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 & 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 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

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 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.
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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 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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Dion Caputi's 2018 NFL Draft position rankings


*Dion Caputi’s 2018 NFL Draft position rankings are based on pre-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.

Quarterback

  1. Sam Darnold, USC
  2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
  3. Baker Mayfield, OU
  4. Lamar Jackson, LOU
  5. Riley Ferguson, MEM

HM: Nic Shimonek, TTU
Running Back

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

HM: Rashaad Penny, SDSU

Memphis star Anthony Miller amassed 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns on 191 receptions over the last two seasons.
Memphis star Anthony Miller amassed 2,896 yards and 32 touchdowns on 191 receptions over the last two seasons.

Wide Receiver

  1. Anthony Miller, MEM
  2. Calvin Ridley, BAMA
  3. Christian Kirk, TAMU
  4. Courtland Sutton, SMU
  5. Equanimeous St. Brown, ND

HM: Daurice Fountain, UNI

Tight End

  1. Mark Andrews, OU
  2. Mike Gesicki, PSU
  3. Hayden Hurst, SCAR
  4. Troy Fumagalli, WISC
  5. Tyler Conklin, CMU

HM: Adam Breneman, UMASS
Offensive Tackle

  1. Mike McGlinchey, ND
  2. Desmond Harrison, WGA
  3. Orlando Brown, OU
  4. Connor Williams, UT
  5. Tyrell Crosby, ORE

HM: Brandon Parker, NCAT
Offensive Guard/Center

  1. Quenton Nelson, ND
  2. Isaiah Wynn, UGA
  3. Billy Price, OSU
  4. Braden Smith, AUB
  5. Frank Ragnow, ARK

HM: Mark Korte, ALBERTA
Interior Defensive Line/Defensive Tackle

  1. Vita Vea, UW
  2. Rasheem Green, USC
  3. Taven Bryan, UF
  4. Derek Nnadi, FSU
  5. R.J. McIntosh, MIA (FL)

HM: Harrison Phillips, STAN

Pass rusher Jeff Holland is comparable to fellow Auburn alum Dee Ford, who was selected 23rd overall in 2014.
Pass rusher Jeff Holland is comparable to fellow Auburn alum Dee Ford, who was selected 23rd overall in 2014.

Edge Defender/Defensive End

  1. Bradley Chubb, NCST
  2. Marcus Davenport, UTSA
  3. Arden Key, LSU
  4. Harold Landry, BC
  5. Jeff Holland, AUB

HM: Joe Ostman, CMU
Linebacker

  1. Roquan Smith, UGA
  2. Tremaine Edmunds, VT
  3. Leighton Vander Esch, BOISE
  4. Malik Jefferson, UT
  5. Shaquem Griffin, UCF

HM: Frank Ginda, SJSU / Lorenzo Carter, UGA
Cornerback

  1. Joshua Jackson, IOWA
  2. Jaire Alexander, LOU
  3. Denzel Ward, OSU
  4. Holton Hill, UT
  5. Mike Hughes, UCF

HM: Devron Davis, UTSA / Siran Neal, JSU

Safety

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

HM: Jordan Whitehead, PITT

Texas' Aussie-born punter was named MVP of the Texas Bowl after 10 of his 11 punts were downed within Missouri's 15-yard line.
Texas’ Aussie-born punter was named MVP of the Texas Bowl after 10 of his 11 punts were downed within Missouri’s 15-yard line.

Kicker/Punter

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

HM: Ryan Santoso, UMN (punter/kickoff specialist)
 
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College Football: Week 2 Storylines

UCLA’s unforgettable comeback, (1) Alabama knocking off (3) Florida State, a nail-biter between West Virginia and Virginia Tech, as well as the Big Ten thriving early. Week 1 of the 2017 college football season was excellent, and fortunately for those of us at home, we’re just getting started.
As we move into the second week of the collegiate season, there’s once again a bevy of intriguing storylines on schedule for you to keep a close eye on. Here’s what I’m most looking forward to this weekend:
(5) Oklahoma AT (2) Ohio State – September 9, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
The Buckeyes went to Norman and throttled the Sooners on their home turf last season, 45-24. This year, Oklahoma is coming off a more convincing Week 1 offensive performance where Sr. quarterback Baker Mayfield was able to call it a day by halftime. Can OU’s young head coach Lincoln Riley vindicate last season’s bad loss in Columbus? We’ll see.

Tyquan Lewis led the way against Indiana with two sacks.
Tyquan Lewis led the way against Indiana with two sacks.

Ultimately, this game will come down to Oklahoma’s offense against Ohio State’s defense, where the former looked dominant while scoring 35 first-half points and the latter notched five sacks, two interceptions, and one fumble in week 1.
Baker Mayfield will be under heavy scrutiny all season from an NFL evaluation standpoint, as he’s lacking prototype size or ideal physical traits for the next level. However, a signature performance early on would generate a dose of positive momentum for the Austin, Texas native.
Conversely, Ohio State’s defensive edge trio of Tyquan Lewis, Sam Hubbard, and Nick Bosa are sure to leave a mark on the game. As well, true Fr. running back J.K. Dobbins has Buckeye fans excited after his 181-yard rushing effort in his college debut. Scouts and fans alike will want to get a look at him – he’s wearing No. 2.
(13) Auburn AT (3) Clemson – September 9, 7 p.m. ET
Dabo Swinney spoke highly of Auburn’s balance on both sides of the ball last season and War Eagle is unquestionably superior to its 2016 counterpart. While it’s not impossible for Gus Malzahn’s squad to win ten regular season games this year, it’d require a sizable upset in order to win a night game at Memorial Stadium this Saturday.
However, Auburn boasts a potentially elite running game featuring the trio of Kerryon Johnson, Kam Martin, and Kamryn Pettway. Though Johnson is unlikely to suit up due to a hamstring injury, Pettway – last season’s bell cow – returns from suspension this week. Everyone’s favorite sleeper quarterback Jarrett Stidham will have to be a lot more effective this week if Auburn is to stand a chance of outscoring Clemson.
Clemson, last year’s national champion, has an enviable ground game itself with four players rushing for 50+ yards and at least one touchdown against Kent State in week 1. Oh, and the Tigers also completed passes to 15 different receivers as well.
Get ready for a lot of offense. Slam the over on this one.
(14) Stanford AT (6) USC – September 9, 8:30 p.m. ET
“It’s one of those dates you mark on your calendar because you know it’s going to impact your season,” said USC head coach Clay Helton of this tie.
Ronald Jones II rushed for three touchdowns in week one against Western Michigan.
Ronald Jones II rushed for three touchdowns in week one against Western Michigan.

We may be getting an early preview of the Pac-12 title game here and the contest is likely to be a tale of two star rushers. USC Jr. Ronald Jones II took charge offensively against Western Michigan in week 1 as his quarterback, Sam Darnold, failed to settle into the game. Meanwhile, Cardinal Jr. Bryce Love stepped in nobly in the wake of Christian McCaffrey as Stanford routed Rice in Australia.
As eluded to, Trojan Jr. quarterback Sam Darnold was porous in his season debut, but can quickly extirpate all negativity with a strong game this weekend. Though Josh Rosen carries the lion’s share of the pro buzz after UCLA’s come back, Darnold is still favored by many to be selected No. 1 overall in next year’s draft.
I’m expecting a tight game with a fun conclusion, and it’s possible that this won’t be the last time we see these two teams lock horns in 2017.
Quick Hits…
• (15) Georgia travels to South Bend to take on newly minted top twenty-five ranked (24) Notre Dame, but will do so with true Fr. Jake Fromm under center. Starter Jacob Eason sprained his knee against Appalachian State before Fromm entered and led Georgia on three consecutive touchdown drives. Gametime at 7:30 p.m. ET.
• (20) Washington State looks to avenge last season’s loss to unranked Boise State on September 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET. Get a good look at the Cougars’ interesting pro prospect Luke Falk, as he’s 101 passing yards away from breaking the school’s career passing record.
• Don’t forget, (16) Miami FL vs. Arkansas State has been canceled outright due to Hurricane Irma despite the game being staged in Jonesboro. ‘Canes athletic director Blake James confirmed it will NOT be replayed at a later date.

2018 NFL Draft: Rosen takes early lead in QB race

College football is back, as evidenced by UCLA completing one of the greatest comebacks in history against Texas A&M this past week.
The Bruins stormed back from a 44-10 deficit late in the third quarter to emerge victorious, 45-44. The improbable comeback was largely attributed to the heroics of UCLA’s Junior quarterback – and touted 2018 draft prospect – Josh Rosen.
UCLA’s offense struggled early, as last season’s pass protection woes continued to prove problematic, while Rosen only completed about 50 percent of his first-half throws. However, evaluators will have noted multiple positives: Rosen took a balance of snaps both under center and in the shotgun with ease, he consistently compensated for an extreme lack of protection with a quick read + release, as well as exhibiting good pocket-mobility.
As the Bruins’ offense upped its tempo in the beginning of the fourth quarter, Josh Rosen seemingly developed a better rhythm and looked increasingly comfortable while moving the ball downfield in 10-15 yard increments. Methodical, cerebral, and never putting ball security at risk.
Comeback aside, what set Rosen’s performance apart from his 2018 quarterback classmates in week 1 was his ability to control the opposing secondary with look-offs and pump fakes. The second-half tape was ripe with NFL-esque window throws, and – to my quiet intrigue – Rosen would often change his arm angle dependent on the play, adjusting the release point of passes in order to avoid interference from defenders.
It was hardly a perfect game from the 2014 USA Today HS All-American, but mental fortitude is paramount in the evaluation game for quarterbacks. USC’s blue-chip passer Sam Darnold – who Rosen will compete with for the distinction of top eligible quarterback in this year’s draft – has a signature performance under his belt after last season’s Rose Bowl, and now Rosen has his.
Josh Rosen stat line vs. Texas A&M: 35/59 (59.3%), 491 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INT, 2 fumbles (2 lost)
Elsewhere…
•  Speaking of Sam Darnold: the Trojans’ redshirt-Sophomore passer got off to a painfully slow start against upstart Western Michigan at home. He was lacking intermediate-long range potency, completing mostly short-range passes in bunches. He finished with no touchdowns and two interceptions, but his team won. Darnold faces Stanford on prime time this weekend.
• Many people are hot on imposing Wyoming gunslinger Josh Allen, but for now the big-armed passer with size I’m fixated on is Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. Though his Cowboys faced lowly Tulsa, good players take advantage of poor competition. He was dialed in from the outset, completing 20/24 passes (83.3%), for 303 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT. Rudolph’s first real test this season comes week 3 at Pittsburgh.
• While on the subject of Josh Allen, Wyoming’s offense was a horror show at Iowa converting just 5 of 18 third downs. Allen is purely a shotgun passer and while he flashed his elite arm talent and pocket athleticism, his performance was littered with dangerous throws. Though he’d occasionally throw the ball away on the scramble when running out of space, he would often fall susceptible to trusting his arm too much. His day ended 23/40 (57.5%), 174 yards, 0 TD, 2 INTs. The next test evaluators will eagerly await is when Oregon comes to Laramie on September 16 for week 3. To me, the Carson Wentz comparisons are lazy, but Allen’s talent base is undeniable.
• Lastly, Louisville’s elite dual-threat (and Heisman candidate) Lamar Jackson picked up where he left off last year, completing 65.2% of his week 1 passes against Purdue, throwing for 378 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT + 107 yards rushing. For what it’s worth, Washington State gunslinger Luke Falk completed 84.6% for 311 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INT against minnow Montana State. He’ll face Boise State at home next week and his performance this year could elevate him into the first round.
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2017 NFL Draft Grade: NFC North

The Bears hitch their wagon to Mitchell “Don’t call me Mitch” Trubisky, the Lions get some Gators, Ted Thompson and the Packers leverage the second round for secondary support, while Minnesota was fortuitous to land its “All Day” replacement on day two.
Chicago Bears
Round 1 (No. 2): Mitchell Trubisky, QB. North Carolina
Round 2 (No. 45): Adam Shaheen, TE. Ashland
Round 4 (No. 112): Eddie Jackson, DB. Alabama
Round 4 (No. 119): Tarik Cohen, RB. North Carolina A&T
Round 5 (No. 147): Jordan Morgan, OG. Kutztown
Let me preface by saying that I actually like the collection of players the Bears added, but this evaluation hinges at least partially on Ryan Pace & Co.’s one-spot trade up into No. 2 overall. I’m a cautious believer in Trubisky and I think the biggest ‘win’ from this Chicago class is the fact that he is allowed to sit for a complete year behind Mike Glennon. Adam Shaheen is not “Gronk-lite”, but he’s a well-rounded player who can block/run/catch. Eddie Jackson is decent safety depth, but my two favorite picks were the last two: “Joystick” Tarik Cohen is an intriguing change of pace ‘back who offers electricity in space, while Jordan Morgan is a high-potential college left tackle who will transition to guard. Chicago gave up a boatload for one draft position and didn’t get much draft value elsewhere, but this is a long-term class for a rebuilding team so they won’t care what I think.
Grade: C+
Detroit Lions
Round 1 (No. 21): Jarrad Davis, LB. Florida
Round 2 (No. 53): Teez Tabor, CB. Florida
Round 3 (No. 96): Kenny Golladay, WR. Northern Illinois
Round 4 (No. 124): Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB. Tennessee
Round 4 (No. 127): Michael Roberts, TE. Toledo
Round 5 (No. 165): Jamal Agnew, CB. San Diego
Round 6 (No. 205): Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE. Arkansas
Round 6 (No. 215): Brad Kaaya, QB. Miami (FL)
Round 7 (No. 250): Pat O’Connor, DE. Eastern Michigan
I don’t see the ‘wow’ factor anywhere in this class past round one. I really like the Jarrad Davis pick: fills a major position of need and adds a very dynamic, twitchy interior linebacker with range and on-field leadership qualities. However, Teez Tabor and Kenny Golladay combine for maybe the most underwhelming day two haul of any draft class this year. Jalen Reeves-Maybin adds more athleticism in a big area of need, but was questionable value. Michael Roberts is a good blocker and a nice red zone option, while Brad Kaaya is the most exciting of the late round project passers, but that’s not enough to salvage a desired grade here.
Grade: C
Green Bay Packers
Round 2 (No. 33): Kevin King, CB. Washington
Round 2 (No. 61): Josh Jones, S. North Carolina State
Round 3 (No. 93): Montravius Adams, DT. Auburn
Round 4 (No. 108): Vince Biegel, LB. Wisconsin
Round 4 (No. 134): Jamaal Williams, RB. Brigham-Young
Round 5 (No. 175): DeAngelo Yancey, WR. Purdue
Round 5 (No. 182): Aaron Jones, RB. Texas-El Paso
Round 6 (No. 212): Kofi Amichia, OG/C. South Florida
Round 7 (No. 238): Devante Mays, RB. Utah State
Round 7 (No. 247):
 Malachi Dupre, WR. Louisiana State
Green Bay’s methodical and workman-like approach was evident yet again this year, valuing need over BPA. I was fired up about the team’s first three picks: King is your modern matchup boundary, while Josh Jones is a hit-stick safety with supreme athleticism – and in a post-Raji world, Montravius Adams’ blend of size/quickness/power fits right in. Mid-late rounds are hit or miss, but Jamaal Williams can do the dirty work Ty Montgomery can’t and Aaron Jones has intriguing long-speed. Malachi Dupre was a nice stamp: blue-chip high school recruit who suffered from poor quarterback-play at LSU – potential diamond. Par value, plenty of contributors.
Grade: B
Minnesota Vikings
Round 2 (No. 41): Dalvin Cook, RB. Florida State
Round 3 (No. 70): Pat Elflein, C. Ohio State
Round 4 (No. 109): Jaleel Johnson, DT. Iowa
Round 4 (No. 120): Ben Gedeon, LB. Michigan
Round 5 (No. 170): Rodney Adams, WR. South Florida
Round 5 (No. 180): Danny Isidora, OG. Miami (FL)
Round 6 (No. 201): Bucky Hodges, TE. Virginia Tech
Round 7 (No. 219): Stacy Coley, WR. Miami (FL)
Round 7 (No. 220): Ifeadi Odenigbo, DE. Northwestern
Round 7 (No. 232):
 Elijah Lee, LB. Kansas State
Round 7 (No. 247): Jack Tocho, CB. North Carolina State
One of three teams (Seattle, Cincinnati) who made 11 selections – the most this year. Like Green Bay, the Vikings knocked off a lot of needs. Dalvin Cook was my top rated running back, so to get him at No. 41 might be my favorite pick from the 2017 draft overall. A new long-term center was sorely needed and Elflein addresses that, offering some guard versatility in the interim. Jaleel Johnson is a wide-bodied 3-tech in the profile of Sharrif Floyd (who may not play again). Rodney Adams takes Cordarrelle Patterson’s place as the WR/KR on roster, while the intriguing Bucky Hodges is a modern move-TE with long arms and movement skill. I don’t think Ben Gedeon is the long-term Chad Greenway replacement Spielman & Co. might, but time will tell.
Grade: B
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Caputi: Pick-By-Pick Analysis (Round 1)

Settle in, I’m here to accompany you through the 2017 NFL Draft’s first day of selections. Here you’ll find my pick-by-pick analysis as we progress through the night.
Have a comment for me? Hit me up on Twitter: @NFLDraftUpdate
 
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
The right pick for a franchise lacking a genuine premier cornerstone on defense for far too long. This situation reminds me so much of Mario Williams’ selection by Houston in 2006. Defensive end has become a true value position over the past half-decade and good teams require elite edge play. Myles Garrett will have bare the flag of the Cleveland revolution, but fortunately he has a ton of talent supporting his efforts.
2. Chicago Bears (via SF): Mitchell Trubisky, QB. North Carolina – *TRADE
Let the games begin. Cleveland consciously passed on Trubisky at No. 1 knowing it was impossible he’d be available to them again. Oh, and don’t forget about John Lynch’s San Francisco 49ers already making a bold move by allowing the Bears to select the potential franchise arm – acquiring a boatload for the one draft spot in the process, I’ll add. Only two picks in and already we have a major storyline to follow in the coming years. Browns and 49ers pass on Trubisky: will they find their QBs later? will Trubisky pan out? Time will tell.
*Details of trade
To Bears: 1st round pick (No. 2 – Trubisky)
To 49ers: 1st round pick (No. 3), 3rd round pick (No. 67), 4th round pick (No. 111) + 2018 3rd round pick
3. San Francisco 49ers (via CHI): Solomon Thomas, DE. Stanford
John Lynch goes to his alma mater for his first pick as a General Manager. Building the defense from the ground up after making Thomas the franchise’s third 1st round defensive lineman selection in as many years (previous Arik Armstead, 2015 and DeForest Buckner, 2016). He’s not a tweener, he’s versatile. Hand in the dirt on 4-3 looks or rushing off the edge in a two-point stance on 3-4 downs, he can change the complexion of games.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB. Louisiana State
Elite size to speed ration with an undeniable mean streak. Ultimately, this pick had to be made in support of Blake Bortles and the Jags’ minimalist ground game. T.J. Yeldon is a nice player, but Fournette adds an element that simply wasn’t there before this evening.
5. Tennessee Titans: Corey Davis, WR. Western Michigan
A more complete, all-around receiver than guys perceivably graded ahead of him, but finds the right “fit” for your offense trumps the public’s draft board. Davis is tremendously productive + experienced, enters the league with a ton of polish and adds a more imposing physical element to Mariota’s arsenal.
6. New York Jets: Jamal Adams, S. Louisiana State
Whether the organization realizes it or not, there is a rebuild going on right now and Adams’ tone-setting abilities are a timely addition. Though the needs on defense were greater elsewhere, the Jets front office were not expecting this scenario – too much talent to pass on. Great pick – my favorite thus far.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams, WR. Clemson
The wide receiver need was always evident, but to get their guy this early is surprising when you consider the talent available on defense. That said, Phil Rivers ain’t getting younger and he’s never been able to rely on Keenan Allen to be healthy for a full 16 games. Williams is the best 50-50 receiver in this draft and adds an element that was sorely missing in the pass game.
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB/WR. Stanford
Four-down player, don’t put him in a box as just being a running back. You want to allow him 20-30 touches and create opportunities for him in space, as he offers pretty scary open-field elusiveness. Can you imagine the possibilities of a Cam Newton + Christian McCaffrey backfield? Sign me up for some college-style options looks once in a while – they could be special together. Caf’s special teams ability is just the cherry on top.
9. Cincinnati Bengals: John Ross, WR. Washington
The fastest man in NFL Combine history is off to Cincy. The Bengals are fortunate that the one receiver who suits their offense best in this receiver group fell to them. Ross’ speed creates a dangerous over-the-top threat that should relieve AJ Green of some pesky double-coverages. Calling Ross a similar player to DeSean Jackson would be miscasting him – at minimum, he enters the NFL running B+ routes with A++ speed.
10. Kansas City Chiefs (via BUF): Pat Mahomes, QB. Texas Tech – *TRADE
The biggest talent at his position in the class and he’s entering the ideal situation where he can sit for a complete season before worrying about meaningful snaps. We thought all along that he had a hard-stop at No. 12-13 with the quarterback-hungry Browns and Cardinals soon on the clock. He creates his own opportunities and is equipped with an A++ arm. In 3-5 years, we may look back at the quarterback order and say this situation worked out the best.
*Details of trade
To Chiefs: 1st round pick (No. 10 – Mahomes),
To Bills: 1st round pick (No. 27), 3rd round pick (No. 91) + 2018 1st round pick.
11. New Orleans Saints: Marshon Lattimore, CB. Ohio State
The Saints front office, much like the viewing public, could never have imagined Lattimore would be available outside of the top ten. You must think his constant hamstring issue may have at least mildly contributed to this happening, but the cornerback-starved Saints are thrilled by the opportunity to roll the dice here.
12. Houston Texans (via CLE): DeShaun Watson, QB. Clemson – *TRADE
It’s well-documented that Bill O’Brien is a fan of the big, strong prototype passers. DeShaun Watson doesn’t quite fit that profile and it just goes to show how highly O’Brien must rate his intangibles. An accurate passer who comes alive in big moments, Watson is the safest quarterback in this class and he’s joining a playoff team. Houston went to the playoffs despite receiving marginal QB play last year, so the pressure isn’t on Watson to be a world-beater in year one.
*Details of trade
To Texans: 1st round pick (No. 12 – Watson),
To Browns: 1st round pick (No. 25) + 2018 1st round pick.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Haasan Reddick, LB. Temple
Cards missed out on landing a QB to create the ideal redshirt scenario they desired, but might have landed the best realistic player on their board otherwise. Reddick is a self-starter, improving annually and holds genuine 2-3 position versatility. Will help wherever needed and contribute as a pass rusher from day one.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DE. Tennessee
This one made a lot of sense pre-draft. Marcus Smith hasn’t panned out and Philly required a more reliable option off the edge behind Brandon Graham. Three consistent years of sack production at Tennessee, I don’t care if the combine numbers weren’t eye-popping on him, he gets after it.
15. Indianapolis Colts: Malik Hooker, S. Ohio State
Boom or bust poster boy from this draft class. Hooker has only one year of production, but it was absurdly productive. Elite center-field type with excellent ball skills. Sideline to sideline range and near-cornerback caliber movement skills, but the inexperience and durability concerns must be noted. Will he show flashes of Ed Reed at the next level or are we talking Raheem Moore 2.0? I’m suspect there won’t be much in-between with him. Tremendous potential-based pick.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Marlon Humphrey, CB. Alabama
Ozzie Newsome drafts a player from Alabama? No way! Seriously, this is a bargain pickup here as Humphrey could have easily gone to New Orleans had Lattimore not been available as expected. A physical press-man type, he profiles somewhat like Pro-Bowler Stephon Gilmore stylistically. Makes you wonder about Jonathan Allen though – if Ozzie wasn’t even comfortable scooping him 

17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL. Alabama
While the arthritic shoulder situation is worrisome, the Redskins have glaring issues along their 3-4 base defensive line. Strictly from a talent standpoint, Allen is a top 3 player in this class and worth the risk here for Washington. The Skins’ trench play has already improved with this selection.
18. Tennessee Titans: Adoree Jackson, CB. Southern California
This pick was (hopefully) made with patience in mind. As the diminutive playmaker develops as a corner I do hope to see him contribute immediately as an ace returner and hopefully on offense a little. Size and matchup length aren’t mandatory physical traits in Tennessee, nor have they ever been. It was always going to take an open-minded team to choose Adoree and the Titans may reap the long-term benefits as a result.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: O.J. Howard, TE. Alabama
Great fortune for the Bucs, who continue adding to an enviously impressive core of weaponry for Famous Jameis. Howard represents elite pass-catching potential, but enters the league with polish as a blocker. Hell, he did it so much at Bama, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Either way, massive bargain at this point.
20. Denver Broncos: Garett Bolles, OT. Utah
There’s no better athlete available along the offensive line in this draft class. Bolles essentially stays home and has long-term left tackle potential, though he requires a bit of polishing – which should come at RT. In a rather weak OL draft overall I think Elway & Co. go the potential route. Bolles is a mean dude on-field and enjoys a good trench battle.
21. Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, ILB. Florida
Rangy interior linebacker to the team who was most desperate for help in that spot in the league. Davis is a leader by example, modern in style and provides a major athletic boost to the Lions’ linebacking core. Conventional thinking says there was just no way Reuben Foster would be available here though. For them to pass on him says quite a bit about what kind of slide Foster might be in for tonight and/or tomorrow.
22. Miami Dolphins: Charles Harris, DE. Missouri
A coaches dream, Harris is a self-starter who has had to earn his time at Missouri behind a conveyer belt of strong collegiate edge defenders. After two productive starting seasons, I’m happy to see him land with a 4-3 team as I believe 4-3 end is his ideal situation. To Miami, he’s Cam Wake’s heir apparent.
23. New York Giants: Evan Engram, TE. Ole Miss
All along, it was a very strong possibility that Engram could go ahead of David Njoku. His skill-set appeals to more teams, including those who already had an entrenched tight end. The reason is he’s not a true tight end, nor is he a wide receiver – though versatile nonetheless. Eli obtains a field-stretcher.
24. Oakland Raiders: Gareon Conley, CB. Ohio State
Simply put, if the off-field allegations didn’t happen, he’s comfortably a top 15 pick. Give the Raiders front office the benefit of the and assume they know something the public doesn’t, because there still appears to be some uncertainty here. That said, on-field, this is a fantastic all-around player who contributes day one. Oakland entered this draft lacking a solution at corner opposite Sean Smith. We’ll see how this one plays out.
25. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Jabrill Peppers, S/LB. Michigan – *TRADE
His personality should certainly help to provide a spark in a stagnant Browns locker room. Hue Jackson is attempting to change the culture of the organization’s on-field product and you do that by collecting players like Peppers. Though, to me, he’s more of a tweener than he is versatile I’ll assume the team selecting him is doing so with a specific role in mind for him.
26. Atlanta Falcons (via SEA): Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB. UCLA – *TRADE
Relentless motor off the edge either as a 4-3 end or standup edge linebacker. Offers some role diversity for the Falcons’ pass rushing setups and increases the ‘compete’ level of an already strong defensive core. By the way – who didn’t love that on-stage moment? You’ve just got to love live TV. Good for him – as he’s certainly not going to enter the NFL lacking in motivation.
*Details of trade
To Falcons: 1st round pick (No. 26 – McKinley),
To Seahawks: 1st round pick (No. 31), 3rd round pick (No. 95), 7th round pick (No. 249).
27. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Tre’Davious White, CB. Louisiana State – *TRADE
4-year starter who should make a seamless transition into a starting role from day one and competent enough to contribute in a multitude of roles in coverage. Stephon Gilmore departed and reinforcements were needed asap. Nice to see Buffalo think big-picture and acquire a 2018 1st round selection while still crossing off a considerable roster hole.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Taco Charlton, DE. Michigan
Long disruptive figure who feasted in opposing backfields. That said, he’s a one-year wonder, but the Cowboys are clearly pleased with the upside aspect of this pick. Despite his size + frame, Taco gets real-real skinny. Dallas has some talent on the edges, but these days teams require 3-4 viable options. I like this pick, Taco is too talented to have slid out of day one.
29. Cleveland Browns (via GB): David Njoku, TE. Miami (FL) – *TRADE
Supremely gifted athlete with absolutely no physical limitations. Njoku is still just 20 and enters the league as something of a diamond in the rough, as his catching is a little inconsistent for my liking. However, when he’s your third 1st round pick, than I think you feel comfortable rolling the dice on his talent. If you pass on all of the quarterbacks, at least help Kessler. They did with this pick.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: T.J. Watt, OLB. Wisconsin
Can’t draw it up any better. Energy, toughness, attitude – all ideal characteristics Pittsburgh seeks on defense, all adjectives of T.J. Watt. One of the more complete defenders available at this point and it’s logical that he proved too talented to slip out of day one. Steelers have been trying to get younger on D for years.
31. San Francisco 49ers (via ATL by SEA): Reuben Foster, ILB. Alabama – *TRADE
We’ll assume this slide – like teammate Jonathan Allen’s – was medical related, but I applaud rookie GM John Lynch for being aggressive at both the top and bottom of round 1. Thomas and Foster help frame a new attitude for a rebuilding San Francisco defense that was very good not long ago.
*Details of trade
To 49ers: 1st round pick (No. 31 – Foster),
To Packers: 2nd round pick (No. 33), 4th round pick (No. 108).
32. New Orleans Saints (via NE): Ryan Ramczyk, OT. Wisconsin
Plug and play right tackle to help keep the grizzled Drew Brees upright. Saints addressed the big cornerback need earlier and now knock off arguably the second largest hole on the roster. Unsexy, but sound pick to conclude the day.

Caputi's Final 2017 NFL Mock Draft

Here we go, football fans – the big day is here.
1. Cleveland Browns: Myles Garrett, DE. Texas A&M
Quarterback rumors are on sale, but no one’s buying. There’s an obvious dearth of talent in Cleveland and fortunately the most talented player in this class also addresses a considerable need. Note: Browns defense ranked No. 30 in sacks last year (26.0)
2. San Franciso 49ers: Mitch Trubisky, QB. North Carolina
New General Manager. New Head Coach. New Quarterback? The organization’s current situation under center is concernedly comprised of Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley. Shanahan gets his prototype. Note: 49ers had the league’s worst-ranked passing offense in 2016.
3. Chicago Bears: Jamal Adams, S. Louisiana State
An impact player is needed in the defensive secondary here and there may not be a safer player in this class. Da Bears have lacked a tone-setting defender since Brian Urlacher’s retirement; Adams fits the bill. Note: Bears defense conceded 399 points last season (ninth-worst in the league).
4. Jacksonville Jaguars: Leonard Fournette, RB. Louisiana State
In a make-or-break season for Blake Bortles the franchise is well placed to support its fourth-year quarterback while still solving a position of concern. Doug Marrone is given a physically imposing specimen with long speed. Note: Jacksonville’s 101.9 rushing yards per game ranked 22nd-best in 2016.
5. Tennessee Titans: Marshon Lattimore, CB. Ohio State
Long-time starting cornerback Jason McCourty was jettisoned for economic reasons and despite the signing of Logan Ryan, help remains sorely required at the position. The former Buckeye is a gifted athlete with an exciting future if hamstrings issues don’t continue to flare up. Note: Titans defense begrudgingly boasted the NFL’s 30th-ranked passing defense last year.
6. New York Jets: O.J. Howard, TE. Alabama
If Gang Green isn’t feeling a quarterback here (and the belief entering the day is they aren’t), this is represents a tantalizing alternative. Elite pass-catching potential + nicely refined blocking skills in a position of significant need. Note: The last tight end to be selected No. 6 overall (or higher)? Vernon Davis in 2006.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Hooker, S. Ohio State
The vintage Eric Weddle era already feels like a lifetime ago and the organization is desperate for a playmaker in the secondary. Ohio State produced last year’s Defensive Rookie of the Year for the team – double dipping is allowed. Note: Chargers defense allowed the 4th-most points in the NFL in 2016 (423 total).
8. Carolina Panthers: Christian McCaffrey, RB. Stanford
Provides much-needed electricity and can hurt a defense in a multitude of ways. Think outside the box here – position and role can change on any down; he runs, he catches, he scores touchdowns when in space. Note: Panthers offense finished middle of the pack in total yards (19th) and touchdowns (17th).
9. Cincinnati Bengals: Solomon Thomas, DE. Stanford
Michael Johnson is now 30 and the quietly-elite Carlos Dunlap becomes a free agent after 2018. Cincy, more so than most, values pass rushing options. Thomas is an active power-edge reminiscent of vintage Aaron Kampman (2006-2007). Note: Bengals defense had 9.0 less sacks in 2016 than in 2015.
10. Buffalo Bills: Marlon Humphrey, CB. Alabama
A similar profile to the now-departed Stephon Gilmore: comfortable in press-man, combining length + speed with an eagerness to intervene in run defense. Not much on the roster past Ron Darby. Note: Humphrey created 8 turnovers in two years (five interceptions, three forced fumbles).
11. New Orleans Saints: Haasan Reddick, LB. Temple
Though cornerback is by far the bigger concern, this selection represents more talent value. Nollins’ added some depth at linebacker, but Reddick has 2-3 position versatility and flashed elite pass rushing proficiency as a senior in 2016. Note: Saints defense placed 27th in sacks last season (30.0).
12. Cleveland Browns: Mike Williams, WR. Clemson
Were quarterback a real priority, I find it difficult to believe they’d pass on “their guy” at No. 1. Instead, Cleveland opts to add some weaponry for Kessler & Co after upgrading the defense earlier. Kenny Britt is barely a short-term solution and Williams could create a mouthwatering duo with last year’s 1st round draft choice Corey Coleman. Note: In 2016, Browns placed 27th in receiving yards per game (230.8) and t-30th in receiving touchdowns (15).
13. Arizona Cardinals: Pat Mahomes, QB. Texas Tech
Never look a gift horse in the mouth – particularly when the gift is a quarterback. Arizona is in the optimal situation of being able to give a redshirt year to whomever it taps as its future under center. Highly gifted, in-time Mahomes could prove to be the best passer this class produces. Note: In 2012 – a year before Carson Palmer’s arrival – the Cards ranked 28th in passing yards per game.
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Derek Barnett, DE. Tennessee
Supreme value, as he could’ve crept into the top 10. Tremendous production with 32.0 sacks in three seasons of starting. Barnett is as prolific in the classroom as he is on-field; great character. Marcus Smith hasn’t panned out and Chris Long is a stop-gap. Note: Eagles defense was t-16th in sacks last season (34 total).
15. Indianapolis Colts: Takkarist McKinley, DE/OLB. UCLA
Robert Mathis has rode off into retirement and incomes a fresh-faced motor edge in his likeness. McKinley enters the NFL coming off a better year than some remaining counterparts in the same role. Note: Indy’s defense placed 19th in the league with 33.0 sacks last season.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Corey Davis, WR. Western Michigan
The current wide receiver situation in Baltimore is shocking. If Breshad Perriman can put things together, great – it’s a bonus, but otherwise reinforcements are needed. Davis, and his four years of absurd production, are a safe selection here. Note: Ravens offense finished 2016 with 20 receiving touchdowns, tied for 21st in the league.
17. Washington Redskins: Jonathan Allen, DL. Alabama
The (medical-related?) slide ceases, much to the Skins’ benefit. Though some more disruption depth off the edge would help, this is tremendous value. A top 3-5 talent if healthy, Washington can easily improve its 3-4 base trench-play. Note: Last year, the Redskins’ defense placed 9th in both sacks (38.0) and yards per game (119.8).
18. Tennessee Titans: John Ross, WR. Washington
Front office has taken care to ensure Mariota is continuously supported in his development and an injection of electricity is needed. Ross is often miscast as a one-dimensional vertical threat, but he boasts elite speed and (as of today) B+  route running skills. Note: (At 232.5) Titans offense ranked 25th in overall receiving yards per game last season.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Dalvin Cook, RB. Florida State
A tornado of uncertainty surrounds Doug Martin’s future with the Bucs and the chance to grab a special all-around workhorse is too tempting to pass on. And he’s only about a four hour drive away. Note: Bucs rushing offense ranked 24th in the league last season (101.0).
20. Denver Broncos: Cam Robinson, OT. Alabama
His combination of length and size could allow him to cover 3-4 positions in the NFL. If the whole long-term left tackle thing doesn’t pan out, he projects to be an elite guard/right tackle. Note: Denver conceded a 24th-ranked 40.0 sacks in 2016.
21. Detroit Lions: Reuben Foster, LB. Alabama
Victim of circumstance (and maybe some pre-draft character questions), as he’s undoubtedly a top 10 talent in this class. Detroit is gifted an elite falling talent at arguably its greatest position of need. Note: Lions defense finished middle of the pack (15th) in total yards conceded per game last season (354.8).
22. Miami Dolphins: Forrest Lamp, OG. Western Kentucky
The franchise has shown the willingness to invest prominent picks in reinforcing the offensive line. Laremy Tunsil kicks out to left tackle and Forest Lamp, at guard, is arguably the most ready-to-play blocker in this class. Note: Phins allowed the 14th-most QB hits in the league last year.
23. New York Giants: David Njoku, TE. Miami (FL)
G-Men have invested prominent picks into their OL recently and brought in D.J. Fluker as well. This could finally be the year they address the need for a dynamic tight end, and Njoku is a special athlete. Note: NYG ranked 18th in receiving yards per game (251.7) last season.
24. Oakland Raiders: T.J. Watt, OLB. Wisconsin
It’s a great spot for a corner (among other defensive positions), but the organization is in dyer need of pass rush help. “Little” Watt gets to the quarterback and probably shouldn’t be available here. Note: Raiders finished last in the league with 25.0 team sacks in 2016.
25. Houston Texans: DeShaun Watson, QB. Clemson
He’s not the ideal Bill O’Brien profile, but you want your quarterback to be an alpha-male personality who performs best in big situations. Houston went to the playoffs with poor play under center in 2016, so there’s little pressure to do “too much” in his rookie campaign. Note: In 2016, Texans ranked last in average yards per pass attempt (5.9).
26. Seattle Seahawks: Kevin King, CB. Washington
Perfectly suits the profile of what’s desired on the boundary in Seattle and he’s a local product. The Legion of Boom core is aging fast and Richard Sherman’s situation is awkwardly uncertain. Note: ‘Hawks defense conceded 7.2 yards per reception last season, tying them for 15th in the NFL.
27. Kansas City Chiefs: Zach Cunningham, ILB. Vanderbilt
Derrick Johnson is 34 and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2016. They reinforce the interior linebacker spot with a big search-and-destroy playmaker. Note: Chiefs gave up the 7th-most rushing yards per game (121.1) last season.
28. Dallas Cowboys: Tre’Davious White, CB. Louisiana State
The position needs to be addressed early and the ‘Boys are fortunate to see an experienced man-capable available here. Note: Dallas conceded the 7th-most passing yards per game (260.4) in 2016.
29. Green Bay Packers: Alvin Kamara, RB. Tennessee
Offense lacks a workhorse in the ground-game and there’s 3-down value here. Exciting do-it-all talent if perceived character concerns can be overcome. Note: Pack came in at 20th in rushing yards per game (106.3) last season.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers: Charles Harris, DE/OLB. Missouri
There’s little behind the soon-to-be 39-year-old James Harrison on the edge opposite Bud Dupree. Harris is a self-motivater with the ideal skill-set for a 3-4 conversion rusher. Note: Pittsburgh conceded the 10th-fewest points (327) in the league in 2016.
31. Atlanta Falcons: Jordan Willis, DE. Kansas State
Ascending prospect who has improved in each of his last three-years as a starter, including a strong pre-draft process. Active and instinctual, a bargain for a team with very few needs. Note: Atlanta conceded the 8th-most yards per game (371.2) in 2016 on defense.
32. New Orleans Saints (via Patriots): Rasul Douglas, CB. West Virginia
Surprise. Former JUCO, one (elite) year wonder with 8 interceptions in 2016. Physically he combines size and modern prototype length. Cornerback must be addressed with one of their two picks. Note: Nollins’ allowed the most passing yards per game (273.8) in 2016.
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