The 2017 college football season is finally, and completely, in the rear-view mirror. Likewise, the 2018 NFL Draft process is not quite into gear yet. So I wanted to take this moment to put out one final iteration of my “Top 10” list.
New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman is known as a personnel evaluator and for grinding through tape. Picking second overall, the Giants will have their pick of (almost) any of these prospects, save only whoever is selected by the Cleveland Browns with the first pick in the draft.
I’ll say right now that nothing has really changed at the top of my list. There are still five prospects on whom I am completely sold — four of them skill position players. But, there have been some changes behind them.
This is only a preliminary ranking, and will surely change as the draft draws closer. There is still plenty of time to analyze, and over analyze all of these young men.
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)
No change at the top of my list from the end of the college football regular season. I will be doing a (frankly) ridiculous amount of work on quarterbacks this year, and my opinion will reflect the information I find, but for now Mayfield is the quarterback on whom I am the most sold and least unsure about.
Barkley, Nelson, Chubb, and Fitzpatrick are all very clean prospects both on and off the field (as far as I know at this point), with the ability to quickly become among the best in the league at their respective positions — assuming they land in favorable situations.
6 - Sam Darnold (QB, USC) - I had been holding the red-shirt sophomore off my list because, quite frankly, I had been expecting him to go back to school. He is the most “boom or bust” option of the quarterbacks on this list, but he showed improvement toward the end of the season. He has a lot of work to do on his mechanics, but Darnold’s flashes of brilliance are hard to ignore.
7 - Bryce Love (RB, Stanford) - Probably the best pure runner in the draft class, Love put up absurd stats in his lone year as Stanford’s starting running back. He falls behind Barkley because he is a pure running back, and hasn’t shown the ability to add as much to a team as Barkley, who was second in FBS in total yardage.
8 - Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA) - Rosen is probably the most pro-ready QB in the draft, and he throws a pretty ball. However I do have some concerns about Rosen. First and foremost, he is slight of build and comes out of college with injury concerns after missing a big chunk of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury and games this past season with various injuries and a pair of concussions. Also, while his mechanics are very good, his accuracy tends to drop off badly on deep throws (paricularly outside the numbers). Considering he will be moving from a fair-weather environment to Giants Stadium, I’d want to be sure of his arm strength.
9 - Da’Ron Payne (DT, Alabama) - There are a few candidates for top DT in the draft, but after watching Payne clog the inside and shut down Nick Chubb in the National Championship Game, Payne holds the title. At least for now, anyway. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Michigan’s Maurice Hurst could wind up taking the crown by draft night.
10 - Roquan Smith (LB, Georgia) - Another player who shined in the College Football Playoffs. Smith is generally considered the top off-ball linebacker in the draft, with the instincts, athleticism, range, and tackling ability to play on all three downs. He has been the leader of the Georgia defense and he will be the leader of a defense in the NFL.