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.
Cowboys Draft: Film Notes on Iowa State Cyclones WR Hakeem Butler
The 2019 NFL Draft is light on a lot of the offensive skill position players at the top of the draft. There are a couple of wide receivers that are making noise in the first round, but I'm surprised to see that Iowa State Cyclones Wide Receiver Hakeem Butler isn't one of them.
Is he a perfect NFL prospect coming out of the Big 12? No. But this year, there isn't a perfect NFL wide receiver prospect, in my opinion.
Hakeem Butler measured in at 6-5, 225 with 35 1/4 inch wingspan, and 10 3/4 inch hands. He's a big receiver and generally, the type of wide receiver that the NFL looks for when they're attempting to build their receiver corp.
Here are his measurements, courtesy of Mockdraftable.com.
And here is his Spider Graph, if you're into that sort of thing.
As you can see, Butler moves the needle on the spider graph in the strength and athletic testing. He didn't run the short shuttle or the 3-cone drill at the NFL combine, which isn't surprising as those would be lesser traits to his game.
For his size, Butler runs an excellent 40-yard dash at 4.48 seconds. That puts him at the same time as Carolina Panthers Running Back Christian McCaffrey. Former Dallas Cowboys great, Dez Bryant ran a 4.52. The 40-yard dash helps measure straight line speed and it's helpful, it just isn't the be all-end all. Sure, you'd like a receiver to be faster, but Butler's size-speed combination makes up for being a touch slower than the guys running in the 4.3's.
In order to get a handle on Hakeem Butler, I watched his games against Iowa, Oklahoma, West Virginia, TCU, Baylor, and Washington State. Believe me, watching the Iowa State offense was no small task. Quarterback much?
Here's what I saw from Hakeem Butler.
- Is able to create separation on a variety of routes and against press coverage. Ran posts, slants, ins, outs, curls (both in and out breaking), double moves off of slants (sluggo and hitch and go), and nine or go routes.
- Moves well for size, could use some more quickness.
- Hakeem Butler is at his best when thrown back-shoulder fade routes. He's an excellent ball tracker and shows great anticipation for the ball being thrown under the route for him to come back to the ball.
- Quarterback play at Iowa State was an issue. I counted three, maybe four different quarterbacks that he had to work with throughout the 2018 season. Though Butler was able to bail them out at times, he and the rest of the Cyclones receiving corp dealt with poor ball placement.
- Butler is a physical blocker at the point of attack and away from the ball. He uses route feints to set up the defender so he can get square on them and uses good technique to secure his man and plays till the whistle.
- Was lined up all over the field in the games watched including the slot, the middle receiver in bunch formations, and in tight sets as a single receiver to one side.
- Is very physical against press coverage and fights to get free throughout the route.
- The two games he struggled the most were against TCU and Iowa where they used more zone coverage than Iowa State's other opponents. Those teams kept him bracketed, which left him little room to work in the zone and forced him into more contested catch situations.
- He had bad drops in both the Iowa and TCU games, but also came up with excellent catches.
- Butler is very physical after the catch and uses his size and agility to break tackles and create yards after the catch. Against the Sooners, he broke three or four tackles after the catch to take one the distance for the touchdown.
I like Hakeem Butler as a pro prospect. He has some nuanced route running to him and is more than just a jump-ball specialist, red zone threat. He has the skills to be a lead receiver for a team in the NFL and could even be used as a big-slot receiver much like the New Orleans Saints use Michael Thomas. Despite some drops, I think he has really good hands and with his size and physicality would be an excellent addition for the Dallas Cowboys.
I'd be surprised if he was available for the Cowboys at pick 58 of the second round, but if for some reason he was there, I wouldn't hesitate to select him. You can use him on the outside and move Amari Cooper to the slot or put Butler in the slot and use Cooper on the outside. His ability to run routes from all over the formation is an asset that a smart team will take advantage of.
Cowboys Draft Target: Central Florida DT Trysten Hill
NAME: Trysten Hill
POSITION: Defensive Tackle
SCHOOL: Central Florida
JERSEY: No. 9
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
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Uploaded by Micah Wade on 2019-02-22.
The first thing that jumps off the tape when studying Trysten Hill is his first step quickness at the snap of the ball and his burst to get upfield. He is scheme diverse, but projects better as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Can play the one-technique or the three-technique in a 4-3 defense, but is at his best as a one-gapper.
Hill plays with a nonstop motor and high energy down after down. Doesn't take any plays off. Shows the ability to fight off blocks. Always working his hands and feet to free himself. Is equally disruptive harassing the quarterback as a gap penetrator and in the running game playing sideline to sideline.
Shows good agility and flexibility to bend and finish tackles behind line of scrimmage and in the open field. Can anchor down against double teams, but needs to improve his overall play strength. Uses a twitchy arm over and spin counter move to penetrate the gap as both a pass rusher and run defender.
There are questions about Trysten Hill's maturity, work ethic, and coach ability. He found himself in the doghouse last year at Central Florida and only started one game. Was he demoted because of the new coaching staff or are the character concerns about him factual? This is something teams will have to dive deeper into.
Needs to do a better job of playing under control. Will run himself out of gaps at times, which causes him to lose his gap responsibility. Can get washed out of the play by down blocks. Needs to develop a better feel and response to keep that from happening.
Can anchor down against double teams, but needs to add functional strength in order to become more consistent. Drops his head at times on his initial punch. Needs to develop a more diverse pass rushing repertoire. Relies too much on arm over and spin move.
Trysten Hill is a versatile defensive tackle capable playing the one-technique or the three-technique in the Dallas Cowboys 4-3 defensive scheme. Due to his first step quickness and high motor, he is likely better suited to play the three-technique. He has starting potential, but would likely be a rotational piece on the DL as a rookie behind Maliek Collins. His ability to play on the other side of the line of scrimmage and sidelined the sideline would be a welcomed addition along the Cowboys defensive front. He projects as a late Day 2 or early Day 3 draft pick, and that's exactly where the Dallas Cowboys would likely have to target him to acquire his services.
Cowboys Draft Target: Nebraska WR Stanley Morgan Jr.
NAME: Stanley Morgan Jr.
POSITION: Wide Receiver
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
JERSEY: No. 8
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
"Where I come from ... I had to block for Leonard Fournette, I played on the same team as Tyrann Mathieu," Morgan said. "It's just guys like that around me that made me want to work harder, just to keep going and give it my all. It's something that I was born with."
Stanley Morgan Jr. was a consistent and productive wide receiver during his time at Nebraska. He projects as a "Z" receiver in the NFL, but is probably better suited to play in the slot because of his skill set. Might be the best route runner in the entire 2019 WR draft class.
There's no questioning his toughness and competitiveness. His passion for the game shows up on tape. Unafraid to carry his routes across the middle of field. Possess good separation ability due to his precise route running and his ability to change directions on a dime. Has an understanding of how to temper his routes as well and has a way of lulling defensive backs to sleep and catching them off guard.
Has soft natural hands and shows good technique at the catch point. Shows the ability to make contested catches. Large catch radius. Excellent catch focus and body control. Shows the ability to climb the ladder and high point passes. Unfazed with DBs draped on him and shows good spatial awareness along the sideline. Has a little wiggle to be a threat after the catch, but doesn't have homerun ability.
Stanley Morgan Jr. could be labeled as "just a guy" as a wide receiver prospect. There is nothing really special about his game and he has just average speed and athleticism. Despite his productivity and consistency at Nebraska, he may have already reached his peak.
Morgan may be nothing more than a slot receiver in the NFL. He doesn't possess the necessary speed to be a threat down the field and doesn't show a lot of burst out of his breaks. Average speed will limit his big-play ability as well. Struggles to beat press coverage, which could cause cornerbacks to sit on underneath routes.
Doesn't offer anything on special teams. Had a handful of opportunities at Nebraska as a kick and punt returner with very little success. Doesn't show a lot of functional strength on film. Lack of strength and power limits his blocking ability in the passing game. Arrested for marijuana possession in May 2017.
Although Stanley Morgan Jr. has the ability to play the "Z" position with the Dallas Cowboys, they would likely move him into the slot full-time as Cole Beasley's replacement now that he's officially moved on to the Buffalo Bills. He may not have the same kind of change of direction skills as Beasley, but Morgan's precise route running ability immediately makes him a threat in the Cowboys aerial attack as a rookie.
Morgan unfortunately doesn't offer much, if anything, on special teams. He returned a few kickoffs and punts during his time at Nebraska, but had marginal success. He will probably never be more than a WR3 and might have already reached his peak as a prospect, but he is the type of WR who can have a long career in the NFL. As a potential mid-round draft pick he is an intriguing slot option for the Cowboys, but probably won't help fans forget about No. 11 anytime soon.
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