The Browns can take the best prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft at No. 1 and get a player who will change their offense. Isaiah Crowell is entering free agency and could be upgraded. Between Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Sam Darnold, Cleveland is assured of getting a quarterback at pick No. 4. Here's a game-changer who will make that quarterback's job a lot easier.
Barkley is the best player in the 2018 NFL Draft regardless of position. Barkley is an elite running back prospect in the same mold of Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, and better than Ezekiel Elliott. All three of those backs turned their teams from picking in the top-10 to playing in the postseason within the first three years of their careers, if not as rookies. Thus, I don't think being a running back is going to lead to Barkley being downgraded.
The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder has devastating first-step quickness to hit the hole and accelerate downfield. Along with great speed, Barkley has tremendous balance, vision, cutting ability, elusiveness and power. He also is a receiving threat who presents mismatch problems for a defense in the passing attack, and is a good blocker. In the NFL, Barkley should be a devastating play-maker and three-down starter.
Barkley averaged 5.9 yards per carry in 2017 for 1,271 yards with 18 touchdowns. The junior made 54 catches for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2016 for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley was very impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was very impressive, running for 194 yards on 26 carries against an Ohio State defense loaded with NFL talent.
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The Giants grab their heir apparent to Eli Manning. It doesn't make sense for New York not to take their quarterback of the future when they are picking this high.
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Rosen would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he made his public announcement in the first week of January. In 2017, Rosen completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,717 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The junior was up-and-down over the season with highs and lows, including at least one concussion. He had a legendary performance in UCLA's 2017 season opener versus Texas A&M, leading one of the greatest comeback wins in college football history, turning a 44-10 third-quarter deficit into a 45-44 win.
Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it with his powerful arm. Rosen's tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has serious arm talent with field vision and pocket presence. Scouts who did advance work on the 2018 prospects told me that Rosen has questionable intangibles with how he gets along with his teammates and his leadership skills for the NFL. There also are durability concerns with Rosen after he missed seven contests over the past two seasons and was knocked out of a few games as well.
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman in 2015, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As a sophomore, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
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The Colts grab an edge defender who can be the building block for their defense and a potential franchise defensive player.
Chubb totaled 73 tackles with 25 for a loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes batted in 2017. He was awesome against Florida State, making some huge plays to lead N.C. State to a road upset with two sacks, a forced fumble and seven tackles. Chubb dominated the competition in 2017, playing like a top-10 pick.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Chubb has scheme flexibility and has been a tough defender for the Wolfpack. He has good quickness for a big defensive end and has shown the ability to get off blocks with his strength and hand usage. Chubb has developed some variety in pass-rushing moves and looks like an asset as a future three-down starter in the NFL. In 2016, he totaled 58 tackles with 22 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one pass batted. As a sophomore in 2015, Chubb collected 5.5 sacks.
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In his final season with USC, Darnold had issues with interceptions and decision-making. He also said he had issues with confidence at one point. Darnold is an accurate passer without an elite skill set, but he has developed good anticipation, feel and timing. Darnold is a rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He also can throw accurately on the run. Routinely, Darnold can use his feet to buy time while keeping his eyes downfield and delivering accurate passes while under pressure. In every game at USC, Darnold would make some impressive throws that were very rare for a college quarterback.
In 2017, Darnold completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. A general manager, who scouted Darnold in person this year, told me that they like the "it factor" that Darnold displays. That general manager thinks there's nothing wrong with Darnold's throwing motion or arm strength, and that Darnold has some similarities to Philip Rivers. Other scouts feel that Darnold is a good prospect with the ability to be a plus starter, but they don't think he's elite, and on tape, they say he is not better than Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson were before the 2017 NFL Draft. In speaking with general manager in early January, he thought Darnold was worthy of a top-10 pick.
Darnold was very impressive as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and impressed evaluators even though he wasn't being graded yet. Along with a quality skill set, teams like his intangibles and moxie. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-4, 225-pounder led USC on a nine-game winning streak to end that season.
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I think there is a good chance that Denver lands Kirk Cousins this offseason. That would allow the Broncos to add another talent to help build for another shot at the Super Bowl while they still have an excellent defense. Denver could move on from Aqib Talib this offseason, but here's a No. 1 corner who has some similarities to Talib.
Jackson (6-1, 192) enjoyed an excellent 2017 as a dangerous ballhawk for the Hawkeyes. He put an exclamation point on the year with a three-interception game against Ohio State. For the season, Jackson recorded 48 tackles with 18 passes broken up and eight interceptions. He has a good size for the NFL with length and athleticism. His timed speed will be important, and some team sources believe that Jackson will run well in the leadup to the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mike Maccagnan is a smart talent evaluator and team builder, so he won't horribly reach for a quarterback who isn't worthy of a top-five pick. I think the Jets could grade Allen worthy of a high first-rounder based on his great skill set.
WalterFootball.com was first to report that Allen would enter the 2018 NFL Draft, and he announced his declaration after Wyoming's bowl game. Allen has a great skill set, but is not a well-developed quarterback. He really struggled during 2017 in games against Iowa, Oregon and Hawaii. Allen displayed his big skill set with size, toughness, athleticism, and a strong arm. There were plays where he looked like a young Ben Roethlisberger, but then there were other plays where he showed bad decision-making and inaccuracy. Allen is a definite work in progress who will need some developmental time. In 2017, Allen completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He notched five rushing touchdowns as well.
Allen's completion percentage and interception total from 2016 provide evidence for the developmental assessment, too. He completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions that season. The 6-foot-5, 222-pound Allen has a great skill set with tons of upside.
Because of the serious off-the-field concerns with Arden Key, there isn't a defensive end worthy of this pick. Thus, Tampa Bay can go to the other side of the ball and add a road grader to re-establish its ground game while also improving the pass protection for Jameis Winston.
Nelson was exceptional throughout 2017, dominating opponents on a weekly basis. He has superb strength to blast open holes and is a true road-grader as a run blocker. As a pass protector, Nelson is very athletic with balance, agility, and quickness to shut down pass-rushers. Some league sources say that Nelson is the highest graded guard they've ever scouted, and that includes the likes of Logan Mankins and David DeCastro.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson was dominant in 2016 as well, showing strength at the point of attack to open holes in the ground game and athleticism in pass protection. That year, teams sources told me that Nelson was receiving first-round grades prior to him deciding to return for his senior season. One general manager told me in fall 2017 that they have Nelson as clearly the best guard prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. They have Nelson as a top-five prospect at any position.
This is a bit of a reach, but the Bears badly need some receiving weapons for Mitch Trubisky. Clearly, Ridley would be an upgrade over Chicago's wideouts.
Ridley took 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. He totaled 82 yards on seven receptions with a touchdown against Florida State and its NFL-level secondary. The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder Ridley was capable of producing a lot more, but Alabama's ground-based offense and running quarterback limited his opportunities. If Ridley had played at a school like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or pretty much any Big XII school, his production would have been off the charts. Ridley has quality height, speed and upside for the NFL. He does have a thinner frame though, and will need to add weight.
In 2016, Ridley made 72 catches for 769 yards with seven touchdowns. He had a tremendous freshman season for the Crimson Tide as the replacement for Amari Cooper. Ridley was very effective in that role with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards with seven touchdowns. He finished the 2015 season with impressive performances against Florida and Michigan State to help push Alabama to the National Championship.
The 49ers could lose Eric Reid in free agency, and James is a special talent at safety, who I think will appeal to John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and Robert Saleh.
James totaled 72 tackles with 11 passes batted and two interceptions in 2017. While he didn't put together flawless performances against Alabama and N.C. State during the season, they were impressive overall. James was healthy and able to display his great instincts and rare combination of great size, speed, physicality and versatility. He played dime linebacker, nickel corner, free safety and strong safety, basically doing everything a coach could ask of him. The one steady problem James displayed in 2017 was some painful missed tackles, and he could have some limitations deep downfield, but he still is a tremendous strong safety with versatility.
James totaled 11 tackles and an interception through two games in 2016 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He had been playing well for Florida State. Entering that season, there was a lot of hype that James was an elite player and perhaps the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but zero interceptions.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder has a great athletic skill set with tremendous speed, instincts, and strength to hit. He shows the ability to do everything an NFL safety is needed to do. James is fast and long with coverage skills in the deep middle of the field. He also is strong enough to be the eighth man in the box and tackle.
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The front seven was a weakness in 2016, but Reggie McKenzie addressed the secondary in the first and second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. I think taking Obi Melifonwu over Zach Cunningham was a big mistake. Along with linebacker help, the Raiders' defensive line could use an interior run-stuffer and an edge rusher to go across from Khalil Mack. Here's the former.
Vea recorded 44 tackles, 3.5 sacks and four passes batted in 2017. The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016, too. He totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted on the season.
Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. For the NFL, Vea also has the height and length to play end in a 3-4 defense as well as nose tackle.
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The Dolphins could use a safety upgrade next to Reshad Jones, plus could use help at corner. Thus, Fitzpatrick could be a fit for them.
Fitzpatrick totaled 60 tackles, one interception, eight passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. He played really well, doing everything that could be asked of a safety. Fitzpatrick is a superb center fielder, covering receivers deep downfield. He is also fast in pursuit, tackles well in space at the second level, can come down into the box, and is able to play man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers, plus help out his cornerbacks. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size and some natural cover skills. Sources have said that Fitzpatrick is a prototypical free safety for the NFL. They say he has good size, speed, athletic ability and high football I.Q. in a play-maker.
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. Fitzpatrick had a superb 2015 season for the Crimson Tide. The freshman totaled 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns.
Cincinnati's offensive line was a real weakness in 2017, and the team really missed Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth. Here's a replacement for Whitworth who will help to pave the way for Joe Mixon for many years to come and provide better edge pass protection.
McGlinchey blocked well for Notre Dame overall in 2017, less a few rough plays versus Miami and Georgia. The 6-foot-7, 310-pounder is a tough run blocker and was part of a good Notre Dame line for years. The senior has good enough feet and athletic ability to get depth in his kick slide and cut off speed rushers. As a run blocker, he can get movement at the point of attack. McGlinchey flashes heavy hands to push defenders out of their gaps and open holes for his back. He also has a nice ability to bend at the knee, and that in combination with his feet, keeps him from having to reach after edge rushers. McGlinchey uses his strength to sustain blocks and has developed good hand placement. His performance in 2017 and 2016 protecting Notre Dame's quarterbacks is evidence that he is a future starting left tackle in the NFL and a first-round pick.
McGlinchey was very impressive at left tackle for the Fighting Irish in 2016. He looked natural in pass protection, and one wouldn't have thought that he wasn't playing the position before that season. In 2015, McGlinchey showed well as a right tackle and displayed a more physical style of play than former Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The main area that McGlinchey really needed to improve was his repeated problem with false starts as a junior. McGlinchey seemed to fix that as a senior.
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The Redskins' top needs are a quarterback - unless Kirk Cousins is willing to sign an extension, which is unlikely -, defensive front-seven talent, and a safety. Of those needs, adding a quarterback is the most critical issue to address, but all of the quarterbacks are gone. Thus, Washington grabs an upgrade to the defensive line. Reuniting Payne and Jonathan Allen could be tremendous for the Redskins' defense.
Payne dominated at the point of attack in 2017, stuffing runs while showcasing his freakish speed and athleticism. On the year, he totaled 53 tackles, two half-sacks, three passes batted, an interception and a touchdown reception. I heard general managers and scouts raving about Payne all season.
Scouts were already raving about Payne's potential in the preseason. He was the Crimson Tide's best defensive lineman in 2017, following Jonathan Allen's moving on to the NFL. Payne (6-2, 319) is a run plugger with a lot of potential to grow. When given the opportunity to rush the passer in 2016 and 2017, Payne was impressive, and sources have said that he helped set up sacks for Jonathan Allen, Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, and Rashaan Evans the past two seasons.
The Packers have Clay Matthews entering the last year of his contract. Here's an interior defender who could quickly upgrade their defense and serve as a long-term building block in their front seven.
From the start of the 2017 season, Smith (6-1, 225) impressed scouting sources with his great play. They compared him to the Falcons' recent second-day picks of the LSU duo of Deion Jones and Duke Riley, except they say that Smith is better than either Jones or Riley. These sources feel Smith is more on a par with Lavonte David coming out of Nebraska. There is no doubt that Smith is a fast and physical linebacker who flies around the field. He is an excellent run defender with speed and athleticism to cover in the passing game.
Smith amassed 137 tackles with 6.5 sacks, 11.5 tackles for a loss, one forced fumble and two passes batted in 2017. In 2016, he led Georgia in tackles with 95. Smith also had five tackles for a loss, one pass batted and two forced fumbles that season.
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The Cardinals miss out on the first-round quarterbacks. This is too high for Baker Mayfield. Arizona could look to move down and take Mayfield or move up from its second-round pick.
Ward recorded 37 tackles with 15 passes broken up and two interceptions in 2017. In the season opener against Indiana, he notched an interception, four tackles and five passes broken up. Ward also was beaten for a touchdown and some other receptions by big Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. While primarily a backup in 2016, Ward (5-10, 191) totaled 23 tackles with nice passes broken up.
While Ward has some hype suggesting he's as good as his former teammates Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, he's significantly smaller than them and had issues with a big wideout in Cobbs. In the NFL, Ward might get placed as a nickelback.
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In 2017, Sutton recorded 68 catches for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns. He totaled 76 receptions in 2016 for 1,246 yards - a 16.5-yard average - with 10 touchdowns in 2016. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder has size to him, and in 2015, he showed big-play ability by averaging 17.6 yards per catch. For the year, the redshirt freshman totaled 862 yards and nine touchdowns on 49 receptions. If Sutton got a little more "Dez Bryant to him," aka playing more physically and bullying defensive backs, he could be tremendous in the NFL.
Scouting sources really like Sutton and think he is a mismatch weapon. One playoff general manager said they loved Sutton and thought he could end up becoming the best receiver from his draft class. Another scouting director told WalterFootball.com that, in studying up on players before hitting the road for college training camps before the 2016 season, Sutton's tape really stood out, and he continued to impress them over the next two seasons. Sutton is a long-strider, and sources say his speed is comparable to TCU's Josh Doctson, who the Redskins took in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.