Posts by Dion Caputi

2019 NFL Draft Preview – RBs

Fresh off a loaded 2018 running back class, this year doesn't boast as much top end talent or depth but still holds an assortment of interesting prospects. The group is defined by electrifying Stanford standout Bryce Love, who I graded just behind the comparably elite Saquon Barkley. Past Love, we see a stable of well-built

Fresh off a loaded 2018 running back class, this year doesn’t boast as much top end talent or depth but still holds an assortment of interesting prospects. The group is defined by electrifying Stanford standout Bryce Love, who I graded just behind the comparably elite Saquon Barkley. Past Love, we see a stable of well-built backs with a combination of size + speed, peppered with a collection of quality scat-back profiles who could be effective third-down contributors. Not unlike this year’s quarterback class, the college season will reveal a lot about what order the runners will come off the board next spring.

1. Bryce Love, Stanford (5’10” 196lbs.)
• Springy pin-ball with track speed. Love’s junior campaign was eerily reminiscent of Chris Johnson’s 2k season in 2009, littered with long touchdown runs and dizzying elusiveness. He continued the Stanford tradition of finishing second in the Heisman voting but is an early favorite for the award this season. Had he entered the 2018 NFL Draft, Bryce Love could easily have been a top 25 selection.

2. Damien Harris, Alabama (5’11” 221lbs.)
• An explosive, efficient runner who’s amassed a staggering 2,037 yards over the past two seasons in just 281 carries (7.2yards per carry). Rough and tumble style that doesn’t wane over four quarters, he’s also deceptively good in the passing game.

3. Bennie Snell Jr., Kentucky (5’11” 223lbs.)
•  Snell was a surprise Sophomore who improved as the 2017 season went on, despite defenses keying in on him as Kentucky’s best offensive threat. He boasts an ideal blend of size, speed and vision;and is adept in short-yardage situations. Receiving skills are totally untested entering 2018.

4.L.J. Scott, Michigan State (6’1″ 226lbs.)
• All-around back with a complete game who should translate quite comfortably to the NFL in 2019. Like fellow Sparty alum Le’Veon Bell, many believe L.J. Scott could benefit from trimming down slightly. Though he’s yet to have a 1,000-yard rushing season, Scott profiles as the draft’s premier three-down bell-cow.

5. Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma (6’1″ 219lbs.)
• Two serious injuries (broken leg, 2015 / neck, 2016) derailed two seasons of his collegiate career, but if not for those concerns Rodney Anderson is comfortably a top three runner in this class entering 2018. Anderson bounced back with a tremendous RS-Sophomore campaign with an angry, downhill style. Also doubles as a terrific receiver.

Honorable Mention: Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic (5’9″ 200lbs.)
• Thickly built despite his diminutive frame, Singletary was one of college football’s most productive players over the past two seasons, particularly in 2017 – rushing for 32 touchdowns. If he can become a little more efficient with his carries in 2018 he’ll be well-prepared for the pro level, as there’s little left to prove for him in Boca Raton.

This is the final offensive position of our look at the 2019 NFL draft. The other positions can be found here: QB, WR, TE, OT, G/C

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2019 NFL Draft Preview – TEs

For a position where age often wins out, this year is a uniquely youthful group of underclassmen with lots of pass-catching potential. This projection hinges on how many will actually enter the 2019 draft. Some of the top talents will break in new quarterbacks while others must continue growing physically. UCLA's Caleb Wilson and Iowa's

For a position where age often wins out, this year is a uniquely youthful group of underclassmen with lots of pass-catching potential. This projection hinges on how many will actually enter the 2019 draft. Some of the top talents will break in new quarterbacks while others must continue growing physically. UCLA’s Caleb Wilson and Iowa’s Noah Fant are vying for the preseason crown, but I’m eager to see if a dark horse emerges as the top talent. Wilson is the classic every-down workhorse, while Fant is the explosive playmaker.

1. Caleb Wilson, UCLA (6’4″ 235lbs.)
• Many will remember Wilson as the centerpiece of the Bruins historic comeback against Texas A&M, but the former USC walk-on was more than a one-game wonder in 2017. Wilson was on a torrid pace with 490 yards and one touchdown on 39 receptions in just five games before his season was cut short due to a foot injury.

© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

2. Noah Fant, Iowa (6’5″ 232lbs.)
• Little separates Fant from Wilson, and it may come down to preference – so understand this is a 1a, 1b ranking. As Fant continues adding to his frame his appeal will only increase. The 2017 Big Ten touchdown leader (11) regardless of position can score in and out of the red zone and possesses mouthwatering athleticism.

3. Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri (6’5″ 260lbs.)
• An exciting passing-game threat, particularly in the red zone, he caught 11 touchdowns as a redshirt-Freshman last season. I suspect if he produces comparable numbers in 2018 then Okwuegbunam could leave school early with his graduating quarterback Drew Lock. Physically speaking, he’s already mature and ready for the pro level.

© Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

4. Tommy Sweeney, Boston College (6’5″ 255lbs.)
• Lacks the speed and athleticism to punish defenses, but there’s probably not a safer, more complete player available at the position. Sweeney blocks in-line competently, will move chains as a receiver, and has some yard-after-catch ability. I’ve noticed he has a good feel for soft zones in the passing game.

5. Kaden Smith, Stanford (6’5″ 259lbs.)
• The latest creation from a developing tight end factory at Stanford, Kaden Smith is a physically impressive athlete with desired length and movement skills to impose as a receiver. Another year of sustained production could convince Smith to make the pro leap.

Honorable Mention: Tyler Petite, USC (6’4″ 250lbs.)
• It’s apparent that Petite has plenty of untapped ability as a pass-catcher, as he generated a lot of positive momentum in that regard with Sam Darnold under center in 2017. Petite’s got an otherwise all-around game and if he can maintain his annual growth in production he’ll enter the NFL as a polished option for any team.

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2019 NFL Draft Preview – G/C

Going into this collegiate season, it's wise to remember that when evaluating draft-eligible offensive linemen - particularly along the interior - how they physically project to translate to the pro game. Size and length are crucial so some of the better collegiate blockers may not make for the best pro prospects. That said, this class

Going into this collegiate season, it’s wise to remember that when evaluating draft-eligible offensive linemen – particularly along the interior – how they physically project to translate to the pro game. Size and length are crucial so some of the better collegiate blockers may not make for the best pro prospects. That said, this class of interior linemen is full of experience and grit. The 2018 class seemed to possess more plug and play talent atop the board, but the polish of many 2019 blockers should produce a handful of early contributors.

1. Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas (6’5″ 315lbs.)
• The Denmark native transitioned from defensive tackle to left guard as a Sophomore in 2016 where he’s since made 25 starts. His combination of desirable size and length are supplemented by his mean streak and brute strength. Froholdt has immersed himself in the guard position rather quickly and considerably cut down penalties in 2017, committing only two. He’s primed for a big year and subsequent first-round consideration.

2. Beau Benzschawel, Wisconsin (6’6″ 317lbs.)
• The epitome of a Badger lineman, Benzschawel is tough, polished, highly experienced and physically mature. Moved from right tackle to right guard as a redshirt-freshman and has started there ever since. Possessing the ideal length, he also played through injuries and remained a reliable cog at Wisconsin. After receiving a “return to school grade” he opted against entering the 2018 draft, which was the right decision – he has a chance to be a top 60 pick in 2019.

3. Connor McGovern, Penn State (6’5″ 320lbs.)
• Not to be confused with the Denver Broncos guard of exactly the same name. McGovern is a physically mature true Junior with advanced abilities. As a Freshman in 2016, he took hold of the right guard job early on, making nine starts, prior to becoming Penn State’s full-time starter at center as a Sophomore. His bigger, longer frame aligns with the modern profile of NFL centers and accruing one more strong season would leave him with little left to prove at the college level.

4. Ross Pierschbacher, Alabama (6’4″ 303lbs.)
• Perhaps the most experienced and distinguished blocker in this entire class, Pierschbacher – a redshirt-Senior – has 43 career starts under his belt (42 at left guard, one at right guard). Bama has many moving pieces along it’s offensive line, but he will be shifting to center for the 2018 season, further adding to his pro appeal.

5. Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State (6’4″ 313lbs.)
• A well-built, industrious interior blocker with excellent mobility and prototype dimension. Jenkins comes from an offensive tackle background, but his genuine ability was unlocked when kicked inside. At center, he’ll be a key figure in new head coach Joe Moorehead’s multi-tempo spread employing modern RPO looks. He’s featured on the 2018 Rimington Trophy watch list.

Honorable Mention: Dalton Risner, Kansas State (6’5″ 300lbs.)
• Keeping with the theme of experience, Risner – a redshirt-Senior – has started 38 games in his Wildcat career (13 at center, 25 at right tackle). A team captain who moved to right tackle after a Freshman season at center that landed him on the 2016 Rimington Trophy watch list, his best fit at the pro level will come on the interior. Intangibles are off the chart and teams will like his attitude. The only remaining question for Risner is whether or not he can return to full effectiveness after surgically repairing his left shoulder prior to the 2017 Cactus Bowl.

Here are the rest of our positional breakdowns looking way forward to next April and the 2019 Draft: QB, WR, TE, OT.

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2019 NFL Draft Preview – WRs

The 2019 receiving class is a mix of size, length and speed, yet most (but not all) are plagued by issues, whether it's inconsistent quarterback play or injury. Despite those drawbacks, all have remained productive. My (very fictional) crystal ball tells me that at the end of the 2018 collegiate season we'll be more excited

The 2019 receiving class is a mix of size, length and speed, yet most (but not all) are plagued by issues, whether it’s inconsistent quarterback play or injury. Despite those drawbacks, all have remained productive. My (very fictional) crystal ball tells me that at the end of the 2018 collegiate season we’ll be more excited about this year’s crop than last years.

1. A.J. Brown, Ole Miss (6’1″ 225lbs.)
• Though catching passes from multiple quarterbacks in 2017, Brown remained highly productive. Despite lacking in top-end speed, Brown possesses dangerous ability after the catch, running with reckless abandon. His pro comparison is a rich man’s 2010-2011 Hakeem Nicks.

2. N’Keal Henry, Arizona State (6’4″ 216lbs.)
• Long, big-bodied volume catcher with a wide catch radius, Henry does quite well in most 50-50 situations, imposing size on smaller defenders. A former blue-chip recruit, Henry has acrobatic athleticism and makes play-saving adjustments on film. The question he will have to answer is can he separate against speed consistently in 2018?

© Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

3. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina (6’0″ 210lbs.)
• Your quintessential Swiss Army knife. Before suffering a broken leg injury that ended his season in SC’s third game, Deebo accumulated four offensive touchdowns (three receiving, one rushing) and returned both of his two kick return attempts for scores. He could be a special playmaker, but needs to stay healthy.

4. David Sills V, West Virginia (6’4 203lbs.)
• A former quarterback prodigy who committed to USC at the tender age of 13, Sills ultimately wound up in Morgantown and, after a transition year in JUCO, he went on to lead the NCAA in receiving touchdowns (18, tied with Anthony Miller). Though quite raw, if Sills continues to develop and proves he can run a greater variety of routes he will shine at the pro level. He’s already a lethal red zone threat.

© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

5. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska (6’1″ 195lbs.)
• The focal point of Nebraska’s passing offense in 2017, Morgan’s blend of physicality and inside-outside versatility will assure him of even more responsibility this season. Due for a production bump in Scott Frost’s newly implemented offense, Morgan could become a household name.

Honorable Mention: Marquise Brown, Oklahoma (5’11” 162lbs.)
• This underclassman is one of college football’s fastest offensive players. While size and bulk are concerning, the success of diminutive profiles like Tyreek Hill and Antonio Brown have broken barriers for receivers like Marquise Brown. Lincoln Riley’s offense should give him a good place to showcase his skills.

This is our way-too-early position by position look at the 2019 NFL draft. The previous parts in the series were Quarterbacks and Offensive Tackles.

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2019 NFL Draft Preview – Tackles

This year's crop of offensive tackles stands to produce a couple more high-level draft talents than in 2018. Prior to tearing his ACL, Washington's Trey Adams was pegged to be the first edge blocker selected but opted to return to school. He's followed by an impressive pair of SEC underclassmen in Alabama's Jonah Williams and

This year’s crop of offensive tackles stands to produce a couple more high-level draft talents than in 2018. Prior to tearing his ACL, Washington’s Trey Adams was pegged to be the first edge blocker selected but opted to return to school. He’s followed by an impressive pair of SEC underclassmen in Alabama’s Jonah Williams and Mississippi’s Greg Little – both of whom are primed for the national spotlight. All told, there is a considerably higher amount of blockers with long-term left tackle potential in the 2019 class.

1. Trey Adams, Washington (6’8″ 327lbs.)
• Adams enters this collegiate season as the most polished and distinguished blocker and would likely have been a first round pick in 2018 despite a torn ACL. Possessing a mammoth frame with the desired length for the edge, if he proves he can overcome his injury it’ll be difficult to dethrone him as the top tackle available.

© Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

2. Jonah Williams, Alabama (6’5″ 301lbs.)
• A gifted, physical blocker equally skilled in the pass and run games, Williams took hold of Bama’s left tackle as a Sophomore (after starting on the right as a Freshman) and became a pillar for the Tide’s offense. He’s technically advanced and often initiates at the point of attack first.

3. Greg Little, Ole Miss (6’6″ 325lbs.)
• Despite his tremendous size, Little is a fine technician with excellent footwork. Terrific at carrying his weight, he gets to the second level quite comfortably in the ground game. Though he could be more physical while engaged with defenders, the dimensions and exciting upside will generate a strong buzz throughout the season.

4. Andre Dillard, Washington State (6’5″ 306lbs.)
• A ‘plus’ athlete at left tackle with excellent mobility and lateral movement skills. Dillard’s skill set caters to many modern NFL spread offenses and his profile will be of great value to teams who like to pass. Shades of Duane Brown out of Virginia Tech in 2008, though probably with more polish.

5. Michael Deiter, Wisconsin (6’6″ 328lbs.)
• Uniquely experienced, Deiter has started full seasons at center, guard and tackle. His reps as an interior blocker proved useful as an edge blocker last season and it looks like he could remain there at the next level. He even scored a touchdown against Illinois last season. He enters his Senior campaign with a whopping 41 starts under his belt. The next prototypically polished Badger lineman.

Honorable Mention: Calvin Anderson, Texas (6’5″ 300lbs.)
• Keep an eye on Anderson. Texas landed him as a coveted graduate transfer from Rice despite interest from the likes of Michigan, Auburn and Oklahoma among others. A highly intelligent individual on and off the field, Anderson grades out as an excellent pass blocker and is fully expected to fill the void left by outgoing Connor Williams on the blindside. He’s positioned himself well to skyrocket up many draft boards this fall.

This is part two of our positional look at the 2019 NFL Draft. Part one was quarterbacks which can be found here.

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2019 NFL Draft Preview – QB

Despite the weight of a uniquely never-ending draft grind, there's something poetic about the start of a new collegiate cycle that attracts a total spectrum of fans, from the educated onlookers to the full-blown draft degenerates (such as myself).

As such, we proceed with a detailed evaluation of my introductory positional rankings - coming out one group

Despite the weight of a uniquely never-ending draft grind, there’s something poetic about the start of a new collegiate cycle that attracts a total spectrum of fans, from the educated onlookers to the full-blown draft degenerates (such as myself).

As such, we proceed with a detailed evaluation of my introductory positional rankings – coming out one group at a time, beginning with quarterbacks.

So, to (inaccurately) quote the great Matthew McConaughey: “I’ll write, I’ll write, I’ll write.”

 

QUARTERBACK

Overview:

Five teams selected a first-round passer in the 2018 class and my suspicion is that it was a partial indictment of the potential 2019 crop. Presently, we’re faced with a quarterback class asking numerous questions of evaluators – who only seem to agree about being unable to distinguish who will emerge on top.

Simply put, there are a handful of quarterbacks with the potential to rise above the class, but most require a step-forward season in 2019 in order for that to happen. This year’s preseason quarterback evaluation requires more projection than most years I’ve studied the NFL Draft, which personally elicits equal levels of excitement and indignation.

1. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn (6’3″ 215lbs.)
• Will be hit with the ‘system’ tag, but he completes a high degree of attempts and rapidly immersed himself in Gus Malzahn’s intricate passing offense. I don’t see a quarterback with better ‘feel’ for his position in this class right now.

2. Justin Herbert, Oregon (6’6″ 225lbs.)
• Possesses all of the tantalizing physical traits evaluators want in a franchise passer: size, arm and athleticism. Also boasts a smooth delivery and statistical accuracy. If he takes the next step this season it’ll be tough to value another passer more.

3. Will Grier, West Virginia (6’2″ 214lbs.)
• The ex-Florida Gator was highly prolific throughout his first season in Morgantown, forming a good connection with stud receiver David Sills. Everything’s on a rope; makes NFL-esque window throws, but needs to learn that not every pass needs to be a bullet.

4. Drew Lock, Missouri (6’4″ 225lbs.)
• Ticks all of the prototype passer boxes, possessing ideal size, arm talent and an ever-present inclination to push the ball downfield. Must overcome issues relating to accuracy (both in-game and statistical), but did suffer from receiver drops last year.

5. Brian Lewerke, Michigan State (6’3″ 215lbs.)
• Underclassmen who must drastically improve accuracy, but showed plenty of promise in his ten-win Sophomore campaign. Moves through reads in rapid-fire. Will take a hit to deliver an accurate pass. Nice pocket footwork, but liable to hurt a defense with them too.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Finley, North Carolina State (6’4″ 210lbs.)
• Boise State transfer with prolific aerial numbers. Major positive is his compact, lightning-quick release and decisive style – always aware of quick-read options and fall-back outlets. Has many physical tools at his disposal. Downfield ball placement is inconsistent.

 

Find me on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

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2018 Two-Round NFL Mock Draft (2.0)

• Mock Draft 1.0, released on February 19, 2018, can be viewed here.

(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but see the 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse into how special he can be. Projectable prototype quarterback for Dorsey &

• Mock Draft 1.0, released on February 19, 2018, can be viewed here.

(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but see the 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse into how special he can be. Projectable prototype quarterback for Dorsey & Co. to move forward with.

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB. UCLA

Analysis: Best to find your man a year early than a year late, and the G-Men aren’t likely to have a better opportunity of acquiring Eli’s successor. Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback available.

3. New York Jets (f/IND): Josh Allen, QB. Wyoming

Analysis: Though any team drafting Allen is taking a tremendous risk, he suits the conventional mold of quarterbacks GM Mike Maccagnan has preferred in his time with Gang Green. Jets are all-in.

4. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Quenton Nelson, OG. Notre Dame

Analysis: In 2013, John Dorsey made the shrewd, unsexy decision to oversee the selection of Eric Fisher at No. 1 overall and has always valued linemen with premium picks. This gives Cleveland the flexibility to kick Joel Bitonio back to his college position at left tackle.

5. Denver Broncos: Saquon Barkley, RB. Penn State

Analysis: Despite the tremendous depth at the position in this class, the Broncos find themselves fortunate that the potential best player available falls to them. Denver is sorely lacking in explosion at the position and Barkley pairs with Keenum for a backfield overhaul.

Chris Ballard's Colts, with four picks in the first two rounds, are well-positioned to win the 2018 NFL Draft.

Chris Ballard’s Colts, with four picks in the first two rounds and no quarterback need, are well-positioned to win the 2018 NFL Draft.

6. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): Bradley Chubb, DE. NC State

Analysis: How smart does Chris Ballard look if this materializes? The Colts collectively accumulated 25.0 sacks in 2017 – good for second-worst in the NFL. Chubb is the defined No. 1 edge player in the class and has amassed 44 TFL and 20.0 sacks over the past to seasons.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB. Alabama

Analysis: Having already made a concerted effort to reinforce the league’s worst pass rush with the acquisitions of Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa would be fortuitous to land the draft’s top defensive back. Whether it’s at corner or safety, he starts immediately.

8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB. Virginia Tech

Analysis: A rare breed of physical specimen, the 19-year-old could either project as an interior player or on the edge as a stand-up pass rusher.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S. Florida State

Analysis: Few first-round prospects have ascended throughout the process quite like James has. 49ers GM John Lynch – a former safety himself – knows the value of the position better than most.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT. Washington

Analysis: Despite the signings of cornerback Rashaan Melvin and linebacker Tahir Whitehead more is needed at each position – however, there’s presently no greater need than along the interior defensive line (as evidenced by Oakland’s flirtation with Ndamukong Suh). Vea is a good-bodied power nose in the Haloti Ngata mold who can take attention off Khalil Mack.

11. Miami Dolphins: Denzel Ward, CB. Ohio State

Analysis: The Phins’ pass defense placed right on the Mendoza line in 2017 and, despite Xavien Howard showing strong signs of encouragement, more is needed –  a particularly prudent option with Vea off the board. Ward is a productive and complete cornerback.

12. Buffalo Bills (f/CIN): Baker Mayfield, QB. Oklahoma

Analysis: After sliding up nine picks, this selection will be for a quarterback one way or another and it’s quite possible the Bills continue moving up the board from here. The signing of A.J. McCarron no longer necessitates the need to find an immediate starter, but if he falters than there may not be a more polished player at the position from this class than Mayfield.

13. Washington Redskins: Roquan Smith, LB. Georgia

Analysis: Best-player-available. Zach Brown is quality and was re-signed, as was Mason Foster – but the latter is declining and easily upgradeable. Roquan Smith is a rangy athlete capable of playing in a wide variety of base fronts.

14. Green Bay Packers: Mike Hughes, CB. Central Florida

Analysis: In 2016, Green Bay began overhauling its secondary by adding length and speed, but the process is far from complete – particularly on the boundaries. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine deploys a more aggressive press-man approach, which Hughes suits quite nicely. He’s scratching the surface of his potential.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT. Texas

Analysis: There are few teams in the current NFL landscape who struggle to protect the quarterback more than Arizona (who ranked tied for 30th in sacks allowed in 2017). Williams is right tackle or guard versatile with NFL-ready run blocking skills. In a no-trade scenario, with no quarterback available suited to play-caller Mike McCoy’s offense, the Cards address issues elsewhere.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT. Notre Dame

Analysis: Offensive line has been an area of strength for Baltimore for multiple years, but a continued infusion of talent would be an all-encompassing benefit. McGlinchey book-ended Ronnie Stanley once before at Notre Dame in 2015 and would allow the Ravens to utilize Alex Lewis as a swingman.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT. Alabama

Analysis: Starting nose tackle Brandon Mebane is regressing with age and entering the final year of his contract. As well, defensive end Corey Liuget was suspended four games to start the 2018 season due to a PED violation. Da’Ron Payne’s is an ideal solution to both concerns.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE. Texas-San Antonio

Analysis: The Seahawks totalled 39.0 sacks in 2017 – 8.5 of which were traded to Philly with Michael Bennett. Between various pass-rushing reclamation projects and the likely release of Cliff Avril, Seattle could opt for upside and plug-in the explosive Davenport.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Boise State

Analysis: Sean Lee is turning 32, has never played 16 games in a season and the Cowboys defense is consistently weakened without him. Vander Esch is an impressive athlete with low mileage, coming off an elite year of all-around production.

20. Detroit Lions: Sam Hubbard, DE. Ohio State

Analysis: Pass-rushing woes in 2017 necessitated a move for a now-38-year-old Dwight Freeney, and despite Ziggy Ansah’s pricey Franchise Tag the need for an upgrade on the edge is sorely required. Hubbard is a productive, athletic end with deceptive ability in space.

21. Cincinnati Bengals (f/BUF): Isaiah Wynn, OG. Georgia

Analysis: The trade down to this selection, which also added Cordy Glenn, allows for better value at guard. New offensive line coach Frank Pollack saw first-hand how smooth a transition Zack Martin made from college tackle to pro guard – Wynn’s physical composition is similar.

22. Buffalo Bills (f/KC): Jaire Alexander, CB. Louisville

Analysis: While it’s very likely this pick is used in part as a trade-up chip for the Bills to land their passer in the top ten, if they keep it they land one of round one’s biggest bargains. Alexander may be the draft’s best player at his position and for durability and height/length reasons, he slips. Think Josh Verrett 2.0, and a fantastic complement to Tre’Davious White.

Sean McVay and Co. have quickly transformed the Rams into NFC contenders, but require pass rush help.

Sean McVay and Co. have quickly transformed the Rams into NFC contenders, but require pass rush help.

23. Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, OLB. Boston College

Analysis: The roster needed to contend in the NFC is taking shape, but Wade Phillips still lacks a reliable edge rushing option. Landry’s stellar Combine performance solidified the belief in his ability to be a space-playing 3-4 linebacker. The most polished player available in the position the Rams require most.

24. Carolina Panthers: Joshua Jackson, CB. Iowa

Analysis: GM Marty Hurney indicated a willingness to address the positional need by attempting to sign Bashaud Breeland (who failed his physical) and the corner market is relatively scarce. Rather than opting for a committee approach on the opposite boundary to James Bradberry, the high-potential Joshua Jackson is a seamless schematic fit for a primarily zone base secondary that finished middle of the pack in coverage last year.

25. Tennessee Titans: Josh Sweat, OLB. Florida State

Analysis: Gifted athlete with desirable speed, size and length. It was apparent at the Combine that his ideal fit comes as a base 3-4 edge, and despite past injury concerns he’s proven to be an accomplished pass disruptor. There is some ‘boom or bust’ factor to Sweat’s evaluation, but if he puts it together at the next level he could be a gem.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT. Florida

Analysis: With a relatively complete roster it’s quite possible that Thomas Dimitroff looks to be aggressive and move up to secure Atlanta’s target. If not, Taven Bryan is a fantastic option. Possessing a bullish lower-body build with an active motor, the Casper, Montana-native provides an excellent solution to the vacancy left by Dontari Poe.

27. New Orleans Saints: Calvin Ridley, WR. New Orleans

Analysis: When you’re picking at the bottom of round one and the top available player at a position of need falls to you, it’s fate. Though this is more based on circumstance, New Orleans’ offense would benefit tremendously from adding a passing game workhorse to aid Drew Brees while the window of contention remains open. Ridley possesses some similarities to Reggie Wayne in 2001.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Lorenzo Carter, LB. Georgia

Analysis: One pick that touches upon a couple needs. Jon Bostic only begins to answer how Pittsburgh will replace Ryan Shazier in 2018 and the team requires more production from former first-rounder Bud Dupree, having yet to active his fifth-year option. Carter is a long, rangy uber-athlete who can be molded into either role moving forward.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR. Texas A&M

Analysis: A rapid turnaround, aided by relatively wise spending in free agency, has the Jags sitting pretty on draft night. Though linebacker is arguably the team’s most glaring hole following Paul Posluszny’s retirement, it’d be a minor surprise to see Kirk available. The organization stood behind Blake Bortles this offseason and, as such, add another dynamic weapon to aid in his continued development.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, OG. UTEP

Analysis: After hammering top roster needs at quarterback and defensive tackle in free agency the Vikings are free to address the interior offensive line. Rookie center Pat Elflein is a stud, but both guard spots are easily upgradeable, and a phone-booth mauler like Hernandez would bring a welcomed mean streak to an O-line that was ill-equipped against a formidable pass rush in the NFC title game.

31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT. UCLA

Analysis: After Nate Solder joined the Giants for historic money it’d be fitting if a player of a near-identical physical profile slots in as his replacement. One of the 2018 Combine’s true workout warriors, the mammoth blind-side Bruin blocker is raw but offers a boatload of athleticism for the position. Besides, edge blocking as a rookie isn’t such a herculean task when it’s for Tom Brady’s lightning-quick internal clock.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Dallas Goedert, TE. South Dakota State

Analysis: For a team with few – if any – immediate holes, there is an opportunity for reinforcement behind Zach Ertz. After losing a quality ‘move’ tight end in Trey Burton to free agency, Goedert can effectively replicate the physical attributes lost in the passing game. More of a linear athlete in the Travis Kelce mold, this adds another dynamic dimension to an Eagles offense patiently awaiting the return of Carson Wentz.

(Round 2)

33. Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Oliver, CB. Colorado

Analysis: Size, length, ball skills. Tremendous potential at the top of round two, and can also help as a returner. Offers a new matchup dimension on Cleveland’s boundary.

34. New York Giants: Billy Price, OG/C. Ohio State

Analysis: Big Blue invested heavily at left tackle with Nate Solder and double-down with the nasty (guard-capable) Billy Price, a fellow Buckeye product equally polished as Shurmur’s rookie center (Pat Elflein) in Minnesota last season.

35. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Justin Reid, S. Stanford

Analysis: Versatile, “student of game” type who can cover multiple positions in the secondary behind Damarious Randall, who enters a contract year.

36. Indianapolis Colts: Derrius Guice, RB. LSU

Analysis: The feature ‘back Indy’s been seeking since the Edgerrin James/Joseph Addai days; whether it’s Luck or Brissett under center, Guice is capable of carrying the load offensively.

37. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): James Daniels, OG/C. Iowa

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has quickly addressed pass rushing needs through free agency and the trade market, allowing for increased draft flexibility.

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has quickly addressed pass rushing needs through the free agent and trade markets, allowing for increased draft flexibility.

Analysis: Reich touted the interior O-line depth of this class and the Colts are pleased to find a first-round talent, in the Pouncey twins’ mold, capable of playing three positions atop round two.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sony Michel, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Perpetual home run threat capable of stabilizing a backfield in need of a workhorse. Sony finally becomes an outright bell-cow.

39. Chicago Bears: Desmond Harrison, OT. West Georgia

Analysis: An ideal schematic fit for Nagy/Helfrich; high-potential long-term left tackle option who could physically follow in the Tyron Smith development path when he fills out his athletic frame.

40. Denver Broncos: Braden Smith, OG. Auburn

Analysis: Guard will be a point of emphasis early on and Smith is a big, powerful people-pusher with a ready-made NFL frame.

41. Oakland Raiders: Rashaan Evans, LB. Alabama

Analysis: Modern prototype linebacker with range and explosion; doubles as a sub-package pass rusher.

42. Miami Dolphins: Lamar Jackson, QB. Louisville

Analysis: Though maybe not a round one quarterback team after converting $16.7M into guaranteed money on Tannehill’s deal, this would be an ideal situation for player and team; electrifying playmaker.

43. New England Patriots (f/SF): Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State

Analysis: Gronk is pondering retirement and Dwayne Allen was a non-factor in the passing game last season. Gesicki is a more athletic Jeremy Shockey and red-zone demon.

44. Washington Redskins: Harrison Phillips, DT. Stanford

Analysis: Brute power and a hulking physical build, Phillips provides an instant upgrade at nose tackle as Washington continues to beef up through the defensive middle.

45. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, OLB. LSU

Analysis: Ideal dimensions and profile as a base 3-4 edge rusher with considerable upside. If they’re drafting the 2016 version, then it’s a tremendous bargain at this point.

46. Cincinnati Bengals: Hayden Hurst, TE. South Carolina

Analysis: Eifert’s proved unreliable and, at worst, this provides a well-rounded contingency plan at a position lacking depth.

47. Arizona Cardinals: Mason Rudolph, QB. Oklahoma State

Analysis: Despite lacking an A+ arm, Rudolph is a formidable downfield passer with terrific accuracy; Cards finally secure what could be their long-term answer under center.

48. Los Angeles Chargers: Ronnie Harrison, S. Alabama

Analysis: Unbelievable value in a position of need; heavy, downhill box safety with ‘plus’ coverage skills for the position. Charger fans screaming ‘Roll Tide’ in this scenario.

49. Indianapolis Colts (f/NYJ): Courtland Sutton, WR. Southern Methodist

Analysis: Lacking explosion, but a big-bodied possession target who adds a much-needed dimension to Indy’s stable of receivers.

50. Dallas Cowboys: Orlando Brown, OT. Oklahoma

Analysis: A lot of value at this point; an immediate right tackle option who allows La’El Collins to kick back to guard where he was stellar in 2016.

51. Detroit Lions: Ronald Jones III, RB. USC

Analysis: Delivers the ‘big play’ element sorely lacking in the Lions stagnant backfield; Jamaal Charles 2.0?

52. Baltimore Ravens: Kerryon Johnson, RB. Auburn

Analysis: Alex Collins was reliable, but there is tremendous value here in Johnson – an explosive, efficient, productive runner – who adds more excitement and depth to Baltimore’s backfield.

53. Buffalo Bills: Anthony Miller, WR. Memphis

Analysis: Benjamin enters a contract year and Zay Jones’ situation is up in the air. Miller is a production machine with numerous similarities to Antonio Brown out of CMU in 2010.

54. Kansas City Chiefs: Kyzir White, S. West Virginia

Analysis: Ron Parker is gone and depth beyond Eric Berry is severely lacking. White favorably complements the aforementioned Berry and ideally profiles as a hybrid big-slot/tight end coverage option.

55. Carolina Panthers: Martinas Rankin, OL. Mississippi State

Analysis: A savvy selection that would provide deep coverage along the O-line; immediate help at guard and a strong center candidate once Ryan Kalil retires.

56. Buffalo Bills (f/LAR): Malik Jefferson, LB. Texas

Analysis: Rangy H/W/S prototype with superior coverage skills and an attack-minded approach to the position.

57. Tennessee Titans: Frank Ragnow, OG/C. Arkansas

Analysis: Deeply experienced leader with the ability to cover all three interior positions; lunchpail blocker with deceptive athleticism.

58. Atlanta Falcons: Rasheem Green, DE. USC

Analysis: Versatile, hybrid lineman with enough bulk for a sub-package interior rusher, but enough agility and quickness to disrupt from the edge as well.

59. San Francisco 49ers (f/NO): Austin Corbett, OG. Nevada

Analysis: The organization has heavily prioritized building an O-line in the Lynch era; the fleet-footed college tackle is a perfect fit for Shanahan’s outside zone and appears to be a carbon copy of fellow Nevada alum Joel Bitonio.

60. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jessie Bates, S. Wake Forest

Analysis: Self-motivator just scratching the surface of his potential; highly productive tackler with natural, center-field coverage awareness.

The always-enigmatic Patriots hold three of the first 63 selections and are liable to go in a number of directions.

The always-enigmatic Patriots hold three of the first 63 selections and are liable to go in a number of directions.

61. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerome Baker, LB. Ohio State

Analysis: Springy defender, covers ground seamlessly with blistering play-speed; capable of matching nearly any caliber of athlete in coverage. Kindly suits the Jags’ defensive profile.

62. Minnesota Vikings: Kemoko Turay, DE/OLB. Rutgers

Analysis: In Mike Zimmer’s desired H/W/S mold; a limitless athlete whose role can be shaped in a number of ways, similarly to Anthony Barr.

63. New England Patriots: Mike White, QB. Western Kentucky

Analysis: Prototype pocket-passer with a firehose arm; New England uses young quarterbacks as currency and can restock the cupboard.

64. Cleveland Browns (f/PHI): Nick Chubb, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Prodigious, productive Dawg rusher who likely would’ve gone higher had he not suffered a significant knee injury in 2015.

 

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Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings (2.0)

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre/post-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions (“HM”) aren’t necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

*Bracketed numbers denote previous ranking.

Position rankings (1.0), released on

Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre/post-Combine film study and encompass evaluations from various All-Star bowls (Shrine Game, Senior Bowl, etc.). Note: Honorable mentions (“HM”) aren’t necessarily the No. 6 rated players by position, but noteworthy nevertheless.

*Bracketed numbers denote previous ranking.

Position rankings (1.0), released on February 13, 2018.


Quarterback

  1. Josh Rosen, UCLA (2)
  2. Sam Darnold, USC (1)
  3. Baker Mayfield, OU (3)
  4. Lamar Jackson, LOU (4)
  5. Mike White, WKU (n/a)

HM: Riley Ferguson, MEM (5)


Running Back

  1. Saquon Barkley, PSU (1)
  2. Derrius Guice, LSU (4)
  3. Ronald Jones, USC (2)
  4. Sony Michel, UGA (3)
  5. Kerryon Johnson, AUB (5)

HM: Nick Chubb, UGA (n/a)


Wide Receiver

Antonio Callaway, fresh off a tremendous Combine, could be one of the steals of the draft at receiver.

Antonio Callaway, fresh off a tremendous Combine, could be one of the steals of the draft at receiver.

  1. Anthony Miller, MEM (1)
  2. Calvin Ridley, BAMA (2)
  3. Christian Kirk, TAMU (3)
  4. Equanimeous St. Brown, ND (5)
  5. D.J. Chark, LSU (n/a)

HM: Antonio Callaway, UF (n/a)


Tight Ends

  1. Mike Gesicki, PSU (2)
  2. Dallas Goedert, SDST (n/a)
  3. Hayden Hurst, SCAR (3)
  4. Tyler Conklin, CMU (5)
  5. Mark Andrews, OU (1)

HM: Adam Breneman, UMASS (HM)


Offensive Tackle

  1. Mike McGlinchey, ND (1)
  2. Desmond Harrison, WGA (2)
  3. Connor Williams, UT (4)
  4. Orlando Brown, OU (3)
  5. Kolton Miller, UCLA (n/a)

HM: Brian O’Neill, PITT (n/a)


Offensive Guard/Center

  1. Quenton Nelson, ND (1)
  2. Isaiah Wynn, UGA (2)
  3. Will Hernandez, UTEP (n/a)
  4. Billy Price, OSU (3)
  5. James Daniels, IOWA (n/a)

HM: Rod Taylor, MISS (n/a)


Interior Defensive Line/Defensive Tackle

  1. Vita Vea, UW (1)
  2. Da’Ron Payne, BAMA (n/a)
  3. Taven Bryan, UF (3)
  4. Rasheem Green, USC (2)
  5. Harrison Phillips, STAN (n/a)

HM: Nathan Shepherd, FHST (n/a)

Kansas star Dorance Armstrong Jr. is perfectly suited to a 3-4 edge role at the next level.

Kansas star Dorance Armstrong Jr. is perfectly suited to a 3-4 edge role at the next level.


Edge Defender/Defensive End

  1. Bradley Chubb, NCST (1)
  2. Harold Landry, BC (4)
  3. Marcus Davenport, UTST (2)
  4. Sam Hubbard, OSU (n/a)
  5. Andrew Brown, UVA (n/a)

HM: Dorance Armstrong Jr., UK (n/a)


Linebacker

  1. Roquan Smith, UGA (1)
  2. Tremaine Edmunds, VT (2)
  3. Leighton Vander Esch, BSU (3)
  4. Lorenzo Carter, UGA (HM)
  5. Shaquem Griffin, UCF (5)

HM: Kemoko Turay, RUT (n/a)


Cornerback

  1. Jaire Alexander, LOU (2)
  2. Denzel Ward, OSU (3)
  3. Joshua Jackson, IOWA (1)
  4. Mike Hughes, UCF (5)
  5. Isaiah Oliver, CU (n/a)

HM: J.C. Jackson, UMD (n/a)


Safety

  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, BAMA (1)
  2. Derwin James, FSU (2)
  3. Ronnie Harrison, BAMA (4)
  4. Justin Reid, STAN (5)
  5. DeShon Elliott, UT (3)

HM: Dane Cruikshank, UA (n/a)

Kicker/Punter

  1. Michael Dickson, UT (1, punter)
  2. Eddy Pineiro, UF (2, kicker)
  3. Matthew McCrane, KSU (3, kicker)
  4. Daniel Carlson, AUB (4, kicker)
  5. Shane Tripucka, TAMU (5, punter)

HM: Ryan Santoso, UMN (HM, punter/kickoff specialist)

Hit me on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

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NFL Combine 2018: Who will be the ‘Alpha’ QB?

A new set of 300-something (336 to be exact) collegiate stars take the annual trip to Indianapolis in what will likely be the most grueling job interview process of their lives.

Entering this Combine, I remain steadfast in my belief that all invited passers should throw, as nobody has anything to lose with so much

A new set of 300-something (336 to be exact) collegiate stars take the annual trip to Indianapolis in what will likely be the most grueling job interview process of their lives.

Entering this Combine, I remain steadfast in my belief that all invited passers should throw, as nobody has anything to lose with so much uncertainty regarding the selection order of quarterbacks at the top of the class. In essence, the distinction of being the first passer chosen – and likely at No. 1 overall – is entirely up for grabs.

With Sam Darnold electing not to throw at the Combine, additional eyes will be on Josh Rosen.

With Sam Darnold electing not to throw at the Combine, additional eyes will be on Josh Rosen.

USC’s Sam Darnold, who – for the time being – is tipped as the likeliest to be selected first by Cleveland, bowed out of the race after electing not to throw, leaving the door agape for others to claim the spotlight.

UCLA’s Josh Rosen will primarily be tasked with dispelling his perceived character concerns at this year’s Combine, but there may not be a ‘prettier’ stationary passer in this class. As such, he stands an excellent chance at significantly elevating his on-field perception with a comfortable and composed display in drills. Unlike his three years with the Bruins, he’ll have more than a half-second to deliver passes at the Combine.

Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is one of the most polarizing of talents in the 2018 draft class. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner’s confident, animated demeanor is both a positive and negative depending on who you speak to, but his ability to lead an offense is inarguable. I’m eager to see him interact with fellow groupmates during the workout and how willing he’ll be to simply ‘be himself’ with so much discussion surrounding his personality throughout the process. Mayfield’s at his best when he plays with personality and it’d behoove him to do the same in Indy.

Two who will be scrutinized above all others are Wyoming gunslinger Josh Allen and Lousiville playmaker (and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner) Lamar Jackson.

Allen possesses a mouthwatering physical skill-set and a fully equipped toolbox, which has some believing he could go as high as No. 1 overall, but his evaluation is marred by erratic tape. On the other hand, Jackson has the most to prove of any Combine passer. It’s imperative for the 2-time ACC Player of the Year to exhibit an improved ability while throwing from a stationary position, as he’s developed a penchant for feeling more comfortable while mobile. Nevertheless, a tremendous talent and Combine discussion point.

I’m higher on Memphis’ Riley Ferguson than most. The former Tennessee Volunteer combined with Anthony Miller for what was one of college football’s most lethal pass-catch tandems last season. He enters the Combine as my No. 5 rated quarterback and I’m excited to observe how he compares to the perceived top talents at the position in Indy.

The three-time Buckeye captain might be the most appealing late-round quarterback option in the 2018 draft.

The three-time Buckeye captain might be the most appealing late-round quarterback option in the 2018 draft.

For prolific Oklahoma State pivot Mason Rudolph, his delivery will be an observation point as he possesses more of a push-power arm. Has he shortened his motion a bit? If so, it’ll elevate his perception.

Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett leaves college a similar prospect to how I viewed Tyrod Taylor out of Virginia Tech in 2011 – though slightly less of an athlete and slightly more of a ‘quarterback’. He stands a strong chance of having an extended NFL career and that begins in Indy by putting what I consider to be a ‘complete’ skill-set on display during workouts.

Lastly, Washington State’s Luke Falk has people wondering if he has enough arm to make every NFL throw. A dreaded ‘system’ player? The Combine is a perfect stage for him to quell those concerns.

Prediction:
For quarterbacks, the Combine is primarily beneficial to individuals with great physical optics – the guys who ‘look’ like quarterbacks in stature or motion. Therefore, the odds-on favorites to improve their draft appeal after drills will be Josh Allen (tantalizing blend of size and arm strength) and Josh Rosen (silky-smooth throwing motion and advanced mechanics). Expect them to be the biggest ‘winners’ from the positional group.

As a final honorable mention, keep an eye on Western Kentucky prototype Mike White: He looks the part and is equipped with an A-grade arm. The former Louisville Slugger All-American pitcher’s lack of evasion or mobility will be well-hidden during the battery of on-field testing where he’ll be allowed to just let-rip and put on a show.

Quarterbacks workout with running backs and tight ends on Saturday, March 3.

Drop me a line on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate

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2018 Two-Round NFL Mock Draft (1.0)

*Note: As there was a tie, No. 9 and 10 overall will be decided via coin toss at the Combine. In order to determine the order for this mock, I literally brought a 49ers fan and a Raiders fan together for a coin toss (in what proved to be a monumental waste of time and

*Note: As there was a tie, No. 9 and 10 overall will be decided via coin toss at the Combine. In order to determine the order for this mock, I literally brought a 49ers fan and a Raiders fan together for a coin toss (in what proved to be a monumental waste of time and resources). 49ers won the toss.


(Round 1)

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB. USC

Analysis: Simply couldn’t protect the ball in 2017, but offers more in both production and upside than all fellow quarterback classmates. See 2016 Rose Bowl vs. Penn State for a glimpse at how special he can be.

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB. UCLA

Analysis: No worthy pass protection and the long-term need under center is palpable. Best to find your man a year early anyway, as this also relieves pressure on Shurmur to identify Eli’s successor. Rosen’s persona should mesh well in NYC.

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE. NC State

Analysis: Though Indy’s rush offense was poor in 2017 its defense ranked 30th in yards (conceded) per game + 31st in sacks and Chubb is consistently dominant. This running back class may be the best in history – fry that fish later

4. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Saquon Barkley, RB. Penn State

Analysis: I struggled because this is the least-John Dorsey pick ever, but to land arguably the draft’s best player with the second of two picks makes it less of a luxury. O-line help still wouldn’t surprise me here either.

5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, OG. Notre Dame

Analysis: Unquestionably the best, most plug-and-play blocker in this draft class and the Broncos ranked 30th in sacks-allowed last year.

6. New York Jets: Calvin Ridley, WR. Alabama

Analysis: Ridley is a pass-game workhorse in the Reggie Wayne mold. Plenty of unpolished passers will still be available later, and with less immediate pressure than they would if taken here.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB. Alabama

Analysis: Corner, safety – doesn’t matter. Tampa’s defense sorely needs a talent upgrade and Minkah fields an all-around game with huge upside. Adding some more length to that secondary is an added bonus.

8. Chicago Bears: Connor Williams, OT. Texas

Analysis: New head coach Matt Nagy arrives from an organization in KC that put a premium on O-lineman, and with a bright-eyed young passer under center comes the responsibility of protecting him.

9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB. Georgia

Analysis: Whether Reuben Foster plays 16 games or not, there’s a need to upgrade the linebacking unit. Roquan is an alpha-dog in the Patrick Willis mold.

10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, DT. Washington

Analysis: Brute power and an absurd first step, Vea is mammoth-sized (6’4″ 344lbs.) but packs it all into a good body. A 3-down space-eater who would certainly take some attention off Khalil Mack.

11. Miami Dolphins: Mike Hughes, CB. Central Florida

Analysis: Defense ranked 28th in the league in interceptions last season and there’s rather significant need for added talent + depth at the corner position. If not a quarterback (and I don’t expect it to be), pass defense must be a priority.

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Baker Mayfield, QB. Oklahoma

Analysis: Shocker, right? Not really. Andy Dalton will be 31 this year and – after peaking in 2015 – has regressed considerably. His salary also escalates beginning in 2019, just in time for Mayfield to take reigns. Something’s got to give on that idle offense.

13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB. Virginia Tech

Analysis: Heavy down-hill playmaker who can bolster a run defense that was hapless in a few key moments last season. HWS (height/weight/speed) specimen cut from the same cloth as Dont’a Hightower.

14. Green Bay Packers: Rasheem Green, DT/DE. USC

Analysis: An all-encompassing defensive upgrade with an untraceable ceiling. Though boasting a similar skill-set (and pass rushing threat) to Fletcher Cox coming out of Mississippi State, Green’s best fit could come as a 5-tech.

15. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB. Wyoming

Analysis: I have extreme hesitancy on Allen, but the need for long-term hope under center is unquestionably required. The physical tools are tantalizing – but he must sit for at least a year.

16. Baltimore Ravens: Orlando Brown, OT. Oklahoma

Analysis: Likely a right tackle only, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Brown reminds me of another former mammoth OU tackle in Phil Loadholt, who was an above-average right tackle for 6 seasons.

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Billy Price, C. Ohio State

Analysis: Multiple needs and the board is set up for all of them, but center may be the most glaring of all. Price is an angry blocker, day-one-ready and can arguably match even Phil Rivers for intensity.

18. Seattle Seahawks: Derwin James, S. Florida State

Analysis: At minimum, Chancellor claims he’ll sit out 2018 and this is a near-perfect solution from a talent perspective. The Legion of Boom is deteriorating and youthful turnover in the secondary is badly required.

19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Boise State

Analysis: Sean Lee is turning 32, has never played 16 games in a season and the Cowboys defense is consistently weakened without him. Vander Esch is an impressive athlete with low mileage, coming off an elite year of all-around production.

20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE. Texas at San Antonio

Analysis: Pass rush ineffectiveness necessitated the mid-season signing of Dwight Freeney and Ziggy Ansah is a free agent. Davenport bundles length, power and movement skills in a high-potential 6’6″ 255lb frame.

21. Buffalo Bills: Denzel Ward, CB. Ohio State

Analysis: Smooth, instinctual athlete who will likely play the majority of his snaps inside. Tre’Davious White was DROY-worthy, but the Bills’ pass defense still finished bottom-half in yards conceded in 2017.

22. Buffalo Bills (f/KC): Da’Ron Payne, DT. Alabama

Analysis: In 2017, the Bills defense ranked 29th in rushing yards conceded per game. Payne is a trim and powerful 3-down nose tackle who can help anchor a run defense early on as a rookie.

23. Los Angeles Rams: Joshua Jackson, CB. Iowa

Analysis: After Trumaine Johnson, who is a free agent, there is little to get excited about at the corner position. Jackson requires polish but possesses tremendous potential. B1G DB of the Year following a phenomenal 8-interception season.

24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR. Southern Methodist

Analysis: After moving on from Kelvin Benjamin, this establishes an added big-bodied physical presence out wide for Cam. On the high-end, Sutton functions like Marques Colston did and can provide a consistently reliable target.

25. Tennessee Titans: James Daniels, C. Iowa

Analysis: Though he must continue to fill out his frame and strength is to be developed, Daniels can play all three interior positions along the O-line, where stability is needed. Titans have valued blockers with premium picks before.

26. Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Wynn, OG. Georgia

Analysis: Fleet-footed college tackle with Pro Bowl potential at guard moving forward – and an ideal schematic fit in a ZBS.

27. New Orleans Saints: Christian Kirk, WR. Texas A&M

Analysis: Doesn’t quite replace the vertical threat lost when Cooks was dealt, but Kirk’s style of play is similar to that of Odell Beckham leaving LSU. Lack of stability in Aggies’ quarterback situation hampered production.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S. Alabama

Analysis: Heavy, productive, down-hill defender tied into an athletic and imposing 6’3″ 215lb frame. More importantly, ready to help out from day one.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE. South Dakota State

Analysis: Relatively unpolished as a blocker, but there may not be a more dynamic route-runner and receiver from the tight end position in this class. Seems wildly unlikely a quarterback is considered here.

30. Minnesota Vikings: Mike McGlinchey, OT. Notre Dame

O-line took a big step forward in 2017 and Elflein is a stud, but further reinforcement is needed. McGlinchey is a four-position blocker and would help immediately wherever he’s plugged.

31. New England Patriots: Taven Bryan, DT. Florida

Analysis: Piece of clay with tremendous upside. Lack of top-end collegiate production won’t prevent a confident coach like Belichick from acquiring such a talent. Patriots are quirky on draft day but always value defense early.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Rashaan Evans, LB. Alabama

Analysis: Ideal inside-outside fit in a base 4-3 front with impressive lateral movement abilities. Explosive box defender who doesn’t get swallowed or stuck to blockers.

(Round 2)

33. Cleveland Browns: Isaiah Oliver, CB. Colorado

Analysis: Size/speed/length athlete + ball skills. Tremendous potential at the top of round two, and can also help as a returner.

34. New York Giants: Ronald Jones III, RB. USC

Analysis: Committee rushing approach isn’t working and RJ3 is a home run hitter with world class speed. Jamaal Charles 2.0.

35. Cleveland Browns (f/HOU): Justin Reid, S. Stanford

Analysis: Well-rounded, complete safety with good instincts and athleticism. “Student of the game”.

36. Indianapolis Colts: Derrius Guice, RB. LSU

Analysis: Uber-talent. Top 15 player based on 2016 tape but dealt with injuries in 2017.

37. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB. Louisville

Analysis: Playmaker in every sense – supremely effective passing on the move, but requires polish. Good situation sitting a year behind McCown.

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, DE. LSU

Analysis: Defense is a mess and Tampa only mustered 22.0 sacks in 2017 – good for worst in the league. Key has double-digit sack potential.

39. Chicago Bears: Anthony Miller, WR. Memphis

Analysis: Reminiscent of Antonio Brown’s electric Central Michigan tape. Stat-freak who eats with feet despite diminutive physique.

40. Denver Broncos: Sony Michel, RB. Georgia

Analysis: Strong north-south rusher capable of hitting home runs, and he’s accustomed to running as part of a tandem/committee.

41. Oakland Raiders: Donte Jackson, CB. LSU

Analysis: Lacking in overall size, but might be the fastest corner available in this class. Adds a sorely required element to a cornerback group that must start over.

42. Miami Dolphins: Will Hernandez, OG. UTEP

Analysis: Interior O-line stability is desperately needed, and Hernandez started 37 games at LG in four years. LOVES a trench fight.

43. New England Patriots (f/SF): Jaire Alexander, CB. Louisville

Analysis: Jason Verrett 2.0 – probably a top 15 pick if he were taller, but size means less for Patriots when evaluating DBs.

44. Washington Redskins: James Washington, WR. Oklahoma State

Analysis: Adds a downfield element not currently present on the roster and Alex Smith is locked in at $71M guaranteed – he needs support.

45. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, DE/OLB. Boston College

Analysis: Coming off a down year, but looked to be college football’s most fearsome edge rusher in 2016 with 16.5 sacks (and 22.0 TFL).

46. Cincinnati Bengals: Martinas Rankin, OT. Mississippi State

Analysis: Might be at tackle, might be at guard, but he’s a 4-position blocker and enters the league ready to play now.

47. Arizona Cardinals: Simmie Cobbs Jr. WR. Indiana

Analysis: Life after Larry Fitzgerald’s retirement could be rough; might be best to groom a prospect with a similar skill-base under him.

48. Los Angeles Chargers: Terrell Edmunds, S. Virginia Tech

Analysis: Tremaine’s older bro; big-bodied, downhill safety adept in coverage. Willing tackler in the box and can physically match NFL tight ends.

49. New York Jets (f/SEA): Harrison Phillips, DT. Stanford

Analysis: High-motor, power lineman with violent hands. 15.0 sacks over the last two seasons. Steps off the bus pissed off.

50. Dallas Cowboys: Desmond Harrison, OT. West Georgia

Analysis: Texas transfer might be the premier ‘boom or bust’ prospect in 2018; mouthwatering dimensions and talent base. Collins eventually slides back inside.

51. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DT. Michigan

Analysis: (Very) poor man’s Aaron Donald who can provide a consistent leverage-based pass-rush inside. Would be supreme value.

52. Baltimore Ravens: D.J. Moore, WR. Maryland

Analysis: B1G WR of the Year; combines strength + speed, Moore is a fantastic YAC threat and volume catcher.

53. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, QB. Oklahoma State

Analysis: If you’re going to select a quarterback who’s at least one year away from meaningful snaps, better to do it on day two.

54. Kansas City Chiefs: Braden Smith, OG. Auburn

Analysis: The Olathe, Kansas-native ideally projects to guard (with swing-tackle versatility). It’s imperative to protect Mahomes while he acclimates.

55. Carolina Panthers: Kyzir White, S. West Virginia

Analysis: Complete safety and the ideal frame + skill base for an NFL safety. Ascending quickly.

56. Buffalo Bills (f/LAR): Frank Ragnow, C. Arkansas

Analysis: Experienced captain with guard versatility; natural replacement for the retiring Eric Wood.

57. Tennessee Titans: Andrew Brown, DE. Virginia

Analysis: Fits the 3-4 end profile perfectly and proved to be a penetrative force when rushing from in or out over the past two years.

58. Atlanta Falcons: Derrick Nnadi, DT. Florida State

Analysis: Squatty three-down nose tackle in a base 4-3 with impressive lateral movement skills; Poe, Rubin up for free agency.

59. San Francisco 49ers (f/NO): Kerryon Johnson, RB. Auburn

Analysis: Whether Carlos Hyde returns or not, more is needed; Kerryon can be the workhorse in any offense.

60. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB. Texas

Analysis: Who knows if Shazier will play again and Pittsburgh badly missed the range he provided at the position. Supreme value.

61. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jamarco Jones, OT. Ohio State

Analysis: Profiles well at either tackle spot and allows the Jags to reshuffle the deck along the O-line where necessary.

62. Minnesota Vikings: R.J. McIntosh, DT. Miami (FL)

Analysis: Height/weight/speed defender, just how Zim likes ’em. His dynamic skill-set would offer creative possibilities.

63. New England Patriots: Mike Gesicki, TE. Penn State

Analysis: Gronk is pondering retirement and Marty Bennett could be cut or retire; Gesicki is a Jeremy Shockey clone and helps in the red zone immediately.

64. Cleveland Browns (f/PHI): Carlton Davis, CB. Auburn

Analysis: Modern long-limbed press-man boundary corner; boasts terrific ball skills.

 

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