This list is a meant to be a far-too-early snapshot of the 2019 NFL Draft class. Emphasis on “far-too-early.” I have watched and followed every player listed below over the past few years in my work as a college football/NFL Draft writer for Rotoworld, but I have not yet watched each of their film packages. Much will change between now and next April, but it’s never too early to get a grasp on where we stand right now. At this moment, this is how I see next year’s class.
Better in 2019: WR, TE, OT, DE, DT, LB
Worse in 2019: QB, RB, OG, C, CB, S
Editor's Note: Fantasy football season has begun. Compete in a live best ball draft! It's like season long but without in-season management. Just set it and forget it! Once you're done drafting, that’s it - no trades or waivers - you don’t even have to set your lineup. Your best players get automatically selected and you'll get the best score, every week. For a limited time, DRAFT is giving Rotoworld readers a FREE entry into a real money draft and a Money-Back Guarantee up to $100! Here's the link
1. Justin Herbert (Oregon)
2. Jarrett Stidham (Auburn)
3. Will Grier (West Virginia)
4. Drew Lock (Missouri)
5. Easton Stick (North Dakota State)
6. Shea Patterson (Michigan)
7. Clayton Thorson (Northwestern)
8. Tyree Jackson (Buffalo)
9. Ryan Finley (NC State)
10. Jake Bentley (South Carolina)
11. Trace McSorley (Penn State)
12. Daniel Jones (Duke)
13. Nathan Stanley (Iowa)
14. Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi State)
15. Brett Rypien (Boise State)
Potential riser: Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State)
2020 prospect to monitor: Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)
- Note: Jacob Eason (Washington) isn’t eligible to play this coming season due to the NCAA’s transfer policy. Eason will spend this coming season on the bench before replacing Jake Browning as the starter in 2019. Browning narrowly missed this list. Browning doesn’t look like much, and he’s got a noodle for an arm, but he’s accurate, tough and a good leader. He’ll be coming to a seventh-round near you next spring, at which time he’ll begin what could be a surprisingly long career as a clipboard toter.
- Justin Herbert is something of a mystery box, in that he’s a young prospect (20) who missed a huge chunk of last season with an injury. He’s everything you look for in the size (6’6) and athleticism categories, with a strong arm and plus mobility. We’ll find out just how much progress he’s made this fall. He could lock down a top-10 slot next spring with a big year.
- Jarrett Stidham is the quarterback I predict will make the biggest leap in the fall. The five-star prospect flashed in a big way as a true freshman at Baylor in 2015. He transferred out after the Art Briles fiasco and regained eligibility last year, posting an 18/6 TD/INT ratio on 66.5% passing in the SEC. Those numbers are even more impressive than they seem—Briles’ offense shares few similarities with Gus Malzahn’s. Stidham is a pocket passer with great mechanics (he came into college with those) and more athletic chops than your typical dropback passer. He has two years of eligibility left if he wants them.
- Will Grier is a small rhythm thrower (listed at 6’2/214 but almost assuredly not that big). He averaged 9.0 YPA last year, though some of that, ala Mason Rudolph in this past class, can be attributed to scheme. Grier is flammable when he’s cooking, but he needs to work on his consistency. When things go south for him, they really go south (he threw four interceptions in last year’s Oklahoma State game, for instance). Grier, along with Trace McSorley, has benefited the most from the Baker Mayfield phenomenon, drawing hyperbolic “the next Baker Mayfield” moniker from some around the media. That’s overstating it, but Grier does possess the potential to become a starting NFL quarterback.
- I’ve seen some rank Lock as QB1, but I just don’t see it. He didn’t even complete 58% of his passes last year in Mizzou’s gimmicky offense (career: 53.8%), which included a dose of freebie throws. And a statistical breakdown of his 2017 performance reveals a few troubling trends. In his eight games against Missouri State, Kentucky, Idaho, UConn, Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Arkansas (only 7-6 Kentucky finished with a winning record), Lock went 160-for-261 (61.3%) for 2,848 yards (356.0 yards per game) and a 36/6 TD/INT ratio (4.5 TD per game). In his four games against South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Texas, Lock went 67-for-133 (50.4%) for 863 yards (215.7 ypg) and a 4/6 TD/INT rate (1.0 TD per game). He had only one good game against a good defense last year, going 15-for-25 (60%) for 253 yards and a 4/1 TD/INT rate against Georgia (he threw a pair of 63-yard touchdowns to Emanuel Hall in that game... outside of those two throws, Lock went 13-for-23 for 127 yards). The year before, his only good game against a good defense was also against Georgia (he did, however, throw three interceptions in that game). Lock’s star receiver (J’Mon Moore) and star OC (Josh Heupel) are both gone, and the schedule is about to get a heck of a lot harder. If he excels in 2018, he will have earned it. Seems like a pocket-passer who’s being overrated due a lack of context surrounding his early evaluation. Accuracy is a big, big issue here, and nearly all of his production has come against poor defenses, which Missouri’s old offense was adept at shredding (by taking advantage of 1-on-1 matchups against inferior talent in the deep sector of the field). Lock has the tools to prove me wrong—I do rank him QB4, after all—but he’s got further to go than many realize.
- Easton Stick (6’2/220) is a personal favorite. He’s no Carson Wentz, but he’s coming out of the same pro style offense and has displayed exciting developmental traits. He's 34-3 as a starter, has an NFL-caliber arm, plus accuracy, strong footwork, and fluid mobility inside and outside of the pocket. I’ve seen him referred to as a sleeper, but even some of those that deem him as such are treating him like a novelty. He’s not. Stick is a legitimate potential Day 2 prospect if he takes another step forward developmentally.
- A former No. 1 quarterback recruit, “Sugar” Shea Patterson has a strong arm and a comedian's improv skills. He’s outstanding outside of structure, which is why he’s long been compared to Johnny Manziel. I think he could be better. I want to emphasize that again—“could” be better. Patterson is far from a finished product. He’s appeared in only 10 collegiate games, and he’s about to learn his fourth offensive system in the past four years. A knee injury wiped out the end of his 2017 campaign at Ole Miss, and that’s something to monitor as he competes for Michigan’s starting quarterback gig this summer (if he’s healthy, he’s by far the most talented competitor). Jim Harbaugh and Pep Hamilton will get to work on Patterson’s footwork, which is currently quite poor. Patterson throws with an extremely wide base (the opposite problem that Lamar Jackson had), the positive of which gives him more arm strength (as he loads up on that back foot and really drives the ball) but the negative of which is that he doesn’t repeat his delivery and he gives himself less options when bullets are flying around him. When pressured—which happened often at Ole Miss with a surprisingly porous OL—he would bail out of the pocket quickly and sometimes makes questionable decisions with the ball. And when the pocket is clean, Patterson has a bad habit of really loading up for the fastball and driving the ball high, curiously not stepping fully into his throw (he loves to throw off his back foot, a quirk he needs to knock off). Patterson’s throwing motion could also use some work. It would be nice if he could start to employ more of an over-the-top motion as opposed to the low-elbow flick he often defers to. Between his natural arm strength and his power-generating lower body mechanics, I think he developed a throwing motion that would get the ball out a little quicker. If he narrowed that base, the time he’d save in cocking the gun could be used to add a split second of arm action, which would improve his overall consistency. In theory, anyway. He’s not there yet, but I’m bullish because Patterson’s issues are all fixable, and he picked an ideal situation to get to work on those. Sometimes, you’ll see elements of Baker Mayfield in his game. Mayfield labored to improve his mechanics when he transferred from Texas Tech to Norman. Now that Patterson is in Ann Arbor, he better get to work doing the same.
- We may have seen Clayton Thorson in the 2018 draft had he not torn his ACL in January. A big pocket passer, Thorson is an intriguing talent who remains unrefined. He’s got the arm, but will need to improve his decision-making and ball placement (terrible 44/30 career TD/INT rate, 57.3% completion percentage that’s in the Lamar Jackson range and only a percentage point higher than Josh Allen’s career number). Thorson doesn’t have Jackson’s or Allen’s athletic traits, so he better improve his pocket game post-haste.
- Tyree Jackson (6’7/235) is huge and rapidly gaining experience. He remains raw—extremely so. The Cam Newton comps are premature (and absurd). But that isn’t to take anything away from Jackson, who is an exciting developmental prospect with a big arm and strong athleticism. In eight games last year—he missed four with injury—Jackson completed a tick over 60% of his passes with a nifty 12/3 TD/INT rate and 8.8 YPA average. He and Anthony Johnson are absolute must-see MACtion TV this fall.
- Finley has the height (6’4) and accuracy the NFL will like. He needs to add weight. Unfortunately, arm strength may cap his ceiling to long-term NFL backup.
- Nate Stanley and Daniel Jones are both guys with NFL frames and games who haven’t yet put it all together. Each are developmental prospects to monitor in 2018. I’m tentatively bullish on each of them—and so are their coaching staffs, which are both top-notch.
- Nick Fitzgerald has a long, long way to go as a passer, but he’s got a huge frame and he’s an outstanding runner. He’s been compared to a bigger, right-handed version of Tim Tebow. If anybody can help him make leaps as a passer, it’s new Bulldogs HC Joe Moorhead, the guy who turned around Penn State’s offense and molded Trace McSorley from a replacement-level, noodle-armed QB into one of the Big 10’s best signal callers.
- Haskins is athletic and has a big arm, but he’s largely unproven. I’ll wager this: Ohio State will upgrade at QB in 2018 with Haskins taking over JT Barrett’s old post. Haskins has three years of eligibility left to work with.
1. David Montgomery (Iowa State)
2. Rodney Anderson (Oklahoma)
3. Bryce Love (Stanford)
4. Damien Harris (Alabama)
5. Justice Hill (Oklahoma State)
6. Devin Singletary (FAU)
7. Benny Snell (Kentucky)
8. Myles Gaskin (Washington)
9. Damarea Crockett (Missouri)
10. Miles Sanders (Penn State)
11. Travis Homer (Miami)
12. Alexander Mattison (Boise State)
13. Trayveon Williams (Texas A&M)
14. L.J. Scott (Michigan State)
15. Jonathan Ward (Central Michigan)
16. Joshua Jacobs (Alabama)
17. Aeris Williams (Mississippi State)
18. Ty Johnson (Maryland)
19. Karan Higdon (Michigan)
20. Jordan Scarlett (Florida)
21. Mike Weber (Ohio State)
22. Jacques Patrick (Florida State)
Potential riser: Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
2020 prospect to monitor: Cam Akers (Florida State)
- David Montgomery isn’t getting the attention he deserves yet, but that’ll change. He has a combination of traits that screams Round 1 or early Round 2: A tackle-breaking machine with good vision, outstanding elusiveness and agility, and plus receiving chops. He runs like the field is made of hot coals and the end zone is his only escape. And here’s the most incredible stat you’ll read today: Montgomery broke Pro Football Focus’ charting record with 104 missed tackles forced. That he did that in only 258 carries -- while missing about one whole game due to injury -- is just stupid. It’s impossible to get a good angle on the guy, and when you do, he’s liable to shuck you off like a winter coat.
- Rodney Anderson comes with durability concerns after season-ending injuries in 2015 and 2016 and a late start to his 2017 campaign. Spun another way, however, and you could just as easily argue that he hasn’t taken nearly the beating that a guy like Bryce Love has. I was extremely high on Anderson as a breakout player coming into last season. Boy did I feel foolish early on, as he entered the Oct. 21 game against Texas Tech with 82 rushing yards total through six games (he missed one outright with injury and was clearly limited in the others). In Oklahoma’s last eight games, however, the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder went off for 1,333 yards from scrimmage and 16 touchdowns—including 201 rushing yards and two scores against Georgia’s vicious front seven in the Playoffs. Anderson is a bigger Heisman candidate than he’s being credited for at present time.
- After surprisingly electing to return to school, Bryce Love is this class’ early nominee to have his game nitpicked the most in 2018. Last year, he finished No. 2 in the nation with 2,118 rushing yards and broke the FBS record with 8.1 yards per carry. He did all that despite suffering through nagging injuries throughout. Bullet quick and tough as nails, Love looks like a signed, sealed and delivered Round 2 prospect assuming he doesn’t suffer a catastrophic injury. What will he look like in the NFL? I think the Chris Johnson comparisons are fair.
- Justice Hill is a 5-foot-9, 185-pounder who plays with shockingly good power due to his unique combination of elite speed/quickness, fearlessness and balance. Hill drives 100 mph on the field at all times. He’s also something of an artist with his footwork and football IQ, making defenders miss in the open field and erasing angles by taking preternaturally intelligent routes.
- The 5-foot-9, 200-pound Devin “Motor” Singletary posted the third-most rushing touchdowns ever scored in a season as a sophomore (32). My friend Filip Prus of Optimum Scouting calls Singletary a “ball of butcher knives running the football” who “relies on his elite peripheral vision to anticipate tacklers and manipulate angles.” Prus compares Singletary to Devonta Freeman. Like Freeman, expect Singletary to get underdrafted for no good reason at all. Singletary absolutely can start in the NFL.
- I have a tough time with Benny Snell (5’11/223). I see elements of Day 2 prospects from this year in his game, namely Kerryon Johnson, Nick Chubb and Derrius Guice. Snell is almost exactly Guice’s size, and he also plays with strong contact balance (maybe not Guice-ian balance, but good nonetheless). He also has good vision and patience, ala Johnson, and brings the hammer between the tackles, like Chubb. Snell has been uber-productive as the centerpiece of Kentucky’s offense. The question is his athleticism—he’s not a speedster, and Snell’s explosion in close quarters isn’t a strength either. Athletic testing is going to be extremely important, here.
- Already a legend at UW, Myles Gaskin owns the school-record of 45 rushing touchdowns. He’ll become Washington's all-time leading rusher—passing Napoleon Kaufman—in September. His grade gets knocked a bit due to his poor combination of size and speed, but Gaskin is a tough son of a gun. He may be this class’ Justin Jackson, a guy who dominates for all four years at a Power 5 program and then gets bypassed for more exciting (and far less accomplished) RBs on draft day.
- Miles Sanders’ lofty ranking is 100% projection on my part. We barely saw him over the past few years as Penn State rode Saquon Barkley early and often. Sanders (5’11/215) is a former No. 1 RB recruit who has shown, in limited action, an intriguing mix of explosion, patience and tackle-avoiding balance on contact.
- Keep an eye out for a national Aeris Williams coming out party. He’s stepping into the Saquon Barkley role in Joe Moorhead’s offense. Williams isn’t nearly the athlete Saquon was, but he has a nice blend of size and agility. While his game may be missing an elite trait, Williams’ profile also doesn’t come with a pronounced weakness.
- Ty Johnson (5’10/208) is a homeless man’s Bryce Love. He’s a one-trick pony as a pure burner. Johnson isn’t really used as a receiver (only five catches last year) and he struggles in pass protection. It’s hard to project him, because for a player his type, you’d really like for him to be usable on third downs. Hopefully Maryland gives him more chances as a receiver and Johnson gives more effort in pass pro in 2018. Either way, he should be a solid NFL return man.
- I’m lower on Scarlett than some others. He has off-field problems (sat out last year after being suspended in the dopey fraud scandal that also cost Antonio Callaway his 2017 season), is old for a prospect (will be 23 in April) and doesn’t look all that athletic on the field. He makes up for a lack of speed with good patience, vision, footwork and balance, picking his spots, taking strong angles and generally staying up on first contact. Looks like a limited next-level zone back to me, the type of guy a team like the Vikings would take in Round 6 as a potential backup for Dalvin Cook.
1. Winston Dimel (ex-Kansas State)
2. Kendrick Jackson (Arkansas)
3. George Aston (Pittsburgh)
Potential riser: Brady Ross (Iowa)
2020 prospect to monitor: Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma) -- H-back
- Winston Dimel is the class’ consensus top fullback heading into the year. We’re awaiting word on where he’ll ply his trade in 2018, as Dimel announced his intention to transfer as a graduate over the winter. Recent local scuttlebutt has him heading to UTEP to play for his father, Dana Dimel. We’ll see.
- Kendrick Jackson (6’0/270), a former linebacker, is a throwback as a skull-crushing lead blocker. He’s only a fit for a traditional power running offense.
- George Aston (6’0/245) is returning after missing most of last season with a pair of ankle injuries. He’s a fan favorite for his punishing style and fun-loving attitude, and he provides value as a receiver (22-169-5 line in 2016). "George can play the fullback position, he can play the tight end position, he's got good ball skills, he can play the receiver position, he can line up at receiver and motion in the backfield, play fullback, line up at tight end," RB coach Andre Powell said. "He can do a lot different things. He's like a Swiss Army knife."
1. A.J. Brown (Ole Miss)
2. N'Keal Harry (Arizona State)
3. Ahmmon Richards (Miami)
4. Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)
5. Juwan Johnson (Penn State)
6. Anthony Johnson (Buffalo)
7. Deebo Samuel (South Carolina)
8. Kelvin Harmon (NC State)
9. Collin Johnson (Texas)
10. David Sills (West Virginia)
11. D.K. Metcalf (Ole Miss)
12. JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford)
13. Parris Campbell (Ohio State)
14. Marquise Brown (Oklahoma)
15. Hakeem Butler (Iowa State)
16. Tyre Brady (Marshall)
17. Stanley Morgan (Nebraska)
18. Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)
19. Felton Davis (Michigan State)
20. Jaylen Smith (Louisville)
21. Denzel Mims (Baylor)
22. Demetris Robertson (Cal)
23. Jonathan Giles (LSU)
24. James Gardner (Miami OH)
25. Tyrie Cleveland (Florida)
Potential riser: Keelan Doss (UC Davis)
2020 prospect to monitor: Tee Higgins (Clemson)
- A.J. Brown (6’1/225) has the looks of a top-10 overall pick if his athletic testing doesn’t raise any eyebrows. Coming off a sophomore season in which he posted 75 receptions for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns, Brown is a big, physical receiver who plays with an edge. Brown could have taken the Shea Patterson route and transferred without penalty over the winter. He stayed. I’m cool with that—but how fun would it have been if he’d followed Patterson to Michigan? Or transferred to, say, Alabama? Or Oklahoma?
- You can consider N'Keal Harry (6’4/216) a more athletically gifted version of Courtland Sutton, with an extra inch of height to boot. Arizona State is apparently shifting to more of a pro-style offense under Herm Edwards, which will allow Harry to work on his route running. He told reporters that he spent the spring refining his technique. Like Sutton, Harry is a physical receiver who excels in contested situations and is extremely physical as a runner. And like Sutton, Harry can struggle to gain consistent separation. A red-zone monster, the biggest question on Harry’s evaluation is athleticism.
- Ahmmon Richards is a guy I’m higher on than most. I just can’t quit him. A lanky 6-foot-1, 190-pounder with blazing speed, plus athleticism and strong route running chops, he’s difficult to stick to in coverage. Per the school, Richards clocked a 4.31-second 40-yard dash last year. He missed half of last season with a meniscus injury and will need to prove he’s healthy. Adding a bit of weight to his lithe frame would help too. But man oh man is he dangerous. He’s one of those players who causes an eerie hush in opposing stadiums every time he gets the ball in space.
- Bryan Edwards is more projection than finished product at this point. He’s young for his class, has extremely strong hands, and is way ahead of the game in terms of his polish as a route runner at a young age. The 6-foot-3, 216-pounder is a menace in contested situations, with good hops and an aggressive bent to his game. He could absolutely be one of the top-three receivers drafted next spring if everything comes together.
- Juwan Johnson (6’4/229) was a bit overlooked last year amid an offense that featured Saquon Barkley, DaeSean Hamilton and Mike Gesicki. He’ll be featured next year. Expect him to make his star turn as Trace McSorley’s go-to guy.
- Anthony Johnson (6’2/204) reminds me of Michael Gallup, with some of Korey Robertson’s physicality after the catch sprinkled in. Johnson and Gallup are about the same size (Johnson is listed an inch taller, but may be closer to Gallup’s 6’1), and they have similar games. Ala Gallup, Johnson is built thick with strong hands. He excels in contested situations. Testing will determine whether he’s a late first-rounder, a Day 2 guy, or somebody who could slip to the top of Day 3.
- Deebo Samuel is an injury hazard, but he’s flashed in a big way when on the field. An outstanding athlete who’s built thick, Samuel has been comped to DJ Moore by my friend L.J. Chaney. I concede that I may be too low on him, but I refuse to move him up until he’s healthy and productive for an entire year.
- I’ve seen Collin Johnson (6’6/220) mocked in the first round in too-early 2019 mocks this spring. I just can’t get there. He’s huge and has long arms, which gives quarterbacks an enormous strike zone to throw into. But he’s so far away. Johnson has subpar play speed, he struggles to create separation, and he sometimes lets the ball gobble him up instead of attacking it. Those last two areas are things he can improve upon. If he does so next season, he’s going to surge up boards. If not, you’re talking a slightly better Auden Tate.
- David Sills was the hardest receiver for me to rank—I moved him around the list several times over the past several weeks as I worked on this list. Even now, I’m convinced that I’ve either got him rated five spots too low, or five spots too high. A former star quarterback recruit, the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Sills broke out last fall as a monster outside receiving target for Will Grier. Sills already shows a preternatural ability to win in contested situations, quite the surprise for a former quarterback who only last season played his first campaign of receiver at the FBS level. The concern is his athleticism. Is he a smaller, weaker Joe Jurevicius in the NFL? Is he a taller Chad Hansen? Or, to go the other way with a more contemporary comp, is it possible that he’s a taller, better version of J’mon Moore? Long, long way to go on this evaluation. We don't know how he'll test, but Sills reportedly runs a 4.5 forty, which is better than Moore mustered in Indy. But obviously that's only a small part of his overall athletic profile.
- Parris Campbell is a stud athlete who operates in the Percy Harvin/Braxton Miller/Curtis Samuel role for the Buckeyes. Campbell is more athlete than receiver. If you get him the ball in space, he’s a threat to take it to the house, but he doesn’t create much separation for himself due to rawness and role. To use a cross-sport comp, he’s like Buddy Hield—he can’t create his own shot, but if you hit him on the numbers when he’s open, watch out.
- I didn’t have space for him, but Jalen Hurd, the Tennessee transfer who is finally eligible to play at Baylor, is worth keeping an eye on. Remember him? The guy who started over Alvin Kamara for the Vols? He has since shifted from RB to WR. He’ll provide an enormous outside target (6’4/229) for the Bears. If all goes well, he and Denzel Mims could turn into one of the nation’s most underrated duos.
1. Noah Fant (Iowa)
2. Kaden Smith (Stanford)
3. Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
4. Caleb Wilson (UCLA)
5. Isaac Nauta (Georgia)
6. Alize Mack (Notre Dame)
7. C.J. Conrad (Kentucky)
8. Foster Moreau (LSU)
9. Tyler Petite (USC)
10. Irv Smith (Alabama)
11. Matt Sokol (Michigan State)
12. Tommy Sweeney (Boston College)
13. Brandon Fritts (UNC)
14. Jacob Breeland (Oregon)
15. Mitchell Wilcox (USF)
Potential riser: Joey Magnifico (Memphis)
2020 prospect to monitor: Hunter Bryant (Washington)
- I haven’t bounced this idea off an NFL insider or anything, but I feel pretty confident in writing that Noah Fant would have been the first TE off the board this spring had he been eligible. The 6-foot-5, 241-pound Fant is an athletic freak who set a pair of team positional records in spring testing with a 41.1-inch vertical jump and a 3.95-second short shuttle. Speed and strength are also strengths, if his tape is telling the truth, and we already know he has awesome hands. This matchup nightmare only really has questions about his blocking ability, an area Kirk Ferentz and crew will continue to work on. After hauling in 11 touchdown catches and leading the nation’s TEs with 16.5 yards per catch last year, Fant is about to embark on his national coming out party.
- Speaking of coming out parties, Kaden Smith (6’5/259) is super stoked that Dalton Schultz is now trying to fit into Jason Witten’s oversized sneaks. Alone atop Stanford’s TE usage preference list, Smith should post strong numbers in Stanford’s pro-style offense as defenses key on Bryce Love. A former top-100 overall recruit with a jumbo-receiver game, Smith is a natural who makes up for a lack of elite athleticism with polished receiving skill. Smith isn’t Fant’s equal as a receiver, but he’s a better blocker.
- Albert Okwuegbunam provides a handy pronunciation primer on his Twitter page. It’s Oak-woo-aye-boo-nom. At this time last year, I’d never heard of him. But Okwuegbunam quickly asserted himself as one of Drew Lock’s favorite receivers, posting a 29-415-11 line. His delayed seam route in the red zone was so deadly that it got a shout out in his school bio. A huge target (6’5/260), Okwuegbunam needs to show that he can produce against elite defenses (read: elite defenders) in 2018. Like Lock, Okwuegbunam had very little production against the good defenses Missouri played (he had only five catches combined in the seven games against South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee; the vast majority of his production came in the four games against Idaho, UConn, Vandy and Arkansas).
- Caleb Wilson was enjoying an enormous breakout year—a 38-490-1 line through five games—before a season-ending injury. The USC transfer is a jumbo receiver who needs to add weight (6’5/235). Wilson’s father Chris was a two-time All-American at Oklahoma who was drafted in 1992—Chris is now an NFL position coach.
- Isaac Nauta and Alize Mack were each highly-touted who have yet to break out. As in the NFL, tight end is a slow developing position at the collegiate level. I remain bullish on each of these guys. Georgia and Notre Dame each lost a ton of offensive firepower over the offseason, giving each Nauta and Mack the opportunity to become larger parts of their respective passing offenses. Mack better hope QB Brandon Wimbush has made huge strides as a thrower.
- C.J. Conrad returned to school after suffering a November Lisfranc injury to his left foot. He caught 16 balls for 286 yards and four touchdowns last season before going down.
- Foster Moreau (6’6/255) is a big tight end with a well-rounded game. Hoping to see him utilized in the passing game more this fall.
- Does the name Irv Smith ring a bell? He’s the son of the former New Orleans Saints first-round tight end of the same name. Smith hasn’t broken out at the collegiate level yet, but that may be coming this fall as Alabama redistributes Calvin Ridley’s touches and upgrades behind center from Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa.
1. Greg Little (Ole Miss)
2. Trey Adams (Washington)
3. Jonah Williams (Alabama)
4. David Edwards (Wisconsin)
5. Mitch Hyatt (Clemson)
6. Alaric Jackson (Iowa)
7. Yodny Cajuste (West Virginia)
8. Isaiah Prince (Ohio State)
9. Bobby Evans (Oklahoma)
10. Jawaan Taylor (Florida)
11. Andre Dillard (Washington State)
12. Tariq Cole (Rutgers)
13. Max Scharping (Northern Illinois)
14. Kaleb McGary (Washington)
15. Daniel Cooney (San Diego)
Potential riser: Prince Tega Wanogho (Auburn)
2020 prospect to monitor: Walker Little (Stanford)
- Greg Little, the No. 3 overall player in the 2016 class, is the most talented OL in the 2019 class. A superb athlete for a 6-foot-6, 332-pounder, Little will draw a grade higher than any tackle in the 2018 class if he continues to develop as he has.
- Trey Adams (6’8/327) decided to return to school after missing half of last year with a knee injury. He may have been a first-rounder had he declared.
- David Edwards was an option quarterback in high school. Like Brian O’Neill, he’s experienced an incredible transformation since entering college.
- Mitch Hyatt has been boringly awesome his entire career. He was a First-team freshman All-American by Sporting News and USA Today as a true frosh, a first-team All-ACC pick by the media as a sophomore and a First-team All-American by ESPN and Sporting News as a junior.
- Alaric Jackson is a long (6’7/320), freaky athlete playing for a school that sends offensive linemen to the NFL seemingly every year. Jackson was suspended for the Pinstripe Bowl last year because of an unspecified violation of team rules. If he stays out of trouble and continues to develop, he could be special. Keep in mind: Jackson is a redshirt sophomore who has three years of development left, if he wants them.
- Prince Tega Wanogho, who hails from Nigeria, was benched last season. He’s exceedingly raw, but boy is Auburn’s coaching staff high on him. “The biggest thing, first of all, he’s a gift guy," OL coach J.B. Grimes said. "He’s got all of the ability (but) the biggest thing with him is he’s got to learn how to use his hands better.” Said HC Gus Malzahn in March: “A light has come on. Prince's ceiling is very high. He's very talented.” Hopefully we see improvement on the field this fall.
1. Beau Benzschawel (Wisconsin)
2. Hjalte Froholdt (Arkansas)
3. Michael Deiter (Wisconsin)
4. Nate Herbig (Stanford)
5. Martez Ivey (Florida)
6. Alex Bars (Notre Dame)
7. Michael Jordan (Ohio State)
8. Ben Powers (Oklahoma)
9. Brandon Fanaika (Stanford)
10. Chris Lindstrom (Boston College)
11. Damian Prince (Maryland)
12. Lester Cotton (Alabama)
13. Garrett Brumfield (LSU)
14. Ben Bredeson (Michigan)
15. Garrett McGhin (East Carolina)
Potential riser: Marcus Keyes (Oklahoma State)
2020 prospect to monitor: Trey Smith (Tennessee)
- Note: I tried like heck to get Larry Allen III (Harvard) onto this list, but ended up narrowly omitting him. Allen is the son of NFL Hall of Famer Larry Allen. Too many question marks at present time as Allen withdrew from school last year and skipped the 2017 season. No reason was given. He’s apparently back and could work his way up draft boards with a strong campaign.
- Beau Benzschawel is one heck of a run blocker, and he’s no slouch in pass protection. Benzschawel (6’6/322) provides length and experience at tackle. His best NFL fit is as a mauling run blocker on the interior.
- Hjalte Froholdt and Frank Ragnow wrecked SEC interior defensive lines last year on a bad Arkansas team. Now, Ragnow is in the NFL and the Hogs are underdoing a dramatic offensive change from Bret Bielema’s smashmouth, run-heavy schema to Chad Morris’ Clemson-esque uptempo spread. It’s Froholdt’s time to step into the spotlight. Expect him to dominate.
- Michael Deiter plays RT for the Badgers, but he may not have quite enough athleticism to hang outside. His special sauce is blasting opponents off the line in the run game. He could be a nasty NFL guard.
- Nate Herbig is a monstrous 6-foot-4, 350-pounder from Hawaii. He started half of the team’s games as a freshman and earned All-Pac-12 first team honors last year as a sophomore.
- A former elite recruit, Martez Ivey has underwhelmed while bouncing around positionally in Gainesville. The athleticism and upside remain. They may play best inside. But we need to see him put his skillset together and at long last dominate in 2018. I’m getting sick of vouching for him without results.
- Alex Bars is also looking like a guy who will kick inside at the next level. The 6-foot-6, 318-pounder started at RT across from Mike McGlinchey last year. He started a few games at guard in place of an injured Quenton Nelson as a redshirt freshman.
- Damian Prince started 11 games at right tackle last season and led the Big Ten in pass-blocking efficiency, per Pro Football Focus. At 6’3/315, he’s headed inside to guard at the next level. Ty Johnson loves running behind him.
- Chris Lindstrom (6’4/305) is another collegiate tackle that may benefit from a move inside in the NFL.
- I’m cheating by including Trey Smith with the guards. He did play some guard last year as a true freshman, but he also started at tackle. He was expected to be Tennessee’s left tackle in 2018 before a medical condition was discovered that placed him out indefinitely. Reading the tealeaves, it doesn’t appear as though the Vols are concerned that Smith’s availability for the start of the 2018 season will be compromised. Even so, this is a situation that should be monitored. Smith was the No. 1 OL in the class of 2017.
1. Dalton Risner (Kansas State)
2. Ross Pierschbacher (Alabama)
3. Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)
4. Connor McGovern (Penn State)
5. Sam Mustipher (Notre Dame)
6. Jesse Burkett (Stanford)
7. Toa Lobendahn (USC)
8. Nick Linder (Indiana)
9. Alec Eberle (Florida State)
10. Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State)
11. Jake Hanson (Oregon)
12. Sean Rawlings (Ole Miss)
13. Addison Ooms (California)
14. Adam Holtorf (Kansas State)
15. Sean Krepsz (Nevada)
Potential riser: Jordan Johnson (UCF)
2020 prospect to monitor: Ben Petrula (Boston College)
- Dalton Risner has the position versatility to potentially play all five positions. He might be the best inside as a long pivot player. Risner earned freshman All-American honors in 2015 as a 13-game starting center. Each of the past two years, he’s plied his trade at RT. He was a 2017 First Team All-American pick by Pro Football Focus. Keep an eye on his health. Risner has shoulder problems. He’s admitted publicly that he’s played through pain in his left shoulder since his sophomore season. He then hurt his right shoulder as a junior and also suffered a high-ankle sprain in Week 2 against Charlotte.
- Ross Pierschbacher has started at guard each of the past few seasons, but he’s expected to kick inside to center to replace Bradley Bozeman in 2018.
- We only have one year of tape on Tyler Biadasz, but he was an absolute stud in 2017. He anchors what may be the nation’s nastiest offensive line.
- Indiana made a big free agent acquisition when it won Nick Linder's services. A grad transfer from Miami, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound Linder started 26 games for the Hurricanes before leaving the program prior to last season. He sat out the campaign and finished off his undergraduate studies. Linder has two shoulder surgeries in his past. If healthy, he immediately becomes one of the Big 10's best centers.
- Sean Krepsz, a Washington State transfer, is an enormous 6-foot-5, 325-pounder with a mean streak.