A lot has been made about the value of preseason and there are teams who largely keep their starters out of for the most part, but every year there are guys who stand out when they finally get a chance to prove themselves on the field and they deserve to get their props. So this list doesn’t include any actual star players and in a lot of cases not even starters at this point. You won’t hear me talk about Patrick Mahomes looking nearly flawless in limited action or how a star pass rusher beat up some kind of third-string tackle. Usually I like to give guys credit who play the less-heralded positions, but with how many young quarterbacks have made an impression on me, they had to be the main topic of this article. Of course you have to take some performances with a grain of salt because we haven’t seen any game-planning or schemes being utilized, but what you can evaluate is physical ability, energy and play-making ability. So here are some of the guys who have stood out to me:
After talking about the top offensive players at each position a couple of days ago, we now switch to the defensive side of the ball. So we are looking at the best edge rushers (meaning 4-3 defensive ends and 3-4 outside linebackers primarily), interior defensive linemen (everything from nose tackle to 5-technique), off-ball linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties. Some of these guys are hybrid players, so I judged them according to where they line up primarily and what their best spot is. Once again, my criteria for which I judge them is their tape from their collegiate career so far, including the potential I see for them heading into this season, and I evaluate them as college players instead of NFL prospects, where they might fall a little lower because they don’t have pro measurements or athleticism necessarily.
A few weeks into the black hole of the offseason, which is filled with overblown reports from OTAs and media analysts coming up with crazy ideas for discussions, I had the time to go back and analyze which moves teams have made to improve a specific area of their football team. However, this is not about the most improved team overall, such as the Browns who added on several fronts, and I won’t name any teams that only added one superstar at a position and nothing else. This list is more about how these front offices made it a priority to invest into a unit that either needed to get better anyway or might have been solid to this point, but could be a true strength for them in 2019. These are the ten position groups I came up with and I added a few units at the bottom, who didn’t quite make the cut.
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.