Per sources with Los Angeles, the Chargers are envisioning a defense-heavy draft. The preferences are for a safety or a defensive tackle. However, there isn't good value available at either those positions. Cornerback could get consideration as Jason Verrett is nearing the end of his contract and has been injury prone.
Jackson (6-0, 196) 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.
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This makes a lot of sense. First of all, Seattle hasn't hesitated to take a chance on a player with off-the-field issues and has had success straightening out some talented, but troubled, players. The Seahawks also are without their second- and third-round picks, so taking a top-10 talent like Key gives them more bang for their buck with their first-rounder. Key could contribute immediately and help the Seattle pass rush as a rookie. With Michael Bennett being traded to Philadelphia, the need for a young pass-rusher is even greater. Thus, Key makes a ton of sense for Seattle.
Key is a fast edge rusher with a ton of upside to develop. He has the skill set to be a high first-round pick, but he comes with off-the-field concerns. Evaluators tell me Key's interviews, background checks, and visits are going to be huge factors in determining how high he goes in the 2018 NFL Draft. Key has some off-the-field concerns that are similar to Tim Williams and Randy Gregory, although not quite as bad as those two. That being said, sources have told me that the 6-foot-5, 238-pound Key loves football and is a hard-worker who strives to improve in the offseason. They said he previously worked with pass-rushing-moves guru Chuck Smith, and that is impressive dedication for a collegiate player.
Key missed the first two games of 2017 and was overweight in the early going. Eventually, he worked himself back into his old form and flashed his sophomore caliber of play before an injury ended his 2017 early. For his year, Key totaled 33 tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble.
In 2016, Key was one of the best players in college football. He recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up on the year. Key is a dangerous pass-rusher with excellent speed and the ability to bend around the corner. He flashed a ton of potential as a freshman for LSU, totaling 41 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, five sacks and one pass broken up.
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The Cowboys could use more linebacker talent to go with Jaylon Smith.
In 2017, Evans totaled 74 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one forced fumble and three passes broken up. The 6-foot-2, 232-pounder possesses an impressive skill set with size and speed. The senior did well rushing off the edge for Alabama in 2017. Evans was a backup in 2014 and 2015 before rotating onto the field during the 2016 season. As a junior, he totaled 53 tackles with 4.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, two passes broken up and one forced fumble. Some teams have medical concerns with Evans.
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The Lions have to improve their rushing attack to get some balance for their offense. Additionally, Detroit has no assurances that the top second-round backs will get to its choice in Round 2. Michel could quickly transform the Lions' offense and has true three-down potential.
The 5-foot-11, 214-pound Michel averaged 7.9 yards per carry in 2017 for 1,227 yards with 16 touchdowns. Michel has a ton of fans in the scouting community and was receiving second-day grades during the fall before his tremendous finish to the season that put him in contention to be a first-round pick. One general manager told me he thinks Michel could go late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Aside from being a quick back capable of ripping off long runs, Michel showed well in the passing game as a receiver and blocker during his collegiate career. Michel has starting potential for the NFL with speed, strength and versatility. He also enters the pros with less wear-and-tear after splitting carries with a variety of backs at Georgia.
Michel played well in 2016 while serving as the backup to Nick Chubb. On the season, Michel took 152 carries for 840 yards - a 5.3-yard average - and four touchdowns. He also had 22 receptions for 149 yards.
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Buffalo traded away Ronald Darby and could use a cornerback to go with Tre'Davious White.
Davis (6-1, 206) is a good corner who has size, length and press-man ability. He has nice quickness in the short part of the field and can battle big wideouts. Davis is a physical defender who really competes, but he does struggle with deep speed. The junior notched 36 tackles with 11 passes broken up, one forced fumble and an interception in 2017. As a sophomore, he totaled 46 tackles, 10 passes broken up, one forced fumble and zero interceptions. Davis recorded three interceptions with 56 tackles and eight passes broken up as a freshman.
This is the Chiefs' first-round pick traded to Buffalo when Kansas City moved up to pick No. 10 of the 2017 NFL Draft for Pat Mahomes. For a long time I had written here, "The Bills' actions indicate that they really don't view Tyrod Taylor as the future and their long-term starter. I think the regime in Buffalo will target its own quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft." That was confirmed last Friday night when Taylor was traded to the Browns. With multiple first-round, second-round, and third-round picks, one can be sure that Buffalo loaded up in order to trade up for a quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft.
In speaking to multiple teams, they had second-day grades on Mayfield, but that doesn't mean he won't go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. In speaking to a a couple of general managers, they thought Mayfield would go behind the top-10 quarterback prospects. Still, Mayfield could cause teams to fall in love with him and crack the top 10. It only takes one team, and Mayfield has some passionate believers. At the combine, team sources told me that Mayfield did well in his interviews and they liked how he threw the ball in his field work.
Mayfield (6-0, 216) is a gritty gunslinger who has an "it factor" to his game. He doesn't have elite arm strength, but his arm is good enough to make the throws required in the NFL. One of Mayfield's most impressive strengths as a passer is being able to locate the ball well and throw receivers open. He is very good with his timing and trajectory on passes to hit receivers on the run and set them up for lots of yards after the catch. Mayfield is very skilled to loft in touch passes downfield and throws a very catchable ball. He has excellent mobility to dodge sacks, escape pressure and extend plays with his feet, plus he throws well on the run.
Sources say Mayfield can have issues reading defenses, and his field vision needs to improve. He can struggle to throw the ball in tight windows when being forced to operate out of the pocket. One big area of focus for Mayfield is his footwork as he gets happy feet in the pocket. One college scouting director told me that Mayfield's feet are terrible and he will need a lot of development there for the NFL. A NFC general manager said they have concerns about how Mayfield will perform when teams force him to stay in the pocket. They also have concerns that Mayfield beat up on a lot of weak Big XII defenses and feel there is the chance that he gets exposed against NFL defenses. Evaluators who had seen Mayfield in person had estimated him to be around 5-foot-11 or 6-foot, but he measured out at the combine as 6-foot-1. While there have been some successful short quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, they are the exceptions to the norm for quarterbacks who are below 6-foot-2.
Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes in 2017 for 4,627 yards with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions. He also had five rushing touchdowns and one receiving. In 2016, Mayfield completed 71 percent of his passes for 3,965 yards with 40 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He picked up six rushing touchdowns as well.
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The Rams traded away Robert Quinn and could use some youth at defensive end.
Davenport (6-5, 264) possesses an excellent skill set with speed and agility. He has length and athleticism to play on the edge in the NFL, but needs to learn more pass-rushing moves. In 2017, Davenport notched 55 tackles with 17.5 tackles for a loss, 8.5 sacks, four passes batted and three forced fumbles. He totaled 6.5 sacks as a junior after notching four as a sophomore.
Edge defenders with length, quickness, and athleticism are always in demand, so Davenport could go in the first round in a weak year at defensive end. Scouts from multiple teams have told me that Davenport is a good player and impressed them in 2017, but they thought the top 16 is too high for him. They think the back half of Round 1 is possible.
Carolina could use some youth at defensive end to replace Julius Peppers.
Hubbard totaled 43 tackles, seven sacks, 13.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles in 2017. In 2016, he collected 46 tackles with eight for a loss, 3.5 sacks and two passes batted. While rotating into the game as a sophomore, Hubbard showed his potential with 6.5 sacks. He also had 28 tackles with an interception that season.
The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder has a great skill set, but never produced up to it. Hubbard possesses a serious combination of size, speed, and athletic ability that should help him to rise during the pre-draft workouts, however. Some team sources feel that Hubbard was an underachiever and should have turned in a lot more production over his collegiate career.
The Titans could use a big cornerback to go with Adoree' Jackson.
Jackson is a bit of a love/hate prospect as some scouts say they see him as a first-rounder and others think he belongs on Day 2 because of playing discipline and size. However, all the scouts say Jackson is extremely fast, so he will be a good matchup corner to line up against speed receivers. The 5-foot-10, 178-pounder is athletic to run the route and prevent separation, but he is a gambler and could stand to play with more discipline for the pros. Scouts tell me that Jackson is talented, but has a ton of issues to work on, and that might include some hard lessons versus pro receivers. Still, he has great speed and serious coverage skills to run the route and prevent separation. Jackson is a track star and is expected to run an eye-popping 40 time that could push him higher. The scouts who like Jackson compare him to Janoris Jenkins, and Jenkins would have been a first-rounder had it not been for off-the-field issues.
Jackson had 49 tackles with 10 passes broken up and an interception in 2017. As a sophomore, he recorded 39 tackles with eight pass breakups and two interceptions.
Atlanta could use more talent at defensive tackle with an interior disruptor and pass-rusher.
Bryan (6-5, 291) broke out in 2017 with 40 tackles with six tackles for a loss and four sacks. In speaking with some scouting sources, Bryan has drawn comparisons to the Chiefs' Chris Jones or the Broncos' Derek Wolfe. Some announcers have compared the 6-foot-4, 295-pound Bryan to J.J. Watt, and in terms of style of play, Bryan is reminiscent of Watt, although not consistently. Bryan has a tremendous get-off with serious explosion off the snap. He also has developed strength with active hands to shed blocks. Given his length, Bryan can play end or tackle, plus is an ideal candidate for five-technique.
I heard from sources weeks early that Bryan was going to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, and scouting contacts project him to the first or second round. Bryan is a great athlete who is big, strong, fast and agile. He had a late start in football, however, from growing up in Wyoming, and that showed up in him never demonstrating good instincts. Bryan is inconsistent while lacking feel and pass-rushing moves. Considering his late start in football, he would have likely been better off in his long-term football career to return to school and gain playing experience before going to the NFL and taking on pro offensive linemen. Some team sources have told me they were grading Bryan as a second-rounder, but think he could end up being a first-round pick because of his great skill set, which is expected to shine in pre-draft workouts.
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The Saints could easily have taken Pat Mahomes last year if he hadn't been taken one selection ahead of them. Drew Brees is expected back, but they are also keeping an eye on the future. Jackson has a lot of similarities to Mahomes, so Jackson could be a fit for New Orleans late in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In 2017, Jackson completed 59 percent of his passes for 3,660 yards with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also averaged 6.9 yards per carry on the ground on his way to 1,443 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Some team sources think that Jackson is worthy of being a top-10 pick and will rise in the leadup to the 2018 NFL Draft, similar to Pat Mahomes last year. One general manager told me they think Jackson could be deserving of going high in the first round because he's a taller and better version of Michael Vick. In speaking to multiple league sources including a few general managers, they think Jackson is being undervalued right now similar to Deshaun Watson a year ago.
Jackson has a great athletic skill set, including a powerful arm that can make all throws the NFL requires and some rare passes. While his tremendous running ability gets a lot of attention, Jackson is better passing from the pocket than he is given credit for. Jackson will take some shots and deliver good passes in the face of the rush. He also handled Bobby Petrino's scheme well. Jackson can be inconsistent with his accuracy, and he needs to add weight to his frame for the NFL. He also needs to develop maturity in his leadership skills as he can be of one of the guys too much.
Jackson (6-2, 216) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
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The Steelers could use a strong safety to pair with Sean Davis.
In 2017, Harrison totaled 74 tackles with three interceptions, 2.5 sacks and four passes batted. He played really well as an enforcer in the middle of the field. Aside from coverage issues, Harrison had a quality 2016 season as the strong safety when he totaled 86 tackles with seven passes broken up and two interceptions.
Harrison (6-2, 207) is a tough run defender who has the athletic skills to cover, but he has issues covering receivers in man coverage. Team sources have said an example of that is Clemson's Hunter Renfrow really abusing Harrison in the past, and that is why Minkah Fitzpatrick served as the coverage safety for the Crimson Tide. Playing zone in the middle of the field is a better fit for Harrison. Because of some coverage limitations, Harrison is a strong safety type for the NFL.
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The Jaguars are in win-now mode, so the age of Hurst probably won't be a big deterrent. Additionally, they are getting a good value with the best tight end in the draft late in the first round. Marcedes Lewis turns 34 after the 2018 NFL Draft, and Hurst is a freaky athlete who would help Jacksonville's passing attack and help block for Leonard Fournette.
Hurst totaled 44 receptions for 559 yards and two touchdowns in 2017. He also rushed for a touchdown. Team sources have raved about Hurst and think that he has a first-round skill set. They say he might slip to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft, but they love the physical talent of the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder.
Sources say they heard early on that Hurst would skip his senior year to enter the 2018 NFL Draft because he is a bit older at 24 years old. Hurst played professional baseball in the minor leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization out of high school. Because of his delayed start in football, sources say that Hurst is still raw as a route-runner and blocker. However, he has a great skill set with upside to improve quickly once he is taught some technique. In 2016, Hurst had 48 receptions for 616 yards with one touchdown. A lack of production from not many opportunities is another factor that could force him down.
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The Vikings could use an upgrade at guard and reunite Price with Pat Elflein.
Price (6-4, 305) impressed NFL evaluators, both with his work in fall training camp and in the games of the 2017 season. They say that Price plays within himself. They like his awareness and call him an above-average athlete. He isn't overly fast or twitchy like the Pouncey brothers, but Price has movement skills and is better than average in space. The sources also like that Price handles big nose tackles well, which can be difficult for centers and is a hard-to-find talent. As a result of his well-balanced play, Price is being viewed as a prospect who could go in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. One team source thought that if Josh Garnett and Laken Tomlinson were worthy of first-round picks, then Price could be as well because they feel Price is a better prospect than either Garnett or Tomlinson. Teams are projecting Price to be a starting center in the NFL, but he also has the flexibility to play guard. Price tore a pectoral muscle while bench pressing at the combine, but that shouldn't impact his NFL career once he works his way back onto the field.
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31.New England Patriots:Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
The Patriots are about to lose Malcolm Butler in free agency and could use a cover corner to replace him.
Hughes started out his collegiate career at North Carolina before transferring to Central Florida. The 5-foot-10, 189-pounder impressed some evaluators with his coverage skills, and he was a big part of the Knights putting together a 13-0 record in 2017. Hughes totaled four interceptions, 11 passes broken up, a forced fumble and 49 tackles on the year. He also was a dangerous kick returner with two scores and punt returner, including a punt return touchdown.
Some teams have given Hughes a second-round grade. Others who aren't as high on him felt he should have returned 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 in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The Eagles could use a more young talent at offensive tackle given the age of Jason Peters. Even if they draft a long-term right tackle, they could move Lane Johnson to the left side.
Miller (6-9, 309) had a rough start to 2017, but turned in a decent season for UCLA blocking for Josh Rosen as the Bruins' left tackle. Miller has good length to him, athleticism, and the agility to stay on the edge in the NFL. However, he might be a better fit as a right tackle in the pros, as Miller can have problems with speed rushes to the inside. That caused him to have some up and down performances in college. He played right tackle in 2015 and 2016 before injuries ended those seasons early. Miller only played in five games in 2016.