept as a pass rusher and could be a good fit as a 3-4 ILB or as a 4-3 SLB for teams that use these positions as part time rushers. He’s an interesting guy as Memphis used him all over the field, often as a 3-4 OLB but his ‘31 arms and mediocre burst make him a poor fit there. He ran a sub 4.60 40 but plays more like a 4.65-4.70 type guy which is fine for an inside backer but he is a little limiting as a pure athlete. Where he impresses is with his strength and explosiveness as he has a lot of film blitzing and crashing into an OG at full force to jar them backwards. That should excite a team wanting their linebackers to set a tone. He also has very good agility and bend for a guy with his short stature (usually they are tight) and that should help him in coverage but again I worry about his speed. He’s a strong guy but due to his arm length he struggles to stack and shed or disengage from blockers at times. He has a lot of good film but he has noticeable shortcomings with his mediocre speed and lack of length so I see him becoming a good but not great starter, with a strong preference that he be an ILB in a 3-4 scheme. I feel like some teams might view him as a better prospect than I do but he has too many limitations for me to give a 2nd round grade on despite some flashes of dominance. Early 3rd round as my #7 LB 4/2/18.
  8. Jerome Baker Ohio State 6’1 ⅛ 229 He ran a 4.53 40, 22 reps, ‘35 ½ vertical, and 10’6 broad jump. He barely played in 2015 as a freshman (3 tackles) and then had two great seasons in 2016 (83 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 2 INT) and 2017 (72 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 FF). His frame suggests he could add a little weight but most likely he’s solely a 4-3 WLB so his lack of scheme/role diversity might hurt him on draft day. He’s built more like a S than a LB and moves with the fluidity of one too so you know he’ll excel against the pass and can even cover TEs in man coverage. They used him as an occasional blitzer and he has the speed to excel in that role but lacks the frame or strength to be more than a surprise blitzer type. As a run stopper he often gets engulfed, which is to be expected at his weight, but he puts up a fight and shows a willingness to engage with OL and not just always run around them which is very big. He’s similar to Telvin Smith out of FSU a few years ago (6’3 218 ran a 4.52 vs. Baker’s 6’1 229 ran a 4.53). Smith has been a revelation to many as a 5th rounder who has been an elite player the past few years (#5 LB by PFF in 2017). Due to this, Baker will likely have more suitors than previously but he’ll be off most 3-4 teams boards as he just doesn’t fit their scheme except as a dime linebacker/special teams guy so I’m curious to see where he goes. I like him as he will be elite in coverage and has enough strength and tenacity to hold his own against the run. Despite similar 40s he isn’t quite as athletic as Smith or as instinctive as Lavonte David but he should be a productive starter, albeit scheme specific. Mid 3rd round as my #8 LB 4/2/18.
  9. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo OU 6’1 ⅝ 253 Sr. He ran a 4.77 40-average, 27 reps-above average, ‘38 vertical-elite, and 10’1 broad-elite. He barely played in 2014 and 2015 (16 tackles combined), and then had two very good and similar seasons in 2016-2017 (71-76 tackles, 8-9 sacks, 12-17.5 TFL, 2-3 FF). His 5 FF the past two seasons is very good as is all of his production with 147 tackles the past two seasons being elite for a DL. Despite being sub 6’2 he has decent length as his ‘33 ¾ arms are abnormally long for a guy of his height. That being said he seems too small and weak at the POA to be a true DL so he fits best as a 4-3 SLB or 3-4 OLB. Far too often he got stuck as a pass rusher and I wonder how effective he’ll be at the next level in that area. Ognonnia is a tough evaluation as he shows just enough quickness, bend, speed, and power to make you consider him a decent 3-4 OLB prospect but in the end I think he’d just be a below average starter or good backup in that role. Due to that, I think his best fit is actually as a 4-3 SLB who is used as an occasional blitzer. His stats seem inflated due to OU’s high scoring games and 14 game schedule last year but it likely will result in him being drafted as a 3-4 OLB and underperforming as a result. I also dislike how often he quit on plays and worry that a guy with a questionable motor, mediocre strength, and mediocre speed will be a bust. I’m not a huge fan of his as a 3-4 OLB but as a 4-3 SLB he has some appeal. Early 4th round as my #9 LB who I think will be a below average starter and borderline bust as a pure pass rusher but expect him to be drafted in that capacity anyway. I have him as a pure LB with potential as an occasional blitzer 3/25/18.
  10. Lorenzo Carter Georgia 6’4 ⅞ 250 Sr. He ran a 4.50 40-elite, ‘36 vertical-very good, 10’10 broad jump-elite showing off his rare athleticism. He was a four year starter with a great freshman season in 2014 right off the bat (41 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7 TFL). In 2015 (19 tackles, 0 TFL, 2 FF) he had his worst season but bounced back in 2016 (44 tackles, 5 sacks, 6 TFL, 2 FF) and 2017 (61 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 3 FF). His 9.5 sacks and 13.5 TFL the past two seasons is solid but hardly amazing, especially considering his two seasons were 28 games in length due to their long postseason run last year. His 5 FF is elite though and shows his strength and force at the POA. On paper he’s a rare prospect at 6’5 250 with ‘34 arms and 4.50 speed. That combination screams top 10 player. On film he’s less of a sure thing as he’s tightly built, doesn’t have a high football IQ (he hesitates a lot and seems indecisive), and wasn’t the pass rushing terror you’d expect with his athleticism. He has very good speed but he doesn’t look 4.50 on film, more 4.6ish. He also doesn’t have great strength and isn’t a good fit as a 4-3 DE despite being 6’5 250. There is a lot of film out there of him being comfortably blocked by TEs and RBs which is a huge red flag for any team thinking they can turn his rare physical skills into a top end pass rusher. He has elite talent but you wonder if he’ll ever max it out as he was a blue chip prospect out of HS (top 10 recruit nationally by some services) yet has never had a dominant season and only was a part time starter last year (started 10 of 15 games). I don’t see him being an effective pass rusher at the next level except as a blitzer. To me he’s clearly a workout warrior who on film doesn’t have the strength or speed his measurables show him to possess. He could fit as a 3-4 linebacker in any spot (OLB or ILB) or could fit as a 4-3 SLB but would struggle in coverage due to his tightness. Wherever he is played I expect him to underperform his draft position as he seems like a lifelong tease and will never fulfill his immense potential. As such I don’t really want him and see him as a mediocre starter unless he’s put in a perfect scheme. 3-4 ILB is probably his best fit and is where I have him at as an early 4th rounder as my #10 LB but he’ll probably be drafted much earlier as a 3-4 OLB where he likely becomes a bust despite his elite measurables 3/25/18.
  11. Azeem Victor Washington 6’2 ⅛ 240 Sr. He ran a 4.72 40, 19 reps, ‘32 ½ vertical, 9’7 broad jump, 4.40 shuttle, and 7.20 3 cone. He barely played in 2014 (4 tackles), dominated in 2015 (95 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 INT, 2 FF), had an injury plagued year in 2016 but with solid stats nonetheless (67 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 FF), and another down year 2017 (30 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL). He’s going to be a character risk as he had a DUI in 2017 (kept him from starting all his games he could), broke a leg against USC in 2016 due to being overly aggressive, and was suspended in 2017 for a targeting call. Add in his HS issues with trying to qualify academically and it paints a character risk picture that teams will need to investigate. If clear though he could be a steal as he’s coming off two down years but on a per game basis his 2015 and 2016 games were elite production wise and film wise. He’s a fiery player on and off the field who some teams will like in that he lays it all on the line and really battles. He throws his body around a lot and could be injury prone in the pros but will likely be a great special teamer. He relishes the physical side of the sport, loves laying big hits on guys, and talks to them afterwards. He will likely be a very polarizing player as some will love his personality and some will think he’s trouble. He’s slow on film and will need to be schemed around a bit. He probably fits best as a 3-4 ILB with head hunter coverage responsibilities. 4-3 SLB makes some sense too in a scheme that doesn’t have them covering the TE which he just can’t do. One positive is that he’s very agile and bends well. His straightline speed is clearly mediocre but his short area burst is okay and he’s quick on his feet. I like his tape and think he could be a steal on draft day as his medicals, plus his poor production as a senior, and his questionable character could result in him dropping to even undrafted level. In the end I think a team will get a solid, run stuffing MLB in a 4-3 or 3-4 ILB who is fiery and is a natural leader. He might not be squeaky clean off the field and could have an outburst or two in the locker room but overall he probably will be manageable and seems like a solid contributor, albeit one as a 2 down LB or 3 down if you scheme around his mediocre speed. 4th round as my #11 LB 4/3/18.
  12. Micah Kiser Virginia 6’0 ⅜ 238 Sr. He ran a 4.66 40, ‘35 ½ vertical, 10’1 broad, 4.24 shuttle, and 7.05 3 cone. He barely played in 2014 (15 tackles), had a dominant season in 2015 (117 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 13 TFL, 3 FF), another dominant season in 2016 (134 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 1 INT, 5 FF), and a very good but not quite as dominant season in 2017 (145 tackles, 5 sacks, 9.5 TFL). His 5 FF in 2016 is very impressive for a LB as is his 279 tackles the past two seasons. That is rare production. He’s a short, thick LB that looks like a fit as a 3-4 ILB or 4-3 MLB. He ran a 4.66 40 but I don’t see that film and see him more as a 4.75 guy. His lack of speed and mediocre agility is very apparent in the open field and makes me think he might be just a 2 down linebacker. He has some big hits on film and plays the run inside the box well so he has some value but he’ll have to be schemed in coverage and often will be subbed out entirely. His production made me expect more of a playmaker but really he was just a good run stopper that had gigantic tackle games against run oriented teams like 19 tackles vs. Virginia Tech and 18 tackles vs. Georgia Tech. Those are crazy stat games but most tackles were very ordinary and it makes me think his production is a little overrated. He projects as an average starter at 4-3 MLB or more likely at 3-4 ILB and he’ll be above average against the inside run and below average against the outside run with his coverage skills being shaky as well. Late 4th round as my #12 LB 4/3/18.
  13. Oren Burks Vanderbilt 6’3 ⅛ 233 Sr. He ran a 4.59 40-good, 18 reps-below average, ‘39 ½ vertical-elite, 10’11 broad jump-elite, 4.15 shuttle-elite, and 6.82 3 cone-elite. He played as a freshman in 2014 (37 tackles), improved in 2015 (59 tackles, 2 TFL, 3 INT, 1 FF), had a similar year in 2016 (59 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF), and had his best season in 2017 (82 tackles, 1 sack, 7 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF). Despite being only 233 lbs he looks strong enough and big enough on film that I think he could play any LB spot in a 4-3 though 3-4 isn’t an option. He takes a lot of false steps and often seems a step slow to a play. For a smaller LB he’s pretty tightly built and his mediocre agility (despite great quickness drill numbers) result in him not making the play he’s often in position to make. He projects best as a MLB as he isn’t the smoothest of athletes like I prefer at WLB and isn’t rangy or long enough to be any pass rush threat or to battle TEs like teams prefer at SLB. To me he’s nothing special and I was underwhelmed by his spotty play. He has good instincts as he reads his keys well and always looks to be in position but he just doesn’t make the plays often enough. I think he’ll be a below average MLB, with some position flexibility as WLB could work for some teams as well. Early 5th round as my #13 LB who had good measurable and decent stats his 4 years in the SEC but just wasn’t much of a playmaker 4/2/18.
  14. Kylie Fitts Utah 6’3 ¾ 263 Sr. He ran a 4.69 40-very good, 31 reps-very good, ‘32 ½ vertical-average, 9’9 broad jump-average, 4.19 shuttle-elite, and 6.88 3 cone-elite. He barely played in 2014 (1 tackle) and 2016 (4 tackles) but had a very good season in 2015 (41 tackles, 7 sacks, 8 TFL, 4 FF) and then a down year in 2017 (23 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FF). He battled injuries his entire career with 2016 and 2017 being injury marred. He’ll turn 24 as a rookie so he’s a much older prospect due to his injuries and missionary trip. He’s a narrow, thin guy for +260 lbs and he battles but often gets engulfed at the POA by OL. He has the frame and quickness more of a LB than a DL so a 3-4 team will probably keep him as a pass rusher at OLB while a 4-3 team might experiment with him as a SLB instead of a WDE. He didn’t impress me as a pass rusher and really struggles against the run but he looked incredibly fluid in space in coverage and his shuttle and 3 cone drills were elite times so I’m moving him to LB for my rankings. Off the ball he’s much better with quick feet and decent instincts. They dropped him in coverage a lot so there’s plenty of tape on him in that role and it looks like he fits well but he’s little more than a highly athletic conversion project who has a high ceiling due to his frame and quickness but has a low probability of success. 3-4 teams likely will be most interested in him as he could play all four LB spots but SLB in a 4-3 makes sense too. Either way he’s worth a roll of the dice due to his athleticism but an older prospect with an injury history and as a conversion guy he has a lot going against him. 5th round as my #14 LB 3/26/18.
  15. Fred Warner BYU 6’3 ⅜ 236 Sr. He ran a 4.64 40, ‘38 ½ vertical-elite, 9’11 broad-very good, 4.28 shuttle, and 6.90 3 cone-elite. He played a bit in 2014 as a freshman (22 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT), was a full time starter in 2015 (66 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 TFL, 2 INT), had his best season in 2016 (86 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 3 INT, 2 FF), and a similar but slightly down season in 2017 (87 tackles, 1 sacks, 9 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF). His 6.5 sacks, 5 INTs and 3 FF for his career shows some splash play diversity. He’s a taller, thin guy who has the frame to add weight. I think he makes sense frame wise as a 4-3 SLB or 3-4 ILB, with both schemes likely asking him to move into the 245-255 lb range. He’s more quick than strong and often struggles to get off blocks, even against TEs which is worrisome. He does do a good job of shooting gaps or using leverage to sneak around guys but he’s often underwhelming as a run stopper. In coverage he’s agile and should be above average but overall his tape is rather pedestrian. He needs to add weight and strength as right now he’s just too weak to be able to battle OL. With his frame and agility though he’s worth a look in the mid to late rounds as a project, especially for a 3-4 team as he might excel as an inside backer in that scheme. 5th round as my #15 LB who is a project with the frame and agility to someday maybe become an average starter and above average in coverage 4/3/18.
  16. Josey Jewell Iowa 6’1 234 Sr. He ran a 4.82 40, ‘33 vertical, 9’9 broad, 4.27 shuttle-elite, and 6.80 3 cone-elite. He was 1st in the nation in passes defensed for a non-DB with 11! He’s been one of the most productive linebackers in the nation for years now as he was solid in 2014 (51 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL) and then began his dominating run in 2015 (126 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 4 INT, 1 FF) with 2016 (124 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 TFL, 1 FF) and 2017 (136 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 2 INT, 1 FF) being dominant as well. His 3 years of +120 tackles is elite and borderline historic. His 6 INT and 3 FF the past three seasons is impressive as well and shows his versatility. His production is rare but five seconds into the film you immediately see his questionable speed and wonder how a team can hide him in a passing league like it is now. He looked terrible vs. Saquon Barkley in space and, while many look bad vs. Barkley, it was like a kid taking candy from a baby. He has good instincts and is adept at wading through the wash to get tackles in the box. I smell bust with Jewell as he just moves so poorly, especially for a guy sub 240. His instincts are very good, he had elite production the past three seasons, and he is strong, quick, and knows how to slip OL blocks so I’ll give him a mid round grade but if I was running a team I’d take him off our board due to his very poor game speed which will be difficult to overcome in the NFL. 5th round as my #16 LB 4/3/18.

2018 Pass Rusher (PR) Rankings

Bradley Chubb

  1. Bradley Chubb NC State 6’4 ⅜ 269 Sr. He ran a 4.65 40-very good, 24 reps-average, ‘36 vertical-great, 10’1 broad-great, 4.41 shuttle-below average, and 7.37 3 cone-below average. In 2014 he barely played (4 tackles) and then had a good year in 2015 (69 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12 TFL, 3 FF), followed by two great years in 2016 (57 tackles, 10 sacks, 21.5 TFL, 3 FF) and 2017 (73 tackles, 10 sacks, 25 TFL, 3 FF). His 9 FF the past three seasons is elite as is his 46.5 TFL the past two seasons. His 20 sacks is very good but shows he’s more of a complete all around DE than that uber rusher like a Von Miller type. Chubb is a well rounded player who excels arguably more as a run stopper than as a pass rusher, where he is still borderline elite. It all starts with his frame as he’s a tall, long (‘34 arms), thick (270 lbs), fast (4.65 40), and agile player. To me he screams 4-3 SDE as he’s that rare guy who could regularly get double digits sacks despite the increased traffic and bodies in that area. To me an elite SDE is more valuable than an elite WDE, despite often a lower sack total, as it is harder to find guys that can be impact rushers from that spot. Chubb projects as that type of player and really intrigues me with his combo rush style. He is very heavy handed and has a lot of film getting OTs off balance with a simple push. That sets up his above average speed and quickness which allows him to finish the play. Also it’s rare to see a guy his frame/weight that can bend as well as he can as he has very loose hips and turns the corner well enough to be a full time 4-3 WDE if a team preferred. Watching his film you can tell he won despite quality opponents and despite teams gameplanning for him as a lot of his sacks (especially in 2017) were against double teams. A good example is that he played Mike McGlinchey in 2016 and dominated (1 false start, 2 sack, 2 pressure, 3 TFL) with them not giving much help that year. In 2017 he was consistently doubled, chipped, or they ran away from him, with some analysts even going so far as bragging how good McGlinchey did against him. I would politely disagree as he was destroyed by Chubb in 2016 and they made sure to gameplan that outcome from not happening again. Chubb also is a patient rusher who often gets control of his OL before fully starting his rush. It’s why 4-3 SDE will be such a good fit for him as that position usually has run stopping responsibilities which a 4-3 WDE does not have. In the end Chubb is an easy grade as he is the safest prospect in this draft with a rare combination of frame, strength, athleticism, bend, and motor. At worst he’s a good SDE starter and at best he’s a Top 10 pass rusher in the NFL and in the Khalil Mack, Calais Campbell, JJ Watt category of great rushers who also excel in the run game. Top 5 as my #1 PR who is one of the best pass rushers I’ve ever graded due to his complete game 4/1/18.
  2. Harold Landry Boston College 6’2 ⅜ 252 Sr. He has ‘32 ⅞ arms, ran a 4.65 40-very good, 24 reps-average, ‘36 vertical-great, 9’11 broad-very good, 4.19 shuttle-elite, 6.88 3 cone-elite. His shuttle time was 1st among 52 DL and his 3 cone was 2nd so his quickness is elite for a DL. He barely played in 2014 (10 tackles, 1.5 TFL), then had a very good year in 2015 (60 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 15.5 TFL, 3 FF), his best year in 2016 (51 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 22 TFL, 7 FF), and a down year in 2017 (38 tackles, 5 sacks, 8.5 TFL). He missed 5 games due to an ankle injury. His 7 FF in 2016 is among the best totals I’ve ever seen for a single season (2nd most of any player in the past 10 seasons-Whitney Mercilus 1st in 2011 with 9 FF). In 2016 he led the nation in sacks AND forced fumbles. At 250 lbs he’s thin and narrow framed with it working to his advantage as he can get skinny and use his quickness to keep OL from getting their hands on him. He has a lot of “early” sacks which is a huge positive as it shows his dominance when he can just blow past an OT with pure speed or beat them decisively with a quick move. He dips well and can bend around the edge with 4-3 WDE being his most ideal fit. He really excels at finishing the sack when he’s in the kill zone and has some vicious takedowns, no surprise considering his 10 career FF. I’m a little surprised how down the scouting community is on Harold after one mediocre/injury plagued year. His 2016 film was elite and, while his 2017 film was inconsistent, he had a great game in 2017 vs. Wake Forest where he just toyed with the RT at times as well as had a lot more offensive attention diverted to him throughout the year. He’s an elite athlete with his speed and quickness being rare for a +250 lb guy. Add in the fact that he carries the weight extremely well and basically has ‘33 arms and you have a great physical specimen. Right now he has the body to play WDE in a 4-3 or OLB in a 3-4. His frame could easily add 10-15 lbs if a team wanted him to so in 3 years he might be a 6’3 265 guy with 4.6 speed, ‘33 arms, and great quickness. For a great physical specimen who led the nation in sacks just two seasons ago he sure isn’t getting a lot of love. The issue is his down year statistically and the belief that he’s a finesse player who isn’t well rounded. I disagree that he’s a finesse player as he has decent strength and consistently shows effort in the run game. He’s a smaller DE who excels more as an athlete than a battler and plays the game that way but he trails plays, shows good strength at the POA, and doesn’t take plays off until the next rush opportunity. I have issues with Arden Keys and Ade Aruna as run stoppers over Landry as he shows much more effort and tenacity. I disagree with the majority on Landry as to me he’s one of the elite prospects in this draft. He reminds me a bit of Vic Beasley but is bigger and stronger so he’s more of a 4-3 DE while Beasley was more of a 3-4 OLB. His quickness is elite so 3-4 OLB is an option but to me you bulk Landry up and get a 6’3 265 pass rusher with good speed and elite quickness. He projects as a 10-12 sack a year guy in my eyes and ends with a Top 10 grade as my #2 PR despite coming off a down year 3/30/18.
  3. Marcus Davenport UTSA 6’5 ¾ 264 Sr. He ran a 4.58 40-elite, 22 reps-below average, ‘33 ½ vertical-above average, 10’4 broad-elite, 4.41 shuttle-below average, 7.20 3 cone-above average. He was a part time player in 2014 (14 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL) and then slowly progressed from 2015 (49 tackles, 4 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 2 FF) to 2016 (68 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 FF) to 2017 (55 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 17 TFL, 3 FF). His 6 FF the past three seasons is impressive as is his steady improvement in all facets of his game production wise. That being said his lack of a double digit sack season despite playing inferior competition is worrisome to me. He had a good week at the Senior Bowl and people compare it to Ezekial Ansah who struggled early but steadily improved and was the Defensive MVP in the game. I like the comp as Davenport has the rawness and elite frame of Ansah though Davenport looks faster than Ansah but “only” has ‘33 ⅝ arms and not the vines Ansah has. Marcus has some vicious takedowns of QBs with players looking hurt after some of his sacks and forced fumbles. His 2017 Rice game was some rare film as he had 2 sacks, 4 TFL-including a +10 yard loss on an end around where he showed his discipline on the back end, dropped into coverage and ran 15 yards downfield with a RB on a wheel route for a pass breakup, and had a season high 11 tackles. He was all over the field and showed off his rare combination of length, strength and speed. Despite being a senior he’s still only 21 years old and it is safe to say that he’s far from a finished product with his steady improvement during his collegiate career making a team comfortable with the idea that he’ll dramatically improve early in his career. Just look at his TFL during his career (2.5, 7.5, 10.5, 17.5) and you’ll see the kid is improving by leaps and bounds. There is an outside chance he’s a bust with his rawness and lower level of competition but I see Pro Bowl potential with him and there just aren’t very many impact pass rush prospects so I’d be fine with rolling the dice on him earlier than most. I love Davenport’s frame, speed and ferociousness at the point of contact. It’s why his FF rate is so high and why he had 27.5 TFL the past two seasons which is an elite number. His heavy hands and ferociousness are what make me a believer as I see him becoming a 6’6 275 lb behemoth at 4-3 SDE a la JPP who excels as both a run stopper and pass rusher. Those guys are rare and he’ll be a solid starter from Day 1 so it won’t be tough for a team to wait a few years while he develops into a Pro Bowl caliber pass rusher. Top 15 as my #3 PR who is still a bit raw but has an extremely high ceiling as a double digit pass rusher 3/25/18.
  4. Sam Hubbard Ohio State 6’5 ⅜ 270 Jr. He had ‘33 ⅛ arms with big ‘10 hands, ‘35 vertical-very good, 9’8 broad-very good, 4.32 shuttle-above average, and 6.84 3 cone-elite and best of all 52 DL at the Combine. His athleticism for a 270 lb guy is rare. He played well in 2015 as a true freshman (28 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 FF), had a down year in 2016 (46 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 8 TFL) and then improved in 2017 (42 tackles, 7 sacks, 13.5 TFL, 2 FF) but overall never was as productive as you would expect with his talent. He flashes on film and has looked like an elite prospect for a few years now but 10.5 sacks the past two years combined is underwhelming. His elite quickness as seen by his 3 cone drill translates to the field as you just don’t see big guys with his frame move like he does. He has no fat on his frame and wears his weight well. He was a 205 lb safety in HS and just bulked up. It shows as his agility and quickness for a guy his size is rare. He has a loose lower body and bends well around the edge. There are a number of Pro Bowl traits to his game but he likely doesn’t become a dominant rusher as his pure speed is mediocre and he doesn’t have the strength or length to dominate another way. He wears 270 lbs so well I would consider bulking him up to 280 and see if that gives him added strength to win regularly as currently he gets his sacks off hustle and projects more as an above average SDE in a 4-3 than a dominant playmaker. He performs stunts extremely well and that should be used more frequently by whichever team drafts him. He also should be used inside at times at DT where his quickness will work better as speed and length work better outside, quickness/power work better inside. He’s still a raw guy and you don’t want to cap his ceiling too early but most likely he’s “just” a very good starter. Nothing wrong with that and still worth an early round pick but with his elite frame and quickness I just expected more. I honestly thought this kid was a future Top 10 pick when I saw him as a freshman in 2015 and it hasn’t panned out that way but it could still happen so there’s a small chance he becomes great. Most likely he’s a very good 4-3 SDE who is good against the run and pass but never becomes a dominant pass rusher and is more of a 6-10 sacks a year type. Late 1st round as my #4 PR 3/30/18.
  5. Uchenna Nwosu USC 6’2 ⅛ 251 Sr. He ran a 4.65 40, 20 reps, ‘32 vertical, and 9’11 broad jump. In 2014 he barely played (9 tackles), in 2015 he was solid (31 tackles, 1.5 TFL), in 2015 he was good (53 tackles, 3 sacks, 7.5 TFL, 1 FF), and in 2017 he was great (75 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 1 INT). He has good arm length at ‘33 ⅝ for his height. He played at 235-340 the past few years so he’s gained weight to make him a viable 4-3 DE and scheme diverse. To me though his film screams 3-4 OLB so it still is by far his best fit but he could maybe be a 4-3 WDE, especially in a wide 9 scheme like the Eagles run. He has great bend around the edge and is a very fluid athlete. He has 18 PBUs the past two seasons which is just an absurd number for basically a DL and shows his elite timing of the QB to jump and bat the ball at the LOS when he can’t get to the QB. He’s incredible at this and I see it translating to the next level. I’ll even go so far as argue that he’s the greatest batted ball at the LOS prospect I’ve ever graded. It’s a strange niche but honestly I can’t ever remember grading a guy with SO many batted balls to his credit. He had numerous games with 2 or 3. That is impactful and shows great timing, instincts, and the ability to read the eyes of the QB. Nwosu in fact probably has better scheme diversity as a 4-3 SLB than as a 4-3 DE, though again 3-4 OLB just seems like a perfect fit to me. I really like this kid’s tape as he has a great motor, is very agile, is an elite batted ball guy, and has the speed and bend to threaten the edge as a pure rusher. My two worries on him are that he isn’t that strong of a kid and can get pancaked at the POA far too often for my taste. Also he doesn’t have that pure speed that you prefer in smaller pass rushers like a Harold Landry does. Ironically enough Landry and Nwosu ran the exact same 4.65 40 but Landry looks faster on film. Nwosu relies more on agility and quickness than pure speed for his sacks and I wonder if he’ll ever be a dominant pass rusher. A 3-4 team might actually consider him as a ILB who blitzes occasionally as he’s great in coverage and showed good talent as a blitzer when USC used him in that capacity. Honestly I just want guys like him on my team as USC moved him all around their D and he seemed to always be making plays. 4-3 SLB, 4-3 WDE, 3-4 OLB, 3-4 ILB who cares. In either scheme he’ll find a way to be an impact defender so to me you draft him and let your coaches figure it out. He’ll be loved by teams like the Patriots who focus more on coverage and vary their looks and who focus less on getting after the QB which is the more dominant trend in the NFL nowadays. I personally would use him as a 3-4 OLB in a scheme that has 3 or 4 LBs rush and not just two, or as a 4-3 SLB as his versatility is his best attribute. The kid is great in coverage, is a good rusher, and is good against the run. He could really be a great chess piece for a Todd Bowles, Bill Belichick type that moves guys all over the field. I love the kid and think he has some Pro Bowl potential in him but more likely settles in as a very good starter with elite versatility and instincts who will make a lot of plays and be a favorite of coaches and fans alike. Early 2nd as my #5 PR who is very underrated and one of my favorite players in this draft 3/30/18.
  6. Arden Key LSU 6’4 ⅞ 238 Jr. He showed off ‘10 hands but underwhelmed at 238 lbs and didn’t work out at the Combine. He had a good year in 2015 (41 tackles, 5 sacks, 6.5 TFL), dominated in 2016 (56 tackles, 12 sacks, 14.5 TFL, 3 FF), and then left school early after a surprisingly mediocre year in 2017 (33 tackles, 4 sacks, 5.5 TFL, 1 FF). He missed 4 games due to injuries (shoulder surgery in the 2017 offseason cost him the first 2 games, pinky surgery cost him 2 games late in the season) and just had an odd season as he left the program in February of 2017 for personal reasons but eventually returned. He’s the type of prospect where a GM really will earn his money’s worth as he looked like a future Top 10 pick at the end of the 2016 season with great stats across the board and a frame that screamed WDE. A year later he has motivation issues, injury issues, and seemingly can’t keep weight on his frame, a problem I have major concern over as to me it was a huge reason why Barkevious Mingo, Randy Gregory, and Dion Jordan all struggled as pass rushers. The Mingo comparison is an obvious one to make as both LSU defenders are tightly built, with a long but skinny frame which requires them to win early with their speed and snap anticipation to be successful. Key isn’t a combo rusher winning with a blend of speed and power. He wins with speed with a little length thrown in. That being said he shows more natural strength and toughness than Mingo ever did and actually sets a good edge as a run stopper. Mingo was pass rush 100% of the time but Key shows a little more diverse game, though he’s hardly a dominant run defender, he’s just not the huge liability Mingo was. I am unsure on Key. The ceiling is very high as he shows flashes of being a dominant pass rusher but he’s tightly built, has off the field issues, and has probably always been a little overrated both athletically and production wise. He doesn’t have 4.5-4.6 40 speed and is a very one dimensional player as he lacks the agility to be that good in space as a 3-4 OLB or the size to be anything other than a WDE in a 4-3. A team will roll the dice on his impressive 2016 season but a lot of his sacks came off blitzes and against non tackles (TEs, RBs, OGs, etc.). He seems to struggle to consistently get pressure against tackles and considering his weaknesses in other areas I probably am not as high on him as others. That being said, impact pass rushers are rare and he had flashes of being just that during his 3 years in college so a team that views 2017 as a learning experience for the soon to be 22 year old might talk themselves into him being worth a 1st round pick. Mid 2nd round as my #6 PR who is a boom/bust type player that I have serious doubts about and would try to avoid but who has flashes of being an elite pass rusher 3/26/18.
  7. Kemoko Turay Rutgers 6’4 ⅝ 253 Sr. He had ‘33 ⅜ arms and 4.65 40 but didn’t do the rest of the workout due to tweaking a hamstring. In a strange career he had his best season in 2014 as a freshman (26 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL), was a backup in 2015 (9 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL) and 2016 (3 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL), and then had a great year tackling wise as a senior but never again had as big of an impact as a pass rusher (65 tackles, 4 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 FF). The issue can be partially explained away by health reasons as he had two shoulder surgeries during those middle years. On film he’s a long, thin player with good agility who immediately looks like either a 3-4 OLB or a non pass rushing LB in a 3-4 or 4-3. He has the frame to go either way as a team wanting him in the 3-4 (pass rusher or not) would have him add weight, and he could probably add 15 lbs comfortably with his frame, and a 4-3 team might say he’s fine and put him at SLB. He’s very weak both frame wise and just natural strength wise and it makes me wonder where you play him. It will be a detriment in any spot, pass rush or not, and makes me worry he’ll be a bust. He’s been a potential guy his whole life it seems as he only had 2 years of High School football (yet led the state in sacks with 18 in his single season of varsity football), then was a freshman All-American in 2014, struggled with injuries in ‘15 and ‘16 and then played well but still nothing incredible as a senior in ‘17 only to flash as an elite player at the Senior Bowl. Guys like him scare me as they are the ultimate roll of the dice types. I see flashes of a 6’4 265 guy with great agility, elite bend, good arm length, and good speed in 3 years but I also see a guy that can’t be strong at the POA, doesn’t add weight well or can’t add it at all, and ends up as a bust who is out of the league before his rookie contract ends. Neither would surprise me. Considering he only was productive 2 of the 4 years in college AND even in those seasons he only averaged 6 sacks a year it makes you wonder just how special of a pass rusher he could be. He isn’t quite the pure athlete I’d want to roll the dice on like Dion Jordan was but anyone who watched him at the Senior Bowl practices knows he has elite bend as he can run the hoop about as well as anyone I’ve ever graded. Some of his angles he takes to the QB are absurd as he’s at a 45 degree angle tilt getting around an OTs grasp. His potential is high and one thing helping his cause is that everyone agrees he’s a stand up kid, has high character, and is very personable (completely the opposite of Dion Jordan whom I compare him to often as they are very similar frame/style/bend wise). He won over a lot of fans at the Senior Bowl during the interview sessions and as an immigrant from Guinea he has an interesting background. It all depends on the medicals with this kid and how teams view his ability to add weight/strength. The fact he has questionable playing strength isn’t a surprise considering he’s had bum shoulders much of his college career and likely couldn’t work out consistently for much of his time at Rutgers. If that has passed, I’d take a chance on the kid as his ceiling is very high as a 3-4 OLB with elite agility and bend and the potential to add a lot of weight to his impressive frame. If the medicals are still iffy I’m passing as the kid isn’t a burner and really needs to add strength to become a legit pass rusher. Bum shoulders combined with poor weight and mediocre to bad production during his college career makes him an easy pass. A clean bill of healthy, makes him one of the tougher early round calls in this draft class. He has Pro Bowl traits to his game for sure and is one of the all-time greats as a bend guy around the edge but he has huge bust potential with red flags from medical history, inconsistent tape, lack of strength, and mediocre instincts/feel for the game. He’s one to watch on draft weekend as I get the feeling that every 3-4 team is interested in him at a certain point in this draft and all but one will go “ah shit” when he’s selected as they coveted him. The question is where to take a guy that would probably be a mid 1st if he had been a double digit sack guy this year or a Top 10 selection if he had run a sub 4.6 40 AND had double digit sacks in 2017. The kid has only slightly less potential than Dion Jordan did who went 3rd Overall as guys with a great frame who bend like they do just aren’t found very often. I have major worries about his strength, instincts, and don’t consider him fast enough to ever really be a dominant pass rusher so I’m more down on him than others but I still really am intrigued by him and would take him as a #2 pass rusher if I ran a 3-4. Late 2nd round as my #7 PR who has such rare traits that he’ll be one of the least well known/most coveted players on draft weekend 4/1/18.
  8. Doran Armstrong Kansas 6’3 ⅝ 257 Jr. He ran a 4.87 40, 20 reps, 9’10 broad, ‘30 vertical, 4.23 shuttle, and 7.12 3 cone with the quickness drills being very good and the rest being below average to bad. His ‘34 ¾ arms are elite and give him a very nice 4-3 DE frame with the ability to add weight, especially for a team looking at him as a long term 4-3 SDE like I do. He was a part time player in 2015 (23 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 TFL), had his best season in 2016 (56 tackles, 10 sacks, 20 TFL, 3 FF), and then a down year in 2017 (63 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 9 TFL, 3 FF). His 6 FF the past two seasons is elite. His arm length is rare as they just dangle off his body and makes me very intrigued at what he’ll look like with 15 more lbs as a 25 year old after a NFL strength coach gets done with him. He has good bend around the edge and his 7.12 3 cone (5th best among 52 DL at the Combine) shows as he’s very quick. He got 2 sacks against Orlando Brown Jr. in 2015, impressive considering he’s a legit NFL OT. He’s got a little JPP to his game, poor man’s version as his arm length isn’t quite as good though it is still very impressive and he isn’t as strong as JPP, but he’s a project type who really intrigues me with how he’ll look in a few years with added weight to his frame as right now he’s downright skinny and can’t play the length/power game he’ll need to play in the NFL since his pure speed is just mediocre. Early in his career he could play either spot in a 4-3 but his long term position is left DE where he’ll battle RTs. He’s so thin right now he’ll probably get engulfed by them until he adds the weight and that worries me as I don’t see the pure athleticism to excel as a right DE so he could struggle early in his career. Yet for a team willing to wait, the payoff could be big as Dorance has a very high ceiling as a 6’4 270 lb guy with ‘35 arms, good natural strength, and very impressive quickness and bend. His frame/quickness combo is rare so I’m willing to roll the dice on him but again he’s a project and will likely struggle early in his career till his weight is added. Late 2nd round as my #8 PR 3/25/18.
  9. Marquis Haynes Ole Miss 6’2 ⅜ 235 Sr. He ran a 4.67 40, 23 reps, ‘32 vertical, 10’3 broad, 4.45 shuttle, and 7.14 3 cone. He had four very solid and consistent years from 2014-2017 with 31-53 tackles, 7-10 sacks, 9-16.5 TFL, 3 FF). His ‘33 ¼ arms, great get off, very good bend, and consistent production in the best conference in college all make me want him as a pass rusher but man 235 lbs is VERY light. I think he’ll make it, especially with his incredible snap anticipation and initial burst but to me he’s only a 4-3 WDE in a wide nine scheme like the Eagles play. I don’t see the all around game for 3-4 OLB, though as just a pass rusher he could work there too, and he definitely can’t be a 4-3 SDE so his lack of scheme diversity could hurt him on draft day. Impact pass rushers are rare though so teams looking for that #3 rusher off the bench in certain situations would do well to take a flier on him as his film is very impressive and he seems to have just enough length and speed to overcome his horrible lack of size. I’m sold on him as a rusher and not as a linebacker as he has a lot of wow plays and could really impact a game if put in the right scheme. Slower tackles could really struggle with his get off and he has some ferocious takedowns, as evidenced by his 12 career FF (3 each season) which is elite. It is tied for 4th most all time in college football history with the top 3 (Khalil Mack, Ryan Kerrigan, Cordarro Law) being an impressive list. His highlight reel is pretty absurd as he flat out beat the crap out of some QBs on his sacks and pressures. His ferocity as a finisher is what turned me into a believer in him as a legit rusher despite his size as there are few guys with his combination of speed, snap anticipation, and strength. His strength is very underrated as there is footage in the 2016 Alabama game where he battles 330 lb Cam Robinson and ends up tossing him to the ground. One issue I have with him is he’s very lackadaisical in his play at times and gives off a lazy vibe. If he stays in the 230s he should be an impact part time rusher a la Bruce Irvin but if he can get to 250, watch out, as he has Pro Bowl potential. Late 2nd round as my #9 PR who has impact rusher potential despite his lack of size and could become a Pro Bowler if he’s able to add weight 4/3/18.
  10. Jeff Holland Auburn 6’1 ⅜ 249 Jr. He ran a 4.89 40, 22 reps, and skipped the rest of the workout. He was a backup in 2015 (13 tackles, 1 sack, 2.5 TFL, 1 FF), and 2016 (13 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL), and then dominated in 2017 (45 tackles, 10 sacks, 13 TFL, 4 FF). He’s a clear one year wonder which is a little worrisome, as is his sub 6’2 frame though his ‘33 ½ arms are a bit longer than you’d expect for a guy his height and mitigates it a bit. He’s a shorter, stocky 3-4 OLB type with a decent burst off the ball to go with good strength and tenacity. He’s a combo guy as he isn’t elite in any one area but combined he causes issues for OL with his strength/speed mix. He battles OL well and doesn’t have trouble holding his ground as his strength is very good. He uses his hands very well and is adept at the slap down to win the edge. He has some tightness to him but gets enough bend around the edge to get the job done. I like him as an average starter in a 3-4 scheme, with ILB being an option as well but OLB being his first try since it’s what he’s most experienced at. I worry he’ll never be a disruptive force though and will settle in as a 4-6 sacks a year type guy like a Sam Acho type, who eventually did move inside. His strength, hand usage, tenacity, and decent burst have me intrigued but his sub 6’2 frame, 4.89 40, and one year wonder status have me worried. In the end his tape is good enough for me to tentatively expect him to be a decent starter, with his floor being that of a good #3 OLB in a rotational role. I don’t expect great things from him but his combination of average to above average traits across the board make him a likely bet to become a contributor at an extremely important position. Mid 3rd as my #10 PR 3/26/18.
  11. Olasunkanmi Adeniyi Toledo 6’1 ⅛ 248 Jr. He ran a 4.83 40, 26 reps, ‘31 ½ vertical, 4.28 shuttle, and 7.21 3 cone with the quickness drills being very good but the rest being average. In 2015 he barely played (3 tackles), in 2016 he had a good year (49 tackles, 4 sacks, 8 TFL), and in 2017 he dominated (66 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 20 TFL, 3 FF). He’s a short guy with very short arms (‘31 ¾) which makes him a questionable fit as a full time 4-3 DE. His production is a little worrisome as 5 of his 8.5 sacks were against Akron and Ball State with all three games being blowouts to a combined score of 149-66. He is an interesting combination of burst, strength, and agility as he shows NFL athleticism but isn’t elite in any one area which is extra worrisome with his mediocre 40 time and terrible arm length. That being said his agility is very impressive and he is more than just a pass rusher with his stack and shed ability being good enough that 3-4 ILB isn’t out of the realm of possibility, especially for teams that don’t just have two designated pass rushers but interchange roles with all four linebackers. He sniffs out play designs frequently and seems to really understand the game. 4-3 teams likely won’t be interested in him as his lack of pure speed, length, or bend around the edge all make him a questionable fit as a pure pass rusher with his hand on the ground. 3-4 teams likely will be interested though, and I’m curious what position they prefer, as his strength, agility, and football IQ all make him a good fit as an average 3-4 OLB with versatility or a 3-4 ILB that can give a team a little boost as a 3rd pass rusher. He doesn’t look like a double digit sack guy but has just enough athleticism to make me think he could help a team as a part time pass rusher. He’s a poor man’s Melvin Ingram body style and playing style wise as his best attribute is his versatility with his skills as a pass rusher, run defender, and in coverage all being above average for his size but none being elite. He’ll need to go to the right scheme and could get lost in the shuffle like Shea McClellin did but I like his overall game and give him a boost due to his two good seasons being as an underclassman. Mid 3rd round as my #11 PR who is a fit for 3-4 teams only and might end up being a 3-4 ILB after all is said and done 3/25/18.
  12. Duke Ejiofor Wake Forest 6’4 264 Sr. He didn’t work out at the Combine. He had some splash plays as a backup in 2014 (12 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL), improved on that in 2015 (28 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 TFL), had a great year in 2016 (50 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 17 TFL, 2 FF) and a good but slightly down year in 2017 (43 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 16.5 TFL, 2 FF). His 33.5 TFL and 4 FF the past two seasons are both elite. His frame of 6’4 264 with ‘34 ⅞ hands is rare and makes him the prototypical 4-3 DE frame wise at least. He’s a little tight and lacks speed, though he does make up for it a little with a good first step and solid snap anticipation. Straight line speed though he looks like a 4.9 guy and doesn’t seem to have the athleticism to be an impact pass rusher. His frame and arm length are great though so I’d bulk him up and make him a powerful 4-3 SDE at 6’4 280 with ‘35 arms as he has good quickness, strength, and knows how to hand fight and make a decisive move at the LOS to get free from an OL. It’s his only chance of success due to his poor athleticism but I worry about him in that role as he isn’t that tough or strong of a player and could easily be a bust as a result. His short area burst and quickness off the ball at times get you excited but then it just looks like he’s stuck in mud and can’t exploit the rush lane in front of him. In the end I’d roll the dice on him as he has elite arm length, is quick off the ball, was very productive the past two seasons in a Top 5 conference, and he has some polish to his game technique and hand fighting wise. He should end up as an average 4-3 SDE after he puts on a few pounds and toughens up a bit. Late 3rd round as my #12 PR 3/26/18.
  13. Darius Leonard South Carolina State 6’2 234 Sr. He ran a 4.70 40 and had 17 reps at the Combine. He has extremely long arms (‘34 ⅜) and a skinny frame so I’m sure many teams see him as a 3-4 OLB. He was the MEAC Player of the Year 2x so he dominated his lower level of competition. He needs to add weight and strength to succeed in the NFL as right now he’s a long, rangy kid with below average weight with no noticeable technique who gets by on being a superior athlete to his competition. He looks very athletic but his 4.70 40 scares me as at 234 lbs that isn’t really that good size/speed ratio wise. For a raw, small school kid you’d like a more enticing size/speed ratio but on film he looks fast and he dominated at the Senior Bowl game with a game high 14 tackles. To me he’s right on the edge of the 3-4 OLB or ILB debate as he could go either way. I’m leaving him at 3-4 OLB due to his elite arm length but in either position he’ll need to gain weight and probably needs a year of backup duties and special teams before he’s ready for a big role. He has poor tackling technique and doesn’t wrap up at all as a run stopper and he shows no go to rush move as a pass rusher so in either role he’ll really need good coaching and patience from a team. If he can get that though he should develop into an above average starter with his frame, good not great athleticism, and agility. I like him as a developmental type with a high upside but one who should be able to be at least an average starter early in his career due to his rare frame. Late 3rd round as my #13 PR 4/3/18.
  14. Tyquan Lewis Ohio State 6’3 265 Sr. He showed a great frame at 265 with ‘33 arms and massive ‘10 ⅜ hands but didn’t work out. He barely played in 2014 (9 tackles), had his best season in 2015 (54 tackles, 8 sacks, 14 TFL) and then settled into a pass rush specialist role in 2016 (29 tackles, 8 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 3 FF) and 2017 (20 tackles, 7 sacks, 9.5 TFL, 2 FF). Despite his limited tackle numbers, his 23 sacks the past three seasons is very impressive and shows a good consistency. He’s a thickly built guy who has maxed out his frame and is a little tight as a result. He shows flashes of dominance but too often gets stuck in his rushes and gives up quickly on a play. He lacks a burst at times and doesn’t seem like a dominant athlete but he has enough athleticism to allow him to be a combo guy who can beat guys with a combination of strength and athleticism. His best film often is inside at DT and makes him a good bet for being a SDE in a 4-3 on early downs and a DT on passing downs. He has consistent production over three seasons and enough good film to earn some fans around the league but I’m underwhelmed by him. He isn’t athletic enough to play 4-3 WDE and isn’t long enough for my taste to be a dominant 4-3 SDE. He has flashes of dominance but he had a lot of quality talent all around him and never seemed to be “the guy” at any point in his career. The same will be true of him in the NFL where he’ll be a solid #3 DE who adds some value as a passing down DT. That last part is the one thing that really intrigues me as he just doesn’t have the length to excel at SDE so he’s more of a backup there but could really earn his money at DT. Unfortunately he doesn’t have the frame to add anymore weight so he can’t ever be more than a part time DT. In the end I see him as a quality backup with versatility all over the DL and with some upside surprise potential due to his quality film as a pass rusher from the DT spot. Early 4th round as my #14 DE 3/30/18.
  15. Josh Sweat Florida State 6’4 ¾ 251 Jr. Former blue chip prospect out of HS despite major knee injury as a senior which some teams are concerned about. He ran a 4.53 40-elite, ‘39 ½ vertical-elite, 10’4 broad jump-very good, and 4.28 shuttle-very good. He had a good true freshman year in 2015 (41 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 TFL) and then two very good seasons in 2016 (41 tackles, 7 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 1 FF) and 2017 (56 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL). His ‘34 ⅝ arms are impressive and show on film as he’s good at stacking and shedding with his length. That’s important as he seems to lack the bend to be a 4-3 right DE as he’s tightly built. At 251 lbs he’s downright skinny but his frame is narrow so I don’t know if he’d look good at 270 with 260 likely being his more ideal weight. He has good strength and gives effort consistently but he stays blocked a lot more than I prefer. He struggled against Alabama in 2017 with no real impact despite a good stat line (5 tackles, 1 sack). I struggle to scout him as he lines up in a 5 technique stance with both hands on the ground and then shoots straight into an OL. He looks like a guy that doesn’t know what he’s doing and is getting by on great effort and athleticism. His hand fighting is non-existent and he goes large stretches where you don’t see any impact from him. I would write him off as a future bust, and he very well could be, but 6’5 250 guys with elite athleticism, good effort, and 12.5 sacks/24 TFL the past two seasons are rare to find. In the end I think he’s a guy that needs to bulk up and settle in as a 4-3 SDE who excels with his effort and gets 4-8 sacks a year. I know some team will fall in love with his measurables but I just don’t see any indication that he’s a future star pass rusher. Maybe if they change his technique, add 15 lbs to his frame, and teach him how to hand fight then he’ll be different but that is asking for a lot of things to fall into place for him to be successful. I smell bust with him but would take a shot with him in the mid rounds due to his elite frame/athleticism, especially considering the fact that he’s a young kid (turns 21 a month before the draft), has a good motor, and was productive in a Top 5 conference. I feel I’m maybe too down on him but his film is boring and he rarely avoided being blocked or getting any kind of pressure on the QB so I’m going to stay negative with him and grade him as a late 4th rounder as my #15 PR 3/25/18.
  16. Ade Aruna Tulane 6’6 262 Sr. In 2014 he barely played (7 tackles), in 2015-2017 he had similar seasons as a mediocre starter with limited pass rush production (25-43 tackles, 3-5 sacks, 3-10 TFL, 0-1 FF). He’s a big DE who seems to be a good fit as a 4-3 SDE yet who played as a 4-3 WDE and often times stood up as a 3-4 OLB. I don’t think they used him correctly in their scheme as they put him in prime pass rushing roles which makes it even more worrisome that he only had 11 sacks in 3 seasons against poor competition. He’s slow to react to plays and doesn’t have a high football IQ. He also is pretty finesse for a guy with his measurables and that is worrisome to me as his best fit is as a 4-3 SDE who is expected to slug it out against RTs all game long. I do like his agility and he excelled as a pass rusher at DT on passing downs so there are some intriguing parts of his game but right now his frame is better than his game. Also he turns 24 around the time of the draft so that, combined with his mediocre production and finesse style, puts a lot of red flags to him. In the end he’s a guy that has the look of an NFL 4-3 DE and adds a little intrigue with his ability to play DT on passing downs but who likely won’t make it in the NFL and will be a bust. He’s worth a shot in the late rounds as he does flash at times on film but the odds of him developing into a starter are pretty low with his series of red flags. 5th round as my #16 PR 3/25/18.

2018 DT Rankings

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl - Penn State v Washington

Will Vea break the trend of oversized DTs underperforming their draft slot?

  1. Vita Vea Washington 6’4 347 Jr. He had a great Combine with a 5.10 40 at nearly 350 lbs. Guys with his size/speed ratio are rare. He also did 41 reps on the bench which is among the all-time greats for that measurement. In 2015 he was a backup (17 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 FF), in 2016 he was a good starter (39 tackles, 5 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 1 FF) and in 2017 he had similar numbers (44 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL). For a 1st round DT his max of 6.5 TFL in his best season is pretty underwhelming. On film he pops with an elite size/speed ratio. 350 lb guys just shouldn’t move like he does as he’s not just fast in a straight line but bends well, is agile, and moves overall like a guy 50-60 lbs lighter. Due to his great agility and bend I’d have no problem playing him in a 4-3 but his best value will surely be as a 3-4 NT who can actually trail a play which is incredibly rare. Also there is some footage that is scary with him stacking and shedding 300 lb OL like they are nothing and whipping around 200 lb running backs with ferocity that you don’t usually see. His 2017 Stanford game is ridiculous as he has one play where he tosses a center away with his left arm and then basically clubs a FB away with his right arm in the hole which causes the RB to have to jump cut away as Vea just obliterated two guys that were supposed to clear the way for him. It’s one of the more impressive plays I scouted this draft process and makes me willing to roll the dice with him BUT only up to a point. He clearly has rare traits and he deserves a first round grade, which I will give him in a second, but I honestly want no part of Vea or anyone like him and would probably not draft him if I were a GM as the history is just atrocious for prospects +330 lbs. Danny Shelton, Jordan Phillips, Daniel McCullers, John Jenkins, Phil Taylor, etc. all have underperformed their draft slot. I moved on from the oversized DT years ago and think the scouting community is slowly coming around as I don’t hear a lot of top 10 chatter for Vea like I did for Shelton and Phil Taylor. Vea is arguably the most talented of them all but I said the same thing about Shelton a few years ago and he’s an average starting DT at this point in his career. These oversized DTs don’t make many splash plays, don’t make a ton of tackles, don’t do much beyond occupy two OL, and don’t have long careers. If you want a 2 down lineman who excels at stopping the run and pushes the interior pocket back a bit as his sole pass rush move then get one in the 2nd or 3rd round as the Bennie Logan, Chris Jones, Jonathan Hankins types aren’t taken in Round 1. Vea has such talent that I’m giving him a late 1st round grade as my #1 DT but consider him a vastly overrated prospect as guys built like him just NEVER are looked at as good investments 3-5 years post-draft. Vea likely won’t break that pattern but I’ll only downgrade him a bit due to his rare talent 3/20/18.
  2. RJ McIntosh Miami 6’4 ½ 286 Jr. He didn’t work out at the Combine. He barely played in 2015 (4 tackles), was an effective starter in 2016 (47 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL) and then had similar numbers in 2017 (52 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 1 FF) and left school early. He’s a tall, long (almost ‘34 arms) player who is still thin and arguably looks more like a DE than a DT. He sometimes gets engulfed at the POA but overall shows very good strength (has one play vs. Notre Dame in 2017 where he tosses highly regarded OG Quenton Nelson to the ground). That is impressive considering he’s pretty light in the frame and could easily add 10-15 lbs if a team wanted him to. Some teams will want him at his current 286 and will move him all around the DL, most will ask him to bulk up a bit I suspect. His athleticism is obvious as he is quick, agile and fast. I’m disappointed he didn’t work out at the Combine because he probably would have put on a show. I see a 4.8-4.9 athlete on film. He has some impressive tape as his Notre Dame game was a clinic with him just living in the backfield as he was consistently too quick for their OL and penetrated all game. He will have some bad film as there are moments he gets caught by those lumbering OL and he gets pancaked but in a one gap scheme he could be a very dominant 3 technique. He also shows great hustle making a tackle 58 yards downfield on a RB outside run vs. North Carolina. Very few DTs have the speed to make that play and even fewer have the heart. I’m very impressed with McIntosh as a complete player. He fits best in a one gap scheme but he really could fit anywhere on the DL with his combination of frame, strength, agility, and athleticism. 4-3 SDE makes some sense in a Jaguars/Seahawks scheme, 3-4 DE makes some sense with his frame and sneaky pass rushing ability, and 4-3 DT one gap or two gap makes sense for him. That versatility could make him a wanted man on draft day ala Malik McDowell last year. McIntosh is much more of a complete player than Malik (though Malik has him beat on length) as McIntosh is good at the POA and hustles. Unsure where McIntosh ends up going in this DT heavy draft but to me he’s a late 1st rounder with a high upside and Day 1 starting ability. Late 1st as my #2 DT 3/13/18.
  3. Taven Bryan Florida 6’5 291 Jr. He ran a 4.98 40-elite, 30  reps-very good, ‘35 vertical-elite, 9’11 broad jump-elite and was average in the quickness drills. Taven’s combination of height (6’5), speed (4.98 40) and explosiveness (‘35 vertical) is about as good as you will find in this draft. Those are 1st round traits on paper at least. On film Bryan shows that rare athleticism as he has elite speed for a DT. He also shows very good strength and can stack in shed. A bit of a one year wonder as he had 10 tackles in 2015 as a true freshman and only 17 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL in 2016. In 2017 he stepped up with his best season by far (40 tackles, 4 sacks, 6 TFL) but it definitely feels like he underperformed statistically on the college level, especially considering his elite athleticism. My issue is that he made very few plays as 10.5 TFL in 3 seasons is dreadful. Despite being able to stack and shed he’s more of a pass rusher than run stopper and does a very good job working the edges of his man. He even has a little bend around the corner to him which is incredibly rare for an interior player. He’s a tough evaluation as his stats say late round, his Combine numbers say 1st round, and his highlight reel says early round. I expect there to be some very split opinions on him but I think he’s just one of those late bloomers who should have come back for another season but will end up being a steal for some team because he didn’t. The kid has a very high ceiling as his combination of frame, strength, explosiveness, speed, and bend is rare. There are a lot of Pro Bowl caliber traits to him and a team will just need to coach him up and make sure he plays consistently on every snap as that has to be a key reason why his numbers were so mediocre in college. Diving deep into the tape made me more comfortable with him as he had a lot of impact plays that didn’t register statistically like 0-2 yard stops that were big for his team but weren’t a TFL or pressures/hits on a QB that weren’t sacks, etc. Bryan was in the backfield a lot as a junior and the fact that he’s nicknamed JJ Watt by teammates says it all in regards to his athleticism and potential upside. He doesn’t get a 1st round grade by me due to his rawness and lack of production but he has a lot of 1st round characteristics so a team looking to roll the dice in round 2 will have him on their mind I’m sure. Early 2nd round as my #3 DT who has an incredibly high ceiling but is still pretty raw 3/11/18.
  4. Maurice Hurst Michigan 6’1 ¼ 292 Sr. He barely played in 2014 (3 tackles) and then had similar stats in 2015 (35 tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL) and 2016 (33 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 11.5 TFL, 1 FF) before having his best season as a senior in 2017 (61 tackles, 5 sacks, 14.5 TFL, 1 FF). He has a heart issue which has him off the board of some teams per sources. He’s a shorter DT but uses it to his advantage as he stays low and uses good technique to create angles which cause disruption behind the LOS. He uses his hands incredibly well and looks like a fit as a 3 technique DT in a 4-3 scheme. He maybe could play a little 3-4 DE, especially if the team is one gap not two gap, but I’m not sure on this so 3 technique in a 4-3 might be his only fit. That is worrisome as some teams run a 3-4 and some 4-3 teams run a 2 gap scheme. Also the one gap 4-3 teams put a major emphasis on the 3 technique spot and Hurst isn’t a great athlete. He’s quicker than fast and you worry about how he’ll translate to the next level since he wasn’t a dominant player in college until his senior year and even then he maxed out with 5 sacks. I like him but don’t love him and there just aren’t that many 3 technique jobs out there so he could fall on draft day. He has great closing speed and usually gets his man on the ground once he breaks through a backfield. I also just love his technique and hands as he controls his man on most plays and stacks and sheds very well. Hurst projects as an above average starting DT as a 3 technique in a 4-3 scheme. Due to his physical limitations (short arms, could get engulfed at the POA) and the fact that he never dominated in college but was more of a very good player I worry about him. I think in the end he’ll be an above average starter but there is some bust potential with him so I’m treading lightly and probably have him lower than most people. Mid 2nd round as my #4 DT 3/13/18.
  5. Rasheem Green USC 6’4 ¼ 275 Jr. He ran a 4.73 40, ‘32 ½ vertical, 9’10 broad jump, 4.39 shuttle, and 7.24 3 cone. He was a backup in 2015 (19 tackles), very good in 2016 (55 tackles, 6 sacks, 6.5 TFL, 2 FF), and then exploded in 2017 (43 tackles, 10 sacks, 12.5 TFL, 1 FF). His 16.5 sacks the past two seasons is very impressive, especially for an underclassman. He’s a tweener DE/DT with USC listing him as a DT in their defense but he moved all around their DL. He wore Leonard Williams number 94. He doesn’t have a great burst and seems to get stuck too often on blocks so I’d say he’s a 4-3 one gap DT but with his strength and hand usage he would make sense as an oversized 4-3 SDE like Seattle and Jacksonville utilize. He has a good motor and gets a lot of his splash plays off effort later in the play. That is both good and bad as you want hard workers but it also shows his consistent inability to win easily right off the snap. I see him as a DT as he has strong hands, is adept at hand fighting, and seems like a great fit as a three technique DT. He also is skinny at 275 and could easily add 15-20 lbs to his frame if a team is worried about his film where he occasionally gets pushed off the ball or engulfed. He’s a bit of a finesse player and doesn’t fit a 3-4 scheme at all or a two gap 4-3 scheme as the more he can use his athleticism and get in space the better for him. Despite a great 4.73 40 for a DT he doesn’t show that elite athleticism on film and looks more like a 4.9 guy, which is still very impressive but his 40 time doesn’t fully translate to the field. His best attribute is his agility as he has great lateral agility and is quick with his movements. I don’t see him becoming a dominant 3 technique but he’ll be disruptive and he has the frame to add weight and become a quality two way player in time. Early in his career he might struggle against the run so I do see some logic in him playing SDE on early downs and DT on later downs but long term he’s clearly a DT not a DE in my eyes. I like Green as he has good film, was very productive the past two years at a big time program, doesn’t turn 21 until after the draft, and has a good combination of frame, agility, and heavy hands. He’s still a bit raw and needs to add weight but he should develop into a very good starting DT in time. Late 2nd as my #5 DT 3/26/18.
  6. DaRon Payne Alabama 6’2 ½ 311 Jr. He ran a 4.95 40-elite, 27 reps-average, ‘28 ½ vertical-below average, 8’11 broad jump-average, 4.71 shuttle-below average, and 7.58 3 cone-average. In 2015 he was a backup (13 tackles), in 2016 he had arguably his best year (36 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3.5 TFL) and in 2017 he had a different but similarly mediocre year (53 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL). Everyone raved about his Georgia game in the CFB Championship, and he’s clearly an impact player as a run stopper and OL occupier, but I just don’t know how high you can take a guy with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 TFL the past two years COMBINED. I mean doesn’t production mean anything anymore? Can Alabama still just rubber stamp 1st/2nd round DL despite their atrocious success rate in the NFL? Payne has some very good attributes as he has just enough height and arm length (‘33) to succeed as a stack and shed player in the NFL and he has elite technique and hand fighting skills which should allow him to be a starter very early in his career. He is highly polished and has a similar skill set to last year’s 1st rounder Jonathan Allen but Allen had 22.5 sacks and 30.5 TFL his final two seasons at Alabama while Payne had 2.5 and 4.5. Payne flashes brilliance but takes a lot of plays off, doesn’t have any production as a pass rusher, and doesn’t seem to use his 4.95 40 speed at all as a trailing tackler. He lined up as a 3-4 NT at times and at times as a 4-3 DT. In either position he fits best in a two gap scheme as he consistently excelled at controlling his gap while only occasionally showing legit pass rush talent. I can’t tell if it is due to a lack of effort or if he just exploited a bad C/LG combination for Georgia but it was far and away the most productive game of his career. I think it’s a little of both but more of the latter as he doesn’t give great effort all the time but I don’t buy that he was dogging it for two seasons under Nick Saban, a well known taskmaster. He had a great game on the biggest stage but remove that game and he didn’t have a great career. He projects as an above average starting DT in a 4-3 but he could play 3-4 NT or DE as well. In either scheme he’s far more run stopper than pass rusher but can exploit a good matchup at times with his quickness. Late 2nd round as my #6 DT and a guy who is very overrated but for being from Alabama and due to the best game of his career being the most recent one in scouts’ minds 3/14/18.
  7. Harrison Phillips Stanford 6’3 ¼ 307 Sr. He ran a 5.21 40, 42 reps-best I have ever seen from any position, ‘32 vertical-average, 4.50 shuttle-average, and 7.28 3 cone-very good. He barely played his first two seasons (9 tackles combined), had a very good season in 2016 (46 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL) and then an incredible 2017 season (102 tackles, 7 sacks, 16.5 TFL, 2 FF). +100 tackles from a DT is incredibly rare so I was curious to see his tape as I can’t remember ever grading a DT with that many tackles. He weighed 307 at the Combine but played at 285 in 2016 and 295 last year with his body being a bit of a tweener DE/DT body a la Solomon Thomas last year. It allowed him to excel at trailing plays but he gave some of that up for added bulk which I think makes sense as at 307 he’s now clearly a DT and it should help his strength. With 42 reps on the bench he’s plenty strong and it shows on tape as he stays low and just bulldozes through OL for sacks, TFL, and blocked FGs on special teams. He plays the position with an obvious wrestling background as he crouches down, stays low, and shuffles his feet to make the play. It’s a bit unorthodox but he really excels at it and his long arms (‘33 ⅞) and quick feet make him a consistent finisher when the plays is near him. Unfortunately, and surprisingly for a guy with his stats, he has some bad film. Like a lot of elite bench press numbers guys his weight room strength doesn’t all translate to the field. He has good quickness but doesn’t seem to be quick twitch enough to be an impact interior rusher in the NFL and he has long stretches where he is non-existent. Call him the anti Da’Ron Payne as he has all the stats in the world but underwhelming tape. In the 2017 Notre Dame game he had a few moments but clearly tired as the game wore on and was invisible in the 2nd half. In the two USC games he had a combined 24 tackles (a half season worth for most DT prospects) but he wasn’t impactful as he had 0.5 TFL and was pushed off the LOS at times. His ability to get low, stack/shed, and make the tackle is extremely impressive but there are too many times he gets pushed off the ball by OL and he just doesn’t show the athleticism to be anything as a pass rusher at the next level. He’s the antithesis of Da’Ron Payne but they are actually very similar stylistically. I like Payne’s length and athleticism more while Phillips has better stats, a better motor, and has more consistent tape. Both are very good run stoppers that likely won’t make an impact as a pass rusher and both are probably going to be a little overdrafted, Payne because of his Alabama connections and championship game tape and Phillips because of his elite stats. Early 3rd round as my #7 DT 3/14/18.
  8. Tim Settle Virginia Tech 6’2 ¾ 329 Soph Redshirted in 2015, he had limited tackles (17) but a good number of TFL (7.0) in 2016, and then he had a very good year in 2017 (36 tackles, 4 sacks, 12.5 TFL). He’s a gigantic human being who fits well as a 3-4 NT so it is no surprise he had a poor Combine (5.37 40-bad, ‘23 ½ vertical-terrible, 8’0 broad-terrible, 4.83 shuttle-terrible). That being said many of his drills were the worst measurements out of the 52 DL so he was even worse than expected. On film he’s much quicker and more agile than you would expect after seeing his Combine numbers so I’m not worried about him athletically. Especially since a 3-4 NT has to be incredibly strong and impossible to move at the POA as they are regularly battling through double teams. Settle does this relatively well and actually played in a 4-3 with effective results. His best fit is still 3-4 NT but I think he could play 4-3 DT in a two gap scheme and would even give a team a little pass rush. His 2017 BC game was elite with a safety and a few plays where he took his OL 5 yards into the backfield ruining the play immediately. His 2017 GA Tech game was elite too as he repeatedly went low and shot through the backfield to disrupt their triple option attack, including a TFL on 4th and 1. The more you watch of him the more curious his Combine numbers are as he actually moves really well for a 330 lb guy and is quick. Usually I don’t like the gigantic, oversized DT but Settle has good agility and quickness so he can make plays that aren’t directly at him while of course being difficult to move and an anchor for a run defense. I’m a huge fan of his and think Settle is a potential steal due to his horrible Combine and probably leaving school a year earlier than he should have. Early 3rd round as my #8 DT 3/14/18.
  9. Andrew Brown Virginia 6’3 ⅜ 296 Sr. He ran a 5.03 40-very good, 31 reps-very good and was average in the explosiveness and quickness drills. Blue chip recruit out of HS but he barely played in 2014-2015 (10 combined tackles) but had a good year in 2016 (38 tackles, 6 sacks, 13 TFL) and 2017 (46 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 FF). Brown is the prototypical size of a 3-4 DE and has that type of blend of speed/power. He isn’t a great athlete but he bends well and really attacks guys with his stats coming from aggression and hustle more than pure athleticism. 3-4 DEs usually get their stats through hustle so it’s a perfect fit in my mind but 4-3 teams could view him as a 4-3 SDE and some might even view him as a 4-3 3 technique DT. For a 3-4 DE he’s a little weak but should bulk up nicely to 295 as he looks thin at 285 (likely tried to stay quick as he played outside a lot for them). I think the thing I like the most about Brown is his agility and bend for a guy with his height/weight. He dropped in coverage at times and moves really well for a big man. That rare agility will make him a quality trail player. I also like that he shows good athleticism and was a former blue chip prospect as teams might get an upside surprise with him. I like Brown as a role playing average starter/very good backup type who fits any scheme to a degree but works best as a 3-4 DE. With 9.5 sacks and 23.5 TFL the past two seasons he was a productive rusher but will succeed at the next level more off his high motor and size/quickness combination. Mid 3rd round as my #9 DT 3/11/18.
  10. Trenton Thompson Georgia 6’2 ⅝ 288 Jr. He played a role as a freshman as a part time starter (25 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2.5 TFL), he had his best season in 2016 (56 tackles, 5 sacks, 9.5 TFL), and then had a disappointing season in 2017 (38 tackles, 0 sacks, 3.5 TFL) which makes his decision to leave early a little puzzling. He missed 2 games due to injury last year but that still gave him 13 games for 2017 so his down year can’t be explained away by that. He ran a 5.06 40-very good, ‘32 ½ vertical-average, 9’3 broad-above average, and then was below average in the quickness drills. On film he’s an undersized, athletic guy who fits best in a one gap scheme as he has the agility and athleticism to make some plays and doesn’t stack and shed well. He’s scheme specific as I see him only as a 3 technique in a 4-3 and he doesn’t have the elite athleticism you want at that spot a la Aaron Donald so he might drop on draft day. I also don’t like the fact he only played on 35% of defensive snaps in 2017, which makes me question his work ethic and his relationship with the staff, as well as the fact that he left school after a down year. Also his team photo screams punk and coupled with the other sniffs I get of trouble makes me think he’s a bit of a character risk. On the field his tape is inconsistently very good as he excels at getting off blocks and gets lower than any other DT in this class with good leverage and quick penetration often being the result. He gets so low though that sometimes he shoots out unbalanced and ends too many plays on the ground but in a one gap scheme that is acceptable to a degree. I think he has some Maliek Collins to him and could see a similar role as a #3 DT for a team but worry about his character issues, though I haven’t read anything definitive about it and it’s more of a vibe than a rumor or a fact. His film is good though and I love how he just never stays blocked and regularly beats his man with quickness and with snap anticipation. I see a few Pro Bowl caliber traits in him and, while I worry about his character and the relationship he had with the staff, I think he’ll end up as an above average starter or great passing down DT on a 4-3 team. The stats weren’t there in 2017 but he beat his man quite often and I think in the right scheme he’ll be an impact player. He’s a guy I’d put my scouting team on for an in depth character analysis because I sniff punk but if that checks out I’d roll the dice that you’re catching Thompson on a down year AND as an underclassman. If he had balled out this year he’s maybe a 2nd rounder so he has all the makings of a steal if he excels like I expect him to. Mid 3rd as my #10 DT who is a potential steal if he drops on draft day like I expect him to 3/20/18.
  11. Hercules Mata’afa Washington State 6’2 ¼ 254 Jr. He ran a 4.76 40, 26 reps, ‘31 ½ vertical, 9’0 broad, 4.37 shuttle, and 7.24 3 cone. Overall it was a poor Combine as his explosion numbers were poor and his 40 and quickness numbers were average. He played great as a true freshman in 2015 (32 tackles, 7 sacks, 11 TFL, 1 FF) and then had a similar season in 2016 (47 tackles, 5 sacks, 13.5 TFL) and a great one in 2017 (45 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 22.5 TFL, 2 FF). He’s a weird prospect as his frame is that of a 3-4 OLB prospect due to his very poor arm length (‘31 ½) and shorter stature yet on film he often lined up at DT. I’ll be curious if any 4-3 team wants him as a pure DT as his film is pretty good there and often times shorter arm guys have more success inside than outside. He has great snap anticipation and uses his hands really well so he maybe could excel as a full time DT but it would take an outside the box coach. He has good agility and bends well but I don’t see the elite burst from him I’d want so I knew he could overcome his extremely short arms. I bet some teams will take him off their board entirely due to his arm length. I can’t stress enough just how bad it is and it shows on film as he has T-Rex syndrome. Even stranger is that he has gigantic hands at ‘10 ¼ and again makes me wonder if someone will use him as a DT primarily as he really does fit better there than anywhere else. Most likely the conservative NFL coaching profession will put him as a 3-4 OLB and he will struggle but I’m firmly of the belief that DT is his best spot. His snap anticipation is arguably the best in the DT class and a lot of his TFL were due to him getting off the ball quicker than any DL or OL on the play. Most will have him as a 3-4 OLB prospect where he shows good agility and a frame to play any of the LB spots but I’m sticking to my guns and leaving him at DT. As a DT he’ll be vastly undersized but his very good quickness and elite snap anticipation will allow him to be a terror to slower, less athletic interior OL. It’s disappointing that a NFL team probably won’t use him this way as I think he could actually be pretty good here. Mid 3rd round as my #11 DT who has the potential to be a very disruptive part time player in a platoon role as a situational pass rusher. As a 3-4 OLB prospect he’s a mid 4th rounder who projects as a mediocre starter and who might work better as a 3-4 ILB as I question how his short arms and mediocre speed will translate as a pass rusher on the outside 3/30/18.
  12. Deadrin Senat South Florida 6’0 314 Sr. He ran a 5.16 40, 35 reps-elite, ‘26 vertical-bad, 8’4 broad jump-bad, 4.79 shuttle-bad, and 7.77 3 cone-below average. In 2014 he was a backup (18 tackles), in 2015-2016 he had similar stats as an average starter (46-49 tackles, 0-1 sacks, 5.5-7.0 TFL), and then in 2017 he exploded with 66 tackles, 6 sacks, and 10.5 TFL. He had a dominant week at the East-West Shrine Game with some calling him the best defensive player on either team. At barely 6’0 and with only ‘31 ⅝ arms he’s an extremely short player that doesn’t fit a lot of schemes. He’s a difficult evaluation as his body type makes him seem like a good fit for a one gap scheme where he can penetrate but he isn’t that quick or athletic and his best attributes are his stocky frame and his elite strength so maybe a two gap scheme makes more sense. His Combine was in the 12th percentile and it shows on film as he’s extremely short and isn’t that fast or quick. He has a lot of bust potential due to his lack of length and mediocre athleticism but I’m not writing him off completely as his tape is good and his production was good for three years and very good his final year. He lacks the athleticism to be anything more than a run stopper but he squats 675 lbs and did 35 reps at the Combine so you know he has elite strength and I just rarely so an OL move him on film. That accounts for something so I see him being a quality run stopper in a 2 gap scheme as a 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE. Late 3rd round as my #12 DT due to his lack of length but the kid has great film and could make it due to his elite strength 3/14/18.
  13. Da’Shawn Hand Alabama 6’3 ⅝ 297 Sr. He ran a 4.83 40-elite, 28 reps-above average, ‘31 ½ vertical-average, 9’3 broad jump-average, 4.62 shuttle-terrible, 7.98 3 cone-terrible. I’m very confused how a 4.83 40 guy runs a 7.98 3 cone as those are two opposite ends of the spectrum (example: Tim Settle ran a 5.37 40 and a 7.95 3 cone, those two numbers match as both are extremely slow yet somehow Hand ran a very fast 40 and a very slow 3 cone?). He barely played in 2014 with 7 tackles but 2 of those were sacks? In 2015 he again was a backup with pass rush potential (16 tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 TFL) and kept that same role in 2016 (21 tackles, 2 sacks, 3.5 TFL, 1 FF) and 2017 (27 tackles, 3 sacks, 3.5 TFL). His 10 career sacks is decent while his 71 tackles in 4 seasons is terrible. I love his ‘34 ⅜ arms and his agility as his talent immediately is noticeable on film. He was the #1 recruit out of HS in 2014 and you see that talent so you question why his snap count was so low and his production was so mediocre. With his combination of long arms, good agility, and 300 lb frame he makes a ton of sense as a 3-4 DE but could play all over a 4-3 DL as well. A three technique DT makes some sense as does a 4-3 SDE but his agility and burst make me even curious if a 4-3 WDE could even work. I doubt that is where he ends up but he bends well and gets pressure so a team wanting four good run stuffing DL, who also do a lot of stunting, might consider him there. Hand is the rare Alabama defender I like as he’s made for being a pass rusher and I feel like he was under utilized by Saban who prefers strength over athleticism in his players. In the right scheme Hand could be a playmaker but its largely just projection at this point as he didn’t do a lot of gap shooting at Alabama due to the scheme and played an embarrassingly small amount of snaps as well. I suspect the opinions on Hand are diverse due to his red flags but his blue chip recruit history, coupled with his elite size/speed ratio makes me willing to roll the dice on him. He has a little Mario Edward Jr. to his game as he moves like a DE but probably doesn’t have quite the speed to be a playmaker there and should move to 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT. I like him in either of those spots and think he played out of position much of his career. He’s very much a boom/bust type prospect as he has 1st round measurables but late round production and will need to learn a new position in the NFL. I think he can do it and would love to see him go to a 4-3 team that allows him to play the three technique as that is his best chance to develop into a playmaker. Late 3rd round as my #13 DT who underperformed at Alabama but has some rare traits which could be developed or could result in him being just an elite HS prospect that never panned out 3/26/18.
  14. Chad Thomas Miami 6’5 280 Sr. He ran a 4.92 40, ‘29 vertical, and 9’8 broad jump. He barely played in 2014 (7 tackles) and 2015 (18 tackles), played well in 2016 (37 tackles, 4 sacks, 11 TFL, 1 FF) and 2017 (41 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 12.5 TFL). He has a big frame at 6’5 280 and coupled with his 4.92 40 and mediocre pass rushing stats (career high 5.5 sacks in any year and only 10.5 sacks in 4 seasons) it makes me think 3-4 DE is his best fit. On film the best thing about him is his agility as he’s a bit slow twitch and cements himself as a 3-4 DE in my book but his agility is impressive for his frame and makes me think he’ll be solid as a trail tackler. He could play 4-3 SDE for teams that value run stuffing over pass rushing and could be a 4-3 DT in passing downs as Miami used him in that role regularly. He has heavy hands and is strong so OL get a battle with him but he just lacks the speed to turn the corner. The more I watch him the more I actually like him as a 4-3 three technique as he really attacked guys in that role when he was put there. Thomas has good versatility as he could be a rotational DT and DE in a 4-3 or could play 3-4 DE. He projects as an average starter in those roles but that versatility will make him valuable to DL coaches. His safest bet for success is as a 3-4 DE but his highest ceiling is probably as a 4-3 three technique DT so I’ll be curious if a 4-3 team takes a shot at him and moves him predominantly inside. I really like his blend of strength and quickness inside and he seems capable of handling the run stopping duties at the POA so he’s a legit DT in my eyes. In the end he’s right on the edge of late 3rd/early 4th but I’m keeping him in the early 4th as he likely ends up as just a mediocre starter despite his added value due to his versatility. Early 4th round as my #14 DT 3/25/18.
  15. Kentavius Street North Carolina State 6’2 ¼ 280 Sr. He ran a 4.88 40 and 28 reps at the Combine. His 40 was elite but the fact he didn’t do any other drills makes me think he’s another guy that overtrained for that event. He played well as a freshman in 2014 (22 tackles, 1 TFL) and then plateaued a bit from 2015-2017 with 30-38 tackles and 3-9.5 TFL with his sacks fluctuating from 0.5 in 2015 to 5.5 in 2016 and then down again to 3.5 as a senior in 2017. He’s a smaller DT with ‘32 ⅞ arms who played out of position at DE across from Bradley Chubb. He’s a tough evaluation as he was consistently outside, where he’ll never line up in the pros, but it is telling that even at DE he looks a bit short. I’m not a huge fan of his tape as when a DT goes to DE you want to see dominance in the run game and a great fight between him and the RT. I didn’t see that with Street as he stacked decently but showed no push and he just looked small out there. Add in his clear lack of DE level athleticism and he didn’t do much for me on film. I think I’d like him more inside but even there he’s not an elite athlete and is still shorter and undersized. He needs to be a 4-3 three technique DT but he projects as just a mediocre starter. His best attribute is his agility and bend as he moved very well for a DT and is the reason why they moved him outside on a permanent basis. With time at a new position there is a chance he could develop into an impact starter but I expect him to settle in as an average starter or good backup. Early 4th round as my #15 DT 3/30/18.
  16. Kendrick Norton Miami 6’2 ⅞ 314 Jr. He ran a 5.25 40 and 30 reps but didn’t perform other drills. He had two very mediocre seasons in 2015 (19 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL) and 2017 (26 tackles, 2 sacks, 6.5 TFL) sandwiching his good but hardly great 2016 season (39 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 TFL). Whomever told him to leave early should be fired as this kid is nothing special and is entering a very deep DT class. It will cost him a lot of money, not coming back for his senior season. On film he has obvious talent as he’s thick, agile and really bends well for a DT. He has that rare body where he’s +300 lbs but doesn’t seem to have much fat on him. He played next to RJ McIntosh and was the heavier 1 technique in theory but in reality they both shot gaps and went after the QB regularly. He’s more agile than quick as he has light feet and bends well but he doesn’t move very fast and won’t be anything as a pass rusher at the next level. As a run stopper he’s good at the POA and doesn’t get pushed around but doesn’t show great technique stacking and shedding with the ball carrier often running right by him and him unable to get off his block to finish the play. He also struggles as a trailer, despite his agility, as he’s just kind of slow and always seems a step behind the action. He clearly has NFL talent as guys his size with good agility are rare but he just isn’t a good enough athlete to really maximize his rare agility so he’s a dancing bear that probably won’t be used in that role and will just be a space eating 2 gap type DT. In a 4-3 scheme he’d be a good 1 technique who can give a little pass rush here and he’d make a solid 3-4 DE but lacks the size of a 3-4 NT or the athleticism of a 4-3 3 technique which is where the real money is. Since he’s young there’s a chance he develops and a team gets better bang for their buck but he’s probably just an average starting 4-3 DT or 3-4 DE. Early 4th round as my #16 DT 3/13/18.
  17. Derrick Nnadi Florida State 6’1 317 Sr. He ran a 5.38 40-bad, 25 reps-below average, ‘27 vertical-below average, 8’0 broad jump-bad, and 5.02 shuttle-terrible (worst among 52 DL at the Combine) so basically he is a short, fat, and slow DT. Backup in 2014 (18 tackles, 1.5 TFL) and then a starter in 2015 (45 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 TFL) and an impact player in 2016 (49 tackles, 6 sacks, 10.5 TFL, 1 FF) and 2017 (53 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 10 TFL, 1 FF). On film he’s a slow guy with good technique who doesn’t have the speed to trail a play (his 5.38 40 is legit) but makes his presence felt by being an immovable object who roots out OL and gets into the backfield that way. Nnadi is an easy grade as he’s only a 3-4 NT or 4-3 two gap DT as he is very tough to move and can anchor at the POA and be a run stopper with the best of them but will give a team no pass rush and cannot trail a play away from him to make the tackle. He’s a one trick pony but he does that trick well and some teams will value his two gap run stopping potential. 4th round as my #17 DT who offers nothing to a team except run stuffing which he is very good at.
  18. Breeland Speaks Ole Miss 6’2 ⅞ 283 Jr. He has ‘33 ¾ arms, ran a 4.87 40, ‘32 ½ vertical, 9’2 broad jump, 4.65 shuttle, and 7.63 3 cone. He was okay in 2015 (32 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL), had a similarly average season in 2016 (28 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL), and then had a very good season in 2017 (67 tackles, 7 sacks, 8 TFL, 1 FF). His 10 sacks, 14.5 TFL, and 1 FF for a career is not impressive and his one year wonder status is worrisome. The first thing that pops out on film is how agile he is for such a big, thick guy. He immediately reminds me of De’Shawn Hand or Andrew Brown as agile guys who fit well as 3-4 DEs. Of the three, Breeland is clearly the least talented as he isn’t as tall or long as those other two and appears to lack some of their athleticism as well. My big issue with Speaks though is his inconsistent effort as he doesn’t work very hard on a lot of plays and it shows with his very mediocre stats outside of 2017. Even in 2017 his TFL is very poor for 7 sacks as he only had 1 non-sack TFL all year? That screams lazy as he just didn’t work hard in the run game, a huge red flag for a 3-4 DE who would be a run stopper first. When motivated though he can be a load as he has good strength, is strong at the POA, and moves really well for a big man. He can bend and is agile in space with Ole Miss occasionally lining him up off the ball as a jumbo 3-4 OLB. Usually his hand was on the ground as a 3-4 DE or 4-3 DE. He doesn’t have a good football IQ and is slow to diagnose plays. I could see some teams view him as a 4-3 SDE and he could very well work out at that spot but to me he makes the most sense as a 3-4 DE. In either role he will need to be coached up as his effort level is inconsistent and I get a bad vibe with him leaving early as a one year wonder guy. Speaks has NFL talent and could become an above average starter but he has a lot of red flags to his game and I’d stay away from him as he has a high potential to be a bust. Mid 4th round as my #18 DT who I view as a 3-4 DE roll of the dice who I want no part of 4/1/18.
  19. Justin Jones North Carolina State 6’2 ½ 309 Sr. He ran a 5.09 40-very good, 24 reps-below average, ‘29 vertical-average, 8’8 broad jump-average, 4.74 shuttle-terrible, and 7.82 3 cone-below average. He barely played in 2014 (9 tackles) and then had similarly mediocre stats in 2015-2017 (30-43 tackles, 2-3 sacks, 6.5-8.0 TFL, 0-1 FF). It is a huge red flag to me that he played next to Bradley Chubb for most of his career yet still never had more than 3 sacks in a season. On film he’s a fierce looking dude with good strength and tenacity. He’s very tightly built and has poor agility so he’s out of the play if it goes away from him (reason his tackle total was so low as he doesn’t trail the play very well). Yet going forward he has some moments of impact due to his strength and decent hand fighting skills. He has a well proportioned body with extremely thick legs that allow him to anchor well. He isn’t a good pass rusher and I think he knows it as he often gave half hearted rush attempts, taking many plays off. I like him as a 2 down lineman as he has scheme versatility, could play 3-4 DE or 4-3 DT (one gap or two gap), and he has very good strength and a great base that is hard to move. If you want a DT that battles interior lineman and can’t be moved that well then Jones is your guy. If you want a guy that penetrates and gets a lot of action in the backfield then Jones isn’t your guy. He makes some plays with his pocket push and his hand fighting which occasionally gets him free of his man but he’s more of a run stopper than anything else. Jones should be an immediate rotational player and could develop into a mediocre starter who platoons with a quicker DE or DT for passing downs. His lack of effort at times is worrying as are his mediocre stats despite being next to a legit star in Bradley Chubb but he should be a decent player for someone and makes sense in the middle rounds. Late 4th round as my #19 DT 3/13/18.
  20. BJ Hill North Carolina State 6’3 ¼ 311 Sr. He ran a 4.99 40-elite, 35 reps-elite, 7.28 3 cone-elite, and was below average in the explosiveness drills (vertical, broad jump). He was a 4 year starter with similar production each year (39-57 tackles, 1-3 sacks, 2-6.5 TFL except for his junior year with 11 TFL, 0-1 FF). He isn’t an impact DT but he has some positives to his game as he has very good speed and trails plays well. He also holds up relatively well at the POA and shows decent strength. That combination of strength at the POA and ability to make plays away from his gap responsibility should make him a decent starter at the next level or a very good backup but his style reminds me of Terrell McClain from USF a few years ago and he has underwhelmed in his career to this point. He attacks and gets a decent push but has no impact on most of his pass rushes and gets “stuck” to easily. He looks like a future mediocre starter or good #3 DT for some 4-3 team. Late 4th round as my #20 DT 3/13/18.
  21. Nathan Shephard Fort Hays State 6’3 ¾ 315 Sr. He ran a 5.09 40-very good, ‘31 vertical-average, 9’4 broad jump-average, 4.53 shuttle-average, and 7.50 3 cone-average so basically he’s an average athlete with a little extra speed for his size. He began his football journey as a 205 lb linebacker in HS. He was lightly recruited, going to Fort Hays State, and slowly gained weight until he became a huge DT. He had a good Senior Bowl week and showed NFL athleticism, albeit average NFL athleticism, at the Combine so he should be the rare Fort Hays draft pick. On film he worries me a bit as he plays very tall and doesn’t show great technique. He does show good strength and tenacity but it’s hard to grade his film since he never faced NFL caliber OL. He has a mean streak though which is very evident on film and is something that will translate well in the trenches. He’s very raw and is a developmental type but I like him as a mid rounder due to his good speed, strength, frame, and tenacity. Early 5th round as my #21 DT 3/14/18.
  22. Jalyn Holmes Ohio State 6’4 ⅞ 283 Sr. He ran a 4.82 40, 25 reps, and ‘32 vertical. He barely played in 2014 (11 tackles) and 2015 (11 tackles), then had his best year in 2016 (33 tackles, 2 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 1 FF), and then finished his career on a down note (29 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FF). Ohio State had one of the deepest DL I’ve ever seen for a college team so his mediocre stats can be attributed partially to that but honestly Holmes projects as a run stuffing 3-4 DE with his 6’5 285 frame and very poor splash stats (4 sacks in 4 seasons). He has good agility and can move well for a guy his size but he lacks the burst to win the edge and doesn’t make any wow plays on film. As a senior he played at 270 and he was smart to bulk up because his future is inside either as a five technique (3-4 DE) or as a 4-3 DT. His 2017 USC game was impressive as he got a good push and showed impressive strength. He’s heavy handed and really jolts OL so I like him as a future battler but I can’t get too excited for a guy that barely made an impact in 4 full seasons at a big program. There is a minute chance he develops into a quality DT once he fully adds the weight and was just miscast as a 4-3 DE these past few years but most likely he’s a career backup or medicocre starter with the versatility to be a 3-4 DE, 4-3 SDE (my least favorite position for him), or a 4-3 DT (one gap or two gap would fit, two gap would require more weight to be added). He’s essentially a position change, project type but I love his frame and heavy hands so I’d roll the dice on him in the mid rounds. 5th round as my #22 DT 3/27/18.
  23. Folorunso Fatukasi Connecticut 6’3 ¾ 318 Sr. He ran a 5.29 40, 33 reps and 9’4 broad jump. A four year starter with similar numbers between 31-51 tackles each year. His best season was his Soph year with 7.5 sacks and 4 FF with 6.5 sacks and 0 FF the other three seasons. That lack of pass rush production isn’t surprising as he’s heavy legged on tape and lacks quickness and athleticism to be in that role in the NFL. He’s a strong, physical run stopper who has just enough agility and athleticism to stay on the field all three downs but could easily be a 2 down player for teams with other options at DT on passing downs. His lack of agility is very noticeable so despite being a 3-4 DE in college he’s a 1 or 3 technique DT in a 4-3 only. He has good strength but not great strength so 3-4 NT isn’t an option and he honestly wouldn’t be a good 3 technique DT in a 4-3 because of his very poor agility. He basically is a 1 technique, two gap DT in a 4-3 and he’ll be only average in that role. Due to his ceiling being mediocre starter and his lack of position flexibility he could fall dramatically on draft day. I think he’s worth a pick in the mid to late rounds but am not a big fan of his. Late 5th round as my #23 DT 3/13/18.