I withhold my ability to change my picks depending on where certain players land of course.
Quarterback: Sam Darnold USC
- Even if he lands in Cleveland I think Darnold is the safest top quarterback in this class. He has great leadership skills, resilience, and a competitive edge that I think will have him be a very good quarterback right away. Of course, an electric Lamar Jackson could steal this award from him like Robert Griffin did to Andrew Luck in 2012.
Running Backs: Saquon Barkley Penn St & Sony Michel Georgia
- I know I disparage Saquon Barkley just because I cannot stand the thought of him possibly being taken in the top 5 picks as a running. However, I do know he has the possibility of being a very good back right away. He is a threat to get 100 yards in every game between his running and catching abilities. Also, he has been known to be a solid return threat, too during his career at Penn St. Of course, I kind of want to see where he lands too to make sure he is not behind a team with a bad o-line like the Broncos, Giants, or Colts. Since I do not think his size is good enough to beat out getting hit in the backfield consistently. Another back with a similar size and skill set who can light the world on fire in his first season is Sony Michel. He may get over drafted with people seeing Alvin Kamara in his running style, but he should be successful. His hands, blocking, and ability to find open running lanes even at a slighter size should make him a thrill to watch. To be honest this is a tough position to pick for with guys like Nick Chubb, Derrius Guice, Royce Freeman, Rashaad Penny, Ronald Jones, Kerryon Johnson, and many others can really make a big impact in their rookie seasons.
Wide Receivers: Calvin Ridley Alabama & Christian Kirk Texas A&M
- I appreciate crisp route running over overall impressive athleticism among my receivers. As we have seen with guys like Dez Bryant who hang their hat on athleticism and not routes they rapidly decline. While route running lasts much long just look at Larry Fitzgerald who remains dominant. That is why I think Ridley will do just fine in the NFL while people are worried about his thin frame and lack of a top gear speed wise. His hands are great, his routes are great, and his savvy maturity will make him a good target on every level of the field. He actually reminds me a lot of Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster who fell for the same reasons as Ridley might. Christian Kirk is a name I will throw up on here since I think he can play in any offense from the slot and possibly on the outside. I just think he can see the field quicker than other receivers in this class due to his versatility and quickness. If anything he does remind me of Cooper Kupp of last year with just a little more speed and an extra gear to get down field. Plus, Kirk is a mature player willing to learn that will help him be a solid player faster.
Tight End: Ian Thomas Indiana
- This is a terrible tight end class and if I could I would not even attempt a pick here. However, for continuity sake I will take a name that might stick out this time next year. Ian Thomas is a big athletic tight end with very raw talent that can be coached out of him. His size, and solid speed down the field should make him an easy target early in his career. Thomas\' routes need work since he usually just ran down the seams at Indiana, but he was still very effective in that role. I think he could be a touchdown maven at the very least that could help create a name for him.
Offensive Tackles: Jamarco Jones Ohio St & Orlando Brown Oklahoma
- Yup a few out of the box picks here in Jamarco Jones and Orlando Brown who can be two quick starters in the NFL. I have my doubts about Mike McGlinchey\'s overall athleticism and technique to be a steady starter his rookie year. Meanwhile, Brown and Jones are two very high floor blockers who have a lot of experience, size, and solid technique. Both are most likely going to switch over to right tackle most likely in the NFL, but I think Jones at the very least can be a solid left tackle if need be.
Guards: Quenton Nelson Notre Dame & Austin Corbett Nevada
- Nelson is a no brainer here and is a lock for this selection regardless of where he is taken. Now the shocking thing here is that I skipped over Will Hernandez whom I like, but rarely do both highly picked interior blockers pan out so I took Nelson and looked further down the line. I really like Austin Corbett out of Nevada with his versatility and active athleticism as a blocker. He is not the biggest nor does he have the best technique, but he is a sponge who learns everything quickly. I can see him finding a starting role for himself quickly and put up a Pat Elflein type season where his gritty play will be a sustainable force in the interior of the line.
Center: James Daniels Iowa
- One of my favorite prospects in this draft is center James Daniels who has popped incredibly well throughout the draft process. He looked incredibly fluid and smooth during the drills at the Combine and when you watch his tape from Iowa it certainly translates. Daniels is not the biggest, longest, strongest, or most athletic lineman in this draft. However, he is just a pure technician up front who can hold up against big nose tackles and match up against swift linebackers. His IQ in calling adjustments on the line is said to be pretty good, too. What also helps him is how good Iowa blockers are coming into the NFL from the top end guys like Bryan Bulaga to Brandon Scherff to Riley Reiff to Marshall Yanda who have gone on to have terrific careers. Daniels could be the next one and I would not be shocked if he ends up going as high as possibly to the Ravens at 16 in the first round.
Defensive Ends: Bradley Chubb N.C. State & Rasheem Green USC
- This one was kind of easy. Barring an injury or totally imperfect scheme fit I think Chubb will have a fantastic season. Now, I doubt he will rack up a ton of sacks it usually takes a season and a half before edge rushers find their footing in the NFL. However, he does look like another former Wolfpack end in Mario Williams minus the off field and motivational baggage. He should make an impact right away and his talent should pop throughout most of the season. My little bit of a sleeper choice here is Rasheem Green who may be labeled a defensive tackle by the time the year is over, but he just looks like a solid NFL player. He does everything really well from pushing the pocket to setting an edge and his intelligence according to sources is out of this world. His awareness if fantastic as well often blocking passes at the line and being a general nuisance to opposing blockers. I think he should be a solid rotational player right away with the bonus of becoming a terrific All-Pro type player.
Defensive Tackles: Da\'Ron Payne Alabama & Vita Vea Washington
- This may be a boring duo since both should be high picks, but if you ask me both are great talents who should have a lot of success. I would not have a problem if one was taken over the other, but I just lean towards Payne and his more scheme versatile size. He has the length and strength to be a nose tackle, five-technique, or three technique inside force. Unlike previous Alabama tackles and linemen who came into the NFL beat up, Payne has had the fortune to sit on a crowded bench throughout most of his career at Tuscaloosa. He is still kind of raw due to the lack of experience, but anyone who watched Alabama play throughout the year saw him dominate games. The other guy I really like, but is more of a scheme specific guy where he needs to be a straight up nose tackle is Vita Vea. If I were any West Coast college I would recruit the heck out of the guys from Hawaii and the Samoas with their ability to be dominant linemen. Vea is just joining a growing list of plug and play nose tackles from that region with impressive quickness for a man his size. He probably will never be a 10 plus sack guy, but he should be an elite run stuffer who can provide quality push from the middle. Both of these tackles in my opinion have a very bright future moving forward.
Linebackers: Roquan Smith Georgia, Dorance Armstrong Kansas, & Darius Leonard South Carolina St
- Linebacker is a tough on to choose due to the versatility of the position between off ball guys and edge rushers. Whether or not voters will value sacks, tackles, or another statistic to rank one over the other. A lock in my opinion barring injury is Roquan Smith. I would not draft him int he 1st round due to the lessening impact off ball linebackers have on a game, but I do acknowledge he is a heck of a football player. He roams around sideline to sideline much like Deon Jones and Lavonte David have throughout their careers. Smith is also said to have a Ray Lewis type nasty leadership to him that should make him a good poster board to lead a young defense moving forward.
The edge rushing linebacker I really like is not Harold Landry, Marcus Davenport, or Lorenzo Carter, but is in fact a stud out of the doormat football college Kansas in Dorance Armstrong. He is just a pure fluid athlete with good bend around the edge and good enough hips to cover in space if needed. His down year at Kansas is just due to him being the only defender of note on the team so opposing offenses can avoid him. If he has good talent around him his speed around the edge could be an electric quality. Plus, in the NFL he will receiver better coaching to work on his technique to better compliment his talent. The sky is the limit for this kid.
Lastly, a small school stud who is most likely going to fall into the second to third round despite his athletic qualities. He is another off ball backer with good speed and instincts to get to the ball carrier in a hurry. Leonard did it all at South Carolina St as an off ball run stuffer in the middle to an edge rusher getting after the quarterback. He did it all with terrific ease and has even added some strength while still maintaining his electric quickness. I would not be shocked if he turns into the stud linebacker who sticks around the longest among this solid class of backers.
Corners: J.C. Jackson Maryland & Mike Hughes UCF
- I really do not like this corner class and would avoid forcing a pick in the first round. However, like quarterbacks, corners tend to push higher in the draft than they should. My two picks here are kind of out of the box do to my overall lack of confidence among the top guys like Ward, Jackson, and Carlton. I really like J.C. Jackson out of Maryland who is an electric talent with top end athleticism, length, and technique. He comes with a big "but" though with his off field concerns dating back to his time at Florida. He was caught in a few drug altercations and even was the victim of a few drive bys. According, to teammates and coaches at Maryland he has been clean there so maybe he turned a new leaf. He reminds me a lot of Marcus Peters with a nasty bump and run style of coverage skills.
My other corner who I can see really popping year one is Mike Hughes who has a Josh Norman/Richard Sherman confidence to him that helps make great corners. Unlike any position on the field I think swagger and confidence is most important at corner where they go one on one with receivers on the outside by themselves. Hughes has that in droves and an incredible athletic skill set with track speed and excellent ball skills. Now his technique needs work since he was allowed to just rest on his athletic abilities in college, but in the NFL you need more than just your speed. He also need a bit more game experience, but I can see him making a decent sized impact right away.
Safeties: Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama & Justin Reid Stanford
- I like high floor players to a fault sometimes, but I find if you have safer players who can play right away at a high level compared to a project player who might be an elite one is a better route to go long term. That is why I like a guy like Minkah Fitzpatrick who was a three year starter since he was a freshman at Alabama under Nick Saban over a guy like Derwin James is a terrific athlete, but needs more coaching before he is ready to really make an impact. I also think Fitzpatrick\'s IQ is just out of this world from that position with a great nose for the ball to couple that with solid speed and athletic talent. Not often does a freshman take the reigns of a Nick Saban coached secondary. My next guy is a similar style safety with a high IQ and great instincts like Fitzpatrick, but just does not have that special athletic gifts that make Fitzpatrick a top pick in Justin Reid. Justin the brother of current blackballed safety Eric is a similar highly intelligent type player who can make plays all over the field. He is not the biggest, fastest, or most athletic safety in the draft. However, his incredibly high floor should help him start right away and make an impact day one as a reliable player. He reminds a lot of people of Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix with his ball skills and high floor, but that is a fine comparison since Clinton-Dix has enjoyed a fantastic career thus far. I think the same will be said of Justin Reid in five years.