As the 2018 NFL Combine approaches, teams are gathering in their offices to begin formulating their draft boards, how their entire staff values each position group and what they’ll be looking for on and off the field in Indianapolis.
This Big Board does not include quarterbacks, as the position can't be compared adequately to others. This Big Board does, however, show just how special the 2018 running back class is, why teams will draft offensive linemen early and why you need to get to know Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds.
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1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Comparing favorably to LeSean McCoy as a pure runner, Barkley’s value to his future NFL franchise is his elite elusiveness, outstanding third-down ability and a mental makeup to be a culture-changing franchise player.
2. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
It’s rare for an offensive guard to be ranked this high, and understandably so; the position’s impact is not as substantial as that of most others. But Nelson is a plug-and-play Pro Bowler who likely will not escape the top 10 overall picks.
3. Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
A star pass-rusher from a loaded N.C. State defensive line, Chubb is not only a versatile and explosive defensive end. He will be a high-character leader in the NFL who can anchor a defense for years.
4. Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech
A 6-4, 230-pound off-ball linebacker, Edmunds is a rare athlete who is able to work as an edge pass-rusher, an interior blitzer and a stack-and-shed linebacker in the middle. With tremendous room for growth, he’s arguably the most unique player in the entire draft class.
5. Bill Price, C, Ohio State
Like guards, centers generally are not drafted early or ranked this high. But Price was a four-year starter with All-American consideration who possesses tough, powerful finishing ability. He’s a rare top-20 center prospect.
6. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
While quarterback Baker Mayfield created opportunities in Oklahoma’s offense, he was able to develop and impress as a pocket passer thanks to the blindside protection of Brown. A massive body with Cordy Glenn-like ability and movement skills, Brown likely will not make it out of the top 10 picks.
7. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Along with Edmunds, Vea is one of the most unique talents in this draft class. Possessing great strength and surprising movement/body control skills, Vea might be the modern version of Haloti Ngata in the NFL.
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8. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Another in a long line of NFL-ready Ohio State cornerbacks, Ward is a different type of player than last year’s star prospect Marshon Lattimore. But Ward has the potential to make a similar impact in the NFL.
9. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
Listed at cornerback but able to be graded there or at safety, Fitzpatrick was the star of Alabama's fierce defense with his outstanding instincts, lateral movement and timing as a tackler and pass defender.
10. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
He’s an older prospect, but Ridley is special as a vertical pass catcher with high-end explosiveness and run-after-catch ability as a perimeter receiver. He has emerged as the draft’s clear top receiver before the Combine.
11. Derwin James, S, Florida State
A gifted athlete who took over as FSU’s defensive leader after Jalen Ramsey departed, James didn't emerge as a franchise-changing talent in 2017. But he possesses too much athleticism to slip outside the top 10 or 15 picks.
12. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
One of the most NFL-ready linebackers in terms of instincts, stack-and-shedding and finishing on the interior, Smith has Luke Kuechly-like potential. He can be the final piece for a team lacking an interior enforcer and defensive leader.
13. Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
This is a bit of a projection, because Payne is not quite the usual NFL-ready Alabama defensive lineman. But his upside could make him the NFL’s best nose tackle. His effort and athleticism should allow him to develop quickly in the pros.
14. Connor Williams, OT, Texas
After a down season in 2017, Williams still offers mauling ability and continued development as a pass blocker to be a high-end left or right tackle in the NFL. His best football is still ahead of him.
15. Brian O’Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
Flashing elite athleticism on film and likely at the Combine, the former basketball player reminds of Lane Johnson and has similar right or left tackle potential.
16. Ronald Jones, RB, USC
Reminding of Melvin Gordon as a runner, Jones offers outstanding lateral adjustments and top-end burst to be an immediate starting running back in the NFL. He’s worthy of a first-round pick, which is rare for a running back.
17. Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
With ideal length at 6-3, and likely showcasing his athletic burst and bend at the Combine, Evans is a slight notch below Edmunds as a unique talent. He could emerge as a potential top-15 pick during the draft process.
18. Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
A thick, mauling guard, Hernandez is a devastating run blocker who showed at the Senior Bowl he can dominate as a quick interior pass protector in the NFL.
19. Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
After playing tackle at Georgia, Wynn lacks ideal length to play on the perimeter in the NFL. But he offers outstanding hand positioning and finishing ability in space, and he should make for a long-term starter.
20. Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
A far better prospect than Nick Chubb, his running mate at Georgia, Michel is a powerful, plant-and-go runner who can be the 2018 version of Alvin Kamara or Kareem Hunt: a running back for whom we look back and wonder how he slipped to the draft's second day.
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21. Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
The MAC prospect has some doubters thanks to inconsistencies and a need for development despite his work as a multi-year starter. But his potential to play left tackle in the NFL is enough to make him a first-round prospect.
22. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Just a one-year starter at Iowa, Jackson took the college ranks by storm with a double-digit interception season. He’s still a raw cornerback with a need for technical development, but he has elite upside, and his issues appear coachable.
23. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Guice took the reigns from Leonard Fournette at LSU, and while he didn't rise to the same level as a prospect, he is a first-round pick in his own right. He should wow at the Combine.
24. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
A long, powerful cornerback with outstanding physicality, Davis has the makings of a lockdown press Cover 3 defender, potentially taking the mantle from Richard Sherman.
25. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
While he lacks some of the high-end interior pass-rush upside generally coveted for a high draft pick at defensive tackle, Hurst is a powerful, gap-containing and disruptive interior presence who can help pillar a defense.
26. Braden Smith, G, Auburn
27. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
28. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
29. James Daniels, C, Iowa
30. Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
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31. Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
32. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
33. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
34. Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon
35. Jeff Holland, DE, Auburn
36. Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
37. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
38. Tim Settle, DT, Virginia Tech
39. Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
40. Malik Jefferson, OLB, Texas
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41. Skai Moore, OLB, South Carolina
42. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB/DE, Oklahoma
43. Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
44. Mark Walton, RB, Miami (Fla.)
45. Jamarco Jones, OT, Ohio State
46. Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
38. Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
47. DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
48. Kemoko Turay, DE, Rutgers
49. Isaac Yiadom, CB, Boston College
50. Christian Campbell, CB, Penn State