The Perfect Prospect at the Scouting Combine for Every NFL TeamFebruary 26, 2018
The Perfect Prospect at the Scouting Combine for Every NFL Team
The "Underwear Olympics" is almost here.
This week the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine gets underway in Indianapolis. From Notre Dame running back Josh Adams to Louisville edge-rusher Trevon Young, over 300 of college football's best and brightest are about to be put through their paces.
They will be poked and prodded. Measured and interviewed. Then they will run and jump and three-cone the day away.
Every team in the NFL will head to Indy with a wish list in hand. Players they are interested in. Players they most assuredly are not. And players who they have questions about before deciding which category to file them under.
For every team though, there's also a player who just...fits. Maybe it's a matter of scheme. Or a matter of need. Or both.
Some are first-round picks. Others will go on Day 2. Some are late-round gems.
Every NFL team has a perfect prospect at this year's combine.
Arizona Cardinals: Washington State QB Luke Falk
With Carson Palmer's retirement, the Arizona Cardinals need a quarterback. As such, the team has been linked in one form or another to many of this year's free agents at the position, whether it's AJ McCarron, Sam Bradford or even Kirk Cousins.
But with just $22 million in cap space, per Over the Cap, Cousins is likely too rich for Arizona's blood. McCarron might well be too. And while Bradford could be a fit, he (or another veteran like him) is a short-term fix.
It gets worse. By the time the Cardinals pick at No. 15, this year's top options at quarterback will likely be gone, and it's probably too early to consider second-tier options like Louisville's Lamar Jackson.
Enter Washington State's Luke Falk, who is one of the more intriguing Day 2 quarterback prospects in this year's draft.
At 6'4", Falk has the height that so many NFL scouts drool over. And in Pullman, he often displayed plus arm strength and accuracy, passing for 3,593 yards and 30 scores last year for the Cougars.
This isn't to say he's flawless. He's a Day 2 prospect (at best) for a reason. Falk was sacked a lot at Washington State behind a porous offensive line, he needs to add weight, and there were times he threw right into coverage.
Still, the potential is there for Falk to be a capable NFL starter if he's afforded a little time to develop behind a veteran—which may be the Cardinals' plan whether they like it or not.
Atlanta Falcons: Georgia OT Isaiah Wynn
It's not all that often that a playoff team picking toward the back of Round 1—a team that's just one year removed from playing in the Super Bowl—has a golden opportunity to fill a major area of need with a player who should step in as a Day 1 starter.
Well, the Atlanta Falcons must be living right, because as Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote in his post-Super Bowl mock draft, that's exactly what could happen this year with Georgia tackle Isaiah Wynn.
"Wynn is a top-tier athlete and showed as much with his speed to kick out and protect the edge of the Georgia passing game but also in his powerful, agile movements in the run game," Miller said. "If the Falcons want to be tougher and stronger offensively, Wynn is the type of tone-setter they need."
Forget about the fact that Wynn was a tackle with the Bulldogs—at just over 6'2" with 33-inch arms, he projects more as a guard at the NFL level.
Guard just so happens to be Atlanta's biggest offensive need.
He isn't just talented, though. The 300-pound Wynn isn't a mauler. This isn't to say he isn't strong, but he wins at the point of attack with quickness, agility, footwork and technique, not brute strength.
In other words, Wynn's an ideal fit for a team that employs a zone-blocking scheme.
Say, a team like the Atlanta Falcons.
His status as an in-state hero is just the icing on the cake.
Baltimore Ravens: Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton
There are three constants in life: death, taxes and the Baltimore Ravens heading into draft season with a need at the wide receiver position.
Even if the Ravens are able to retain the services of veteran Mike Wallace, that need still exists in 2018. And with a less-than-inspiring crop of free agents and just $10 million in cap space (before re-signing Wallace), Baltimore isn't going to solve this particular problem in free agency.
If Calvin Ridley (the consensus top receiver prospect) is on the board at No. 16, Ozzie Newsome's last first-round pick is apt to be the Crimson Tide standout.
But if Ridley goes earlier, all is not lost. There will be wideouts available who could provide Baltimore with a pass-catching boost this season.
Penn State's DaeSean Hamilton doesn't have Ridley's athleticism. Or his speed. Or his level of collegiate production. Hamilton never had even 900 receiving yards in a season despite being a four-year starter.
But pop in tape of the 6'1", 205-pounder and you see a player who consistently gets open using crisp route-running and football smarts.
He's essentially a poor man's Allen Robinson, and it's a safe bet the Jacksonville Jaguars don't regret using a second-rounder on Robinson back in 2014.
It's not going to take that to land Hamilton, even if he builds on a strong showing at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl by alleviating concerns about his speed in Indianapolis.
But Hamilton has a real chance at being looked at a few years from now as one of the biggest steals at his position of the 2018 draft.
Buffalo Bills: Iowa LB Josey Jewell
There's going to be a ton written over the next couple of months about what the Buffalo Bills will do with their back-to-back picks at No. 21 and 22 in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.
Much of that conversation will center on the quarterback position, and that speculation will ramp up exponentially if the Bills part ways with Tyrod Taylor.
But quarterback isn't the Bills' only potential area of need. After a season in which middle linebacker Preston Brown tied for the NFL lead with 144 tackles, the 25-year-old is slated to hit the open market. Even if the Bills re-up Brown, depth behind him and/or an upgrade on the weak side would both be welcome.
Iowa's Josey Jewell has the ability to fill both of those needs.
Jewell was wildly productive for the Hawkeyes in 2017, and Lance Zierlein of NFL.com compared the 6'1", 235-pounder to Sean Lee of the Dallas Cowboys. One AFC scouting director told Zierlein he sees value written all over Jewell.
"I like him a lot," he said. "I think he will run faster than people think for sure. Give me a guy with his mindset and instincts and I can sell him to a coaching staff even if he's not as big as they are looking for. His tape will win them over."
A good showing in drills will only serve to vault Jewell further up draft boards, possibly into the Day 2 conversation. But as that scouting director inferred, the tape doesn't lie.
And with Jewell, that tape shows an instinctive young defender who can play.
Carolina Panthers: Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey
The Carolina Panthers made a concerted effort to get better along the offensive line in 2017 with the addition of tackle Matt Kalil in free agency.
That didn't work out so well.
To be fair, Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey isn't necessarily a can't-miss bell-cow blindside protector on the left side. While some pundits, like Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, view the 6'8", 312-pounder as the top prospect at the position, others believe McGlinchey's best bet at NFL success might lie on the right side.
Personally, I tend to fall closer to Mayock's end of that scale. McGlinchey admittedly doesn't have the ceiling of tackles like Orlando Brown of Oklahoma or Connor Williams of Texas.
But what McGlinchey does have is a much higher floor. His technique and footwork are easily the most NFL-ready of any tackle in the class. He's shown the ability to be successful on both sides of the line and in both zone and man-blocking schemes. His background as a tight end also belies better-than-advertised athleticism.
And the possibility of a few tackle-eligible shenanigans in the future.
The Carolina Panthers of 2018 aren't that much different than the team that went 15-1 and advanced to Super Bowl 50. They were a playoff team a year ago.
But an improved offensive line is a must—and McGlinchey could accomplish that goal from Day 1.
Chicago Bears: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
The Chicago Bears were aggressive in attacking the quarterback position a year ago, trading up in 2017 to acquire North Carolina signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky.
Now it's time to give Trubisky a fighting chance to succeed.
Trubisky had an up-and-down first NFL season, in part because the Bears had one of the weakest receiving corps in the league. The return of a healthy Cameron Meredith will help, but Meredith isn't a No. 1 receiver, and the Bears aren't going to be able to find one of those in a so-so free-agent crop (unless a surprise player like Allen Robinson reaches the open market).
That leaves the eighth overall pick in this year's draft—and Alabama's Calvin Ridley.
The 6'1", 190-pound Ridley is the top receiver prospect in 2018, a player who Lance Zierlein of NFL.com said has "game-changing talent complete with blazing speed and rare route-running ability for a college prospect," while also comparing him to Hall of Fame wideout Marvin Harrison.
That's heady praise, indeed.
Ridley also played in a pro-style offense at Alabama and ran a full route tree. He isn't going to possess the same sort of learning curve that many of this year's rookie receivers will.
It's fair to wonder if the top 10 isn't a bit early for Ridley, who has a thin frame by NFL standards. But as the Tennessee Titans showed in 2017, receiver-needy teams have been known to reach to get one.
And the Bears displayed a willingness just last year to do what it takes to get the player they want.
Cincinnati Bengals: Texas OT Connor Williams
The Cincinnati Bengals aren't in terrible shape, despite missing the playoffs each of the last two years. There aren't too many glaring weaknesses on the roster.
That isn't to say there aren't any—chief among them the hot mess that was the team's offensive tackles in 2017.
Most draftniks expect the Bengals to look long and hard at the tackle position with the 12th overall pick. The bigger question is which one.
Orlando Brown is a 6'8", 360-pound mountain of a lineman who oozes potential. But the big man from Oklahoma is also a work in progress. He could just as easily wind up a first-round bust as a Pro Bowl regular.
Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey was a three-year starter who is much more polished and technically proficient. But he doesn't have Brown's upside and may be best suited to playing the right side as a pro.
Connor Williams of Texas could offer the Bengals the best of both worlds—maybe. The 6'6", 320-pounder is more athletic than McGlinchey but more polished than Brown. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked Williams as the best tackle prospect of 2018, writing that, "If you judge Williams based on traits, he's still the top tackle in the class."
That "still" is the problem, though. Williams will have to prove to the Bengals in Indy that a disappointing (and injury-marred) 2017 campaign was more exception than rule to justify being taken at No. 12.
Cleveland Browns: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield
Stop rolling your eyes.
If there's one thing we are absolutely sure of as the combine gets underway, it's that the Cleveland Browns desperately need a quarterback.
That isn't all we know, though.
We know that UCLA's Josh Rosen has intimated he'd just as soon not land in Cleveland, telling Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com that, "I'd rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher one at the wrong team."
We know that for all his accomplishments at USC, Sam Darnold has a penchant for ill-advised passes. He threw 22 interceptions over his last two seasons.
And we know that Wyoming's Josh Allen has a cannon for an arm and a problem being accurate with his passes. His completion percentage the last two seasons has hovered around 56 percent.
That leaves Mayfield, the undersized Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma who topped 4,600 passing yards for the Sooners last year.
Some think that Mayfield's the next coming of Johnny Manziel. Others feel he could be the next Russell Wilson.
Per Eric Bailey of the Tulsa World, Mayfield, who checked in at a hair over 6'1" and 220 pounds, has stated he intends to take part in all the drills in Indianapolis. He has also confirmed that a visit with the Browns has already been scheduled.
Take a good, long look in Indy, Cleveland.
And keep an open mind about making Mayfield a top-five pick—and maybe even the first pick overall.
Dallas Cowboys: Stanford TE Dalton Schultz
The tight end position isn't the Dallas Cowboys' biggest area of need. Nor will it be the first position the Cowboys address with the 19th overall pick. That selection could be a wide receiver, or maybe a defensive tackle.
But Jason Witten isn't getting any younger, and the Cowboys need to look to the future after him.
In doing so, the Cowboys would be well-served to look to a player who is quite similar to Witten himself.
That's the comparison some have drawn with Stanford's Dalton Schultz. The 6'6", 242-pounder isn't the athletic field-stretcher that so many NFL teams covet nowadays. He averaged less than 10 yards a catch in 2017 and had just 22 receptions for the Cardinal.
But like Witten, Schultz is a dependable underneath target who wins on short routes with strength, size and route-running. More importantly, Schultz is far and away the best "Y" tight end in this year's class—like Witten, he's terrific in the run game.
I'm sure if asked, Bryce Love would gladly offer a letter of recommendation.
Would Schultz be a "sizzle" pick? No—even if he shows better than expected in drills at the combine. Schultz isn't the kind of tight end who's going to rack up huge yardage totals or gaudy touchdown numbers.
He is, however, a fantastic fit for what Dallas does offensively, and he'd be a great Day 2 pick as Witten's understudy and heir apparent.
Denver Broncos: Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick
Some of you might have expected to see a quarterback like Wyoming's Josh Allen here. But there are two reasons why one isn't.
The first is simple. As it happens, I'm one of the sportswriters (like Peter King of the MMQB) who expects the Broncos to "win" the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes next month.
The second is this: Even if the Broncos don't land Cousins, I have a hard time calling a quarterback who couldn't sniff a 60 percent completion rate in college the "perfect" prospect for any NFL team, let alone a top-five pick.
If a team drafts Allen that high, there's going to be buyer's remorse later on.
What the Denver Broncos would not regret, however, is using the fifth overall pick on Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. It's a high pick for a safety; the last time a player at the position was drafted that high was Eric Berry in 2010.
But Fitzpatrick's that good, and Berry actually isn't a bad player comp.
Fitzpatrick has everything NFL teams look for in 21st-century safeties: Strength and power in run support. Agility and quickness in coverage. And the versatility to function as anything from a blitzing nickel linebacker to a slot cornerback and everything in between.
Fitzpatrick is, quite simply, one of the best prospects at any position in 2018 and about as close to a "can't-miss" pick as you're going to get.
And three years from now, we may well look back on 2018 and wonder why he didn't go higher than No. 5.
Detroit Lions: Arizona State RB Kalen Ballage
In his draft profile of Arizona State tailback Kalen Ballage, Lance Zierlein of NFL.com slots the 6'2", 227-pounder as a mid-Day 3 pick.
However, at least one NFC scouting director told Zierlein he expects Ballage to open some eyes in Indianapolis at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"Mark this down," the scout said. "Nobody will be talking about him until he gets to the combine where he will lift well, run well and jump out of the stadium. Then, he'll be the hot name."
That statement isn't completely accurate.
Some in the draft community have already been talking up Ballage, who had arguably the best week of any player at the position at the Senior Bowl in January. Ballage was so impressive there in both practice sessions and the game itself that Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports remarked, "He reminds me of David Johnson. That's not exaggeration."
The Detroit Lions can only hope.
Judging by the whopping 76.3 yards per game the Lions gained on the ground last year (last in the NFL), the Lions need tailback help as much as any team in the league. But with the 20th overall pick, they're miles away from the Saquon Barkley sweepstakes.
This isn't to say there aren't players who will be drafted on Day 2 who could be featured backs in the NFL.
But if Ballage really is a Day 3 pick, he's a Day 3 pick with a Jordan Howard-type ceiling.
Green Bay Packers: Iowa CB Josh Jackson
The Green Bay Packers hit the secondary hard in the early rounds of the 2017 NFL draft. And the team did improve against the pass in terms of yards allowed compared to 2016, giving up almost 33 fewer yards per contest.
That improvement, however, was from 31st in the NFL to 23rd.
In other words, the job's not exactly finished.
Green Bay's also sitting in somewhat uncharted territory, with a top-15 pick (much higher than usual) and a new general manager in Brian Gutekunst.
There's an opportunity at No. 14 to add an impact player—and pressure to not screw this up.
Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson could offer the best odds at accomplishing both.
At 6'1" and 192 pounds with long arms and good speed, Jackson looks like he was built from a kit for his position. And he had a phenomenal season for the Hawkeyes in 2017, picking off eight passes with an eye-popping 18 passes defensed.
Yes, Jackson only had 14 career starts at Iowa. But one man's "one-year wonder" is another's "blossoming star." If Jackson peels off a solid 40 time in Indy and looks in drills like he did on the field last year, he's going to be a first-round pick. The only question is where he'll land.
Slot Jackson next to Kevin King in the Green Bay defensive backfield with fellow youngster Josh Jones, and Green Bay could have a foundation in the secondary for years to come.
Jackson, King and Jones…sounds like a personal injury law firm.
Houston Texans: Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones
The Houston Texans have a problem where the 2018 NFL draft is concerned.
Actually, they have a few.
The Texans don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft—it's in Cleveland because of the Deshaun Watson deal. Houston also doesn't have a second-round pick—it's in Cleveland too because of the Brock Osweiler salary dump.
That's going to make it very difficult for the Texans to find an impact offensive lineman, especially at the tackle position. The odds of hitting on one from Round 3 on aren't especially high, even in good years for the position.
This isn't a good year.
That's too bad for the Texans, because great googly moogly, do they need help protecting Deshaun Watson after allowing a depressing 54 sacks in 2017.
To be brutally honest, Ohio State's Jamarco Jones probably isn’t going to be a five-time Pro Bowler. The 6'5", 310-pounder may not be a one-time Pro Bowler. There isn't any one area where Jackson shines and stands apart from the rest of the class.
But after watching tape on Jones, something else becomes apparent: There also isn't any one area where he has a gaping hole in his game.
In short, he's not great, but he's good. At the very least, Jones has the potential to be a solid "swing" tackle in relatively short order.
And it wouldn't be surprising to see him become a capable starter fairly early in his career.
Indianapolis Colts: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley
The Indianapolis Colts are in a very unique position in the 2018 NFL draft. Depending on the health of quarterback Andrew Luck, the Colts could be on the verge of playoff contention or a full-on rebuild.
Last year's 4-12 disaster aside, let's go half-full with this glass: Assume that with a few improvements, the Colts can get right back into the mix in the AFC South.
One of the biggest improvements the team needs to make is at tailback. Frank Gore's time is over. Marlon Mack is serviceable, but not much more than that.
Penn State's Saquon Barkley, on the other hand, is special.
As a matter of fact, one AFC executive told Bucky Brooks of NFL.com that Barkley is just what NFL teams picking in the top five dream of: a home run waiting to happen.
"Barkley is a big, strong runner with an electric game," the executive said. "He's explosive with the ball in his hands and he's capable of scoring from anywhere on the field as a runner or receiver. When you throw in the positive reviews from his coaches and teammates on his character, work ethic and competitiveness, he seems like a can't-miss guy."
Do the Colts have other needs as a team? Absolutely—the offensive line and pass rush among them.
But if the Colts are afforded the chance to add a game-changing running back that many pundits (including Brooks) believe is the draft's top overall prospect, they should take it.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
Despite the success the team enjoyed in 2017, a prevailing storyline for the Jacksonville Jaguars for much of the year was the team's future at quarterback.
In the short term at least, that future is settled. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Jaguars signed Blake Bortles to a contract extension that would keep him in Jacksonville through 2020.
However, a new deal for Bortles doesn't necessarily mean he's locked in as the long-term answer. Not that much has changed. The Jags would have owed Bortles a fully guaranteed $19 million on March 14 anyway. The extension pays less than that annually, unless Bortles hits incentives.
It's far from an iron-clad vote of confidence that would preclude a win-now team from adding a quarterback early.
It might not take a first-rounder to get Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com slotted Rudolph as a Day 2 pick, with one scout noting the wildly differing opinions on the 6'5", 230-pounder.
"If you spoke with ten different scouts," the scout said, "you would get at least four different opinions about him."
At the very least, the Jags might be able to slide back from late in the first round to early in the second. (There will be teams that will try to move the opposite direction, although that's usually for quarterbacks). Best-case scenario, Rudolph's still there near the end of the second—unlikely, but possible.
Bortles may have more cash in his bank account, but that doesn't increase the chances he's the guy. The deal was an ice bucket over the notion of a big free agent, though.
If the Jaguars want a better plan B than Chad (shudder) Henne, it lies in the draft now.
Kansas City Chiefs: Maryland CB J.C. Jackson
The Kansas City Chiefs are at the beginning of what promises to be a very interesting offseason. The team has already agreed in principle to send Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. Now it appears, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, that Marcus Peters is headed out as well.
The replacement for Smith is already on the roster in second-year pro Patrick Mahomes. But the Chiefs now badly need help at cornerback.
The problem is that thanks to the Mahomes trade, the Chiefs don't have a Round 1 pick. And while we don't yet know the particulars of the Peters deal, it doesn't appear the package of picks the Chiefs are getting includes one.
What the Chiefs could use, given the situation, is a value pick at the position—a player who will be available later than his talent level would suggest.
Maryland cornerback J.C. Jackson is just such a prospect, with plus size, speed and athleticism for his position. He has the sort of skill set that could easily lead to a strong showing in drills at the combine.
Unfortunately, Jackson also has quite a bit to answer for off the field, including armed robbery charges that led to his dismissal from the University of Florida.
Whether it's with Peters or wide receiver Tyreek Hill, the Chiefs haven't only shown a recent willingness to roll the dice on players with a checkered past, but they've also had considerable success doing so.
Los Angeles Chargers: UCLA OT Kolton Miller
There's little question that offensive tackle is among the biggest needs for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018.
There is, however, plenty of question regarding who the best tackle prospect of 2018 is. Draftniks are all over the map at the position. Oklahoma's Orlando Brown is the pick in some circles. In others it's Connor Williams of Texas. Or Mike McGlinchey of Notre Dame.
You likely aren't going to see UCLA's Kolton Miller get a lot of votes as the No. 1 tackle prospect. The 6'8", 310-pounder is viewed by many in the draft community as a Day 2 prospect—including Lance Zierlein of NFL.com.
"Miller has the frame to add more mass, and he may need to make the move to the right side as a pro," Zierlein wrote. "He has the physical traits to become an average NFL starter, but I see pass-protection concerns in his future."
Frankly, a Day 2 tackle could be just what the Bolts need.
Even if Zierlein is right and Miller is no world-beater, it won't take much for him to be an upgrade on right tackle Joe Barksdale, who was uneven and then some a year ago. Getting a capable starter on the right side on Day 2 is a solid use of draft capital.
If Zierlein is wrong though and Miller can grow into a successor for Russell Okung at left tackle? Getting a blindside starter (even an average one) in any round but the first is a steal.
It's worth kicking the tires on in Indianapolis.
Los Angeles Rams: Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
Admittedly, we're flying a little blind here. We know that the Los Angeles Rams have acquired cornerback Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs. What we don't know is what the Rams gave up.
However, if reports of a "package" of picks are true, then it's not unreasonable to hypothesize the Rams kept the 23rd overall pick.
It's also not unreasonable to think that despite the arrival of Peters, the Rams could still look to add another cornerback early in the draft. There's no chance the team is going to re-up Trumaine Johnson after adding Peters.
So, despite all the wheeling and dealing, a trendy pick for the team in early mock drafts may still bear out.
Colorado's Isaiah Oliver is a prototypical boundary corner in the NFL: 6'1", 190 pounds, with long arms and a glider's stride. He has a history as a track athlete and elite leaping ability to high-point the football.
There are holes in Oliver's game—his backpedal and technique can be a bit ragged, and he needs to toughen up in run support and press coverage—but his physical skills make him a leading candidate to draw "oohs" and "aahs" in Indianapolis.
With Peters and Oliver on the outside and Nickell Robey-Coleman in the slot, the Rams could have the makings of the best trio of young corners in the NFL.
Miami Dolphins: Wyoming QB Josh Allen
I'm not a huge fan of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. His lack of accuracy in college would give me great pause given the recent history of such players.
See: Locker, Jake…and he's not the only one.
However, there are those in the draft community who are much higher on the 6'5", 233-pounder with a cannon for a right arm. ESPN's Mel Kiper has listed Allen as the No. 1 overall pick in both of his mock drafts this year.
Heck, I was wrong about Ryan Tannehill. When the Dolphins drafted Tannehill eighth overall in 2012, I blasted the decision. But while Tannehill hasn't been a star, he's been good enough to justify the pick and good enough to earn an extension.
It's crossroads time for the team in 2018, though. Tannehill is coming off a lost season to an ACL tear. He's pushing 30. And there's no guaranteed money left on his contract.
This doesn't mean the Dolphins should cut Tannehill tomorrow. But if any of the top-four quarterbacks make it to 11 this year, the Dolphins are going to make a monumental decision. Do you spend the pick elsewhere, flip it to a QB-needy team (hello, Arizona!) or pull the trigger on a potential successor to Tannehill?
That last choice has become the pick du jour in most mocks, including Kiper's.
We just differ on which passer will be the one to drop.
Minnesota Vikings: Louisville OT Geron Christian
The Vikings are one of the hardest teams to peg. The Vikes don't have any obvious holes that appear easy targets for the 30th pick.
Minnesota could use help at offensive tackle after kicking Mike Remmers inside last year and at cornerback. But those are also two of the murkier positions in the Class of 2018. It's especially true with the former—anyone who tells you with certainty how many tackles will be drafted in Round 1 or in what order is either psychic or pulling your leg.
Ask them for Powerball numbers.
However, in his second mock draft at ESPN's Mel Kiper mentioned an interesting potential target for the Vikings in Louisville's Geron Christian.
"I'm anticipating Christian to get a lot of buzz at the combine," Kiper said. "He's going to be a riser after he shows his athleticism in drills."
The 6'6" 318-pound Christian has the sort of size and length that NFL teams covet in tackle prospects. A three-year starter at Louisville, Christian also has extensive experience on both the right and left side. And while his strength isn't ideal and his tape shows inconsistent technique, those are weaknesses that would appear to be correctable.
If Christian does shine at the combine (a possibility given his raw athleticism) and gets into the Day 1 conversation, he's a player who would make sense in Minnesota.
He could make even more sense if the Vikings can flip 30 late on Day 1, grab an extra pick and then still come back and get their man the following day.
New England Patriots: Louisville QB Lamar Jackson
That's right. I said it.
The New England Patriots have more pressing needs with the 31st overall pick. There isn't a rumor that would light up the combine more than the Patriots taking an interest in the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. And as Mike Florio reported for Pro Football Talk, former NFL personnel executive Bill Polian doesn't think Jackson should play quarterback at all.
Talk about a hot take.
But whether people want to admit it, the Patriots are going to have to face the reality of Tom Brady's mortality—soon. The team's only insurance against a Brady injury is Brian Hoyer, and given Hoyer's injury history he might pull a hamstring holding a clipboard on the sideline.
The 6'3", 200-pound Jackson is far from a finished, NFL-ready product. But his physical tools (both passing and running) are as impressive as they are undeniable. If Josh McDaniels is truly the offensive guru he's credited with being, he should be able to coax forth those talents, tweak the offense to best utilize them and bring the best out of Jackson.
It's probably a moot point. If Jackson performs even adequately at the combine and Louisville's pro day, he isn't going to make it to 31.
But the idea isn't as outlandish as it might sound. Father Time waits for no one, and he isn't going to wait for the Pats.
New Orleans Saints: Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta
There's been plenty written about the future of Drew Brees in New Orleans in recent weeks—and some of it has suggested eye-opening possibilities.
But the odds of Brees playing anywhere but the Big Easy in 2018 are approximately 0.00 percent.
However, it's equally true that Brees is 39. The end of the road for the best player in franchise history is getting close. This isn't to say the Saints need to draft a quarterback early in 2018, but the team could stand to add a prospect at the position.
Among late-round prospects, few are more intriguing than Richmond's Kyle Lauletta.
The 6'3", 215-pound Lauletta is hardly a household name, but he topped 300 yards through the air eight times in 2017. After passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns at the Senior Bowl, he was named MVP.
Per Josh Edwards of 247 Sports, Lauletta had a couple of NFL comps for himself after that game.
"A couple of guys that I would compare myself to are [49ers QB] Jimmy Garoppolo and [Redskins QB] Alex Smith. I think two guys that have quick releases and are accurate and are good, vocal leaders. I think those are two good comparisons," he explained.
Lauletta isn't going to be drafted as early as either of those players, but among Day 3 quarterbacks, he possesses as much upside as any.
Who knows what could happen after a year or two learning from an all-time great?
New York Giants: UCLA QB Josh Rosen
They say history has a way of repeating itself.
Back in 2004, Eli Manning made it abundantly clear he had zero ambition to play for the San Diego Chargers. Manning dug in and forced a trade to New York.
Two Super Bowl victories later, that deal appears to have worked out OK for Big Blue.
A similar scenario might be playing out in 2018, although this time the Giants might not even have to make a trade to get their guy.
Per the composite big board Tim Bielik of Cleveland.com put together, UCLA's Josh Rosen is the consensus early choice as this year's No. 1 quarterback.
Rosen has also (like Manning) intimated that he's not especially keen on the idea of playing for the team with the first overall pick, telling reporters that "I'd rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher one at the wrong team."
Rosen didn't specifically mention the Cleveland Browns, but it doesn't take a telepath to read between those lines.
The Giants sit just behind the Browns at No. 2, and while an argument can be made there are players available who could help the team more in the short term, New York isn't going to get a better opportunity than this to draft an heir apparent to their 37-year-old quarterback.
New York Jets: USC QB Sam Darnold
The New York Jets are one of a number of teams picking toward the top of Round 1 in dire need of a quarterback. The team has also been mentioned as one of the major players in the Kirk Cousins free-agent sweepstakes.
The team may be better off if they lose out on Cousins and are "forced" to address the position.
Given the makeup of the top of Round 1 and the needs of the teams picking there, it's possible USC's Sam Darnold could still be on the board when the Jets pick at No. 6. Or they could move up a couple of spots at a relatively reasonable cost (a la the Chicago Bears a year ago).
Yes, Darnold had an issue with turnovers in his last year at USC. He also has arguably the best combination of attributes of any quarterback in this year's class.
B/R's Matt Miller ranks Darnold as the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018 at his position, writing that "the USC junior doesn't have Josh Allen's arm strength, Baker Mayfield's playmaking or Josh Rosen's smooth stroke, but he is the best of all the traits put together."
Darnold would also cost the Jets about $20 million less a season than Cousins, allowing the team to spend some of its $73 million and change in cap space on addressing other areas of need.
Oakland Raiders: Georgia LB Roquan Smith
OK, enough quarterbacks (for now, anyway).
Derek Carr had a down season in 2017 (who didn't in Oakland?), but the Raiders are committed to Carr as their starting quarterback.
There are, however, prominent holes that need filling.
Inside linebacker is one of those holes. The in-season addition of veteran NaVorro Bowman helped in 2017, but Bowman is 29, set to hit free agency and has lost a step or two to injuries over the past few years.
Fortunately for the Raiders, there's a player who should be available when they step to the podium in Round 1 who would, in theory, fit that need like a glove.
Roquan Smith has all the traits NFL teams want in a modern linebacker. The 6'1", 225-pounder might be a touch undersized, but that didn't stop Smith from piling up 137 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks last year for the Bulldogs. He has the range to pursue ball-carriers sideline to sideline and the speed and athleticism to hold his own in coverage—a must in today's NFL.
It's not going to be surprising if Smith posts one of the best all-around combine performances to cement his status as the top non-edge-rushing linebacker in 2018.
If Bowman moves on, Smith could slide into his spot in the middle. But an even better scenario would be Bowman (or another veteran) sticking at "Mike" while Smith slots on the weak side.
That could flip Oakland's linebacking corps from a weakness to a strength.
Philadelphia Eagles: Auburn CB Carlton Davis
It can be difficult to find impact players with the last pick in the first round. Of course, that last pick comes courtesy of a win in the Super Bowl, so you won't hear the Philadelphia Eagles complaining.
However, the Eagles need to hit here if they are going to make short-term improvements. That 32nd pick is the Eagles' only selection in the first three rounds.
With the top tackles likely gone, the secondary could be a focus, and there are a number of cornerbacks who will use the combine to jockey for position in the second tier.
Auburn's Carlton Davis is one of those corners—a 6'1", 190-pounder with the size teams covet. He possesses excellent strength at the point of attack and solid technique in coverage.
If Davis can allay concerns about his straight-line speed and a 2016 marijuana arrest, he's going to be in the mix as a Round 1 pick. In fact, if Davis fares too well, he may not make it to pick 32.
If he did, he would be a great fit in Philly, especially if Patrick Robinson leaves in free agency.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Georgia RB Sony Michel
The Pittsburgh Steelers have long gone the "best player available" route. The team generally targets ability over need.
But there are a couple of realities staring the Steelers in the face this year. Inside linebacker could be a big hole if Ryan Shazier is unable to recover from his spinal injury. And if the Steelers slap a second franchise tag on tailback Le'Veon Bell, it would appear to indicate they are as aware as anyone that even the best running backs have an expiration date.
I expect Pittsburgh's first pick to be on defense, whether it's an inside linebacker, an edge-rusher or some help at cornerback. That's partly due to the talent that should be available at those spots at pick 28.
It's also because Pittsburgh can come back around on Day 2 and choose from a number of young running backs with go-to potential like the Chiefs and Saints found with Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara last year.
Georgia's Sony Michel showed in Athens he's a threat to score every time he touches the ball. Six of his touchdowns in 2016 came from more than 15 yards out.
Michel can peel off big gains both between the tackles and around the edge. He can catch the ball better than his stats indicate. And he's highly adept at blitz pickup for his age.
James Conner is a great story, but he's a complementary player—not Pittsburgh's back of tomorrow.
Michel could be.
San Francisco 49ers: Notre Dame G Quenton Nelson
The San Francisco 49ers have their franchise quarterback. Among the team's priorities now is upgrading the protection in front of Jimmy Garoppolo.
The selection of an offensive guard with a top-10 pick is not a "sizzle" selection, but Quenton Nelson is also not just any guard.
If Nelson played tackle, he'd be in the mix to be selected first overall given his skill set and body of work. The 6'5", 329-pounder is everything an NFL team could want in a guard prospect. In the run game, he's a mauler who consistently blows defenders off the ball at the point of attack.
But Nelson is far from a one-trick pony. He's surprisingly quick and agile for a player of his size in pass protection, and his technique and footwork are as good as any guard prospect we've seen in quite a while.
There aren't any significant holes in Nelson's game. He's a player who teams can slot into the starting lineup from Day 1, and barring a stunning collapse or injury, he has the look of a player who is going to spend a lot of time in Honolulu and/or Orlando.
Nelson is going to be an immediate starter and upgrade for whatever team drafts him, and it's unlikely his time in Indy will do a lot to change his status as a top-10 pick. There's just too much tape on the kid.
And the tape shows a star in the making.
Seattle Seahawks: Florida State S Derwin James
For the better part of the last several years, the Seattle Seahawks have been defined defensively by their back end: the "Legion of Boom."
But the LOB's end draws nearer by the day. Cornerback Richard Sherman and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor are getting older and have battled injuries. Add in their fat salaries (and cap numbers), and the band isn't going to be together that much longer.
The 2018 draft could provide Seattle an opportunity to address the future on the back end—provided that the Seahawks receive some good news at the combine in Indianapolis.
As Bob Condotta reported for the Seattle Times, Mel Kiper thinks there's a Chancellor clone in this year's draft in Florida State's Derwin James.
"That's the comp [comparison] for James is Kam Chancellor," Kiper said. "... [he] would be a perfect fit as a Kam Chancellor-type player."
Among first-round prospects, James has more to prove than most in Indy. After a phenomenal 2015 season, he missed almost all of the 2016 season with a knee injury. The 6'3", 215-pounder was back on the field in 2017, but his production was down relative to 2015.
If James can show that he's healthy and tests well in agility drills at the combine, the fit in Seattle may be too good to pass up—even with the Seahawks desperate for help on the offensive line.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Ohio State CB Denzel Ward
Unless Denzel Ward is arrested for inciting a riot by releasing a live dragon inside an Indianapolis McDonald's, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should need all of about four seconds to draft him seventh overall.
Ward is universally considered the top cornerback prospect in the class. Yes, he's a touch on the smaller side at 5'10", but after watching Ward play live or on tape, it doesn't take long to see that he plays big.
He's physical at the point of attack, his closing speed is outstanding, and the drastic improvement he showed last year indicates both coachability and a strong work ethic.
Had you said before the season that Ward would be drafted in the same neighborhood as Marshon Lattimore (the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year, taken 11th overall by the Saints)—much less before him—I would have suggested opening a window next time you use Krazy Glue.
The Buccaneers were awful against the pass in 2017. Like dead last in the league awful. Brent Grimes is nearing the end of his career and about to hit free agency, and Vernon Hargreaves, while talented, has had his struggles so far.
This pick makes too much sense.
Tennessee Titans: LSU DE/OLB Arden Key
Some players go into the combine with more to prove than others. As Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com reported, after a star-crossed career at LSU, there isn't a player in 2018 for whom that's more true than edge-rusher Arden Key.
In a poll of five league executives regarding players with the most to prove in Indy, Key was the only non-quarterback mentioned.
"People have to meet the person and see if he can explain everything that's happened over the last two years," one exec said. "He needs to gain the trust of the decision-makers. When right, he's a special talent."
Key was a star for the Tigers in 2016, but after leaving the team for a time and having shoulder surgery, his numbers were way down across the board last season. While he was away for four months due to "personal reasons," his weight spiked to 270 pounds.
Key is going to have to show that he's healthy. That the explosiveness he had two years ago but appeared to lose last year his back. And that he's fully committed to the never-ending grind that is life in the NFL.
The Titans were a playoff team last year, and Tennessee has a pair of capable edge-rushers in Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. But both are older and entering contract years.
Washington Redskins: Alabama DL Da'Ron Payne
Last year the Washington Redskins addressed the defensive line with their first selection, adding Alabama's Jonathan Allen.
Allen flashed that first-round ability when healthy as a rookie. But a Washington defense that ranked dead last against the run needs to continue to improve at the point of attack.
In this year's class, when it comes to the premier run-stuffer, the list has one name on it.
And he comes from a familiar place.
Da'Ron Payne is 308 pounds of immovable object—an immensely powerful lineman who recently dead-lifted 635 pounds in preparation for the scouting combine. Payne knows how to combine his strength and leverage to prevent holes from opening or tailbacks from getting through them. He was a monster in Alabama's two College Football Playoff games this past season.
Oh, and he'll be all of 20 years old when he's drafted.
Payne is not "just" a space-eater, however. He has upfield burst—good enough to one day make him one of the better pass-rushing nose tackles in football.
The Redskins' inability to stop the run was their biggest defensive weakness a year ago. Adding Payne would go a long way toward shoring it up.