Scout's Report: The Most Overrated Prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft Class
Who are the most overrated players in the 2018 draft class?
That's the text I sent to a handful of NFL scouts and executives last week for a bit in my weekly Scouting Notebook column. Only a few people texted me back in time to get their answers in the article, but as more replies came in post-publish, this became an article idea that wouldn't leave me alone. And here we are.
Overrated doesn't mean bad. That's the most important thing to note while reading this. And this isn't my opinion. It's the polled replies from the executives and scouts I talked to. In fact, some of these replies are pointed at my rankings.
I asked every responding person to let me know why the players are overrated. You'll see those below.
Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver, Colorado State
Scout's Quote: "Coming out of the Senior Bowl, people had this dude in the first round! He's good, but he's mid-Day 2."
Colorado State's Michael Gallup played just two seasons for the Rams after transferring from Butler Community College but performed well, posting 176 catches for 2,690 yards and 21 touchdowns. He proved that he belongs at a high level and backed it up with a big performance at the Senior Bowl. In terms of size (6'1", 198 lbs) and production, Gallup is what scouts want, but his overall athleticism draws concerns.
Gallup will be scrutinized for his burst and ability to separate vertically. First-round talk might be rich, and sometimes people get too excited after seeing a player live at the Senior Bowl, but don't be surprised when he hears his name called in the top 75 picks of the draft.
Marcus Davenport, Edge-Rusher, UT-San Antonio
Scout's Quote: "He's good, but far from a finished product. People talking him up as a top-10 pick won't lose their jobs for drafting him there."
Over the last month, Marcus Davenport's name has been the hottest of any prospect. The 6'6" pass-rusher has lots of athleticism and potential. During Senior Bowl week, Davenport struggled early but then dominated by the third day and finished the week strong. Coaches and scouts are excited about that—being able to get their hands on him and coach him up to something great.
This scout isn't buying the risk vs. reward of Davenport in the top 10, and it's hard to argue with. Will he be Dion Jordan or Vernon Gholston all over again? Betting on development can net teams a star at a steal value, but it can also blow up in their faces.
Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, SMU
Scout's Quote: "I liked this kid a lot last year, but he was average this year. I don't think he can separate. And he knows it too since he dropped out of the Senior Bowl."
Courtland Sutton is ranked as my No. 2 wide receiver in the class, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he climbs into the top 15 picks by late April. The biggest question right now is, can he separate? Playing against American Athletic Conference competition at SMU, Sutton (6'4" and 215 lbs) was able to Randy Moss cornerbacks with his size and reach, but he doesn't flash as particularly fast on film. And by opting to not attend the Senior Bowl, Sutton hasn't yet proved his speed against better competition.
The phrase "possession receiver" has negative connotations for some, but that's what Sutton is. Whether he trains exhaustively and runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash at the combine or not, it doesn't change that fast cornerbacks can make his life miserable.
Sam Hubbard, Edge-Rusher, Ohio State
Scout's Quote: "He's a good player, but he won't test well enough to go Round 1. Athletically, he's just average and is pretty stiff."
Hubbard still ranks in my top 32 overall, but the concerns mentioned by the scout are real. He's a good defensive end and can stack up against the run or use a power move to get into the backfield as a pass-rusher, but he's not going to wow you with a three-cone time or flexibility.
The things that Hubbard does well—leverage, technique, anchoring—make him a quality prospect that should be drafted in that late-first-to-early-second range. If you're expecting him to be a super twitchy athlete, he's not your guy. But in a scheme like New England's, he would be an excellent fit.
Derrick Nnadi, Defensive Tackle, Florida State
Scout's Quote: "Everyone wants him to be Aaron Donald, and it's so funny because he's closer to a Grady Jarrett-type"
Let's be clear—Derrick Nnadi is not Aaron Donald. They're both shorter prospects—Nnadi is listed at 6'1"—but he doesn't show the burst and refinement that Donald had coming out of Pitt. That's not to say Nnadi is a bad prospect; I like him quite a bit and have given him a Round 2 grade.
Where Nnadi has to get better is in overcoming his lack of size with technique. That's what made Donald so great. He wasn't just quick, but he was polished with his hands and understood how to set up blockers. It what makes him the NFL's best defensive player right now. Nnadi gets overwhelmed when his speed doesn't win.
Nnadi's range from scouts can swing wildly—I've heard Round 1 all the way to Round 4—and where he's ultimately drafted will be fascinating.
Mason Rudolph, Quarterback, Oklahoma State
Scout's Quote: "You have him in Round 2 and I just don't see it. He has a weak arm and plays in a bulls--t scheme. Bryce Petty all over again"
Mason Rudolph is, like the scout says, in my second-round rankings, but that isn't an opinion shared by the team employing this evaluator. He went on to add, "I can see him going second round in a mock draft, but there is no way he should be valued there."
The issue with grading quarterbacks for the entire league (media) and not just one team is that flaws in a player's game might make him an awful fit for some teams and fine for others. If you want an athletic quarterback that can move, Rudolph isn't your guy. If you want a seasoned pocket passer with pretty good touch accuracy, he is a decent option.
Desmond Harrison, Offensive Tackle, West Georgia
Scout's Quote: "I don't get the love here at all. Good athlete, but he played at like 275 [pounds] and hasn't blocked an NFL-caliber defensive end since Charlie Strong cut his ass."
Desmond Harrison started his college career at Texas but wasn't in the plans after missing the entire 2014 season after being suspended twice. Harrison didn't play in 2015 and 2016 but resurfaced at West Georgia as a signee in December 2016 and would go on to play well at left tackle for the Wolves this past season.
Harrison's lack of bulk wasn't an issue at a small school but would have been exposed at the Senior Bowl. He was originally listed as an accepted invite but dropped out because of a foot injury, so we didn't get to see how well he looked against top-tier competition. Harrison's agent did share with me that he's now close to 300 pounds (up from around 275) thanks to his pre-combine training.
Kalen Ballage, Running Back, Arizona State
Scout's Quote: "One good game in college and one good quarter at the Senior Bowl and people think he's a first-rounder."
If you watch a lot of late-night football on Saturdays, you likely saw Kalen Ballage go off against Texas Tech in September 2016. In that game, Ballage scored seven rushing touchdowns and one receiving on just 15 total touches. It's an incredible stat line, and it put Ballage on the map, but he didn't back it up with production that season or this past one, as he posted just one 100-yard rushing game from that point on over two seasons.
Ballage is a physical masterpiece at 6'2" and 222 pounds and will no doubt test well at the scouting combine. Now, NFL teams must decide if he was held back by the staff at Arizona State or is a "tester" who can't play.
Connor Williams, Offensive Tackle, Texas
Scout's Quote: "He'll go Round 1 because of need and he's a good athlete, but the top-five talk needed to die."
Connor Williams is the best overall offensive tackle in the 2018 draft class, which led to some early talk that he'd be a top-five pick. That started to end once the season began, and he struggled against Maryland—he called it the worst game of his career when he joined me on the Stick to Football podcast—and then injured his knee. But the tools that made Williams a stud in 2015 and 2016 are still there.
Those who evaluate Williams might come to the conclusion he lacks length and maybe even lacks elite play strength, but his athleticism and toughness are that of a high-level NFL starter at tackle. And if you want him to play guard, his mean streak in the run game would play well there.
It's early and the combine can change a lot of opinions, but I expect Williams to be a top-15 pick.
Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma
Scout's Quote: "I like Baker. We like Baker. But fans wanting him drafted first overall are off their rocker. I do think he'll go top 10 because he's a quarterback."
Baker Mayfield might be the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 draft class. Some love him and fiercely disagree with any and all criticisms of his game. Others see a short, non-athletic, spread quarterback from the Big 12 and want nothing to do with him. The reality is probably somewhere in between.
The need at quarterback and Mayfield's excellent 2017 season should combine to push him into the top 10 picks of the draft. He's an exciting playmaker and has seriously improved his accuracy to all levels of the field while becoming a disciplined pocket passer. If teams can get past his height (6'0 ½") and lack of blazing speed, he has to be in the running to be the first quarterback drafted.