Over the last few months I have been watching, evaluating, and grading prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class. I have about 60-70 players evaluated, and while I am a bit behind some of the internet's draft "experts," I feel like I have a good grasp on the positions of need for the Dallas Cowboys.
With the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine beginning this week, I thought it would be a good time to share my first top 25 "big board" of the draft season.
These are, regardless of position, the best 25 players in the draft class in my opinion. And of course, there are some familiar names I've discussed at length here at Inside The Star.
1. Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame OL
This one is easy. Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson is the best player in this draft class. He is a special talent, and the most complete offensive line prospect in years. If Nelson fails in the league, there's really no hope for draft evaluators, because he looks as sure as it gets.
2. Roquan Smith, Georgia LB
Though I believe Roquan Smith is clearly a top 5 player in this class, his evaluation has actually become a bit controversial recently. NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah dropped him out of his top 15 altogether, and others have wondered about his fit in the NFL due to size concerns. Smith is incredibly athletic and displays exceptional instincts as a linebacker. He should be a day one starter and a stud at WILL in the NFL.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama DB
Minkah Fitzpatrick is another high-profile defensive prospect which has caused much discussion. The Alabama defensive back possesses the versatility to play all over a defense, but was used primarily as a safety in college. A good rule of thumb: if Nick Saban plays you somewhere, that's probably your best position. Fitzpatrick is my top graded defensive back in this draft class.
4. Bradley Chubb, NC State EDGE
Bradley Chubb continues this run on defensive players, coming in as the top graded EDGE. While I don't think Chubb is the prospect that Joey Bosa or Myles Garrett were, he does warrant a top five pick this year and is far and away the best defensive end in his class.
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma QB
The 2018 draft class has been heralded for its quarterbacks for over a year. And while most seem to believe that USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, or even Wyoming's Josh Allen is the top QB, I see Baker Mayfield as QB1. Mayfield has all of the intangibles you want to see in a QB - from his competitiveness to his leadership - and possess immense talent as well. Though knocked for his height, I believe Mayfield can be a top-tier quarterback down the road if drafted to the right situation.
6. Derwin James, FSU DB
Similar to Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James faces questions about what position he will play in the NFL. To me, James is an athletic box safety that both challenge tight ends in the passing game and makes an impact against the run. He is going to kill the combine this week, and I doubt he makes it out of the top 15 picks.
7. Josh Rosen, UCLA QB
Talked about as a future NFL starter since he was in high school, quarterback Josh Rosen is the 7th best player on my board. The dream scenario for Rosen would be for the Browns to pass on him, and the Giants to snag him 2nd overall. Here he could develop behind the aging Eli Manning for the time being, and become their starting quarterback relatively quickly.
8. Denzel Ward, Ohio State CB
Though two defensive backs are ranked ahead of him, Ohio State's Denzel Ward is "CB1" on my board. Ward is an undersized, yet sticky coverage corner who wins with toughness, ball skills, and overall quickness. Ohio State has become "DBU" as of late, and Ward continues that tradition this year.
9. Maurice Hurst, Michigan DT
There has been a lot of disagreement within Cowboys Nation about Maurice Hurst, but all I see is a very good player and the best 3-technique in the class. Hurst's get-off, hands, quickness, and awareness make him a terror on the inside. Hurst is quick enough to penetrate and decimate the run game while also being a very impressive interior pass rusher.
10. Lamar Jackson, Louisville QB
Sorry Bill Polian, Louisville's Lamar Jackson is QB3 on my draft board, and there's a chance he's higher when it's all said and done. Lamar Jackson does have some room for improvement as a passer, but his flashes are as good as anyone in this class. He can certainly "handle" being a pocket passer in the NFL, and he is one of the most dynamic quarterback prospects in a long time.
11. Saquon Barkley, Penn State RB
Compared to consensus I'm low on Saquon Barkley, but I still believe he will be a good pro. Barkely's vision and decision-making are questionable at times, but his athleticism and overall talent level warrant him consideration in the top 15.
12. Isaiah Wynn, Georgia OL
Isaiah Wynn was the best offensive lineman on one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL at Georgia. Moving inside to guard, Wynn becomes my clear OL2 in the draft class, as I believe he possesses the traits needed to be a dominant interior offensive lineman.
13. Vita Vea, Washington DT
Vita Vea's traits are off the charts. Powerful enough to embarrass offensive linemen while also unbelievably athletic for his weight, Vea can be a really good pro if he can get his technique down and remain consistently productive.
14. Harold Landry, Boston College EDGE
If we were just drafting off 2016 tape, Harold Landry might be a top 10 pick. But after being plagued by injuries and inconsistent play, Landry may drop in the 2018 NFL Draft. He's still a top 15 player on my board, however, as I believe his pass rushing traits will translate well to the NFL.
15. Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR
The best receiver on my board, Calvin Ridley is a ready-made Z receiver at the next level. His speed, route running skills, and ability to create separation make him a sure-fire first round pick in this draft class.
16. Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech LB
Edmunds is not the polished football player that Roquan Smith is, but his athletic traits and ceiling make him a real top 10-15 target for NFL teams. Edmunds looks like he was made in a lab, and once his football ability matches his freakish gifts, he can be a fantastic player.
17. Mike Hughes, UCF CB
Though there are certainly questions about his off-field history, Mike Hughes is still graded as the second best cornerback on my board. Like Denzel Ward, Hughes is undersized, but he had no issues in coverage against bigger wide-outs in college. Hughes is the best press-man corner in this draft class, while Ward excels much more in off-coverage.
18. Jaire Alexander, Louisville CB
He's not the best cornerback in this draft, but Jaire Alexander is certainly my favorite corner in it. Alexander will bring a different attitude to your defense from day one, and with his toughness and coverage abilities I think Alexander is a first round prospect.
19. Da'Ron Payne, Alabama DT
If Da'Ron Payne is the player we saw during the College Football Playoff, 19 might be too low for him. But when you take a look at the totality of his play at Alabama, 19 feels about right. He's not nearly as consistent as you'd hope, but his flashes are as good as any defensive tackle in this loaded interior class.
20. James Daniels, Iowa OL
James Daniels is a plug and play starter on the interior, and will especially excel in a zone blocking scheme. Excellent on reach blocks and when executing outside zone, Daniels is a balanced and fluid athlete on the inside. He is also a rather powerful blocker, and is OL3 in this draft class.
21. Josh Jackson, Iowa CB
Daniels' teammate, cornerback Josh Jackson is almost everything you want in a first round corner. As of right now, he is too much of a liability as a tackler and against the run for me to put him above these other defensive backs, however. Even with that being said, I still believe he has the makings of a potential star corner in the NFL.
22. Sam Darnold, USC QB
I'm lower on Darnold than most seem to be, but I still think he has the chance to be a very good NFL starting quarterback. I think his decision-making is very questionable, and he was a bit too turnover prone for my liking, but I won't be mad at a time for taking him early in the draft.
23. Will Hernandez, UTEP OL
Will Hernandez is an absolute mauler as a run blocker, and with his powerful hands, quick feet, and strong base, Hernandez will be a quality guard for a long time in the NFL.
24. Ronald Jones, USC RB
How much better is Saquon Barkley than Ronald Jones? Yes, I really mean that question. I think both can be excellent pro running backs, but Jones' late first-early second round value could turn out to be sky-high.
25. DJ Moore, Maryland WR
DJ Moore is a short receiver, something teams tend to avoid, but with his route running ability, instincts, and overall speed, Moore is a late first round prospect on my board. Plus he is someone I'd love to see fall to the Cowboys in the second round.
2018 NFL Draft: Cowboys to Hold Visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller
The Dallas Cowboys have been
frustratingly unsurprisingly quiet through the start of free agency, as their opportunity to improve at the AT&T Stadium hosted 2018 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. Offensive line depth remains a team need for the Cowboys, one they're actively looking to address by visiting free agent Guard Marcus Martin while planning a pre-draft visit with UCLA Tackle Kolton Miller.
I'm told UTEP Guard Will Hernandez is another of Dallas' 30 pre-draft visitors. Hernandez joins Alabama WR Calvin Ridley and UCLA G/T Kolton Miller on the list of reported visitors for the #Cowboys. Since 2014, 14 of Dallas' 35 picks (40%) have been pre-draft visitors.
Protecting one of the top quarterbacks available in the draft in Josh Rosen through college, Kolton Miller absolutely blew up the Combine in Indianapolis - entering the draft as one of the most athletic available linemen.
It is this athleticism and versatility that the Dallas Cowboys should absolutely be looking for, if trying to add another "blue chip" player to an offensive line already featuring LT Tyron Smith, C Travis Frederick, RG Zack Martin, and RT La'el Collins.
Kolton Miller with the broad jump world record for an offensive lineman at 10 1 wow
Tyron Smith's health (along with the level of play the Cowboys received at his spot in his absence) and the FA status of Jonathan Cooper are both reasons the Cowboys should consider adding a new, controllable option to their dominant offensive line. Whether this is with the 19th overall pick, or later on with a prospect like Miller, will depend on how the board falls through the first 18 picks of the draft.
With ten total picks coming in, the Cowboys could be positioning themselves for a move up the board to land an impact defender, or an additional piece for Kris Richard to work with in the defensive backfield. Staying home at 19th overall and selecting a player capable of playing swing tackle would not only be a safe option for the Cowboys, but a smart one with Ezekiel Elliott returning full-time to the lineup in 2018.
Without Elliott for six games in 2017, the Cowboys still managed nine wins. This is a point lost to most of Cowboys Nation, especially those watching the entire playoffs without their team in it, only to watch the Eagles hoist the Lombardi. Elliott's impact on each's week game plan for Dallas is hard to understate, and the Cowboys' trust in him begins up front.
Testing as an elite athlete with the film to match at tackle in the Pac 12, Kolton Miller should be a welcome addition to America's Team - getting the opportunity to learn the Cowboys' way with a trip to The Star in his future.
Can Powers of Persuasion Help Make Will Hernandez a Cowboy?
There is no shortage of NFL hopefuls who would like to become a member of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2018 NFL Draft. But, not one of them have used their powers of persuasion to make their intentions known as much as former UTEP offensive guard Will Hernandez.
Throughout the entire draft process, Will Hernandez has done nothing but stand out when given the opportunity. He first started to make waves at the 2018 Senior Bowl, where he pretty much dominated his competition. Then, he improved his draft stock even more by putting on a show at the Scouting Combine.
The 6'2", 330 pound offensive guard has likely cemented himself as a surefire first-round draft pick and is arguably the second-ranked OG in the entire 2018 draft class. He is a plug-and-play prospect for any team who drafts him, but he has made his intentions well known that he would love to play for the Dallas Cowboys.
Back in February, Will Hernandez was spotted hanging out with the Cowboys bookend offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, to see the premiere of the movie Death Wish, starring Bruce Willis.
@PujolsFive Cowboys fans will appreciate this post!! ⭐️ Movie Premiere #Deathwish Great movie!
To see Will Hernandez rubbing elbows with a few of the Dallas Cowboys talented offensive lineman only strengthened the connection for Hernandez becoming a draft pick by America's Team. But, this wasn't the only time the former UTEP offensive guard was seen out with a Cowboys player.
In March, he was once again seen out on the town with the Cowboys All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith.
All of this can probably be chalked up to a current player hanging out with an NFL hopeful, but as a Cowboys fan you want to believe it's more than just a coincidence.
The Dallas Cowboys without a doubt need a new starting left guard. It can be argued it's the team's biggest need this offseason and Will Hernandez fits the bill to a T. He would immediately upgrade the entire offensive line and solidify the unit for years to come.
The only problem is, the Dallas Cowboys have already invested quite a bit in their offensive line and taking Will Hernandez in the first round would be considered by some as overkill. I for one wouldn't be opposed to taking him at 19 if he is the top rated player when the Cowboys are on the clock.
It's hard to know if seeing Will Hernandez hanging out with Tyron Smith and La'el Collins improves his chances of being drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, but it definitely doesn't hurt. Offensive lines around the NFL perform at their best when they play as a cohesive unit, so developing a bond already could be viewed as a good thing.
Who knows, maybe Will Hernandez's powers of persuasion will pay off and end up being the deciding factor to help him become the next first-round offensive lineman drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
Do you read anything into Will Hernandez hanging out with Cowboys players?
Keeping Dez Bryant Shouldn’t Stop Cowboys From Drafting Calvin Ridley
With NFL Free Agency buzz at full speed this week, Dez Bryant is one of the most intriguing names in the Dallas Cowboys world. We all know the story. We've been talking about it since last season. Bryant, who was once among the "Top WR of the league" conversation, doesn't look like an elite player anymore.
That doesn't mean he is a bad football player, but the problem is that he's getting paid big time.
The Dallas Cowboys, who have struggled with cap space for many years now, may want to avoid paying $16.5M to a player who isn't justifying his paychecks on the field. Big name and all, it certainly doesn't feel that way.
His lack of production on the field the last three years is concerning, even though he's played with quarterbacks not named "Tony Romo." There are other receivers around the league who have played with bad quarterbacks and have still been able to produce.
Even still, it wouldn't be easy to replace Bryant on the offense just like that. Right now, top free agents are already off the market, so if Dallas wants to replace him, it'd have to be via trade or via the NFL Draft.
ICYMI: A few things to consider as we wait on news about Dez Bryant's future with the Dallas Cowboys https://t.co/cCNpXmhARe
Right now, it seems that Dez is going to remain a Dallas Cowboy and after seeing the contracts other receivers in the league are about to get, who knows if a pay cut will even enter the equation.
Even if Dez keeps wearing the Star every week next season, wide receiver is still one of the team's top needs. Despite the fact that Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten are some very well-known names, the truth is this offense needs a guy who can create separation and be harmful as a deep threat.
This is a draft class with a lot of depth at wide receiver, and the Cowboys could find contributors at the second or later rounds. Even still, if they're on the clock at 19 and Alabama's Calvin Ridley is available, the front office should pull the trigger.
Yes, even if Dez is still on the team.
Despite last year's struggles, we shouldn't lose faith on the Cowboys' offense when it has a lot of talent. We believed in this group to take us to the Super Bowl. What they are missing could just be a new, dynamic wide receiver.
Calvin Ridley is by far the best WR in the Draft this year and will be an impact player anywhere he goes. Despite a poor showing in the Combine, Ridley proves to be worthy of a first round pick on tape. Ideal route-running, great ability to separate and more than enough speed for the NFL.
This would certainly take a lot of pressure off Cole Beasley's shoulders, who was constantly double-teamed last year. Sure, he's still good, but if he continues to run into double-coverage, Dak Prescott and company will probably continue to struggle another year.
It's tough to imagine Calvin Ridley being available at 19, especially with the Baltimore Ravens holding the 16th overall pick. However, some people believe there's a 50/50 chance he's available once Dallas is on the clock. If that's the case, the Cowboys shouldn't pass on this prospect.
Ridley could very well end up being the most productive receiver for the Cowboys in 2018 becoming an essential "best friend" for Dak Prescott.
We've seen how other front offices have made friendly offenses for their young QBs and if Calvin Ridley is what it takes, why even think about it?
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