Bucky Brooks' Top 5 2018 NFL Draft prospects by position

With Super Bowl LII in the books and the 2018 NFL Draft season now under way, here's my initial look at the top five prospects at each position.


  1. Josh Rosen, UCLA
  2. Sam Darnold, USC
  3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
  4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
  5. Josh Allen, Wyoming

The 2018 quarterback class features intriguing options, but there isn't a sure-fire franchise QB in the mix. Rosen is the most polished pocket passer of the crew with outstanding arm talent and solid fundamentals. Darnold is an athletic gunslinger with the "it" factor that coaches covet in a QB1. He needs to clean up the turnovers, but his "wow" plays in the clutch make it easy to fall in love with his potential. Mayfield is the ultimate gamer with an infectious competitive spirit and a dynamic game. He dazzles from the pocket, but questions about his maturity and character threaten his draft status. Jackson is the wild card of the group as an electric playmaker with a run-first game. He's a human highlight reel, but questions about his accuracy and system fit prevent some coaches/scouts from buying into his potential. Allen has all of the prototypical traits (size, arm talent, and athleticism) that coaches desire. However, his accuracy woes and lack of big-game production are worrisome.

On the bubble:Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State; Luke Falk, Washington State; Mike White, Western Kentucky.

Running backs

  1. Saquon Barkley, Penn State
  2. Derrius Guice, LSU
  3. Ronald Jones II, USC
  4. Royce Freeman, Oregon
  5. Sony Michel, Georgia

A loaded class of RBs features a dynamic collection of runners with receiving skills. Barkley is the ultimate three-down back with a rugged running style and polished set of playmaking skills in the passing game. Guice is a gritty runner with a hard-nosed style and big-play ability. Jones and Michel can carry the load as runners. Teams could also find them enticing due to their potential as mismatches in the passing game. Freeman is a bruiser with the size, speed and power to thrive in a grind-it-out system.

On the bubble:Nick Chubb, Georgia; Kerryon Johnson, Auburn.

Wide receivers

  1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
  2. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
  3. James Washington, Oklahoma State
  4. Courtland Sutton, SMU
  5. Deon Cain, Clemson

The WR class lacks star power at the top, but there are a number of pass-catchers with the potential to make immediate contributions as young players. Ridley is as polished as they come at wideout with strong hands, excellent running skills, and precise routes. Kirk is smooth and explosive as a dynamic playmaker on the perimeter. He can thrive in the slot or out wide while also delivering splash plays as a returner. Washington is the most explosive vertical threat in the class with the speed, acceleration and burst to take the top off the defense. Cain is a productive playmaker with the speed and running skills to thrive as a catch-and-run specialist.

On the bubble:Anthony Miller, Memphis; Michael Gallup, Colorado State.

Tight ends

  1. Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
  2. Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
  3. Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
  4. Mike Gesicki, Penn State
  5. Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin

Evaluators looking for pass-catching tight ends will find a wealth of options available in the 2018 class. Goedert is a long, rangy playmaker capable of playing "above the rim" in the red zone. Hurst is a big-bodied seam runner with soft hands and outstanding "box-out" skills. Gesicki is a potential touchdown machine due to his length, leaping ability and volleyball background. He needs to refine his blocking technique, but his skills as a pass-catcher make him an intriguing prospect. Fumagalli is the next Badger tight end poised to make his mark in the league as a pass-catcher with credible blocking skills.

On the bubble: Adam Breneman, UMass; Ian Thomas, Indiana.

Offensive tackles

  1. Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
  2. Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
  3. Connor Williams, Texas
  4. Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
  5. Kolton Miller, UCLA

The offensive tackle class features a number of big-bodied "people-movers" that are adept at run and pass blocking. Brown is a mountain of a man with the size, strength, and power to own the line of scrimmage as an edge blocker. He needs to refine his footwork in pass protection, but his overall potential is certainly intriguing. Williams is coming off a disappointing final season at Texas, but scouts will fall back in love with his potential when they closely watch his 2016 game tape. When healthy, the Texas star is a franchise tackle. Miller is a fast riser with intriguing tools as an edge blocker.

On the bubble:Tyrell Crosby, Oregon; Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh.

Offensive guards/centers

  1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
  2. Will Hernandez, UTEP
  3. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
  4. James Daniels, Iowa
  5. Billy Price, Ohio State

Teams are always searching for road graders with nimble feet and high IQs along the interior. The 2018 class is loaded with tough guys at the guard and center spots. Nelson is a bully at the point of attack with the size and strength to move defenders off the ball. He overpowers defensive tackles while flashing the nasty demeanor that O-Line coaches covet in their best players. Hernandez is a rugged blocker with a bad-boy attitude on the field. He is a tone setter for the O-line with his physicality and toughness. Daniels is a high-IQ pivot with enough athleticism to control the interior triangle in the running game.

On the bubble:Braden Smith, Auburn; Taylor Hearn, Clemson; Frank Ragnow, Arkansas.

Defensive ends

  1. Bradley Chubb, N.C. State
  2. Marcus Davenport, UTSA
  3. Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
  4. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
  5. Arden Key, LSU

There are a few pass rushers with size, explosiveness and finishing skills available in the 2018 class. Chubb is the headliner as an ultra-athletic "big" rusher with outstanding quickness, hand skills, and energy. He is a Mario Williams clone with the disruptive skills to be a perennial All-Pro off the edge. Davenport is a long, rangy edge player with the combination of speed and quickness to overwhelm blockers. He flashes dominant potential as a rusher, but might need some time to acclimate to the competition at the next level. Key is the wild card of the bunch as an enigmatic playmaker with prototypical dimensions. He doesn't play hard consistently, but his flashes are eye-popping.

On the bubble:Chad Thomas, Miami; Justin Lawler, SMU; Jeff Holland, Auburn.

Defensive tackles

  1. Maurice Hurst, Michigan
  2. Vita Vea, Washington
  3. Taven Bryan, Florida
  4. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
  5. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State

The pass-rushing defensive tackle is en vogue in a league that's becoming more pass-centric. Hurst certainly fits the bill as a disruptive interior player with a non-stop motor and superb hand skills. Vea is a dancing bear on the interior with quick feet (he was a running back in high school) and strong hands at the point of attack. Nnadi flies under the radar as an elite prospect, but close examination reveals a big, athletic DT with disruptive potential as a run stopper or pass rusher.

On the bubble:Harrison Phillips, Stanford; Rasheem Green, USC.

Outside linebackers

  1. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
  2. Harold Landry, Boston College
  3. Uchenna Nwosu, USC
  4. Malik Jefferson, Texas
  5. Kemoko Turay, Rutgers

As more teams opt for a hybrid defense, outside linebackers with pass-rush skills are becoming hot commodities in the NFL scouting community. Edmunds is an avatar on the edge as a long, rangy disruptor with explosive quickness and hand skills to wreak havoc. Landry was viewed as a potential top-10 pick prior to an injury-plagued senior season that hurt his stock. He displays cat-like first-step quickness and burst off the corner as a designated rusher in a versatile scheme. Jefferson is a unique playmaker ideally suited to play a myriad of roles as a sub-package defender. He can drop into coverage or hunt the quarterback from a variety of angles at the line of scrimmage or from the second level.

On the bubble:Lorenzo Carter, Georgia.

Inside linebackers

  1. Roquan Smith, Georgia
  2. Rashaan Evans, Alabama
  3. Micah Kiser, Virginia
  4. Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
  5. Josey Jewell, Iowa

The top defenses in football typically feature a traffic cop in the middle with disruptive skills as a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. Smith was a beast in the middle of the Bulldogs' defense. He flashes a combination of athleticism, instincts and attack skills that could make him a star in an attack-style defense. Evans is a rock-solid defender with a violent game. He punishes tackles as a sideline-to-sideline player and fits the bill as a destroyer on the inside. Kiser is a tackling machine with a high IQ and superb communication skills. Jewell is a productive tackle-to-tackle defender with excellent instincts and leadership skills.

On the bubble:Darius Leonard, South Carolina State; Tre' Williams, Auburn; Tegray Scales, Indiana.


  1. Denzel Ward, Ohio State
  2. Mike Hughes, UCF
  3. Josh Jackson, Iowa
  4. Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
  5. Jaire Alexander, Louisville

The 2018 cornerback class is chock full of athletic defenders with ball-hawking skills and diverse games. Ward is a silky smooth cover corner with the speed, athleticism and quickness to step in as a lockdown corner from Day 1. Hughes is a two-phase playmaker (corner/kick returner) with big-time potential on the edges. He is as smooth as they come as a corner, but he might rate even higher as a return man. Alexander is an ultra-competitive corner with a rock-solid game. He missed part of his final season with injuries, but played well against top competition.

On the bubble:Donte Jackson, LSU; Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State.


  1. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
  2. Derwin James, Florida State
  3. Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
  4. Marcus Allen, Penn State
  5. Quin Blanding, Virginia

Teams in need of safeties can find ballhawks or thumpers in the 2018 class. Fitzpatrick is a Swiss Army knife in the back end with the capacity to play safety, corner or nickel in any defensive scheme. James is a big, athletic safety with an enforcer's mentality and a diverse set of skills. He can crush running backs in the box or attack quarterbacks off the edges as a designated rusher. Blanding flies under the radar as a versatile deep middle player with a high IQ.

On the bubble:Armani Watts, Texas A&M; Kyzir White, West Virginia.

Follow Bucky Brooks on Twitter @BuckyBrooks.

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