We have spent a lot of time talking about the NFL draft, handing out grades and pointing out steals from that weekend. With that being said, even after 254 picks there still was a lot of talent left out there and some prospects, who I had rated pretty high, never heard their names called on those three days. Instead they are now entering some team’s practice squad, looking to prove themselves and carve out a role. These ten names I think have the talent and/or are in a situation where they could contribute early on and be valuable pieces for their respective franchise. Every year there are some undrafted free agents I see making an early impact, who actually end up doing so – Phillip Lindsay and J.C. Jackson in 2018 for example.
Another draft is in the books and once again there are all these grades being handed out and experts criticizing what teams did. While I don’t think you can properly evaluate prospects until they turn into actual player on the field and even then it takes some time, I do believe we can look at how these teams stuck with the principle of “best player available”, if they reached to fill needs and how their draft picks could help them out going forward. Not only that, we can also look at specific players or coaches and how these selections will impact them directly. Therefore, I listed my biggest winners, losers, steals and reaches from draft weekend, considering the information we have at this moment and the rankings I had put together.
I have now done all my positional draft rankings, given in-depth analysis of about 150 prospects and put together my top 100 big board. Now it is time for my one and only mock draft of the year. I don’t like doing more than one since it’s all speculation and listening to reports, rather than actually being able to evaluate talent and where these young men should be selected. It is almost impossible to predict draft day trades and there could still be a major chess piece ruling the first round – where will Josh Rosen end up if the Cardinals do go quarterback at number one? Regardless, I tried to predict So to clear this up – This is what I think will happen, not necessarily what I would do.
After watching hundreds over hundreds of hours of film, putting together positional rankings and comparing them to each other, I have finalized my big board for this upcoming draft. Obviously this will look different for each individual team because of scheme fit, needs, etc., but for me I just went with who I think are the top 100 prospects available. This is clearly a defensive draft with 10 of my first 14 players on that side of the ball, but I also think there are several offensive linemen worth being selected within the first two days, especially since it’s a rather thin group beyond that, and while some might argue there is not a lot of talent at the skill positions, I think there could be a run on wide receivers on Friday, since I have eight of them with a second-round grade.
Just to set the table here, unlike my positional rankings this list takes injuries and other concerns into consideration. That is why a guy like Jeffery Simmons from Mississippi State isn’t somewhere around the top ten.
We have finally reached the last and most discussed position to analyze in this upcoming draft – the quarterbacks. Obviously I have spent several hundreds of hours purely on watching film from all these prospects I have already talked about, but with these signal-callers I had to invest even more time. Every year the quarterbacks are the hardest to fully evaluate because not only do you have to consider athletic ability, arm talent and work within the system, but you also have to understand the offensive play-calling, the opposing defense’s scheme, how these guys have to work through progressions and how all of that will translate to the next level. Moreover, this will be the face of your franchise and there are certain leadership and work ethic qualities that are necessary for somebody to succeed.
This group of quarterbacks certainly doesn’t have the same type of high-end quality at the top as last year’s did with four guys within the first ten picks and another one with the final selection of day one, but I think this group has gotten a bad rep by many. While a couple of guys are receiving way too much hype in my opinion, I think there are two hands-down first rounders, seven guys worth being drafted within the first two days, three talented developmental prospects to round out my top ten and a couple of quality backups beyond that.
We have reached the final defensive position for the upcoming draft – the safeties. In today’s NFL there is a multitude of players with the same name-tag, but completely different roles. You have true seam-controlling free safeties, the counterpart in-the-box strong safeties, two-high players, guys who play the big nickel and so much more. They can be utilized in one certain role or play multiple ones in one scheme. Some teams may only have one actual safety on the field at times, while others may use four to fit certain game-plans (see Chargers vs. Ravens in the Wildcard Round). So when I put all these prospects in one hat, I don’t feel like doing them a disservice, because there would be way too many ways to differentiate between them and a lot of times, they can fit several roles.
I already said it on my Instagram account – Man, is this safety class fun to watch! When I first went on to the tape to specifically analyze what is available at the position, I didn’t think there was a lot of special talents, especially with some of guys I liked a year ago falling off a little, but there are some absolute ballers in this group. My number one guy should definitely be selected in the first round in my opinion and the second guy is largely regarded as the top safety prospect available. After that there are several guys, who I really enjoyed watching and I think could be long-time playmakers in the NFL. The first nine names I will mention here should all crack the top 100.
We are finishing up the offensive skill positions with the tight-ends this week, before putting out the final edition of my positional rankings in the middle of next week – the quarterbacks. Tight-ends have become much more prominent these last few years, basically ever since Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham burst onto the scene. While Gronk was a tremendous blocker and was at his best putting hands on people in the run-game during the Patriots’ latest Super Bowl run, Graham represents more of the modern version of the position. A lot of teams are looking for that big-bodied slot receiver and with all the spread offenses in college, that’s what the draft provides us with. While I think the top guy on my list is more a throwback tight-end who can do it all, the rest of my top five is filled with prospects, who intrigue scouts mainly of their receiving abilities.
So how good is this class? Well, I think we have one of the top ten overall players available among this group, because he is a blue-chip guy who can fit any scheme and run any play for you. The next four prospects are mainly pass-catchers, who might show some upside as blockers. My number two guy should be a lock for the top 20, number three should sneak in somewhere in the late first round and the fourth guy could easily end up being a top 50 pick. I completely disagree with pretty much everybody when it comes to my fifth player and I think number six has lot of potential, but I don’t see anybody else is worth a selection ahead of day three.
After talking about the best wide receivers available on Tuesday, we shift back to the guys covering them – the cornerbacks. When you look at that position, the scheme fit definitely matters more than at some other positions. I tend to differentiate between four different groups – the long press-bail / cover-three types you want in those Seattle-based schemes that so many teams run nowadays, true man-to-man corners, those in two-high safety shells who play a lot of quarters and flats as well supporting the run and nickelbacks lining up in the slot. Obviously you would love to have guys who can do all of those things, but those are extremely rare and I don’t see anybody in this class capable of all those roles.
I think this class of cornerbacks is a very deep one. There are only three, who I think are definitely worth a first-round pick, but there’s several fringe prospects and I think all ten names that I will present here should at least be off the board within the first two days of the draft. I think speed is a big concern with a lot of the guys of this group, but one thing is for sure – it doesn’t lack attitude.
We have now moved back out of the trenches and gone to the skill-positions. This week will be about wide receivers and cornerbacks, while next week we will to the tight-ends and safeties. After that it’s time to look at the quarterbacks and reveal my top 100 big board, before putting out my one and only mock draft of the year. When it comes to the receiver position, as it is with most, there is a lot of versatility and different teams or schemes ask for different skill-sets. There are your prototypical big-bodied X-receivers, smaller and shifty slot receivers, those taller guys who can almost be used like a seam-stretching tight-ends and everything in-between.
This class of wide receivers has not gotten a lot of love, but similar to the way I talked about the running backs, this is very deep position in my opinion. There might not be that bona fide stud wideout for everybody and I could see only three of them going in the first round, but there are so many quality options from rounds two to four. The twelve names I will talk about in this article all deserve to go off the board and I could easily see a run at them in the second round, where there could go seven or eight of them. As far as my evaluations go, I have two definite first rounders and my entire top ten will earn top-60 grades. I like two other guys a whole lot, who still need some development, and there is a load of talented prospects beyond that, who I will mention at the very end.
Also check out my positional rankings on the best available running backs, linebackers, interior offensive linemen, interior defensive linemen, offensive tackles and edge rushers.
We have done all the interior guys and the offensive tackles now, so we are moving on to the edge rushers. Once again, I differentiate between interior defensive linemen – meaning anything from true nose tackle to 5-tech defensive end – and edge rusher. This class includes defensive ends and outside linebackers, whether those are the spots they played in college or where I project them fit at the next level. I already mentioned this with the inside guys – With how hybrid defensive schemes are today and how little teams actually line up in base sets, the fit of these prospects is not necessarily as important. What counts is primarily if you can rush the passer, then if you can set the edge in the run game and finally if you can stand up and drop into coverage. Of the course the more you can do for your team, the better, and the draft boards will vary depending on the scheme of teams, but not all of these areas are equally important.
I already marveled at the talent on the interior D-line, but this class of edge rushers is even better and deeper. I could easily see up to eight of these guys be selected in the first round and the top two will probably end up being among my three highest-graded prospects. What I really like about this group is the versatility, not necessarily when it comes to scheme fits, but rather their overall style of play. You have technically sound players or raw athletic freaks, finesse speed rushers and frenetic power guys. Whatever your flavor is, there is someone for you to find – as long as you have the draft capital.