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The 2018 NFL Draft Big Board, Vol. 1

Saquon Barkley is at the top of a draft class heavy on first-round quarterbacks

1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Evaluators told The MMQB Barkley is a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott was two years ago. 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.

2. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The complete package at guard—one evaluator told our 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.

3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
As more NFL offenses turn to versatile, movable chess piece types to gain the upper hand, Fitzpatrick provides the antidote. He’s a rangy, instinctive in centerfield, or can come down and match up with flex tight ends and big slot receivers in man coverage. He excels as a blitzer, attacks as a run defender, and has the character and football IQ immediately become a leader in the locker room.

4. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State
He can’t match 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.

5. Tremaine Edmunds, Stack LB, Virginia Tech
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 he’s asked to play the edge full-time.


6. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
He had some growing pains in his first full year as a starter—he saw a lot of new looks from opposing defenses, and took some time to adjust. That, combined with mechanical corrections needed for a loopy delivery, could result in a redshirt year in 2018. But few doubt Darnold’s ability to learn at the next level, and his ability to make plays late in the down give him franchise QB potential.

7. Roquan Smith, Stack LB, Georgia
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.

8. Derwin James, S, Florida State
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—make him the kind of defensive chess piece to counter what most NFL offenses are currently doing with hybrid pieces.

*—An earlier version incorrectly referred to his 2016 injury as a torn ACL.

9. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
A pure pocket 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.

10. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Ward’s competitiveness and leaping ability allow him to play bigger than his size (5' 10", 190 lbs.), 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 can play the slot or outside and thrive.

11. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
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 (6' 1", 190 lbs.), 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.

12. Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
Built like a power forward (6' 5", 255 lbs.), Davenport dominated hapless Conference-USA opponents with a blend of size and explosiveness rarely seen outside the Power-5 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 relatively weak on edge players (and in a year when there are few to be had on the free-agent market).

13. Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
His performance in last year’s College Football Playoffs (showing talent on both sides of the ball against Clemson, then dominating against Georgia in the title game) solidified Payne’s spot a top this year’s group of defensive tackles. His brute strength and athleticism will make him a dominant run defender, though he’s still a work-in-progress as a pass rusher.

14. Connor Williams, OT, Texas
He was on a trajectory to be a top-10 and maybe even top-5 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 prototypical size (6' 6", 320 lbs.) and athleticism for a left tackle, with some nastiness as a run-blocker as well.

15. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The measurables didn’t always add up to dominance (though they sometimes did), but Vea has a Dontari Poe-like blend of size (6' 4", 345 lbs.) and movement skill that rarely come into the league.

16. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The son of the late Orlando Brown, the long-time Browns and Ravens tackle, the younger Brown brings a similar blend of size (6' 8", 350 lbs.)—both length and width—and nastiness. He’ll be labeled as a “right tackle” (though the designation between left and right tackle doesn’t really matter anymore) due to his mediocre movement skills, but his size and strength are enough to make up for it, especially in an offense that wants to set a tone physically.

17. Rashaan Evans, Stack LB, Alabama
Evans should join C.J. Mosley, Dont’a Hightower, Reuben Foster and Rolando McClain as plug-and-play first-rounder 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.

18. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
There’s a reason few 6-foot quarterbacks make it in the NFL, and the fact that he’s coming from an Air Raid offense is a second strike against Mayfield. 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. An offensive coordinator might have to get a bit creative (and you wonder how he’ll 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. (By the way, we have Robert Klemko tailing Mayfield throughout draft season.)

19. Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
He’s a bit undersized (6' 2", 250 lbs.), 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. But the speed and bendability can’t be taught.

20. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Think of him as a younger, extreme version of Cam Newton—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; 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.

21. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
With a nice blend of length (6' 77⁄8", 309 lbs.) 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 the other top tackles in this class, but he’s technically polished with a chance to start immediately, probably on the right side.

22. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
A breakout player in 2017, Jackson is long (6' 1", 195 lbs.) and showed elite ball skills last year. The question is long speed, a question that might be answered in part by his performance at the combine.

23. Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
He left North Carolina after his freshman season after earning a suspension for violating team rules, and Hughes 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 small side (5' 11", 190 lbs.). 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.

24. James Daniels, C, Iowa
One of the most athletic pivots in college football, Daniels is on the small side but offers outstanding range, in the Jason Kelce/Maurikce Pouncey mold. He anchors well for his size, and it a team believes he can hold up against NFL nose tackles Daniels will come off the board in Round 1.

25. Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
A big, physical safety, Harrison can play in the box but also has the athleticism and speed to roam in centerfield. He has some limitations if asked to play man coverage, but could carve out a role similar to that of former Alabama safety Landon Collins.

26. Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
Long and athletic, Bryan is a raw but shows flashes of becoming a disruptive pass rusher. 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 (6' 4", 290 lbs.) for the interior—he might ultimately be molded into a five-technique.

27. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
A violent, thrashing runner 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.

28. Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
An undersized (6' 2", 300 lbs.) 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.

29. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Probably the best corner this draft class has to offer from a size/speed standpoint, Oliver has the potential to become a lockdown cover man. It will be a matter of cleaning up his footwork under an NFL position coach.

30. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Sure, maybe he’s a wide receiver one day. But at this point, there’s no denying the significant improvement Jackson made as a passer over his three seasons at Louisville. He’s not there yet as a passer—his footwork gets sloppy and his throws sail high, and he’s streaky throwing on the move—and there’s no guarantee his development will continue on such a promising trajectory. But if his development as a passer stalls, Jackson is electric with the ball in his hands and a creative designer could build complexity around that ability as a runner (though durability might then be a concern; he’s 6' 3" and a slender 200 lbs.). Like Allen, Jackson is a gifted athlete who carries a fair amount of risk but an enormously high ceiling if developed properly.

31. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
An undersized (6' 2", 280 lbs.) 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 should create his fair share of havoc.

32. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
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 (6' 0", 200 lbs.), but he has the potential to be a difference maker even in a committee situation.

33. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
A physical press corner, Davis smothers receivers at the line of scrimmage and is extremely difficult to throw on downfield due to his length (6' 1", 205 lbs.). He needs to clean up his foot work and not be so physical downfield, but he has the potential to be a No. 1 corner.

34. Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State
A rock in the middle of the Buckeyes’ line for four seasons, Price started all 55 of OSU’s games over the past four seasons, with experience at center and guard. A two-time All-America, he is a technician with the toughness and movement skills to fit in just about any scheme, though he doesn’t quite match the athleticism of Iowa’s James Daniels, the top pivot in this class.

35. Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
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 could step in as an immediate starter as a 4-3 WILL or 3-4 ILB.

36. Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
One of the best pure talents in this draft, Key has an outstanding blend of length (6' 6", 250 lbs.) and flexibility on the edge. But he’s raw and regressed over the past year. 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).

37. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Sutton dominated at the collegiate level thanks to a blend of size (6' 4", 220 lbs.) 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.

38. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Possibly the fastest player in the 2018 draft (he ran leadoff for LSU’s conference champion 4x100 relay team), Jackson is not only speedy but a loose-hipped, fluid athlete who can mirror quickness underneath. The issue is size (5' 10", 175 lbs.), as Jackson might be relegated to the slot, and will surely be targeted in the run game early in his career.

39. D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Big Ten’s receiver of the year in 2017 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 small (5' 11", 215 lbs.), but 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.

40. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
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.

41. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
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 chess 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.

42. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
A big back (6' 0", 215 lbs.) who runs 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 in as a receiver.

43. Rasheem Green, DE/DT, USC
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 could be molded as a three-technique or five-technique in an odd front.

44. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
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.

45. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
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 a will need a developmental year or two. But someone his size (6' 6", 330 lbs.) 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.

46. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St.
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 (5' 11", 210 lbs.).

47. Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
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 lbs. He’s still a work in progress, but brings has the raw skills with prototypical left tackle length (6' 6") and athleticism.

48. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
Part of the 1-2 punch with Nick Chubb in Georgia’s backfield, it was Michel who emerged as one of the star’s 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, outstanding 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.

49. Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
Cain didn’t have the breakout season some expected in 2017, though that was likely due in part to the downgrade from Deshaun Watson to Kelly Bryant (a less capable passer) at quarterback. Cain, a high school quarterback himself, offers big upside due to his combination of good size (6' 1", 200 lbs.), easy speed and knack for tracking the ball downfield.

50. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
A massive road-grader, Hernandez (6' 2", 340 lbs.) is a powerful run blocker who dominates at the point of attack. He has the nimble athleticism to lead the way as a pulling blocker. He’s on the short side and could have some issues in pass protection, but should plug in immediately for a team that wants to build around a power run game.

Player bios written by Gary Gramling, with reporting from Albert Breer and the staff of The MMQB.

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