Some early thoughts on 2018 draft prospects

August 2nd, 2017 | Written by Rob Staton

At the end of the 2017 draft I listed 10 draft eligible names to watch for next year. You can see the original list here.

This could be a really good draft for running backs
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice are the two biggest names for good reason. Barkley is a gym-rat workaholic with great character, explosive athleticism, size and playmaking ability. Guice has a little bit of Thomas Rawls in him with that smaller frame but great tenacity. He’s also explosive with the ability to shift through the gears quickly. Some thought LSU played better when he replaced an injured Leonard Fournette last year.

According to Bruce Feldman, Guice can squat 650lbs, power clean 374lbs and he ran a 4.49 recently at 5-11 and 212lbs. Barkley was listed as Feldman’s celebrated #1 freak of nature for 2017, reportedly running a 4.33 at 228lbs (which seems a tad unrealistic) and defeating linemen Anthony Zettel’s school record in the power clean with a 405lbs effort.

Both players could mount Heisman campaigns depending on how their respective teams perform overall. The promising thing for this class is the other names that could also develop into high draft picks.

The player I’m most keen to see more of in 2017 is Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway. He was the first player in this draft cycle that made me sit up. He’s 6-0 and 235lbs and had some monster games against Ole Miss, Arkansas and Mississippi State.

So what stands out?

For a guy at his size he can really move. He has a gliding running style that eats up ground very quickly. His acceleration is highly impressive. When he hits the hole he isn’t always building up speed slowly, needing a running start. He hits it with authority and gets to top speed quickly. Once he’s moving he’s difficult to stop.

While he’s deceptively shifty with the ability to side-step defenders and stretch plays out, he’s also what you’d expect from a bigger back. He’ll get the extra yard or two on contact. He’ll avoid tackles or run through a defender. Arm tackles frequently don’t cut it and once he breaks into the open field, watch out.

He missed a few games last year so a full, durable 2017 season is critical for his stock. That said — he’s an exciting player with a lot of potential.

The two other names I wanted to mention are reasonably well known but didn’t quite live up to expectations in 2016. See the video at the top of the blog post if you want to take a look at him.

Arizona State’s Kalen Ballage is a fantastic athlete with great size (listed at 6-3 and 230lbs). He’s a possible freaky performer at the combine. Feldman has him jumping 37 inches in the vertical and running a 4.03 short shuttle (0.15 seconds faster than any RB at this years combine). Last year Ballage was let down by a weak supporting cast that crumbled down the stretch. He has tremendous personality and character and he’s not just a running back — he can score in many different ways.

Alabama’s Bo Scarborough will be well known to CFB fans after a strong end to the 2016 season. However, it took him a little while to earn Nick Saban’s trust. Billed as the heir apparent to Derrick Henry, Scarborough was a bit of a let down at the start of the season. His challenge now is to launch yet another Alabama RB Heisman campaign and become the focal point of a strong running offense. He has the size, speed, physicality and talent to be a next-level stud. Let’s hope for a consistent season in college to prove he can live up to expectations.

This is just five names to start with. Players like Oregon’s Royce Freeman, Alabama’s Damien Harris, Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and Washington duo Myles Gaskin and Lavon Coleman are others who could turn the 2018 draft into a big year for running backs.

Clemson has even more talent coming through
They lost DeShaun Watson and Mike Williams but the production line at Clemson keeps churning out talent. Their D-line in particular is littered with studs, containing three possible future first round picks.

Dexter Lawrence could be a top-10 pick in the 2019 draft. Clelin Ferrell could go in the top-20 in 2018 and Christian Wilkins could certainly make a case for the first round too. Three big, angry, versatile defensive linemen with round one talent.

Ferrell as a draft eligible prospect for next year is really interesting. He’s listed at about 6-5 and 265lbs but he looks bigger. He has that Shaq Lawson type of frame and he’s capable of rushing inside/out, winning with technique/hands but also showing enough speed to rush the edge. He doesn’t quite have Harold Landry’s superb get-off but he’s a longer, more rounded NFL prospect. You can imagine him playing in the AFC North or NFC West. He had six sacks and 12.5 TFL’s last year and could easily double those numbers in 2017. I’m a big fan of Bradley Chubb’s at NC State — he and Ferrell could go in the same kind of range.

The big question is how much do the three help each other out? Working out who is the best of the trio is difficult. I suspect Lawrence has the greatest potential but Ferrell and Wilkins are very good. Clemson will again be a fun team to watch this year.

On offense the potential breakout star is receiver Deon Cain. He’s 6-1 and 210lbs. He high-points the ball nicely making a number of improbable grabs. He has the short area quickness and ability to separate. He’ll go long for a big gain from time-to-time and he’s proven to be a red zone threat. Cain had nine touchdowns last year.

More than anything he’s already tremendously polished. Clemson seem to do a better job than anyone coaching receivers. No, Sammy Watkins hasn’t delivered on the hype so far (how much of that is due to location?). Look at the success stories though, such as DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson receivers understand the game, usually can break down coverages during interviews and discuss how they exploit schemes to get open. They’re also highly competitive and athletic. Receivers and D-liners come out of Clemson regularly and enter the league. Keep an eye on Cain this year.

Who else stood out on early viewing?
Speaking of production lines, there’s another really cool linebacker at Ohio State. Jerome Baker flies around the field with terrific quickness. He makes plays in the backfield and working sideline-to-sideline. He’s more of a playmaker than Darron Lee who went in round one. There’s some Ryan Shazier to his game. He’s only 223lbs but reportedly ran a 4.37 this year. Baker just looks like a top-40 type of player already.

Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne is a massive mountain of a man who moves well for his size. He has shown he’s capable of a nice swim move (not often you see it from ‘Bama interior guys) and he can drop the anchor and carry two blockers before disengaging and making the stop vs the run. It’s unclear how good he is as an athlete and his stock might not be early pick. He’s a bad ass on that Alabama D-line though. I noticed him while trying to watch other Alabama D-liners and he was the one who stood out.

A lot of people know about Florida State’s Derwin James already. He was injured for most of last year but many praised his freshman season. I watched some of it to see what the fuss was about and was blown away by his speed, size, willingness to deliver a hammer blow and versatility to line-up in different defensive looks. He needs a healthy 2017 season but he’s as good as advertised and (health-permitting) will be an early pick.

Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki had a pretty consistent 2016 season. He’s a long strider with good size (6-6, 252lbs). He’s a modern day type of TE — better at working into space and finding a coverage mismatch than necessarily grinding it out in the run game. He’s capable of explosive plays downfield though and he gets into the open pretty quickly off the snap. His only catch in the Rose Bowl was a fantastic red zone touchdown against USC. Reportedly Gesicki manages 37.5 inches in the vertical and has jumped a 10-11 broad.

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55 Responses to “Some early thoughts on 2018 draft prospects”

  1. SeaHusky says:

    I know it’s very early, but what does everyone think the priority positions the Seahawks will be targeting in the draft next year?

    Thanks for the great posts as always, Rob!

    • LeoSharp says:

      TE, OG, WR, tall athletic WR, athletic LB, DE/LEO

      This is just based on which players I believe won’t be priority or affordable resigning next year.

      Luke Joeckal/Oday Aboushi – A great year from either of these players may see them priced put of Seattle, especially with all the depth behind them that should be ready to start
      Luke Willson – Prepared to let him leave last year. An likely wanted to draft a pair of TE last year
      Cassius Marsh – May no longer be as essential on Special teams and hasn’t been a great pass rusher so far so the team may look for an upgrade
      Jermaine Kearse – Another down and he may be cut.
      Paul Richardson – Often injured. A good year may see him priced out of Seattle
      Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are the only LB signed long term and a versatile Bruce Irvin type would add an extra element to this defense.

      Personally I’m interested in TE Troy Fumagali, DE Dorance Armstrong jr, LB Rashaan Evans, WR Jester Weah

    • KD says:

      Ir will be interesting to see if they stick with the 4-2-5 as a base defense or if they silently move back toward a more traditional 4-3. One thing that really surprised me from this most recent draft was that PC emphasized LB as a position of need, yet they didn’t draft one. This may be the clue that they are indeed committed to the 4-2-5, but as it has been pointed out by Rob and others on this blog, the incredible % of snaps taken by Wright and Wagner is worrying, and the Seahawks will have to look at adding more depth behind them. Thankfully, resigning mike Morgan is a step in the right direction, but that is the one position that has me a bit worried aside from the standard OL worries especially if Fant isn’t all he’s hyped to be.

      Also, if Britt does leave then Pocic should slip into that role just fine in which case interior OL becomes a need again. One name to keep an eye on is Mason Cole from Michigan. In fact, I would make it a point to keep an eye on Michigan in general this year now that it is established that this FO has faith in Harbaugh being able to properly coach his players properly.

    • Overtime says:

      OLB/DE, QB, OG

      I see Joeckel moving on, hence an OG like Quenton Nelson might be a nice target early. OG’s are not hard to find but the great ones are. Nelson is very good at LG.

      QB2 seems like the one weakness. We need someone we can groom like Kirk Cousins. RW3 is 28 and 5 years into his career, While we are well stocked elsewhere I would shop for a QB in waiting to protect against injury. Jake Browning?

      Frank Clark can replace Avril and save a few $. We need someone to replace Frank Clark and play a little OLB, too. If we lose KJ or Wagz the backups we have brought in may not be good enough. They worked on the LB depth this year but did not spend any draft capital. Next year could be different unless someone other than Morgan steps up, There is no young talent at LB.

      • Coleslaw says:

        I absolutely love Quenten Nelson, but Vol12 told me he’s probably the #1 Guard so if history repeats for him and us, we likely won’t have a close shot at drafting him.
        Also I think Clark is gonna stick around, it’ll take a lot of money but he’s a cornerstone type of player. He could be someone they think is a core player and do whatever it takes to keep

  2. KD says:

    I’m quite happy to see RBs making a comeback at being high draft picks, and i absolutely love Derrius Guice. As for Clelin Ferrell who you mentioned, I was watching some tape of Carlos Watkins and i thought he was an incredible, explosive talent until i realized that I was watching Ferrell by mistake. I’m going to go a step further and say he will end up being the #1 overall pick when he declares, barring serious injury or character issues.

    Do you see the RB position as one that will become more prestigious in the coming years since it is becoming more and more difficult to find pro-ready QBs? We’ll have to see how the 2017 class shakes out and how the board will fall for 2018, but I just keep thinking about watching Hard Knocks last year and how embarrassing it was to watch Goff being tutored on how to take a snap from under center. A stud RB can be a game changer, even with a young QB, by making an offense more dynamic and setting the tone, and, most importantly, by relieving a young QB from having to bear the burden of the entire offense.

    • House says:

      KD,

      I think you bring up a great question and here is my take on it. Yes… RBs are making a comeback. I believe, like you mentioned, a lack of NFL ready drafted QBs is a HUGE risk that can set a franchise back if they don’t go the vet/groom the rook route. With RBs possessing versatility, they are safety nets for QBs. Fournette should greatly help Bortles and the Jags offense in my opinion. Chris Ivory couldn’t stay healthy and TJ Yeldon couldn’t carry a load.

      In DAL last season, Zeke did wonders. He had a tremendous OL and it helped Dak as well. No knocks on Dak, but if his RB was McFadden last year, he wouldn’t have looked so good.

      In your example of the Rams, Gurley had a down year that could be contributed to Goff, a bad OL and being down.

      • AlaskaHawk says:

        I think the comeback was started by Dallas rookie Elliot. The 2017 draft was a good one for running backs. McCaffrey has recently received some good press as he starts works out for Carolina Panthers. So it appears that the position is making a comeback.

  3. Kenny Sloth says:

    Off Topic:

    This summer I’ve gotten more and more into international soccer and it’s become increasingly apparent that no other sports league in the world has the parity of the NFL.

    Baseball just completely sucks imo
    MLS is rapidly losing what parity it had.
    The NBA……

    And almost every soccer league. They’ll have 2 or 4 favorites to be champion of the league and the rest scramble to avoid relegation (which definitely doesn’t improve their leagues, just raises the stakes for bottom feeders)

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Any Given Sunday baby

    • Myfanwy365 says:

      This is partly why i’m going off watching football other than Wales internationals

      The money is becoming obscene & I can’t comprehend some of the sums, Neymar for £200m ffs

      Doesn’t help that my own team Wrexham are stuck in the 5th league for nearing 10yrs & just can’t compete.

      20yrs ago you could stand a reasonable chance of rising the leagues without needing a sugar daddy, that’s now gone

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        And that’s the same with any league.

        Bundesliga is my favorite because it has a similar feel to the NFL. You could see any of those teams punching above their weight. Except Hamburg.

        I only like teams w Americans on them, pretty much.

        International Competition is the tits.

        I wanna start a Concacaf podcast highlighting players abroad and domestic leagues

        • Myfanwy365 says:

          They punch above their weight but then Bayern swoop in for their best players

          • Kenny Sloth says:

            You’re not wrong. I like Wolfsburg, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Darmstadt. Ingolstadt, gladbach.

            Not sure who I like between Schalke and BVB because I’m prepared to hate the other one even though both hve young americans

            • Myfanwy365 says:

              I’m a hipster, went to see Union Berlin in February. Cracking atmosphere, even at -7c. Saw 1860 Munich a few years back just to say i’d been to the Allianz, hell of a stadium & atmosphere decent even half full

              • Kenny Sloth says:

                Hmm yeah. I wouldn’t mind going to some games in Germany

                I was thinking of hipster clubs today and Union Berlin leapt to the mind

    • KD says:

      Soccer is bourgeois 😀

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        boujee* lmao

        • KD says:

          Honestly, here in Seattle, everyone I know who is a Sounders fan, or soccer in general, is a middle class to upper middle class bourgeois twat. They are absolutely insufferable.

          I’m just joking around of course.

          • Kenny Sloth says:

            You’ll hear no argument from me.

            I’m from Tacoma though so I think skirt the yuppy clause supporting Sounders.

            Your observation is rather accurate otherwise.

  4. Old but Slow says:

    Though I missed seeing your return, Rob, I was delighted to see the blog running and just spent a couple of hours of catching up and enjoying the comments. As usual I now have a big number of players to look at, which I love, and mostly I feel like I can breath again.

    You have become a part of my life, as have the Seahawks, but I have a quibble. You were supposed to be spending time with the family, but you have obviously been watching video. Wazzat? I love your diligence, but we depend upon your family to keep you sane. Love them. I am sure you do.

    The addition of the Patreon is a great move and might even be the leverage you need to be in Seattle, full time, to report on our team. You are the best going.

    It just gets better and better.

  5. kevin says:

    Will you be discussing any O-linemen you have had your eye on?

  6. KD says:

    On an OT note, Forrest Lamp will miss the year with a torn ACL

  7. Kenny Sloth says:

    Germain Ifedi gets absolutely decked by a flying Frank Clark punch at practice today

    Ifedi was left on the ground for several seconds before reporting to trainers with a bloody mouth and face.

    Clark as expelled from today’s camp.

    Caused by Ifedi blocking through the whistle after newly resigned Coe put Will Pericak through the water cooler.

    Is it Ifedi or our DL? This guy just gets under our DLs skin!

    Ifedi is gonna be a breakout star this season or next.

    You’re not gonna hear a word about him all season (like a good OL) and then after week 10 he’ll be hailed as the best young guard in the league.

    • cha says:

      I was at training camp – about 30 ft away and it was brutal. Clark took a full step and leapt at Ifedi. He fumed all the way to the locker room after getting booted.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Love it though.

        Ifedi’s a Sherm. Clark is a Trent Williams

        • cha says:

          It wasn’t your typical camp scrum though. It was savage. Even Bennett said Clark should apologize.

        • peter says:

          Got to say I don’t love it. If Clark hurts himself busting a hand and playing with a club or jacks up Ifedi with flying punch it gets real quickly into “stupid move,” territory that and I’m not sure Seattle can afford to miss OTA’s etc when the NFL levies punishment.

    • lil'stink says:

      Ifedi was arguably the worst starting RG in the entire NFL last year. I think he’s got a ways to go.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        That doesn’t preclude him from improvement?

        In fact it almost ensures it.

        I know how Ifedi played last year. Not sure what the relevance is.

  8. cha says:

    Went to camp today. This was my first one in a long time so I didn’t catch everything but here are a few things I spotted:

    * Thorpe & Lane split reps on the CB spot opposite Sherman.

    * Thomas participated in just about everything but didn’t look like he was going full speed.

    * Didn’t see if Lockett participated. Saw him with his helmet off, talking with the guys who were fielding punts.

    * Pocic absolutely stoned a couple guys at RT in 1 on 1 drills and lined up with the #2 unit at RT.

    * Rubin got water and took a knee after every single drill. Most all the other DLs just looped back around for another turn.

    * Blair Walsh missed a PAT.

    * Boykin got most of the snaps at #2 QB. Really rusty start, a pick and a couple overthrows. Had a couple nice passes later. Davis led a drive but mostly were running plays.

    * Carson had a nice 40+ yard run down the sidelines.

    * Grayson had an acrobatic catch.

    * RW scrambled in the pocket a lot, trying to give WRs time to get open. Looked like it was intentional, just trying to work on his presence and footwork in the pocket.

    • Overtime says:

      Sheil Kapadia, reported Pete Carroll was not complementary about the QB2 play. Davis and Boykin have both looked underwhelming. Pete is usually very positive when asked about specific players. Not this time. Let’s hope RW3 makes it through the season without injury.

  9. Kenny Sloth says:

    Lemuel Jeanpierre is a Seahawks coach

  10. C-Dog says:

    Was at training camp today, Friday. A few thoughts.

    1. Ethan Pocic looked pretty good at RT with the 1s in place of Ifedi, who was in sweats. He moved well, and kept in good position.

    2. Chris Carson continues to run well and decisive. Can’t wait to see what this guy does in the preseason games. Rawls looked fast, and Lacy thunderous. Barring injuries, the running backs look loaded.

    3. Russell Wilson looks really quick rolling out.. like, really quick.

    4. Speaking of quick, Jarran Reed looks to be in good shape for DT, and I thought was moving noticeably faster. I wouldn’t be too quick to close the book on him merely being a two down run stopper, especially with the Malik McDowell situation. He looked quick in the pass rush drills.

    5. Speaking of DTs, after thought practice squader Tyler Harris appeared to be working in with the 1s at DT a bit. This could be something to monitor. Nazair Jones had some active moves during the 1 v 1 s.

    6. All of George Fant’s 319 lbs looks like good weight, and I thought he and Joekel looked good together on the left side in drills. Britt and Joekel lined up to each other is literally a massive site. My hopes have raised a bit about the offensive line, and Pocic looks like he should be a starter sooner than later.

    7. Frank Clark didn’t practice, but suited up into pads, was late getting to the field, several from the crowd cheered him and he waved in a playful kind of bouncing manner. Something makes me a bit nervous about this guy. Cold cocking another presumable starter on your team is a highly poor decision. I hope he gets that.

    8. Marcus Lucas looks interesting at tight end. Might be another one to watch.

    9. Boykin looked like he was having a better day than perhaps the practices he was having earlier in the week.

    • Rob Staton says:

      Thanks for sharing your notes C-Dog!

    • Brandon says:

      Jeez, if the starting line consists of any order of Fant, Joeckel, Britt, Aboushi, Pocic, and Ifedi (which it likely will), this line is going to be huge! All 6-5/6-6, 310+. Good thing Russ has experience behind a huge line.

      • C-Dog says:

        I stood probably 20 feet or so away from them as they were running drills, and at 6-2, I felt like I was looking at mountain peaks with Fant, Joekel, Britt, Aboushi and Pocic standing together ready to hunker down for the drill. Joekel and Britt, especially.

  11. Myfanwy365 says:

    @Softykjr: Tom Cable says Ifedi was at RG last year because RT would have been too much to handle in year one.

    But somehow skiing a basketball player to play LT was fine

    • Kenny Sloth says:

      Lmao I like Cable but he better get some damn results this year

    • Brseahawks says:

      Cable is all about mental game.

      Even if Ifedi is far more experienced than Fant, Fant might have an edge in the emotional/mental aspect of the game, which is probably heavily emphasized by Cable in his choices.

  12. Kenny Sloth says:

    Been waiting all month to ask you guys

    Whose your objectively greatest QB all time.

    Best Arm and Field General .

    The obvious choice is Montana, but I prefer the talents of

    Roger Staubach, Otto Graham, and Len Dawson.

    Dodgin Roger is like if Johnny Manziel was an American Hero

    Graham won like 6 championships between NFL and AFL and had some of the biggest games of his era

    Len Dawson maybe has the prettiest ball of all time, but a bogus scandal before the super bowl (which he won) tarnished an otherwise sterling career

    I also like Norm Van Brocklin cuz he smoked a lot

    • C-Dog says:

      I think that the quarterback position might be the most objective position in all of sports. It’s tough to argue against the achievements and accuracy of Montana, and Brady.

      For me, it’s really tough to argue against Montana on a lot of levels, especially that steely calm in crunch time, but also for me, I’ve always especially enjoyed the guys who did it with their arms and legs. As a young kid, Staubach was the one who put our household in awe, especially my dad. He was kinda my first football Superman. Over the years, I’ve seen a few different incarnations and traces of him in Tark, Elway, Randle Cunningham before he blew out his knee, Aaron Rodgers for sure, and RW when things are clicking. Guys that when you see them on your team’s schedule you have that extra sense of dread as to how your defense will defend them if it has a few blemishes. I wouldn’t be shocked if in my twilight years looking back, I don’t consider Rodgers the greatest. As much as his smug gets under my skin, if I had my choice of QB to start a franchise in today’s NFL, it’d be him.

      Other guys that I’ve like watching would be Bradshaw, Farve, Moon, Stabler.

      • Kenny Sloth says:

        Yeah I can tell you like runners from your list!

        Hard to argue against Montana and Brady.

        I’ve always just looked for my favorite arm talent. In that regard I’m going Len Dawson and Matt Stafford.

        Best touch and most lively arm I’ve seen

        • C-Dog says:

          Yup, I think it’s definitely fair to say I lean towards the scramblers. I love watching early footage of Joe Namath at Alabama and when he still had his wheels with the Jets. The dude was like a Jedi in the pocket and rolling around.

          That said, Dan Fouts during the Air Coryell era of Super Chargers football was a lot of fun to watch, and made me a fan, and Dan Marino’s release was always just sick to watch. For someone who didn’t move much, really difficult to sack.

        • AlaskaHawk says:

          I loved watching Montana and the 49ers when I was a kid. He always delivered the ball with just the right amount of touch into the receivers hands.

          The fastest delivery I’ve seen was John Elway, I swear he could throw with just a wrist snap. That first season I watched him drilling the ball into the receivers, he had to learn not to throw so hard at his close receivers, they just couldn’t catch it. That summer the coach (was it Shannon?) told the media that if the receivers couldn’t catch the ball then they would find new receivers…

          There are so many good Quarterbacks over the years, always makes things interesting. Brady is up there with the best, and also has lost superbowls on errant behind Wes Welker thows. He should do a Michael Jordan commercial = I threw xxx passes, I missed xxx receivers, and I won xx superbowls. Of course he goes to the top of the list because he’s married to a supermodel !!!

          • Kenny Sloth says:

            Lovely points.

            I kinda wanted to highlight some less hyped players, but Elway Montana and Brady all have their claims.

            I still wanna say Stabauch and Dawson based on the highlights they put up. Super dynamic talents throwing the ball

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