Peak ahead to the 2018 draft

February 20, 2017

Needless to say, it’s a little early to be saying much of anything definitive about the 2018 draft; heck, its still almost too early to be saying much definitive about the 2017 draft which is now just over two months away. However, for anyone considering any strategic draft concerns regarding this year’s draft, it is certainly worth taking at least a preliminary look ahead to what could be available in 2018.

That could particularly be the case for teams like Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago and the Jets which have early picks in the opening round of this year’s draft and are at least considering selecting a QB. This does not appear to be a particularly good year to be looking for a franchise QB with a top 5-6 pick. As a result, the question for those teams may be whether it may be more prudent to look at alternative short-term solutions at the position while waiting for the 2018 draft to use a valuable top pick on the position.

And the early prognosis is that indeed it may be very prudent to wait a year before investing a lottery pick in a QB. Indeed, more than a few scouts around the NFL that would say that underclassmen such as Josh Rosen of UCLA, Sam Darnold of USC, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and possible Jake Browning of Washington would likely jump to the top of the QB rankings if they were actually eligible for this year’s draft. Then throw in other veteran productive passers like Luke Falk of Washington State and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and the potential 2018 QB class at least looks to be more ‘interesting’ on paper that their 2017 counterparts.

It could also be another very interesting year at RB in 2018 with underclassmen like Saquon Barkley of Penn State, LSU’s Derrius Guice, Mike Weber of Ohio State, Alabama’s Bo Scarborough and Damien Harris, and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn leading the way. The LSU offense, such as it was, for example, barely skipped a beat this past fall when Guice was forced to replace Len Fournette, a top 5-10 prospect at the upcoming draft who missed much of the 2017 season with an ankle injury. Indeed, Guice averaged 7.6 yards per carry last year, almost a yard per carry more than Fournette.  All that doesn’t include Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Royce Freeman of Oregon, both of whom were projected to be first-round picks at the start of the 2017 season, but opted to return to school after injuries derailed their seasons.

Meanwhile, a couple of emerging superstar receivers in Calvin Ridley of Alabama and Christian Kirk of Texas A&M head a talented group of young receivers this coming fall that will also include Antonio Callaway of Florida, SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Deon Cain of Clemson and Stanford’s Trent Irwin.

There’s also a better than even chance that the 2018 draft will have its share of top prospects along the offensive line after this year’s down crop which may not have a true LT taken in the opening round. Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey, massive Orlando Brown of Oklahoma and athletic Tyrell Crosby of Oregon, who passed on the 2017 draft after tearing an ACL, for example, all may end with elite top 10 grades, while underclassmen Mitch Hyatt of Clemson, Geron Christian of Louisville, Trey Adams of Washington and Connor Williams of Texas may not be that far behind. Meanwhile, there is some pretty good talent along the interior of the offensive line featuring Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson and Michigan C Mason Cole, both of whom could very likely have been the top guy at their respective positions this year.

On the other side of the ball, safety could be the deepest position in 2018. That group is led by the dynamic Alabama duo of Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ronnie Harrison along with Florida State’s Derwin James.

It also looks like it could be another good year at DE, although with a bit of an asterix. Arden Key of LSU and Clelin Ferrell of Clemson, both have top 5 potential, although the fact Key recently left the Tigers’ program for undisclosed reasons (and an undisclosed time) is the asterix. At the same time, other DEs with at least some first round potential include the Ohio State duo of Sam Hubbard and Tyquan Leiws, along with underrated Harold Landry of Boston College who led the country with 16.5 sacks in 2016. There are also a couple of DTs with elite potential in Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Vita Vea of Washington. On the other hand, it looks like it could be something of a down year at both CB and LB in 2018.

GBN Quality Control Editor Larry Parker contributed to this report. For the record, here the unofficial list of top prospects for the 2018 draft as compiled by LP.