But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Jeremiah's take on what the three teams holding two picks in Round 1 should do with those selections.
We finally made it! It's draft week. There's so much intrigue around this year's draft class, largely because of the number of talented yet polarizing quarterback prospects that are available. Another reason for excitement: Three teams own multiple picks in Round 1. Cleveland (Nos. 1 and 4), Buffalo (Nos. 12 and 22) and New England (Nos. 23 and 31) each hold two first-round selections, and they will have plenty of attractive options once they are on the clock. What would be the ideal scenario for these three squads? Here's what I believe they should be hoping for on Thursday night.
No. 1 overall: USC QB Sam Darnold
Analysis: The Browns were smart to acquire Tyrod Taylor during the off-season. His presence will eliminate the need to rush a rookie quarterback into action. With that in mind, they can use the first overall pick on the player they believe will be the best option in 2019. That's one of the reasons I love the choice of Darnold. He's already very skilled, but he's only 20 years old and he has plenty of improvement ahead of him. If needed, he could play in 2018, but I think he would be best served to sit and learn under Taylor. Darnold has both a high floor and a high ceiling.
No. 4 overall: N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb
Analysis: Chubb, Penn State RB Saquon Barkley or Ohio State CB Denzel Ward could be in the conversation here. It's likely that one of those three players will be off the board, but they should have their choice between the other two. I believe Chubb would be the ideal choice. He would team up with Myles Garrett to give the Browns the best young pass-rushing duo in the NFL. This team is desperate for an identity and this pairing would establish a dominant defensive front. I have Barkley rated just above Chubb, but I believe the Browns can find a quality running back at the top of the second round. Ward is clearly the top cornerback in the class and he would fill an immediate need. However, he would be my third option among this group.
Trade picks 12 and 22 to Broncos to pick UCLA QB Josh Rosen at No. 5
Analysis: In my opinion, the Bills don't really have a choice. They have to do whatever they can to get into the mix to select one of the top quarterback prospects. Fortunately, they are loaded with draft selections this year (they hold four of the first 65 picks) and they should be able to pull off a move without parting with any picks from future drafts. I can make a case for any of the top four quarterbacks being an upgrade for their roster, but the dream scenario would involve landing Darnold or Rosen. Since I have Darnold going to the Browns at No. 1 and Baker Mayfield going to the Jets at No. 3 in my most recent mock draft, I'll go with Rosen here as the third QB off the board. Rosen is the most polished passer in the draft and his skill set would fit in well with just about any offense. He would give the Bills an ideal centerpiece to build around, and I think the Broncos would be willing to make the move.
New England Patriots
No. 23 overall: Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
Analysis: The Patriots have a need at offensive tackle, but I don't believe there will be one available who's worthy of this pick. That will allow them to add a much-needed playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Evans is an ideal fit for this defense. He's smart, tough and versatile. Those are three things Bill Belichick covets. Evans already played in a similar, complex defense at Alabama and he would team up with another former Crimson Tide defender, Dont'a Hightower, to give the Patriots two dynamic players in the middle of their defense.
No. 31 overall: UCF CB Mike Hughes
Analysis: Hughes is a very gifted athlete and he has excellent ball skills. The Patriots were torched by the Eagles in the Super Bowl and they need to add more explosive players in the backend. Hughes didn't wow with his 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine (4.53 seconds), but he plays plenty fast. He also provides value in the return game. The Patriots have the best offensive line coach in the NFL (Dante Scarnecchia) and that will allow them to avoid reaching for a tackle. Adding two defensive studs in Round 1 would be a good way to go in this draft. -- Daniel Jeremiah
TOP 10 SMALL-SCHOOL STARS OF 2018 NFL DRAFT
One of the toughest parts of the pre-draft evaluation process is projecting which small-school prospects have the potential to make an impact in the NFL. The difference in competition between Power Five schools and non-Power Five programs is significant, but good scouts are still able to make smart assessments of the prospects that shined at the lower levels. Although that evaluation routinely depends on seeing those prospects in action at college all-star games, scouts feel better about their projections when the small-school standout consistently dominates competitors at every turn. After taking the weekend to clean up some of my pre-draft rankings, here are my top 10 small-school standouts in the 2018 draft.
Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: It's hard to find "flex" tight ends with the kind of speed, quickness, and athleticism to create mismatches on the perimeter. Goedert is an explosive route runner with outstanding hands and ball skills. The Walter Payton Award (most outstanding FCS offensive player) finalist is still a work in progress as a blocker, but you can't ignore his production or dominance as a pass catcher/playmaker at the FCS level.
Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State: The two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year is an instinctive and explosive playmaker with sideline-to-sideline range. Leonard's diagnostic skills, awareness, and thump should make him a disruptive force as a second-level defender in the pros.
Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond: The Reese's Senior Bowl Offensive MVP has quickly climbed the charts after a solid week of work at the annual all-star game. Lauletta is an efficient quick-rhythm passer with B-plus arm talent and a quick mind. He processes information quickly and routinely makes sound decisions with the ball as a passer.
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State: The 6-foot-5, 315-pound disruptor might be one of the draft's best-kept secrets as an inside defender. Shepherd displays exceptional first-step quickness and strength as a dynamic three-technique (defensive tackle aligned on outside shoulder of the offensive guard) with big-play potential. The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Defensive Player of the Year held his own against elite competition at the Senior Bowl.
Daurice Fountain, WR, Northern Iowa: The MVP of the East-West Shrine Game is a certified playmaker. Fountain is an explosive athlete with the speed, burst, and acceleration to run away from defenders on vertical routes. Plus, he's an explosive leaper who can win 50-50 balls in the red zone.
Danny Johnson, CB, Southern: The 5-foot-10, 185-pounder is an ideal zone corner with outstanding instincts, awareness and ball skills. Johnson snagged 18 career interceptions while also displaying solid cover skills in a scheme that places a premium on route recognition and vision on the quarterback.
Justin Watson, WR, Pennsylvania: The three-time All-Ivy League selection is a big-time playmaker with the size, speed, and athleticism to carve out a role as a WR3. Watson's superb ball skills and route-running ability helped him tally three straight 1,000-yard seasons and total 34 career touchdowns as a Quaker.
Roc Thomas, RB, Jacksonville State: The former five-star recruit is a rock-solid combo back with good quickness, balance and body control. As a two-time All-Ohio Valley Conference honoree, Thomas posted excellent production and showed enough potential to intrigue scouts as a possible RB2 in a running back rotation.
Alex Cappa, OT, Humboldt State: At 6-7 and 305 pounds, Cappa won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference's Offensive Lineman of the Year for four straight seasons. As a big, athletic edge blocker with decent feet and an adequate punch, Cappa is an intriguing developmental prospect as a potential right tackle/offensive guard. -- Bucky Brooks