How early is too early to draft an offensive guard? That question will be asked in NFL war rooms across the league this spring when discussing Notre Dame’s Quenton Nelson?
Simply put, Nelson is a special player. He is a Day One NFL starter with All-Pro potential. The discussion regarding whether an offensive guard should be among the top five picks of the NFL Draft is meant for mock drafts. However, for my draft board, there is no debate Nelson is the best football player in the 2018 NFL Draft.
(Players are listed with height, weight, 40 time, jersey number)
–1. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame (6-4, 325, 5.23, 56)
A player with few weaknesses, Nelson has elite play strength and heavy hands to control defenders in the run game, bulldozing anything in his way. He also has the body control, range and instincts to be above average in pass protection. Nelson has earned this spot.
–2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama (6-0, 201, 4.52, 29)
The “Is he a corner or is he a safety?” debate with Fitzpatrick is similar to what Jalen Ramsey faced coming out of Florida State. The correct answer is it doesn’t matter because he can play either position at a high level.
–3. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State (6-3, 275, 4.84, 9)
With back-to-back seasons with 22-plus tackles for loss, 10-plus sacks and three-plus forced fumbles, Chubb put himself on an exclusive list. And the tape matches the production, projecting as a dangerous NFL pass rusher.
–4. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State (5-11, 229, 4.49, 26)
Although he doesn’t have dominant ball carrier-specific traits (vision, patience, decision-making), Barkley isn’t lacking in those areas, and his freakish athleticism for his size projects him as a longtime productive pro.
–5. Sam Darnold, QB, USC (6-3, 225, 4.74, 14)
The turnovers were an issue in college and he is far from a finished production, but Darnold is my top quarterback prospect because he is advanced in several key areas, such as managing the pocket, anticipating windows and the overall mental battle at the position.
–6. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State (5-10, 191, 4.38, 12)
While size and length are not his assets, Ward is above average in almost every other category. He is a premier athlete with the budding instincts and toughness required to cover receivers on an island, either outside or in the slot.
–7. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia (6-0, 230, 4.64, 3)
Another prospect who doesn’t have ideal measurements, but makes up for those deficiencies in other ways. Smith is a magnet to the football with the mental alertness and athleticism that make him a high-ceiling, high-floor prospect.
–8. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (6-0, 214, 4.75, 6)
When you are done studying Mayfield’s tape, you realize you are out of reasons to doubt what he brings to the field. Yes, he needs to mature in areas, but his accuracy and competitive drive translate to any football league.
–9. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (6-3, 220, 4.97, 3)
Rosen is the prospect with the most potential to move up or down between now and the draft. He is outstanding from the pocket and has a sharp mind, but there are plenty of issues on and off the field.
–10. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama (6-1, 190, 4.50, 3)
With his play speed and route-running skills, Ridley has the ability to create his own separation up and down the field. His lack of build leads to some durability questions, but he has the skill set of a high-end No. 2 NFL wideout.
–11. Derwin James, SS, Florida State (6-2, 211, 4.52, 3)
A better athlete than football player right now, James owns more raw ability than almost every player in this draft class. It is easy to get excited about the player he will be two years from now.
–12. Mike Hughes, CB, UCF (5-10, 194, 4.42, 19)
Although he has some issues in off-coverage, Hughes is one of the best press-man corner prospects in this draft class, also offering special teams value as a return man.
–13. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech (6-4, 245, 4.82, 49)
A freaky size/strength/speed linebacker, Edmunds currently has holes in his game and needs to better understand how to use all his gifts, but he isn’t far away from those realizations.
–14. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA (6-6, 259, 4.77, 93)
A former high school wide receiver, Davenport is still figuring things out as a pass rusher, but he has the measurables, physical traits and desire to grow into an impact NFL defensive end.
–15. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan (6-2, 288, 4.93, 73)
With his initial surge of quickness and power to break the rhythm of blockers, Hurst has the NFL-ready traits to be a one-gapping penetrator early in his NFL career.
–16. Vita Vea, DT, Washington (6-4, 344, 5.34, 50)
Possessing a rare blend of power and athleticism, Vea is one of a kind with his physical gifts, and he has a chance to be an above-average pro if his discipline, technique and consistency catch up.
–17. Ronald Jones, RB, USC (6-0, 205, 4.49, 25)
With the body type, explosive runs and even the same jersey number, the Jones and Jamaal Charles comparisons are unavoidable. He flashes the home run speed and understated power to elevate an NFL backfield.
–18. Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia (6-2, 308, 5.22, 77)
Wynn started all 15 games for the 2017 SEC champions and played well, but he has the skill set to be a dominant NFL guard with his hip sink, athleticism and point-of-attack power.
–19. Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (5-11, 192, 4.45, 10)
While undersized and underpowered, Alexander has Joe Haden-like skills with the requisite athleticism, intelligence and toughness to step into a starting role early in his NFL career.
–20. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama (6-2, 308, 5.38, 94)
While the consistency isn’t there, Payne flashes similarities to Ndamukong Suh with the hip fluidity and upper-body power to control the point of attack.
–21. Billy Price, C, Ohio State (6-3, 312, 5.19, 54)
Along with a collegiate resume beyond reproach, Price has the movement skills, proficient technique and brute strength to be an immediate upgrade at center or guard for his NFL team.
–22. Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State (6-4, 265, 4.76, 6)
Although his tape doesn’t show a difference-maker, Hubbard has a well-rounded skill set with the athleticism and intelligence that fuel his versatility, projecting as a long-term starter.
–23. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa (6-0, 193, 4.48, 15)
If not for his struggles in the run game, Jackson would be higher on this list as he shows the football intelligence and ball skills to excel as an outside zone cornerback in the NFL.
–24. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State (6-5, 260, 4.70, 86)
Goedert needs time to refine his routes and blocking, but those deficiencies are based more on inexperience rather than inability. His physical skill set and dependable ball skills make him the top tight end option in this class.
–25. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (5-11, 218, 4.52, 5)
Guice stresses defenses with his quick, explosive cuts and his angry run style make him tough to finish, although it also leads to durability concerns. He has the competitive nature and athletic profile of a runner no NFL opponent wants to see in its division.
–26. Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn (5-11, 212, 4.45, 21)
One of the toughest runners I’ve ever scouted, Johnson competes with the win-at-all-cost attitude and multi-dimensional skill set that project him as an impactful NFL starter.
–27. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP (6-2, 340, 5.54, 76)
A mauler with elite grip strength, Hernandez loves to play the bully role regardless of the score or clock, displaying the natural power and surprising foot quickness to be a plug-and-play starter.
–28. Connor Williams, OT, Texas (6-5, 320, 5.31, 55)
The tale of two tapes: The 2016 game film for Williams shows a future top-20 draft pick, but his 2017 tape was a combination of uneven play and injuries, leading to questions.
–29. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (6-5, 237, 4.76, 17)
While his physical traits make him scouting catnip, Allen remains undeveloped in several key areas needed to play the position at a high level, including his accuracy. Nonetheless, his play also suggests that he still has plenty of room before hitting his football ceiling.
–30. D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland (5-10, 215, 4.55, 1)
Although short with a smaller catch radius, Moore doesn’t play small and his tape gives off Steve Smith vibes with his speed, physical presence and instincts downfield.
–31. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (6-2, 212, 4.42, 8)
It is easy to get excited about Jackson when watching his tape, but those feelings are based more on his athleticism than his consistency as a downfield passer. While not lacking in arm talent, he needs time to polish his passing skills.
–32. James Daniels, OC, Iowa (6-4, 295, 5.24, 78)
With his balance, punch and toughness, Daniels has the ingredients to be a longtime NFL starter. He is quick to engage and control the point of attack, sustaining his mean streak through the whistle.
–33. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6-7, 312, 5.27, 68)
While he has his warts, especially vs. edge speed, McGlinchey has the technique, smarts and intangibles of a solid NFL starter, either at tackle or inside at guard.
–34. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma (6-1, 242, 4.72, 31)
Shorter than ideal for an edge presence, Okoronkwo isn’t overly creative, but that doesn’t mean he is easy to stop, using his natural leverage, athleticism and resiliency to pressure the pocket.
–35. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (5-11, 200, 4.39, 3)
A high-ceiling, high-floor prospect, Kirk has all the traits of an immediate slot weapon and return man in the NFL with his controlled athleticism and knack for creating separation before and after the catch.
–36. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado (6-0, 190, 4.56, 26)
A classic press-man corner, Oliver stays balanced in his transition to stay on top of routes and shows off his length and timing to ball search and disrupt the catch point.
–37. Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis (5-11, 190, 4.53, 3)
From walk-on to record-breaker, Miller is a crafty route-runner with the sudden feet, body control and spatial instincts to skirt defenders. He projects as a reliable No. 2 receiver with the basement of a quality slot option.
–38. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia (5-11, 212, 4.56, 1)
A multi-dimensional weapon, Michel routinely gets more than what is blocked for him with his cutting ability and toughness, showing the blocking and receiving skills to fit any type of running back role.
–39. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College (6-2, 250, 4.76, 7)
Although his senior season didn’t go as expected (mostly due to injuries), Landry still possesses the outstanding bend, shoulder dip and speed that NFL teams covet on the edges.
–40. Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford (6-3, 303, 4.96, 66)
A nuisance to block, Phillips wins with power, instincts and a technically sound approach. It is no coincidence that he is consistently in position to make plays, making him an interchangeable player on the interior defensive line.
–41. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn (6-1, 203, 4.52, 6)
With his size, length and athleticism, Davis has the raw traits that NFL teams target on draft day. He needs to improve his footwork and technique in reverse, but he contests everything thrown in his direction.
–42. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma (6-7, 358, 5.47, 78)
A mammoth blocker, Brown appears sluggish at times and his hand placement is all over the place, but his size and length help compensate, engulfing defenders and getting the job done.
–43. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (6-3, 218, 4.58, 16)
No receiver prospect in this class has a higher NFL ceiling than Sutton, with his athletic prowess for a man his size. However, there will be a massive difference from the offense at SMU to the offense of whichever team drafts him.
–44. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (6-4, 293, 4.96, 93)
One of the most gifted interior players in this draft class, Bryan has outstanding athleticism and upper-body power, but is currently a liability vs. the run and needs to turn his splash plays into consistency.
–45. Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama (6-2, 214, 4.57, 15)
A violent downhill player, Harrison has outstanding closing burst and creates collisions While he has some flaws in coverage, he has a large tackle radius and the athletic traits to be a NFL starter.
–46. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia (5-10, 228, 4.54, 27)
Although he isn’t the most explosive runner, Chubb skillfully marries his movements with his eyes and few at any level have his combination of balance and lower-body power.
–47. Rashaun Gaulden, CB, Tennessee (6-1, 195, 4.53, 7)
An ideal fit as a nickel defensive back in the NFL, Gaulden has discipline issues, but his play speed and toughness are both outstanding, giving pro coaches a foundation.
–48. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State (5-11, 210, 4.50, 28)
Oklahoma State’s all-time leading receiver, Washington will need to adjust to an NFL route tree, but his competitive make-up and above average ball skills are ready right now.
–49. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (6-2, 234, 4.73, 32)
A downhill, power linebacker for the Tide, Evans loves to mix it up with blockers, using his hands to tear through blockers. There are too many “almost” tackles and cover lapses on his tape, but his physicality fits any scheme.
–50. Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina (6-4, 250, 4.83, 81)
As a former minor league baseball player, Hurst is older than ideal for a NFL rookie, but he has reliable hands in traffic and looks to finish with a physical mindset as both a ball-carrier and blocker.