Cleveland's M.O. in the last two drafts was passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson to trade down. Considering the current regime also passed on Dak Prescott, the evaluation skills of Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta, Andrew Berry and Hue Jackson are damning. I have been hearing chatter from scouts around the league that the Browns are going to clean house again. A new regime would definitely look to take its own quarterback. Even if the franchise doesn't clean house, DeShone Kizer hasn't done enough to convince the team he's the future. If Cleveland takes a rookie quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft and he has some success next season, that might be enough to buy the current regime some more time.
In 2017, Rosen has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,515 yards with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The junior has been up-and-down this season with highs and lows, including a concussion. He had a legendary performance in UCLA's 2017 season opener versus Texas A&M, leading one of the greatest comeback wins in college football history, turning a 44-10 third-quarter deficit into a 45-44 win.
Of the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft, Rosen has the best mechanics and is the most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it with his powerful arm. Rosen's tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. The 6-foot-4, 210-pounder has serious arm talent with field vision and pocket presence. Scouts who did advance work on the 2018 prospects told me that Rosen has questionable intangibles with how he gets along with his teammates and his leadership skills for the NFL.
Rosen had an impressive debut as a freshman in 2015, completing 60 percent of his passes for 3,670 yards with 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. As a sophomore, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 1,915 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games before suffering a season-ending injury.
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John Lynch traded for Jimmy Garoppolo, and the 49ers would not have paid the high price for him without believing he's their long-term starter. Now that quarterback is settled, here's a perfect running back for Kyle Shanahan's offense.
Barkley is a tough runner with an amazing burst. The 5-foot-11, 223-pounder has devastating first-step quickness to hit the hole and accelerate downfield. Along with great speed, Barkley has tremendous balance, vision, cutting ability, elusiveness and power. He also is a receiving threat who presents mismatch problems for a defense in the passing attack. Barkley is an elite running back prospect in the same mold of Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley, and better than Ezekiel Elliott. Unless Barkley has an injury or off-the-field issue, he's a lock to be a top-10 pick next April.
In 2017, Barkley is averaging 5.8 yards per carry for 1,057 yards with 14 touchdowns. He has 46 receptions for 590 yards and three touchdowns as a receiver. The sophomore averaged 5.5 yards per carry last year for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. Barkley was very impressive as a freshman in 2015 when he averaged 5.9 yards per carry for 1,076 yards with seven touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 161 yards and a score. Barkley was very impressive, running for 194 yards on 26 carries against an Ohio State defense loaded with NFL talent.
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Unless Davis Webb has really impressed them behind the scenes, the Giants would probably look to grab their heir apparent to Eli Manning if they end up picking this high in the 2018 NFL Draft.
In 2017, Jackson has completed 60 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is averaging 6.8 yards per carry on the ground on his way to 1,287 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns. Some team sources think that Jackson is worthy of being a top-10 pick and will rise in the leadup to the draft, similar to Pat Mahomes. One general manager told me they think Jackson could end up going No. 1 overall because he's a taller and better version of Michael Vick.
Jackson has a great athletic skill set, including a powerful arm that can make all throws the NFL requires and some rare passes. While his tremendous running ability gets a lot of attention, Jackson is better passing from the pocket than he is given credit for. Jackson will take some shots and deliver good passes in the face of the rush. He also handles Bobby Petrino's scheme well. Jackson can be inconsistent with his accuracy, and he needs to add weight to his frame for the NFL. He also needs to develop maturity in his leadership skills as he can be of one of the guys too much.
Jackson (6-3, 205) set college football on fire in 2016 while winning the Heisman Trophy. He was a massive point-producer for the Cardinals. Jackson completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,543 yards with 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions on the year. He also ran for 21 touchdowns and 1,571 yards while averaging six yards per carry.
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As I reported in the Hot Press, the Broncos are aggressively scouting the top quarterback prospects for the 2018 NFL Draft. Denver misses out on Jackson and Rosen in this mock, but I think the organization would be very happy to land Darnold.
In 2017, Darnold has completed 63 percent of his passes for 3,462 yards with 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. A general manager, who has scouted Darnold in person this year, told me that he likes the "it factor" that Darnold displays. That general manager thinks there's nothing wrong with Darnold's throwing motion or arm strength, and that Darnold has some similarities to Philip Rivers. Other scouts feel that Darnold is a good prospect with the ability to be a plus starter, but they don't think he's elite, and on tape, they say he is not better than Mitch Trubisky or Deshaun Watson were before the 2017 NFL Draft.
This fall, Darnold has had issues with interceptions and decision-making. He also has admitted to having issues with confidence. Darnold is an accurate passer without an elite skill set, but he has developed good anticipation, feel and timing. Darnold is a rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. Sources are telling me that they're hearing Darnold wants to return to USC next year rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft, but he is getting a lot of pressure to enter the draft.
Darnold was very impressive as a redshirt freshman in 2016 and impressed evaluators even though he wasn't being graded yet. Along with a quality skill set, teams like his intangibles and moxie. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. The 6-4, 225-pounder led USC on a nine-game winning streak to end that season.
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The Colts grab a difference-maker for their pass rush with a player to build their defense around.
Key is a fast edge rusher with a ton of upside to develop. Sources have told me that the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder loves football and is a hard-worker who strives to improve in the offseason. They said he has worked with pass-rushing-moves guru Chuck Smith, and that is impressive dedication for a collegiate player. Key missed the first two games of 2017 and was eased back into action in Week 3 against Mississippi State. He had three tackles and a half-sack against the Bulldogs. Key also had a game-clinching sack against Auburn. He played well taking on Alabama, having his way with both offensive tackles. Thus far this season, Key has 33 tackles with four sacks and a forced fumble.
In 2016, Key was one of the best players in college football. He recorded 56 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up on the year. Key is a dangerous pass-rusher with excellent speed and the ability to bend around the corner. He flashed a ton of potential as a freshman for LSU, totaling 41 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, five sacks and one pass broken up.
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Chicago could use more receiving help for Mitch Trubisky, but that would be a significant reach with the sixth pick. Of the options available, the Bears grab a difference-maker at safety to pair with Quintin Demps.
James has 52 tackles with 10 passes batted and two interceptions in 2017. While he didn't put together flawless performances against Alabama and N.C. State this season, they were impressive overall. James was healthy and able to display his great instincts and rare combination of great size, speed, physicality and versatility. He played dime linebacker, nickel corner, free safety and strong safety, basically doing everything a coach could ask of him. The one steady problem James has had this season is some painful missed tackles, and he could have some limitations deep downfield, but he still is a tremendous strong safety with versatility.
James totaled 11 tackles and an interception through two games in 2016 before sustaining a season-ending knee injury. He had been playing well for Florida State. Entering last season, there was a lot of hype that James was an elite player and perhaps the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles, but zero interceptions.
The 6-foot-3, 211-pounder has a great athletic skill set with tremendous speed, instincts, and strength to hit. He shows the ability to do everything an NFL safety is needed to do. James is fast and long with coverage skills in the deep middle of the field. He also is strong enough to be the eighth man in the box and tackle.
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The Chargers have had a weakness at safety since Eric Weddle left in free agency. Here's a solution for Los Angeles.
Fitzpatrick has 44 tackles, one interception, six passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. He has played really well, doing everything that could be asked of a safety. Fitzpatrick is a superb center fielder, covering receivers deep downfield. He is also fast in pursuit, tackles well in space at the second level, can come down into the box, and is able to play man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers, plus help out his cornerbacks. The 6-foot-1, 203-pounder has excellent size and some natural cover skills. Sources have said that Fitzpatrick is a prototypical free safety for the NFL. They say he has good size, speed, athletic ability and high football I.Q. in a play-maker.
In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. He was dominant at times for Alabama, splitting time between corner and safety. Fitzpatrick had a superb 2015 season for the Crimson Tide. The freshman totaled 45 tackles with two sacks, 11 passes broken up and two interceptions - both returned for a touchdowns.
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This is high for a guard, but Nelson is among the top prospects in this draft class. Cincinnati's offensive line has been a real weakness this season, and the team has really missed Kevin Zeitler and Andrew Whitworth. Here's a blocker to pave the way for Joe Mixon for many years to come.
Nelson has been exceptional in 2017, dominating opponents on a weekly basis. He has superb strength to blast open holes and is a true road-grader as a run blocker. As a pass protector, Nelson is very athletic with balance, agility, and quickness to shut down pass-rushers. Some league sources say that Nelson is the highest graded guard they've ever scouted, and that includes the likes of Logan Mankins and David DeCastro.
The 6-foot-5, 325-pound Nelson was dominant in 2016 as well, showing strength at the point of attack to open holes in the ground game and athleticism in pass protection. Last year, teams sources told me that Nelson was receiving first-round grades prior to him deciding to return for his senior year. One general manager told me this fall that they have Nelson as clearly the best guard prospect for the 2018 NFL Draft. They have Nelson as a top-five prospect at any position.
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The front seven was a weakness last year, but Reggie McKenzie addressed the secondary in the first and second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. I think taking Obi Melifonwu over Zach Cunningham was a big mistake. Along with linebacker help, the Raiders' defensive line could use an interior run stuffer and an edge rusher to go across from Khalil Mack. This is a great fit and value for Oakland/Las Vegas.
Chubb has 67 tackles with 24 for a loss, 10 sacks, three forced fumbles and two passes batted on the year. He was awesome against Florida State, making some huge plays to lead N.C. State to a road upset with two sacks, a forced fumble and seven tackles. Chubb is dominating the competition this year and is playing like a top-10 pick.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Chubb has scheme flexibility and is a tough defender for the Wolfpack. He has good quickness for a big defensive end and has shown the ability to get off blocks with his strength and hand usage. Chubb has developed some variety in pass-rushing moves and looks like an asset as a future three-down starter in the NFL. In 2016, he totaled 58 tackles with 22 tackles for a loss, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and one pass batted. As a sophomore in 2015, Chubb collected 5.5 sacks.
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The Cardinals settle for the most flawed first-round quarterback prospect, but if they can show some promise with a young quarterback, it could save the jobs of Bruce Arians and Steve Keim. This regime has had some bad drafts in recent years and is under the gun to find a young franchise quarterback.
At this point, Allen is a skill set, but not a quarterback. He really struggled this season in games against Iowa, Oregon and Hawaii. Allen has displayed his big skill set with size, toughness, athleticism, and a strong arm. There are plays where he looks like a young Ben Roethlisberger, but then there are other plays where he shows bad decision-making and inaccuracy. Allen is a definite work in progress who will need some developmental time. Thus far this season, Allen has completed 56 percent of his passes for 1,658 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has five rushing touchdowns as well.
Allen's completion percentage and interception total from 2016 provide evidence for the developmental assessment, too. He completed 56 percent of his passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year.
Allen (6-5, 222) became a discussed prospect late in the 2016 season, but he wisely decided to return to Wyoming. He has a special skill set, and some draft analysts were projecting him high in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but one general manager told WalterFootball.com that he had Allen as a third-day prospect and thought Allen should improve before going pro. Other team sources that did advance work for National Scouting for the 2018 prospects really liked Allen and compared him to Ben Roethlisberger, so don't be surprised if he is a polarizing prospect. Still, Allen has a great skill set with tons of upside.
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Cleveland needs a true No. 1 receiver for whoever is their starting quarterback. Here's an upgrade.
Ridley has 52 catches for 858 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. He totaled 82 yards on seven receptions with a touchdown against Florida State and its NFL-level secondary. The 6-foot-1, 188-pounder Ridley is capable of producing a lot more, but Alabama's ground-based offense and running quarterback limit his opportunities. If Ridley were playing at a school like West Virginia, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, or pretty much any Big XII school, his production would be off the charts. Ridley has quality height, speed and upside for the NFL. He does have a thinner frame though, and will need to add weight.
In 2016, Ridley made 72 catches for 769 yards with seven touchdowns. He had a tremendous freshman season for the Crimson Tide as the replacement for Amari Cooper. Ridley was very effective in that role with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards with seven touchdowns. He finished the 2015 season with impressive performances against Florida and Michigan State to help push Alabama to the National Championship.
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After missing out on the quarterbacks, the Jets go for an edge rusher to bolster their pass defense.
Clemson has a defensive line that is comprised of future first-round picks, and some sources think that Ferrell creates some of the big plays for the other Clemson defensive linemen. The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ferrell has superb speed with athleticism and the ability to bend around the corner. On the season, he has 54 tackles with 14 tackles for a loss, 7.5 sacks, one pass batted and two forced fumbles. Fellow defensive end Austin Bryant is playing himself into an being early-rounder this year, but Bryant has done well cleaning up a lot of scrambling quarterbacks running away from Ferrell. Ferrell looks like a future first-round pick in the 2018 or 2019 draft.
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The Redskins' top needs are a quarterback - unless Kirk Cousins re-signs, which is unlikely -, defensive front-seven talent, and a safety. Of those needs, adding a quarterback is the most critical issue to address, but all of the quarterbacks are gone. Thus, Washington grabs an upgrade for the front seven.
Vea has 36 tackles, three sacks and three passes batted so far in 2017. The 6-foot-5, 332-pounder was a load at the point of attack for Washington in 2016. He totaled 39 tackles with 6.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, one force fumble and two passes batted on the season. Vea has a serious combination of size, length, strength, and quickness at the point of attack. He is a heavy nose tackle who is a rock against the run and can occasionally collapse the pocket in the pass rush. For the NFL, Vea also has the height and length to play end in a 3-4 defense as well as nose tackle.
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Ward has 26 tackles with 11 passes broken up and an interception in 2017. In the season opener against Indiana, he notched an interception, four tackles and five passes broken up. Ward also was beaten for a touchdown and some other receptions by big Indiana receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. While primarily a backup in 2016, Ward (5-10, 191) totaled 23 tackles with nice passes broken up.
While Ward has some hype suggesting he's as good as his former teammates Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley, he's significantly smaller than them and had issues with a big wideout in Cobbs. In the NFL, Ward might get placed as a nickelback.
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15.Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
The Buccaneers could use an edge rusher to go across from Noah Spence. Bradley Chubb or Arden Key would be a great addition, but the Buccaneers are on track to win too many games to land either Chubb or Key. Tampa Bay could look at the Clemson duo of Clelin Ferrell or Austin Bryant as a nice Plan B.
Scouting sources told me they felt that Bryant has been playing his way into being a first-round-caliber prospect this season. He has been a dynamic speed rusher and a pass-rushing force for one of the best defenses in college football. In 2017, Bryant has 7.5 sacks with 44 tackles, 14.5 for a loss, one interception and two forced fumbles. He added to his sack total against Boston College and was a key contributor to Clemson limiting the Eagles to only seven points. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Bryant is a strong junior year that could have his name being called on the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft.
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The Cowboys could use a third corner to go with Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis.
Webster is a sound cover corner who is very good at running the route and preventing separation. Sources from multiple teams have told me that Webster has been really impressive to them. They think he has first-round potential for the 2018 NFL Draft as a cover corner. The 5-foot-11, 194-pounder has quick feet, ball skills and a competitive attitude, plus he plays fast.
Webster has been locking down receivers this year using his quick feet, twitchy athleticism, and fast foot speed to prevent separation. He has 21 tackles and two passes breakups in 2017, but goes under the radar because Ole Miss is down this season. In 2015, Webster totaled 41 tackles with 11 breakups and an interception. Webster has been impressive in 2017 despite not being 100 percent from an ACL tear and other damage that he sustained in the 2016 season opener, which caused him to miss that entire year.
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