Since the conclusion of the college football season I have watched, scouted, and evaluated over 150 draft prospects in preparation for this upcoming NFL weekend. The 2018 NFL Draft is literally right around the corner, and with that my final rankings are complete.
I have finalized my complete offensive and defensive position rankings, but first we take a look at my top 50 prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame OG
While separating much of this class was tough to do, the clear number one player in this draft to me is Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson. Nelson is both a powerful run blocker and an agile and smooth pass protector. He excels as a puller, and has quick enough feet to reach defenders at the next level. I don't see many problems at all with Nelson's game, and he deserves to be a top 10 pick.
2. Bradley Chubb, NC State EDGE
After Nelson things get a little tighter, but NC State's Bradley Chubb is number 2 on my board. When you combine his college production with his athletic and pass rushing traits, Chubb deserves consideration from the New York Giants as the number two overall pick. Chubb is a powerful, balanced, and controlled pass rusher who should make an impact right from his rookie year.
3. Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
I have some issues with Saquon Barkley's vision and decision making at the line of scrimmage at times, but he is clearly a special prospect. Barkley can bring immediate explosion to any offense, with the ability to make an impact both on the ground and in the passing game.
4. Roquan Smith, Georgia LB
Roquan Smith is an incredibly athletic linebacker that will be a day one starter at WILL in the NFL. Some have expressed concerns over his size, but I see Smith as one of the easier linebacker evaluations I've ever done. He's really good, don't mess this one up.
5. Harold Landry, Boston College EDGE
Harold Landry being in my top five may be the first surprise of the board, but I see him much closer to Bradley Chubb than most seem to. Landry's traits, production, and overall pass rushing ability are undeniable. And if he can remain healthy and reach his potential, he can be the best edge rusher in this class.
6. Derwin James, Florida State Safety
Derwin James is a bit of a tweener by NFL standards, but I see him as an athletic box safety who can make his impact felt all over the field. Whether rushing the passer, defending the run, or covering tight ends over the middle Derwin James will be a valuable defender in the NFL.
7. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama DB
Minkah Fitzpatrick has dropped a few spots on my board since January, but he is still worthy of a top 10 pick. Fitzpatrick can play both safety and cornerback, but I'm rolling with Nick Saban's plan in terms of where to start him at the next level.
8. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia OL
Outside of Quenton Nelson, Isaiah Wynn is the top offensive lineman in the 2018 draft class. With his ability and play style, I see no reason why Isaiah Wynn can't be a plug-and-play prospect at either guard or tackle. Wynn was the best offensive lineman on the best rushing offense in the country last year, and for Cowboys' fans sake I hope that is true again this season.
9. Josh Rosen, UCLA QB
Josh Rosen has faced some heat over "character concerns" during this draft process, but he is clearly QB1 on my board. Rosen has been billed as "the guy" since high school, and he has yet to disappoint. If you need a QB at the top of the draft, I'd look right at Josh Rosen.
10. Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB
The third DB in my top 10, Ohio State's Denzel Ward, also deserves consideration at the top of the first round. Ward is a sticky cover corner who plays with toughness and physicality. Though a bit undersized, Ward is the best true cornerback in this class.
11. Maurice Hurst, Michigan DL
Maurice Hurst has reportedly been falling down draft boards, probably due to medical concerns raised at the combine, but he is the best 3-technique in this class. Hurst's get-off, hands, quickness, and awareness make him a terror on the inside.
12. Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR
Despite what many considered a disappointing combine performance, Calvin Ridley remains WR1 on my board. Ridley is a ready-made Z receiver at the next level, and is able to separate despite the concerns about his athleticism.
13. James Daniels, Iowa OL
If you draft James Daniels, you're getting a starting interior offensive lineman from day one. Daniels is excellent on reach blocks and is agile enough to get to the second level and seal off linebackers. I think Daniels fits best in a zone blocking scheme, but he can start at center or guard just about anywhere.
14. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech LB
Tremaine Edmunds is a straight-up athletic freak. He isn't the football player that Roquan Smith is yet, but Edmunds clearly has the necessary traits to become a very good linebacker in the NFL.
15. Vita Vea, Washington DL
Vita Vea's traits are rather incredible as well. Possessing excellent movement skills and agility for a man his size, Vea has the chance to be an excellent player if he can become more consistent and control his technique a bit better.
16. Sam Darnold, USC QB
Sam Darnold has moved up to QB2 on my board, despite the concerns I still have over his interceptions. Darnold can certainly improve his decision making, but he has the chance to be really good with the right development.
17. DJ Moore, Maryland WR
DJ Moore clocks in at WR2 on my board, and deservedly so. Moore's route running ability, speed, and instincts as a route runner make him a first round prospect in this draft class. Though a bit undersized, I'd be more than happy snagging Moore 19th overall.
18. Jaire Alexander, Louisville CB
Jaire Alexander isn't CB1 on my board, but he is certainly my "favorite" cornerback in this class. Alexander plays with an attitude and toughness that will help your defense from day one.
19. Derrius Guice, LSU RB
Some have argued that Derrius Guice is actually the best running back in this class, and while I disagree, I do see where they're coming from. Guice was arguably the best back at LSU even while Leonard Fournette was there, and he has the chance to be a high-value pick at the end of the first round.
20. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama DL
The 20th prospect on my board is iDL3, Alabama's Da'Ron Payne. Payne fits exactly what the Cowboys tend to look for in defensive linemen, but his inconsistencies in production are a cause for concern.
So,there it is, my final top 50 for the 2018 NFL Draft class. Make sure to comment below and tell me where I'm right, and where I'm wrong.
Have the Dallas Cowboys Overcome Their 2nd-Round Curse?
You may not be aware or maybe you've simply forgotten, but the Dallas Cowboys have struggled drafting players in the 2nd-round who can come in and contribute. Typically players drafted this highly are not only immediate contributors as a rookie, but are cornerstone players for years to come. That hasn't been the case for the Cowboys.
I don't know where you stand, but I was beginning to think the Dallas Cowboys were cursed with their 2nd-round draft picks. I know this was an area where they would gamble on players for some reason or another, but unfortunately it never really paid off. Hopefully, things are changing for the better.
Let's take a look back at past drafts to see what I'm talking about.
Past 2nd-Round Draft Picks Dating Back to 2006:
2018 Connor Williams
2017 Chidobe Awuzie
2016 Jaylon Smith
2015 Randy Gregory
2014 DeMarcus Lawrence
2013 Gavin Escobar
2012 (no selection) used to trade for Morris Claiborne
2011 Bruce Carter
2010 Sean Lee
2009 (no selection) traded out of 2nd-round
2008 Martellus Bennett
2007 (no selection) used to trade back into 1st for Anthony Spencer
2006 Anthony Fasano
You may be wondering why I decided to start all the way back in 2006. Well, I believe that's when the 2nd-round draft picks curse started for the Dallas Cowboys.
Anthony Fasano ended up having a solid career in the NFL, but he never lived up to his draft status as a former 2nd-round draft pick. The same can be said for Martellus Bennett, Gavin Escobar, and Bruce Carter. Shed a tear for them if you want, but I'd put them in the "bust" category.
The sad truth is, Sean Lee is the only 2nd-round draft pick on this list to ever see a second contract with the Dallas Cowboys. Although, I guess you can include DeMarcus Lawrence since he will be playing under the franchise tag in 2018. But, that's still not a very good hit percentage in the 2nd-round for more than a decade. Luckily, it looks as if things are changing.
DeMarcus Lawrence might end up being another "hit" for the Cowboys. It may have taken him four years to reach his potential, but there's no denying how dominant he was last season. If he can maintain that dominance this season, he could be looking at a big payday from the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys took a risk on the next two players they drafted after D-Law. They knew Randy Gregory had his off the field issues, but were willing to take a chance on his talent in the 2nd-round. That has yet to pay off, but Gregory has a chance to rebound now that it looks as if he has his life back in order.
The Cowboys took another risk in the following draft when they drafted Jaylon Smith. No one knew if he would ever be able to play again after the devastating knee injury he sustained in his final collegiate game, but it's looking as if he could make a full recovery and return to his pre-injury form. Year 3 will be big for him, but he could end up being an absolute steal.
Fortunately, the Cowboys 2017 and 2018 2nd-round draft picks (Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams) look to be cornerstone players for years to come. That's what you're looking for in players drafted this highly.
I say all of this because it's really looking like the Dallas Cowboys have finally broken their 2nd-round curse. Maybe it's a change in draft philosophy or maybe it's because Will McClay's voice carries more weight in the draft room, but it's definitely good news for the future of the franchise. Hopefully it continues.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys 2nd-round curse has ended?
Cowboys Draft Class: How Many Will Be Starters In 2018?
The Dallas Cowboys have been showered with praise by most national NFL media outlets for their 2018 NFL Draft class. NFL.com graded the Cowboys as having the 2nd best class in the league, and most other analysts have agreed that the team had a strong showing.
But now, of course, it's time to see what these new players will actually do on the field. Some are hoping the team found 3-5 new starters for the 2018 roster, but history would suggest that is pretty rare.
Dallas' 2016 draft class has been lauded as one of the best in the last decade, especially considering they look to have found their franchise quarterback in round four. That strong class only features four full-time starters heading into 2018, but we have to wonder if that's the outlier and not the norm.
Still, as we look back and examine this 2018 draft class it really appears they have found three day one starters in the first three rounds.
First round pick Leighton Vander Esch is expected to be the starting MIKE linebacker this season, with former second round selection Jaylon Smith moving to SAM. Vander Esch wasn't my favorite option at 19, but he is certainly starter-worthy in this Cowboys LB corps.
On day two the Cowboys added OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup, two of my personal favorite picks of their entire class. Williams should be the starting LG week 1 of the season, and Michael Gallup may overtake Allen Hurns as the most productive WR on the roster by year's end.
What about the rest of the class?
Dorance Armstrong will probably have too much competition to start at defensive end this season, but he should be an interesting rotational pass rusher. TE Dalton Schultz has the chance to surprise some people, but overtaking Geoff Swaim as the "starter" would be unexpected.
After that, the player with the best chance to make the team and contribute early on might be Boise State WR Cedrick Wilson. Wilson was a late day-two, early day-three pick to me so snagging him in the sixth round should provide incredible value to this roster. That wide out room is getting very crowded, though, so Wilson has his work cut out for him heading into camp.
How many of the Cowboys' 2018 draft picks will be starters in 2018? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Did the Dallas Cowboys Find 4 Starters in the 2018 NFL Draft?
One of the many winners of the 2018 NFL Draft were, without a doubt, the Dallas Cowboys. Not only did they addressed some of the team's most pressing needs, but they managed to draft very talented, capable players beyond the first round.
Cowboys Nation had to feel better about the rookie class the front office walked away with, specially after the second day of the Draft. Just like last year, they managed to find steals in the second and third rounds. In 2017, they did so with Cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis. Now, they stayed put at their original picks and walked away with OL Connor Williams and WR Michael Gallup.
But first things first. In the eyes of many, Leighton Vander Esch wasn't worth the 19th overall pick. While I do agree that Vander Esch was a questionable selection, the Cowboys fixed arguably their most concerning position of all. As much as it pains to admit it, Sean Lee has yet to play an entire NFL season and Jaylon Smith was pretty much the only other capable starter on the roster.
Although Vander Esch needs to develop a ton before reaching his full potential. he's a week 1 starter and an early contributor for this defense. Whether it felt like a "reach" or not, the Cowboys took a starter in the Boise State linebacker.
Later, the Cowboys managed to add an arguably first-round talent with pick #50 to plug-and-play along the offensive line. Texas OL Connor Williams was also seen as a tackle prospect, but he'll likely start at guard for Dallas as a rookie.
Since Ron Leary left for Denver, the left guard spot hasn't been as stable. Jonathan Cooper did a decent job filling that spot, but with Williams taking his place, the Cowboys dominance in the trenches will finally return. Playing next to All-Pros Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, Connor Williams might become the best rookie in this class for the Cowboys.
One can't simply say the team found a "replacement" for Dez Bryant since he's a special player and with a very specific skill set, but Michael Gallup from Colorado State has the potential to become the team's WR1 pretty soon.
In the team's effort to build a Dak-friendly offense, Gallup is a crafty and smooth route-runner who has what it takes to play in any spot of the offense. His skill-set will allow him to play anywhere on the field and become Dak's favorite target in a year in which Jason Witten and Dez Bryant will no longer be lining up on his squad.
Taken in the first three rounds, Vander Esch, Williams and Gallup will be unquestionable starters. The question, however, is who else could become a starter for the Cowboys? Who could line up and start in week 1?
Even though it definitely isn't as certain as the other three rookies, I'm betting on Dalton Schultz to be a more important starter than we imagine. Listen, maybe it's not an ideal scenario to have the TE from Stanford start in week 1, but it could be necessary.
The Rico Gathers Adventure might just be over before it starts and Geoff Swaim and Blake Jarwin may not be anything special. In college, Schultz was pretty good at run blocking. In the Cowboys' offense, led by one of the best running backs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott, Schultz may be able to find success earlier than expected.
Besides, he has what it takes to catch passes in the NFL and although he certainly won't be the flashiest, he could be enough to give Dak Prescott a reliable tight end.
Dalton Schultz could be the surprise of this Draft for Dallas. He'll probably become a starter at some point in the season and for a fourth-round pick, that's a very good thing to say.
For a front office that's constantly bashed by Cowboys Nation, their job at this year's NFL Draft was a pretty good one. Now it's just a matter of time to find out which picks were as good as we originally thought.
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