The 2018 NFL Draft is upon us and draft analysts are scrambling trying to figure out where players are going to get drafted. A lot of mock drafts and big boards have similar top players, but here are Plainsman sports writer Zach Tantillo's thoughts on potential sleepers and players who could become household names for years to come.
QB: Josh Rosen (UCLA)
Rosen has arguably the best mechanics out of all the quarterbacks in this year’s draft and is the most comfortable in the pocket. The UCLA product has the accuracy to make almost any throw he needs and the willingness to make those throws. Rosen’s footwork in the pocket has gotten high praise from scouts and draft analysts, along with his ability to stand in the pocket and deliver a throw under pressure. When being blitzed Rosen completed 63 percent of his passes in 2017. Durability and coachability issues stall Rosen’s hype, but his talent will make him a hot commodity in the draft.
RB: Sony Michel (Georgia)
Yeah Saquon Barkley is the clear best running back and has the potential to be one of the better running backs in the entire league immediately, but Sony Michel has the ability and versatility to be the steal of the draft. Even splitting time with Nick Chubb, Michel displayed his talents that would land him as a starter on almost any other team in college football. Michel tallied up 1,227 yards with 16 touchdowns in the 2017 season and was huge for the Bulldogs in the playoffs. Even splitting time with Nick Chubb landed Michel third on the all-time Georgia rushing list, ahead of Todd Gurley.
CB: Denzel Ward (OSU), Josh Jackson (Iowa)
In recent years, Ohio State has shown that they develop top quality defensive backs and this year is no different. Denzel Ward displayed great coverage skills as the main guy for the Buckeyes, but his natural talent and speed really led him throughout college. The one concern scouts have with Ward is his lack of strength and size and that could get him bullied at the next level against bigger receivers. Despite his size, scouts and GM’s love him. Ward will follow in the footsteps of the other former Ohio State defensive backs Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, Eli Apple and Malik Hooker and hear his name called in the first round.
Josh Jackson is a bit more of a wild card as he only had one solid year under his belt. The thing that stands out is how big that year was. Jackson balled out with eight interceptions and 18 pass deflections in 2017. Jackson has the ball skills to be a deadly corner in the NFL one day, but a big fear from scouts is that he might be a one-year wonder.
Safety: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama), Derwin James (FSU)
There is not much more you can say about Minkah Fitzpatrick besides that he is the most versatile player in the draft. He plays with high intensity and he is somehow always around the ball. Being coached by Nick Saban also does not hurt with his development. Fitzpatrick can play safety, corner and linebacker with no problem.
Derwin James has the prototypical build for a NFL safety in today’s game. James needs to improve his coverage skills in order to reach his potential. The Florida State product is best used in run support and flying around the field being physical with receivers. If he lands at the right situation to groom him as a cover safety, he could become a nightmare for quarterbacks and receivers.