Firstly, don’t forget to check out our review of Seattle’s 2017 draft class from yesterday. It’s a detailed look at not just the players drafted but also the thought process on what should be considered a positive class overall.
I’m starting to get into the 2017 group and will have some notes in the coming days. In the meantime, I put this together a couple of weeks ago.
Ten names for 2018…
Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
If they can both stay healthy, the 2018 draft could be dominated by two really exciting running backs. It’s hard to separate the two names at the top of this list. If you want to know how Penn State suddenly returned to relevance in 2016, look no further than Saquon Barkley. He’s a genuine X-factor at running back with freakish power and athleticism. He can do a 600lbs squad and reportedly managed a 4.38 forty on campus to go along with a 4.00 short shuttle, a 10-1 broad jump and a 380lbs bench. Stud.
Derrius Guice (RB, LSU)
Guice is a fantastic talent capable of being a Heisman candidate if LSU can cobble together a passing game and remain relevant deep into the season. He’s incredibly sudden and explosive with enough size (5-11, 212lbs) to get the hard yards. He plays with a Thomas Rawls level of intensity. His performances against Texas A&M and Arkansas when Leonard Fournette was injured were incredible. Guice is must-watch TV. He ran a 4.38 forty on campus two years ago at a heavier 219lbs. You see that breakaway speed on tape along with incredible cut-back and change of direction ability and he can stop on a dime and accelerate unlike virtually any other running back in college football. He is incredible.
Vita Vea (DT, Washington)
With so many Huskies turning pro this year, it was a bit of a surprise that Vea didn’t join them. There’s every chance he would’ve been a top-15 pick. Players like Vea are rare. Not only does he have the size and length to control the LOS and anchor as a nose tackle — he also has plus athleticism at 6-5 and 332lbs to impact plays in the backfield. He had five sacks last season. Reports suggested he was informed by NFL sources to get in peak shape and enter the 2018 draft. If he achieves this, a top-10 grade is entirely possible for a player who could be the next Haloti Ngata.
Bradley Chubb (EDGE, NC State)
It was a major surprise when Chubb announced he wouldn’t be turning pro this year. Last season he recorded 21.5 TFL’s and 10 sacks and there’s a very good chance he would’ve been a first round pick. He’s a high-intensity pass rusher with a great personality. He’s the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. If he can match Nick’s SPARQ-destroying performance before his knee injury, he could land in the top-10 next year. At 6-4 and 275lbs he’s versatile can rush inside or out. His standout performance might’ve been the ‘Hurricane Bowl’ against Notre Dame last year. He dealt with the conditions better than anyone.
Arden Key (EDGE, LSU)
In high school Key was already benching 245lbs and squatting 410lbs. He has gradually become a major impact player for LSU, setting a school record for sacks in 2016 with 12, accumulating 14.5 TFL’s. Recent reports had Key stepping away from the program for ‘personal reasons’ but he recently confirmed he wouldn’t be sitting out the season. Teams will be looking into the situation as he prepares to turn pro in the next year — but there’s no doubting his potential at 6-6 and 238lbs with room to grow. He’s similar to Leonard Floyd (top-10 pick a year ago) but could stand to add extra weight.
Trey Adams (T, Washington)
Big, long and athletic — Trey Adams is one of the few emerging left tackles with a big opportunity to forge a successful pro-career. He plays in a good offense to judge his potential and he’s big — listed at 6-8 and 309lbs but more likely in the 6-6 range (where you want him to be). He moves well on his feet for his size and shows the ability to get into position, set and finish blocks. He plays with toughness and enjoys run blocking. If there were more players like Adams in college football, the NFL would feel a lot happier.
Minkah Fitzpatrick (S, Alabama)
With so many studs on the Alabama defense it’s difficult to stand out sometimes. Fitzpatrick managed it multiple times in 2016. He had six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), five TFL’s, seven PBU’s and a forced fumble. He ran a 3.87 short shuttle in High School while jumping a 37.5 inch vertical. He’s an intelligent, savvy ballhawk who could be a major leader and component of Alabama’s defense next season with so many big names departing for the NFL this year.
Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
The same thing happens every year. We pour over the quarterbacks in a draft class and declare next years crop to be better. Darnold is the latest example of a prospect being vaulted into the spotlight a little prematurely. He’s a converted linebacker and hasn’t even been a college starter for a full season. At times his play is majestic and he clearly has an innate, natural flair for the position. He extends plays, he has the arm strength and accuracy. There is so much to like. He also has some erraticism to his play and there are ‘Jake Locker moments’. He has a ton of potential but he’ll be under a lot of pressure to live up to the hype this year.
Connor Williams (T, Texas)
A former High School teammate of Solomon Thomas, Williams has really blossomed from a three-star recruit to a genuine NFL prospect. Measurables will be key for Williams. He isn’t big — listed at 6-6 and 288lbs last season. He needs to get into that 305lbs range and he doesn’t look incredibly long in the arms. He’s a very willing run blocker with natural bend and foot speed. There’s a major edge to his play, built off an intriguing backstory. He and Trey Adams have much higher ceilings than the more often discussed Mike McGlinchey at Notre Dame.
Derrick Nnadi (DT, Florida State)
He’s only really scratching the surface of what he’s capable of. In 2016 he emerged as a highly impactful, mostly two-down defender. He had 10.5 TFL’s and six sacks. He and Demarcus Walker lived in the backfield and played off each other. Nnadi has the power to handle the run and the quickness, power and an effective swim/rip to break into the backfield. He’s 6-1 and 312lbs so perfectly sized to act as a disruptive interior presence.