Khalil Hodge is one of the most underrated inside linebacker prospects in the 2019 NFL Draft. A senior out of the University of Buffalo, he has built a reputation as a tackling machine, and has the potential to be a surprise early round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft depending on how his senior season pans out. Although there are elements of his game that need work in order for him to play at a Pro Bowl-caliber level in the NFL on a consistent basis, he has the talent to emerge as a starter at the position in many schemes.
What makes Khalil Hodge a legitimate NFL prospect? His production as a player is notable. As a high school senior, Hodge logged 262 tackles. Played for the City College of San Francisco as a freshman and helped the team win a state title in 2015. In 2016, as a Sophomore (his first season at Buffalo), started all 12 games, logging 123 tackles and 7 tackles for loss. Recorded 17 tackles against Nevada, and then recorded 16 tackles against Army the following season. He emerged as a key component of the Buffalo defense in his first season with the team. In his second season with the team, 2017, he also played 12 games, logging 154 total tackles, 3 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 interceptions. From a statistical perspective, Hodge's production is certainly noteworthy.
Perhaps more important is Hodge's presence as a leader both on and off of the field. He has a reputation as a hard-working player, both on the field and in the filmroom. His film room work shows up on game day, as he is adept at diagnosing plays as they unfold. Hodge is comfortable leading a defense, and has the skills and football IQ necessary to lead a defense. A bit undersized, but not too small to play in a 4-3 at 6'1 235 pounds. If he can add 5 or 10 pounds of muscle mass, size will not be seen as an issue; has the frame to do it. Recent historical trends showcase a shift towards smaller, faster linebackers in the NFL, so if Hodge can put together a strong senior campaign and perform well on the combine drills that measure player speed (an impressive showing in the 40, for example would be huge for him), he may be able to propel himself into the conversation as a potential early round draft pick, perhaps as early as the second round.
How does Hodge look on film? The highlight reels (here, for example), show that he is a legitimate NFL talent with big-play potential. He flashes the ability to make blockers miss, and makes tackles consistently. Also capable of making plays as a pass defender. As always, complete game tapes give a fuller picture of player talent. Here's an example. One thing that shows up on film when one watches complete games is that Hodge is content to avoid blockers instead of taking them on head-on. Gets around blocks rather than running through them. This, in itself, is not a big issue with Hodge as a player as he keeps his shoulders square to the ball carrier as he sidesteps blockers. Prefers to juke blockers instead of physically engage them. Showcases extreme awareness of blockers as he is capable of avoiding cut blocks en route to the ball carrier. Sheds blockers quickly, but usually using his agility as his main tool. Not the aggressive, rattling hitter that comes to mind when someone mentions a name like Ray Lewis, but is a cerebral, quick player who will likely have a long NFL career, first due to his production as a player and second due to his style of play. He is an extremely athletic player who relies on that athleticism to make plays.
Hodge has the football IQ to consistently be near the ball carrier. Takes good angles of pursuit towards the ball. Rarely misdiagnoses on reverses. Has a solid second gear when it is needed to make a play. Hodge is the type of persistent, consistent player who will constantly sniff out the ball. Will not always be the first player to the ball but will be in the area of the ball carrier more often than not and will also be a key factor in many defensive plays. Has game-changing ability and will come up big in key moments, as evidenced by his game winning interception against Ohio that carried his team towards bowl eligibility. Occasionally has plays where he is stifled by physical offensive linemen (I'm splitting hairs here, but on one play against Northern Illinois he was blown up by a blocker, which led to a Northern Illinois touchdown), leading to a big play by a runner, but the good plays on film outweigh the bad plays. Needs to get more consistent at physically engaging blockers in order to avoid giving up big plays in these instances, but if he can improve on that aspect of his game, he will be solid at the next level. In general, he is extremely talented against the run, and if nothing else will emerge as a run stopper at the next level, but to me there's upside as an every-down starter.
I think that Hodge is ultimately a safe pick at linebacker in the NFL draft. When you look at any player with a microscope on a play-by-play basis it is easy to find mistakes. However, the ultimate picture shows that Hodge has the tools to succeed. He is a leader, he is a diligent student of film, he understands how to read offenses, he flashes the potential to be a tackling machine at the next level, and he has good awareness of the flow of the game. Ultimately, Hodge is a solid prospect in 2019. If he were at a program such as Alabama, we might be talking about a surefire 1st or 2nd round pick. I think he has the potential to work his way into one of those top two rounds this season. One thing is for certain, he will be fun to watch. Khalil Hodge has the potential to emerge as one of the best, if not the best, inside linebacker prospects in the 2019 Draft, and he is a player that needs to be on the radar now. His strengths greatly outweigh his weaknesses and he could be special. --Mike B. Matt and Mike Sports. email@example.com
Every season, a few great players emerge from FCS programs and go on to have solid NFL careers. Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp and North Carolina A&T RB Tarik Cohen are two recent players who have developed into solid offensive weapons early in their NFL careers. Much like Tarik Cohen, the next great offensive weapon to emerge from the FCS may hail from North Carolina A&T. His name is Elijah Bell.
After two strong seasons at North Carolina A&T, Bell has emerged as a solid receiver prospect for the 2020 NFL Draft. As a freshman, he won the November 7th MEAC Rookie of the Week award and 2016 MEAC Rookie of the Year award while recording 631 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns, and 18 yards per reception on 35 catches. Even as a freshman (highlights from his freshman year here), Bell flashed the hands and tools necessary to make himself look like a potential pro prospect. He picked up where he left off in 2017 as a sophomore, recording 64 catches for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns. In the process, he continued to develop as a player, as can be seen on film (here).
Elijah Bell is a 6'1, 220 pound receiver with a phenomenal set of hands. He's capable of winning on 50/50 balls, and has made outstanding one-handed catches on tape. He is also a crisp route runner, a trait that will endear him to NFL coaches. Has the athletic ability to make the first tackler or three miss following the catch; while this shows heavily on film against FCS competition, as a sophomore Bell's athletic ability outshined many seniors at the position in the FCS. With two more seasons of development, he should emerge as a valuable commodity at receiver heading into the draft if he continues to refine his game.
As a player, Bell consistently exhibits toughness and physicality; he's more comfortable turning balls upfield to fight for extra yards than he is stepping out of bounds to avoid contact. He fights for every yard, and is willing to take hits to make plays. He is also an extremely good blocker at the position. Many receivers take plays off on run plays. Bell makes big blocks on tape in order to open up holes for his running back. Gives full effort on every play, even plays where he has no chance to touch the ball. This hard-working mindset will help him stick at the NFL level. His ability as a blocker will also help him cement a role on special teams as well as at receiver. In an NFL community where FCS talent is often undervalued by GMs and personnel departments, Bell is a scrappy, tough, physical player who's habit of giving 100 % effort on every single play is exactly what is needed to help him claim a role on an NFL roster. His athletic talent will do the rest, as he should emerge as a talented pass catcher at the next level.
On film, he shows a keen awareness of his own position on the field itself. Bell is able to work the sideline staying just in-bounds until he secures a catch. He can read seams in the defense well, a trait that helps him rack up yards after the catch. Is not afraid to stretch out his body exposing himself to hits in order to compete for a touchdown. Plays bigger than his size, as he is able to go up in the air to make catches on balls thrown above his head. This will be a useful trait in the NFL where windows are smaller; he can create openings with his ability to catch balls thrown above his head. He also maintains possession as he hits the ground, even when his legs are violently hit by defenders while in the air. In an NFL environment that protects quarterbacks and defenseless receivers, Bell has the physicality to thrive.
As a freshman, 473 of his 631 receiving yards came on the road. This is a testament to Bell's ability to succeed in any environment. Thrives under pressure, and makes his quarterback look better. Has been a security blanket for North Carolina A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard. Bell has a record as a hard working, team-first player who will make the players around him better, and this reputation will continue to grow as he heads into the draft. Bell was not highly recruited out of high school; North Carolina A&T was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship. Bell focused on baseball and basketball in his developmental years, and his first experience playing offense in football was as a high school senior. Prior to his senior year, he played safety. This defensive background gives him the intangible tools necessary to read a defensive player. It also shows that his ceiling is extremely high. After only three seasons as an offensive player, one in high school and two in college, he has emerged as one of the top receiving talents in the FCS.
Bell is constantly working to improve, and gets excited when his teammates make plays. A consummate team-player, Bell gets "excited when the guys around [him] make plays." Is able to identify his own weaknesses as a player and works hard to overcome them; following his sophomore season, he focused hard on his lateral movement and play coming out of breaks. This willingness to be a critic of his own skillset will only help him improve as he continues his collegiate career. With another two seasons of collegiate development, Elijah Bell could easily emerge as the best FCS receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Ultimately, Bell is an already talented player with the tools to stick on an NFL roster. His ability as a receiver is only augmented by his ability as a blocker. However, his ceiling is extremely high, and he should only improve as he gets closer to the NFL draft. While he is not a household name yet, by the time the 2020 NFL Draft arrives, Elijah Bell is a player who will likely be on every team's radar. He's not a complete prospect yet, but he flashes the tools of a legitimate NFL-caliber talent and will only improve with continued coaching and experience. While he is flying under the radar now, somebody is going to get a steal with Bell in 2020. Ultimately he has the skill-set to be an extremely solid #2 or slot receiver in the NFL. To me, he will be one of the best value picks of the 2020 Draft on offense if teams overlook him. If you are a professional scout reading this post, I implore you: watch the tape on Elijah Bell. You won't regret it.--Mike B, Matt and Mike Sports. Mattandmikesportsmike@gmail.com
In recent years, FCS programs have shown that they are capable of contributing legitimate NFL-caliber talent to the draft. The recent success of players like Tarik Cohen, Cooper Kupp, Zach Zenner, Carson Wentz, Dallas Goedert, and Dane Fletcher shows that there are talented players waiting to be discovered at every turn in FCS football. Today, one of the best linebackers that nobody has heard of in college football can be found in the FCS; his name is Quinlen Dean. Much like London Fletcher was a long-term success story in the NFL after entering the league as an undrafted free agent out of DIII John Carroll, Dean has the talent to stick on an NFL roster and quite possibly start for an extended period of time after he finishes his collegiate football career at DI-AA New Hampshire.
Dean is a 6'0, 230 pound linebacker who has bulked up from 175 pounds following a productive high school career. There is room for development in his game, but as a junior with two more seasons of college eligibility remaining, Dean should put himself on the radar of NFL scouts across the league over the next two years. As a freshman, he won the STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the week award on October 31st 2016, the CAA Defensive Player of the Week award on October 31st 2016, and logged 25 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, 3 interceptions (with 77 return yards), 2 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles. Even in his first season seeing action after a redshirt season, Dean made a major impact on the New Hampshire defense. In 2017, his production skyrocketed; he was named to the All-CAA Second team and the HERO Sports Sophomore All-America First Team. He started 14 games and led the CAA with 124 total tackles (80 solo, 44 assisted). On November 18th, he logged 15 tackles against Albany. He recorded 2 interceptions with 34 return yards and 11.5 tackles for loss during the 2017 season. Early in his collegiate career, Quinlen Dean has shown that he has the ability to generate both tackles and turnovers, two things that will put him on the radar of NFL scouts when he enters the draft in 2020. If his production continues to improve, he should be at least a mid-to-late round pick. Given what he shows on film, a team may get a steal with Dean in the NFL draft.
If you watch a highlight reel of Quinlen Dean as a sophomore, you might be reminded of Brian Urlacher. I understand that Urlacher is a hall of famer, and I am not outright saying that Dean is a hall of fame caliber talent. He has yet to take a snap in the NFL. However, similarities are present. Urlacher was a converted safety who played the position like a safety, roaming the field with a high motor and disrupting NFL offenses at every turn. Dean also plays linebacker like a safety, and is effective both in pass coverage and against the run. Looking at a highlight reel (available here, complete single game tape is always difficult to find online of FCS players, especially before they reach their senior years), here is what Dean looks like as a prospect.
First off, Dean has great anticipation and is able to read a quarterback's eyes. He shows an ability to jump routes in coverage, stepping between the quarterback and an intended receiver. This makes him an interception threat and a valuable weapon in pass defense. As a player who played defensive end in high school, this progression in the passing game is impressive and will help him stick in a pass-heavy NFL, especially with two more years of coaching and development at the NFL level.
He is also a solid tackler. From time to time, he will take an extra step too far in pursuit of a ball-carrier behind the line of scrimmage, but quickly adjusts and squares up to meet the rusher in the hole. Keeps his shoulders square and makes solid, technically sound tackles. Occasionally over-pursues a runner when the runner changes direction, but has the high motor to correct and ultimately make a play on the ball-carrier. He is a relentless, aggressive player who will make a solid hit and ultimately a solid tackle on ball-carriers. Leads with his shoulders and arms and will lock onto a ball-carrier's body to make the tackle. In the NFL, this matters. Rather than leading with his helmet and setting himself up for helmet-to-helmet hits, penalties, and suspensions, his sound fundamental tackling techniques will be an asset to any NFL team that drafts him. Has the motor and speed to make it from the middle of the field to the sideline to make a tackle, and wants to be the first player to the ball-carrier. With two more years of college development, he will be a dominant tackler in the NFL.
Dean's footwork is also fantastic in his best moments. He showcases the lateral ability to pursue and read a play while keeping the ball carrier squarely in his sights. In some cases, will allow passing plays to develop in front of him before tackling the receiver, although this may be a by-product of defensive scheme as much as a product of his own technique as a player. In his best moments, he is able to deflect passes thrown to receivers behind him and quickly tackle receivers who catch the ball in front of him. High motor player who looks NFL ready in his best moments. He also has the awareness to make plays on deflected passes and balls in the air, which will lead to interceptions and turnovers. At his best, the film reminds the viewer of an NFL player's high school film; there are times where Dean looks like a potential future Pro Bowler. The one hole in his game, and this may be a product of his defensive scheme itself or of him as a player, is he can overpursue a ball-carrier by a step or two before adjusting to make a tackle. These one or two steps can make a difference in the NFL, but with two more years of collegiate development, I expect Quinlen Dean to develop into a dominant player.
Here's the run-down on Quinlen Dean as a prospect:
Positives: High motor player, generates both turnovers and tackles for loss, aggressive, plays whole field as a linebacker, patient enough to wait for a play to develop before committing in his best moments. Room for development. Able to read a quarterback's eyes and make plays against the pass.
Negatives: The NFL will criticize his level of competition (although level of competition critiques with FCS players are overblown to a degree, teams will question him, and those questions can be alleviated with on-field production and success in events such as the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl). Needs to get more decisive on that first step on a play. That will come with coaching. If he overpursues a runner in the NFL, even by a step or two, that might make the difference between a TD and a TFL. However, he has two more years of college eligibility to be coached up. If Dean is able to come into the NFL draft with a mindset where he is able to anticipate a play rather than react to the offense's plays, he will be successful. Watch his development over the next two seasons. At the very least, has the talent to make an NFL roster, but also shows flashes where he has the upside to be a potential starter.
Ultimately, Dean's ceiling is as high as he wants it to be. He has two seasons left as a college player, and provided he stays healthy, he has the potential to develop into a special prospect by the time the 2020 draft hits. It's just a question of how badly he wants it. Given his relentless motor on film, I believe that he will emerge as a coveted FCS prospect in 2020. Quinlen Dean may not be on most people's radar yet, but if he continues to develop, he will be a hot prospect in 2020. The highlights show him as a talented player with the potential to play a big role in an NFL defense, even as a potential starter. He needs to go out there and prove that he wants it over the next two seasons. At the very least, he has the talent to be a solid backup or core special team player at the next level. However, there are moments where it seems like he is capable of much more. Over the next two seasons, don't sleep on Quinlen Dean. He might emerge as an extremely solid prospect. Right now, Dean has been overlooked by nearly everyone, but if he continues to develop, watch out. This kid could be special. One thing is certain, I will be watching him intently over the next two seasons. As an absolute minimum, Dean has the talent to make an NFL roster, and his ceiling is much higher than that. I firmly believe that in the right situation, he could compete for and ultimately secure a starting role at the next level.
Mike B, Matt and Mike Sports.
2018 NFL Round 3 Mock Draft: This is my final mock for the draft.
65. Buffalo Bills: (C) Bradley Bozeman (Alabama): Already selected Josh Allen (QB) and Anthony Miller (WR).
66. New York Giants: (QB) Luke Falk (Washington State): Already selected Saquon Barkley (RB) and Braden Smith (OG).
67. Indianapolis Colts: (DT) Derrick Nnadi (Florida State): Already selected Roquan Smith (ILB), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE), Tyrell Crosby (OT), and Ronald Jones II (RB).
68. Houston Texans: (CB) Quenton Meeks (Stanford): This is their first pick of this year’s NFL draft.
69. New York Giants: (C) Austin Corbett (Nevada): Already selected Saquon Barkley (RB), Braden Smith (OG), and Luke Falk (QB).
70. San Francisco 49ers: (DE) Duke Ejiofor (Wake Forest): Already selected Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS) and Deontay Burnett (WR).
71. Denver Broncos: (CB) Carlton Davis (Auburn): Already selected Bradley Chubb (DE) and Orlando Brown (OT).
72. New York Jets: (DE) Jeff Holland (Auburn): Already selected Baker Mayfield (QB).
73. Miami Dolphins: (WR) Christian Kirk (Texas A&M): Already selected Maurice Hunt (DT) and Darius Leonard (OLB).
74. San Francisco 49ers: (OG) Wyatt Teller (Virginia Tech): Already selected Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS), Deontay Burnett (WR), and Duke Ejiofor (DE).
75. Oakland Raiders: (DT) RJ McIntosh (Miami): Already selected Tremaine Edmunds (ILB) and Holton Hill (CB).
76. Green Bay Packers: (OLB) Skai Moore (South Carolina): Already selected Josh Jackson (CB) and Michael Gallup (WR).
77. Cincinnati Bengals: (OLB) Uchenna Nwosu (USC): Already selected Frank Ragnow (C) and Harrison Phillips (DT).
78. Kansas City Chiefs: (DT) BJ Hill (NC State): Already selected Mike Hughes (CB).
79. Arizona Cardinals: (SS) Ronnie Harrison (Alabama): Already selected Lamar Jackson (QB) and Marcell Ateman (WR).
80. Houston Texans: (TE) Mark Andrews (Oklahoma): Already selected Quenton Meeks (CB).
81. Dallas Cowboys: (OLB) Fred Warner (BYU): Already selected Calvin Ridley (WR) and Tim Settle (DT).
82. Detroit Lions: (RB) Sony Michel (Georgia): Already selected Harold Landry (DE) and Mike Gesicki (TE).
83. Baltimore Ravens: (TE) Ian Thomas (Indiana): Already selected Courtland Sutton (WR) and Billy Price (C).
84. LA Chargers: (ILB) Oren Burks (Vanderbilt): Already selected Mason Rudolph (QB), Connor Williams (OT), and Josh Sweat (DE).
85. Carolina Panthers: (DE) Arden Key (LSU): Already selected DJ Moore (WR) and M.J. Stewart (CB).
86. Kansas City Chiefs: (DE) Lorenzo Carter (Georgia): Already selected BJ Hill (DT) and Mike Hughes (CB).
87. LA Rams: (ILB) Jason Cabinda (Penn State): This is their first pick in this draft.
88. Carolina Panthers: (FS) Quin Blanding (Virginia): Already selected DJ Moore (WR), M.J. Stewart (CB), and Arden Key (DE).
89. Tennessee Titans: (WR) Allen Lazard (Iowa State): Already selected Marcus Davenport (DE) and Martina Rankin (C).
90. Atlanta Falcons: (DE) Lorenzo Carter (Georgia): Already selected Da’Ron Payne (DT) and Tre’Quan Smith (WR).
91. New Orleans Saints: (QB) Kyle Lauletta (Richmond): Already selected Dallas Goedert (TE).
92. Pittsburgh Steelers: (WR) Cedrick Wilson (Boise State): Already selected Rasheen Evans (ILB) and Kameron Kelly (CB/S).
93. Jacksonville Jaguars: (OLB) Genard Avery (Memphis): Already selected James Washington (WR) and Jamarco Jones (OT).
94. Minnesota Vikings: (FS) Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi): Already selected Will Hernandez (OG) and DJ Reed (CB).
95. New England Patriots: (DE) Chad Thomas (Miami): Already selected Josh Rosen (QB), Jaire Alexander (CB), and Malik Jefferson (OLB).
96. Buffalo Bills: (RB) Nick Chubb (Georgia): Already selected Josh Allen (QB), Anthony Miller (WR), and Bradley Bozeman (C).
97. Arizona Cardinals: (OG) Taylor Hearn (Clemson): Already selected Lamar Jackson (QB), Marcell Ateman (WR), Ronnie Harrison (SS).
98. Houston Texans: (DE) Justin Lawler (SMU): Already selected Quenton Meeks (CB) and Mark Andrews (TE).
99. Denver Broncos: (RB) Royce Freeman (Oregon): Already selected Bradley Chubb (DE), Orlando Brown (OT), and Carlton Davis (CB).
100. Cincinnati Bengals: (RB) Kerryon Johnson (Auburn): Already selected Frank Ragnow (C), Harrison Phillips (DT), and Uchenna Nwosu (USC).
- Matt Koontz
Round 2 2018 NFL Mock Draft:
33. New Orleans Saints (Mock Trade with the Browns for pick #27): (TE) Dallas Goedert (South Dakota State): This is their first pick after trading out of round 1.
34. New York Giants: (OG) Braden Smtih (Auburn): Already selected Saquon Barkley (RB)
35. Cleveland Browns: (FS) Justin Reid (Stanford): Already selected, Sam Darnold (QB), Mike
McGlinchey (OT), Denzel Ward (CB), Kolton Miller (OT).
36. Indianapolis Colts: (DE) Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (Oklahoma): Already selected Roquan Smith (ILB)
37. Indianapolis Colts: (OT) Tyrell Crosby (Oregon): Already selected Roquan Smith (ILB) and Ogbonnia Okoronwko (DE).
38. Philadelphia Eagles: (OLB) Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State): This is their first pick after trading out of round 1.
39. Chicago Bears: (CB) Isaiah Oliver (Colorado): Already selected Quenton Nelson (OG).
40. Denver Broncos: (OT) Orlando Brown (Oklahoma): Already selected Bradley Chubb (DE).
41. Oakland Raiders: (CB) Holton Hill (Texas): Already selected Tremaine Edmunds (ILB).
42. Miami Dolphins: (OLB) Darius Leonard (South Carolina State): Already selected Maurice Hurst (DT).
43. LA Chargers (Mock trade from the Patriots for pick #17): (OT) Connor Williams (Texas): Already selected Mason Rudolph (QB).
44. Washington Redskins: (CB) Greg Stroman (Virginia Tech): Already selected Vita Vea (DT).
45. Green Bay Packers: (WR) Michael Gallup (Colorado State): Already selected Josh Jackson (CB).
46. Cincinnati Bengals: (DT) Harrison Phillips (Stanford): Already selected Frank Ragnow (C).
47. Arizona Cardinals: (WR) Marcell Ateman (Oklahoma State): Already selected Lamar Jackson (QB).
48. LA Chargers: (DE) Josh Sweat (Florida State): Already selected, Mason Rudolph (QB) and Connor Williams (OT).
49. Indianapolis Colts: (RB) Ronald Jones II (USC): Already selected, Roquan Smith (ILB), Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE), and Tyrell Crosby (OT).
50. Dallas Cowboys: (DT) Tim Settle (Virginia Tech): Already selected Calvin Ridley (WR).
51. Detroit Lions: (TE) Mike Gesicki (Penn State): Already selected Harold Landry (DE).
52. Baltimore Ravens: (C) Billy Price (Ohio State): Already selected Courtland Sutton (WR).
53. Buffalo Bills: (WR) Anthony Miller (Memphis): Already selected Josh Allen (QB).
54. Kansas City Chiefs: (CB) Mike Hughes (UCF): This is their first pick of the draft.
55. Carolina Panthers: (CB) M.J. Stewart (North Carolina): Already selected DJ Moore (WR).
56. New Orleans Saints (Mock trade from the Browns who got it from the Bills): (TE) Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin): Already selected, Sam Darnold (QB), Mike McGlinchey (OT), Denzel Ward (CB), Kolton Miller (OT), and Justin Reid (FS).
57. Tennessee Titans: (C) Martinas Rankin (Miss. State): Already selected Marcus Davenport (DE).
58. Atlanta Falcons: (WR) Tre’Quan Smith (UCF): Already selected Da’Ron Payne (DT).
59. San Francisco 49ers: (WR) Deontay Burnett (USC): Already selected Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS).
60. Pittsburgh Steelers: (CB/S) Kameron Kelly (San Diego State): Already selected Rasheen Evans (ILB).
61. Jacksonville Jaguars: (OT) Jamarco Jones (Ohio State): Already selected James Washington (WR).
62. Minnesota Vikings: (CB) DJ Reed (Kansas State): Already selected Will Hernandez (OG).
63. New England Patriots: (OLB) Malik Jefferson (Texas): Already selected Josh Rosen (QB) and Jaire Alexander (CB).
64. Cleveland Browns: (WR) Auden Tate (Florida State): Already selected, Sam Darnold (QB), Mike McGlinchey (OT), Denzel Ward (CB), Kolton Miller (OT), and Justin Reid (FS).
- Matt Koontz
NFL 2018 Mock Draft: I will be posting my 2nd round mock on 4/26 in the morning of the NFL draft. Here is my first round mock.
1. Cleveland Browns: (QB) Sam Darnold (USC): This kid needs a year to become the star he has the potential to be. The NFL fan base and expectations to push a QB to an instant starter is bad for these kids. They need to be patient and let him blossom a year behind Tyrod would be so great for him because once he figures out how the NFL game works he could be a pro bowler. I think of him like a Patrick Mahomes. Other pick that the Browns could make here: Baker Mayfield (QB)
2. New York Giants: (RB) Saquon Barkley (Penn State): I know that everyone believes he is the 2nd coming of Barry Sanders or whatever but I believe he is not even close. I believe he will be a mistake at pick number 2 as I personally don’t believe he will ever be a top 5 running back in the NFL at any point in his career. He will be a top 10 but I don’t think a top 5 will happen. He has great athleticism and speed but his ability to run between the tackles concerns me and I think he dances around in the backfield too much which will get him swallowed up in the NFL. His ceiling is very high but his floor is really low with being picked this high. Other pick that makes sense here is Josh Allen or Sam Darnold (QB)
3. New York Jets from Indianapolis Colts: (QB) Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma): Everyone says this is basically a done deal. I think this is a horrible pick. I don’t think Mayfield will become a star in the NFL maybe at his best an NFL average QB but his off the field issues are what concern me the most. I compare him to Drew Brees talent wise, but his attitude issue Johnny Manziel. Other pick that makes sense Bradley Chubb. (DE)
4. Buffalo Bills (Mock Trade) From Browns from Texans: (QB) Josh Allen (Wyoming): Josh is a very intelligent young man with a ton of potential to become a star. He just like Rosen can’t be rushed into the league as a starter. He has incredible intelligence and a great self-belief and poise. This is a good pick for the Bills if they are going for QB like it is believed though I think they should address offensive line first. Bills give up 12th overall, 22nd overall, and 56th overall. I think Josh Allen will be like Alex Smith. Other pick that makes sense here: Quenton Nelson (OG)
5. Denver Broncos: (DE) Bradley Chubb (NC State): This is the best talent in the draft. He’s pretty much a guarantee success. I wouldn’t hesitate if he is here at 5, this kid has the talent level of a Khalil Mack or a JJ Watt. Bradley is a truly talented star in the making and in my eyes is the best player in this draft and I know he is in the eyes of many others. I think Bradley Chubb compares to Khalil Mack and JJ Watt. Other pick that makes sense Josh Jackson (CB).
6. Indianapolis Colts From New York Jets: (ILB) Roquan Smith (Georgia): The Colts are transitioning their defense and with this transition they need an improved defense. Chubb in my eyes would be their best pick but with him gone at 5 I believe they go with the 2nd best option to add to their front 7 with this pick. Other pick that makes sense Quenton Nelson (OG).
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: (SS) Derwin James (Florida State): The Buccaneers defense was a nightmare last year and they need to build up their secondary and this pick would surely go a long way into doing that. Derwin is a top 3 overall talent in this draft and would be a great pick for the Buccaneers here. Other pick that makes sense: Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama)
8. Chicago Bears: (OG) Quenton Nelson (Notre Dame): The Bears desperately need to protect Mitchell Trubisky and to do that they need to get one of the best offensive lineman to come into the draft since Zach Martin. This kid will be very special and would be a wall in front of their young QB and run game.
9. San Francisco 49ers: (FS) Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama): The 49ers are getting close to a super bowl quality team again and to get there entirely they need to complete their defense. Minkah won’t complete everything they need but he will strongly secure their secondary and help them defensively by leaps and bounds. Other pick that makes sense: Courtland Sutton (WR)
10. Oakland Raiders: (ILB) Tremaine Edmunds (Va Tech): The Raiders desperately need defense and they need a middle linebacker more than they need anything else. Edwards is the 2nd best at his position and with Roquan Smith gone is without a doubt the route the Raiders need to go here. There are no other picks that make sense in this spot. I think Edmunds at 10 is early so I wouldn’t be shocked if they traded down.
11. Miami Dolphins: (DT) Maurice Hurst (Michigan): The Dolphins lost Suh in free agency and will need to immediately replace the hole in their defensive line that he vacated. Hurst is a monster and could make a significant difference for this defense and help shut down the run game of opposing offenses. This pick isn’t the popular pick, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me. Other pick that makes sense here: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE)
12. Cleveland Browns (Mock Trade with Bills from 4): (OT) Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame): The Browns moved back to here to gain even more picks and will look to replace Joe Thomas here with this pick. Mike is a good player and will develop into a nice reliable offensive piece for their line, but he won’t be Joe Thomas. That doesn’t matter he still has incredible talent. Other pick that makes sense: Jaire Alexander (CB) or move back in a trade again.
13. Washington Redskins: (DT) Vita Vea (Washington): The Skins need to build up their defensive line and Vea is a great pick to start that process with as I believe he will be an immediate impact player in the NFL. He is a skilled DT who can really help shut down a run game and regardless of his giant size he is surprisingly quick and will help the pass rush as well. Other pick that makes sense: Josh Jackson (CB)
14. Green Bay Packers: (CB) Josh Jackson (Iowa): Josh is my favorite corner in this draft and if him and Jaire Alexander are gone before this pick I think the Packers trade back. They have a few defensive needs, but corner has to be their number one need. This team needs to give Aaron Rodgers a chance, but they can’t do that when other teams can throw the ball all day long on them and Josh would become their top corner immediately with this pick. Other pick that makes sense: Denezel Ward (CB)
15. Arizona Cardinals: (QB) Lamar Jackson (Louisville): This is the believed guaranteed pick here if he falls here which I expect him to. Lamar isn’t an NFL ready QB and I don’t believe he will ever become a star in this league. Personally, I don’t think he is worth a 1st round pick and will not be a top 10 QB in his prime. This is the pick people believe that will happen though that is why I have him mocked here. Maybe he can surprise me, but he definitely needs a year to sit and learn. Other pick that makes sense here: Calvin Ridley (WR)
16. Baltimore Ravens: (WR) Courtland Sutton (Southern Methodist): The Ravens added Michael Crabtree, Willie Snead, and John Brown in the offseason but that was more like adding a band-aid to a bleeding artery. Crabtree is aging and has issues with drops, Snead had a great year 2 years ago but was basically a non-factor last year and John Brown is injury prone and has drop issues. I don’t think either of these men are fixes at all, but depth added to the worst receiving corps in the league. Sutton is the best WR in this class and might be a top 5 talent overall. If he falls to 16 the Ravens would be making a mistake not taking him. This kid would go early but the need for WR isn’t ridiculously strong before Baltimore. Other pick that makes sense here: Mason Rudolph (QB)
17. New England Patriots (Mock trade with LA Chargers): (QB) Josh Rosen (UCLA): Patriots trade up here and get the QB they want to groom behind Brady. Rosen is a talented kid and with a year to learn from Brady he would become a possible superstar. I think his ego is an issue to a lot of teams, but he seems to me to be like Aaron Rodgers in relation to his attitude and he just wants to win at all costs. Patriots give up 23rd overall and 43rd overall for this pick. Another player they could trade up for is Mason Rudolph (QB)
18. Seattle Seahawks: (OG) Isaiah Wynn (Georgia): The Seahawks must get an offensive line. They need to protect Russell Wilson, he is their superstar QB, not only would this pick protect Russell it would also add the ability to run the ball again. Seattle might be in a rebuild but their pick here doesn’t help them much with flashy pieces, Seattle needs this pick though and can’t worry about flashy picks. Other pick that makes sense here: Jaire Alexander (CB)
19. Dallas Cowboys: (WR) Calvin Ridley (Alabama): The Cowboys have moved on from Dez Bryant, but they do so with no good WR’s left as top options on their roster. Calvin is to me the 3rd most talented WR in this draft class but has been seen as a top 2 and if he is still available the Cowboys will pounce on him here and give Prescott someone to be happy with. Other pick that makes sense here: DJ Moore (WR)
20. Detroit Lions: (DE) Harold Landry (Boston College): The Lions really need another edge pass rusher and this pick would give them exactly that. I really like Landry and the ability he would bring to the Lions for a good pass rush opposite of Ansah. This could be a great pick for them. Other pick that makes sense here: Derrius Guice (RB)
21. Cincinnati Bengals: (C) Frank Ragnow (Arkansas): The Bengals historically don’t draft phenomenally well when it comes to offensive line, but the team doesn’t have a starting center on roster. They honestly can’t screw up this pick if they take Ragnow because he is an immediate starter in the NFL and would fix the Bengals biggest hole immediately. Other pick that makes sense here: James Daniels (C)
22. Cleveland Browns (Mock Trade from Bills for pick #4): (CB) Denzel Ward (Ohio State): The Browns gained some picks by moving back 8 spots and this pick is a great chance to add to their defense. If the Browns can sure up their secondary with all the other pieces they have added, they actually could become a competitive respected team in the NFL. I really believe that trading back 8 spots would be the best move for Cleveland. I really like Ward and believe he can be a great CB2 on any roster to start with and become a CB1 after a few years of learning the league play. Other pick that makes sense here: Isaiah Oliver (CB)
23. LA Chargers (Mock Trade from Patriots for pick #17): (QB) Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State): The Chargers gain an extra pick to move back here and get the guy they could have taken at 17 still. They need to get a possible replacement groomed behind Rivers. Rudolph is a year or two from becoming a real NFL quality starter and would really be able to learn a lot from one of the best QB’s in the league. I like his potential I just believe he needs a team to be patient with him and let him learn the league and how to become a good NFL QB. Other pick that makes sense here: Taven Bryan (DT)
24. Carolina Panthers: (WR) DJ Moore (Maryland): The Panthers desperately need a WR for Cam to throw to and DJ is in my eyes one of the 2 best in this draft maybe even the best. I have been scouting DJ for 2 seasons at Maryland and believe he is still being underrated and undervalued by the league. He has kick returning abilities and his ability to catch and run is incredible. I know the knock on him in the past was his hands, but he has done a lot to fix those issues in the past year and become a very reliable WR. DJ will be a steal here and in 3 years-time will become a top 10 WR in the league. Other pick that makes sense here: James Washington (WR)
25. Tennessee Titans: (DE) Marcus Davenport (UTSA): The Titans need not just one but two pass rushers, but this pick would go a long way to securing that pass rush. Davenport is a really good player and a good young man who can start off as a good player in the NFL and develop into a star pass rusher that can seal an edge to help with the run as well. I really think if he falls this far the Titans will be salivating over him. Other pick that makes sense here: Rasheen Evans (ILB)
26. Atlanta Falcons: (DT) Da’Ron Payne (Alabama): The Falcons are missing a good run stopping force in the middle of their line. They need to really do something to change that as they face Kamara and Ingram twice a year. If they want to get Matt Ryan back to the super bowl the best way for them to do that is sure up their defense and they should start with this big beast to help secure their run defense. Other pick that makes sense here: Mike Hughes (CB)
27. Cleveland Browns (Mock Trade with the Saints): (OT) Kolton Miller (UCLA): The Browns make another move to get into the 1st and grab a 2nd tackle to add more strength and give them the ability to fix both ends of their offensive line. I love this move if it happens for the Browns because it will lead to a complete offensive line with Miller and McGlinchey holding the anchors on both sides. Other pick that makes sense is the Saints keeping this pick and taking Dallas Goedert (TE). The Saints get 33rd overall and the 56th overall which they got from the Bills earlier.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: (ILB) Rasheen Evans (Alabama): The Steelers with the tragedy to Ryan Shazier will need to find a linebacker ASAP and Evans is a great one. I believe this is the best fit for the Steelers this far down and for the people claiming Guice is going to the Steelers, I guess they forgot about James Connor. I truly believe this is the route the Steelers take and address a big hole that they never expected to be without. Other pick the Steelers could take here: Orlando Brown (OT)
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: (WR) James Washington (Oklahoma State): Allen Robinson and Hurns are both gone, and they will need to find a replacement for those two immediately or they will see Bortles regress. James is a great WR with incredible hands and is a great down field option that could help make Blake feel like he didn’t lose as much as he did in the offseason. Other pick that makes sense here: Michael Gallup (WR)
30. Minnesota Vikings: (OG) Will Hernandez (UTEP): The Vikings need to build up their offensive line to protect their new shiny investment Kirk Cousins. They are weak at offensive guard and tackle and Will Hernandez is a good fill for that role and would go a long way to protecting Dalvin Cook and Kirk Cousins. I really like this pick for them. Other pick that makes sense here: Braden Smith (OG)
31. New England Patriots: (CB) Jaire Alexander (Louisville): The Patriots need to address their need for corner back with this pick after losing Malcom Butler to the Titans in free agency. This pick would be a nice piece to play opposite of Stephon Gillmore and give them a true CB1 and CB2. If they pull off this pick this would significantly increase their defensive rank and ability to stop opposition pass games. Other pick that makes sense: Dorian O’Daniel (OLB)
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Mock Trade with the Eagles): (RB) Derrius Guice (LSU): The Buccaneers give up pick #38 and 102 to move up and grab Guice before the Colts can. The Eagles don’t need anything too badly and moving back could help them build depth in spots that they are short of depth. Guice honestly might be the best running back in this class when it is all said and done, and the Buccaneers need a RB badly and could get a steal here grabbing him to end day one. I don’t think they trade up for anyone else.
- Matt Koontz
The 2018 NFL Draft is less than a week away, and it's time for my first round mock. In this mock, I avoided projecting trades, although many may happen; the Bills and Patriots both have two first round picks and could try to move up for the Browns 2nd 1st rounder, or for another pick. I think Quenton Nelson is one of the best players in the entire draft, but I have him falling because guards are historically devalued in the draft. Although the Bengals do not usually draft centers before day 3, they might just go for one this Thursday. After an offseason filled with rumors on the chattime, the snapface, and the twitter, it's off to Arlington! How do I expect the 1st round to play out? Here's my mock. Enjoy! --Mike B.
1. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming. Cleveland Browns. I wouldn't be surprised to see Sam Darnold here, and to me he's a slightly better pick, but as suggested by people close to Browns GM John Dorsey, the team is looking hard at Allen and allegedly feigning interest in Darnold to convince the Giants to trade up one spot for the pick. To me, Allen's most likely the pick here, and gives the Browns another shot at a franchise quarterback. With Tyrod Taylor on roster, Cleveland can afford to sit Allen for a year or two while Allen learns the NFL game, so this might be a good fit for Allen.
2. Sam Darnold, QB, USC. New York Giants. I keep seeing Saquon Barkley mocked to the Giants, but to me, Darnold is likely their guy. At the same time, I expect them to try hard to trade back with a team such as Buffalo who is targeting a quarterback. Then again, I don't mock trades before they happen, so Darnold's the pick here. Eli Manning gives Darnold a veteran mentor while he learns the ropes. This spot is going to be interesting.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. New York Jets. Most rumors suggest that Darnold and Mayfield are the top two guys on the Jets' board. The team needs a franchise quarterback, and Mayfield is an interesting choice. He's a talented player with a lot of questions about his character, so this could get fun to watch.
4. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State. Cleveland Browns. The pick here is going to be either Barkley or Chubb to me. I think Chubb, since the Browns just went out and got Carlos Hyde. Bradley Chubb paired with Myles Garrett is terrifying. The Browns only had 7 interceptions last season so they need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Chubb helps make this happen.
5. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. Denver Broncos. Another possible trade spot for Buffalo. There are a lot of teams who need a long-term quarterback in the draft, and next year's class is weak at the position. This makes me believe that the Broncos will take a long hard look at quarterbacks if they're available. Barkley's also an option here since he's still on the board. Lamar Jackson could also be an option here.
6. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. Indianapolis Colts. The Colts need to help Andrew Luck, and they have needs on their offensive line and at running back. To me this pick boils down to either Barkley or Quenton Nelson with this pick. Given the NFL's history of not selecting guards highly, Barkley just might be the pick here.
7. Derwin James, S, Florida State. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers have paid close attention to Derwin James and are rumored to prefer him to Minkah Fitzpatrick. Bucs GM Jason Licht paid extremely close attention to James at his pro day, so he could be in play for this pick.
8. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Chicago Bears. Not sure which way to go with the Bears with this pick, so going with an obvious team need at cornerback. Ward is a guy that could be a target for the Chicago front office in this draft.
9. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have an extremely strong interest in Sutton, and they could be targeting him heading into the draft. He would be an immediate upgrade to the 49ers WR corps.
10. Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA. Oakland Raiders. Another rumor-based pick, but the Raiders have a strong affinity towards Davenport and he's high on their draft board. Pairing him with Khalil Mack would be deadly. Davenport's my pick here.
11. Roquan Smith, OLB, Georgia. Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have glaring needs on both sides of the football, and Smith is a very real option with this pick. The team has shown interest in Smith and he has been medically cleared, so he could be Miami's pick.
12. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Buffalo Bills. The Bills may be the best fit for Jackson. Their last quarterback was an athletic, mobile player in Tyrod Taylor, and they have AJ McCarron as a fallback option if Jackson doesn't pan out. Since Buffalo did not trade up in this mock, Jackson's my pick here.
13. Vita Vea, DT, Washington. Washington Redskins. The Redskins need help along the defensive front, and Vea is one of the best defensive tackles in this year's draft. He could definitely be a pick with this spot.
14. Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida. Green Bay Packers. The Packers have a lot of needs, especially on defense. Their secondary is porous, and aging. Hughes or Minkah Fitzpatrick could easily be the pick here.
15. Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama. Arizona Cardinals. With Matthieu gone and the top quarterback talent off the board, Fitzpatrick makes a lot of sense here. The team gets a top ten talent in the defensive backfield as a consolation for missing out on a quarterback in this spot.
16. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are in dire need of offensive line help, and with the 16th overall pick, the team snags Quentin Nelson, who is arguably the best player in the draft. Good move for Baltimore.
17. Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama. Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers add another piece to a steadily improving defensive unit. Payne would immediately upgrade the Chargers defensive line.
18. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU. Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have a lot of needs, but running back is definitely one of them. Guice is a guy who is definitely on the team's radar, and he could be the pick at 18. The team could also go offensive tackle here.
19. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. Dallas Cowboys. Dallas needs a receiver after cutting Dez Bryant. Ridley gives them a guy who will immediately step in and compete for a starting role.
20. Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College. Detroit Lions. The Lions need some help on defense, and Landry fills a definite need. He needs some work as a prospect, but he's definitely a potential fit.
21. Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas. Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are in dire need of offensive line help, and they have no starting center. By drafting Frank Ragnow, the team finds a starting center. This is a team that historically underdrafts at the position, but Ragnow fills one of the team's biggest holes and could be a fit here.
22. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA. Buffalo Bills. The Bills have their quarterback, and now they need a guard and an offensive tackle to help protect him. Miller gives them one of the two as they head into day 2 of the draft.
23. Connor Williams, OT, Texas. New England Patriots. Every year at least one extremely talented player slides down the board. This year, it happens to be a player who fits an immediate need for New England. Williams is the pick in this scenario.
24. DJ Moore, WR, Maryland. Carolina Panthers. Carolina could use one more top tier wide receiver. Moore gives them after the team lost Kelvin Benjamin last season.
25. Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech. Tennessee Titans. This is a value pick for the Titans; while they need more help at the ILB position, Edmunds has the potential to be an instant game changer for the franchise, and if Edmunds is sitting here, they will pounce.
26. Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State University. Atlanta Falcons. The Atlanta Falcons need a long-term answer at the tight end position, and Goedert has the talent to provide that answer. He should be in heavy consideration for the Falcons, the Saints, and the Steelers.
27. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State. New Orleans Saints. The Saints are a team who could take a quarterback this year; they looked hard at Patrick Mahomes but missed him when the Chiefs traded up. Rudolph gives them a player who can learn behind Drew Brees for a season or two before stepping into the starting role.
28. Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama. Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers need help at linebacker, especially on the inside. Evans is a productive player who can come in and compete to start immediately. This move fits for the Steelers.
29. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars could go in a lot of different directions here, but after extending Bortles, they have a need for a top tier offensive tackle to protect him and to open holes for Fournette. McGlinchey could be the pick.
30. Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings could use help at offensive line, receiver, and in the secondary, but Mike Zimmer likely won't let a guy with Bryan's talent on the defensive side of the ball slip by him. Bryan could be a fit for the Vikings.
31. Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa. New England Patriots. The Patriots need help at cornerback, and if Jackson is on the board with their second pick in the 1st round at 31, Belichick might bite. Expect them to pick up a backup QB and potential QB of the future on day 2.
32. Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State. Philadelphia Eagles. Vander Esch's stock has been steadily on the rise this offseason, and the Titans do not believe that he will fall to their pick allegedly. However, given the huge number of smokescreens present at this time of the year, it is highly possible that Vander Esch falls to the 32nd pick, giving Philly insurance between often-injured Jordan Hicks.
The history of the wide receiver position in the NFL is filled with players who are overlooked early in the draft process only to go on to become elite NFL stars. Many of these players are missed by teams because of where they played football in college. Donald Driver was a 7th round pick after playing for Alcorn State. Miles Austin went undrafted out of Monmouth. Wayne Chrebet went undrafted after a successful career at UMass. Great wide receiver talent is present at all levels of college football, and one of the top wide receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft hails from Slippery Rock.
If Marcus Johnson played for a team such as Alabama, he would likely be a household name by now. At 6'2, 190 pounds, Johnson is a physical, aggressive receiver with great hands. He's not afraid to step in as a blocker, and showcases a ton of talent as a route-runner. More impressive still is Marcus Johnson's production throughout his collegiate career as a football player (link here). In 2017, Marcus Johnson caught 72 passes for 1,214 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, with an average of 16.9 yards per reception and 110.4 receiving yards per game. He also averaged 27.9 yards per kick return and 15.6 yards per punt return, with three total touchdowns on returns. Against Kentucky State he caught 12 passes for 231 yards and 3 TDs. Against Gannon, he caught 10 passes for 183 yards and 4 TDs, and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Against Edinboro, he caught 14 passes for 192 yards and 2 TDs. At season's end, Marcus Johnson recorded 1,993 all purpose yards in 2017. In 2016, Johnson's second season with the school, he recorded 898 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. These are dominant numbers and show that he has the talent to succeed in any offensive system.
However, some people will question Johnson's numbers as a byproduct of playing for a DII program. These concerns do not hold up under closer scrutiny. First, Marcus Johnson had an extremely strong showing as one of only two DII players invited to the College Gridiron Showcase. Against DI talent, Marcus Johnson showed that he has the tools to compete at any level of football. Second, he leaves Slippery Rock with 28 receiving touchdowns, 2,238 receiving yards, 133 receptions, 31 total touchdowns, 188 points scored, and 3,017 all purpose yards. This was after transferring from a DIII program and learning a new playbook. Johnson has the talent to adapt to any level of football and emerge as a weapon both as a receiver and as a special teams stud. Marcus Johnson's production in college will transfer nicely to the NFL; on film (here and here), he shows all the necessary tools to emerge as a major part of an NFL passing game.
What are some things that Marcus Johnson does exceptionally well? First off, he's coachable and has a good reputation with his coaches and teammates (link here). Second, he has one of the best sets of hands in this year's draft. Johnson is aggressive enough to come down with 50/50 jump balls most of the time, and is able to adjust to catch off-target passes when needed. He has some of the best ball skills of any receiver in college football. He fights for extra yardage on every play and often runs like a running back after the catch. He blocks well, runs crisp routes, and is a big-play machine. Does not shy away from contact or get rattled by physically aggressive defenders. As a receiver, these traits will translate well to the NFL, and Johnson could emerge as a Hines Ward-type player who is not afraid to initiate contact and to make contested catches in the middle of the field.
Ultimately, Johnson's value as a prospect is as follows. Marcus Johnson is a great route runner who is able to quickly change speeds to keep defenders off balance. He's extremely productive on fades, slants, and out routes, and catches 50/50 balls at a high point without bobbling it. This is important in the NFL, where establishing possession is a key part of making a catch. Has the speed to be a deep threat, but also can make plays in the middle of the field. Johnson has the talent to also be a productive returner on both punt return and kick return units. His versatility and ability to run crisp routes will endear him to NFL coaching staffs, and his willingness to block will keep him in games on designed runs. Has the talent to stick with an NFL team as a rotational receiver and special teams ace as a floor, but his ceiling is that of an every down starter in an NFL offense. Given a season to adjust to the rigors of an NFL season, I fully expect Marcus Johnson to emerge as a starter. If he played for a better-known program, he would likely be in the discussion as a day one prospect. Has a higher ceiling than most big-name receiver prospects since his tools are a match for NFL offensive schemes; not simply a product of the college spread offense. Marcus Johnson is a great all-around athlete who has the potential to make a major impact on an NFL team, both on offense and on special teams.
In a new generation of football largely defined by analytics and finding value in the draft, Marcus Johnson may be one of the biggest values in the entire 2018 NFL Draft. If a team is able to find a receiver who can make an instant impact, they have nailed the pick. If that player is a small school player who will likely be drafted later than his talent dictates, then that pick is extremely valuable. If an NFL franchise is looking for a great value in 2018, draft Marcus Johnson. He might just be one of the safest receiver prospects in the entire draft, and he has the talent to play now. Corey Coleman was a first round pick in 2016. Marcus Johnson has a much better work ethic than Coleman and gives 100% on every play, with a similar level of production. Cordarrelle Patterson was a first round pick in 2013. So was Tavon Austin. Unlike Patterson and Austin, Marcus Johnson has the talent to be an every down contributor at the position instead of simply a return specialist and offensive role player. If you want a player that will help you win the draft in 2018, please, draft Marcus Johnson. --Mike B.
Every season, talented quarterbacks who become NFL success stories fall out of the 1st round of the NFL Draft. Nick Foles, AJ McCarron, Case Keenum, Russell Wilson, Jimmy Garoppolo, Andy Dalton, Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Orton, Dak Prescott, and Tom Brady are all fairly recent non-first round pick success stories. Meanwhile, guys like JaMarcus Russell, Brady Quinn, Jake Locker, Tim Tebow, EJ Manuel, Blaine Gabbert, Josh Freeman, and Johnny Manziel are selected with first round picks, falter, and settle into backup roles or find themselves out of the league. Quarterback success is determined not by draft position, but by position fit. Franchises that are able to find a good fit for their system at the position are successful. Teams that are not are destined to fail.
Heading towards the 2018 NFL Draft, many teams are seeking the future faces of their franchises. While some NFL front offices will risk their reputations and futures on extremely high 1st round selections at quarterback, recent history shows that at least one non-first round pick at the position will emerge as a viable NFL starter. To me, the best value pick in the 2018 NFL draft is Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta. As an FCS player for a competitive yet non-elite program, it is easy for a player like Lauletta to fall through the cracks; NFL.com has him rated as a "priority UDFA" (link here ). I've also seen him projected as high as the third round following an extremely strong showing at the Senior Bowl. That being said, if I am an NFL front office, I am extremely comfortable investing in a non-first round pick at quarterback who could emerge as one of the best quarterbacks from this season's draft. In fact, Lauletta is a prototypical Bill Belichick-type player who could hear his name called by a team like the Patriots this spring.
Lauletta is an accurate, intelligent player who emerged as a leader at Richmond; he was named team captain in two consecutive seasons. He also stole the show at the Senior Bowl with higher profile players such as Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen in attendance. This player has the intangibles necessary to be a strong starter in the league in the right system. Working through his negatives from his NFL.com scouting report, some scouts have questions about his arm strength. Then again, Drew Brees, Andy Dalton, and Tom Brady were knocked by scouts for a perceived lack of arm strength. Know who had great arm strength according to scouts? JaMarcus Russell. Arm strength isn't everything. At the same time, Lauletta gets criticized for a lack of mobility. Then again, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck are not extremely mobile athletes. While it is too early to project Lauletta as an NFL star, he has the potential to emerge as an extremely solid starter in the right system.
Quarterback is not my strongest position as a scout; I'm most capable with defensive front seven players and with running backs. That being said, I have watched a ton of film on Lauletta. As a prospect, I feel that his absolute floor is that of a Kyle Orton-style player. An extremely capable, consistent backup who can win games as a starter, especially in the right system. However, this kid also has a high ceiling, and could emerge as an extremely competitive NFL starter. Upside is at least that of a Blake Bortles or even a Tony Romo. Scouts look at lots of things, but to me, the most valuable assessment of Lauletta's talent comes from watching film. What does the tape say?
As a passer, Lauletta is a patient, intelligent quarterback who is comfortable calling audibles and at the line of scrimmage. Off the field, he has a reputation as a film rat, and this not only contributes to his ability to read opposing defenses but also will endear him to NFL coaching staffs. He showcases quiet feet, and patiently works through his reads instead of staring down a single receiver. He also shows a tendency not to hear ghosts, and is usually calm under pressure. In fact, in some cases on film, he looks more comfortable throwing under pressure than he does in a firm pocket. Lauletta lacks a single "wow" trait, such as a cannon arm or blazing speed, but the complete picture is what matters. He is a consistent, capable player who is a student of the game and appears to be extremely coachable. Scouts will dock him due to the lack of that single, elite "wow" trait, but coaches will fall in love with his combination of solid traits.
His negatives are not a huge problem. He gets critiqued for an awkward throwing motion, and tends to wind up on long throws. There are questions about his arm strength, and he will attempt to make a more difficult short throw into coverage at times rather than throwing into weaker coverage downfield. Also dealt with a torn ACL in 2016, which is a question if he emerges in a system where he is asked to run the ball on a regular basis. To me, the argument that Lauletta played in the FCS and therefore at a "lower level of competition" is a weak critique; players like Carson Wentz show that the FCS can produce high-caliber NFL players. Lauletta is not a quarterback for every system or every hole, but he is an extremely good fit for many offenses. If I was an NFL executive, how would I approach him?
To me, Lauletta's best fit is a team like Pittsburgh, San Diego, New Orleans, or New England where there is an established, experienced starter on the tail end of their NFL career that Lauletta can learn under for a season or two before taking the reigns. His negatives can be effectively addressed by a capable NFL coaching staff, and his football IQ will allow him to emerge as a quality player, especially in a stable offense. In college, Lauletta had four different offensive coordinators in four seasons. This is a player who is capable of absorbing different offenses. With a stable franchise, Kyle Lauletta has Pro Bowl potential after a season or two of development. Much like Tom Brady, as an NFL prospect, there are questions about Lauletta as an athlete, and there's no one thing that makes a scout stop and go "wow."
However, "wow" factors are not everything. JaMarcus Russell's arm strength propelled him to the 1st overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. His lack of other strong traits led to his quick demise as an NFL starter. To me, Lauletta has a combination of traits that make him an extremely intriguing NFL prospect, and he's a guy that will likely be available on Day 2 of the Draft. If he falls to Day 3, I will lose at least some faith in the NFL community, since to me Lauletta is worth picking in the second or third round. Where might Lauletta fit best?
To me, Lauletta is the prototypical Bill Belichick quarterback prospect. He's an intelligent, consistent player with a strong work ethic who loves watching film. That should intrigue Belichick, but it gets more interesting than that. Lauletta is a huge lacrosse fan and also played the sport. Belichick is extremely interested in lacrosse. Lauletta's father and uncle played for the US Naval Academy. Steve Belichick (Bill Belichick's father...if you are unfamiliar with his reputation as a scout, you need to look him up) coached and scouted for the Naval Academy. To me, Lauletta is a Jimmy Garoppolo-type prospect; small school player, high football IQ, shined at the Senior Bowl...I expect him to be on the Patriots radar this spring.
At the end of the day, Kyle Lauletta may be the best value at quarterback in the entire 2018 NFL Draft. He doesn't have the hype surrounding a player such as Darnold, Rosen, Barkley, or Allen, but he also won't (at this point) cost you a first round draft pick. The top few quarterbacks in the draft will likely fall into unsettled situations such as Cleveland, and this could help a guy like Kyle Lauletta experience the most success out of this year's draft class at the NFL level. At this point, he's not a guaranteed franchise quarterback, but the intangibles are clearly there. He can be, especially if drafted into a stable situation. I'm excited about Lauletta as an NFL prospect, and you should be too. Mark my words, in the right situation, this kid has the potential to be special, and even in an imperfect situation he will be an extremely capable backup, at worst.
The 2018 Reese Senior Bowl is upon us, and college players face off this Saturday, 1/27/2018 in Mobile, Alabama at Ladd-Peebles Stadium at 2:30 EST on NFL Network. This game pits some of the top names in college football against each other after a week of practice in front of scouts. The Shrine Game last week was eventful, with Slippery Rock defensive end Marcus Martin scoring a receiving touchdown in his first experience as a fullback. His draft stock climbed in that game. There are plenty of rumors and meetings to catch up on, but more as the dust settles after this Saturday. Here are some rosters! --Mike B.
Coaching staff: Denver Broncos
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Luke Falk, Washington State
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Dimitri Flowers (FB), Oklahoma
Jaylen Samuels, N.C. State
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Braxton Berrios, Miami
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State
Allen Lazard, Iowa State
Jaleel Scott, New Mexico State
Justin Watson, Pennsylvania
Cedrick Wilson, Boise State
Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan
Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin
Mike Gesicki, Penn State
Durham Smythe, Notre Dame
Mason Cole (C), Michigan
Tyrell Crosby (OT), Oregon
Jamil Demby (OT), Maine
Will Hernandez (OG), UTEP
Brian O'Neill (OT), Pittsburgh
Scott Quessenberry (C), UCLA
Wyatt Teller (OG), Virginia Tech
Brett Toth (OT), Army
Sean Welsh (OG), Iowa
B.J. Hill (DT), N.C. State
Jalyn Holmes (DE), Ohio State
Justin Jones (DT), N.C. State
Tyquan Lewis (DE), Ohio State
Bilal Nichols (DT), Delaware
Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (DE), Oklahoma
Harrison Phillips (DT), Stanford
Ja'Whaun Bentley (ILB), Purdue
Nick DeLuca (ILB), North Dakota State
Garrett Dooley (OLB), Wisconsin
Dewey Jarvis (OLB), Brown
Mike McCray (ILB), Michigan
Myles Pierce (ILB), The Citadel
Kemoko Turay (OLB), Rutgers
Fred Warner (ILB), BYU
Marcus Allen (S), Penn State
Christian Campbell (CB), Penn State
Duke Dawson (CB), Florida
Trayvon Henderson (S), Hawaii
Taron Johnson (CB), Weber State
Michael Joseph (CB), Dubuque
Jamarcus King (CB), South Carolina
Armani Watts (S), Texas A&M
Kyzir White (S), West Virginia
Isaac Yiadom (CB), Boston College
Michael Badgley (K), Miami
Tanner Carew (LS), Oregon
Johnny Townsend (P), Florida
Coaching staff: Houston Texans
Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Brandon Silvers, Troy
Mike White, Western Kentucky
Nick Bawden (FB), San Diego State
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Ito Smith, Southern Mississippi
Darrel Williams, LSU
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
DJ Chark, LSU
J'Mon Moore, Missouri
Byron Pringle, Kansas State
Tre'Quan Smith, UCF
James Washington, Oklahoma State
Jordan Akins, UCF
Ian Thomas, Indiana
Deon Yelder, Western Kentucky
Bradley Bozeman (C), Alabama
Alex Cappa (OT), Humboldt State
Austin Corbett (C), Nevada
Austin Golson (C), Auburn
Colby Gossett (OG), Appalachian State
Desmond Harrison (OT), West Georgia
Taylor Hearn (OG), Clemson
Joseph Noteboom (OT), TCU
Brandon Parker (OT), North Carolina A&T
Skyler Phillips (OG), Idaho State
Isaiah Wynn (OG), Georgia
Andrew Brown (DT), Virginia
Kylie Fitts (DE), Utah
Poona Ford (DT), Texas
Marcus Davenport (DE), Texas-San Antonio
Greg Gilmore (DT), LSU
Da'Shawn Hand (DE), Alabama
Christian LaCouture (DT), LSU
Oren Burks (ILB), Vanderbilt
Shaquem Griffin (OLB), UCF
Marquis Haynes (OLB), Ole Miss
Darius Leonard (ILB), South Carolina State
Uchenna Nwosu (OLB), USC
Dorian O'Daniel (ILB), Clemson
Tre' Williams (ILB), Auburn
Nate Andrews (S), Florida State
Quin Blanding (S), Virginia
Danny Johnson (CB), Southern
Kameron Kelly (CB), San Diego State
Tray Matthews (S), Auburn
Siran Neal (CB), Jacksonville State
Jeremy Reaves (S), South Alabama
M.J. Stewart (CB), North Carolina
Chandon Sullivan (CB), Georgia State
D'Montre Wade (CB), Murray State
Levi Wallace (CB), Alabama
Daniel Carlson (K), Auburn
Ike Powell (LS), Auburn
JK Scott (P), Alabama
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