There are two absolute monsters at the top of this linebacker crop. After that, trust your scouts, trust your coaching staff.

Tremaine Edmunds: He plays fast. From the jump off the snap, to his straight line speed, to his closing burst. Excellent power as well. Edmunds is a bit raw in coverage, but can make up for it with his athleticism. With some proper coaching, he could be a true master of all trades. With his 6’5 frame and 34.5 inch arms, he’s capable of affecting the passing game even when slowed at the line of scrimmage. I like Edmunds a ton and expect him to be a great value pickup wherever he lands.

Roquan Smith: Just flew off the screen during the BCS. One edge I’ll give to Smith over Edmunds is his field vision and instincts. He’s masterful at weaving through traffic to get to the ballcarrier. Has some difficulty shedding blocks, but balances that out by being tough to grab in the first place. Hits like a truck, which is good for causing fumbles, but potentially bad for your long-term health. Both Smith and Edmunds are excellent football players with huge upside. I’d lean towards Edmunds due to his size and power, but I wouldn’t fault a team for going in the other direction.

Rashaan Evans: Has shown an ability to get into the backfield from the edge or the interior. Excellent read and react skills. Exceptional burst and tackling skills. Has shown the ability to cover backs and ends. Looks to be close to the prototype MLB, with the versatility to play outside. Superb tackling skills. The only real criticism I can see of Evans is he’s more patient than instinctual, so he doesn’t react as quickly as you might like. I feel that he makes good decisions on the field so I’ll take the tradeoff for processing time. Solid pickup in the second half of the first round.

Leighton Vander Esch: A very good athlete who plays very hard. I’m concerned that he lacks good football instincts/technique. When I watched him on film he struggled to fight his way through traffic. Blockers stuck to him like glue. Excellent tackler. Fantastic at flying through open space to beat the ball-carrier to a spot. I have to think he has decent upside with NFL training on how to fight off blockers. Of course, NFL blockers are much harder to fight off. I’d want to wait until the second round to take Vander Esch off the board.

Lorenzo Carter: Dude makes no sense to me. He had the combine of a top 10 pick. How did he play four years at Georgia with only 14.5 sacks? On film he showed a good pass-rush. Perhaps his technique was poor, but there has to be something more than that going on. Maybe it was just a question of functional strength at the point of attack. He was poor when he had to engage with offensive linemen. He was brutally effective when he could fly to the ball. Gargantuan tackle radius in space. I have to figure there’s a coaching staff out there that thinks they can get the most out of him. He’s a first-round talent that didn’t perform like one at Georgia. I’d be willing to take a flier on him early in the second round.

Obo Okoronkwo: The most polarizing prospect in the draft? His combine and college stats were solid, but unspectacular. However, when you dig deeper he emerges as a potential diamond in the rough. His pass-rush statistics are awesome when you take his opposition into account. He could beat offensive lineman with a multitude of moves. I’m still years away from developing pass-rush “pythag” statistics, but my sense is Okoronkwo will shine there. He’s decent against the run and in space. His future value will come from his ability to get behind the line of scrimmage. I’d be willing to take him from the middle of the second round onward.

Jerome Baker: A tweener. Excellent speed, but lacking in the size and power you’d like from a linebacker, even on the weakside. He doesn’t have the coverage skills of a safety. His value comes from his ability to match up with offensive “freaks” who bring too much size for traditional safeties and too much speed for most linebackers. His excellent field coverage seals the deal for me. I like Baker from the third-round on.

Malik Jefferson: Doesn’t always make good decisions, but damn, he makes them at full speed. When he guesses right he can blow up a play Tecmo Bowl style. Because he doesn’t naturally read and react, he needs to given clear responsibilities. Can cover man-to-man. Looked silly in zone coverage when it was clear he didn’t know how to challenge players on the edge of his zone. He’s an exceptional athlete, but lacking in the football instincts and vision that you’d like from a player in space. Too good an athlete to pass up from the third-round on. I expect him to come off the board before Baker due to his potential upside.

Darius Leonard: At first he impressed me with his cerebral play. He diagnosed plays quickly at got to the right spot before the ball-carrier arrived. However, he struggled in coverage. He was a great blitzer when he saw an opportunity to come through unblocked. Struggled mightily when he had to battle offensive linemen. He lacks the power you’d like. I respect his range, but he doesn’t have the upside to justify a selection ahead of the players I’ve listed above.

Fred Warner: He isn’t good enough in any of the linebacker positions to justify penciling in as a starter. Where Warner excels is versatility. He can handle any of the roles, either in the base defense, or the nickel. The question a team has to ask is how much does it value a player who can do a decent job at any of the roles you’d ask? I figure he comes off the board late day two.

Uchenna Nwosu: Absurdly good vision. Bats passes out of the air better than any other player I can think of other than Ed “Too Tall” Jones. He isn’t great attacking the line of scrimmage. His pass-rush skills are garbage. Struggles to hold his position at the point of attack. Decent in space. Not a great athlete. Frankly, if not for his freakish ability to read and react to the quarterback’s eyes, I’d pass on Nwosu. As is, Maybe a team can find a way to make him a functional linebacker while hiding his weaknesses. I still think I’d stay away though.

Josey Jewell: Tricky call here. He doesn’t have NFL-level athleticism. What he does have are great instincts and technique. Jewell’s play is over if a blocker gets his hands on him. Jewell’s range is limited. But within it? He gets to the right spot and tackles efficiently. Within his range, Jewell’s coverage skills are solid. You can trust Jewell to make good decisions and do his job to the best of his ability. The concern is that he just isn’t athletically gifted to handle RB’s and TE’s in space. I could see Jewell going in the third round, or falling to day three. I’m a fan of his and would be happy to see him come to NY early on day three.

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Some of these guys will be 4-3 defensive tackles. Others will be 4-3 OLB’s or 3-4 DE’s. Positions are fluid and scheme dependent. Apart from the top guys, teams will probably be best served by looking for players that are good fits for their scheme. Cade Massey wrote up a good overview of the subject.

Bradley Chubb: Chubb does a lot of things quite well. He pairs his excellent vision with solid athleticism. He can attack the line of scrimmage or hold his position at the point of attack. I don’t have anything bad to say about him, save that he doesn’t quite compare to the true monsters. He gets a great draft grade by being really good at all the things he’ll be asked to do. The thing is, his main job is to rush the passer, and there his numbers weren’t quite elite. His SackSEER rating has him third overall in the class. That makes him a somewhat awkward selection, at least in the top five. Chubb isn’t on the same level that Myles Garrett was last year, and it’s hard to get excited about a top five pick that didn’t dominate the college level. Then again, you don’t get excited by someone doing his job play after play, but that’s what you can trust Chubb to do. It’s also why he’s who I’d take first after the potentially elite quarterbacks are off the board.

Harold Landry: More dominant as a pass-rusher than Chubb. Showed nice agility at the Combine. He’s the SackSEER favorite, mostly due to his success in college and passes defensed. Where he falls behind Chubb is power. He didn’t have the same ability to hold his position at the point of attack. The more I think about the two of them, the more I like Chubb’s versatility. Yes, Landry might be better at purely attacking the quarterback, but he’ll also be targeted by them until he shows he can handle that. He’s a natural speed rusher with a great first step. He has good range to track down the ballcarrier when the play is moving away from him. He also has solid tackling technique once he arrives. Landry should be an effective pickup, possibly even in the top 10.

Marcus Davenport: The other man in the SackSEER elite three. Davenport didn’t learn much in the way of proper technique at UTSA. He did develop in terms of size, strength, and speed, which he showed off at the Senior Bowl and the combine. Frankly, if he continues to develop, he could be on par with Chubb. He has length you can’t teach and an excellent work ethic. I really effing hope Davenport doesn’t end up falling to the Patriots. That’s how much I like him.

Sam Hubbard: Was trending towards a first-round selection until he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He had an excellent combine (where he skipped the 40) that highlighted his agility and athleticism. Despite his size, Hubbard doesn’t quite have the power you would want from the position. He made a lot of plays by never giving up, even when he lost the initial battle. His college production at Ohio State was excellent. I expect him to come off the board early day two and be a solid pro.

Arden Key: Oh dear. Arden Key ran a 4.91 40-yard dash on his Pro Day. Hubbard weighs 270 pounds. Key weighs 238. He was dominant in 2016 (11 sacks, 12.5 tackles) in eleven games. He had an awkward offseason and missed a few games in 2017. When he was on the field he wasn’t as effective (4 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss) in eight games. He still had some great moments on film, but they came less often. His off-field issues raise concerns when they threaten his on-field production. Key is a case where you are going to need to know what you are going to get from him. If you expect a return to his 2016 form, he’s a potential first-round value. If you think he’s damaged goods, avoid.

Josh Sweat: He’s SackSEER’s favorite value prospect, but the film doesn’t bear that out. He got his ass kicked constantly at the point of attack. He had an excellent first step, but a terrible second step. He couldn’t keep his forward momentum through any kind of resistance. I wonder if he ever fully recovered from his ACL tear. I know I’d wince if my team took him in the second round. I’m selling Sweat.

Duke Ejiofor: Weird prospect. Remarkably slow off the snap. Seems to be more interested in defeating offensive lineman in hand-to-hand combat than evading them. Didn’t seem willing or able to hold his position at the point of attack. However, he was very effective when he was asked to chase down the quarterback or ball-carrier. He has to attack the line of scrimmage as he doesn’t have the range to handle coverage responsibilities. I’m a little worried about the ankle injury whose surgery caused him to miss the combine. He also has a history of missing games due to concussions. Fun fact: Duke is descended from Nigerian royalty. I’d prefer to place my draft gambles elsewhere.

Rasheem Green: Everyone struggles vs. double teams, but Green turns getting beat by them into an art form. I’m not sure he’s strong enough to hold up at the NFL level. I saw way too many plays where he couldn’t disentangle from blocking and the play went right by him. He has a solid statistical profile and his nose for the quarterback was impressive. It’s just hard to trust a guy who isn’t explosive enough to evade blocking, or strong enough to shed it. He’ll likely go in the third round, but I hope not to NY.

Kemoko Turay: Much better attacking a point than defending one. Good pass rush skills, but not enough functional strength to hold his ground against the run. Agile enough to drop into coverage against RB’s in the flat. Great acceleration to finish a play. Long arms (33.5) to knock down passes at the line of scrimmage. I really like Turay’s potential. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Jets or Giants pick him up early in the third round.

Da’Shawn Hand: I probably should have listed him in the DL group, but I like him as a 3-4 DE. Not a great burst off the line, but only needs a little bit of leverage to overpower the offensive lineman and get past. Unusually large tackle radius. Able to hold his position at the point of attack. Not able to blow by offensive lineman, but has a good ability to collapse the pocket if the QB holds the ball too long. I see Hand as a solid third-round value.

Tyquon Lewis: A mediocre athlete by NFL standards. Respectable production at Ohio State. Did most of his work in the backfield when he got through clean. Excellent vision at the line. Weak in space. Best when able to attack the line of scrimmage. Can hold his own at the point of attack. Solid early day three pick.

Andrew Brown: He’s a 3-4 DE, or a 4-3 tackle. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for with strength, technique, and effort. He impressed me with his footwork in traffic, constantly moving to the proper position to make a play. I’ve seen mocks with him falling to the fifth round and that blows my mind. Some great athletes fail in the NFL because they don’t grok football. Brown understands the game and gets the most out of his gifts. I think he’s a fair value at the tail end of day two.

Hercules Mata’afa: No natural position at the NFL level. In college he was highly effective beating interior linemen with speed. In the NFL he won’t have the size or strength to work inside. He doesn’t have the length (31.5 inch arms) that teams are looking for from defensive ends. He’s not athletic enough to be a linebacker. He has a quality speed rush, both inside and outside, so it comes down to your defensive coordinator and whether they feel they can find a way to properly use Mata’afa’s talents while mitigating his shortcomings. Another early day three pick.

This is a deep tackle class. Vea, Payne, Bryan, and Hurst are all quality options, with distinct play styles.

Vita Vea: The knocks on Vea are burst and effort. He’ll conserve energy if the play is moving away from him. This didn’t bother me much when watching film though. His play style is to read and react. It’s very difficult to run at him and his 6’5, 347 pound frame. The dude is also strong AF. You just don’t see a single offensive linemen move him when he doesn’t want to be moved. Double teams were hit and miss. Sometimes he’d split or destroy them. Other times they’d get leverage on him and take him down. In terms of a pass rush, he had different modes. On first and second down he’d take a wait & see attitude and attack if given the opportunity. On third and long he’d aggressively bull rush from the start. His technique is raw, but he made it work with pure power. As per Bill Parcells “Planet Theory”, I’d be happy to pick up Vea as he’s one of the few mammals on the planet with the size, strength, and athleticism to dominate at tackle in the NFL. His upside with better conditioning and technique is just enormous, as is he.

Da’Ron Payne: In some ways he’s the opposite of Vea. He’s much more aggressive on a play-by-play basis. He’s quick off the ball and a lower center of gravity. Payne has a good mix of power and athleticism. My problem with him is that he just wasn’t as productive as he should have been. His football instincts just aren’t great. He also doesn’t have the same upside as Vea, and is expected to be on the board until late in the first round.

Taven Bryan: Made me yelp with his explosion off the snap. Excellent reaction time gives him an early advantage. Overall is technique is a bit raw. Actually, so are his instincts. If he breaks through the line, great, but then what? It’s odd to see a player with such great reactions off the snap play oddly slowly after the play starts. He wasn’t an elite athlete coming out of high school. He’s been hit with an “underachiever” label, but my sense is that he’s doing the absolute best he can. I’d be a little concerned that his ceiling isn’t as high as the other potential options at defensive tackle.

Maurice Hurst: This is a binary. His heart condition is a major concern. He’s been medically cleared to play, but each medical and coaching staff will have to come to their own conclusion. If he can play, he’s an absolute monster. His penetration skills are elite, especially in the 4-3. He’s a bit smaller than the guards he’ll be facing, so power is a concern, but they have to get their hands on him first. Hurst was just awesome on film, attacking both the run and the quarterback. We won’t know until Thursday how serious the medical concerns really are. If he’s good to go, he’s Vea’s main competition to be the first DT off the board. If he falls out of round one, teams really are scared about his condition.

Nathan Shepherd: I have absolutely no idea what to make of Shepherd. I watched exactly zero Fort Hays Tigers games. What I have seen is his highlight package. It includes four counts of battery, two counts of aggravated assault, and at least one count of attempted murder (thankfully the quarterback survived). Seriously, Shepherd had no business playing against these guys. What I can tell you is that he’s potentially elite. He dominated practices at the Senior Bowl. Shepherd skipped a couple of years and will turn 24 before his rookie season. He’s an intriguing prospect with a lot left to learn. High upside project. Might be a potential first-round value.

Harrison Phillips: On one hand he was highly productive at Stanford. This is true when he was playing with Solomon Thomas, and even more so after Thomas was gone. On the other hand, his film was awful. Too often the offense was able to dominate him and take advantage of his poor technique. Technique can be improved at the next level, but I didn’t see the kind of power or athleticism to make it worth the effort.

Derrick Nnadi: Plays like a man bigger than he is. Low center of gravity with long arms (32.5 inches). Knows how to attack and split a double-team. Remarkably poor agility, and limited athletic upside. Didn’t have nearly the range you’d like to see. Old school football scouts would call him a “plugger”. He can be a good fit for a defensive scheme that doesn’t ask him to do too much.

Tim Settle: Always making plays. On defense. On special teams. Dude has tremendous range. Can hold his position or attack the line of scrimmage. He’s young (he won’t turn 21 until July) and has a fair amount to learn. I absolutely love him as a prospect and wouldn’t have any problem bumping up his grade a full round.

B.J. Hill: Pure replacement-level 4-3 tackle. No lateral movement. Limited pass-rush. Did his job well at NC State, but doesn’t look like he has much upside beyond that. I’d take Settle over Hill in a heartbeat.

This is a pretty solid draft for offensive lineman, with both quality and depth. 

Offensive Tackles:

Connor Williams: Supremely talented. Can win at the first and second levels on running plays. Excellent at battling pass rushers. Even if they win at contact Williams is tenacious at bouncing back and stopping forward momentum. Quite difficult to beat with an outside rush as he has excellent timing and technique. Very rarely penalized.The Longhorns offense was notably worse when Williams was absent. I’m a big fan of Williams and expect him to be a quality NFL left tackle. (Update: Apparently the concern with Williams is he might not have the length to play left tackle. His arms were 33 inches at the combine. I think those concerns are rubbish.)

Mike McGlinchey: Excellent run blocker. Good power at the point of attack and vision to block at the second level. Some issues in pass protection as he has a high center of gravity and has difficulty winning on initial contact. Relies on length and technique rather than agility and athleticism on speed rushes, which gets him into some trouble. His skill-set might be better suited to right tackle, but teams will see if he can make it work at left tackle first. Apparently teams have Williams and McGlinchey rated fairly closely together. I’m not seeing that and would strongly prefer Williams.

Chukwuma Okorafor: I love Chuk, and not just because we share a birthday. His length (34.5 inch arms), and mobility are excellent. He has a lot of power on initial contact, which occasionally gets him into problems via holding penalties. He has tremendous power, but sub-optimal technique. His instincts aren’t great which leads to pass-rushers having a chance to grab the initial advantage. The thing is, he was successful with sub-optimal technique in the MAC. His raw talent is quite high. He will require significant coaching at the next level, but I’d rather gamble on a dude who’s ceiling is elite rather than a guy with solid technique who might not have the athleticism to play left tackle in the NFL. Huge upside pick.

Tyrell Crosby: It’s an open question as to whether or not he can play in space at the next level. There are concerns about his length (32.5 inch arms), flexibility, footwork, and power. There are a lot of boxes you need to check off to be a quality left tackle in the NFL. I’m agnostic on the issue. On one hand, Crosby has very good upper body power. He attacks pass-rushers and was very good at handling a variety of stunts and moves. However, he didn’t have the ability to coordinate his hips and legs with his upper body efficiently. That means he was great against bull rushes where he could just anchor himself, but less effective at holding his position after initial contact where he wasn’t able to set himself. It’s an open question whether or not he’ll have to move right tackle or inside to guard. Oregon’s opposition wasn’t good enough to provide a clear answer, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Orlando Brown: If he had skipped the combine to hang out with Colin Kaepernick and kneel outside of police departments, it wouldn’t have hurt his draft stock more than actually showing up. His measurables of height, weight, and length were all premium, but athletically he was a disaster. Even worse, he was weak, managing a mere 14 bench presses (225 pounds). He’s 6’7, 345 pounds, with 35 inch arms. That alone means he’s tough to get around or through. On film the only major weakness I saw was range. His slow foot speed and poor lateral agility meant he was limited in his ability to impact a play. I can see him working at left or right tackle so long as the team that drafts him accepts his limitations. Pre-combine I had him as a late-first rounder. Now I figure he’ll be available on day two.

Martinas Rankin: He blocks in two different fashions. He has a very quick punch, which unfortunately can be hit or miss. The whiffs are a real problem. Otherwise he prefers to let defenders come to him rather than extend his arms and create initial contact. NFL coaches are going to need to work on his technique, particularly vs. the outside rush. He has good mobility, but I’m concerned that he doesn’t have the power to dominate at the next level. He might be forced to move inside to guard. Despite Brown’s combine from Hell, I’d rather gamble on his upside.

Kolton Miller: Dude us 6’8, 309 pounds, with 34 inch arms. That comes with the strengths and limitations you’d expect. His center of gravity is high and his agility is suspect. On film, he did a good job of positioning and getting to the second level. On film, Brown looked better to me, but Miller had a much better combine and may end up coming off the board first. The big question for me is how much lower body power Miller can add. If he can’t add much, he won’t be able to hold his position against power rushers. His upside is that he can be a tackle in the Nate Solder/Jared Veldheer mold. To use the modern vernacular, Solder and Veldheer were both “thicc” where Miller is lean, and that’s my main concern.

Jamarco Jones: Didn’t impress me at first. As I saw more of him I noticed he made few mistakes. When a defender got an advantage over him, Jones did a great job of pushing him away from the quarterback before he broke free. Eventually he won me over with his general competence. He might not be quite good enough to play left tackle in the NFL, in which case I’d expect him to do a fine job at right tackle. Will be a great value if he somehow falls to day three.

Brian O’Neill: Polarizing prospect. He went from basketball to tight end to right tackle to left tackle. He won with athleticism, which allowed him to maintain a number of bad habits. Like Rankin, he likes to shoot for a quick punch, which the corresponding whiff problem. If he can be properly trained, he has the power and athleticism to be a quality left tackle. That’s a big “if” though, so the question is how high do you want to take a developmental prospect? Boom-bust pick.

Will Richardson: I can’t tell if he was poorly coached at NC State, or if he just don’t have great football instincts. Given his athletic gifts, he should have been more effective than he was. There are four potential NFL outcomes:

1. Proper coaching fixes his issues. He can be a serviceable left tackle.

2. His ceiling is right tackle.

3. He has to move inside to guard.

4. He’s just not fixable. Bust.

At some point on day three the reward outweighs the risk. I wouldn’t use a day two pick on him

Guards:

Quenton Nelson: Nelson plays with a tremendous blend of power and technique. His spatial awareness is fantastic and he’ll block in a fashion that assists his line-mates. Like Barkley, he’s close to a perfect prospect. The only flaw I can find with Nelson is he might be a bit too aggressive, trading power for consistency, but his hit rate (literally) was high enough that I think it’s worth occasionally getting off balance. After the potentially elite quarterbacks and Chubb, Nelson should be the first player off the board.

Isaiah Wynn: Did a great job at left tackle at Georgia. He projects at a guard in the NFL due to his height (6’2) and length (33 inch arms). I’m a bit concerned about the move because it exposes him to the interior monsters on the defensive line. He has great hand technique and above-average mobility. Given his talent and experience, he should be able to find a position at the next level. I’m just not certain what that position is. It might be worth it to see if he can handle playing tackle at the next level. If not, plan B can be to add weight and power to hold down the fort inside. Plan C might be to learn to snap the ball. Wynn is too good not to find a position. I just wish I could be more certain as to what it will be.

William Hernandez: Feet of clay, but man, he kicked ass at UTEP. His power was just unfair against that level of competition. So long as you don’t ask him to move much, he’ll be able to hold his ground at the next level. I’m a fan of Hernandez and I expect him to be a quality NFL guard. Worth a 1st round pick.

Austin Corbett: Was a four-year left tackle at Nevada. It doesn’t look like he has the skill-set to handle tackle at the NFL level, so the question is where he should move inside. I think he fits best at left guard, but he might end up at center. Corbett has great footwork, but second-tier power. Like Wynn, he’ll need to find a proper fit. The difference is Wynn is much more athletically gifted. I’d pass on Corbett unless my coaching staff was confident in his future roll.

Braden Smith: Inconsistent technique. Struggled with awareness in space, particularly at the second level. But man, when he got his hands on you he was great. He’s played both tackle and guard. I wonder if he’ll get a shot at tackle at the next level. His film at Auburn was mixed. The good plays lead me to believe he has a high ceiling and might be worth taking ahead of Corbett. I guess his eventual position will be wherever the coaching staff feels they can best harness his gifts. Lot of upside here.

Centers:

Billy Price: Showed significant growth in 2017, correcting the errors that had plagued his game previously. He switched from guard to center, and still has power to play guard at the next level. His biggest weakness is his footwork immediately after the snap. Defenders can put him out of position with a good initial rush. If he can square up, his power is excellent. Continued refinement of his technique should make him an effective pro wherever he ends up on the line.

James Daniels: Better technique and athleticism than Price. He’s more familiar with the position and a better fit at center. However, he lacks Price’s power. The question for a team choosing between the two is whether you want to gamble on Daniels in the weight room or Price in the film room. I’d bet on Price because his fail case of moving to guard is better than Daniels’ case of moving to the bench. Truth be told, I expect both to succeed.

Frank Ragnow: Very tricky pick. Ragnow is recovering from an ankle injury that ended his season. If healthy he’s an excellent run-blocker. His blend of power and technique was elite. His pass protection wasn’t on the same level, partly due to his footwork. He also didn’t have the same level of power when he had to hold a spot rather than attack it. His upside is that of a quality center, but if his ankle is bothering him, this could be a complete whiff. That’s a question for the medical staff and is above my pay grade.

Mason Cole: Tricky to evaluate, but for different reasons than Ragnow. Cole played at left tackle last season, which wasn’t an optimal fit for his skill-set. Inside he has a good blend of power and technique. He doesn’t have the upside of any of the players listed above him, and I wouldn’t consider taking him until day three.

Wide Receivers & Tight Ends:

Wide Receivers:

This is a brutal wide receiver crop to evaluate. The best wide receivers had to struggle though uneven quarterback play. There is nothing close to a “can’t miss” prospect in this class, so best of luck to any team that needs a receiver.

Calvin Ridley: Elite body control and excellent break off the line of scrimmage. Made a lot of tough catches at Alabama, but also averaged roughly 0.5 drops per game. He didn’t flash the elite speed you’d like at the combine. In fact, his athleticism (or lack thereof) may end up keeping him from being the first receiver off the board. I loved his film and how aggressive he was going to the ball. Yes, he had his problems in traffic, but better quarterback play should allow him to shine in space. If I had to gamble with a receiver in this class, Ridley is easily my choice.

Courtland Sutton: Sutton may be even better attacking the ball in space than Ridley. He was certainly better at winning through contact. Once he has the ball in space he’s tremendously evasive, with the power to break a tackle. I’ll concede Sutton has a higher ceiling than Ridley. Where Sutton has issues is his consistency. Given his junior year performance (76 receptions, 1,246 yards in 12 games), more was expected of him as a senior (68 receptions, 1,085 yards in 13 games). Lousy quarterback play might be part of the issue. He remained a dominant blocker, and I’d be willing to gamble on him being able to make the jump to the next level.

Christian Kirk: Dude gives me heart attacks. His receiving style leads him to catch the ball with his body as often as his hands. Competes for every yard, possibly at the expense of risking fumbling. Didn’t show great speed or quickness at the combine. And yet… his football instincts are solid. He plays fast and makes excellent decisions against the coverage. He was tremendously productive at Texas A&M. His quarterback can trust him to run his route effectively. He can provide additional value on special teams as a returner. His size and speed peg him as a slot receiver, while his deep skills suggest he should work outside. He’ll test the coaching staff of whichever team drafts him.

D.J. Moore: Provided much better play than his quarterbacks deserved. Where his size and length may have failed him in traffic, his technique and athleticism pulled him through. I was very impressed by his combine. No wide receiver in this draft is better prepared to win battles in the air. He’ll need to work on his route running and technique off the line. Like Kirk, he’s an effective returner. Given the paucity of elite receiver options in this draft, I think Moore deserves a hard look late in the first round. I know I’d rather gamble on him than Kirk. Choosing between Moore and Sutton is tougher. Moore is the better athlete, while Sutton is much bigger and more powerful. I suppose it would depend on what type of offensive scheme I was running. Gun to head I think Sutton can do more for an offense, but I may have a bias towards physical receivers. This is my way of saying Laquon Treadwell let me down. Then again, Sutton and Moore are both faster and more athletic than Treadwell. Either way, I have high hopes for both.

James Washington: Over the past two seasons James Washington has 145 receptions for 2,929 yards. That’s 20.2 yards-per-reception. 145 times. He terrified defenses. Press coverage was a huge gamble because if he beat it, he could be gone. Playing off him allowed him to use his elite agility to cut at full speed and leave the defense back flailing. Given his film, his combine was shockingly poor, both in terms of speed and quickness. That puts scouts in a tough spot: Do we trust the measurables or our lying eyes? My read is that “football speed” is a thing. Washington played fast as heck. He won’t be able to separate from NFL cornerbacks so easily, so the biggest challenge is going to be to turn him from a pure Z-receiver to a master of the deep tree. I think he’s worth the early day two (or late day one) pick.

Anthony Miller: Over the past two seasons Miller had 191 receptions for 2,896 yards. His ability to stop and start on a dime is incredible. He’s a natural zone-buster who can get to a spot, make the catch, and back at full speed before the defense can react. The chinks in his armor at the NFL level are speed and power. He didn’t run the 40 at the combine, and he hasn’t shown much in the way of physical dominance, either blocking or in traffic. He wins with good technique and great hands. His productivity at Memphis was no joke, but I think I’d look in another direction unless he fell to me in the third round.

D.J. Chark: During their nadir, the Raiders would have taken Chark in the first round. He’s as pure a deep threat as you’ll find in the draft, with a blazing 4.34 40-time. However, he had 66 receptions in his career at LSU. That’s a disturbingly low total no matter how you look at it. His hands are poor, and his route-running is simplistic. I get that you can’t coach speed. I just don’t trust pure burners with poor hands and a lack of technique. He can provide some value as a returner. I wouldn’t touch him until the third round at the earliest.

Dante Pettis: When John Ross was opposite him, Pettis ripped defenses apart (53 receptions, 822 yards, 15 touchdowns). One Ross was gone, Washington fed Pettis the ball with mixed results (63 receptions, 761 yards, 7 touchdowns). Superb in space (elite punt returner). He took 9 of his 90 punts returned to the house. That’s amazing. He’s been notably weak against press coverage, which is tough for a player who excels at timing routes. I expect him to be an effective slot receiver in the NFL after he refines his technique. I’d be happy to snag Pettis from late second round onward.

Deon Cain: It kills me to bet on bust with a boom-or-bust prospect who I share a birthday wish. Cain made some awesome plays last season, but the drops are a disaster. He has long arms, but small hands, so that might be his fate. He can run the entire route tree. Unlike Pettis, he offers you nothing in the return game. Cain has the tools to get open at the next level, but then what? I’d pass.

Equanimeous St. Brown: Soft, which is something I’d never have said about his father. His quickness and speed allow him to be effective on mid-to-deep routes. Just going off of his size and speed, he looks like a day one pick. He has the tools to be a quality NFL receiver, but it’s hard to see that when you watch his college film. The upside is going to tempt someone to take a flier on him, and I can’t blame them. Still, it’s hard to trust a guy when his scouting report begins (and ends) with: Soft.

DaeSean Hamilton: Beautiful route-runner. Natural fit in the slot. However, the drops are infuriating. Either he solves that problem, or he’ll lose the trust of his quarterback and the coaching staff. There aren’t many athletes capable of getting open as easily as Hamilton can, so I think I’d trust him (and the coaching staff) to improve his catching technique. It looks like he’ll be available day three, so he could be a great value pickup.

Michael Gallup: Supremely versatile. He can play inside or outside, and run pretty much any route. He doesn’t excel at any of them though. In fact, apart from somewhat short arms, he no real extreme strengths or weaknesses. His production at Colorado State was fantastic (176 receptions for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns) over the past two seasons. The fact that he can fill any role you need him to makes him into a solid day two prospect. My guess is Hamilton will end up being a better value, while St. Brown has much more upside. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Tight Ends:

If the wide receiver class is weak, then the tight end class is downright anemic.

Dallas Goedert: Fantastic hands. Yet another former basketball player finding success at tight end. He dominated at the FCS level for North Dakota State, with 164 receptions for 2,404 yards over his final two seasons. It’s an open question whether he has the athletic skills to beat NFL linebackers and safeties. His blocking is beyond suspect, and it’s something he’ll need to work on to stay on the field. He has the size and build to improve in that area. Because of the jump in competition, an NFL estimate of success is a difficult projection. However, his film says he’s legit and I’m going to trust that.

Mike Gesicki: Another former basketball player. Similar strengths and weaknesses to Goedert. Great hands, not as good a blocker as he needs to be. He’ll be used as a short-to-intermediate receiving threat while he develops the rest of his game. My concern with Gesicki is a lack of upside. He’s a good athlete, but not a great one. That’s what separates Goedert as he had some eye-popping moves, particularly in the air.

Hayden Hurst: It can be tough being a tight end in the SEC. Hurst did his best, but I saw him get his ass caved in a few times trying to block defensive ends. In any interesting twist, he’s a former baseball player (drafted by the Pirates in 2012). He’ll be 25 by the time the season starts, which makes him an unusually low-upside pick. He’s not quite as fast as Gesicki, but did very well in most of the other combine drills. He has excellent hands, which seems to be the one thing tying this TE class together.

Mark Andrews: I’m not sure I’ve ever said this about a prospect, but Andrews is downright graceful in the open field. His hands aren’t quite as good as the players listed above him. He’ll make the occasional highlight catch, but balance that out with an unfortunate drop where he was trying to run before he caught the ball. In-line blocking seems to be going out of style, as it wasn’t a strength for Andrews. One issue that may cause him to drop is Type I diabetes. I wouldn’t roll the dice on Andrews if any of the players listed above were still on the board.

Ian Thomas: Dude straight up tips plays. If I could see it, opposing scouts can see it. He’s not an elite athlete. He hasn’t shown dominance on the field. Why is he being considered a day two pick? His blocking was garbage, and he doesn’t make up for that by being a trustworthy target. Someone else must be seeing something I am clearly missing.

This is a fairly deep RB class, with a variety of different types of backs to fit various different offensive schemes. It starts with a damn near perfect prospect:

Saquon Barkley: The prototype. He can run, catch, and block. He’s incredible in space, with elite speed and agility. His vision in the open field is exceptional as well. His combine was awesome. Strength, speed, size, skills, he’s got it all. However, there are two serious concerns about using a high pick on Barkley.

1. Running backs don’t have the same ability to impact a game as quarterbacks. Barkley can mitigate this somewhat with his blocking and receiving contributions, but he’s still a non-QB skill player.

2. He didn’t attack the line of scrimmage. He has a bit of the Barry Sanders big-play mentality. That led to more negative yardage plays than you might like. He also didn’t explode through defenders on film the way Leonard Fournette or Adrian Peterson did.

That’s not to say he lacked physicality. Barkley wasn’t easy to bring down, and he was good at avoiding defenders in the open field. He didn’t have great anticipation or vision at the line though, which led him to have a severe bias towards bouncing outside.

In terms of positional value I know I’d take six players ahead of Barkley: Darnold, Rosen, Jackson, Mayfield, Allen, and Chubb. To be clear, that’s five quarterbacks and one edge. The question for me is whether a potentially elite RB is a better value pick than a guard like Quenton Nelson or a defensive lineman like Vita Vea. Heck, I’m not certain I’d want to take Barkley over linebackers Tremaine Edmunds or Roquan Smith. Barkley can do a lot more than just run the ball. I’m just not certain how much he can improve an offense. Nelson might be more able to help the running game than Barkley. And then there are the positional injury issues. Gun to head, I’d probably pass on Barkley in the top 10, which is a statement more about running backs in general than about him.

Derrius Guice: Explodes into the line. His initial burst and instincts attacking the hole make him the anti-Barkley in terms of style. That’s not to say he can’t or won’t cut outside. He’s also an aggressive blocker, albeit with a somewhat unrefined technique. Where he falls behind Barkley in terms of versatility is as a receiver. He had 32 receptions over the past three years at LSU. He might be able to learn to run routes and develop as a receiver. I’d be more concerned about his running style. He delivers, and takes, a lot of punishment. Even SEC defenses don’t compare to the NFL, so I’d suggest he learns how mitigate contact in the open field. It’s rare for a back to have the complete opposite of “twinkle toes”, but that’s Guice. Dial it back and keep yourself on the field.

Ronald Jones II: A tricky prospect. Jones has a track background. His acceleration and breakaway speed is elite. However, he wasn’t much of a receiver at USC (like Guice, he had a mere 32 receptions over the past three seasons). He doesn’t have the power to be solid in pass protection. I see him as a poor man’s Jamaal Charles. His ability to produce big plays is enticing, but I wouldn’t want to take a player with such a limited skill set in the first round.

Sony Michel: Gauged defenses for 7.9 yards-per-carry last season. Coincidentally, Michel had 64 receptions over his time at Georgia. Oddly, he saw his touches decrease in each of the past two seasons. Nagging injuries may have been the root cause of the declines. He’s a willing and able pass protector. His ability to take a hit and keep moving (or fall) forward was notable. Good vision, both at the line and in the open field. I like Michel and expect him to be a solid pickup.

Nick Chubb: It feels really weird to me to have two Georgia running backs so close together in my ratings, but here we are. Chubb is slightly bigger, stronger, and faster than Michel. He’s more aggressive in pass protection (sometimes at the expense of proper blocking technique). Chubb had 18 receptions as a freshman, but only 13 through the rest of his college career. Chubb also had a bit better anticipation and vision than Michel. So why is Michel rated higher? He played faster and looked better on film. Chubb is the thunder to Michel’s lightning. Where Chubb is a natural 1-cut runner, Michel has the potential to be more versatile in space, like Alvin Kamara. Frankly, if I had to pick between them, I’d take whichever one looked like a better fit for my offense. I know I like both more than Jones.

Kerryon Johnson: I’m a little concerned about the nagging injuries. He has a physical running style, so I don’t think they’re a fluke. I’m also concerned about his pass protection. His blocking instincts are awful, which led to multiple face palms, and one QB face plant. He had 309 touches for Auburn last season (1,585 yards-from-scrimmage). He’s not a guy who’ll make defenders miss, so he’ll have to win with power. That’s very difficult at the NFL level. I think I’d pass on Johnson in favor of some of the higher upside options.

Rashaad Penny: Some runners rely on agility and quickness, keyed by a low center of gravity. Penny is the opposite. He takes a few steps to get up to cruising speed, and makes smooth rather than quick cuts. This style worked quite well for him at San Diego State. He only had 42 receptions in his college career. He’s shown good technique and I’d expect him to be able to grow in that area. His pass protection technique needs a lot of work. He has a solid frame, and should be able to improve here. Where Johnson has shown an ability to produce at Auburn vs. SEC defenses, Penny is more of a projection. I’d gamble on Penny’s potential versatility unless I specifically wanted a short-yardage power back.

Nyheim Hines: Hines gets a few huge plus grades from me. First, he’s versatile. He has a low center of gravity, so he’s not bad in short yardage despite his small size. Second, he’s exceedingly fast, with great agility. Finally, he’s shown proficiency as a receiver, and he’s damn near the best blocker he can be given the tools he has to work with. However, there are some issues with Hines. He’s not going to be able to take the punishment of a RB1, so you will have to use him in a variety of fashions to get the most out of him. He also picked up a lot of bad habits at North Carolina, trusting his speed to make it work out. That should be something coaching can fix at the next level. What might not be easily fixable is his questionable vision/instincts. So be it. I’m a fan of Hines and expect him to be a valuable day two addition.

Royce Freeman: 6,435 yards-from-scrimmage at Oregon. Wowsers. He did it the hard way, via 1,026 touches. He battled through some nagging injuries in 2016, but I’d be more concerned about general wear and tear. He’s very aggressive attacking the hole, at the expense of patience and waiting for the blocking to develop. Because of the spread Oregon offense, he was able to take advantage of more space than he should expect at the NFL level. Oddly, I don’t have that much data on him in pass protection. What data I do have is positive, so he should be able to be an every-down back at the NFL level. Another solid day two pickup.

There is a strange disconnect between the positional value of quarterbacks and their pricing relative to the salary cap. The difference between a great quarterback and a replacement level backup can be worth 10+ points. No other position is even close in terms of impact. One way of looking at a roster:

20% quarterback

35% the rest of the offense

40% defense

5% special teams

Those numbers are arbitrary, but the point remains that quarterbacks are inordinately valuable relative to any other player on the roster. However, the marginal value of an elite quarterback is what truly sets the position apart. Mediocre quarterbacks are paid far more than they should be relative to the value of elite quarterbacks. Put another way: Would you rather pay Aaron Rodgers $40M or Josh McCown $10M? Rodgers doesn’t cost $40M though ($20.6M or so according to Spotrac). He’s an absurdly good bargain. The fact is, nothing can turn a franchise around faster than an elite quarterback (as the 49ers can tell you). McCown’s contract is an issue for another day.

What’s interesting to me is what teams are willing to pay for the possibility of a franchise quarterback. We’ve seen multiple trades in the past few years for teams willing to roll the dice on “their guy”. Heck, the Jets paid three second-round picks to move up three spots to presumably grab Baker Mayfield. We’ll see how that goes, but right now I can tell you that history says the Jets made a huge mistake giving up that much draft capital. As a Jets fan I can say I would have much preferred to sit at #6 and take Lamar Jackson.

The fact that the value of an elite quarterback dwarfs that of any other position is why we’ve seen the cost of acquiring one go up. If quarterbacks go 1-2 this year, that will be the third time in the last four years. The other year the Browns took Myles Garrett, and the Bears traded up one spot with the 49ers to grab Mitch Trubisky.

The Browns will likely take their top-rated quarterback first overall. That leaves the Giants to either take a quarterback, trade down, or make a monumentally huge error and take a non-quarterback. We’ll know what they’ll do soon enough. As for the Jets…. *Sigh*

Sam Darnold: Checks off every box: Tall, athletic, strong, no red flags. Solid arm strength. His biggest weakness is his poor mechanics. He was a linebacker and wide receiver in high school, and only switched to quarterback after the starter got hurt. He was redshirted at USC, but ended up beating out the starter a few games into the season. His best film trait is his anticipation. He puts the ball where the wide receiver needs it to be. It’s a great skill and it’s tough to teach. Once a team fixes his footwork, we’ll be looking at a quarterback with a very high ceiling. I see him as a potential rich man’s Dave Krieg.

Josh Rosen: The dropoff from Rosen in the pocket (elite) to out of the pocket (Flacco?) is stark. His timing is exceptional. His arm strength is excellent, although in this case that’s a double-edged sword. He’s willing to take more chances than might be advisable. Similarly, he trusts his arm on deep throws, even when his feet and mechanics aren’t aligned. My guess is once he gets some proper coaching we’ll see a much better deep ball from Rosen. There is also the issue of passes sailing on him a bit, which likely comes from the same issue of too much arm. Rosen is a great fit for a West Coast or rhythm (timing) offense. He played in a pro-style offense in college, and is used to working through his progressions. He should be ready to start as a rookie.

Lamar Jackson: Objectively, Darnold and Rosen have better NFL profiles. However, no quarterback made me want him to become a future Jet than Jackson. He elevated the Louisville program to a staggering degree. I’ll concede his arm strength isn’t optimal, and it shows on out routes. However, his deep ball is beautiful, as is his touch. Like Darnold, his mechanics are flawed and will be improved by NFL coaching. The key gain will be giving him a higher release point, which will decrease the number of tipped passes. He can make the pass rush look silly with his athleticism and his reaction time in the pocket. I’d be slightly concerned if a coaching staff encouraged him to run more than necessary as that’s an invitation to injury. It’s not a fluke that running backs are the most injured-plagued position in the NFL. At this point I know he’s not coming to NY (unless the Giants trade down). I’ll settle for him not ending up in New England.

Baker Mayfield: The analytics favorite?

https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/03/22/baker-mayfield-advance-analytics-nfl-draft-oklahoma-pff

https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2018/4/5/17046116/2018-nfl-draft-quarterbacks-josh-allen-sam-darnold-projections-hype

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stat-analysis/2018/qbase-2018

QBASE loves him. He was accurate and productive in college. So why am I so concerned?

https://twitter.com/SethBurn/status/976943695659458560

Because the jump from college to the pros is enormous. He feasted on the Big 12. I’ll grant he was awesome vs. the Georgia defense. He was also older than them. Mayfield turned 23 earlier this week. He’s also short for an NFL QB (6’0), with a low delivery. It worked (very well) in college. I’m less certain it will in the pros.

(That his statistical profile is remarkable similar to Case Keenum and Brandon Weedon isn’t filling me with confidence. Anyone remember Graham Harrell?)

I will note that his arm strength is not a concern. He has a good mix of power and touch. However, this is the big question for me: How much better is he going to get? He’s older, shorter, and smaller than the other prospects. He beat up on the Big 12, but that hasn’t been an accurate predictor of pro success recently. RGIII shined for a bit before injuries wrecked his career. Sam Bradford has had some flashes, but been slowed by injuries as well.

Mayfield executed the offense proficiently, but how much of his success was due to better coaching (Lincoln Riley dominated on that front), and better talent around him than the opposition. These are tough questions to answer. My sense is that he had an enormous leg on up his competition, and his statistical profile has been padded because of that. I’d rather the Jets have waited for one Heisman-winning quarterback rather than trade up for the other.

(Inside the Pylon has faith)

Josh Allen: 6’4, 240, huge hands, and a cannon arm. Played in a similar offense to Carson Wentz. Better mobility than I expected. The problem for Allen is his accuracy. Actually, there are a few problems, which combine to lead to his poor completion percentage.

1. He doesn’t have great touch. When a throw requires him to gun it, he’s fantastic. When it requires more finesse, he struggles.

2. His ability to read defenses appears limited. Often I wasn’t sure if Allen was confused or if he was following a simple script (If not A, and not B, throw to C).

3. Does not throw his receivers open. At all. He’ll make the same throw regardless of where the coverage is situated. It’s really weird seeing that over and over.

4. He also doesn’t anticipate his receivers breaking open. He’ll wait and see, perhaps because he trusts his arm strength so much.

Here’s the thing though: While Allen certainly had his problems against man to man, he can throw to a hole in the zone like no one else in this draft. His upside is phenomenal. Can he be taught touch, and how to properly read a defense? Also, timing? That’s a lot to ask. If a team can develop a simple offense that plays to his strengths, I can see Allen succeeding in the NFL. If they expect him to learn how to correct all of his weaknesses, things will end poorly. My guess is the latter is his eventual fate.

Mason Rudolph: The general consensus has five first round locks (although Jackson’s eventual landing spot is unknown). If a sixth slips in, Rudolph is the most likely beneficiary. He was efficient and effective at Oklahoma State. *Warning* *Warning* *Warning*

Past success against Big 12 defenses is not an accurate predictor of future success in NFL. Rudolph struggled to adjust when his primary read wasn’t open. His arm strength is poor by NFL standards, as is his hand size. He struggled badly when the rush forced him to adjust.

My biggest problem with Rudolph is the lack of upside. Yes, you can correct some of his weaknesses in terms of reading defenses, but what then? He tops out as a middle-of-the-pack quarterback. The dropoff in terms of upside from the top five guys to Rudolph is enormous, and I wouldn’t be tempted to take a flyer on him.

Kyle Lauletta: Chad Pennington? Is that you? I kid, but Lauletta has similar strengths and weaknesses. His accuracy within short-medium range is quite good. His lack arm strength hurts him deep and outside. He has a quick release which somewhat mitigates the issue, at least when he can anticipate or is working a timing route. Apart from his arm strength issue, Lauletta is a pretty good athlete. The jump from FCS to the NFL is pretty steep, especially when you don’t have Carson Wentz’s arm. I think he’s worthy of a day 2 pick and would be my choice as the quarterback outside of the first round who’s most likely to succeed.

Mike White: His decision-making made me want to throw my remote at the screen, and this was as an impartial viewer. It’s infuriating. He put up very good numbers at Western Kentucky, but given his athletic skills they should have been even better. His footwork was awful. His pocket presence came and went. His throwing motion was… actually, it was pretty good. His arm is good, but not great, which is odd to me given his ability to throw a 90+ MPH fastball in high school. His issues might stem from how he processes the game. Simply put, he processes it slowly. His progressions and his decision-making both reflected that problem. He was more focused on baseball in high school and perhaps this is an area where NFL coaching can lead to huge improvements. His ceiling is fairly high if a team can fix his issues.