With a little over a month to go before the 2018 NFL Draft, here's a look at the top five prospects at each position.
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.
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. Penny is on the rise after a strong Senior Bowl performance prompted scouts to take a closer look at his game. The versatile playmaker is a slippery runner with outstanding pass-catching skills.
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.
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.
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 remains intriguing, despite a disappointing performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. 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. He dazzled scouts with his athleticism and movement skills at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he is still a bit of a developmental prospect.
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.
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. Hubbard is an underrated defender with outstanding athleticism and movement skills. He flashes impressive bend-and-burst ability turning the corner on rushes. 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.
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. Hurst was diagnosed with a heart condition earlier this month at the NFL Scouting Combine. I'm hoping that the issue will not lead to a fall down the draft board. Scouts still recognize him as a blue-chip talent at the position. 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. Bryan is a junkyard dog with outstanding hands and movement skills. Phillips is a rock-solid interior defender with strong hands and an array of combat moves. He can hold the point as a run stopper, but also flashes better than anticipated skills as a pass rusher.
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. Carter is a better athlete than player at this stage of his career, but that doesn't stop scouts from salivating over his potential as an edge player. The Georgia standout could blossom into an effective sack artist as a pro under the right coaching staff. 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.
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. Leonard is an active playmaker with superb instincts and tackling ability. Despite his small-school pedigree, he is a riser in the scouting community after showing scouts that he could dominate elite competition at the Senior Bowl.
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. Jackson is a ballhawk with terrific hands and ball skills, but a disappointing performance at the NFL Scouting Combine raised questions about his movement skills.
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. Bates is a blue-collar safety with a solid overall game. He's capable of thumping runners in the hole as a box-area defender or roaming between the hashes as a deep-middle center fielder.