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+

1 Round Mock Draft – 2018 2.0

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold

The Browns opt against any surprises, taking the safe, blue-collar player to be their quarterback of the future.

2. Trade: Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen

In this prediction, the Bills jump the Jets to get the player they want, choosing the potential laden Allen over the top remaining quarterback prospects.

3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield

With Allen gone and Rosen and Mayfield to choose from, the Jets decide on the latter and hope his fire will help the defensive oriented locker room culture.

4. Cleveland Browns – Saquon Barkley

The consensus player in the draft, Barkley is just too good for the Browns to pass up on at this position, regardless of the Carlos Hyde signing.

5. Denver Broncos – Quenton Nelson

Believed by most to be the next best player after Barkley, the Broncos take the best player available approach that also happens to be at a position of need.

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb

Even after trading down, the Colts get their man, snagging a pass rushing stud that can fill a hole in their porous defense.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Derwin James

With a need at safety, the Bucs surprise the football world by taking James over Fitzpatrick in a move that signals a dynamic change in culture.

8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds

An extremely raw player with high upside, Edmunds joins a talented young defense that can develop together into a top tier unit.

9. San Francisco 49ers – Denzel Ward

After signing Richard Sherman, the 49ers look to shore up the other side of the field with an elite athlete and cornerback prospect.

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith

A match that has now been predicted for months, the Raiders pick a speedy sideline to sideline linebacker to help out Khalil Mack on defense.

11. Miami Dolphins – Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Dolphins pounce on the versatile Fitzpatrick after a surprising slide, getting a versatile player for a team that sorely lacks playmakers on the back end.

12. Trade: New York Giants – Marcus Davenport

There were rumors that the Giants would want Chubb after trading away Pierre-Paul, but they instead go for the next pass rusher on their board after trading down.

13. Washington Redskins – Vita Vea

Vea is one of the best nose tackle prospects in recent years, the perfect pick for a team that runs a 3-4 defense.

14. Green Bay Packers – Mike Hughes

With Denzel Ward gone, the Packers pick Hughes over Josh Jackson or Jaire Alexander, in large part because he fits what they want to do.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Josh Rosen

Whether due to the personality rumors or just personal preference, Josh Rosen remains the odd man out, allowing the Cardinals to get a steal.

16. Baltimore Ravens – DJ Moore

Many people assumed that the Ravens would be a lock to take Calvin Ridley, but Moore’s combine causes him to overtake Ridley as the draft’s top wideout.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne

The Chargers already boast a formidable secondary and one of the leagues best pass rushing tandems, paving the way for them to get an interior threat.

18. Seattle Seahawks –  Will Hernandez

With quality cornerbacks and running backs available in the later rounds, the Seahawks get an immediate mauler in the run game.

19. Dallas Cowboys – Calvin Ridley

The news that Dez will try to get better this year is not particularly gratifying, and Dak needs a safe and consistent pass catcher on the perimeter or in the slot.

20. Detroit Lions – Taven Bryan

Although running back is obviously a huge need, the Lions get a dynamic playmaker on the interior and hope they can get a running back next round.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Isaiah Wynn

The Bengals have holes up and down the offensive line, and Wynn has the versatility to be a starter at most of those positions.

22. Trade: New York Giants – Billy Price

Price’s injury at the combine didn’t effect his stock too much, as the Giants are in need of a versatile and technically sound interior lineman.

23. New England Patriots – Rashaan Evans

It is clear that the Patriots sorely lack playmakers on the front seven, something that can be remedied by the versatile Evans who can both cover and rush the passer.

24. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander

Ever since the loss of Josh Norman, the Panthers have yet to acquire a quality starting cornerback. Alexander is a playmaker both outside and in the slot.

25. Tennessee Titans – Harold Landry

A perfect matchup, the Titans take a skilled pass rusher to help Jurell Casey to chase down opposing quarterbacks.

26. Atlanta Falcons – Christian Kirk

After a disappointing season from Julio Jones, the Falcons need a reliable weapon to provide Matt Ryan with a safety net.

27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert

While a young and emerging team, the Saints have been lacking a receiving threat at tight end since Jimmy Graham left.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Lamar Jackson

Although the Steelers have numerous needs on the defensive side of the ball, Lamar Jackson would be able to reach his dynamic potential with Big Ben as his mentor and Tomlin as his coach.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Hayden Hurst

The Jaguars are in need of an athletic playmaker, and Hurst fits the mold as a fast and refined tight end.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Mike McGlinchey

Kirk Cousins’ contract is fully guaranteed regardless of injury, so protecting him is an absolute must for the Vikings.

31. New England Patriots – Connor Williams

Jimmy Garoppolo’s departure makes Tom Brady’s health vital, and Connor Williams can fill the gap left by Nate Solder.

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Leighton Vander Esch

One of the few teams without any major holes, the Eagles could still use an athletic linebacker to cover the middle of the field.

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-

 

 

 

 

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-

Offseason – Part 2

Free agency has begun. After a flurry of trades to open the offseason, the time has finally come for teams to start using their free agency money. Funnily enough, the two teams with the most cap room – the Colts and Browns – have barely spent in free agency thus far. The Browns made some big trades in the weeks prior, though, which makes their lack of involvement understandable. In the meantime, the Jets decided to take action with the 3rd most cap space, signing multiple big name free agents such as Avery Williamson, Isaiah Crowell, and Trumaine Johnson.

Big News

Kirk Cousins Contract

Those expecting Cousins to set the quarterback market were right, but the way he did so was unexpected. His 3 year $86 million contract leads the NFL in yearly average by a small margin, but it is the fully guaranteed nature of the contract that is unprecedented. Instead of potentially signing for over $30 million a year with the Jets, Cousins opted for a smaller sum and the chance to win a championship. The Vikings have one of the best rosters in the league and are Super Bowl or bust, so there is a lot of pressure on Cousins to succeed. This team will have bunch of young players to pay in the near future, something that could be a problem with Cousins’ astronomical cap number. Of course, the Vikings will care a lot less about these problems if they win a Super Bowl.

Chiefs Sign Watkins

In a stunning move, the Chiefs have signed Sammy Watkins to a 3 year deal for $16 million each year. The Chiefs were not expected to be in the market for either a wideout or big money player, but they acquired both in Watkins. While the intention to surround a young big play quarterback with young big play receivers was good, it is doubtful that the reality will end up as good as the theory. As a player, Watkins has struggled with injuries and hasn’t lived up to his potential on either of his two former teams. Even if he emerges as a true number one receiver, it’s a lot of money to pay by a team that is already flush with playmakers on offense. The defense, not so much. Perhaps the Chiefs are thinking long term, trying to develop Mahomes before competing for a championship. If defense wins championships, this move won’t get the Chiefs any closer.

Robinson to Chicago

Although pegged by many to go to the 49ers, the Bears struck first, signing Robinson to a 3 year contract worth $42 million. An excellent deal, the Bears signed a proven number one receiver to a below average deal for such players. It seems the Bears are trying to imitate what the Eagles and Rams each did last year by surrounding their second year quarterback with weapons to help him. The Bears are quietly building an extremely talented offense to go with an underrated defense, although Trubisky’s improvement will most likely mean more to the team than a few extra wins. However, improvement similar to that of Goff and Wentz is not imminent, as both of them were much more talented than Trubisky. The Bears are doing an excellent job building around their quarterback for his development, but for that to work, the quarterback needs to have the tools in the first place.

Aaron Rodgers’ Weapons Exchange

In an attempt to give Rodgers some help, the Packers released Jordy Nelson. This is not as crazy as it sounds, as the move freed up cap space that allowed the Packers to sign Jimmy Graham. However, it was still a questionable move for a variety of reasons. Releasing a player this close to the start of free agency is generally seen as a dirty move, especially when the player has been such an integral part of the organization for as long as Nelson has. Additionally, swapping out one aging veteran for another with a more limited skill set does not seem like a particularly smart move, even when the large sum of $2 million in cap space is saved. While former Packers GM Ted Thompson was a proponent of promoting internally, new GM Brian Gutekunst seems to be a proponent of making splashy moves to please the fans.

Vikings Ex-Quarterbacks

On the same day that the Vikings won the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, all three of their former quarterbacks were scooped up. Teddy Bridgewater signed a one year prove-it deal with the Jets for $15 million, putting them in a very weird position. Although career backup Josh McCown is the presumed starter, Bridgewater is a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback coming off an injury, and the Jets still have the chance to draft a rookie quarterback. Josh McCown is known to be a good teacher, so the Jets seem to be banking on his helping develop at least one future starter for them. Meanwhile, the Broncos acquired Case Keenum for a sub-$20 million deal, putting them in a position to make a playoff run. Interestingly enough, Keenum’s low price tag and the Broncos early pick still makes them a candidate to draft a raw quarterback with a huge arm and experience in a pro-style offense. Unlike the intelligent moves made by the Broncos and Jets, the Cardinals did a bit of desperation shopping, signing Sam Bradford to a one year $20 million deal with an option the following year for the same price. While Bradford is a capable starter, he is not the future of the franchise.

Patriot Reunion in Tennessee

Months after hiring former Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel as Head Coach, the Titans signed Dion Lewis and Malcolm Butler. Cornerback was a need for the Titans, and signing a proven number one cornerback to a five year $61 million contract is a smart move. He is a good fit in their aggressive man to man defense, and will be playing across from former Patriots teammate Logan Ryan. While I am not sold on Butler as a top ten corner, teams always overpay in free agency. Speaking of overpaying, the 49ers signed Jerrick McKinnon for $7.5 million a year while the Titans got Dion Lewis for only around $6 million per year. While the McKinnon deal was horrible for a multitude of reasons, Lewis fits perfectly with the Titans offense as a lightning to Henry’s thunder, giving them a much more cost efficient backfield than in the past. Although they are in a loaded AFC South division, the Titans are making the right moves on both sides of the ball to spark a playoff run.

Under the Radar Moves

Brees Stays

Drew Brees will remain in New Orleans. Although everyone involved was certain that a deal would get done, it still comes as a relief to know that it’s official. This move was necessary for a Saints team with Super Bowl aspirations, particularly as they lack a successor to Brees. The deal itself was pretty straightforward, with $50 million over two years and $27 million guaranteed. While Brees is now among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league, it is obvious that he took a discount to stay with the Saints. In reality, the contract is only guaranteed the first year, signaling that both parties intend to take it year by year. Even with Brees playing at such a high level, drafting a quarterback in this year’s draft has to be a priority for the Saints, particularly with such a young and talented roster.

Bills Move Up

While the Tyrod Taylor trade confirmed that the Bills would be in the market for a quarterback, this trade shows how serious they are. In exchange for the 12th overall pick, the Bengals received the 21st overall pick and Bills’ starting left tackle Cordy Glenn. Late round picks were also swapped. The Bills have put themselves in a precarious position, as they are just outside the sweet spot to nab one of the top quarterbacks. There is definitely a chance that one of the top quarterbacks will fall to them, but with so many teams in the market for a young quarterback it is unlikely to happen. It is assumed that the Bills are looking to trade up again, but I doubt they will be able to do so until draft night. There is a clear drop-off in talent after the elite prospects, and not many teams would be willing to trade down from the top ten without more compensation than the Bills are willing to part with.

Solder to Giants

After trading for linebacker Alec Ogletree, the Giants have shored up another hole by signing former Patriot left tackle Nate Solder to a 4 year $62 million contract. Offensive line has been a major issue for the Giants for quite some time, even with the amount of draft capital spent on the position. After the Giants brass affirmed their belief in Eli Manning, it looks like their best option with the second overall pick is Saquon Barkley. The Solder signing is mostly important for Eli, and it looks like the Giants are going to push for a playoff spot rather than rebuild.

1 Round Mock Draft – 2018 1.0

1. Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold

While Josh Allen could also be drafted here, the Browns instead go for the safest quarterback prospect in the draft.

2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley

Barkley is the best player at the biggest position of need, especially after the Giants’ brass reaffirmed their support for Eli.

3. New York Jets – Josh Rosen

One of the best pure throwers in recent years, the Jets nab their future after trading up a few picks.

4. Cleveland Browns – Minkah Fitzpatrick

The Browns are in need of a leader on the defensive side of the ball, as well as major help in the secondary.

5. Denver Broncos – Quenton Nelson

After signing Case Keenum, the Broncos address their biggest need with one of the best interior offensive line prospects in the past few years.

6. Indianapolis Colts – Bradley Chubb

Even after trading down, the Colts are still able to shore up their defense with the top pass rusher on most teams’ draft boards.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Marcus Davenport

The Buccaneers have been rumored to love Davenport’s skill set and upside, even though this seems a bit early for him.

8. Chicago Bears – Tremaine Edmunds

The Bears focused on offense in free agency and could use an athletic linebacker in the middle of the field.

9. San Francisco 49ers – Derwin James

One of the most hyped safeties in the draft, John Lynch gets a tone-setter to anchor the defense for years.

10. Oakland Raiders – Roquan Smith

The Raiders are in desperate need of an inside linebacker that can run from sideline to sideline, and Smith fits the bill perfectly.

11. Miami Dolphins – Vita Vea

After cutting Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins decide to stick with Tannehill at quarterback and instead gain a monster in the middle.

12. Buffalo Bills – Josh Allen

In this situation, the Bills stand pat and get a high upside quarterback to groom behind recent signing AJ McCarron.

13. Washington Redskins – Derrius Guice

Although the Redskins could go in many directions here, they pick the consensus #2 running back in the draft to solidify the offense.

14. Green Bay Packers – Denzel Ward

With a seemingly constant need at cornerback, the Packers draft the most explosive and best player available.

15. Arizona Cardinals – Baker Mayfield

Even after signing Bradford to a large one year contract, the Cardinals elect to draft a young player to pair with David Johnson.

16. Baltimore Ravens – Calvin Ridley

The Ravens have been lacking at the receiver position since their 2013 Super Bowl run, and Newsome is know to like Alabama players.

17. Los Angeles Chargers – Da’Ron Payne

With a young and explosive roster on both sides of the ball, the Chargers fill one of their few holes with a top tier player.

18. Seattle Seahawks – Carlton Davis

The Seahawks do have major needs on the offensive line, but Richard Sherman’s departure leaves a hole in the secondary.

19. Dallas Cowboys – Taven Bryan

The Dez question still lingers over the Cowboys, but they need an athletic player on the interior defensive line.

20. Detroit Lions – Kerryon Johnson

The Lions haven’t had a 100 yard rusher since 2013, and are perhaps a running back away from contention.

21. Cincinnati Bengals – Will Hernandez

After trading down a few picks to solidify the left tackle position, the Bengals continue to revamp the offensive line.

22. Buffalo Bills – Courtland Sutton

As much as the Bills hated Tyrod Taylor, they can’t deny that they were lacking a true number one wideout.

23. Los Angeles Rams – Rashaan Evans

With a newly loaded secondary and the loss of Alec Ogletree, the Rams need a versatile inside linebacker like Evans.

24. Carolina Panthers – Christian Kirk

The Panther could go in many directions here, but the front office seems determined to give Cam weapons in the passing game.

25. Tennessee Titans – Harold Landry

One of the best pure pass rushers in the draft, Landry is a perfect fit to pair with Jurrell Casey off the edge.

26. Atlanta Falcons – Jesse Bates

Although sometimes forgotten, the Falcons have a top tier roster lacking only a playmaking free safety.

27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert

After striking out on bringing back Jimmy Graham, the Saints finally decide to invest in a target for their quarterback.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Ronnie Harrison

This pick largely depends on the situations of Bell and Shazier, but in this instance the Steelers take a talented box safety out of an elite defensive school.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Josey Jewell

The loss of longtime linebacker Paul Posluszny is a big hit to the defense, so the Jaguars draft a similar player to replace him.

30. Minnesota Vikings – Isaiah Wynn

The Vikings have an outstanding roster that only got better after signing Kirk Cousins, but they need to make sure he is protected.

31. New England Patriots – Mike McGlinchey

The loss of both their starting tackles hurts, but McGlinchey would do a lot in the way of helping the Patriots recover.

32. Philadelphia Eagles – Kolton Miller

The defending champions have a complete roster with very little needs, so they take their future left tackle instead of reaching on a linebacker.

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-