In doing so, the Giants are look like a team destined to be drafting in the top five of the 2018 draft, and its almost difficult to see them drafting outside of the top three. As the regular season of college football enters its final weeks, there has been some movement on the Top 10 list.
1 - Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
I have almost been tempted to move Barkley down the list.
He has not been producing up to the standard he set for himself over the previous year and a half. Barkley doesn’t always have huge rushing days, but he usually produced big numbers in terms of total impact moving the football as a rusher, receiver, and returner. That versatility and ability to create both hidden yardage for the offense as well as impact the offense carrying the ball, catching the ball, and as a pass protector — to be a complete, four - down play-maker — is what earned him the top spot on this list.
However, he has failed to do that of late, but instead of blaming Barkley as (a bit of) fool’s gold, I think he is being held back by the rest of Penn State. In many ways Barkley is similar to Odell Beckham Jr., for the Giants. He is a generational talent, surrounded by a mediocre supporting cast. While his brilliance can elevate the team and mask its deficiencies, he can only do so much when an entire defense focuses on not letting him beat them. Penn State’s offensive line does him no favors (and all too frequently the opposite).
I still believe that Barkley is the most talented player in this draft and could be a game-changer in an offense with players like OBJ, Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and an offensive line that can run block well enough for Orleans Darkwa to average more than five yards per carry.
2 - Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
With Barkley fading, Mayfield has become the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, and he has done it with some spectacular play. His performance against Oklahoma State was attention grabbing, but completing 18-of-27 passes, for 333 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions in a convincing win over TCU deserves at least as much recognition. While Oklahoma State has a potent offense, they don’t have much of a defense. That isn’t true of TCU, who fielded the 13th-ranked total defense and were 8th in scoring defense, giving up just under 16 points per game before this weekend. He also beat Ohio State’s defensive front of future NFL players in Ohio State in the second game of the year.
I also have to give Mayfield credit for taking an ugly-looking shot to his right leg on a botched read-option play that saw his leg bend in two directions at once, and getting up. He couldn’t drive off his leg for a while after that and it affected his passes, but he played through it and earned some definite “Toughness” points.
There will still be some who think that Mayfield isn’t the best quarterback in the draft because he is too short. Personally, I don’t have any time for heightists.
3 - Quenton Nelson (OG, Notre Dame)
It might be a bit odd to move Nelson all the way up to the third spot on the list after a game in which Josh Adams rushed for just 40 yards (2.5 per carry). However, a poor game doesn’t invalidate a body of work, and from what I saw, Nelson remains a beast.
The point of scouting at this time of year is that you get to watch tape without the influence of measurables — which are a useful tool in it’s place, but shouldn’t over-rule gametape. Nelson is one of the very best pure football players in the country, and certainly in this draft. He’s a complete lineman with power, agility, technique, and a nasty streak a mile wide. “Positional Value” might dictate that he isn’t a Top-5 prospect, but Brandon Scherff was drafted fifth overall as a guard and Nelson is the superior player.
4 - Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)
Fitzpatrick slips slightly as Nelson jumps from fifth to third in the rankings. This isn’t really a knock on Fitzpatrick. If anything, I’m a bit higher on him now than in previous weeks.
A story emerged this week about the New Jersey native from when he was just a high school recruit committed to playing football for Alabama. The story goes that instead of taking his final high school spring break off, he went down to Alabama for the week. There he watched practice, followed coaches and players around, and asked questions so he could be ready to join the team. It speaks to the type of young man he is, and that kind of dedication and work ethic score very highly with me.
5 - Bradley Chubb (DE, North Carolina State)
Like Fitzpatrick, Chubb slides down as Nelson moves up, but also like Fitzpatrick, that isn’t a knock on Chubb. He is probably the top edge rusher and defensive end in the draft. Everything I’ve said before about him in past weeks is still true. He has prototypical size, power, athleticism, flexibility, and a knack for blowing up offensive plays
6 - Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Jackson was, briefly, off the list last week, but he is still an electric player and one of the most talented in the country.
He has shown improved throwing mechanics and accuracy, raising his completion percentage by four points without significantly decreasing his yards per attempt. All the while he maintains his unique ability to run the ball or throw frozen ropes on the run. Jackson might be a “boom or bust” QB prospect, and certainly at least something of a project at the next level, but his potential makes it worth it.
7 - Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
Love just keeps on producing.
He doesn’t do much as a receiver, with just five catches on the season, but as a runner his silky-smooth style seems to be impossible for defenses to stop. In a game against Washington that the Giants attended, Love ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns, bringing his season totals up to 1,622 yards and 15 touchdowns.
8 - Joshua Jackson (CB, Iowa)
Jackson is a bit raw in some of the finer points of playing the cornerback position, but he is a play-maker, pure and simple. After forcing his way on to the Top 10 with a three- interception day against Ohio State, he (arguably) bettered it this past week. Against Wisconsin he forced another three turnovers, this time returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns while also forcing a fumble. Oh, and he also had another pass defensed, bringing his total on the season up to 16.
9 - Derwin James (S, Florida State)
Not much has changed for James. He had a solid statistical day against Clemson, recording nine total tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a pass defensed. The big, explosive DB does a little bit of everything for Florida State, but I think he will ultimately be a safety at the next level.
10 - Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (EDGE, Oklahoma)
A newcomer to the list, Okoronkwo hasn’t gotten much press thanks to an injury history and playing on a bad defense. However, he is one of the top speed rushers in the draft. He is a bona fide problem off the edge and over the last 23 games he has 28 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks, as well as five passes defensed and five forced fumbles. Listed at 6’1,” 240 pounds, he is probably limited to playing outside (rush) linebacker at the next level, but he looks as though he will be disruptive.