We’ve reached the end of the college football regular season, and with it, the last time my list of the Top - 10 draft prospects will change for a while. Meanwhile, the New York Giants hold the second overall pick in the 2018 draft.
The next big change in the list won’t be until we know which underclassmen will be declaring for the NFL draft and which will be returning to school for the 2018 season.
But for now, here are my rankings after Championship Weekend.
1 - Baker Mayfield (QB, Oklahoma)
2- Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
3 - Quenton Nelson (OG, Notre Dame)
4 - Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)
5 - Minkah Fitzpatrick (DB, Alabama)
6 - Bryce Love (RB, Stanford)
One “small” change at the top of my list, and that is (finally) moving Baker Mayfield above Saquon Barkley.
This is, in part, recognition of the importance of quarterbacks, but it is also recognition of how consistently well Mayfield has played this year. He has stepped up his game since returning for his senior season, playing with poise, efficiency, and complete command of his offense. The result is that Mayfield has had (arguably) the best season by a quarterback in NCAA history.
I’ll let others write think pieces about whether or not his brash competitiveness will scare front offices away, or whether or not he can overcome his height. I’m comfortable saying that, right now, he is at the top of my board.
My thoughts on the other five players haven’t changed since the last iteration of the Top - 10.
7 - Roquon Smith (LB, Georgia)
Smith was instrumental in Georgia’s win over Auburn to punch their (and Alabama’s) ticket into the College Football Playoffs. Smith is all over the field and has an impact in run defense, pass coverage, and the pass rush. He is probably the best (non EDGE) linebacker in the draft.
8 - Maurice Hurst (DT, Michigan)
There have been several defensive tackles to appear on this list, and of the top 3, Christian Wilkins is still probably the most well-rounded. However, the NFL likes pass rushers, and interior rushers are definitely a commodity. Hurst is undersized (listed at 6’2,” 282) but very athletic and has been a consistent presence in opponents’ backfields. Over the last two years he has collected 24.5 tackles for a loss (11.0 and 13.5 respectively), and 10.5 sacks (5 and 5.5 respectively).
9 - Lamar Jackson (QB, Louisville)
Jackson slides down the board ever so slightly, but that is more a result of the play of other players and not Jackson’s. He is still electric and exciting. He has shown more growth as a passer (and filling out that frame so many worried about) than most expected from him his season. I still consider him a “boom or bust” prospect, but that’s because I think he, more than other QB prospects, needs to land in the right situation to fully realize his potential. But if he does, watch out.
10 - Denzel Ward (CB, Ohio State)
Another newcomer to the list, Ward might be the top cornerback in the draft. A bit thin, he still uses his length, oily hips, and quick feet well in press coverage, while also being able in zone coverage. He isn’t great at hauling in the interception, but has a knack for denying the reception with 24 passes defensed over the last two seasons (15 in 2017).