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NFL Draft 2018: Pre-Combine Top 25 Prospects

Hopefully someone good falls to No. 32.

NCAA Football: Michigan at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Combine portion of the NFL Draft Process! The next few days should be rich with information and hot takes about players running around in their underwear. The information will, of course, be valuable in the right context and it is exciting to see a lot of new names emerging on the scene. For now, here are my top 25 players in this whole class and maybe that will give you an idea of who to keep an eye on for the next few days.

  1. Roquan Smith, Linebacker, Georgia: Despite any years of impressive linebackers coming out of college; Roquan Smith might be the best one. He is a rare blend of football IQ and special athleticism. He will immediately change a defense with his presence.
  2. Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame: It is rare that an offensive lineman can have a highlight reel but Quenton Nelson spent 2017 throwing defenders away like rag dolls. He is a tremendous athlete, incredibly physical and one mean son of a gun. Elite offensive line prospect.
  3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama: There has been much debate about where Minkah Fitzpatrick will play in the NFL but it seems clear that he is best suited to play safety. He is great in the slot, very adept at defending the run and has range in space. He is a high IQ player who can be moved around the formation as a safety.
  4. Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State: People have seemingly cooled on Saquon Barkley but I think it might just be because he has been so good for so long. Barkley is an incredible athlete at the running back position and an elite pass catcher out of the backfield. While he is still a bit raw as a runner, he has game breaking ability with the ball in his hands.
  5. Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma: For me, the top four quarterbacks this season are all relatively close together. However, the reigning Heisman winner has the best blend of arm strength, accuracy and ability to make plays out of nothing. He is a gamer with a ton of talent and teams should look past his height for the great quarterback he is.
  6. Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker, Virginia Tech: The scariest thing about Tremaine Edmunds is that he is barely scratching the surface. At 19 years old, Edmunds is still incredibly young but remains one of the highest upside players in this class. He has great size and athleticism, but also experience all over a defense. Teams will see Edmunds as a weapon at linebacker who can cover, defend the run and be moved to pass rusher in sub packages. With so much room to grow, who knows how good Edmunds could be?
  7. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State: Chubb is one of the safest players in the class. He is a physical, high motor player who can make an impact against the pass or against the run. Teams will love his consistency as well as the nonstop effort he brings to the position.
  8. Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA: Josh Rosen is the “prototype” pocket passer in this draft class. He has a nice, tall build to go along with immense arm strength to hit all levels of the field. When he is on, he is as good as any quarterback to recently come out. He has some injury issues and was dragged through the mud by a talentless UCLA offense, but he has the ability to shine bright on an NFL team.
  9. Derwin James, Safety, FSU: Few players will benefit from the combine the way Derwin James will. James had a bit of an underwhelming season, but still showed elite potential at the position. James no doubt is a special athlete and will recapture the hearts and minds of evaluators once he blows the roof off Lucas Oil Stadium.
  10. Derrius Guice, Running Back: While Saquon Barkley is the better overall player, Derrius Guice might be the better pure running back. He is a gritty, tough runner who will punish defenses with his hard running style.
  11. Josh Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa: Josh Jackson had a breakout season this year. He is a big bodied ball hawk with good athleticism. He is truly in the mold of the modern cornerback and teams are going to love him.
  12. Maurice Hurst, Defensive Tackle, Michigan: He might be a bit undersized, but Maurice Hurst there is nothing small about the impact Maurice Hurst makes. He has incredible burst, a high motor and consistent technique to fight through blocks. He is the just right for the modern three technique defender.
  13. Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP: Will Hernandez, despite playing on a lowly UTEP team, shone brightly this season. He is a strong, physical player who punishes defenders.
  14. Connor Williams, Tackle, Texas: Connor Williams has been a big time part of Texas football since he stepped onto the team. He is a bit smaller for a tackle, but he is a smooth athlete and dependable blocker in the passing and running game. He has room to grow into his body and become even stronger, however.
  15. Mark Andrews, Tight End, Oklahoma: Mark Andrews is going to be one of the few players I am a lot higher on this draft. He is a special athlete and match up nightmare at the tight end position. I expect him to have a strong weekend at the combine and a few people will jump aboard the hype train.
  16. Lamar Jackson, Quarterback, Louisville: Discourse is all over the place with Lamar Jackson but the truth probably lies in-between the extremes. Jackson is incredibly physically gifted and is a much better pure passer than given credit for. His inconsistent footwork makes his accuracy hit or miss, but he has some of the highest peaks as a player in this class. The right team will bet on him and he will reward them immensely.
  17. Orlando Brown, Tackle, Oklahoma: The planet theory was written about Orlando Brown. The 345 pound tackle is about the size of a tank, but somehow is relatively light on his feet. He is a punisher at offensive tackle and teams will have a hard time passing up on such a large, strong pass protector.
  18. Isaiah Wynn, Guard, Georgia: Another “safe” prospect. Isaiah Wynn played a huge part in Georgia’s tremendous run game this season. Wynn has a great blend of size and strength while playing the guard position with some attitude.
  19. James Washington, Wide Receiver, Oklahoma State: Another one of “my guys” this season. Some reputable people view Washington as a day two prospect and I have a hard time seeing why. Washington was most adept at the most important part of any offense; the deep ball. He is a playmaker and I bet he surprises people this weekend with his athleticism.
  20. Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC: The last of the top quarterbacks, for me. Sam Darnold makes some of the most impressive plays out of the quarterbacks in this class. He has effortless arm strength and shows ability to hit some of the tiniest windows at any platform. On the flip side, he is very inconsistent and has turned the ball over a lot during his short time as a starter. If he starts week one, he will be the youngest starting quarterback ever. While he has a ton of upside, it is certainly a gamble.
  21. Hercules Mata’afa, EDGE, Washington State: Hercules Mata’afa will be talked about a lot more by the end of the combine. He is an explosive playmaker on the defensive line that Washington State deployed in any way possible. He is not dissimilar from Solomon Thomas last year.
  22. Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State: Denzel Ward has everything going for him but height. He is a great athlete, adept in man coverage and the ability to play against the run. He is a physical player with ball skills and teams that look past his size are getting one hell of a defender.
  23. Courtland Sutton, Wide Receiver, SMU: Courtland Sutton has a big weekend coming up for him. The SMU product spent his college career dominating opponents with his size and strength. He has not consistently shown off his speed and ability to naturally separate. A big weekend of testing could help assuage those fears but he remains a seriously dependable contested catch receiver.
  24. Ronald Jones, Running Back, USC: Ronald Jones is among my favorites in the class. He is incredibly fast and runs much bigger than his 205 pound listing would indicate. He is really a complete runner. Questions about size and inexperience catching the ball might hurt his stock a bit, but get the ball to him and he will make plays.
  25. Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington: Vita Vea is the best run defender in this class. He is a massive presence on the defensive line and moves incredibly well for his stature. He could play various interior positions and teams will love moving him around and letting him wreak havoc.

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