Those pesky Johnny Manziel comparisons aren’t going away—not until Mayfield wins a few games, at least. The Browns gambled here, passing on multiple quarterbacks with traditional NFL measurables for the one who stands at just six feet. Mayfield doesn’t have the Russell Wilson-type athleticism to prosper in sandlot mode the way he did in college. But what the Browns surely noticed is, while those sandlot plays dazzled fans, Mayfield’s best work actually came when he played on time and within structure. He has a good enough arm and a sharp enough football IQ to run a high-level pro offense. His best chance at success is the Drew Brees route, with his game predicated on precision passing, intellect and, to offset the height issue, pocket movement.
Scouting Report: There’s a reason few six-foot quarterbacks make it in the NFL, and the fact that Mayfield is coming from an Air Raid offense (supported by superior talent) is a second strike. Still, he was adept at finding throwing lanes at the collegiate level. He’s an anticipatory passer, which will make up for what’s ordinary arm strength for an NFL starter. And the Johnny Manziel comparisons should probably go away considering Mayfield’s off-the-charts football character, as well as high football IQ. An offensive coordinator might have to get a bit creative (and you wonder how Mayfield will handle a more aggressive media throng at the NFL level if the likes of Lee Corso can get under his skin), but with a strong interior line in a timing-based offense, there’s no reason Mayfield can’t have success in the NFL.
Forget finding Eli Manning’s replacement at quarterback—whoever that is might not play for another three years. This Giants club two years ago won the NFC East. New GM Dave Gettleman was brought in to build on a ready-now team, and a once-in-a-generation running back can help that. The Giants now have the dynamic ballcarrier to redefine what has lately been an atrocious ground game. New head coach Pat Shurmur did a great job in Minnesota marrying his running game and passing game. Barkley can help in both areas, and an erudite QB like Manning can check him in and out of the best plays accordingly.
Scouting Report: Evaluators told our Albert Breer that Barkley is a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott was two years ago, and one team told Peter King that Barkley was the fifth prospect in the past 20 years to have received a perfect grade from them. Barkley is a true workhorse back who would be a first-round prospect solely on his ability as a runner. Add in his passing-game skills—think Le’Veon Bell, a big back who has the ability to create separation when lined up as a receiver—and he’s custom-built for the modern NFL.
The Jets traded a boatload to move up and draft a QB, and they didn’t know which QB it’d be. Presumably, they never dreamed it’d be Darnold, whom many thought to be the best all-around quarterback in this draft. Darnold has a unique ability to make plays off-schedule, but it’s always a crapshoot whether that translates to the NFL. As a rhythmic, pocket player (which is where consistent NFL success is found), he’ll need some mechanical polishing, and not just in his throwing motion, which is awkward but not grossly flawed. He’ll also need better weapons around him. The Jets have some important picks ahead of them in Rounds 3-7.
Scouting Report: Darnold had some growing pains in his first full year as a starter at USC—he saw a lot of new looks from opposing defenses and took some time to adjust, turning the ball over far too frequently. But few doubt Darnold’s ability to learn at the next level, and his physical skills (strong-armed and accurate), mental makeup and ability to make plays late in the down give him franchise QB potential.
Here’s why Ward to the Browns isn’t as shocking as it seems: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams believes in disguising coverages and blitzing. That’s much, MUCH easier to do when you have a shutdown corner. The Browns were 0-16 last season, but their roster is of 5-11 quality and their defense didn’t have a glaring weakness. The team could afford to take the best player available here. Assuming they liked N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb (why wouldn’t they?), they’ve tacitly declared two things by drafting Ward: 1. Myles Garrett can really carry a pass rush, and 2. You can manufacture a pass rush via blitzing, as long as you have guys who can cover 1-on-1 behind the blitz.
Scouting Report: Ward’s competitiveness and leaping ability allow him to play bigger than his size, and his loose hips and quick feet allow him to mirror quicker receivers underneath. He’ll likely always have issues against big No. 1 receivers, but he can play the slot or outside and has Pro Bowl potential.
When the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, they had DeMarcus Ware lining up opposite Von Miller. They must view Chubb as a near-lock to reach Ware’s caliber because they already had last year’s second-rounder, DeMarcus Walker, as well as 2015 first-rounder Shane Ray, whose fifth-year option was recently picked up. And let’s remember: Shaquil Barrett can also be noisy off the edge. Ray and Miller are uniquely flexible and can effectively rush inside from a standup position. Don’t be surprised if the Broncos put three or four of these men on the field together in obvious passing situations. Instead of trying to get good in many places, the Broncos are shooting to be GREAT in a few.
Scouting Report: He can’t match 2017 No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett from an athleticism standpoint, but Chubb combines impressive get-off, an advanced approach to the pass rush and a relentless motor. A strip-sack savant, he’s also athletic enough to make the move to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and hold up in space.
Many view Nelson as the best guard prospect since Zack Martin. And true, the Colts aren’t great at guard. (Jack Mewhort is fine on the left side, but the right side has seen a rotation of right tackle type fringe backups such as Joe Haeg and Denzelle Good.) That said … have you seen this defense? Its only true three-down players are safety Malik Hooker and corner Quincy Wilson—and both have played just half a rookie season in the NFL. Every other player, save for maybe edge men Jabaal Sheard and John Simon if we’re being generous, is a situational piece. And with most of the lineup built for Chuck Pagano’s scheme, not new coordinator Matt Eberflus’s, it’s hard to envision many situations where those guys would work. The Colts can block better now, but it won’t matter if their opponents score 40 each week. And while protecting Andrew Luck is obviously important, you do that by scheming more quick-strike throws, not banking so heavily on his blockers.
Scouting Report: He’s the complete package at guard—one evaluator told Albert Breer that Nelson is a better prospect than Zack Martin was coming out of Notre Dame. Nelson is a violent mauler with brute strength and a nasty disposition, but blends it with nimble athleticism that allows him to thrive in space and as a pass protector.
The Bills traded up with the Buccaneers and then rolled the dice. UCLA’s Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready QB in this draft, by far. Allen, however, has the upside. His arm strength might be the best ever (certainly enough to cut through the notorious Buffalo wind), and his mobility is outstanding. That’s the part that gets overlooked. Wyoming called designed runs for Allen, much like Sean McDermott’s former Panthers team did for Cam Newton. Having a QB in your ground game skews the geometry and box count numbers for the defense, and it can be a tremendous offensive advantage. And notably, Allen is a better on-the-move thrower than Newton. Though like Newton, overall, he’s not a consistent ball placer. The Bills hope that can improve, but privately, they’ve almost certainly decided they can live with some bouts of inaccuracy. It’s an intriguing pick, but still a gamble, especially when factoring in the extra picks they gave up.
Scouting Report: Think of Allen as a younger, extreme version of Cam Newton with both the good and the bad—a pure power thrower who can attempt passes others can’t (and often from absurd platforms), but accuracy that’s streaky on good days and unacceptable on bad days. (Allen also has value on designed runs, though probably not to the same extent Newton does.) Accuracy problems are difficult to fix but not impossible to refine; his next position coach can start with often atrocious footwork, and comfort with a more talented group of pass-catchers should lead to more confidence. He’s every bit the boom-or-bust prospect everyone thinks he is, and the rare arm talent gives him the highest ceiling in this draft class.
Vic Fangio is one of the game’s smartest, most nuanced schemers, and two things define a Fangio defense: Blurry zone coverages and nickel packages (almost never dime). A team needs great inside linebackers to do this. Zone disguises start at safety—Fangio likes to keep two back deep—but they’re perfected at linebacker, a position where many defenses don’t think to employ subtle disguises. By playing nickel every snap, even if there are four wide receivers on the field, Fangio places tall orders on his linebackers in coverage. When you have the right ones, it can be great (Remember what Fangio did in San Francisco with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman?), and Smith, one of the most dynamic all-around stack linebackers in this draft, should fill this role successfully.
Scouting Report: He’s undersized, but Smith is also fast and instinctive (which allows him to play even faster). He’ll need to be covered up by a big defensive line, but brings star potential as a 4–3 WILL or 3–4 ILB.
Drafting McGlinchey is a bit of a head-scratcher given that the 49ers just gave left tackle Joe Staley a raise for the next two years. Right tackle is just as valuable in today’s NFL, but it’s hard to imagine the Niners not signing Trent Brown (the NFL’s largest man, and a decent athlete) to a long-term deal after this season. [UPDATE: The 49ers traded Trent Brown to the Patriots for a third-round pick on Friday.] Do they believe the nearly 6’ 8” McGlinchey can somehow play guard? Do they believe Brown can? Or do they think Staley is slowing down, which was the belief before he turned in a stellar 2017 season? Adding to the curiosity of this pick is the fact that Kyle Shanahan’s system often makes life easier on pass rushers. It is a zone running-based scheme, however, and those blocks require athleticism along the O-line.
Scouting Report: With a nice blend of length and athleticism, as well as experience on both sides of the line, McGlinchey should become a quality starter. He doesn’t overwhelm opponents and his ceiling doesn’t match Connor Williams’s, but he’s technically polished with a chance to start immediately, probably on the right side.
The Cardinals reportedly decided near draft time that they wouldn’t be trading up for a quarterback, but that was before they knew the most polished QB in this draft would still be available this late in the draft. Rosen was an acute field-reader at UCLA and plays a timing-and-rhythm brand of football, which usually translates well to the pros. It’s one reason he’s known for his ability to throw receivers open. He is a great fit for offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s multifaceted passing game.
Scouting Report: A pure passer with advanced feel in the pocket and impeccable ball placement, Rosen is probably the most pro-ready of the QBs in this year’s class. He won’t make plays late in the down like Sam Darnold does though, and durability is a question mark. He also has the kind of beat-of-a-different-drum personality (hit the Independent Thought Alarm) that will surely cause some evaluators to bristle.
Fitzpatrick is arguably the most versatile defender in this draft, and he’s joining defensive coordinator Matt Burke’s somewhat traditional zone scheme. Will the scheme expand? Burke has made great use of veteran Reshad Jones’s unique blitzing ability. Fitzpatrick must be employed in those packages; he dominated as an edge blitzer in college. He can also slide down and cover the slot, presenting an option for replacing No. 3 corner Bobby McCain, whom some in the organization believe is rock-solid and others think doesn’t make enough big plays. Big plays shouldn’t be a concern with Fitzpatrick. It’ll be interesting to see where he operates in base situations as a rookie. Most likely, he’ll be interchangeable in centerfield and the box, like Jones, with whom he’ll pair for the next several years.
Scouting Report: As more NFL offenses turn to versatile, movable, chess piece-type players to gain the upper hand, Fitzpatrick provides the antidote. He’s rangy and instinctive in centerfield, but is at his best coming down to match up with athletic tight ends and slot receivers. He excels as a blitzer, attacks as a run defender and has the character and football IQ to immediately become a leader in the locker room.
Tampa Bay must really love the massive defensive tackle, because it didn’t need him. The Bucs fell apart in pass defense last year, thanks to an inept four-man rush and underperforming secondary, but the pass rush was addressed by the trade for ex-Giant Jason Pierre-Paul and signing of ex-Eagle Vinny Curry. Still, it doesn’t hurt to add one more piece. But the secondary? That’s still an issue, particularly at safety. Vea can be a special run defender, and that augments what you get with terrific chase linebackers like Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander. But the NFL is a passing league. Being iffy in aerial D and not drafting players who can theoretically help (like, say Derwin James), is dicey.
Scouting Report: The measurables didn’t always add up to dominance, and he’ll need to be rotated out more often than you might like, but Vea has a Dontari Poe-like blend of size and movement skill that rarely come into the league.
Was Payne really the player that Washington wanted, or were there resounding groans across the war room when Tampa Bay took Vita Vea just one spot earlier? Here’s an argument for why Washington’s front office will be telling the truth when it says Payne was its top target all along: he can rush the passer. A pass rush is critical when you play as much zone as Washington, and Payne, with his light feet and some oomph in his movement, should help a run D that ranked 29th in yards per attempt last year. Interestingly, Washington drafted an Alabama interior pass rusher in the first round last year: Jonathan Allen.
Scouting Report: His performance in last year’s College Football Playoff (showing talent on both sides of the ball against Clemson, then dominating against Georgia in the title game) solidified Payne’s spot in Round 1. His brute strength and athleticism will make him a dominant run defender, though he’s still a work-in-progress as a pass rusher.
When the Saints traded the No. 27 pick and next year’s first-rounder to move up, many thought they’d take Drew Brees’s successor, Lamar Jackson. But Marcus Davenport’s name was announced. Davenport provides the explosive edge-rushing that was missing opposite All-Pro Cameron Jordan. While the trade seemed like an awfully steep price to pay, the relief of the Saints doing the right thing and building on their improving—but still far from perfect—defense inflates this grade.
Scouting Report: Built like a power forward, UTSA’s Davenport dominated hapless Conference USA opponents with a blend of size and explosiveness rarely seen outside the Power Five conferences. After getting by purely on athletic gifts during his college career, Davenport has some work to do before he’ll be able to dominate similarly against NFL-caliber athletes. But his ceiling is enormous, and he’s even more intriguing in a draft that’s light on edge players (and in a year when there are few to be had on the free-agent market).
Peter King called it. The Raiders have a lot of defensive needs, but left tackle Donald Penn is approaching the 18th tee box on his career and Derek Carr’s blind side must be protected, especially given that reincarnated head coach Jon Gruden prefers to put the QB under center, not in shotgun. It’ll be interesting to see if Miller plays on the right side as a rookie. Switching sides as a blocker is very difficult, especially if you’re trying to acclimate to the pro game. Miller did, however, play both sides at UCLA. We grade this pick down just a bit because the Raiders have gigantic needs at linebacker and cornerback, and left plenty of good players on the board.
Scouting Report: He has the desired length for the blindside, and Miller flashed impressive athleticism (which shined through at the combine). With a bit of cleanup with his technique, he could become a quality left tackle. If not, he could probably hold his own as a serviceable right tackle.
Sean McDermott’s scheme emphasizes stack linebackers, and the Bills didn’t have any—second-year pros Tanner Vallejo and Matt Milano were the projected starters prior to draft night—but whether Edmunds can become a starter right away remains to be seen. He turns 20 next week and his game is unrefined. McDermott’s linebackers must be able to align in the A-gap, up on the line of scrimmage, and drop from there into coverage. That takes not just athleticism, but acute spatial awareness. Edmunds will have some growing pains, but he’s gifted and will be working with coaches who have groomed talent before.
Scouting Report: Edmunds is still something of a work in progress, but with a rare combination of size and athleticism he can be molded into just about anything a coaching staff wants him to be. He has the range to go sideline-to-sideline as a traditional middle linebacker, and the length and fluid athleticism to match up with tight ends in coverage. And despite it not always being in his job description, he’s an explosive edge rusher with star potential if asked to play the edge on a regular basis.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley learned in Seattle how valuable safeties can be in his Cover-3 scheme. The Chargers have an underrated one in box thumper Jahleel Addae, but that didn’t discourage them from drafting the former Seminole who has drawn comparisons to Sean Taylor. Would they consider playing James in centerfield early on so that Addae can stay in the lineup?
Scouting Report: He was a relative disappointment after bursting onto the scene as a true freshman in 2015, but that might have had something to do with some tentativeness in his first year back from a torn meniscus that cost him most of the 2016 season. The Seminoles asked James to play near the line of scrimmage more often last season, and he’s not a guy you’d line up in centerfield with regularity. But his versatility—he’s essentially another linebacker in the box, or can lock down tight ends and running backs in man coverage—makes him the kind of defensive chess piece to counter what most NFL offenses are currently doing with hybrid pieces.
Some might cite edge rusher as a bigger need, with almost-32-year-old Clay Matthews in a contract year. But new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine never had great edge rushers with the Jets, where he made his bones—he had great cover corners, which he put on islands to enhance his interior pressures and zone blitz disguises. Presumably, that’s how head coach Mike McCarthy wants to play, given that Pettine’s predecessor, Dom Capers, subscribed to a similar philosophy. The Packers appear to have a quality cover corner in Kevin King (though the 2017 second-rounder has played just nine NFL games). The hope now is they have another with Alexander.
Scouting Report: He battled a knee injury for most of last season, but when healthy, Alexander is a quick, aggressive, ball-hawking corner who is at his best playing off coverage and breaking on the ball. While undersized, he held his own against bigger receivers downfield as well.
Dallas’s biggest need is wide receiver, and every one of them was still on the board when they picked at No. 19. And yet, the team went with linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, which suggests it believes that Sean Lee—injury prone, 32 years old in July and a contract expiring in 2019—is nearing his end. If they don’t believe that Lee is almost done, this pick makes no sense with Jaylon Smith on the roster. In today’s NFL, where nickel defense is on the field around 60% of the time, you only need two high-quality linebackers. Vander Esch is a classic three-down ‘backer who started only one year in college. Most likely he’ll learn from Lee and then replace him. Good player, but the glaring need at wideout going unaddressed can’t be forgotten.
Scouting Report: A lanky inside linebacker with the raw athleticism and speed to be a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, Vander Esch needs to fill out his frame a bit more, but he could step in as an immediate starter as a 4–3 WILL or 3–4 ILB. Medicals, because of a neck injury, are a concern for some teams.
Picking Ragnow addressed the Lions' weakness at left guard. Graham Glasgow will now move there, supplanting recently signed backup Kenny Wiggins. The Lions wouldn’t draft Ragnow if they didn’t believe he can be a force in the running game, which has been a deficiency the past several years in Detroit.
Scouting Report: His senior season was derailed by an ankle injury, but when healthy Ragnow is a reliable technician with the snap-and-step quickness to get out on reach blocks. He's better against size than against quickness, but he can plug in as an immediate starter.
It’s not a sexy pick, especially with Lamar Jackson, a potential replacement for Andy Dalton, on the board. But it’s a grossly necessary pick. The Bengals have had major problems against interior designer pass rush tactics the past two years, and their O-line got no movement in the ground game last season. With every interior O-lineman in the last year or two of his contract, this lineup could be altered at any spot. And it must—Andy Dalton needs a clean pocket. When he doesn’t have one, his flawed footwork leads to the mechanical breakdowns that cause most of his befuddling incompletions and turnovers.
Scouting Report: Price suffered a torn pectoral at the combine—while he should be healthy by the fall, he’s going to miss valuable offseason work. When healthy, he’s a technician with the toughness and movement skills to fit in just about any scheme. He saw time at center and guard for the Buckeyes, starting all 55 of OSU’s games over the past four seasons.
Tennessee needed a replacement for departed free agent Avery Williamson, who joined the Jets, and while the Titans had free-agent signees Nate Palmer and Will Compton, plus 2017 fifth-round cover linebacker Jayon Brown, three players in one position amounts to a lot of question marks. It’s wiser to find an aggressive attacker who played in a multifaceted scheme at Alabama. A lot will be asked of Evans in Mike Vrabel and defensive coordinator Dean Pees’s system. At least he’ll be operating alongside a steady veteran like Wesley Woodyard.
Scouting Report: Evans should join C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower, Reuben Foster and Rolando McClain as plug-and-play first-round linebackers out of Nick Saban’s program. Evans is fast and physical, though his value on passing downs is likely to come on the blitz more than in coverage.
The Patriots did the right thing: Instead of finding Tom Brady’s replacement, they found someone to protect him. It was needed; Nate Solder is gone and Antonio Garcia, last year’s third-round pick, missed his rookie season with blood clots. At 6' 3", 313 pounds, many projected Wynn as an NFL guard—a position in which the Patriots are well set with Joe Thuney and especially Shaq Mason (though Mason’s contract is up soon). Playing devil’s advocate, here’s one question: if the Patriots are returning to a quick-strike, horizontal passing game—and trading Brandin Cooks suggests they are—do they really need to spend a first-round pick on a tackle? The nature of the scheme will protect the QB just as much as a blocker would. But having two first-rounders and two second-rounders makes this an easier trigger to pull.
Scouting Report: An undersized collegiate tackle who will make the transition to guard, Wynn offers excellent athleticism on the interior. He’ll be able to handle himself as a pass protector, and might thrive as a run-blocker in a scheme heavy on outside zone.
Any team that has Devin Funchess and especially Torrey Smith as projected starters obviously needs help at wide receiver. The question is, what kind of help? With last year’s second-round flex weapon Curtis Samuel plus ex-Viking Jarius Wright, there are answers in the slot. What this team needed was a weapon on the perimeter. Moore isn’t huge (6' 0", 210 pounds), but he plays large. He’s a contested catch artist whom some have described as a potentially more refined version of DeAndre Hopkins. That style should suit a strong-armed risk-taker like Cam Newton.
Scouting Report: The Big Ten’s 2017 receiver of the year despite Maryland’s constant revolving door at quarterback, Moore has the quickness and burst out of his cuts to separate underneath, as well as the long speed to take the top off a defense. He’s on the smaller side but is competitive downfield and plays bigger than his size. He could fit as a starter on the outside or in the slot, and could carve out a Golden Tate-type career in the right situation.
You could say the Ravens’ biggest need was still wide receiver, considering that 2015 first-rounder Breshad Perriman hasn’t developed and newcomers Michael Crabtree and John Brown provide the same type of aerial attack as predecessors Jeremy Maclin and Mike Wallace. But consider: the 2017 Ravens came to life once they finally committed to being a run-first team. (Unfortunately, it was a tad too late.) They already had two decent blocking tight ends in Nick Boyle and Maxx Williams. Finding a receiving TE would add dimension to their ”two tight end” packages, creating more flexibility for their first- and second-down passing game and opening more of their ground game.
Scouting Report: He’s a bit overaged after a stint as a minor league pitcher (he’ll be 25 in August), but Hurst is the kind of movable piece teams are looking for at tight end. He can hold his own in-line if needed, though he’s at his best flexing out as a receiving threat. He has the speed to stretch the seam, but does his best work underneath, where he shows the ability to create separation as a route runner and break tackles after the catch.
This is a clear example of a rich offense getting richer. Ridley is a polished route runner whom some believe has stylistic similarities to Antonio Brown. Atlanta’s scheme is flexible enough to move him around, and obviously, opponents will be game-planning to stop Julio Jones, making Ridley’s life easier. If the rookie can learn the system and the pro game quickly (NFL coverages can look very different than college coverages), he can contribute significantly outside, relegating Mohamed Sanu to purely a slot role. The thought of Matt Ryan with three top-flight wideouts and two big-time running backs (Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman) is terrifying. We can’t quite give this pick an A because Atlanta’s needs along the D-line are drastic. The Falcons must not have been high on Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan.
Scouting Report: His numbers were suppressed while playing with a young, run-first quarterback in Jalen Hurts, and Ridley lacks the ideal size of a No. 1 receiver, but everything else is there. His acceleration and long speed make him a dangerous downfield threat, and he has the fluid athleticism, short-area quickness and overall feel for route running to consistently create space working underneath. He’s the best in a relatively weak WR class.
Wait, what? With glaring needs at cornerback and edge rusher, and Iowa corner Josh Jackson and BC edge man Harold Landry still on the board, the Seahawks drafted a running back? (And that running back wasn’t Derrius Guice?) Look, GM John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll studied all of these prospects infinitely more than we did, and they’re obviously familiar with his team’s needs. And it should be noted that over the years the Seahawks have successfully found lanky press corners in the middle rounds of the draft. They acquired more mid-round capital by trading back in the first round. There’s also a case to be made on the other side of the ball: this team was at its best when the offense ran through Marshawn Lynch. A run-first offense naturally creates more leeway for Russell Wilson’s sandlot style. So we certainly can’t call this pick a blunder. But it’s very surprising the Seahawks didn’t address their D-line or secondary.
Scouting Report: The reigning Division I rushing champion, Penny is a big back with nimble feet to get creative and the leg drive to churn out yards between the tackles. He’s raw in the passing game and will likely have to come off the field on third downs early in his career, but he was a prolific kick returner at the collegiate level.
Pittsburgh’s biggest need was inside linebacker, but four were already off the board when the Steelers’ pick arose. Instead they went safety, a position more teams are employing instead of linebacker. Expect this defense to be a dime, not nickel, unit in passing situations, which means Edmunds, Sean Davis and free agent pickup Morgan Burnett all on the field with just one linebacker. The Steelers did this a few years ago when their depth at linebacker was lacking. As far as what Edmunds means long-term, that remains to be seen. Burnett is not yet 30 and is on a financially friendly three-year deal. Davis, whose rookie deal expires after 2019, has not developed as much as hoped, but the coaching staff believes he can become a big-time centerfielder. He’ll likely be playing that spot now that Mike Mitchell is gone.
Scouting Report: The older brother of stud linebacker prospect Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell isn’t the kind of physical specimen his brother is, but he’s a size/speed prospect with good upside in this DB class. He has the loose hips and quick feet to move down and match up man-to-man with tight ends and big slot receivers, and is an aggressive (if inconsistent) tackler when filling in against the run. He’s raw, too often failing to locate the ball in coverage and running himself out of plays when coming downhill, but he clearly has the athletic traits to become a versatile and valuable starter if coached up.
Does Bryan fill a need? Of course not. But we should know by now not to scold the Jaguars for overloading on defensive talent, because it’s worked out almost perfectly thus far. Bryan is said to be a bit of a project. With Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Abry Jones and occasional defensive tackle Calais Campbell (an All-Pro defensive end) on the roster, he can develop initially from the bench. Stylistically, he fits Jacksonville’s gap-attacking 4-3 defense.
Scouting Report: Long and athletic, Bryan is raw but flashes rare movement skills for his size. He explodes off the line and plays with a relentless motor—a fluid mover who can bend around a blocker and make plays in the backfield. He’s a bit lanky for the interior and might ultimately be molded into a five-technique.
Mike Zimmer has never had a problem with drafting corners in the first round and developing them from the bench for a year or two—just ask Trae Waynes, who now might not be signed long-term. (It was recently reported the Vikings will pick up Waynes’s $9-million fifth year in 2019. That could still happen, but now it’s not mandatory.) Hughes will be asked to play aggressive matchup zone coverage outside in Minnesota’s sturdy two-deep safety scheme.
Scouting Report: Hughes left North Carolina after his freshman season after earning a suspension for violating team rules and spent a year in junior college before emerging as a star at UCF. He’s quick, fast and competitive, playing with a physical edge despite being on the smaller side. He can be overaggressive and needs to become more consistent, but the potential to become a No. 1 corner is there. He also offers value as a punt returner.
Another pick, another piece for Tom Brady. The same analysis for the Patriots No. 23 pick (Michel’s teammate Isaiah Wynn) applies here—instead of chasing a replacement for Tom Brady, they tried to find him a weapon. Michel has the traits to of a foundational back. For receiving flex options, James White and Rex Burkhead will still get the nod. Overall, there’s great backfield diversity in New England.
Scouting Report: Part of the 1-2 punch with Nick Chubb in Georgia’s backfield, Michel emerged as one of the stars in the College Football Playoff (222 yards and four TDs on 15 touches against Oklahoma, 98 yards on 14 carries against Alabama). He’s a slasher who fits best in a one-cut scheme, and he’s outstanding when accelerating through the line of scrimmage with true home-run speed. He wasn’t featured heavily as a pass-catcher, but can be dangerous in space and is one of this draft class’s best in blitz pick-up. He can carry a heavy load as long as he improves his ball security.
Just as everyone was grabbing their coats and heading out the door, the Ravens dropped a bombshell, trading back into the first round to draft Joe Flacco’s eventual replacement. The question is when will that transition take place? Don’t be surprised if it’s sooner than later. Ravens assistant Greg Roman, who has significant say in their ground game designs, had Colin Kaepernick in San Francisco. And new quarterbacks coach James Urban was Michael Vick’s position coach in Philadelphia. Stylistically, Flacco and Jackson are polar opposites, but there are coaches in place to build a scheme for Jackson.
Scouting Report: He’s a work in progress, but there’s no denying the significant improvement Jackson made as a passer over his three seasons at Louisville. He’ll sail relatively routine throws due to his poor footwork (he’s all arm) and he’s streaky when throwing on the move—and while those are correctable flaws, there’s no guarantee his development will continue on such a promising trajectory. But if his progress as a passer stalls, Jackson is electric with the ball in his hands and a creative designer could build complexity in the run game (though durability might then be a concern considering his relatively slender frame). Or, yes, if things bottom out a position change is a possibility considering his exceptional ability as a runner. Like Josh Allen, Jackson is a gifted athlete (Allen is an exceptional arm talent with plus mobility, Jackson has exceptional mobility with plus arm talent) who carries a fair amount of risk but an enormously high ceiling if developed properly.
With Joe Thomas retired, the Browns apparently don’t want to gamble on long-armed 2016 third-rounder Shon Coleman developing into Baker Mayfield’s blindside guardian. At 6' 4" and 306 pounds, Corbett doesn’t have the ideal size, which is why many figured he might play guard in the NFL. But with Joel Bitonio and Kevin Zeitler already occupying these spots, the Browns clearly believe their newest lineman can play outside.
Scouting Report: A left tackle at Nevada, Corbett is likely ticketed for a move inside (just like Joel Bitonio, his predecessor for the Wolfpack). His pass protection skills should translate inside, as Corbett is consistent with his hands and has the violent punch to win early in the down; he has nimble feet to recover and typically shows strong instincts when it comes to the chess match against pass rushers. He’s more of a technician than physical specimen, but his functional strength, wide base and football IQ should hold up anywhere on the interior.
GM Dave Gettleman realized Saquon Barkley alone isn’t enough to rejuvenate this moribund ground game. Hernandez brings an excellent blend of movement skills and body control to a position where the Giants lacked quality starters on both the left and right side. New York’s rushing attack has featured a lot of vanilla inside zone in recent years. With Hernandez, new head coach Pat Shurmur can feature more man-to-man blocking.
Scouting Report: A massive road-grader, Hernandez is a powerful run blocker who dominates at the point of attack and has the nimble athleticism to lead the way as a pulling blocker. He’s on the shorter side and could have some issues in pass protection, but he should plug in immediately for a team that wants to build around a power run game.
Chubb projects as a foundational NFL back… but that’s what free-agent pickup Carlos Hyde already was. And with Duke Johnson, a multidimensional receiving threat behind Hyde, the depth at this position was already stellar. This is a head-scratching use of the No. 35 pick, especially from a team that needs help along the defensive line.
Scouting Report: By the end of last season, he was rounding into the form he showed early in his Georgia career—Chubb struggled as a junior, his first year back from a torn ACL. He’s more of a patient, savvy churner than explosive slasher, but he has the size to be a steady workhorse on early downs.
GM Chris Ballard must really like Leonard because he passed on Roquan Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and Leighton Vander Esch in Round 1. With the overwhelming number of desperate defensive needs in Indianapolis, Ballard wouldn’t do that unless he thought the value in Round 2 was almost comparable. Stylistically, Leonard fits new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’s Tampa 2-based 4-3 zone scheme. (Though to play for Eberflus, a linebacker must be at least decent in man coverage.)
Scouting Report: A dominant FCS player, Leonard has the size and athleticism that should translate to the NFL. He’s a prototypical 4-3 WILL with the range to go sideline-to-sideline, and he has the fluid athleticism to match up as a man defender or drop as an effective zone defender.
Drafting a once-in-a-generation guard like Quenton Nelson in the first round was befuddling given Indianapolis’s endless list of needs on defense. (In terms of three-down players, every position except Malik Hooker’s free-safety spot and Quincy Wilson’s corner spot could use an upgrade.) Taking another guard, despite having Jack Mewhort on the roster? Perplexing beyond comprehension. Either Mewhort or Smith will move to right tackle. Theoretically, Andrew Luck will be better protected than ever, but the best way to protect Luck is to install more quick-strike passes, not hope his new blockers can keep him clean.
Scouting Report: A three-time All-SEC guard and two-time All-America (first-team as a senior), Smith is a little stiff as a mover, but he has the kind of size and strength to dominate in a phone booth. He’s a potential plug-and-play right guard for a run-heavy offense.
Jones has home-run hitting speed, though that can be overrated in pro football. What matters is the ability to create your own space in confined areas, and that stems from vision and agility—traits that Jones showed at USC. The Bucs are a deep dropback passing team, and deeper passes stem from your running game. If Tampa Bay doesn’t feel that Jones can provide a foundational rushing attack, they may address this position again in the later rounds.
Scouting Report: Jones is a creative runner with the vision to pick his way for yards between the tackles, but his calling card is as a home-run hitter. He’s elusive then explosive once he plants his foot. His workload might be limited considering his relatively thin frame, and he's going to struggle in blitz pick-up at the next level, but he has the potential to be a difference maker even in a committee situation.
Quietly, the Bears have built their offensive line over the years. Daniels, like incumbent Bears center Cody Whitehair, can play any of the interior three positions, and the hope is that he’ll start ahead of free-agent pickup Earl Watford, who would be a so-so starter but comforting backup. Mitchell Trubisky has escapability, but his success will ultimately come from timing and rhythm passing, as well as zone play-action. A nimble interior O-line is crucial for that.
Scouting Report: One of the most athletic pivots in college football, Daniels is on the small side, but he offers outstanding range, in the Jason Kelce/Maurkice Pouncey mold. He anchors well for his size; holding up against massive nose tackles will be the question.
Today’s NFL requires at least three quality pass-catchers, and Denver had no options behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos got a sizable WR who can adjust to difficult balls, which is important when playing with Case Keenum, an aggressive but not always precise passer.
Scouting Report: Sutton dominated at the collegiate level thanks to a blend of size and athleticism. A contested-catch specialist in the Brandon Marshall mold, he has the raw tools to become a No. 1 receiver but has a long way to go as far as learning some of the nuances of the position.
Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are both in the final years of their contracts, and while they shine for stretches, they disappear for others. Neither is quite the player fans believe. 2016 second-rounder Kevin Dodd has not developed because he fits a classic 4-3, not a flexible 3-4 like Tennessee ran under Dick LeBeau and will run in a slightly different way under first-time head coach Mike Vrabel. Finding an edge rusher was necessary. We take this grade down one notch to account for Tennessee having to trade up for it, but overall, this is a very good move.
Scouting Report: He’s a bit undersized, but Landry is a fast, flexible edge burner. He returned to school and had an underwhelming, injury-filled senior year though, and needs to add to his repertoire of moves—he's all speed right now. But that speed and bendability can’t be taught.
Many expected Dallas Goedert to be the next tight end taken, but the Dolphins did extensive homework on both men and determined they wanted the receiving-oriented Gesicki. Head coach Adam Gase loves to flex his tight ends out wide, all alone on the weak side. Having a big jump-ball winner out there can do wonders for this offense.
Scouting Report: He lit up the combine (first among tight ends in every event except for the bench press, in which he was second), though that athleticism doesn’t always show up on tape. Gesicki has the speed to get up the seam, but he never showed the ability to consistently create separation at the college level. He is outstanding in contested-catch situations though. He’s a non-factor as a blocker.
The Lions are determined to inject some life and consistency into what’s been a mostly nonexistent ground game. After taking Arkansas center Frank Ragnow in Round 1, they go with a power-running back in Round 2. Matthew Stafford is one of the NFL’s most respected QBs, and with a ground game to balance the offense, he has a chance to now become a line-of-scrimmage-audibling field general that outsiders can finally appreciate.
Scouting Report: A big back who moves with exceptional body control, Johnson carried a huge workload for Auburn last season. He can grind out yards between the tackles, and runs with that Le’Veon Bell-like patience. He rolled up 104 yards on 30 carries with an injured shoulder in the Iron Bowl upset of Alabama, and offers an early-down workhorse with a chance to develop as a receiver.
How often does a team that lost its first nine games the previous year trade up to make a luxury pick the next year? The Niners didn’t have a glaring need at wide receiver, with possession-master Pierre Garcon, speedster Marquise Goodwin and young slot-specialist Trent Taylor all on the roster. But none of those are players you gameplan around, either. Kyle Shanahan, a masterful schemer, will try to win with a diverse array of receiving weapons.
Scouting Report: He lacks ideal size and has good—not great—speed, but Pettis is a crafty receiver who is fluid moving through his routes and consistently separates. The question is whether he can win early in the down against the press when it’s an NFL corner. He also brings value as a return specialist, finishing his career with an NCAA-record nine career punt returns for a touchdown. (And, most importantly, he’s the son of ’80s baseball speed merchant, gold-glover and baseball card prankster Gary Pettis.)
There’s no doubt that Mike McCarthy and new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believe that teams win with one-on-one coverage in the NFL. From there you can create a pass rush through deceptive looks and blitzing. The Packers had just one quality corner on the roster entering this draft (last year’s second-rounder Kevin King). With Jaire Alexander last night, they’ve now added two more. Don’t rejoice completely, though, Packers fans. No pick is a sure thing. Green Bay drafted corners in Rounds 1 and 2 in 2015—Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. If that had worked out, Alexander and Jackson wouldn’t be here.
Scouting Report: A breakout player in 2017, Jackson is long and showed elite ball skills last year. His speed is a concern, and he could be seen as a zone-only corner. But his ability to create turnovers—along with his length, he's quick to click and close on the ball, with the hands of a wide receiver—is the best in this CB class.
Can he defend the run? At 283 pounds, Speaks has the size to be a base down player, though probably more from a one-gapping standpoint than two-gapping. Kansas City’s biggest problem has been its inability to stop the run, particularly out of nickel and dime packages, where teams pound the rock against them from three-receiver sets.
Scouting Report: A uniquely versatile player at Ole Miss, Speaks lined up across the defensive line and has the kind of frame that can add some weight if a team wants to use him on the interior exclusively. He has a ways to go as far as consistency, as he’ll often get sluggish with his hands and often ends up playing too high and giving up leverage. He also had multiple ejections over his career. But his movement skills are excellent for his size, with the lateral agility and quickness to cover multiple gaps. The right coaching staff might be able to unlock a very good three-down player.
People don’t realize that Arizona has one of the six or seven best defenses in football—the team just need enough offensive weapons for the defense to not have to hold opponents to single-digit points each week. Josh Rosen is the most ready-now QB in this draft. With the lack of depth behind Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver, Kirk will have to contribute right away.
Scouting Report: A quick-twitch receiver with the ability to create separation underneath, Kirk is dangerous with the ball in his hands. A hard runner who can create yards after the catch, he too often fights the ball though, and will fail to come up with a lot of catchable balls. He’s strictly a slot receiver, with a chance to become something of a poor man’s Julian Edelman once he adds some polish to his game.
Down the stretch last year, edge-rushing dynamos Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram had to become more conservative pass rushers so that they could give their defensive tackles and linebackers some much-needed extra help against the run. Los Angeles’s pass rush suffered, and the run defense didn’t improve much. Nwosu potentially stabilizes that linebacker situation. It is, however, a little surprising the Chargers would take somewhat of a developmental project here considering that the team is the leading contender in the AFC West right now.
Scouting Report: He’s a project, but Nwosu is a twitchy linebacker who flashed in a variety of roles at USC, including as a pure edge rusher. He might take a year or two or development, but he has the raw tools to be molded in a number of ways.
Head coach Doug Pederson understands that defenses hate offenses that can throw the ball out of two-tight end sets. That’s especially true when that offense has a running game as expansive and effective as Philly’s. With Zach Ertz and Goedert on the field together, No. 3 linebackers will now be forced into coverage. Carson Wentz will be licking his chops.
Scouting Report: Unstoppable as a pass-catcher at the FCS level, Goedert is a fluid mover and polished route runner who flashes outstanding ball skills. He’s a question mark as a blocker and doesn’t quite have the elite speed teams look for in a flex tight end, but he should become at least a quality complementary receiver and matchup piece who can work the short and intermediate areas of the field.
The Cowboys announced Williams as a guard, but considering that 2015 would-be first-rounder La’el Collins flashed there a few years ago and has since struggled at right tackle, don’t be surprised if Williams winds up playing outside. Either way, the Cowboys now have a fifth super-high-pedigreed offensive lineman. If Williams fulfills the first-round potential that many believe he has, this front five, which was already far and away the NFL’s best, has a chance to be impenetrable in pass protection and unstoppable in the ground game. With no immediate major needs on defense (save for maybe pass rusher), the Cowboys could afford to re-invest in an area of strength.
Scouting Report: Williams was on a trajectory to be a top-10 and maybe even top-five overall prospect until an up-and-down junior year. He struggled through a knee injury, which might have had something to do with it. If he returns to form, he has the requisite length and athleticism for a left tackle, with some nastiness as a run-blocker as well. He might have to kick inside because of relatively short arms.
This is the tacit declaration that Kevin White is done. He’ll get a chance to compete in 2018, but it’s likely that 2015 first-rounder doesn’t have anything left after three injury-plagued seasons. The Bears, who had no quality wide receivers healthy for much of last season, needed to get a third newcomer after signing Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Atlanta’s Taylor Gabriel in free agency. Stylistically, these three wideouts complement each other well.
Scouting Report: A steady-if-unspectacular prospect, Miller was highly productive as Riley Ferguson’s go-to receiver at Memphis. A bit undersized and lacking the speed to be a true deep threat, he’ll likely be a better fit in the slot due to his quickness and competitiveness working in traffic. He’s battled drops in the past, but if that’s cleaned up he should become a quality complementary receiver.
Well, at least it was a defender. Turay is so raw that Mike Mayock even declared that Turay’s best season in college was as a freshman. You can never have too much edge talent in a 4-3 scheme, but from 30,000 feet, the Colts, four picks into this draft, still need to overhaul more about two-thirds of their defense.
Scouting Report: He’s raw, but Turay has as intriguing blend of length and explosive movement skills. He looks a little stiff when bending around the edge, but as he gets stronger and tougher he could develop into a force setting the edge with some value as a face-up pass rusher.
The Bucs needed help at corner, both for right now and for when 35-year-old Brent Grimes washes up (which should have been a few years ago, but Tampa Bay just re-signed him for $10 million this offseason). Spatial awareness is mandatory for playing in what is pro football’s most zone-intensive scheme, and Stewart has that.
Scouting Report: Stewart has the quick feet to mirror in short areas and is aggressive and physical when he has a chance to hit. He also shows good instincts and awareness when playing zone, with the fluidity to cover a good amount of space. Size and long speed are both less than ideal, and he’s better when he can get his hands on a receiver early, something that’s not always possible in the slot. A move to safety is a possibility. Overall, his versatility is a plus, and a coaching staff will appreciate Stewart’s football character.
Backup safety/slot corner Josh Shaw is a free agent next year, and Shawn Williams is better as a sturdy veteran backup than every-down player. So the Bengals needed to find a running mate for George Iloka. Marvin Lewis rarely plays rookie defensive backs, so don’t be surprised if Bates is given a year or two to develop. It’s a DB-friendly scheme, with a lot of two-deep zone coverage concepts.
Scouting Report: A rangy safety, Bates can cover a lot of ground in centerfield, but does he have the change-of-direction skills to match up with NFL athletes in man coverage? He’s active as a run defender, but he's inconsistent as a tackler and too often takes poor angles to the ball.
This defense is likely returning to its simpler 4-3 speedy zone ways under first-time coordinator Eric Washington. In that approach, the Panthers never prioritized cornerbacks, but all of their defensive backs will be free agents by 2020. Other than James Bradberry, none of those DBs are of clear-cut starting quality. Picking Jackson was out of necessity.
Scouting Report: Possibly the fastest player in the 2018 draft (he ran leadoff for LSU’s conference-champion 4x100 relay team and ran a combine-best 4.32 40), Jackson is a loose-hipped, fluid athlete who can mirror quickness underneath. The issue is size, as Jackson might be relegated to the slot, and he will surely be targeted in the run game early in his career.
New England mixed and matched in the slot last season, and the hope is that Dawson can stabilize that spot. For that to happen, he must be proficient in man coverage, and it will be interesting to see if he gets reps on the perimeter. Bill Belichick is known for playing DBs in unusual locations.
Scouting Report: The No. 1 corner in Gainesville last season, Dawson is undersized but physical, a press corner with just enough long speed to carry receivers downfield. He also mirrors well underneath and will come up and hit in run support. The question is ball-tracking downfield, where his lack of size further limits him. He should carve out a role as a No. 3 corner early, with the chance to develop into a No. 2.
Yes, they have glaring needs at linebacker and especially cornerback. But new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther plays a lot of two-deep zone, which protects your ‘backers and corners in coverage. Plus in those looks, Guenther often aligns his “three-technique” defensive tackle on the strong side. That means the three-tech must have the strength and explosiveness to fight through double-teams. Guenther had this in Cincinnati with Geno Atkins. He didn’t inherit anyone on Oakland’s roster who is close to that caliber. The hope is Hall changes that.
Scouting Report: An undersized prospect from an FCS school, it’s fair to question just how much of Hall’s dominance (39 1/2 career sacks) will carry over to the NFL. But he lined up across the defensive line at Sam Houston, and consistently won with a combination of quickness and leverage. His frame is maxed out and there will surely be times when he gets swallowed up, but that ability to get upfield and wreck plays is intriguing. Considering the success of undersized defensive tackles over the last few years, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hall became a force at the next level.
GM Thomas Dimitroff and head coach Dan Quinn must love Oliver’s talent because the Falcons absolutely did not need a cornerback. Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford form one of the best starting tandems in football, and Brian Poole is sturdy in the slot. Oliver has the size and makeup speed that Quinn’s system demands. His arrival offsets the loss of repeated screw-up Jalen Collins (out of the league) and maybe, over time, Alford moves inside, where he has thrived before. It’s not a bad pick, but given Atlanta’s paucity of defensive tackles, it’s a questionable one.
Scouting Report: One of the best corners in this class from a pure size/speed standpoint, Oliver has the potential to become a lockdown cover man. His tape isn't great, and it will be a matter of cleaning up his footwork under an NFL position coach.
We don’t know the details about why Guice dropped to Round 2. If it turns out to not be an issue, this pick becomes a huge value. Guice is a dynamic go-to back who can alter an offense’s makeup. Washington needed more consistency and on-the-ground playmaking at this position, especially after acquiring a cautious, point-guard style QB like Alex Smith. On-field, this pick is an A. Off-field, it’s a TBD.
Scouting Report: A violent, thrashing back who thrives running through contact, Guice has the talent to make an immediate impact as an early-down bellcow back. The questions are what kind of contributions he’ll make as a receiver, and whether or not he can stay healthy considering his style after battling a nagging ankle injury last season.
Washington has to be better than Martavis Bryant for this pick to fully pan out. Off the field, that’s easy. On the field, it’s hard. Washington is a vertical receiver, which the Steelers covet opposite Antonio Brown and dynamic possession man JuJu Smith-Schuster. With Darrius Heyward-Bey (another speedster) and Justin Hunter on the roster, Washington doesn’t necessarily have to contribute right away, though as a second-rounder on a Super Bowl-ready team, you hope he can.
Scouting Report: He ran a limited route tree in Oklahoma State’s Air Raid offense, but Washington’s downfield ability will translate. He’s quick off the line of scrimmage and consistently beats the jam, with the quickness to accelerate past cornerbacks and the long speed to threaten downfield. He’s competitive in jump-ball situations, allowing him to play bigger than his listed size.
It’s a little surprising the Jaguars didn’t go O-line or tight end and try to augment their thundering ground game. Perhaps they didn’t love the prospects at those positions. The hope is Chark will bring playmaking prowess to a receiving corps that overachieved late last year, with rookies Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole leading the way.
Scouting Report: Chark is another LSU receiver with underwhelming production but big-time measurables, so teams will have to determine how much untapped potential he has. He’s had a promising postseason though, shining at the Senior Bowl and at the combine (4.34 40, 40-inch vertical leap). Chark’s a developmental prospect who at least has the explosive speed to concern opposing defenses as a situational deep threat.
There’s a vacancy at right guard after Joe Berger retired, and the Vikings will attempt to fill it either with O’Neill, an athletic but unfinished product with upside, or Mike Remmers, who slid into that spot down the stretch last year. Whoever doesn’t play guard will start at right tackle, if all goes to plan.
Scouting Report: A high-school wide receiver turned tight-end recruit turned offensive tackle, O’Neill hasn’t sacrificed much in terms of movement skills as he bulked up to 300 pounds. He’s still a work in progress, but he brings the raw skills with prototypical left-tackle length and athleticism.
Taking a second corner in Round 2 looks like the Bucs are sending a message to up-and-down 2016 first-rounder Vernon Hargreaves. Really, it’s just an acknowledgement that teams need three corners in today’s NFL.
Scouting Report: A physical press corner, Davis smothers receivers at the line of scrimmage and is extremely difficult to throw on downfield due to his length. He needs to clean up his footwork and not be so physical downfield, but he has the potential to be a quality starting corner who can matchup against size.
If you’ve been reading the analysis on the Colts’ previous picks, you know Lewis will have a chance to play significant snaps right away.
Scouting Report: Lewis is tough, and he boasts a tapered build and long arms, good get-off and the Ohio State pedigree, but he never became a dominant player at the collegiate level. He’s a bit stiff as a mover, and will likely have to shoot gaps and win early in order to get to the quarterback. He also has a tendency to get too high when fighting in a phone booth and gives up leverage. There might be some upside left and the raw tools are intriguing in a draft short on edge rushers, but Lewis might not be anything more than a situational pass rusher on the interior.
Yes, the glaring needs at linebacker and especially corner are STILL there, but … if we didn’t criticize the Kolton Miller pick, we can’t criticize the Brandon Parker pick. The reason is simple: In today's NFL, left tackles and right tackles are of equal importance. A replacement will soon be needed for Donald Penn on the left side, and an upgrade over Vadal Alexander must be found on the right side. What we can surmise is Jon Gruden and his staff don’t love last year’s fourth-round pick David Sharpe.
Scouting Report: Parker has the length and movement skills needed to pass protect at the next level. He didn’t dominate FCS competition to the extent you’d like to see, and the leap to NFL pass rushers will be enormous. His traits are good enough that teams will be willing to invest two or three years into developing him.
Carter will likely be employed as a sub-package outside front-seven player in new defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s multifaceted scheme. The Giants need someone who can rush with speed off the edge.
Scouting Report: He has the measurables and the five-star recruit pedigree, though Carter was never dominant at the collegiate level. He can set the edge and has experience dropping into coverage as a 3-4 OLB, but he’s a work in progress as a pass rusher, even after four seasons in one of the nation’s premier programs.
D-line was clearly the area most in need of help on Cleveland’s defense, especially in terms of depth. Coordinator Gregg Williams believes you can generate a pass rush via blitzing and disguise, but that doesn’t mean you pass on an edge rusher with upside.
Scouting Report: He’s one of the most impressive prospects in this class when it comes to size and athleticism, but the production was never there at Miami. Thomas is a project, but has the kind of ceiling most edge players in this draft class can’t match.
There were already two quality safeties aboard with Tyrann Mathieu and Andre Hal, but more teams are playing with three safeties these days. Reid’s presence could lend more flexibility for how Mathieu is deployed. And if Mathieu, who signed a one-year deal, is not retained in 2019, the Texans will have an early jump on replenishing this position.
Scouting Report: He doesn’t bring the kind of linebacker-like physicality of older brother Eric, but Justin has the athleticism and instincts to be one of the league’s better safeties in coverage. He’s at his best in centerfield, but is also capable of matching up with athletic tight ends and has the strength and physicality to play the run.
Dalvin Tomlinson and Damon Harrison are outstanding defensive tackles, but neither is a pure pass rusher. The hope is Hill will lend juice there, allowing Tomlinson and Harrison to rest for an additional six or seven snaps each game.
Scouting Report: A disruptive, one-gap interior lineman, Hill combines good get-off at the snap with a nice closing burst when he has a chance to make a play in the backfield. He plays too high against the run and might be a liability early on, but he should at least emerge as a rotational lineman who can cause some havoc as an interior pass rusher.
This might be the 49ers hedging against the uncertain Reuben Foster situation. Warner, because of his value in coverage (where many of a linebacker’s responsibilities lie these days), could be seen as a possible upgrade over ex-Seahawk Malcolm Smith. But Smith was signed just last year; cutting him in 2019 would bring more than $4 million in dead money against the cap.
Scouting Report: A long, fluid athlete, Warner’s value is on passing downs, where he has the ability to counter a lot of flexible matchup pieces in coverage, and has some value on the blitz. He’ll have to prove he’s physical enough for early-down play, even as a 4-3 WILL candidate, but he should have value as a sub-package LB with a potential to develop into something more.
C.J. Anderson was cut for financial reasons, and as much as they love him, the Broncos feel that Devontae Booker needs to share reps with someone. So they drafted a second runner of similar makeup. Simple as that.
Scouting Report: A hugely productive player at Oregon, Freeman is a big back with surprisingly nimble feet. He’s not a burner and doesn’t run with the kind of physicality you’d expect for his size, but he has the vision and body control to pick his way for yardage between the tackles. He can pass protect, but he won’t be for everyone—he doesn’t offer the kind of pass-catching value most teams now emphasize.
Steve McLendon and Xavier Cooper are in contract years, and the Jets had no D-line depth aside from ex-Packer Mike Pennel. Todd Bowles’s scheme requires versatility from D-linemen. Can Shepherd expand his game?
Scouting Report: A Canadian import, Shepherd was a starter at Division II Fort Hays State, going from 200-pound high-school linebacker to 300-pound interior lineman. He’s an explosive mover with the initial quickness and fast hands to win early in the down, and he has the kind of flexible athleticism and balance to be further developed as a pass rusher. He might need a redshirt year, but the potential is there for him to be molded into a quality starter as a three-technique or five-technique.
This is the second defender Miami has taken who is known for his blitzing. Defensive coordinator Matt Burke, a Jim Schwartz protégé, has long been a big believer in employing a straight four-man rush. Is a philosophical shift on the horizon?
Scouting Report: He runs like a receiver, and he’s built like one too. Baker might be a little light in the physicality department, but he’s a rangy 4-3 WILL prospect who could produce if kept clean.
A finesse offensive tackle for a team that has maybe the league’s best tandem in Trent Williams and Morgan Moses? With both under contract for the foreseeable future, the Redskins appear to have spent a third-round pick on a utility backup, with the understanding that Ty Nsekhe will move to guard. Somewhat of a head-scratcher.
Scouting Report: A three-year starter at Louisville, Christian is a natural athlete (he has a basketball background) with the prototypical length to play tackle. He’s a capable pass-protector who doesn’t generate the kind of push he should in the run game, but some of that will come with improved technique. He should enter the league as a swing tackle with a chance to become a starter.
Nnadi is a purer interior defensive lineman, which could give Kansas City the flexibility to play second-rounder Breeland Speaks outside, like Andy Reid has suggested they will.
Scouting Report: An undersized nose tackle, Nnadi doesn’t have the explosive upfield ability to wreck the pocket, but does a little bit of everything well. He has the lateral movement skills to cover multiple gaps, and enough quickness and power to penetrate into the backfield on passing downs. He has some scheme versatility, but probably fits best lining up on the nose in a 4-3, where he’s a potential starter.
If the Steelers really thought Rudolph were a likely replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, they would have drafted him with their late first-round pick—or at least their late second-rounder. Instead, they see Rudolph as a POTENTIAL replacement, meaning they’ve gambled a third-round pick to maybe catch lightning in a bottle. And that might be all this is—a gamble—since last year’s fourth-round selection of Joshua Dobbs, theoretically, took care of the long-term backup QB situation. Then again, Dobbs may have to fight for a roster spot now, considering Landry Jones (in a contract year) gives the Steelers an immediate backup, and Rudolph now gives them four QBs.
Scouting Report: A polarizing prospect, Rudolph has prototypical size and shows advanced feel for the position, operating comfortably within the pocket. But middling arm strength and streaky ball placement—not to mention his background as an Air Raid QB from the defense-optional Big 12—will give teams pause.
Poor Michael Johnson had to announce the very pick that’s here to replace him. The Bengals hit twice on mid-round pass rushers last year, finding Jordan Willis in the third round and what appears to be an absolute gem in Carl Lawson in the fourth. If Hubbard can rush the passer from inside, he could steal snaps from Johnson right away.
Scouting Report: An edge player but not an edge burner, Hubbard is a face-up pass rusher who will win with power, motor and technique more than athleticism. He’s at his best twisting inside on stunts.
Cincinnati, who traded up to draft Jefferson, loves developmental front-seven players—and presumably it sees Jefferson as a potential running mate for Vontaze Burfict two or three years from now. It’s worth noting that Preston Brown and Vincent Rey will be free agents after this season.
Scouting Report: Once considered the top linebacker recruit in the nation, Jefferson didn’t live up to the hype at Texas. But he has the size and athleticism for the NFL, and he could eventually thrive if asked to play in a more structured system that allows him to run around and hit, rather than try to quarterback a defense and process a lot of info.
The rebuilding of this once-epic defense must involve pass rushers, as the trade of Michael Bennett and likely retirement of Cliff Avril leaves the Seahawks bereft of many. The fact that this role wasn’t addressed until the third round suggests the Seahawks plan on hanging onto Frank Clark, at least on a trial basis in 2019.
Scouting Report: Green does his best work as an interior pass rusher. He’s explosive off the snap, able to shoot gaps or get into the backfield with second effort thanks to length and fluid athleticism. He isn’t nearly as sturdy against the run and might have to start his career as a passing-down specialist, but he could be molded as a three-technique or five-technique in an odd front.
The Texans HAD to find some offensive tackles to protect the franchise quarterback for whom they traded away this year’s first-round pick last spring. Rankin has a chance to play in Week 1.
Scouting Report: A late-September ankle injury derailed his senior season, but Rankin showed a solid all-around skill set when healthy. He’s technically sound and has enough athleticism to hold up pass-protecting on an island, one of the higher-floor tackle prospects in this class.
Are we looking at a cheaper, younger 2017 Dez Bryant? For Dallas’s sake, let’s hope Gallup is more explosive. This scheme features a lot of spread formations and basic route combinations, and receivers must be able to win one-on-one.
Scouting Report: A hugely productive Mountain West receiver, Gallup brings a good blend of size and athleticism, but the question is whether or not he can consistently create separation at the next level. (His tape against Alabama, the only secondary that offered anything close to the level of competition Gallup will see going forward, was less than impressive.)
Tavon Wilson, Glover Quin and Miles Killebrew all hit free agency in 2020. Walker can develop behind them for now, with the understanding that he could contribute in select packages early on. Matt Patricia did a lot with safety-heavy groupings in New England. You get more schematic flexibility that way.
Scouting Report: He’s undersized, but Walker is a fluid mover who can match up with tight ends and some slot receivers. He played close to the line of scrimmage in college and fills hard against the run, though play strength will be an issue at the NFL level. He’ll have to prove he can adjust to a free-safety role at the next level, otherwise he’s looking at a sub-package role.
They have 2016 first-rounder Ronnie Stanley on the left side. On the right side, James Hurst was just signed to a four-year deal. Will Hurst move to guard, where he has filled in at times? Will Brown move there? Did the Ravens spend a third-round pick simply on depth (albeit at an important position)?
Scouting Report: While the concept of combine risers and fallers is largely a myth, every once in a while a prospect performs so poorly that he can’t help but torpedo his standing on draft boards. That was the case with Brown. The son of the late Orlando Brown, the long-time Browns and Ravens tackle, the younger Brown brings a similar blend of size—both length and width—and nastiness. There’s no shortage of film showing him rag-doll opponents in Big 12 play. But can he hold up against NFL athletes on an island? His size makes up for a lack of movement skills to an extent, but a move to guard could be in Brown’s future. He’ll appeal exclusively to run-heavy teams looking to set a physical tone.
Chargers’ Brandon Mebane is in a contract year and could see his stellar career come to a close after this season. Is Jones viewed as the 2.0 version? Even if he’s not, he’ll provide important depth, as backups Damion Square and the underrated Darius Philon have expiring contracts.
Scouting Report: Jones was a “little things” guy on a talented N.C. State defensive line. He's a high-effort interior lineman who uses heavy hands and a good, strong base to occupy blockers inside. He lacks the ability to penetrate the backfield and doesn’t have ideal size for a space eater, but could carve out a role as an undersized nose tackle.
Hmmm … drafting corners in Rounds 2 AND 3? The Panthers needed help at this position, so it makes sense. Maybe the belief in taking front seven players over DBs was more about previous GM Dave Gettleman and less about an organizational creed.
Scouting Report: Speed is an issue (4.61 forty at the combine), but Gaulden brings a nice blend of size and twitch. He can cover the slot, making a ton of plays on the ball last season, and is extremely willing to step up as a run defender.
A guy can’t be a first-round bust if you take him in the third round. Andrews is here because 2015 first-rounder Breshad Perriman won’t be after his rookie deal expires. He'll be the big-bodied red zone target that Perriman (a wide receiver) never developed into.
Scouting Report: Baker Mayfield’s favorite target, Andrews is essentially an oversized slot receiver. He isn’t a burner, but he shows an understanding of how to gain leverage and tracks the ball effectively when working up the seam. He didn’t do much as a blocker in Norman and that probably won’t change at the next level, but his sure hands and well-rounded skillset as a pass-catcher should allow him to become a security blanket-type.
The Raiders saw a talented player sitting there and moved. They can reason that instead of finding a corner who won’t get burned, get pass rushers who won’t give your corners a chance to get burned.
Scouting Report: One of the best pure talents in this draft, Key has an outstanding blend of length and flexibility on the edge but he regressed over his collegiate career. There are questions surrounding him after he left the LSU program for personal reasons last spring and went through a significant weight gain (which he lost over the course of the 2017 season). He did arrive at the combine at his old playing weight.
Coverage linebackers are important in today’s NFL, and the Packers needed one after Joe Thomas signed with Dallas in free agency. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine likes athletic, interchangeable pieces in the middle of the field, because it makes it easier to disguise your looks.
Scouting Report: A safety who outgrew the position, Burks is still a work in progress but offers all the physical traits of a linebacker for the modern game. He’s a long, fluid athlete with the range to make plays sideline-to-sideline, though his coverage skills are what stand out. He can cover a lot of space in zone coverage, and has good enough movement skills to match up with some tight ends and backs. He should enter the league as a special teamer and a sub-package candidate, with a chance to develop into a starter as a 4-3 WILL.
Welcome to the party, Rams. You show up late, needing a new starter or two at defensive end, as well as stack linebacker. But instead you add an offensive tackle to a line that stayed intact and played extremely well last season? It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. Three linemen—Rob Havenstein, Jamon Brown and Rodger Saffold—are in contract years, and the other two, Andrew Whitworth and John Sullivan, are old. All those young ball-handling weapons you have won’t do any good down the road if their blocking breaks down. Also, congratulations on finding Brandin Cooks with the No. 23 pick.
Scouting Report: He has prototypical length and athleticism for the NFL (as he showed at the combine), but despite the physical gifts Noteboom was far from dominant at the collegiate level. He’s an intriguing developmental prospect, but has to prove he’s capable of handling NFL-caliber power.
THERE’s the defensive tackle this team was needing! Now go out and find two or three more.
Scouting Report: Senat is undersized but packs the raw power to bully opponents. His natural leverage—combined with quick, heavy hands—allows him to dominate in close quarters. He rarely works gaps and gets upfield, but he should appeal as a two-gap player, likely as an undersized nose tackle.
Stylistically, Smith is very similar to wideouts Brandon Coleman and Cameron Meredith (recently signed from Chicago). Bigger-bodied receivers who can get downfield are critical in a Saints scheme that often attacks between the painted field numbers. This pick suggests that Coleman won’t be re-signed when his contract expires after the season.
Scouting Report: With a good combination of size and speed (4.49 40) and a knack for creating late separation downfield, Smith has a chance to develop into a quality complementary deep threat and potential No. 2 receiver. The fact that he's tough in traffic and one of the best blocking receivers in this draft will give him a chance to become a starter in a few years.
It’s surprising the Steelers haven’t taken a swing or two for a true inside linebacker, which was their only obvious need entering this draft. But that’s not to say this is a bad pick—Okorafor brings depth to offensive tackle, which the Steelers have found valuable in recent years, playing Chris Hubbard as a sixth offensive lineman and using him as a fill-in when Marcus Gilbert has been out.
Scouting Report: Born in Nigeria and raised in South Africa and Botswana before moving to the U.S. in 2010, Okorafor is still new to the sport and will need a developmental year or two. But someone his size isn’t supposed to be able to move like he does. Between his size and nimble feet, he has the raw tools to be a quality starter at right tackle.
Starters Barry Church and Tashaun Gipson are both signed beyond 2020 so this pick is nothing more than a great defense adding depth. Considering that the Jaguars play nickel (two linebackers, two safeties) and never big dime (one linebacker, three safeties), Harrison will have to embrace special teams if he wants to get significant snaps.
Scouting Report: A big, physical safety, Harrison can play in the box, but he also has the athleticism and speed to roam in centerfield. He's a bit stiff as a mover and has some limitations if asked to play man coverage, but he could thrive if put in a role similar to fellow Alabama alum Landon Collins.
This suggests the J.R. Sweezy experiment won’t last much longer, as the Bucs take an intriguing developmental guard they hope can one day start opposite Ali Marpet. Some see Cappa as a tackle, which would make this pick REALLY interesting given that 2015 second-round left tackle Donovan Smith is in a contract year.
Scouting Report: A developmental prospect out of Division II, Cappa’s length (32 5/8-inch arms) is a bit fringy for tackle. But the movement skills are very good for a 300-pounder, and he’s downright nasty as a run blocker. As a pass protector, his movements are segmented and unnatural, and he’ll have a steep learning curve when it comes to NFL pass rushers. He could be ticketed for a move inside, or could be developed as a tackle for a team with a run-heavy approach.
Let’s think about how Eric Reid must feel for a second. Reid, a top-third safety in the NFL, is unemployed, but today he saw a. his former teammate Jaquiski Tartt get a two-year contract extension; b. his younger brother get drafted; and c. his old team take a player at his position. Does this selection of Moore suggest that Jimmie Ward won’t be re-signed after 2018?
Scouting Report: A combine snub who lit up his pro day (4.32 forty, 38.5-inch vertical, 11-plus-foot broad jump, Moore brings length (33-inch arms) to go with that elite athleticism. He can cover a lot of ground as a centerfielder, though his instincts need to improve (not surprising as a JUCO transfer who started only one season). But he’s also capable of matching up in man coverage in the slot. He’s a little light to play the box and too inconsistent as a tackler, but he’s willing to get physical. He might not be a Day 1 starter, but he can help in sub packages and has an impressive ceiling in the longterm.
The estimable Kyle Williams is probably playing his last season, and the Bills likely hope Phillips can be the run defender to replace him. To replace Williams’s pass rushing, however, they may have to look elsewhere.
Scouting Report: Another rock-solid, run-stuffing defensive lineman from the Stanford pipeline, Phillips is an ex-wrestler with the powerful upper body to win in the trenches. His value on passing downs is questionable—he got it done with motor more than athleticism in college—but he should be able to hold his own as a run defender, possibly as an undersized nose tackle.
A.Q. Shipley is in the final year of his contract, and after drafting Cole, it’s possible the Cardinals have now found their future long-term starting quarterback, wide receiver and center.
Scouting Report: In 2014, Cole became the first true freshman to start on the Michigan O-line in program history, at left tackle, and played a season at center before moving back to the blindside last season. He’ll have position flexibility at the next level, but the pivot is his best spot. He doesn’t move like Maurkice Pouncey, but he has enough athleticism and quickness to get out on reach blocks. He’s a bit underpowered, but his smarts, understanding of leverage and nasty disposition will help make up for that. His ceiling isn’t particularly high, but he does profile as a potential long-term starter.
Bill O’Brien and his staff built a splendid, multi-dimensional scheme around Deshaun Watson’s mobility last year, and a flexible tight end can lend valuable dimension to that. How much Akins plays could be determined by how trusted he is as an on-the-move run-blocker.
Scouting Report: Akins is a quality athlete who won’t blow the doors off with his speed, but he has enough twitch, body control and natural feel to create separation. He gets off the line quickly and can threaten up the seam, but he should be able to shake linebackers at the intermediate level. He’s a tough runner on shorter catch-and-run plays as well. He does little as a blocker and will essentially be a big slot receiver at the next level. He’s also 26 years old, and likely has little growth left as an athlete.
It’s hard to know what to make of this one given that Denver invested a third-rounder last year in Brendan Langley. Perhaps GM John Elway believes cornerback is a position that must always have replenished talent and depth.
Scouting Report: A lean, long corner with good speed, Yiadom improved rapidly during his time at BC. He’s still a little clunky as a mover, stiff when flipping his hips in press coverage, and choppy and unnatural in his back pedal when playing off, but he’s physical at the line of scrimmage and shows some twitch when closing on the ball. He’s also aggressive support against the run. As he continues to polish his technique, he has starter potential, sooner rather than later in a zone scheme.
Scouts loved his work on special teams, but you don’t generally draft a guy in the third round strictly on that merit. In their 3-4 style scheme (which is often structured like a 4-2 or a 5-1), do the Chiefs think O’Daniel, who weighs just 223 pounds, can play outside? Or will he transition to a stack linebacker role?
Scouting Report: As a prospect, O’Daniel has some similarities to the man he replaced at Clemson, Ben Boulware. Both are high-energy, high-character instinctive linebackers, but both lack the size to play inside at the next level, and while O'Daniel is a much better athlete, he's still less than ideal as a mover on the weakside. He is a likely core special teamer though, and should be able to stick on a roster. It seems unlikely he’ll become more than a reserve linebacker though.
Scouting Report: A late-bloomer, Thomas has exactly the blend of athleticism and physicality teams want at the position. He has the speed to threaten up the seam, though he’s more dangerous in a catch-and-run capacity, thriving in contested-catch situations. He can hold up as a traditional in-line blocker as well. He’s raw after an abbreviated Big Ten career (he was a JUCO transfer) and struggled with injuries, but is a high-ceiling prospect if he can pull it together at the next level.
Scouting Report: Part of that vaunted Ohio State O-line, Holmes lacks bend as an edge rusher but shows good lateral movement skills as well as the ability to occasionally shoot a gap. He fails to locate the ball at times and is too often satisfied to waste time hand-fighting, but the tools are there for Holmes to be a 4-3 base end on early downs.
Scouting Report: Coutee is undersized, but he’s quick and fast—a handful to mirror underneath with the long speed to get on top of a defense. He’s slippery after the catch, with a low center of gravity and enough creativity to break free in space. His catch radius is small and he ran a limited route tree (often out of the slot, avoiding press coverage) in Tech’s Air Raid. But the upside if there for Coutee to become one of the better slot receivers in the NFL, and he offers value as a return specialist in the short-term.
Scouting Report: A home-run hitter during his collegiate career, Hines has the kind of straight-line speed that will translate to the next level. He’s diminutive, more of a slasher than a creative runner, but he’ll have a chance to carve out a role as a change-of-pace back—especially if he continues to progress as a receiver—and return specialist.
Scouting Report: If you took away the off-field baggage, Callaway is a nearly surefire first-round pick, and obviously the top receiver in this class. He’s an explosive mover with a running back’s build, capable of creating separation underneath and racking up yards after the catch. His ball-tracking downfield can be a little shaky. The main concern is whether he can be trusted off the field. Callaway has multiple marijuana citations, likely subjecting him to the league’s drug program. He was accused of sexual assault in 2015 (he was cleared by the school, though UF is under a Title IX investigation for its handling of the case) and faced felony charges for his role in a credit-card fraud scandal that led to a season-long suspension in 2017 (he entered a pre-trial intervention program). He’s surely been removed from a lot of draft boards.
Scouting Report: An inside linebacker with fringy size and subpar athleticism, teams will have to decide how much his outstanding football IQ will make up for it. Jewell did consistently get to the right spots despite a lack of speed at Iowa, able to play faster because of his excellent instincts. He’s a sure tackler who rarely misses once he’s there. While he was effective dropping into zone coverage at Iowa, he’ll almost surely have to come off the field on passing downs.
Scouting Report: An athletic pass-catcher, Herndon offers the ability to flex out as a matchup piece at the next level. He’s fast enough to threaten up the seam, and Miami featured him underneath to take advantage of his run-after-catch ability. His ball skills are shaky though—he too lets it ball get into his frame and has trouble tracking downfield. He also wasn’t asked to run an expansive route tree. He’ll give effort as a blocker, but doesn’t have the functional strength to hold up in-line. An MCL injury that ended his senior season could linger into the summer, but his athleticism gives him nice long-term upside in a relatively weak draft class for tight ends.
Scouting Report: He played in a variety of systems at Richmond, all of them heavy on pro-style concepts. He’s a fast processor who shows poise in the pocket, and he boasts the ability to move around and extend plays with his legs. But a lack of arm strength limits his upside. He should stick in the league as a backup who can keep an offense running on time, but his physical limitations will likely keep him from becoming a starter.
Scouting Report: His tape doesn’t quite match his exceptional workout numbers at the combine, but Apke does have some untapped upside after only one season as a starter, and could start to show that athleticism as he shows he’s more comfortable with what he’s seeing on the field and starts playing faster. He is a former track star who is more of a straightline mover though, and he seems more comfortable attacking downhill, but lacks ideal size and strength for the box. He’ll start his career on special teams as a team looks to develop him.
Scouting Report: A torn meniscus during a pre-draft workout will bump him down boards (he'll miss a chunk of offseason work), but the Hawaii transfer was an immediate star in Madison. Nelson has very good feet and the quickness to mirror underneath, and he has the requisite size and recovery speed to play outside as well as inside. At this point he’s far too handsy, especially downfield, and could draw a ton of flags under NFL rules. He also, somehow, had zero interceptions despite 42 passes defensed in his collegiate career, so ball skills are a question mark.
Scouting Report: An undersized technician, Allen more than held his own at all three interior spots over his career with the Spartans. Despite the lack of size, he’s a fire hydrant in pass protection—he can anchor against much bigger opponents. He’s limited as an athlete though. He had a reputation as a high-character leader in East Lansing, and that should be enough to keep him in the league for a couple years, with a chance to climb a depth chart.
Scouting Report: Durability is an issue—he’s coming off ankle surgery that cost him most of last season and never had more than 250 touches in a season at the collegiate level—but Walton has a well-rounded skill set that should allow him to contribute on three downs. He’s short but has the thick legs and fluid movement skills to be an option between the tackles, along with enough speed to hit the occasional home run and natural hands as a pass catcher.
Scouting Report: Hamilton is one of the best pure route runners in this class, and he earned a reputation as a high-character leader at Penn State. Play speed is an issue, as he doesn’t threaten the top of a defense, and while he was competitive and successful in contested-catch situations at the college level, it might be a different story against NFL defensive backs. Still, he’ll be a favorite of coaches and could certainly carve out a solid career as a big slot receiver.
Scouting Report: 2017 was supposed to be a breakout year for the one-time top recruit in the nation, but Hand didn’t deliver in his only season as a full-time starter at Alabama. It might have been due to a nagging knee injury he played through for most of the season, but he was too often stale-mated by inferior opponents. The talent is undeniable though, as Hand is a quick and fluid mover at nearly 300 pounds, capable of moving laterally to cover gaps, or exploding upfield. He could be molded into a 5-technique or 3-technique, and there will be plenty of coaching staffs willing to take on the challenge of unleashing his potential.
Scouting Report: Basically a linebacker in a defensive back’s frame, Iyiegbuniwe brings the athleticism and cover skills needed for the modern NFL, but lacks the take-on skills to stay on the field for three downs. His high-energy style will likely translate to special teams value, but he’s probably no more than a sub-package player as a linebacker.
Scouting Report: His production as a pass rusher fell off a cliff in 2017, in part because of all the attention Armstrong drew as part of a bad Kansas defense. The length, flexibility and closing burst are there for him to become as quality edge rusher.
Scouting Report: He lined up at cornerback and safety at Pitt, and his speed on tape looks a little better than his underwhelming pro-day forty time (around a 4.6). Whitehead is too small for a box safety role, but he has the range to play centerfield (though he struggled with awareness and anticipation in that role last year) and the quickness to match up with some slot receivers. He also served a suspension for violating team rules last season. He struggled last year and could very well end up being a liability, but he potentially has the versatility to fit as a valuable sub-package player, countering an offense’s chess-piece types.
Scouting Report: Averett is quick enough to mirror underneath and has the speed to run downfield. He’s more comfortable playing off and eyeing the backfield, but can be a tick too slow to react and allowed more catches at the collegiate level than he probably should have.
Scouting Report: The defensive back in the White family (both older brothers are receivers; Kevin was selected seventh overall by the Bears in 2015 and Ka’Raun is a draftable prospect this year), Kyzir is a hybrid linebacker/safety who’s at his best playing in the box, filling hard against the run and attacking as a blitzer. Speed and an overall ability to cover are big questions though.
Scouting Report: He came to UW to play defense but switched to the offensive side of the ball as a junior. Dissly is still raw, but he brings the size, physicality and toughness—plus good length—to battle as an in-line tight end at the next level. His pass catching is a work in progress, and he doesn’t have the explosiveness or speed to become more than an underneath threat in the passing game. His blocking should make him a contributor in the NFL.
Scouting Report: Johnson has the quickness and confidence to play the slot, where he shows the twitch and change-of-direction ability to mirror receivers underneath, to go along with decent size and long speed. The jump in level of competition might make 2018 something of a redshirt year, but he profiles as a quality No. 3 corner down the line.
Scouting Report: Undersized but fast, Young is a sideline-to-sideline tackler who can make plays as long as he’s kept clean. He’ll also be an asset as a pass defender. He’ll have to show he has the toughness to handle three-down duties in the NFL, but he’s a special teams contributor and sub-package option who should appeal to 4-3 teams as a possible WILL starter.
Scouting Report: Primarily a blocking tight end who can more than hold his own in-line, Smythe is surely going to be an asset in the run game. The question is what he’ll do as a receiver. He battled injuries throughout his career—2017 was his only full season as a starter—and left South Bend with only 28 career catches. His hands are good enough, and he has the body control to adjust to the misthrow, but he might not have the speed or route-running ability to be more than a guy who finds soft spots against zone coverage.
Scouting Report: A rangy and athletic safety, Watts is at his best running around as a free defender, but he also has the length and fluid movement skills to match up man-to-man. He too often plays out of control, overrunning plays or missing a tackle when going for a kill shot, but there’s plenty of talent to work with if he can be reigned in.
Scouting Report: An electrifying athlete—fast and quick—Maddox is a bit undersized but has a chance to be coached up into a very good corner. Tracking the ball downfield was an issue at Pitt, and he’s going to get muscled by big receivers, but he has the movement skills to man the slot. And if he cleans up his technique, he should be able to play the boundary as well.
Scouting Report: Smith is undersized and short on physicality, but he has good vision and excellent lateral agility, making him dangerous in space. His ability as a receiver gives him a shot to stick in the league as a third-down back who can move into the slot, as well as a potential return specialist.
Scouting Report: His short arms (32 1/4 inches) and fringy athleticism will be an issue at right tackle, though Leonard does have enough shock in his hands to win early in the down. He’ll be trying to hang on in the league as a swing tackle.
Scouting Report: A torn ACL during a workout with the Giants will likely erase his rookie year, but assuming he gets back to 100% before the 2019 season, Street has an interesting blend of skills. He’s heavy handed and surprisingly quick off the snap for his size. He gets into trouble if he’s stalemated early in his pass rush, though improved hand usage could help there. Overall, he’s too much of a straight-line mover to bend the edge, but he could wreak havoc as an interior pass rusher and bring toughness setting the edge against the run on early downs.
Scouting Report: With a squat, wide-bodied build but long arms, Richardson is a classic “right tackle” prospect who could also end up fitting at guard. He shows a nice blend of movement and power as a run blocker—he’s more plodding when retreating as a pass protector, though he has the raw athleticism to improve there. There are also character concerns after serving two suspensions for DWI arrests.
Scouting Report: An explosive athlete with a good motor and quick, powerful hands, Sweat has plenty of upside to work with. But he’s raw, often absurdly slow at the snap and with a limited repertoire of pass-rush moves. Medicals are also a question, dating back to a major knee injury (torn ACL and dislocated knee cap) suffered in high school that lingered into his FSU days.
Scouting Report: The skillset is unique for his size, as Ballage is at his best as an outside zone runner and pass-catcher. His upright running style won’t be for everyone and he’s never had a ton of success running between the tackles (even in the Pac-12), but he has the speed to hit the home run and can be a matchup weapon as a receiver. He might never be the kind of workhorse back his size would suggest, but he has a chance to develop into a versatile, unique playmaker.
Scouting Report: A super-sized possession receiver, Scott has the length and strong hands to win in contested catch situations. He lacks suddenness as a mover and won’t create separation underneath, but effectively uses his frame to wall-off defensive backs on the perimeter and shows a good feel for sitting down against zone coverage.
Scouting Report: He’s raw after running a limited route tree at Missouri, but Moore’s combination of size/athleticism give him appeal as a developmental prospect. He didn’t work the middle of the field often and has to do a better job securing the contested catch, but there’s some explosiveness to his movements and he should learn to separate more effectively after some time under an NFL coaching staff. He’ll take some time, but has starter potential on the outside.
Scouting Report: A short, stout and productive FCS runner, Edmonds is explosive after planting his foot and should find success running outside zone at the next level. Durability is a concern after he missed a chunk of his senior season, but he’s effective in space, can be utilized as a receiver and should make a roster as a change-of-pace back and special teams contributor.
Scouting Report: An FCS lineman with the traits to play at the next level, Franklin-Myers is an explosive athlete with good length. He’s a fluid mover but less edge burner and more of an interior, gap-shooter in the pass rush, with the quick hands to be a disruptive force once he’s coached up. He’ll probably need a redshirt year, but he has starter potential as an end in an odd front, or a base end who kicks inside on third downs for a 4-3 team.
Scouting Report: An edge rusher who looks more like a safety in terms of build, Haynes’s frame is just about maxed out, and he’s going to get run at if he’s on the field on early downs. There’s definite value as a pass rusher though—he might be one-dimensional, but that dimension is the ability to bend the edge and get to the quarterback. He needs to add to his pass-rush repertoire, but there’s enough natural ability for him to make a roster as a third edge rusher.
Scouting Report: The latest from the Stanford pipeline of tight ends, Schultz is a Y tight end who has experience in a pro-style offense. He’s immediately going to be one of the better blocking tight ends in the league. He flashes decent athleticism as a receiver, but Stanford used him sparingly, and rarely as more than an underneath option in the passing game. He might not do much more in the NFL.
Scouting Report: His athleticism is just good enough for Madison to stay in the mix at tackle despite relatively short arms (32 1/4 inches), though he too often plays too high and back on his heels, sacrificing his ability to handle speed to power. He’ll have issues pass-protecting on the outside; he will appeal as a right tackle or guard prospect to run-heavy teams, especially those that utilize outside zone and could use Madison’s range as a run-blocker.
Scouting Report: He's all-or-nothing as a penetrator, but when McIntosh gets off the snap quickly he explodes into the backfield. He has the frame to carry more weight and could be developed into an effective run-stuffer as well. His best fit might be as a five-technique in a 3-4 front, but he could also get a look as an undersized three-technique in an even front.
Scouting Report: He's a question mark at the moment—Hurst was sent home from the combine after an EKG revealed irregularities with his heart. He had been cleared to play at Michigan though, and the hope is that a more thorough examination confirms he can continue his career. An undersized but disruptive three-technique, Hurst wins with initial quickness and a low center of gravity that allows him to shoot through gaps. He’ll be a bit of an all-or-nothing player, but he should create his fair share of havoc.
Scouting Report: You probably know the inspirational story by now: His left hand was amputated at age 4 but it didn't keep him from becoming a football star. The lack of a left hand poses some potential issues on the field (blocking as a special teamer and securing the ball on interceptions—though Griffin did have two career picks at UCF). But as you also know if you saw him at UCF, where he was the AAC’s defensive player of the year as a senior, Griffin has the athleticism and football character to make up for it. He might be something of a tweener, but his speed could allow him to thrive as a sub-package linebacker—capable of matching up with tight ends or covering ground as a free defender, with plus ability as a blitzer—as well as a core special teamer.