We’re less than three weeks away from the first night of the 2018 NFL Draft which is expected to be a franchise defining moment for the New York Jets.
Who are the top 10 players in this class that should hear their names called on April 26th? Who do they compare to or what is their expected floor vs. ceiling?
Let’s break it down.
1) Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Since I began evaluating prospects in 2013, Nelson is the best interior offensive lineman coming out of college that I’ve ever watched. Not only does he rarely ever lose a snap, but the way he finishes plays at times is jaw dropping.
Quenton Nelson out in front…good luck with that pic.twitter.com/dxGtB2p42o
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) September 17, 2017
It’s not exciting to have a guard of all positions as the top ranked player in a class, but he’s earned this honor with years of spectacular tape and impressive measurables.
As previously stated, I’ve never seen a guard of his caliber to fairly compare him to, but his floor is an above average starter while his ceiling is a multi-time All-Pro.
2) Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Barkley is one of the most electric offensive weapons we’ve seen in recent years, which is impressive when you look at players like Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott highlighting recent classes.
The term offensive weapon is the best way to describe Barkley, who impacts the game as a runner, pass catcher and even return man.
This cut and then extra gear from Saquon Barkley – whew pic.twitter.com/pz3ilDbZdb
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 12, 2017
The comparison I came up with? Prepare yourself…
Pro player comparison: LaDainian Tomlinson
While at first this was stylistically, the testing numbers helped confirm it. Barkley ran a 4.4 forty-yard dash at the NFL Combine, posted a 41 inch vertical and 4.24 20-yard shuttle.
As for Tomlinson? At the Combine in 2001 he ran a 4.43 forty-yard dash, posted a 40.5 inch vertical and clocked a 4.21 20-yard shuttle.
3) Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The signal caller of this class that checks all of the boxes on film: size, vision, accuracy, arm strength and the ability to hit all three levels with touch consistently.
We get so caught up in the other nonsense that I think we undervalue how impressive of a QB Josh Rosen really is – under 3 mins left, down 11 pic.twitter.com/TZ86zmvcXr
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) January 30, 2018
Josh Rosen is a polarizing prospect for many teams as they ponder how he will take to NFL coaching, but the reward could be tremendous. He’s NFL ready and could be a top ten passer by year two or three, which warrants his standing in the top three.
Pro player comparison: Eli Manning
4) Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C. State
A powerful and explosive threat off the edge, Chubb brings an alpha demeanor to any defense with an extremely high motor to wreak havoc. No rep is ever lost by Chubb for a lack of effort and over the course of his four year career at N.C. State he got consistently better each season.
I believe he could play with his hand in the dirt or standing up at the next level, making him a versatile threat that teams picking in the top six will covet. If the Browns pass on him with the fourth overall pick, there’s no way he makes it beyond the Colts at sixth overall.
Pro player comparison: Olivier Vernon
5) Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Arguably one of the biggest risers throughout the 2017 season, Smith was the most impressive player on a loaded Georgia defense. His range is elite, with instincts and athleticism to match.
Roquan Smith vs option in slo-mo – he covers more ground with ease than any LB prospect I've ever seen (5th ranked player overall) pic.twitter.com/x92oVMJi8S
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) April 6, 2018
The linebacker position has become slightly undervalued in the draft over this past half decade, but Smith will be a game changing addition for any defense.
Pro player comparison: Patrick Willis
6) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
One of the more polarizing prospects in recent years, Baker Mayfield’s ascension to the near-top of this class has been incredible to watch. After deciding to return for his Senior season rather than declaring for the 2017 draft (where he would’ve been selected in the 3rd-5th round range), it’s been a consistent climb upward.
With top notch arm strength despite being undersized, playmaking ability and intangibles as a team leader Mayfield has cemented himself a top-5 pick. The question is, will the Jets shock the world and select him at three?
Floor/Ceiling: Case Keenum/Russell Wilson
7) Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
One of a handful of versatile safeties in this class, Fitzpatrick’s talent tops them all. His instincts, cover skills and ability to thrive in the box stands out.
This is a layup for Minkah Fitzpatrick, who truly looks to be playing at a different gear than the opposition majority of the time: pic.twitter.com/CZCPO5IFwq
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) January 5, 2018
A multi-year impact player for the Crimson Tide dynasty, Fitzpatrick can have a similar rookie impact for a team that Jamal Adams did for the Jets last year. He can cover tight ends, blitz, shutdown the outside and inside run, as well as cover ground in zone coverage. He should be a top-ten lock.
Pro player comparison: Antrel Rolle
8) Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The size concerns have been beaten to the ground over Ward, which goes to show you how flawless his actual game is.
His ability to mirror receivers combined with elite athleticism for the position makes him the top cornerback of a very impressive group (Mike Hughes and Josh Jackson sit in my top 15 overall).
It's hard to complete a pass on Denzel Ward, but he's an impressive tackler when it happens – minimizes yardage consistently pic.twitter.com/eyfzkt9Lkb
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) January 5, 2018
While the interception numbers don’t jump off the screen (two in 2017), he’s very good at playing the ball in the air.
With a premium put on cornerback, Ward is a top-15 lock and expected to be the first taken from his position group.
Pro player comparison: Adam ‘Pacman’ Jones
9) Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Before the 2017 college football season began, I pondered if Saquon Barkley was a lock to be a better prospect than Derius Guice. While he certainly finished that way, the gap isn’t as drastic as the national media implies in my opinion.
You can feel the soul leave the body…just wait for it pic.twitter.com/lhbvq00afx
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) March 8, 2018
Power, agility, leg drive and relentlessness are just a handful of the qualities that make Guice a special runner. He won’t impact the game as a pass catcher at the caliber Barkley does, but he can still be productive there.
He gets a first round grade and can be one of the biggest instant impact rookies for the 2018 season.
Floor/Ceiling: Mark Ingram/Marshawn Lynch
10) Derwin James, S, Florida State
It’s a shame Derwin James missed essentially his entire sophomore campaign as his career for the Seminoles could’ve been a special one. Even with that being said, he looked back to full form the second half of this season.
Much like Fitzpatrick, James is a versatile defensive back with excellent character that can help change the identity of a defense. He’s tremendous in man coverage and a physical downhill presence. It wouldn’t shock me to hear his name called in the top eight selections.
Pro player comparison: Kam Chancellor
Photo Credit: NFL.com