NFL Hot Press



The Elite Prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft

Updated Nov. 22, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Every year in the NFL draft, there are a few elite prospects who stand out as true blue-chip talents - very rare and special prospects. In most years, that group is around five players give or take a little, and to find out who the elite prospects are for the 2018 NFL Draft, WalterFootball.com reached out to sources from across the league to see who the consensus elite prospects are for the 2018 NFL Draft. Here are the players sources were in near-unanimous agreement over:

  • Penn State running back Saquon Barkley
  • LSU defensive end Arden Key
  • N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb
  • Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson
  • Florida State safety Derwin James
  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick

  • There were some evaluators who had minor criticisms of some of those players. One director of college scouting said they didn't think Chubb was elite and was more of an upgraded version of Derek Barnett, who the Philadelphia Eagles took in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

    One national scout, one area scout and one director of college scouting said that while they would include James in this group, they all felt independently that he has some problems in coverage as a deep center fielder. They questioned his ball skills and felt he had coverage limitations for the NFL. One thought James might grow into a linebacker and could end up being a taller, faster version of Mark Barron, a bust for Tampa Bay as a safety, but who has become a decent linebacker for the Rams.

    Everyone agreed that Nelson was elite. Because of his position, however, he may not go as high. Most teams value guards later. That being said, sources have said that Nelson has graded out higher than Logan Mankins or Brandon Scherff did. Mankins was a first-rounder back in the 2005 NFL Draft, while Scherff was a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. One longtime national scout said that Nelson was definitely the best guard he has ever scouted.

    There were also a few players who were suggested to be added into the elite group. One NFC general manager and one AFC general manager said they would include UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen among the elite prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft. They felt his arm talent, natural throwing motion, and pocket-passing skills were very rare and special.

    One college director said they would include Washington nose tackle Vita Vea in the elite group. They felt that he was elite and special as a nose tackle, but also has the length to play defensive end, similar to Haloti Ngata. They felt that Vea was better than Danny Shelton, but like guard, nose tackle gets downgraded, so Vea will go lower because of his position. Others including the AFC general manager said they would not include Vea as an elite prospect.

    As the draft process evolves, there could be players who are added or subtracted as consensus elite prospects. However as we near the end of college football's regular season, the above six players were considered to be the rare and special players according to our survey of area scouts, national scouts, directors of college scouting and some general managers.






    LSU's Jackson and Central Florida's Hughes Strengthen Corner Class

    Updated Nov. 16, 2017
    By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    Some of the preseason top cornerback prospects for 2017 were players who have disappointed sources this year. That group includes Florida State's Tarvarus McFadden, LSU's Kevin Toliver, USC's Iman Marshall and Alabama's Anthony Averett. While those players have disappointed some evaluators, other cornerbacks have risen to help fortify the cornerback class. Two of those players who could go in the first few rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft based on where they are grading out are LSU's Donte Jackson and Central Florida's Mike Hughes.

    Hughes started out his collegiate career at North Carolina before transferring to Central Florida. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder has impressed some evaluators with his coverage skills, and he has been a big part of Central Florida putting together a 9-0 record this season. Hughes has four interceptions with a forced fumble thus far in 2017. Some teams have given Hughes a second-round grade for the 2018 NFL Draft. Others who aren't as high on him feel he should go back to Central Florida for 2018 to improve before going pro, but they also acknowledged that corners are in demand and go quickly in the draft, so they see the second round as possible for him if he enters the 2018 NFL Draft.

    Sources say Jackson is extremely fast, so he will be a good matchup corner to lineup against speed receivers. He is athletic to run the route and prevent separation, and has good instincts and feel, but he is a gambler, so he could stand to play with more discipline for the pros. Scouts tell me that Jackson is talented, but has a ton of discipline issues to work on, and that might include some hard lessons versus pro receivers. Thus, the playing discipline and size could push Jackson down into the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft even though he has great speed with serious coverage skills.

    Some sources think Jackson could be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, while others project him to Day 2. Jackson has 31 tackles with seven passes broken up in 2017. As a sophomore, he had 39 tackles with eight breakups and two interceptions. Jackson is a track star and is expected to run an eye-popping 40 time that could push him higher. Scouts have heard that Jackson has ran in the 4.2s and has run the 100 meters in 10.2 seconds, which is rare speed.

    Overall, sources say the cornerback class is above average. They don't think it is especially strong, but it isn't bad either. Having corner prospects like Jackson and Hughes emerge has helped to bring some value to the early rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.




    Two Small-School OTs Help Weak Class

    Updated Nov. 8, 2017
    By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    A lot was made that offensive tackle was one of the weaker positions in the 2017 NFL Draft. Edge protectors are critical players in the NFL, and there are many teams across the league that are desperate for tackles who can help protect a franchise quarterback. That desperation was given further proof last week when the Seahawks shipped two second-day picks in the 2018 NFL Draft for a declining 32-year old left tackle in Duane Brown, whose best football is behind him. Looking at the 2018 NFL Draft class, however, one can understand why the Seahawks gave up a lot for Brown along with hoping he could help them compete for a championship this season and next year.

    At the start of this season, there was reason for optimism that the 2018 class was going to be stronger at tackle. The advance scouting services partnered on by NFL Teams, National Scouting and Blesto, had three offensive tackles with high preseason grades on Washington's Trey Adams, Texas' Connor Williams and Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey. Of the trio, only McGlinchey remains as a top prospect for 2018 NFL Draft.

    Adams tore an ACL and stated he plans to return to Washington. Williams played poorly before his own knee injury sidelined him, and his draft grades are poor - see below. Another bigger-name tackle prospect who has underwhelmed this year is Clemson's Mitch Hyatt - see further below. While that group disappointed, sources from multiple teams identified three tackles who have had breakout seasons to help the position. They didn't say this trio was first-round caliber, but they could be second-day picks who provide value.

    Of this trio, the only one who plays at power-five school is Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder and has some quickness with athletic ability to go with NFL size. He has been a good blind-side protector for Luke Falk and has impressed scouts this fall. Dillard could get second-day consideration in the 2018 NFL Draft if he decides to skip his senior year. Dillard might be better off returning, getting stronger and improving to hope that he flies up boards as a senior.

    A player who has really created a nice buzz in the scouting community for his skill set is West Georgia left tackle Desmond Harrison. Sources say the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder has a first- or second-round skill set, but he won't go that high. Harrison started out his collegiate career at Texas before ending up leaving the program over some positive drug tests. Still, his impressive play and skill set are being discussed in scouting circles.

    North Carolina A&T offensive tackle Brandon Parker has also had some positive talk going around about him. The 6-foot-8, 310-pound giant has received some fourth-round grades. However, if he performs well at the Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine, that grade could easily rise.

    While these three are't seen as first-round talents, they could offer some values for Day 2 of the 2018 Draft and help shore up another weak class of offensive tackles. There will certainly be many tackle-needy teams in the 2018 NFL Draft hoping that they can land a diamond in the rough.




    Williams Receiving Mid-Round Grades

    Updated Nov. 3, 2017
    By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    A few weeks ago, WalterFootball.com reported that Clemson left tackle Mitch Hyatt had disappointed scouts with his play this season and was receiving mid-round grades from area scouts. Hyatt isn't alone in the disappointment category, as the larger 2018 offensive tackle class has underwhelmed this season. Washington's Trey Adams went down with a season-ending injury and is likely to return to school rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Another preseason first-rounder who has disappointed is Texas' Connor Williams. Williams was struggling before his injury, and like Hyatt, sources from multiple teams said they gave Williams a mid-round grade.

    The main issue that sources say is hurting Williams (6-6, 290) is a lack of strength. One AFC team in need of tackle help said they had put a late third-round, early fourth-round grade on Williams. A NFC general manager said they thought Williams was a fourth-rounder after watching him in person early in the year. That general manager said Williams was overhyped and clearly needs to spend a lot of time in the weight room for the NFL. Against USC, Williams tore a knee meniscus and strained some other ligaments. He hasn't played since September 16th, but is supposedly getting close to returning to the field.

    Team sources and those around the Texas program say that Williams is hoping to return to the field and produce some good tape during this season. He knows that his tape from early in the year wasn't impressive, and he wants to try to generate some positive buzz before the season ends. If Williams does that, sources say he would be inclined toward entering the 2018 NFL Draft. If he re-injures the knee or plays poorly, Williams will probably return to Texas next season. A lot hangs in the balance for Williams in the final weeks of the season, and he needs some big games to change the grades he's received from NFL teams this fall.




    Prediction: Houston Receives a Third-Round Compensatory Pick

    Updated Nov. 3, 2017
    By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    team img Houston Texans: Maea Teuhema, G, Southeastern Louisiana
    I have it on good authority that the Texans are getting a third-round compensatory pick for not signing any free agents from other teams in the applicable window despite losing free agents who received big or significant contracts like A.J. Bouye, Quintin Demps and John Simon. Houston has left guard Xavier Su'a-Filo entering free agency, but he's just average, while right guard Jeff Allen has been a disappointment. Thus, the Texans could use more guard talent.

    Sources say that Maea Teuhema will be a good gap-scheme guard in the NFL. The 6-foot-5, 315-pounder has the athleticism to play left guard and the strength to play right guard. While he won't stay at left tackle in the NFL despite playing it for Southeastern Louisiana, he might offer that versatility to play there in a pinch. Scouts say that both Maea Teuhema and his brother Sione are good guys, and it has helps both that LSU staff continue to speak highly of them even though things didn't work out for them with the Tigers. Both of them have reestablished their second-day status for the 2019 NFL Draft despite leaving LSU.




    Broncos Aggressively Scouting Top Quarterbacks

    Updated Nov. 2, 2017
    By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

    The Broncos made a move at quarterback this week, benching Treveor Siemian and turning to Brock Osweiler as their starting quarterback. It was surprising to outsiders that Denver gave Osweiler the opportunity instead of 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch. After Peyton Manning retired and Osweiler signed with the Texans, the Broncos traded up in the first round to take Lynch. However, Lynch hasn't impressed enough to be named the starting quarterback yet. In speaking with team sources, they say that could be a sign of things to come as the Broncos are aggressively scouting the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Denver is taking a hard look at the early-first-round quarterbacks with the possibility of moving up if there is one the organization really believes in.

    There are a number of candidates to be the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, including UCLA's Josh Rosen, USC's Sam Darnold, Louisville's Lamar Jackson, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Northwestern's Clayton Thorson. WalterFootball.com has heard positive buzz about all of those quarterbacks in recent months. Not all of them are expected to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, however, and a number of them could decide to return to school next year. Sources say that Lynch has fallen out of favor with the Broncos. His lack of a work ethic is one of the big issues with the team.

    Sources say that the Broncos are scouting the top quarterbacks to be ready to make a play for one of them. Denver still has a Super Bowl defense, so a difference-maker at quarterback could vault the team right back into the elite of the AFC. Depending on where the Broncos are picking, which quarterbacks enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and which teams iares picking ahead them, the Broncos could make a bold move for a new franchise quarterback in a few months. Sources say Denver is preparing for that possibility this fall.


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