In the recent weeks, there have been a lot of questions about who are my value picks in the 2018 NFL Draft class. A value or sleeper prospect is basically a player who gets drafted after the first round and proves to be a steal. The second day of the 2018 NFL Draft is where the men are separated from the boys among NFL general managers. All the players have strengths and flaws, but the top evaluators find future starters and team building blocks on Day 2. Every year, I pick my favorite Second-Day value. In order to hold myself more accountable, I started putting in a runner-up in case the first choice is a surprise first-round pick. If a player goes in Round 1, I should not get credit calling him a second-day value pick if he pans out. Here is my track record over the last decade going back to my time with Pewter Report.
2008: Brandon Flowers, CB, Virginia Tech 2009: Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss 2010: Brian Price, DT, UCLA & Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida 2011: Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia 2012: Derek Wolfe, DL, Cincinnati 2013: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky 2014: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU 2015: Cedric Ogbuehi, OT Texas A&M, & Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State 2016: Jaylon Smith, LB Notre Dame & Sheldon Day, DT, Notre Dame 2017: Gerald Everett, TE South Alabama (runner-up: Akhello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado) 2018: Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech (runner-up: Arden Key, DE, LSU)
My choice this year came down to Virginia Tech safety Terrell Edmunds, LSU defensive end Arden Key and Mississippi State offensive tackle Martinas Rankin. I think Rankin is being slept on as well, but I don't think he's as dynamic as Edmunds or Key. Thus, he finishes in third place.
Key is a first-rounder on the field, and the only reason he slips to Day 2 is because of the off-the-field concerns. With those issues being that bad, I can't make him my pick of the year. However, he has big-time ability, and I wouldn't be surprised if he is a Justin Houston-like steal for some team.
I think Edmunds is an ideal strong safety for the NFL. The guy plays like his hair is on fire. He can play free safety or strong safety, cover and run with receivers one on one, and is a tough run defender. Edmunds has gone under the radar because of his brother, Tremaine Edmunds, being a top-10 talent, but I think Terrell Edmunds is going to be a better pro than a lot of the players who become first-round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. Thus, he's my top second-day value pick this year.
Overall, this list is very strong with one exception, Brian Price. Unfortunately, family tragedies robbed him of being able to put an NFL career together. Flowers has had a Pro Bowl career. Wallace has been a good pro receiver and helped get the Steelers to a Super Bowl. Houston is a pass-rushing terror for the Chiefs, while Wolfe has turned into a very good pro for the Broncos. Warford is one of the better guards in the NFL. He has been better than top-10 picks at guard in the same draft class, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. Hill flashed as a rookie before becoming a big disappointment. I think he could right his career in New England, but right now, that is looking like a mistaken evaluation on my part.
Two years ago, I went with Cedric Ogbuehi and named Ronald Darby as my backup. Since Ogbuehi was selected in the first round, he doesn't count for the long-term track record, but that would be a miss on my part. On the flip side, Darby has played really well for Buffalo in his first two years and looks like he'll have a very good NFL career. At this point, it is too early to render any judgement on the 2016 and 2017 players, although 2016 is not looking very good. My 2017 choice is looking good as Everett contributed well as a rookie while Witherspoon has stud potential.
Here is a breakdown of a top second-day-value prospect at each position for the 2018 draft class. All the players will be prospects who are likely going on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. If a player is a possible late first-round pick, I generally don't include them as an option.
Arden Key, DE, LSU
From an athletic skill-set perspective, Key is a first-round talent all day long. The only reason he's slipping to the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft is because of off-the-field concerns. Still, it takes some courage to predict Key will pan out because the character concerns are so bad that a clear top-16 pass-rusher is going to slip to Day 2.
In the pass rush, Key could be a dynamic edge defender with the ability to take over games and help neutralize an elite franchise quarterback. Key is phenomenal to use his speed to get upfield, sink his hips to dip underneath the block, and then rip with his inside arm to prevent blockers from getting a hold of him. From there, he uses his tremendous closing speed to finish the rush and will put some hard hits on quarterbacks. Key has excellent agility with fluid athleticism. That allows him to be very agile in the open field and easily redirect to the quarterback. Key's sophomore season was on a par with dominant sophomore years from the likes of Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Joey Bosa. Key flashed that ability at times as a junior, so it still is there to be tapped. He also is an adequate run defender for the NFL.
Key has massive off-the-field issues that are weighing down his draft grade. Team sources say the character issues are similar to Randy Gregory or Tim Williams, who both struggled with smoking. While there are concerns, scouts also say that Key loves football and has worked of his own volition with pass-rushing guru Chuck Smith to develop his skills. I'm taking the risky bet that Key will mature and his love of football and making a good living wins out.
2017: Malik McDowell 2016: Sheldon Day 2015: Michael Bennett 2014: Dominique Easley & Taylor Hart
Darius Leonard, LB, South Carolina State
There is a lot to like about Leonard for the NFL. He is an instinctive linebacker who is quick to read his keys and get in position to make plays. Leonard is a good wrap-up tackler who can pack a punch when he gets there, and he is very conscious to create big plays by consistently trying to strip the ball from ball-carriers. His eight career forced fumbles were no accident. With his speed, instincts, play recognition, and diagnosis skills, Leonard is a sound run defender.
In coverage, Leonard has the speed, athleticism and agility to be a man-coverage option against running backs or tight ends. He also gets good depth in zone and is sound to be in the right spot while covering up receivers who come into his territory. Leonard has the necessary quickness to run down the seam and defend the downfield middle portion of the field. Leonard also is a dangerous blitzer who closes on the quarterback quickly. With 21.5 sacks in his college career, Leonard has a real nose for the quarterback.
If Leonard had gone through a bigger program, he could easily be viewed as a consensus first-round pick.
2017: Zach Cunningham 2016: Jaylon Smith 2015: Denzel Perryman 2014: Kyle Van Noy
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
This was a tough choice between Carlton Davis and Isaiah Oliver. I went with Oliver because he has more speed and athleticism than Davis. The 6-foot, 201-pound Oliver is a man-cover corner who excels at playing press man. He is able to turn to run with receivers and blanket them running downfield. Oliver is adept at running the route and preventing separation. He possesses vertical speed to run with speed receivers to go with the height, long arms, and size to take on big wideouts. Oliver has quality ball skills to tip passes away and uses his size with quickness to recover. With his good footwork, body control, and ability to redirect, he is able to keep receivers from getting open consistently. Oliver is likely to be a second-round pick, but it isn't out of the question that he sneaks into the end of Round 1.
2017: Akhello Witherspoon 2016: Kendall Fuller 2015: Ronald Darby 2014: Marcus Roberson
Terrell Edmunds, S, Virginia Tech
In my opinion, Edmunds is almost the ideal strong safety for the current NFL. He can also play free safety, cornerback, and possibly dime linebacker. Edmunds is going to be one of the steals of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In the ground game, the 6-foot, 217-pounder Edmunds is a physical defender. He is fast coming downhill and is a good tackler. Edmunds reads plays quickly and fires down on backs without hesitation. He is an asset in the ground game with the ability to be the eighth man in the box.
In pass coverage, Edmunds is a very talented player. He shows an impressive ability to run with receivers downfield and maintain close coverage. Few defenders with a strong safety build can run with receivers like Edmunds can. He lines up against slot receivers and runs the route while also running with them downfield. In zone coverage, Edmunds covers a lot of ground and picks up targets coming into his area. He breaks on the ball quickly and tracks the ball well downfield. Edmunds has ball skills to break passes up and intercept the ball.
Edmunds is not a true single-high free safety to be the deep center fielder. He did that somewhat in college, but that is not his natural fit. A team could get away with Edmunds being deep over the top, but he shouldn't do that constantly. Edmunds is a tight player, and that lack of athleticism is what keeps him from being a first-round pick.
Edmunds is a real asset in pass coverage while also being a tough run defender. Multiple team sources see him as a secure second-rounder, and some believe he will go high in Round 2. I had one team's national scout who helped their team win a Super Bowl in recent years rave about Edmunds to me saying he's a less athletic Earl Thomas. I completely agree with that. I think Edmunds is going to become one of the top strong safeties in the league and a Pro Bowler. Thus, he's my top second-day-value pick for the 2018 NFL Draft.
2017: Marcus Maye 2016: Keanu Neal 2015: Damarious Randall 2014: Dion Bailey