Featured

Offensive Line

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D- Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Joe Thomas, A+

1. Quenton Nelson – One of the best pure guard prospects to come out in recent years, Nelson is a technically sound player with all of the desired traits for a top tier player. He is a big player with an extremely sturdy build, an ideal body type for the premiere run blocker that he is. He is a dominant blocker from the snap to the whistle, firing up into opponents off the bat and finishing blocks with constantly moving feet. He also has very strong hands and arms, enabling him to get a firm grip on the defender and drive them wherever he wants. As a result, he is an absolute people mover, showing the ability to both seal holes and drive opponents back. He has extremely fluid movement skills for a player of his size, allowing him to find holes when pulling and move his hips when blocking. He is very quick getting to the second level in the run game. Additionally, he has a very balanced base and good bend, making him a good player in pass protection regardless of the few whiffs that he has. He is also very good at adapting to the defense in both the run and pass games, showing a knack for picking up the right blitzer and blocking the correct second level defender. An outstanding run blocker, Nelson has talent to consistently pave holes for the running back while remaining an asset in the passing game.

A+/A

2. Will Hernandez – Although a shorter guard from a less renowned school, Hernandez has dominated upped echelon competition. He is an absolute monster as a run blocker, combining vast strength, aggression, and technique. He is very strong and thick, and can easily box out and block defenders by shifting his hips. He is very good at sealing holes, as it is extremely rare that he is driven back. He fires out at the start of the snap, consistently dominating entire snaps and bullying his opponent from start to finish.  He also shows outstanding hand placement inside the shoulder pads, gaining immense advantages by controlling the defender. The dominance and ease with which he blocks in the run game can’t be understated, as he is a one man hole maker on nearly every snap. He also has enough speed to pull effectively. Additionally, his balance is impeccable, showing the stout base to hold up in pass protection against either bigger or faster competition. He has good football intelligence, knowing how to chip block and then move to the next level. However, he is not necessarily an excellent athlete, as he lacks top tier agility. As such, he can whiff blocks at times due to his inability to change directions very quickly. However, these instances are not often enough to dampen his talent.

A

3. Isaiah Wynn – The most versatile lineman in the draft, Wynn projects as a guard but could easily start at tackle or center. He is undersized for a tackle, but has the technique and strength to either play there or move inside. His footwork is outstanding, using very few wasted movements and putting himself in advantageous positions. This helps him to keep the edge rush out wide and gain advantages that compensate for his small stature. It is also a major reason why he rarely bites on pass rusher moves, allowing him to keep his balance. He makes minimal mental or technical mistakes, a testament to his ability to read the blitz and not get overwhelmed. He does a good job getting his hands on the defender and keeping his hands inside, although at times he does this to mask his lack of explosive hands. He exhibits decent speed when pulling, but is excellent at using his hips to effectively maneuver into position. As such, he is good at sealing blocks and countering pass rush moves. He is a good run blocker, using his good footwork and positioning to drive the defender back and create holes. However, he’s not particularly talented at moving to the second level as he is more of an angle blocker. Due to his size, he can sometimes get pushed back off the snap if the defensive player is significantly stronger and more explosive than he is. Wynn is technically sound and extremely versatile, making him a key piece for any offensive line.

A-

4. Frank Ragnow – A versatile blocker who can play both guard and center very well, Ragnow has the talent to be a good starter at both positions. He has a big, strong build and decent athleticism, a big aid in his ability to play multiple positions effectively. He has an extremely sturdy base, and is great at keeping his body centered over his hips. He also possesses strong arms, allowing him to keep defenders at bay and effectively limit their push into the pocket. This also helps him when he puts his head down to drive back the defender, giving him the upper hand and often forcing the defender on their heels. Because of this, he is very calm and controlled when blocking, showing very little signs of panic. Additionally, he is a patient blocker, a major contributor to his talent for dealing with stunts and cluttered boxes easily. He has very clean footwork, as well as fluid lateral movement that is an asset in pass protection. He is also very good at working the angles in the run game, clearing holes quickly and creating open running lanes. The one flaw in his game are his occasional mental lapses, where he will miss a pass block. otherwise, Ragnow is an athletic and complete prospect who is very good in both the run and pass games.

A-

5. Billy Price – While he can also play guard, Price is mainly a gritty and well rounded center who can perform in both the run and pass games. He is extremely quick and athletic, and was frequently pulled as a lead blocker even after snapping from the center position. Although he doesn’t chop his feet very much, he has very strong legs and a wide stance that give him a good base. He is not much of a driver, largely due to his tendency to lean forward too much as he gets impatient. If he can correct this, it will go a long way toward improving his run blocking, which is already decent because of his athletic traits. He excels at using his hands, exhibiting good placement and strong, heavy hands to firmly counter defenders. When defenders overcommit to gaining the lower position, he is outstanding at trapping them from above, pancaking them, or sealing them in. Additionally, he has fluid hips that allow him to mirror pass rushers and keep them at an angle where he can hand punch them. He also has great lateral agility, helping him to contain pass rushers and reach block in the run game. However, he doesn’t do a good job reading and picking up blitzes, regardless of his agility and movement skills. As an extremely athletic center with balanced blocking talent, Price is an above average starter.

B+

6. Kolton Miller – At 6’9″, Miller has the best combination of length and athleticism at the tackle position in this draft. Due to his size, he plays higher than one would like, contributing to his strong but sometimes unstable base. Additionally, he exhibits a false step off the snap in pass protection, causing him to be pushed into the pocket at the start of the snap. He is also slow to turn his hips at times, an inconsistency that tends to be tied to the general inconsistency in his play. While his athleticism can generally help him cope, it should – and probably can – be fixed at the next level. Otherwise, he has clean footwork and balance even though the false step isn’t ideal. Additionally, he has powerful and active hands, giving him a good punch on defenders and allowing him to control them often. He has very fluid lateral movement and running, which helps him chase down players to block them. This helps him mainly in the run game, where he is very quick in getting to his second level blocks. His combination of size and speed make him an intimidating run blocker, as he can seal and drive very well. He can also pull from the tackle position due to his athleticism. His athletic ability gives him high upside, particularly as he is one of the few pure left tackles in the draft class.  Most of his problems stem from his somewhat shaky technique, something that can be coached up and refined at least enough to cause decent improvement.

B+

7. Mike McGlinchey – A tall player with good length, McGlinchey has the build of stereotypical tackle. He has an upright stance and a wide base, as well as good knee bend that gives him good balance in pass protection. He has a great sense of positioning, keeping the pocket wide and using good footwork to give his quarterback space to maneuver. However, his size causes him to be slow when moving laterally, making him very susceptible to speed rushes off the edge or interior blitzes. He could also use more strength to avoid getting pushed back and to help him drive defenders. He is a very good hand fighter, countering pass rushing moves or block sheds with heavy handed punches. While this can sometimes cause him to overextend in the run game, he is typically a good run blocker. His active hands give him a major advantage when he is engaged with defenders, as they allow him to take over the battle and stall the defender. Thus, blocking pass rushers in space is harder for him. Additionally, he can effectively seal holes by turning his hips well. This is also true when he pulls to get the edge, something he is good at considering his straight line speed is better than his lateral agility. McGlinchey is also known to have good leadership ability. While an inconsistent prospect, his high floor and character increase his grade.

B+/B

8. Connor Williams – Although he a tackle at Texas, Williams short arms cause him to project as a guard in the NFL. He is primarily a run blocker, as he can be inconsistent in pass protection. He is extremely effective as a run blocker, showing the ability to be a people mover in addition to sealing blocks fully. He has active hands in pass protection and strong hands in the run game, allowing him to stick to blocks throughout the play. His balance is suspect, as he finds himself on the ground too much, typically due to overextending in the run game. However, his mass is centered and he has good bend in the pass game, although he could use some more strength to avoid getting pushed back. He is very smooth in pass protection, with good footwork. He is an aggressive finisher, driving opponents to the ground or taking them out of the play in order to reach his second level block. His feet are slow and he lacks quickness, making him slow when pulling and impacting his lateral agility. His greatest asset is his advantageousness, as he routinely knocks over defenders who turn their bodies slightly or experience a misstep. Although a high end prospect last year, inconsistencies and a lack of great athleticism caused his value to drop.

B

9. James Daniels – An outstanding interior run blocker with issues in the pass game, Daniels is more of a technique player than a great athlete. His technique in the run game is outstanding, blocking and moving with low set hips. He has good pad level when he drives and has very choppy feet, a dominant skill set when combined with his explosiveness off the snap. He is also quick to his blocks on the first and second second levels. Because of his lack of athleticism, he doesn’t move his hips well and can get shed to the side by defenders. In pass protection, he has numerous problems with getting beat physically and technically. He doesn’t set his base quick enough in pass protection, allowing defenders to knock him off balance and gain an advantage from the snap. Additionally, his lack of hip movement and athleticism helps defenders beat him with either strength or quickness. While he uses his hands well to spar with the defender, he is not strong enough to win consistently or dominate defenders. He also has a problem with delayed snap, causing false start penalties. He can make adjustments in the run game, showing a good football intelligence not seen in the pass game. A dominant run defender, Daniels is a going to need a team that can deal with his pass protection problems.

B-

 

 

Featured

Safeties

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D- Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Sean Taylor, A+

1. Derwin James – A widely hyped prospect since he first took the field at Florida State, James has the talent and elite athleticism to do nearly everything on the defensive side of the ball. He is a big and strong athlete with the size to play linebacker, something he can do routinely if needed. Additionally, he possesses the speed and explosiveness to be a roaming safety or even a cornerback. His best position is strong safety, where he can be used as a versatile playmaker all over the field. He is a crushing hitter, using his strength to power into ball carriers while remaining patient and disciplined in the run game. He is always around the ball and impacting the game, although he is much less instinctual in the pass game than he is in the run game. His movement and fluidity in the pass game is athletic but not great, although he is tremendous at using his length to play the ball in the air. While he could use some refining in coverage, he has all of the traits needed to cover most offensive players. He is a sure tackler, using his long arms and strength to finish nearly all of his tackles. His skill-set also translates exceptionally well as a pass rusher, where he is a dominant force off the edge who knows how to use his hands in pass rushing moves. However, it is intangibles that combine with his athleticism to make him a truly special talent. He is an outstanding leader who can motivate a defense with both his hard play and character. He is also said to be studious and a great learner, giving him even more upside to improve as a player.

A+/A

2. DeShon Elliott – One of the most well rounded safeties in the draft, Elliott has the talent to play either safety position well, although he has a better chance to be a stud at free safety. He has outstanding intangibles and technique, which compensates for his average athletic ability. He has great football awareness and instincts, showing a knack for reading plays and rarely getting caught out of position. He also reads and jumps routes exceptionally well, resulting in a good number of interceptions and pass deflections. In particular, he has a natural feel for playing zone in the middle of the field, showing the range to blanket that area. He is reasonably fast, but he needs more urgency when tracking deep balls as he is often bailed out by his football intelligence. He is fluid making speed turns and uses good technique when shadowing in man coverage. He does a good job jamming receivers at the top of their routes, and similarly takes on blockers effectively. His good length helps him be a good and consistent tackler, even as he has good pop in his hits. Elliott has great potential to be a top free safety early in his career, especially if he continues to emerge as a leader.

A-

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick – Considered by some to be the best defensive player in the draft class, Fitzpatrick is a position versatile defensive back. He was the leader of the Alabama defense, high credentials that would be important in an NFL locker room. Although he mostly played in the slot as a nickelback this past season, safety appears to be his better position. He is an excellent blitzer and run defender, showing the aggressiveness to take on blockers and wreck plays in the backfield. He has outstanding football intelligence, allowing him to diagnose plays quickly and sort through traffic efficiently. While he is fluid making turns and moving his hips, he is not very good at breaking on cuts. Additionally, it is extremely rare that he is beaten for big plays, regardless of his flaws. This is largely due to his outstanding acceleration and above average tackling ability, which enables him to recover from the few mistakes he makes. His ball skills aren’t what would be expected for a player of his caliber, but he still has good hands. He is a twitchy athlete as well, showing the ability to play fast and make big plays. He lacks elite playmaking ability when the ball is in the air, but he makes up for it with the size and twitch to jump for balls with bigger recievers. He wouldn’t play slot cornerback full time, but he has room to develop at either safety position or as a matchup player in the slot.

A-/B+

4. Kyzir White – More of a linebacker or nickelback, White is a high energy player who would be an excellent hybrid player in most NFL defenses. He combines good tackling form with hard hits, making him a tone setter in the middle of the field. He is an above average athlete for his stature, and his intense play style and relentless energy allow him to compete as if he were a more physically talented athlete. While he is not particularly good at escaping blocks from linemen or tight ends, he shows enough physicality to not get blown back at the point of attack. He is a hard hitter who sets the tone for the defense, and he displays good tackling form in the alley and open field. Although he has a relatively slow reaction time, his instincts and football intelligence always keep him around the ball. He is very disciplined and focuses on completing his job first, part of the reason for his slow reaction. He is not especially good in zone or tight man coverage, but he has a fluid drive on the ball. Additionally, he is good at playing the ball in the air using his arms or shoulders to disrupt the pass. Although he lacks a full time position, he could be a very good starter due to his ability as just a purely good football player.

B+

5. Godwin Igwebuike – Although more of an under the radar prospect, Igwebuike is a very good player with the necessary athletic ability for today’s NFL. He had a great combine with regards to the speed and agility drills, and he has the short, strong build of a running back to match. He displays good leadership, as well a developed football IQ. He is an excellent tackler, knowing when to be either patient or aggressive against the run, sometimes flying out of the secondary to make plays. He shows the ability  to take on blocks with power, but he will try to dive past the blocks rather than hold them at times. He doesn’t have great hip fluidity to play shifty slot receivers close to the line, but he makes quick turns that enable him to cover running backs or tight ends in space. He can sometimes get beat deep due to his lack of elite cover ability, but it is still rare that he blows coverages. He can play the ball adequately in the air. Additionally, he has good burst to make plays on the ball by reading the eyes of the quarterback, something he does well. He is an explosive and smart player who could immediately start at strong safety, but he still has the upside to develop more and improve.

B+

6. Marcus Allen – A stereotypical strong safety, Allen is a big, strong player who is effective as an extra run defender in the box. He is an attacker in the run game, taking the fight to the blockers and aggressively going after the ball. He is a good physical tackler who can deliver blows, albeit inconsistently. Although he attacks the ball, he is also disciplined in containing the edge and not overcommitting. He has solid instincts for finding the ball, being able to sort through traffic and follow cutbacks. He lacks the long speed to be a sideline to sideline defender, but he is still adequate in coverage. His size allows him to matchup on tight ends in the slot, and he has fluid hips that enable decent transitions into coverage. He can be slow moving his feet at times, limiting his ability to cover slot receivers, but his instincts allow him to be solid in zone. Additionally, he has decent ball skills, capping off a good set of skills that allows him to be of some assistance in the pass game. He lacks the quickness to make consistent plays in the backfield. However, he routinely uses his size, aggression, and long arms to force turnovers. While he lacks the versatility that many teams covet, he is a very good prospect at his position.

B+

7. Jesse Bates – An explosive player and popular sleeper candidate, Bates has the skill-set of a pure free safety. He flies to the ball in both the run game and pass game, a product of his good speed and top tier instincts. A baseball player in high school, his centerfield ability translates well onto the football field. He does a tremendous job tracking the ball deep and has incredible instincts undercutting balls. He also does a great job playing the ball in the air, using his length to deflect passes that seem out of reach. He is also capable of playing in the slot, although his talent lies more in closing on the receiver quickly than pure coverage. Although he has good size, he is missing bulk and strength that he must now hope to acquire in an NFL weight room. This leads to too many broken tackles in which he will be beat physically by the ball carrier. He has good form tackling in the alley, but he mainly relies on grabbing legs to make tackles. Additionally, he lacks aggression and can be too patient when going to make tackles. Another significant flaw in his game is his inability evade traffic in the box, greatly limiting his ability to be a force close to the line. He is also an explosive returner, tending to be more of a finesse player. He is a tremendous roamer in coverage, and should gain more weight and aggression in the NFL.

B+/B

8. Armani Watts – Although short for a safety, Watts is a physical player who is also quite capable of playing nickelback. He doesn’t have particularly great strength, but he makes up for it with great speed, instincts, and movement. He has a knack for ruining plays by jumping into passing lanes or getting behind blockers on run plays to the outside. Additionally, he is a good slot cornerback in both man and zone. This is due in large part to his quick changes in direction and outstanding ability to drive on the ball. He also exhibits natural movement skills in zone coverage, as well as the ability to read the quarterback in order to make plays on the ball. He is extremely aggressive in trying to force turnovers, and is exceptionally good at ripping the ball away from the ball carrier to force fumbles. He also displays turnover ability in the pass game, showing solid hands and ball skills. However, he is a major liability as a tackler due to his bad form. He doesn’t keep his head up or wrap well, causing him to miss or blow way too many tackles. This prevents him from being an above average box safety, which would be his most natural position. Still, he makes big plays and has talent to be a solid starter.

B

9. Ronnie Harrison – Although overshadowed by Fitzpatrick at Alabama, Harrison is talented but flawed player at strong safety. He has good length for the position and is a good athlete, showing the raw ability to be a good player. However, he lacks some of the technical skills needed for the position, a major reason for the absence of big plays in his game. His instinctual problems occur mainly when he is a high safety, but he does much better reading the quarterback or playing the run when he is closer to the line. He can be a physical player at times, but his tackling is sloppy and uses bad form. Additionally, he fails to be aggressive when trying make plays, as he doesn’t challenge blockers in the run game. He does much better as a cleanup player, and is effective when put as an outside linebacker. However, he can be very good in pass coverage when used in certain ways. He has smooth and fluid transitions and turns, making him ideal playing underneath on a running back or in the slot against less shifty receivers. He also has enough speed to take most receivers deep, even though he lacks the driving ability to cover intermediate routes effectively. He is an effective starting safety with reasonable versatility, but could greatly improve with fixed tackling.

B/B-

10. Terrell Edmunds – A former cornerback, Edmunds is a better nickelback than a safety, although he has the ability to play the latter. He is not strong, but he is fast and physical enough. He has good hips to mirror receivers, and has very good lateral agility. However, he isn’t a very good turn and chase player from behind, due to his lack of talent with speed turns. This is also shown when he overcommits on play action fakes, something that occurs frequently. He doesn’t have great instincts inside the numbers, and lacks the ability to read the quarterback well on deep balls. He excels as a slot cornerback, where his suspect tackling is more than enough and his cornerback skills are more useful. Additionally, there is less of a focus on defending the run, giving him a better opportunity to not overcommit and blow coverages. He possesses very good size and length, allowing him to be a good matchup player. He is outstanding playing the ball in coverage, utilizing his length and explosiveness to deflect and make plays on balls. He uses textbook cover techniques to play the ball in the air, although his hands are inconsistent. While commonly classified as a safety, Edmunds would do well to make the switch back to cornerback.

B-

11. Justin Reid – A typical jack-of-all-trades, Reid is more passable than exceptional. He is merely and average athlete, but he has the versatility to play press or off coverage from the nickelback position. He is good at changing directions fluidly, and has a solid backpedal. He also is good at transitioning into coverage, although he tends to overcommit on run fakes. Although he generally has a good enough football IQ to read plays well, he still makes too many costly mistakes that he can’t recover from. Additionally, there are many instances of blown coverage due to his inability to stay with his man athletically.  However, he uses good technique when in range of the receiver, doing a good job being physical and making contact. He does a great job playing the ball, with good hands and ball skills. He is also good at challenging receivers in jump ball situations. He has good reaction times, showing the ability to respond quickly to running plays or receiver fakes. In the run game, he shows considerable talent in eluding blockers in order to make the play, as he is too small to challenge blockers head on. Although he is a solid tackler in the alley, he misses many tackles in space because of his small size and imperfect form. He is a flawed prospect with starter potential, but he could easily improve with more experience.

B-/C+

12. Troy Apke – After an amazing athletic showing at the combine, Apke put himself on the maps of many NFL teams. He is extremely fast and explosive, showing great range on deep balls and the speed to stick with any NFL receiver. He is also effective at converting his speed into power when delivering hits and making tackles. He also makes fluid turns with his hips, although he remains bad in man coverage due to his lack of technique and shadowing ability. He has great timing when making contact with a receiver in the process of a catch. However, he has extremely limited experience as a starter, and was used badly when he was used at all. This is partially the result of his slow reaction time and suspect instincts, as he is more of an athlete than a football player. As such, he lacked impactful splash plays even though he has quite a highlight reel. He has the skills to have a place in the NFL as a standout special teamer, and can be developed into more with good coaching. A very raw prospect, Apke is talented enough to become a high level starter, but will need many years of good coaching to do so.

C+

Featured

Tight Ends

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Vernon Davis, A

1. Troy Fumagalli – While the only elite part of his game are his hands, Fumagalli is above average in every aspect of the game. While he was primarily used as a wing back type player in college, he has the build to have positional versatility. He is a good and aggressive blocker who can drive defenders back. He is also able to get downfield and block there, although he has a tendency to block with his hands toward the shoulder-pads which could occasionally get called as holding. He has a good feel for blocking, as he doesn’t miss his assignment often. He is an average athlete, and his solid route running reflects that. Additionally, he is not particularly instinctual in his routes, showing little ability to alter routes depending on the defense. His hands are both reliable and outstanding, as he rarely drops passes and has the ability to make impressive catches. He has great adjustment to balls and very good body control, allowing him to serve as a safety blanket for his quarterback. There are times when he catches with his body unnecessarily, but he can still extend well and catch with his hands. His firm hands help him bring the ball to his body quickly after the catch, enabling him to take hits and hold on to the ball. A tremendous feel good story due to his only having 9 fingers, Fumagalli is the top tight end in the draft.

A-/B+

2. Mark Andrews – Although not a special player, Andrews is a solid and well rounded as a tight end. He is not a great athlete, although he is big and strong and possesses good length. He is almost always split out wide or in the slot, almost never being in a three point stance. His football intelligence is outstanding, showing the ability to find holes in the opponent’s zone defense and improvise routes. His route running is average, and he is not particularly effective when faking out defenders. Additionally, he has very good short area quickness, enabling him to gain some separation. This also makes him a good runner with the ball in his hands, as he is extremely elusive. Although he is not a typical in-line tight end, he has shown in his limited opportunities that he can develop into a good run blocker. He is also very willing and capable at blocking downfield, but he sometimes misses blocks. He is not a super talented receiver, as he has some concentration drops. However, he is exhibits decent body control and solid hands the majority of the time. He won’t create splash plays at the next level, but he can be a good and serviceable starter.

B+/B

3. Dallas Goedert – Although coming out of a small school, Goedert is a good tight end who is a top tier threat in the red zone. He has good positional versatility, with the ability to play tight, in the slot, or split out wide. He is pretty slow, even for a tight end, which contributes to his sloppy route running. This leaves him with not much separation, causing him inconsistency catching the ball. However, he has tremendous hands both individually and together, combining with his good body control to give him a ridiculous catch radius. He is extremely strong, making him able to box out opponents and win most of the balls in his direction. He is at his best when going up for contested catches, although he is more prone to relying on his size than out-jumping the defender. He is a good run blocker, exhibiting the power to push defenders out of the play. He can reach and overextend himself at times, causing him to block weakly in such situations. Although he is well rounded, he also seems to take plays off, limiting his upside as a full-time starting tight end. Based on his combination of size and catching ability, Goedert would thrive as a red zone tight end while being a serviceable option the rest of the time.

B+/B

4. Mike Gesicki – Arguably the best receiving threat at the tight end position, Gesicki is a major liability in the run game. This is due to his inability to find players to block, and he lacks the footwork and agility to adjust to his bad blocking angles. He is an amazing athlete, showing impeccable speed, strength, and explosiveness. He is a very good route runner who can sell fakes and make smooth cuts, although he doesn’t make sudden cuts. He catches with his body more than necessary, but he has shown the ability to catch well with his hands. He generally lines up off the line, enabling him to be split out wide or come to block across the formation. He is at his best with the ball in the air, showing the talent to be an elite receiving threat in the redzone. His body control is outstanding, and he can adjust to poorly thrown balls very well. Additionally, he is amazing at high-pointing the ball and winning jump balls. He can use his size to body away defenders well. However, his hands are somewhat inconsistent and he can struggle with drops. He is built and plays like a tight end that will fit in today’s NFL, but the major holes in his game will be a problem for most teams.

B

5. Ian Thomas – A tough and hardworking player, Thomas is steady but flawed. He is mainly a receiving tight end, as he can struggle blocking in the run game. He has solid build and athleticism for the position, generally playing tight to the line or in the slot. Thomas’ biggest forte is his route running, and he can pick up speed to run the deep routes. His cuts are clean and precise, and he makes excellent use of fakes and his hands to outmaneuver defenders. He has a great feel for routes, making subtle adjustments to gain an advantage and separation. His hands aren’t particularly strong, but he generally catches the ball regardless of slight bobbling at times. Additionally, he the great body control to make spectacular catches, showing the ability to make tough catches near the sideline. He is neither a jump ball nor run after catch tight end, as he lack elusiveness and jumping talent. He is a fair blocker who can seal the edge, but he doesn’t drive defenders or hold his blocks well. While not overly talented at any part of the position, he is a solid prospect who will get snaps as a well rounded hard worker.

B

6. Hayden Hurst – Although commonly viewed as the top tight end in the draft, Hurst is a raw talent who relies on his athleticism. He is an immensely talented runner in space, even being given the ball on end arounds. He is fast and extremely agile, which helps him elude defenders as well as run good, refined routes. It is in manners such as these that he seems more like a receiver than a tight end, particularly with regards to his flaws as a blocker. While he is capable, he is not quite powerful enough to hold blocks and drive defenders back. Additionally, he will miss run blocks more frequently than one would like. However, he is quite able as a pass protector. He has solid and consistent hands, although he doesn’t make many “wow” catches. He can go up for balls using his size and elite athleticism. There are times where he will catch with his body, but he shows that he can extend his arms and snatch balls with his hands. He is very mature, due in large part to his time in the MLB and the fact that he is 25. He has tons of upside because of his athleticism and maturity, but he is still a very unpolished prospect.

B-

 

 

 

 

Featured

Edge Rushers

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Myles Garrett, A+/A

1. Sam Hubbard – A former safety and lacrosse player, Hubbard is a very good athlete who was developed well at Ohio State. He has impeccable agility and footwork, with great start-stop ability when chasing the ball carrier. This causes a lot of blockers to be forced to hold him, as he is so much quicker than them. Similarly, he is very good at stunting inside from the edge, using his superior quickness to get to the hole faster than the blocker. He is also great at swiping and swimming, using his agility and feisty hands to outmaneuver opponents. He is rarely stalled fully on a pas rush, as he is constantly moving his hands and feet to pressure the blockers and gain an edge. He is fast off the edge, although he possesses no bend when speed rushing from the outside. He has a good power rush, using strong legs to drive blockers back. He is good at shedding blocks in the run game, using his arms and quickness to get to the ball. Hubbard is smart and instinctual, enabling him to adjust rapidly to movement by the quarterback or screen passes. While he has the size and strength to be a 4-3 defensive end, he is athletic and fluid in coverage, allowing him to be a top tier 3-4 outside linebacker as well. He is a well rounded prospect with the overall ability to impact the game through all aspects of his defense. Above all, he is a very good pass rusher.

A/A-

2. Bradley Chubb – Widely considered the top edge rusher in this draft class, Chubb is a developed pass rusher who can step in and play immediately. He is a big, well rounded athlete with the tools to be a 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end, and his splash plays come from a combination of motor than explosiveness. He is not very good at timing snaps, which makes it harder for him to win off the snap. However, he has good burst when he does start, and is excellent at setting up blockers with a devastating first step that make up for the lack of timing. He has great lean coming off the edge, and while he doesn’t always flatten to help him cut toward the quarterback, he does generally finish his rush low. He doesn’t have any prolific moves that he relies on, instead possessing extremely active hands that he can use well when for all rushes. He has very good rip and swim moves that should in the NFL, particularly because of his smoothness as a rusher and effective use of his hands. He is relentless as a pass rusher, doing a good job of chasing plays down and going full speed every day. This helps him wear down opponents and take advantage of the athleticism that he does possess. Additionally, he is fluid enough to drop into coverage well and chase players in his vicinity. While his tackling is shaky at times, Chubb is a sturdy and well built player who is an asset in the run game. He also shows a lot of swagger and confidence in his game, something that is invaluable for a defensive player of his caliber.

A/A-

3. Duke Ejiofor – A dominant game wrecker at times, Ejiofor is a playmaker on the defensive line. He is surprisingly mature in his game, showing outstanding technique with his hands and pass rushing moves. His pass rushing moves and technique with his hands are the strengths of his game. He has a great spin move going both inside and outside, and his hands are constantly active in attempting rip and swim moves. He is generally double-teamed, but he is able to split the blockers and make plays using his powerful hands to swipe blockers. He is a long rusher with good burst off the snap, and he finishes his speed rushes by flattening toward the quarterback. He can also rush from the inside, using his natural strength and amazing array of moves to attack upfield. He comes flat across the line when playing the run, and will also fight aggressively over run blocks rather than allowing himself to get blocked down. While a huge playmaker in both run and pass defense, he sometimes has trouble holding on to tackles. Additionally, he shows some inconsistency between games, and can get taken out of plays by some top tier opponents. He is not a terrific athlete, and can show some regression when continually stalled by blockers. However, he is still a dominant pass rusher who can make plays defending the run, and has the maturity in his game to be a difference maker from day one.

A-

4. Harold Landry – A pass rusher similar to Vic Beasley, Landry is a high upside player who has the tools to be dominant off the edge. His get off and burst from the line can be outstanding at times, allowing him to beat the blocker from the start of the play. There are also plays where he can be slower off the snap and have stagnant hands. He has amazing bend when speed rushing off the edge, as well as the strength and technique to convert the speed into a power rush. He has a good feel for pass rushing and reading plays in general, knowing when to flatten toward the quarterback or break off to defend the run. He is also very agile, with the ability to change directions and swipe to attack the other side of the blocker. However, he can be slow to disengage when he is stood up. With his hands, he is good at swiping to the sides to gain the edge on blockers, enabling him to get to the quarterback. Additionally, he has a good swim move from outside in, as he is able to sell the speed rush and use his agility to counter. His ability to pressure offenses is shown by the double teams that he merits, and he can fight through blocks well by splitting them with rip moves. While he is not a liability in the run game, he is pretty close to being one, mainly due to his lack of size or strength. Although he is capable and can tackle adequately, he doesn’t always wrap stronger running backs. Landry is a naturally talented pass rusher off the edge, but his small stature is a major hindrance to his ability to effect the game.

B+

5. Marcus Davenport – With good length and a strong build, Davenport is more of a 3-4  defensive end than a pure pass rusher. He is very raw, often relying on his sheer size and athleticism to beat opponents. However, he does know how to use his natural talents effectively. He is a very good run defender who can disengage from blockers easily using his long arms. Additionally, he has the speed and determination to chase runners down from behind. He does a great job holding the edge on runs to his side, as well as coming flat across the line on runs away from him. As a pass rusher, he tends to use his power more than anything else. He has powerful hands, enabling him to punch or shed blockers well. He also has strong legs, enabling him to drive blockers back when rushing the passer. He is very unrefined as a rusher overall, with bad moves to get to the quarterback. Although he is good at using his shoulders and rip moves to maneuver through blockers, his hand work is sloppy. He doesn’t possess any elite moves such as spins or swims, even with his long arms. While raw as a pass rusher, he is a very good run defender, allowing him to still impact the game in the trenches. Davenport has the length to fit as a defensive end in both a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, although his upside as a pass rusher is higher as a 4-3 end.

B+/B

6. Uchenna Nwosu – Mainly utilized as a pass rusher at USC, Nwosu is a pure speed rusher with minimal experience. He exhibits great burst off the edge, although he rushes high and fails to flatten toward the quarterback at times. He doesn’t have any developed moves, instead relying on his edge burst or sheer effort. However, he has impressive agility and does a good job and maneuvering his body past the blocker. Additionally, he can turn speed into power effectively on his pass rushes, something that is especially useful when considering his versatility rushing from any linebacker spot. He is outstanding at defending passes at the line, showing a knack for timing his jumps right and reading the quarterback’s throwing path. Nwosu is rendered a non factor by most blockers in the run game, as he lacks the power or strength to challenge them. He is not a good tackler, a shame considering the frequency with which he blows up plays in the backfield. He rarely did anything besides rush the quarterback, however his athletic traits have been shown to suffice the few times he dropped into coverage. Many of his flaws are fixable in the NFL, particularly regarding his weight and technique. He has the raw traits that could potentially help him emerge as a dominant situational rusher. In particular, added weight should help him with his tackling and playmaking.

B-

7. Arden Key – Although he has potential, Key has too many problems to be a starter in the NFL. He is not fast or athletic, but he is long with very good bend and outstanding burst off the line. When speed rushing off the edge, he runs upright and gets widened away from the quarterback. This is due in large part to his failure to use his bend to flatten toward the quarterback. He is not very good at changing directions, and his agility leaves much to be desired. He is good at boxing blockers at the sides to gain the edge on them, using his quick hands to gain separation. He can also set blockers up with inside jabs steps to allow him access to a better edge rush. Additionally, he has a tremendous rip move that allows him to dominate offensive tackles. However, he gives up on plays quickly and it is not uncommon for him to show a lack of effort. He is able to hold the edge adequately on run plays, but he generally is not an impactful run defender. Much of this is the result of his inability to disengage from blockers effectively. He is also a very inconsistent tackler, not showing much explosiveness in making plays. He is athletic enough to drop into coverage, but he is more of a gap filler than asset. There are numerous questions about his dedication, as he suffered from weight problems in college. Key has many of the traits teams look for in a dominant pass rusher, but he also displays many of the weaknesses that signify a bust. He could fit in well for a team if he is given good coaching, particularly as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.

C+

8. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo – An undersized edge rusher, Okoronkwo’s talent is marred by his lack of size, elite athleticism, and variation. He is good at cutting and changing directions quickly, which he uses to beat blockers one-on-one in space. Similarly, he has a terrific jab step, using it to set up his pass rush by getting blockers off balance. It is in these situations that he excels, as he is able to get the blocker in the right position for him to execute spin, swim, or rip moves. However, his small stature is a major liability in such situations, as blockers can deal with him easily if they stand their ground. This is due in large part due to his minimal strength and power, because blockers are able to stall him easily if they make solid contact with him. Additionally, the lack of variety in his pass rush will make his easy to defend in the NFL. He has good bend when speed rushing off the edge, but there are times when offensive linemen push him over due to his weak base. He has outstanding burst off the line, combining it with his jab step and slipperiness to beat blockers to the punch. He can get immediate pressure by splitting double teams with his quickness, although it is balanced out by his moments of ineffectiveness and inconsistency. For a smaller player, he is effective at using his free arm to make plays. He is a capable, but weak tackler. He is a stiff but solid player in coverage, although is can react and chase when off the ball quite well. He is likely to be a bust as an NFL pass rusher, but some of his talents will translate well to special teams or as a backup linebacker in space.

C-/C

9. Dorance Armstrong Jr. – A 4-3 defensive end with the build of a small 3-4 outside linebacker, Armstrong is a raw player whose development upside is his biggest asset. He is long and thin, with the speed and twitchy athleticism required to be a good pass rusher. He has a great jump off the snap, something which is the most important part of his game. He is rendered ineffective unless he wins the initial battle at the snap, something that is not a given regardless of his burst from the line. This is due in large part to his lack of strength and power, limiting his variety has a pass rusher. His footwork is extremely sloppy, leading to bad balance while engaging with blockers in run or pass defense. His hands are active and he can utilize swipes while speed rushing, but he has little else in his repertoire. He is not a good player in coverage, as he is more used to playing defensive end. However, he is not good in the run game either because of his lack of power and strength. Additionally, he lacks instincts and discipline in the run or screen game, causing him to be fooled easily into being taken out of a play. He does have good chase down speed, but it is not enough to make up for his flaws. His burst, speed, and potential to fill out more make his upside appealing, but he is not a very skilled prospect but all means.

C-

Featured

Linebackers

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Luke Kuechly, A+

1. Roquan Smith – Generally believed to be the top linebacker in this draft class, Smith is a smaller playmaker who would excel as a sideline to sideline player. He is very fast, using his amazing instincts to read plays and rack up tackles. He excels at getting to the outside, as he is very good at taking the correct pursuit angles to cut off the ball carrier. Although he lacks big hitting ability, his tackling form is good and physical. He is a liability in the interior run game, one of the few flaws in his game. However, he merely gets outsized – rather than fully bullied – and can sometimes shed tackles to make the play. Although Smith tends to get blocked on interior runs, he is generally around the ball and is a very clutch player. He performs his best in big games, coming through with big tackles in particular. Additionally, he did show up to the combine with added weight and still exhibited his top tier movement skills. While he was not fully tested in the passing game, he displays the speed and athleticism to do very well in coverage. As such, he has the tools to play in zone or man coverage effectively and fluidly. He was also the leader of the Georgia defense, a big positive for an NFL team. He is very similar to Myles Jack and would exceed in a similar playmaker type role.

A-/B+

2. Josey Jewell – A classic 4-3 Mike linebacker, Jewell is a general in the middle of the field. He has great instincts and a nose for the ball, important traits that allow him to control the middle of the field. He shows great effort and toughness in the middle of the field, as well as a willingness to engage blockers. He is not particularly big or athletic, but he can shed blockers and is a fluid player. Although he is on the slower side, his speed generally only serves as a hindrance when a play is outside the numbers. He makes up for his lack of top end speed with good technique, showing the ability to shadow running backs out of the backfield and read the quarterback in zone coverage. Additionally, he uses his instincts to read plays and give him an advantage, although he can get trapped in the crowd of blockers at times. He is also disciplined in the run game, staying in his gaps and not over-pursuing. He is a leader who is very technically sound in all aspects of his game, someone who will serve as the center of an NFL defense for many years.

A-/B+

3. Rashaan Evans – An inside linebacker out of Alabama, Evans has had the benefit of excellent coaching that should enable him to have a smooth transition to the NFL. Although he is not an impressive athlete, he is very physical and versatile, as well as possessing enough speed to make plays the full width of the field. He is also a high effort player, going full speed when attacking the ball either in the air or on the ground. He is very good in coverage, especially for a larger linebacker. He reads the quarterback very well and does a very good job shadowing receivers in coverage to make a play on the ball. In the run game, he is good at shedding blocks and shooting gaps to make plays on the running back. While he is a good tackler, he rarely makes splash plays in the running game, in large part due to his lack of natural instincts. In addition to being a good inside linebacker, Evans also displays above average pass rushing ability off the edge. He has a very good spin move and a good combination of burst and power. His versatility and ability to do well in all facets of the position make him ideal for todays NFL, but his lack of natural feel for the position prevents him from being elite.

B+

4. Darius Leonard – A well rounded linebacker, Leonard faces questions about his ability to compete with higher level competition. He plays at full speed all the time, going after plays like he has a chip on his shoulder. He is a violent tackler, hitting with his whole body and stalling players bigger than him in their tracks. He has some missed tackles when he doesn’t break down well. He is capable at shedding smaller blockers, although he struggles with bigger and stronger players. However, he is not fully filled out at 6′ 3″, so he could easily gain the play strength to make his technique more effective. He is very patient in waiting for plays to develop, enabling him to diagnose plays and not get fooled easily. It is in this manner that he makes many of his tackles, although there are times where he misses out on a big play due to this. He is a bigger asset in stopping the pass game, as he excels at reading the quarterback’s eyes. He is a good blitzer from all of the linebacker spots, and is great at knowing when to come up and make plays on the quarterback. Additionally, he is very fluid in coverage, showing great movement skills when in man or zone coverage and good athleticism when making plays on the ball. The concerns about his playing level were quieted while at the Senior Bowl, helping to negate one of his biggest perceived flaws.

B+

5. Malik Jefferson – An elite run defender, Jefferson is a more raw version of Dont’a Hightower. He is very strong and fast, and his explosiveness shows up on the field. However, he can get lazy at times when chasing plays to the sideline, limiting his ability to play the full width of the field. He is an elite run defender who has questions in the pass game, in large part due to his limited action in coverage. He is extremely physical playing the run, with solid tackles and a great deal of pop in his hits. Although he has more toughness than instinct, he is disciplined in his run defense and is great at shooting gaps to make tackles. He is good at scraping along the line and taking on bigger blockers in order to get to the ball carrier. Ideally, he would fit in a 3-4 Mike linebacker role. He doesn’t have very fluid hips, contributing to his flaws in coverage and adjusting to cutbacks. He can play some zone coverage adequately because of his athletic traits, although he is better at chasing the quarterback. He is a tone setter on defense, displaying the hitting ability and aggressiveness to anchor the run game. While his talent and athleticism are undeniable, his questionable effort and other off the field issues are red flags that lower his value.

B+/B

8. Tremaine Edmunds – At only 19 years of age, Edmunds is extremely raw and extremely athletic. He is very long for a linebacker, but he still possesses great speed and strength. He is a physical and aggressive hitter, pounding the ball carrier relentlessly. Additionally, he is extremely willing to take on blocks, relying on his athleticism to shed blocks. There are also times where he explodes into the running lane before the blocker gets there, using his athleticism to make the play. However, his football instincts and IQ are a detriment to his talent, as he is often taken out of plays because of it. There are many times where he whiffs tackles because of bad angles or is drawn in by fakes and is unable to recover. He has a much better feel for the game in pass coverage, displaying the ability to match up with offensive players in man coverage. He is also good at playing the ball, using his length and speed to make the play. He is decent in zone coverage, as his top tier movement skills generally put him in a good position. He does make mistakes and misses players. He is more of an athletic talent than a football talent, although there is much correlation between the two. Much of his upside depends on the ability of NFL coaches to harness his talent and prepare him mentally, as he has the ability and time to be developed into a dominant player.

B

6. Leighton Vander Esch – A popular sleeper candidate at the linebacker position, Vander Esch is a long athlete who faces questions about his lack of starter experience and competition levels. He has very long strides when running, but he also has nimble feet to avoid cut blocks and make transitions. While he has bad instincts, he is a turnover generator, especially in important games. He can get caught in bad situations due to his lack of ability to read plays. If he recovers from such plays, it is generally more due to his propensity to chase everything than his athleticism. His strength is in his pass coverage, where he is one of the best at transitioning and making fluid turns in the draft. Similarly, he makes very clean speed turns, wasting little motion and using excellent footwork. He has a great feel for zone coverage, staying in good position to read both the quarterback and the receivers. He is also good at using his size and strength, challenging bigger blockers and getting an arm free to make a tackle. However, Vander Esch has some problems tackling, as it is not uncommon to see him whiff tackles by failing to get a good angle. While he has some problems, he can be a solid starter now and should develop into a good player down the line.

B

7. Shaquem Griffin – Seen by many as merely a feel-good story, Griffin is a high-level player regardless of his disability. He shows outstanding effort chasing down the ball carrier and has elite speed to match. He is extremely versatile, as he can both rush the passer off the edge and play slot corner. He is an good blitzer from the inside and outside, using his quickness and athleticism to beat blockers with good bend and a good spin move. However, he lacks balance often, making him susceptible to harder blocks. He also has trouble disengaging from blocks due to his inability to hand fight effectively, and he lacks hitting tenacity. He is also an average tackler, although he sometimes has problems holding on to the ball carrier. He is a huge playmaker, showing the ability to take over at times. Additionally, he is very good at getting splash plays, using his missing hand to force fumbles and not letting it prevent him from getting interceptions. In coverage, he plays very relaxedly and fluid, a testament to his confidence in his speed. He is undersized for a linebacker, contributing to his low play strength. He is forced to rely on his speed at times because he lacks above average instincts, often making plays by chasing opponents from behind. Griffin can be used effectively as a hybrid player and playmaker, although he lacks the positional talent to be a full time starter at any position.

B/B-

Featured

Cornerbacks

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Marshon Lattimore, A+/A

1. Denzel Ward – The most fluid cornerback in the draft, Ward is an explosive athlete whose talent can’t be understated. He is extremely fast, with recovery speed and burst that makes him extremely hard to beat deep. This also helps him to make plays on the ball, as he uses his burst and explosiveness to cut in front of the receiver and deflect passes in the air. He has outstanding body control, helping him to leap and extend on balls even if the receiver is bigger than him. As such, his technique deflecting passes is flawless and consistent. He is one of the best cornerbacks at mirroring in man coverage, exhibiting top tier agility and smooth transitions and changes of direction. He is extremely instinctive making plays, and is skilled at reading the receivers routes in both zone and man coverage. He is a smaller player without a great jam, although he can still be physical with his arms in redirecting routes. However, he generally avoids contact.  Additionally, he is an able and tackler. His hands are not quite what one would expect from such a skilled athlete, but they are quite capable. Ward is an extremely fluid and instinctive cover corner who has the versatility to play in the slot, although his size may occasionally be a problem against bigger physical receivers on the perimeter.

A/A-

2. Carlton Davis – A long and strong cornerback, Davis is an aggressive player with the talent to develop into a top tier corner. He is extremely physical, with a good jam at the line that allows him to turn and run with the receiver. He is also displays this physicality at the top of routes, routinely playing the receiver in order to disrupt the catch. He can also shadow the wideout well with a very good back pedal and good use of his hands. However, he does not have very smooth turns or great adjustment to throws, making him susceptible to faster receivers if he can’t make contact with them. He exhibits good drive on balls thrown in front of him, and is at his best in such situations. As such, he is also skilled at playing off coverage or zone, challenging the receiver as soon as the ball arrives. Additionally, he is a very good tackler who comes up to play runs and has good consistent technique. His hands are merely solid. Davis’ size and speed allows him to matchup with all types of receivers, and his tackling ability makes him a plug and play starter for any team. He has high upside, particularly considering his flaws are relatively correctable with good coaching.

A-

3. Jaire Alexander – A very good player, Alexander suffered through injuries in 2017 that forced him to miss a year of development. However, he made up for that with a great workout at the combine, displaying better movement skills than anticipated. He is an extremely smart and instinctual player who has a penchant for clutch turnovers. His trail technique is outstanding, and he is very good at using this to generate interceptions. As such, he is outstanding at reading the receiver’s route and undercutting the throw for the interception. He can play both man and zone coverage effectively with a good backpedal and good press at the line. He is not as fluid mirroring the receiver as one would like, and he tends to avoid contact with receivers. Although he is on the smaller side, he can generally stave off larger receivers. However, he can sometimes get beat deep due to his trail technique, although he generally has the makeup speed to recover. He has the versatility to play the slot, and also exhibits great vision and elusiveness as a punt returner. While he is a solid tackler, he has good instincts to put him in position to make plays. Above all, Alexander is a playmaker with the ability to be a difference maker.

A/B+

4. Tarvarus McFadden – A great corner in most ways, McFadden struggled with bouts of inconsistency throughout his college career. He has very good instincts and can get interceptions in either man or zone coverage. His ball skills are outstanding, and he does a great job playing the ball in the air. He is amazing at high pointing and finding the ball, giving him the potential to be a turnover machine. Additionally, he has the size to blanket receivers and win any ball in his vicinity. His jam can be sloppy at times, but he has good balance and can remain strong against the receiver throughout the route. He also drives on the ball well when receivers are in front of him. He is generally good at shadowing receivers as well, mirroring their movements with fluid hips. While he can be fluid, his movements are also slow. Good receivers with speed can sometimes take advantage of this by turning his hips or burning him deep. He is an above average tackler who is also good at blitzing off the edge from the nickel position. Although he lacks speed and consistent play, he has the upside to lock down a side of the field.

A-/B+

5. Levi Wallace – The most recent CB1 for the Crimson Tide, Wallace is a pure man to man corner capable of challenging an opponent’s starting receiver. He is a physical player throughout the entire route, combining a strong jam with great hand fighting. He turns his hips well, sticking to the receiver in coverage and rarely giving them space. However, he doesn’t drive on the ball well, limiting his effectiveness in zone coverage or using a bail technique. He uses great form playing the receiver when the ball is in the air, high-pointing the ball and swiping with his hands on the way down. Additionally, he does a tremendous job removing the ball from the wideout’s hands by being extremely aggressive with his own. In part because he lacks the instincts, Wallace is mainly a press corner. Although he plays slow at times, he has enough speed to carry the receiver for some time. Surprisingly for a player under Nick Saban, Wallace is a shaky tackler. However, he can fit in some schemes well as an aggressive press corner.

B

6. Mike Hughes – A decent all around corner with numerous flaws, Hughes value is increased by his decent ability as a returner. He is also well rounded in coverage, showing the ability to play both press and off. He is able to shadow receivers to an extent, as he is somewhat slow changing directions. Additionally, his backpedal is off balance and he lacks good instincts, making it harder for him to drive on balls. Although he is on the smaller side, he has a physically dominating jam at the line that stalls or reroutes the receiver. He is very good at timing his contact, hitting the wideout at the same time as the ball. He is fast, allowing him to recover on deep balls or routes where he has been shaken off. He is also tracks the ball well in the air, an even better trait when paired with his good hands. He is an extremely aggressive tackler, but his bad form makes him somewhat of a liability. As a returner, he is a smooth runner and can make an immediate impact. Overall, he is a solid second cornerback who excels at the start and finish of a play, but is lacking during the route.

B

7. Anthony Averett – The corner across from Levi Wallace at Alabama, Averett is a good corner who struggles at the start of plays. When playing man coverage, he tends to be over aggressive at the line, causing him to lose balance. In such situations, he is beat rather quickly, particularly in routes coming across the field. He has very fluid hips, enabling him to shadow receivers well. Additionally, he has great start-stop agility, helping him stick to receivers in man coverage and drive down on them in zone. His body control is excellent, contributing to his agility and ability to defend passes. However, he is not good playing off the ball in man coverage, largely due to his lack of instincts. He is extremely physical when the ball is in the air, although his hands are suspect. It remains to be seen whether the roster at Alabama covered his mistakes, or if they are not as glaring as they seem. He is not a special player by any means, but his mistakes are coachable and he could become a high level starter in time.

B/B-

8. Joshua Jackson – Highly touted as the best corner in college football, Jackson is a pure zone corner with some questionable flaws. He rarely plays in anything other than off coverage, especially in Cover 3. He has the desired size and necessary speed to fit into a defense and handle his business. He is amazing at reading the quarterback to break on the ball, which results in a large number of interceptions. This is also due to his tremendous hands. Additionally, he is great at driving on the ball, rarely allowing the receiver in front of him to make a play. However, he can also lack the discipline to follow receivers in through zones, resulting in blown coverages. He is also an average tackler. Jackson tends to avoid contact in zone coverage, preferring to get a clear read on the quarterback. However, this limits his effectiveness in many situations where the receiver should not be granted free releases. He is not particularly agile or a great athlete, and his change of direction skills are not great. Thus, he doesn’t have much upside as anything other than a pure deep zone corner. In the right fit, he can be a very good starter, but otherwise he could be somewhat of a liability.

B/B-

9. Isaiah Oliver – Oliver is a raw player who mainly relies on his size and length to cover receivers. He is at his best when able to press at the line, as he is good at using his arms to crowd the wideout. He is not very fast, although his length gives him some safety when the ball is in the air. While he excels at using his length to reach over and blanket receivers on deep routes, he is generally not great at playing the ball in other capacities. He lacks any of the abilities needed to shadow receivers in man coverage. He is somewhat able to drive on balls, but he is bad at making speed turns and is not fluid when changing directions. Additionally, he is not a playmaker in any capacity, especially because he lacks instincts. However, he is a good physical tackler. Although good coaching could make some use of his size, Oliver is not a special enough talent to make a big impact.

B-

10. Donte Jackson – Although extremely fast, Jackson lacks the positional talent to be a full time NFL cornerback. He is physical at the line with a good jam, although it generally has little effect because most receivers are significantly stronger than him. He mostly plays zone, relying on a smooth backpedal and his outstanding speed to make plays. However, he lacks the instincts and quick twitch athletic ability to succeed more than he whiffs. Even with his recovery speed, he is called for pass interference often, something that is evidence of his discomfort at the position. His balance is bad, something that has a major impact on his coverage and mirroring abilities. Additionally, he doesn’t play the ball well when isolated in coverage, instead tending to just try to get in the way of the wideout. While he can come down on pass catchers in front of him with tremendous speed, he has sub-par agility and change of direction skills. He does have very body control when diving, although it is something he is forced to do too often and to varying degrees of success. He is a bad tackler who only knows how to tackle by sliding full speed on the ground in an effort to trip the runner. While he has the speed and athleticism to be a nickel corner, he is extremely unpolished and would need to be coached excessively to have a chance to succeed in the NFL.

C-/D+

 

 

 

Featured

Interior Defensive Lineman

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Ndamukong Suh, A+

1. Da’Ron Payne – Typical of many Alabama prospects, Payne is a dominant and well coached prospect who should be a plug and play starter in the NFL. Primarily a run stopper, he is very good at following the ball while engaged in a block. As such, he is rarely fooled into leaving his gap, and is adept at reading the quarterback to deflect throws. He can excel in both a two gap or one gap system, as he can hold blockers or penetrate to the ball. He is generally double teamed in the run game, a testament to his ability to put pressure on the offense and impact the game. Similarly, he steps up in big situations and makes key plays to close games. He tends to play upright and pop up at the snap, giving him less power than he would have otherwise. Although he could have more lower body strength, Payne has underrated athleticism. As a pass rusher, he displays good quickness off the line and has a good array of pass rushing moves. However, he is abruptly stalled if the initial jam is better than his own. His use of hand fighting is limited besides the distinct moves. Payne is a well rounded prospect with minimal weaknesses and playmaking ability, an appealing talent set in the NFL.

A/A-

2. Vita Vea – A behemoth on the line, Vea is one of the few pure nose tackles in the draft. He possesses immense size and strength, using his arms to push and his legs to drive oppenents backwards. As a nose tackle, he is a very good run stuffer who can easily hold the lineman and then shed them at the point of the attack, rather than penetrating the hole. He eats up blockers in the run game, effectively opening up holes for his teammates to make plays. Besides converting his strength to power, Vea has limited ability as a pass rusher, although he has incredible quickness to the ball for a player his size. Additionally, he is a good tackler, even leaving his feet at times to make fluid tackles. He lacks explosiveness, but that is a minor flaw for a nose tackle with such impeccable strength and quickness. However, Vea can disappear at times because of this, dampening his impact on a game. While this is sometimes solely a consequence of his job and position on a given play, other times this is because of his lack of big play ability. This is not a major concern, as Vea is still incredibly talented and clean as a prospect.

A-

3. Taven Bryan – Bryan is one of the more athletic defensive linemen in the draft, with explosive playmaking ability from the interior line position. He possesses very good lower body explosiveness, allowing him to burst through gaps and disrupt plays. He also has exceptional burst off of the snap and very good chase down speed. As such, he can get immediate penetration up the middle to redirect run plays or pressure the quarterback. He utilizes his long arms very well, holding blockers at arms length and then shedding them effectively to make plays. Additionally, he is adept at leaving one arm free and using his strength to make the tackle. He has a good rip move when pass rushing, and he is good at turning his speed rush into a power rush. However, Bryan can get pushed around in the run game, regardless of his strength and explosivenss. There are also times when Bryan misses or can’t find the ball, affecting his ability to make plays. He is an athletic difference maker more than a hole plugger, although coaching could elevate that aspect of the game even more.

B+

4. Derrick Nnadi – A smaller nose tackle type player, Nnadi has a safe floor as he rarely puts himself in bad positions on a given play. However, he has limited upside due to his size and lack of top tier athletic ability. He has an amazing anchor, and is rarely pushed backwards or out of his gap on run plays. He also has great power, contributing to his ability to drive defenders back when pass rushing. Although he lacks any consistent pass rushing techniques, he has strong arms that he uses to punch blockers and gain advantages.He is adept at reading the quarterback and putting his hands up to block passing lanes. Additionally, he shows a high effort level and willingness to compete for the ball until the whistle. Nnadi forces teams to double team him in both run and pass situations because of this, as he generally overpowers defenders even with his small stature. He has the ability to be a long time starter due to his consistency as a player, but he will not be able to elevate himself as one of the game’s best.

B

5. Maurice Hurst – A very good interior pass rusher, Hurst is lacking as a run defender, limiting his ability to be a full time starter. He is extremely explosive off the snap, rushing the passer with burst and low pad level. Additionally, he is outstanding at reading quarterbacks, consistently blocking their throwing lanes and generating sacks indirectly. He has very active hands and pass rushing moves, something that allows him to gain more consistent pressure if his motor were more consistent. Although one of the best interior pass rushers in the draft, he displays very little talent in defending the run. He is easily trapped in the run game, as blockers turn him sideways to set the hole with very little resistance. He also has suspect balance, and can get knocked over on run plays without much effort. He is too small to hold blockers, and is purely a one gap attacking player. While he is outstanding as a pass rusher, he is too much of a liability as a run stopper, significantly lowering his value for many teams.

B

6. Harrison Phillips – A big nose tackle, Phillips is a solid and trustworthy backup who is capable of starting a few games. He has very good hands and feet drive and position, helping him generate a solid power rush. In the run game, he has a solid anchor and doesn’t get driven back. However, he does not take up blockers like a player of his size should, and he doesn’t compensate with any above average athletic ability. For a big man, he also has a very good swim move. There are times when he can’t see around his blocker. Additionally, he lacks explosive attributes or good enough strength to make big plays more than once while. As such, he is generally forced to leave his feet in an attempt to bring down the ball carrier. He doesn’t usually keep an arm free to make a play. Although he can play without being a liability, he is a below average player regarding everything besides his size.

C+

 

Featured

Receivers

Grading System:

A – Top Tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Julio Jones, A+

1. Michael Gallup – The most complete receiver in the draft, Gallup has the makeup of a legitimate WR1. He is a great runner with the ball in his hands, the result his combination of speed and elusiveness. Although not huge, he possesses adequate size to win jump balls while still remaining a big play threat with the ball in his hands. He is a natural receiver who catches the ball easily and fluently with strong hands away from his body. He has great ball skills in the air, with the ability to pluck balls away from defenders and use adjust his body to win 50/50 balls. Additionally, he is an above average route runner with the knowledge and ability to run the full route tree. He is physical at the line of scrimmage, and is somewhat effective at using his hands to generate separation. Although he blocks well, he can sometimes show a lack of effort when not the focal point of a play. His only major flaw is he sometimes gets scared of safeties, but he is generally a consistently dominant player. However, is still talented enough to build an offense around.

A-

* Antonio Calloway – One of the most talented and explosive players in the draft, Calloway’s stock plummeted after he was forced to sit out the 2017 season due to disciplinary reasons. He is very fast and agile, with the ability to explode out of stops and cuts with great speed. He is an extremely smooth runner with the ball in his hands, contributing to his outstanding talent as a returner. His footwork and agility is impeccable, using it both to elude defenders and run routes. When paired with the wide array of routes in his arsenal, this makes him a very good route runner. Additionally, he is able to line up on the outside and in the slot. While he is a smaller receiver, he can effectively deal with press coverage by using hand moves and quick feet. He also possesses great hands, and especially good at adjusting to deep balls. He isn’t a prolific jump ball receiver, but he can still make tough catches in traffic or on the perimeter. Although he is one of the biggest playmakers in the draft, the immense off the field issues make him a major risk that most teams won’t want to draft until late in the draft. Skill-wise, however, he is one of the best receivers in the draft.

A-

2. Dante Pettis – One of the best punt returners in NCAA history, Pettis is also a very good receiver. His prolific punt return talent is somewhat surprising as he lacks top tier long speed, but his great vision and elusiveness make up for it. Although he is not particularly good at making sharp right angle cuts, he has a penchant for subtle open field moves that help him gain extra yards. He is a very good route runner, with an advanced route tree and intelligence in altering routes according to coverage. He is very effective at selling his routes subtly and directly, and he can use his hands to create good separation at the line of scrimmage. He is a natural and fluid ball catcher who extends his arms to catch away from his body with his hands. Additionally, he does a good job high pointing balls in the air with his decent size. His hands are very reliable, and the ball sticks in his hands with minimal bobbling. He is not a good blocker, but he doesn’t lack effort. He can play well both in the perimeter and in the slot. Pettis is an exceptional receiver, and although he is not quite a lead receiver, his punt return talent elevates his stock.

A-/B+

3. Jester Weah – A big perimeter receiver, Weah is a well rounded wideout with high upside. He is exceptionally smooth catching the ball, in large part due to his soft and strong hands. He is very talented at winning jump balls on the outside, using his large frame and strong hands to help him get the ball. Additionally, he contains a muscular frame that helps him dominate opponents physically outside the numbers. This is a benefit to his route running and jump ball skills, as he is rarely bodied in a direction he does not want to go. He is reasonably fast, with sufficient speed to get over the top of defenders on deep routes. He is surprisingly elusive for his size, and his sturdy frame helps him escape would-be tacklers. He is a solid route runner, with generally crisp cuts and good use of speed change. He has a somewhat limited route tree. His size enables him to deal with press coverage, although his release is merely decent. Although he has the traits and ability to be a WR1, he can disappear for stretches of games. His talent is undeniable, especially after a great outing at the combine. While his upside is high, his tendency to disappear could be a problem on the professional level, although much of that may have had to do with inconsistent quarterback play.

B+

4. DJ Moore – Similar to Jarvis Landry in style and skillset, Moore is mainly a run after catch receiver with good playmaking talent. He is very fast and elusive, and is an outstanding runner with the ball in his hands. His amazing elusiveness gives him the ability to make big plays, and he can make defenders like a running back. He is a solid route runner, although he is not quite a special talent getting open. Similarly, most of his routes are run close to the line of scrimmage, giving him limited options within a given passing attack. He can make some cuts well in his routes, although not as many as would be expected with his agility. He has great hands and excellent body control, as he can elevate and make contested catches. While it is not common that he is deep enough on a route to exhibit such displays, he is exceptional. His biggest problem, however, is that is ineffective when faced with strong contact. Jams at the line and contact throughout the route are a big problem, as he cannot get a good release or make catches. Although an explosive playmaker, his chance to excel in the NFL banks on his ability to deal with press coverage. Regardless, his showing at the combine was impressive, showing off speed and explosiveness that would help him make up for his flaws.

B+

5. Anthony Miller – An outstanding technician, Miller displays the necessary talent to thrive at the NFL level. He is one of the best route runners in the draft, with the ability to run the full route tree well. He can face press well, using his hands to generate a release and restack his routes. His feet are not particularly quick when he runs, although he is good at adjusting to balls quickly. He is very fast, which contributes to his excellence at running deep routes. Additionally, he has tremendous focus on such routes, a skill which also translates to sideline routes. He generally has very reliable hands due to his focus, although he sometimes has some concentration drops on short routes that likely stem from turning to run too quickly. However, he is not scared of catching in traffic or of getting hit over the middle, and is excellent at catching with defenders on top of him. As a runner after the catch, he exhibits solid vision and running ability that is greatly helped by his slippery elusiveness. He is not a particularly prolific jump ball receiver, but he has the excellent jump timing and hands to make difficult catches. He lacks the adequate ball skills and size to be an alpha receiver, but he is an outstanding slot receiver who can also play well outside the numbers.

B+

6. Deon Cain – A typical Clemson receiver, Cain is a big and fast wideout with the potential to be an alpha receiver. He is a pure perimeter receiver who excels at winning jump balls due to his ability to high point balls in the air. He has good body control and  great adjustment to balls in the air, although his hands are on the smaller and weaker side. As such, he generally comes down with 50/50 balls that are within his big catch radius. For a big receiver, he has above average speed and talent running with the ball. Although he is a good, physical route runner, he has a route tree that is somewhat limited. However, he shows very good discipline on the routes that he does run. Additionally, he can hand fight exceptionally well at the line, during the route, and when the ball is in the air. He is a good blocker, whose size allows his to be aggressive at the point of attack. His biggest flaw is that he can sometimes lose focus catching the ball, either looking to run too soon or failing to bring the ball in. Another important problem is that his production does not seems to match his talent, something that can be seen as a red flag. While he is a very good prospect overall, he needs stronger and bigger hands to be considered a true big play threat.

B+/B

7. Auden Tate – A typical big bodied wideout in the mold of Kelvin Benjamin, Tate has a tremendous catch radius and great ball skills. He is not a fast player, although his agility is not bad for a player of his size. His hands and size combine to be his biggest assets, as he is at his best when fighting for contested and tough catches. He utilizes his size extremely well, as he can pluck the ball out of the air and extend to reach high or misthrown balls. His body control is outstanding, as he can adjust to balls thrown nearly anywhere in his vicinity. This makes him a great redzone threat and deep perimeter threat, regardless of his lack of speed. Additionally, he is great at holding on to the ball through contact, making him a reliable safety net receiver. Due to his lack of speed, his hands can be inconsistent at times if he is forced to chase down a ball. He is a very inconsistent route runner, mainly because of his lack of speed and quickness. However, his routes should be able to be refined and are not a problem due to the type of wideout he is. He can handle press by using his size, although his hands also help him somewhat. A classic redzone receiver, Tate struggles to gain separation downfield, limiting his ability to be an elite receiver for a team.

B

8. Calvin Ridley – Widely believed to be the top receiver in this draft class, both Ridley’s floor and ceiling put him in the range of a top tier secondary wideout. He is among the most polished route runners in the draft, utilizing his top end speed and great agility to get open. He is extremely good at using head fakes to get open without excessive cuts, particularly at the line where he has has very good nuance in his routes. Although he is extremely fast, his release and acceleration are merely good. He is a very smooth runner with and without the ball, and has the ability to catch cleanly without breaking stride. He is also shows intelligence in knowing when to break off routes and help his quarterback. He exhibits good vision and elusiveness, and makes quick, crisp cuts when running in the open field. His hands, while not great, are very consistent and he rarely has drops. Additionally, his hands aren’t very strong, limiting his jump ball talent even though he has some ball skills. His blocking is average, but considering his size and experience doing it at Alabama, it should be an asset to his game. Ridley is one of the safest prospects at the position, regardless of his few flaws.

B

9. Deontay Burnett – The safety blanket for top quarterback Sam Darnold, Burnett is a very good receiver who will be held back in the NFL due to his stature. Although he is not a great route runner, he has excellent footwork and a very good football IQ. As such, he is very good at making sideline catches. He sells his fakes on routes very well, using his speed and small size to help him get open. Additionally, his experience with Sam Darnold has made him extremely good at running routes on broken plays. He is an average runner with the ball, as he is not particularly elusive. However, he is very smart in how and when he battles for extra yardage. He also has very good hands and technique catching the ball. His hands are very reliable in traffic, and he is fluid in catching and then bring the ball to his body for protection. He is also adept at extending for diving catches and balls that seem outside his reach. He has the potential to be a Pro-Bowl receiver, but his weak build could cause him to get pushed around, no matter how much talent he has. As such, he is not good at winning jump balls on the outside. Depending on if he can add more muscle, his potential varies drastically.

B

10. Christian Kirk – Highly touted as a top tier slot receiver in this draft, Kirk lacks the difference making ability to be more than an average slot receiver in the NFL. Although he is a very good punt returner, this talent does not usually show up in his play at wideout. He is a reliable player in the slot, but he does not have any exceptional talent besides being a returner. He is pretty fast and somewhat elusive, making him a decent runner in space. He is also very smooth in catch and run situations, enabling him to pick up additional yards after the catch. He is a solid route runner, with a well built route tree that he can run effectively. He also has very reliable hands, although he lacks the talent to make many impressive catches. Similarly, he has great concentration, adding to his ability to rarely drop balls. He is a player whose floor is set as a reliable slot receiver who can offer good support in the return game, however he lacks the playmaking athletic ability of anything else at the NFL level. The combine also reaffirmed that he has the size and strength to handle the rigors of playing slot receiver and going over the middle.

B/B-

11. DJ Chark – Chark emerged after the conclusion of the CFB season, putting on amazing performances at both the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. His speed, explosiveness, and jumping ability were some of the best at the combine, but that does not show up in games consistently. He has limited ability as a route runner, although he is very smooth running with the ball in his hands or making cuts on routes. Chark has great footwork as well, showing good talent making catches on the sideline. He is great at tracking deep balls, a skill which combines with his speed to make him a good deep ball threat. He is good at adjusting his body to win some jump balls, and at times can show flashes of outstanding body control. The weakest part of his game, however, are his relatively weak and very inconsistent hands. Additionally, he tends to catch with his chest much more often than he should. However, he is decent at catching over the middle, which will serve him well regardless of his hands. He is also a very good punt returner, with good vision and elusiveness. While he shows some explosive traits, his talent as a receiver is held back by his ability to put them into action.

B-

12. Simmie Cobbs – A player who relies solely on his amazing hands and height, Cobbs is a highly developmental prospect with upside in the redzone. He shows an extreme lack of effort, something which causes his ability to suffer greatly. Although he is decent at running the fade and the hitch, his route tree is extremely limited otherwise. Additionally, he is a sloppy route runner, regardless of the small degree of effectiveness displayed in those two routes. He is not a great athlete, offering very little athletically besides his height. As such, he is slow and bad running with the ball in his hands. He is somewhat strong, contributing to his great talent as a redzone and jump ball receiver. Cobbs has great hands individually, with the talent to make outstanding catches with one hand. He is the best pure receiver with the ball in the air and other jump ball situations, however he is below average at nearly everything else. Cobbs’ sloppiness and lack of effort is a major red flag for a player with such high redzone potential, something that will greatly limit his NFL success.

B-

13. Courtland Sutton – Highly touted as one of the best receivers in college football, Sutton is an athletic player with limited positional talent. He is very long and fast, and takes advantage of this by being an aggressive runner and blocker. He is a very sloppy route runner, due in large part to his lack of agility. Additionally, he is very bad at using his hands against defensive backs, either during or at the start of the route. His hand work is a detriment to his talent, as it leaves him susceptible to physical defense. For a physical receiver, he gets pushed around easily in press coverage. He has very good body control that enables him to release from defenders at the top of his route. However, he doesn’t use his size well when going for jump balls or boxing out defenders, even though he has solid jumping ability. He has strong hands when he extends them away from his body, but generally they are inconsistent. He is a good runner with the ball for a bigger receiver, as he can find running lanes but is not elusive. An extremely raw player, it would take a tremendous amount of coaching to develop him into a productive NFL player.

B-/C+

14. James Washington – Given the Biletnikoff Award as the nations best receiver, Washington’s college numbers do not match up with his NFL talent. He is fast, with the ability to take the top off the defense. Additionally, he has excellent adjustments to deep balls over the shoulder, although less so on back shoulder or sideline type catches. He is a bad route runner, consistently rounding off his routes and failing to sell his moves. While he is good at running deep fades, much of that is pure reliance on speed and failure by the defensive back to play even adequate coverage. He does not have particularly fluid catching ability, with the ball occasionally not sticking in his hands as well. This, along with his lack of strong hands, is a big factor in Washington using his chest a lot to make catches. Built like a running back, he is not good at making moves in space, greatly lowering his value as a receiver. Overall, he lacks any significant talent besides the ability to run straight away deep routes, something that will only serve him well as a deep backup.

C-

 

 

Featured

Running Backs

Grading system:

A – Top tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Ezekiel Elliot, A+/A

1. Saquon Barkley – The number one overall prospect in this class and the best running prospect in years, Barkley is as close to flawless as you will get from a prospect. He consistently makes the first player miss, and is very good at avoiding huge collisions. He has great wiggle as a runner, with an amazing cutback and juke move to go with his homerun speed. He has great start-stop ability at the line, and above average vision to find open running lanes. As a power back, Barkley is similarly proficient, as he is very strong between the tackles and is adept at falling forward. His dexterity and balance are tremendous, and they are what make him an elite prospect. He has outstanding body control both along the sidelines and through contact, allowing him to make plays that very few can. He is very good at catching the ball both out of the backfield and as a wide receiver, although his pass blocking is merely decent. If there is a flaw, it is that he can try to get the big play rather than just putting his head down for a few yards; however, the highlight reel plays he makes by doing this more than makes up for this slight and infrequent deficiency.

A+

2. Derrius Guice – Although he is more of a power back, Guice is a well-rounded runner who can excel both inside and outside. He is exceptionally strong, and runs with power and tenacity. He is a very determined runner, finishing every run by gaining every possible inch. He is great at avoiding head on hits in traffic and at the line. Additionally, he is a very slippery runner with very good balance, helping him generate a lot of yards after contact. As an outside runner, he has excellent acceleration and very good speed. While he also has good agility and bouncing ability, he knows how to pick up tough yards. His vision is also good, not great; however he is exceptionally good at finding small bits of space to pick up extra yards through contact and traffic. He is a solid receiver out of the backfield, and is very good at pass blocking. As a pure runner, he is very good in all aspects of the position, and will bring good intensity to a teams run game. Although not as big and strong as his LSU predecessor Fournette is, he has a better feel for running the football.

A

3. Kerryon Johnson – A well rounded runner, Johnson’s has the combination of speed and power to become a top tier runner. He has great vision and outstanding patience at the line of scrimmage. He runs low, enabling him to explode through holes and work well in tight spaces. He is amazing running through contact, and is especially adept at shaking off half-hearted tackles. Similarly, he is very good on the goal line and in short yardage situations, as he knows how to get lower and pick up extra yards. With very good long speed and superior agility, he is a good runner in open space. This combination of speed moves and effective use of power make him a deadly runner in all situations. Additionally, Johnson is very intelligent in all aspects of the game, with great pass blocking ability, decent receiving skills, and exceptional awareness. He knows how to handle various situations in games, contributing to his good pass blocking. The above average awareness is also a major factor in his running style, as he is extremely effective in knowing when to utilize each aspect of his skill set. However, there are some questions about his injury history, especially as his running style can lead to many head on collisions.

A/A-

4. Royce Freeman – Freeman is an excellent power runner who is surprisingly fluid running the ball, similar to Frank Gore. He is somewhat slow compared to the other top runners in college football, but is able to effectively use what speed he has. He is a low runner who is very good at running through contact between the tackles. He is also strong, able to shake off tackles and bowl defenders over. Freeman has outstanding vision and runs effortlessly through open lanes. Additionally, he has great feet and agility, a talent that was reinforced by a terrific job at the combine. He has very good patience at the line of scrimmage as well, with the strength to shed tackles behind the line of scrimmage. He seems to have suspect lower body explosion, although he had average testing in such events at the NFL combine. For a bigger back, Freeman is an above average receiver out of the backfield. Even when his offensive line struggled he was able to make some plays, but he is even more dominant with decent blocking. While he doesn’t have the look of an elite prospect, he should end up being an extremely good player as a workhorse running back.

A-/B+

5. Ronald Jones II – One of the most elusive runners in the draft class, Jones II is a tall speed back with limited power. He possess elite breakaway speed and is extremely fluid and elusive in space. His juke move is outstanding, and he has great agility and ankle-breaking potential in his cutback. His vision is very good, and he slips through holes quite smoothly and easily. It is very hard for defenders to get a hand on him, although he is not that hard to bring down when they do. This is partially due to his high running style, which takes away some of balance and power. He still exhibits some explosive momentum in finishing runs, but such toughness is rare. Surprisingly, he is a solid runner in short yardage situations, as has a nose for the end zone. He has great burst to the outside, and is skillful at bouncing runs to the outside for big plays. However, he tends to make too many bounces, leading to lost yardage. He is not very good at pass blocking, as he is on the lighter side. He has decent hands, although not quite what one would expect from a player his size. While not quite a bell-cow running back, in part due to injury concerns, Jones II can be an explosive playmaker as a lead back.

A-/B+

6. Nick Chubb – An outstanding all around runner before his knee injury, Chubb’s value has worsened considerably since he was unable to fully regain his speed and agility. He is a a very strong runner who runs low, making it very hard for defenders to tackle him without facing violent contact. He has decent top end speed, but has very good burst and acceleration. However, he looks faster than he did last year, meaning that he could potentially get better if he can regain the form he had in his freshman season. Similarly, he has an amazing juke move that would improve if he can become more confident making cuts. Particularly, his vision suffers because he lacks some confidence in his ability to hit holes. He is exceptionally good at shaking off tacklers that aren’t right in front of him, however he sometimes seems tentative when pressured in tight spaces. Because of this, he lacks the desired wiggle while running inside. He also can serve as a disciplined one cut downhill runner. For a strong back he displays able hands and solid pass blocking ability. He is a very talented runner despite the flaws, and there is Pro-Bowl upside if he can fully recover from the injury. His speed, strength, and explosiveness remain top tier, although the combine did not eliminate doubts about his cutting ability.

B+

7. Mark Walton – A smaller running back, Walton is a complete back who could excel on 3rd downs or in a committee. He is a very agressive runner who uses his strength to deliver blows to the defense. However, he is still an elusive runner who keeps his pads low to effectively pick up yards. His agility gives him potent juke and spin moves, although his cuts into space can be slow. As such, his vision is spotty and inconsistent, and he is often indecisive making cuts into holes. Similarly to Nick Chubb, some of this is due to recovering from an injury. He has great balance, allowing him to stay on his feet and keep his speed through both high and low contact. He has above average breakaway speed and acceleration. He is a decent pass catcher and route runner out of the backfield. Walton also excels at pass blocking, using good technique on defenders that are bigger than him. He is a shifty runner who would fit well in a scheme where he would handle around 15 touches a game. If he can regain some more of his explosiveness, he can be a great role player.

B+/B

8. Akrum Wadley – Wadley is small satellite back in the mold of Darren Sproles – a dangerous big play threat as a runner and receiver. Although he lacks power, he is a tough player who has elite elusiveness in space. His agility is off the charts, and he is able to effectively string moves together to elude multiple defenders. He has great start-stop ability, allowing him to make jukes and cuts at full speed and in quick succession. He has such wiggle that he is rarely tackled by the first defender, and he can hit holes with good burst and acceleration. He has great top end speed that enables him to get the edge and break off big plays. His vision is very good, and he doesn’t try to force runs outside like other speed backs do. Additionally, his cutback is exceptional in traffic and open space. He is a very good receiver, and can work out of the slot as well as out of the backfield. Because of his small stature, he can be a problem in pass protection. Wadley is an elite scat back who will excel on third downs and as a rotational runner.

B

9. Justin Jackson – Jackson is a jack of all trades but a master of none. He is technically sound in all aspects of the position, as he is a decent receiver, capable pass blocker, and can run both inside and outside. He is elusive running on both sides of the tackles, and can create a few extra yards for himself on some plays. He is mainly an outside runner, although his potential is limited by his average speed and acceleration, making him lacking as a major big play threat. He is especially adept at waiting for his blockers to make him running lanes instead of just trying to outrun them. His vision is otherwise average. He has very quick feet, although he is not great at making sharp cuts suddenly. However, he explodes out of his cuts after a few gather steps, which works effectively in open field situations. Additionally, he had an outstanding outing in the quickness drills and workouts at the combine. He is a solid player who has the potential to be a starter, but could be a serviceable backup.

B-/C+

10. Rashaad Penny – Although the top rusher in college football, Penny’s skillset is not as dominant as his stats make him seem. He is a prototypical running back in the modern NFL, with the size, speed, and receiving ability to be an every down runner. He is very fast and has decent burst, allowing him to get the edge and break big plays on outside runs. He has solid start-stop ability to help him change speeds and find open holes. Additionally, he has good patience at the line and ability to allow his holes to develop. He has good vision and is very good at finding creases, but he also misses as many cutback lanes as he sees. However, he does do a good job knowing when to bounce outside. Although he possesses some agility, his elusiveness is suspect and he is not great at making defenders miss in one-on-one situations. When he is at his top speed he can run smoothly through holes, but he is generally not very good at planting his feet and making sharp cuts. Despite his size and aggressiveness, he is not a great in short yardage situations due to his lack of balance. He is a good receiver out of the backfield and can play a little in the slot. He is also a capable pass blocker. Although he has the skills to be a good runner, the lack of ability to create plays by himself limits his upside.

B-/C+

11. Sony Michel – A smaller speed back, Michel is an unrefined runner who survives on his pure speed, something that is not a given at the NFL level. He is very explosive and plays at a very fast pace on all his runs. However, this seems to be his only gear, serving as a detriment to his overall talent. He has outstanding agility and a particularly effective jump cut, especially when he can get the edge. Although he typically has good vision, his excessive use of his speed causes him to miss holes or not allow them to develop. Additionally, he is not able to make his own plays as much as one would like to see out of such a big play runner, and seems to rely too much on good blocking. He is a slippery runner who is adept at getting lower and extending when he knows he is falling, but he possesses little power and doesn’t seem to be able to shake off many arm tackles. He has average receiving ability, but is a problem in pass protection. He has the potential to be a capable rotational back at the NFL level if he has good coaching.

C

 

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Belichick vs Brady

The greatest dynasty in sports history, the 21st century Patriots are the pinnacle of team sports, powered by most dominant player-coach combination ever. The mastermind of this dynasty, Bill Belichick, remains vastly underrated as the greatest coach in sports history.

Before I lose all of the Patriots fans who have read up until this point, I want to make it clear that Brady is the best quarterback to ever play. Additionally, I don’t want to hear any of the arguments that Brady and Belichick are only good together, because that takes away from the greatness of both of them.

But Brady is overrated. I said it.

He may be the greatest of all time, but he is not quite so dominant as many may be led to believe.

I want to start with this most recent season. At the beginning of the season, there was talk of 16-0. With the addition of Brandin Cooks, there were whispers that this was the most talented offense Brady had played with. By the end of the season, Brady had won MVP largely off the idea that he carried a deficient team to the Super Bowl.

That is absolutely ridiculous. Granted, Brady lost his favorite receiver in Julian Edelman, but Edelman is not enough to turn that offense from the best Brady has played with to a group that Brady has had to carry. Sure, the defense lost a key player in Dont’a Hightower, but they still were 5th in points allowed. This isn’t an anomaly. The Patriots haven’t had a defense finish worse than 11th in points allowed since 2005.

Just to reiterate, I do not deny that Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. However, I have a problem with the belief that he is head and shoulders above the competition. I also have a problem with giving Brady credit for much of what Belichick has earned.

For example, look at the last two Super Bowls in which Brady won MVP. Everyone remembers the Malcolm Butler interception, of course, but many people forget that Brady had two interceptions in that game. Brady deserves countless praise for going 13/15 in the fourth quarter – a feat that helped the Patriots comeback – but it can’t be forgotten how they got in that situation. Without that interception, Brady would not have been given Super Bowl MVP, he would have been seen as the quarterback who threw two costly picks in the most important game of the season. I don’t like dwelling on what-ifs, but I hate that a play that Brady had nothing to do with is still a credit to Brady. By the way, it was Belichick who signed and coached up the undrafted rookie who made that play.

The largest comeback in playoff history was influenced just as much by Belichick as the Super Bowl two years prior. While the offensive comeback was undeniably engineered by Brady, many tend to ignore the fact the the Patriots defense allowed zero points in the second half, giving Brady the chance to make the comeback. That defense was all Belichick. Furthermore, Brady nearly blew the comeback in one of the most exciting plays of the game. I’m talking about Edelman’s miracle catch. Not only should that throw have been intercepted, it was both a terrible decision and terrible throw by Brady. It was only sheer luck that it wasn’t picked off, much less completed.

This isn’t to say that Brady is not great, or that Belichick doesn’t make mistakes. This year’s Super Bowl proved quite the contrary. Sure, Brady missed a few throws, but he still played an amazing game. Although he lost the shootout, Brady played the game of his life and was let down by Belichick and the defense. The normally mistake free Patriots played sloppy football on defense and special teams, with the supporting players failing to overcome the moment. However, the blame ultimately lies with Belichick.

Not to delve too much into the unknown, but Robert Kraft seems to be ignoring these crucial points. While it isn’t certain what turmoil has occured within the Patriots organization, the trade of Garoppolo and retention of McDaniels seem to signify that Kraft has chosen Brady over Belichick. This is a mistake.

I recently heard some interesting tidbits from former Patriots receiver Andrew Hawkins. The whole Patriots environment was different from any other team he had played on. For example, when he first arrived with the Patriots, it wasn’t just coaches and players who helped him learn the playbook and techniques, but also the scouts. With the Browns he always knew he could finish his running first just because he was faster, but with the Patriots it wasn’t that easy because everyone ran like their lives depended on it.

I will give Tom Brady some credit for the environment, as he is a major leader on the team who allows himself to be the role model for the Patriot way. However, Belichick is the basis of the Patriots organization. Every single person in the Patriots organization is one the exact same page, from Tom Brady to the janitors. The reason the dynasty has lasted for 18 years is because of Belichick’s philosophy of team first, always. Next man up. Do your job. He makes every single player on his team better in a way that no coach in history was able to do. He makes the tough decisions that would normally destroy a franchise.

Every Patriots team is greater than the sum of their parts, and no one deserves anywhere close to the credit that Belichick does. He has created the ideal environment for the dynasty to last, with no egos to tear it down, his included. Brady is made to last too, with his Avocado ice cream and miracle diet, but he is a figurehead of Belichick’s system, not the other way around.

Belichick needs no one. He doesn’t need Brady to go 11-5, or Gronkowski to win a Super Bowl. Brady doesn’t need Belichick either, but the Patriots do, especially to continue their dynasty.

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Quarterbacks

Grading system:

A – Top tier

B – Starter

C – Backup

D – Practice Squad

Recent Prospect Grade Comparison: Andrew Luck, A+

1. Josh Rosen – Easily the most refined passer I’ve seen in the past few years, Rosen’s talent throwing the ball is undeniable. He has prolific accuracy passing on all three levels of the field, exhibiting excellent timing and the ability to throw his receivers open in tight windows. He has enough arm strength to make all the throws at an NFL level, and exceptional footwork in the pocket. He is highly regarded as one of the smartest quarterback prospects in recent years, showing the ability to fully absorb any playbook and make correct reads. A major knock on him was his ability to produce when a play breaks down, however his pocket movement when avoiding pressure is very smooth and subtle. He has outstanding footwork, a major contributor to his pinpoint accuracy. Many of his interceptions were due to either pressure or his trying to do too much, as he had relatively little help but was still able to elevate his team. However, there is still a major concern about his character that could end up as a problem. His outspoken personality, intelligence, and arrogance have caused problems, but that are also seen as a positive by some teams. He is a prototypical pocket passer with the skill set to step in and excel immediately.

Grade: A+/A

2. Baker Mayfield – One of the most controversial players in the draft, Mayfield is seen as a boom or bust prospect. Mayfield’s height is not a problem, as he should continue to be able to find good passing lanes and throw with timing and anticipation. Although he is seen by some as a primarily mobile quarterback, he displays the pocket presence to drive down the field with pinpoint accuracy. His biggest strength is how careful he is with the football, throwing accurate passes and limiting turnovers. While his footwork within the pocket is exceptionally sloppy when pressured, Mayfield plays at an extremely fast pace. His talent at playing both inside the pocket and on the move is special, as he makes plays constantly. His ability to extend plays should not be understated, and he is an extreme competitor. While he generally goes through his reads before starting to scramble, Mayfield sometimes panics and will take bad sacks. His ability to drop balls over defenders is amazing, and he is quick to find open players. Although he has had some on and off the field issues, he is a fiery leader who can rally his teammates very well. He also shows the clutch ability to finish games against tough opponents, although it is worrisome that his coach declined to put the game in his hands in overtime against Georgia. If paired with a coach that can correct his flaws, Mayfield can be a difference maker on the NFL level.

Grade: A

3. Sam Darnold – Seen by many as the safest quarterback prospect in the draft, Darnold is what you look for in a modern NFL quarterback. His playmaking ability and outstanding poise are highlights of his play, while his intangibles make him a great fit in any locker room. He has above average arm talent and mobility, while also showing the ability to make consistent accurate throws. He is at his best on the move and uses this to make splash plays down field. Additionally, his ability to make off platform throws is top tier, and he excels at maneuvering in the pocket. Darnold is far from a finished product, as tends to lock onto receivers at times, but he generally goes through his reads quickly and is outstanding at finding open areas of the field. He has a substantial fumble problem that is the result of failing to keep both hands on the ball, and his gunslinger mentality causes some interceptions on throws he believes he can make. However, he also completes a good deal of these throws. He has the temperament of an elite quarterback and is rarely shaken. He is an impeccable scrambler who has an aptitude for making plays in tough situations. He is extremely humble and has the team first mentality wanted in a franchise player.

Grade: A/A-

4. Luke Falk – One of the most accurate passers in college football, Falk’s style is reminiscent of Tom Brady. He goes through his reads extremely fluently and rarely locks onto targets or forces throws, although a lack of receiver talent failed him at times.  His pocket awareness is outstanding, and he is especially diligent in finding his checkdowns when the pocket starts to collapse. He is very accurate on short and intermediate rhythm throws, showing great timing and a quick release on such throws. However, his average arm strength limits his upside on deep balls, although he displays good accuracy on perimeter throws and seam routes. The lack of throwing velocity doesn’t seem to be a problem on short passes unless he is forced to throw off his back foot, at which time many of the balls are thrown away or thrown up to be picked off. However, his footwork and drop back is on par with the top quarterbacks. He is especially adept at dropping the ball over defenders and into tight windows. He has prototypical size for an NFL quarterback with average athleticism. Falk’s intangibles are what elevates his game; he has a great football IQ and can command an offense with audibles and pre-snap adjustments.

Grade: B+

5. Lamar Jackson – The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner is without a doubt one of the best athletes in the draft, but is still the ultimate boom or bust prospect. As a runner, Lamar Jackson is exceptional, displaying the elusiveness, speed, and toughness of a running back. His scrambling is very good due to his athletic ability, and he always poses a a threat to score when given an open running lane. Although he was able to avoid throwing many interceptions – a credit to his good decision making – his accuracy is a clear work in progress. Although Jackson can stay in the pocket and make throws, he usually takes off and runs at the smallest sign of pressure. His footwork in the pocket is also sloppy. Thus, one has to wonder about how hard he would be to gameplan against, especially with questions about his ability to read defenses. However, it is very rare that he is fully eliminated from games due to his athletic ability, and it is common for him to take over games. He has an incredibly strong arm, and can complete some good deep throws downfield. While he remains inconsistent as a threat throwing the ball, he is adept at finding his checkdowns quickly when needed. In the right system, he has the most upside of any quarterback in the draft, but he shouldn’t be mistaken for someone who can turn a franchise around immediately.

B+

6. Kyle Lauletta – A small school quarterback, Lauletta showed that he could play with higher competition with his outstanding play at the Senior Bowl. He is a bit on the smaller side, and plays very similar to how Case Keenum has played this past wyear. He is a good scrambler who throws very well on the run. As a runner, he is quick and surprisingly scrappy, often fighting through contact to gain extra yards. He displays good pocket awareness, however he tends to take off when forced out of the pocket rather than keeping his eyes downfield. Generally, Lauletta goes through his progressions well, and is adept at finding both his easy checkdowns and big plays in the defense’s gaps. He has very good short accuracy, although the occasional ball will sail or slip on him. He has a very good deep ball as well, although his arm strength is merely average. Due to this, he can sometimes get baited and the softer thrown balls can get picked off. However, he can also throw with anticipation, which minimizes the opportunities of defenders. He doesn’t make many mistakes, and can drive down the field with quick throws inside the numbers. He has solid leadership ability, and is often compared to Jimmy Garrapolo.

Grade: B+/B

7. Mason Rudolph – With prototypical size for an NFL quarterback, Mason Rudolph passes the eye test as a prospect. He has average athleticism but is able to use his size to his full advantage when running or maneuvering in the pocket. His poise in the pocket is outstanding, and he can deliver accurately while getting hit as long as he has a solid base. However, his short accuracy can be shaky if he is not comfortable and has not established a rhythm. He has the ability to sustain drives by leading his receivers and working his checkdowns. Additionally, he has very good intangibles and is able to work through his reads efficiently and make pre snap reads. Although his arm is reasonably strong, he tends to let balls hang a bit when throwing outside the numbers. However, he throws a beautiful deep ball with good air under it. His leadership abilities are shaky, but he could very well start without much development. Rudolph has a pretty good football IQ, regardless of the system that he played in. He lacks the elite physical traits of many of the other quarterbacks in this draft, but can step in and be solid.

Grade: B

8. Josh Allen, Wyoming – Widely considered more of a developmental prospect, many are intrigued by Josh Allen’s upside due to his physical attributes. He has outstanding arm strength, boasting the strongest arm in the draft. While this pairs with his size and speed to allow him to extend plays downfield, it also has become something that he tends to rely on. As such, he has numerous ill-advised throws and doesn’t play the game with the requisite decision making. As a result, he generally doesn’t go through his reads until he is forced out of the pocket, at which time he looks for the big play downfield. Although his incredible arm strength helps him complete a good amount of these passes, relying purely on arm strength will become a problem against NFL talent. Josh Allen is commonly compared to a young Ben Roethlisberger, an apt comparison when taking into account his penchant for throwing deep balls and scrambling. He is adept at working his checkdowns and completing sideline throws, the result of playing in a pro-style offense. However, many of his throws will sail and he struggles throwing accurately, making his floor as drastic as his upside. Additionally, he has struggled playing against upper tier competition.

Grade: B

 

9. Kurt Benkert – Coming from Virginia, Benkert became a somewhat popular sleeper prospect after a hot start to the season. Although he displays outstanding physical traits that would allow him to excel in the NFL, he lacks the ability to read the field. He has a very strong arm, but his accuracy is suspect. Benkert has the arm talent to compete with top tier college defenses when he is hot, particularly when throwing his beautiful deep balls. However, he has trouble completing short throws with consistency and seems unable to sustain drives. He has excellent pocket mobility, and is especially adept at finding creases in the pocket to escape sacks. He tends to rely on this too much at times, scrambling before the play even breaks down. Although he can make accurate big play throws while doing this, it is not something he should be doing so often. Adding to this, the system he played in only required him to make half field reads, something that is a major red flag. Benkert is a highly developmental prospect who could become a solid backup if taught the mental aspect of the game.

Grade: C

10. Mike White – Mike White is a potential sleeper due to his considerable arm strength, but is not prepared to be a starter at the NFL level. His arm strength contributes to his very good deep ball, which he can generally throw accurately and to the receiver in stride. He throws the ball with good spin and velocity on all his throws, and is good throwing into tight windows. He has limited progressions and is uneasy going through his reads. Additionally, he has good short and intermediate accuracy to go along with solid footwork. However, all of White’s positive traits are for naught when he faces any pressure whatsoever. He has bad awareness in the pocket and will fall apart under pressure. When faced with pressure or moved off his launch spot, his accuracy will worsen considerably and his movement will become panicked. With some upside due to his arm strength, White is not starter quality.

Grade: C-

 

 

 

Draft Analysis – NFC North

Chicago Bears

After an offseason in which the Bears loaded up on offensive talent, they continued that trend in the draft while also getting numerous defensive players. They selected a trio of explosive linebackers in the draft, starting with inside linebacker Roquan Smith in the first round. Smith was the perfect pick at eighth overall, as he is a leader and explosive playmaker. However, the selection of Joel Iyiegbuniwe was anything but a perfect pick, as the Bears reached to acquire the athletic linebacker. To complement the two inside linebackers, the Bears followed up with edge rusher Kylie Fitts in the sixth round. Fitts is highly injury prone, but he has the talent to become a force opposite Leonard Floyd. The second round provided the Bears with two offensive starters: James Daniels and Anthony Miller. The former is a dominant run blocker who can help solidify the interior of the offensive line, although his pass-blocking woes could prove problematic. The latter is a short but extremely talented wide receiver who is dominant both in the slot and on the outside – he should become the team’s WR2. In addition to the linebackers and offensive players, the Bears also drafted a solid backup in defensive tackle Billy Nicholls. All the players drafted – at the very least – fit the scheme well, while a few provide the team with a needed influx of talent at key positions.

A-

Detroit Lions

After years of relying on the strong arm of Matthew Stafford, the Lions may finally have found some semblance of a run game. In addition to being a dominant force in the run game, first round center and guard Frank Ragnow is an amazing player who can greatly bolster Matthew Stafford’s pass protection. The Lions also traded up in the second round to acquire running back Kerryon Johnson, a versatile power runner who can instantly improve the running game as an every down back. Late round tackle Tyrell Crosby is a good developmental prospect who can help the run game, particularly if he moves to guard. Meanwhile, the Lions also added some versatile high upside players on the defensive side of the ball: Tracy Walker and Da’Shawn Hand. Safety Tracy Walker was a bit of a reach in the third round, but the Lions have been known to draft their targets aggressively. While not quite an asset in the run game, Walker is an extremely talented and instinctual player in coverage, with the ability to get on the field at corner while developing at the safety position. Although he played as a two gap defensive end in college, Hand figures to be more of a defensive tackle for the Lions, as he lacks the edge rushing ability to play on the outside. However, he is a dominant run defender with a good deal of upside rushing from the inside. The first two picks are the strength of the class, while the later picks could develop into key pieces down the line.

B+

Green Bay Packers

The Packers have struggled to develop a stable cornerback rotation over the past few years, something that they tried to address with their first two picks. Cornerback Jaire Alexander struggled with injuries, but can otherwise serve as a consistently impactful lockdown corner opposite Kevin King. In a trade down and subsequent trade up for Alexander, the Packers were also able to acquire the Saints first round draft pick for next year. In the second round, the Packers stopped the slide of fellow cornerback Joshua Jackson. While a high risk upside corner in cover three schemes, Jackson’s talent should be wasted in the man heavy Packers scheme. The Packers continued to confront their defensive woes in the third round, although they surprisingly failed to address their pass rush. Instead, they drafted speedy cover linebacker Oren Burks, a nice compliment to tackle machine Blake Martinez. The Packers also drafted a trio of wide receivers in the later rounds, likely hoping one of them can emerge as a viable option. Two of the chosen wideouts are raw and risky talents with size and speed, while the earliest drafted – J’mon Moore – is a well rounded player who could provide good depth. While the Packers successfully filled their needs, it is highly possible that only Jaire Alexander will be an effective starter.

C

Minnesota Vikings

One of the most well rounded teams in the NFL, the Vikings entered the draft with few major needs. As such, they opted for the best player available strategy in the first round, selecting cornerback Mike Hughes. While Hughes projects as a solid starter rather than a transcendent player, he gives the Vikings depth at both the corner and nickelback positions. The Vikings also drafted for talent in the middle rounds, picking tight end Tyler Conklin in the fourth. A former basketball player, Conklin is big and strong with elite potential as a pass catcher. Additionally, defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes was picked a round later, a decent attempt by the Vikings to add some upside and versatility to their defensive line rotation. Although a solid unit as a whole, the Vikings still felt the need to upgrade the depth on the offensive line, selecting Brian O’Neill and Colby Gossett in the second and sixth rounds, respectively. The former – while highly flawed – is an athletic and talented swing tackle who also has potential at the guard position. Meanwhile, the latter is a solid run-blocking guard prospect with minimal upside. The Viking’s sole major need was addressed in the late fifth round with the selection of kicker Daniel Carlson, a consistent extra point kicker with the ability to hit field goals over fifty yards. The Vikings did a good job of not wasting any picks, as well as getting players who can fit on their roster.

C+

Draft Analysis – AFC West

Los Angeles Chargers

After being one of the unluckiest teams in the NFL for the past few years, the Chargers finally hit the jackpot with the selection of Derwin James. At one point rumored to be a top five pick, he fell to the seventeenth overall pick where the Chargers made the best pick of the draft. Safety was one of the few needs on an already dominant Chargers team, and James turned it into a strength. Linebacker was another need on the defensive side of the ball, although it is questionable whether there were better players available than second round pick Uchenna Nwosu. Nwosu provides versatility as a third pass rusher and explosive playmaker, but the pick was a bit of a reach considering he is a role player who can’t play on run heavy downs. However, the need at linebacker was filled later in the draft by Kyzir White, a talented safety/linebacker hybrid who should pair with Derwin James to give the defense additional versatility and toughness. He should be able to start immediately at outside linebacker given his ability to play in the slot or inside. The Chargers also attempted to address the need for depth at defensive tackle with Justin Jones, a questionable pick that lacks in upside. With the major needs addressed, the Chargers added depth on offense, drafting center Scott Quessenberry, receiver Dylan Cantrell, and running back Justin Jackson. All three have floors as backups with the upside of pushing for playing time. The addition of starters and depth made an already talented team even better.

B+

Oakland Raiders

In the first glimpse into what the Jon Gruden tenure might look like, the results were not as pretty as the Raiders had hoped. The selection of offensive tackles Kolton Miller and Brandon Parker in the first and third rounds, respectively, were questionable, especially given the fact that the team had more pressing needs on defense. Despite what many analysts think, Kolton Miller was hard to pass up on as a high upside prospect with the ability to play on both sides of the offensive line, although doubling down with Brandon Parker was a bad decision. The need for talent at linebacker and cornerback were not filled adequately in the early rounds, the only exception being backup level cornerback Nick Nelson in the fourth. The Raiders also took numerous swings at high upside defensive linemen, selecting PJ Hall, Maurice Hurst, and pass rusher Arden Key. PJ Hall was a huge reach in the second round, especially considering the vast quantity of more talented defensive linemen and cornerbacks available. Arden Key was considered to be one of the most talented and inconsistent pass rushers in the draft, so drafting him in the third round to pair with Khalil Mack could work out well. Maurice Hurst fell due to a major medical concern, but the fifth round is not too soon to take a chance on a potentially disruptive interior pass rusher. It is yet to be seen how many picks the Raiders hit on, but passing on talented players such as Tremaine Edmunds could come back to haunt them.

D+

Denver Broncos

After being prepared to trade away the fifth overall pick to the Bills, the Broncos decided not to pass up the opportunity to pair Bradley Chubb with Von Miller. Although Chubb was believed by many to be the best player in the draft, quarterback Josh Rosen may have looked like a better pick ten years from now; the Broncos have a number of young pass rushers on the roster, and Case Keenum is most likely not a long-term solution. With Demaryius Thomas and Emanuel Sanders in their early thirties, drafting similar players in Courtland Sutton and Daesean Hamilton was a slick move, even if their talent may be questionable. The Broncos did a good job addressing their other needs with talented players on both sides of the ball. Running back Royce Freeman is an every down player with similarities to Le’veon Bell, and he should win the starting job over Devontae Booker. Troy Fumagalli is a well rounded tight end with excellent hands who can provide the quarterback a safety blanket in the middle of the field. While not a tremendous athlete, Josey Jewell is an instinctual, old school linebacker who should eventually supplant Brandon Marshall. Meanwhile, Isaac Yiadom is a lengthy corner who can step in and fill the gap left by Aquib Talib’s departure. The Broncos may have had a few shaky picks, but the high level of talent added in the draft is undeniable and will eventually make up the nucleus of the team.

A-

Kansas City Chiefs

A year after trading up for Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs decided to focus on improving their much maligned defense. Defensive end Breeland Speaks was a bit of a reach in the second round, especially due to his inconsistent recklessness and lack of starting experience. However, he is an explosive player who has the disruptive playmaking ability to potentially become a dominant defensive end. Derrick Nnadi was a good pick in the third round, as he should be a capable starter at nose tackle. Fellow third round pick Dorian O’Daniel was less of a plug and play pick, as he is much more of a special teams player than a full-time starter. He lacks the size to hold up as an inside linebacker, but is not capable of rushing the passer effectively as an outside linebacker. The Chiefs also added a key secondary piece in the fourth round in Armani Watts, a huge playmaking safety. Although his lack of tackling skills are a major red flag, his ability to make plays in the box or in the slot makes him a huge asset for a Chiefs secondary that has a dearth of talent outside of Eric Berry. The Chiefs did a good job in addressing their needs on defense, adding a good combination of solid and high upside players.

C

Draft Analysis – AFC East

New York Jets

While all the hype surrounding the New York Jets draft class was due to Sam Darnold, they were able to land a number of other very good players as well. Sam Darnold was a perfect pick at third overall, particularly when considering the seemingly risky trade that was made to get there. Due to the trade-up to acquire Sam Darnold, the Jets next pick came in the third round, with the selection Nathan Shepherd. Although the Jets were not in need of a defensive tackle, Shepherd was a steal who will be a dominant interior presence for the Jets in the coming years. Shepherd was followed in the fourth round by tight end Chris Herndon, a talented player who fell due to injuries but could easily emerge as the starter. The draft class concluded with a trio of sixth round picks in Parry Nickerson, Folorunso Fatukasi, and Trenton Cannon. Parry Nickerson was an excellent pick, filling the need at cornerback with a player who can start and play at a high level. However, Fatukasi served as an attempt to imitate the defensive line depth of the Eagles, as the NFL is a league in which hallmarks of successful teams are copied even if it is out of context. Meanwhile, Cannon will only serve to provide unnecessary depth to the running back position, one that should have been addressed in the early rounds or not at all.

B

Buffalo Bills

In their draft room, the Bills knocked both their first round picks out of the park, giving up little to trade up and select quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. In reality, they missed badly on Josh Allen, as Josh Rosen was not only a significantly better prospect but also a better fit. While Rosen could have started immediately, there is not enough quarterback talent on the Bills roster to allow Allen to sit, a necessity for such a developmental quarterback. Edmunds is a high upside pick who could struggle early, but the presence of Sean McDermott could help him emerge as a star. They continued to improve on the defensive side of the ball with two very good picks at cornerback in Taron Johnson and Siran Neal, both of whom can tackle well. Johnson is an explosive cover corner in the slot who will compete for playing time early. Neal is a versatile playmaker who has the size and hitting ability to play safety or be physical in the slot. Additionally, defensive tackle Harrison Phillips was taken in the third round, an adequate replacement in the middle for Kyle Williams. However, they failed to address important offensive needs until late in the draft, and the players selected are likely to have minimal roles as backups. Although some quality players were added on defense, the pick of Josh Allen and the failure to seriously address the holes in the offense were a problem.

C-

Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins made their best and safest pick in the first round, selecting hybrid safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. A versatile playmaker in the secondary, Fitzpatrick will be able to help at safety opposite Reshad Jones and at slot cornerback, both positions of need. Additionally, the Dolphins attempted to shore up a longtime hole at tight end, taking both Mike Gesicki and Durham Smythe. While Smythe will only have a minor role as a blocking tight end, Gesicki is a consummate mismatch on the outside, perfect for the modern NFL. However, his complete lack on blocking talent could make him more of a receiver than a true tight end. The Dolphins further attempted to add playmakers to the offense by picking Kalen Ballage in the fourth round. Similar in some ways to current starter Kenyan Drake, Ballage is a taller runner with outstanding athletic abilities. Although he lacks experience to be an immediate contributor, he could carve out a sizable role for himself due to his athleticism. The Dolphins also tried to fix another major defensive need by drafting linebacker Jerome Baker, someone without the talent to be more than a backup. Especially after losing Ndamukong Suh, adding a player to the front seven was a necessity that the Dolphins failed to accomplish.

C

New England Patriots

The New England Patriots did an excellent job addressing their needs in the draft, as well utilizing a flurry of trades to acquire players and picks for next year. After the Titans jumped ahead of the Patriots to snag Rashaan Evans in the first round, the Patriots picked offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn. While many believe that Wynn will likely move from tackle to guard due to his size, he possesses the athleticism, power, and pass blocking to be effective at either tackle or guard. Wynn was a perfect pick for the Patriots, giving them a versatile and talented lineman that can impact the game from any offensive line position. The Patriots also drafted Wynn’s Georgia running back Sony Michel, a move that further demonstrates that the Patriots are hoping to run the ball more. However, a first round pick is a high price to pay, especially when considering the success that the Patriots have had with castaway running backs. As Michel lacks the talent to be better than the scheme he is in, the pick was a waste. After the collapse of the defense in the Super Bowl, the Patriots spent the following rounds trying to improve the defense with the selections of linebackers Ja’Whaun Bentley and Christian Sam. Both players fit the Patriots’ style, as they are more sound foot soldiers than flashy players. Additionally, cornerback Duke Dawson was picked in the second round, an amazing pick that many with disagree with. Dawson fell due to his small stature and natural fit in the slot, but he is a formidable tackler outstanding in man coverage all over the field. Another such player was the late round slot receiver Braxton Berrios, a typical Patriots receiver who should be able to fill in the void left by Danny Amendola. In classic Belichick fashion, the Patriots drafted to fit their style, while still acquiring underrated studs such as Isaiah Wynn and Duke Dawson.

B-

Draft Analysis – AFC South

Indianapolis Colts

Although many people expected the Colts to trade down a second time, they stuck with their pick and selected one of the best players in the draft in Quenton Nelson. They later solidified the offensive line with Braden Smith, a great pick that turned the offensive line from a weakness to a strength. While many think he would be better suited in the NFL as a guard, he displays the talent to be a high-caliber tackle. The rest of the second round was defensive oriented, picking Darius Leonard, Kemoko Turay, and Tyquan Lewis. Leonard should be an immediate starter and playmaker at linebacker, while Turay and Lewis are more unknowns. Lewis has interior versatility and Turay has upside off the edge, but both players could easily be busts. Daurice Fountain was a nice pickup late at receiver, but Deon Cain was an even better pick who could emerge as a number one receiver. Nyheim Hines was also a good pick as a versatile third down back, and Jordan Wilkins is high talent sleeper to emerge as the starting running back. Additionally, the defense was in dire need of more starting caliber players, although the whole roster was in need of talent.

B+

Tennessee Titans

The Titans only had four draft picks the whole draft, but they made the most of them by targeting great players. Although they had to trade up for both Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry, both were excellent decisions. The Titans likely stole Evans from the Patriots, while Landry lasted much longer than expected. Evans will be an anchor in the middle of the defense while also providing the ability to play in coverage and rush the passer. Landry should also be able to rack up sacks in a scheme that will allow him to focus purely on rushing the passer. Dane Cruikshank and Luke Falk on day three were both luxury picks for a roster loaded with talent. Cruikshank has the raw size, speed, and football intelligence to succeed, and can sit behind the Titans safeties to develop. Falk was a potential day two pick who slid all the way to the fifth round, and he has the ability to be a high level starter if Mariota gets hurt. Questions about his arm talent caused him to slide, but he will be a high level backup at worst for good value.

A

Jacksonville Jaguars

Outside of a questionable quarterback situation, the Jaguars had only a few needs that they needed to resolve going into the draft. They knocked their first pick out of the park, taking the best player available and a perfect fit. The Eagles showed that a team can never have too many playmakers on the defensive line, and Taven Bryan is a game-wrecker. However, Lamar Jackson was still available, regardless of the Jaguar’s commitment to Blake Bortles. Their next pick was much more shaky, as DJ Chark was a feeble attempt to fix a need, even though he is a good fit in the offense. The Jaguars were in dire need of a possession or jump ball receiver, not another deep threat such as Chark. Projected by some to go as high as the first round, Ronnie Harrison was a good value pick who can be an important piece as an eventual starter. Will Richardson had some off the field issues in college, but showed great potential at both the right tackle and guard positions. The Jaguars got a number of good players, although none of them were in the major positions of need.

C+

Houston Texans

Trading up to acquire Deshaun Watson seems to have been a great move, but it still left the Texans making their first selection in the third round. Justin Reid fell much farther than expected, although his lack of explosive talent prevented the pick from being a steal. There were better players available at positions of need and at safety, and Reid will likely be relegated to backup duties due to a combination of established starters and his lack of talent. However, the creative usage of Tyrann Mathieu could allow him to get playing time. The Texans also had a trio of solid picks on the offensive side of the ball, selecting Martinas Rankin, Jordan Akins, and Keke Coutee in the middle rounds. Rankins should help stabilize the offensive line, as he is a versatile lineman with the ability to be a starter or high end backup. Akins fills a need at tight end, but there were a number of better tight end prospects available. Coutee is an elusive playmaker in the slot, something the Texans have been looking for since the Braxton Miller experiment failed. Meanwhile, snagging Duke Ejiofor in the sixth round was an absolute steal, and he can help give the Texans a dominant rotation of pass rushers that can rival that of the Eagles.

C

Draft Analysis – NFC North

Cleveland Browns

Surprising many in the NFL world by with their first-round selections of Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward, the Browns trusted themselves and made the perfect picks. While many believed that those picks should have been Sam Darnold and Bradley Chubb, Mayfield and Ward were better fits. Mayfield has the swagger and talent to turn around the franchise and Ward is a hometown player who fills a big need. The early day two pick of Austin Corbett and Nick Chubb were questionable based on need, but Chubb is a talented player who fits the gritty locker room that Dorsey is trying to build. Corbett, however, was a pick that fails to deal with Joe Thomas’ retirement and was a big reach with Will Hernandez still on the board. The Browns took major gambles in the third and fourth rounds, drafting Chad Thomas and Antonio Callaway, respectively. These picks should pay off, as Thomas has tremendous upside and Callaway could have been the first wideout off the board if not for his numerous run-ins with the law. Of course, much of the quality of this Browns draft class will depend on the success of Baker Mayfield, but they picked up enough high caliber players for it to be considered a success.

B+

Pittsburgh Steelers

Terrell Edmunds in the first round was an unexpected reach, even though he has some upside due to his versatility. James Washington was a similarly bad pick, as he lacks the talent to perform at the level that will be expected of him. However, they were able to snag Mason Rudolph as the heir behind Roethlisberger, a steal in the third round. There is the upside that Washington and Rudolph could eventually become the deep threats they were in college. Additionally, third round tackle Chuks Okorafor is a talented but raw player who they have the depth to develop. After a rough start to the draft, the Steelers were able to snag some solid late round prospects, with Jaylen Samuels and Marcus Allen in the fifth round. Samuels should be an immediate contributor as a versatile chess piece in their offense, while Allen is a physical box safety that can be an interior enforcer. This was a pretty average draft, as the few blown picks in the early rounds were countered by some good ones on days two and three.

C-

Cincinnati Bengals

An absolutely outstanding all-around draft for the Bengals, they acquired a starter or impact player with nearly every pick. The had big needs at both the interior offensive line and safety, both of which were filled with the first two picks. Billy Price was arguably the best center in the draft before his combine pectoral injury, and Jesse Bates was one of the best pure ballhawking free safeties in the draft. The Bengals followed those picks up with back-to-back studs in the third round, as Sam Hubbard was a borderline first rounder with amazing talent and athleticism. Meanwhile, Malik Jefferson is an athletic hitter similar to the suspended Vontaze Burfict – minus the issues. They later doubled down at the cornerback position in the fifth round, drafting Devontae Harris and Darius Phillips. The former is an aggressive player with the size, ball production, and tackling skills that teams cover; the later is an elusive former reciever with great ball skills and cover talent. In addition to strengthening the defense, the Bengals also added a trio of good role players on the offensive side of the ball. Logan Woodside should serve as an AJ McCarron type backup, while Auden Tate is a slow but effective redzone threat. However, the best pick of the three was runner Mark Walton, an every down back who only slid because of his size and injury history.

A+

Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens went about the draft with an interesting attempt to draft both the best player available, somewhat ignoring their big needs and focusing on the smaller ones. Hayden Hurst and Mark Andrews were solid picks, as they supply Joe Flacco with safety blankets that can also stabilize the run game. Trading back into the first round for Lamar Jackson was a good move, although shaping an offense around him will take change and time. Taking the raw Orlando Brown in the third round was a risky pick, but his status as a legacy could be of help in his development. The drafting of two late round receivers in Jordan Lasley and Jahleel Scott seemed a bit forced, as it was a need that should have been filled earlier. Meanwhile, the Ravens continued a trend of drafting Alabama defenders, with cornerback Anthony Averett going in the fourth round. While a good pick, his superior partner in Levi Wallace was still available. Similarly to the Steelers, the Ravens had their best pick late, taking DeShon Elliott off the board in the sixth round. He should be able to fill right in as a Pro Bowl caliber free safety when Eric Weddle retires. Lamar Jackson is the wildcard in this scenario, but for now, it is merely a draft class with a few solid role players.

C

2 Round Mock Draft – 2018 1.0

Round 1

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold

 

2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley

 

3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield

 

4. Trade: Buffalo Bills (via Cleveland) – Josh Allen

 

5. Trade: Arizona Cardinals (via Denver) – Josh Rosen

 

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb

 

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James

 

8. Chicago Bears – Quenton Nelson

 

9. Trade: Cleveland Browns (via San Francisco) – Denzel Ward

 

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith

 

11. Miami Dolphins – Tremaine Edmunds

 

12. Trade: San Francisco 49ers (via Cleveland) – Minkah Fitzpatrick

 

13. Washington Redskins – Vita Vea

 

14. Green Bay Packers – Marcus Davenport

 

15. Trade: Denver Broncos (via Arizona) – Mike McGlinchey

 

16. Baltimore Ravens – DJ Moore

 

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne

 

18. Seattle Seahawks – Will Hernandez

 

19. Dallas Cowboys – Courtland Sutton

 

20. Detroit Lions – Taven Bryan

 

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Frank Ragnow

 

22. Cleveland Browns (via Buffalo) – Kolton Miller

 

23. New England Patriots – Rashaan Evans

 

24. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander

 

25. Tennessee Titans – Harold Landry

 

26. Atlanta Falcons – Calvin Ridley

 

27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert

 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Lamar Jackson

 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Hayden Hurst

 

30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn

 

31. New England Patriots – Connor Williams

 

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Leighton Vander Esch

 

Round 2

33. Cleveland Browns – Harrison Phillips

 

34. New York Giants – Darius Leonard

 

35. San Francisco 49ers (via Browns) – Joshua Jackson

 

36. Indianapolis Colts – Sony Michel

 

37. Indianapolis Colts – Sam Hubbard

 

38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derrius Guice

 

39. Chicago Bears – Lorenzo Carter

 

40. Denver Broncos – Malik Jefferson

 

41. Oakland Raiders – Isaiah Oliver

 

42. Miami Dolphins – Maurice Hurst

 

43. New England Patriots – Mike Hughes

 

44. Washington Redskins – Nick Chubb

 

45. Green Bay Packers – Anthony Miller

 

46. Cincinnati Bengals – Justin Reid

 

47. Denver Broncos (via Arizona) – Mike Gesicki

 

48. Los Angeles Chargers – Mason Rudolph

 

49. Indianapolis Colts – Dante Pettis

 

50. Dallas Cowboys – Jessie Bates

 

51. Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson

 

52. Baltimore Ravens – Orlando Brown

 

53. Buffalo Bills – James Daniels

 

54. Kansas City Chiefs – Carlton Davis

 

55. Carolina Panthers – Arden Key

 

56. Buffalo Bills – James Washington

 

57. Tennessee Titans – Micah Kiser

 

58. Atlanta Falcons – Derrick Nnadi

 

59. San Francisco 49ers – Michael Gallup

 

60. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ronnie Harrison

 

61. Jacksonville Jaguars – Donte Jackson

 

62. Minnesota Vikings – Duke Ejiofor

 

63. New England Patriots – Kyle Lauletta

 

64. Cleveland Browns – DeShon Elliott