NFL Hot Press: The Elite Prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft

The Elite Prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft

Updated Nov. 22, 2017
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

Every year in the NFL draft, there are a few elite prospects who stand out as true blue-chip talents – very rare and special prospects. In most years, that group is around five players give or take a little, and to find out who the elite prospects are for the 2018 NFL Draft, reached out to sources from across the league to see who the consensus elite prospects are for the 2018 NFL Draft. Here are the players sources were in near-unanimous agreement over:

  • Penn State running back Saquon Barkley
  • LSU defensive end Arden Key
  • N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb
  • Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson
  • Florida State safety Derwin James
  • Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick

  • There were some evaluators who had minor criticisms of some of those players. One director of college scouting said they didn’t think Chubb was elite and was more of an upgraded version of Derek Barnett, who the Philadelphia Eagles took in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

    One national scout, one area scout and one director of college scouting said that while they would include James in this group, they all felt independently that he has some problems in coverage as a deep center fielder. They questioned his ball skills and felt he had coverage limitations for the NFL. One thought James might grow into a linebacker and could end up being a taller, faster version of Mark Barron, a bust for Tampa Bay as a safety, but who has become a decent linebacker for the Rams.

    Everyone agreed that Nelson was elite. Because of his position, however, he may not go as high. Most teams value guards later. That being said, sources have said that Nelson has graded out higher than Logan Mankins or Brandon Scherff did. Mankins was a first-rounder back in the 2005 NFL Draft, while Scherff was a top-five pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. One longtime national scout said that Nelson was definitely the best guard he has ever scouted.

    There were also a few players who were suggested to be added into the elite group. One NFC general manager and one AFC general manager said they would include UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen among the elite prospects of the 2018 NFL Draft. They felt his arm talent, natural throwing motion, and pocket-passing skills were very rare and special.

    One college director said they would include Washington nose tackle Vita Vea in the elite group. They felt that he was elite and special as a nose tackle, but also has the length to play defensive end, similar to Haloti Ngata. They felt that Vea was better than Danny Shelton, but like guard, nose tackle gets downgraded, so Vea will go lower because of his position. Others including the AFC general manager said they would not include Vea as an elite prospect.

    As the draft process evolves, there could be players who are added or subtracted as consensus elite prospects. However as we near the end of college football’s regular season, the above six players were considered to be the rare and special players according to our survey of area scouts, national scouts, directors of college scouting and some general managers.