In the first edition of this series, I summarized 19 unique 2018 NFL Mock Drafts and now it’s time to dig a bit deeper as I’ll take a look at some specific players projected to be selected in the first round of next year’s draft.
There were three players named in all 19 mock drafts, meaning these can be considered ultra-safe prospects when considering rookie draft pick value or player value in a devy league.
Sam Darnold, QB USC
The USC quarterback enjoyed a breakout season after taking over for an ineffective Max Browne early in the year. Darnold routinely put up big numbers through the air, along with being a threat as a runner and quickly turned the Trojans program around. Darnold is considered the favorite by many to be both the Heisman winner and the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He is very worthy of a selection in a super-flex devy league, but otherwise dynasty owners should wait until next season, where he’s likely to be a second or third round rookie pick in dynasty leagues.
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Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
With a little less than a year until the 2018 NFL Draft, as well as many dynasty rookie drafts, Penn State’s Barkley looks to be the top prize for fantasy players. He is expected to continue the recent trend of running backs going early in rookie drafts, following the path of Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette. Based on what we know now, Barkley could enter the league as a top five fantasy back from day one. Expect him to be the favorite to be selected 1.01 in most drafts and to be included in the top two rounds of startup dynasty drafts.
Josh Allen, QB Wyoming
There is still a lot we need to learn about Allen, the Wyoming product who surprisingly returned to school, forgoing the recent NFL Draft. Allen has been called a gunslinger by many and has a huge arm, but he also has a subpar completion percentage, despite playing against weaker competition than other top quarterback prospects. Like Darnold and other top signal callers, Allen is worthy of consideration in super-flex leagues, but not 1QB leagues. He’s also expected to be among the top five players selected next year, making him a second or third rounder, as were recent first round quarterbacks like Jared Goff and Mitchell Trubisky.
After the consensus top three, there were five other players mentioned in at least 75% (14 or more) of the 19 mock drafts.
Josh Rosen, QB UCLA
UCLA’s Rosen seems like a lock to be taken in the first round, potentially as high as the top overall pick, but at least one mock drafter must be concerned about some reported off-field issues with Rosen centering around a supposed bad attitude. I don’t foresee this being enough to keep Rosen out of the first round. He’ll be valued in the same range as Allen and Darnold in next year’s rookie drafts.
Derrius Guice, RB LSU
As noted in the previous edition of this series, Barkley and LSU’s Guice are battling it out for the top running back spot and the chance to be the first player drafted in dynasty leagues next season. While Barkley is the heavy favorite right now, we should not dismiss Guice’s talent. He was included in all but two of the mock drafts and is the current favorite to be the second player off the board in 2018 rookie drafts.
Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama
Ridley looked the part of a future first round NFL Draft pick during his freshman season, but disappointed last year as run-first quarterback Jalen Hurts ran the offense. With Alabama nearly winning a Nation Championship and expected to contend again in 2017, we’re likely to see Hurts once again under center. Ridley has the tools necessary to be a top pick in both the NFL and dynasty leagues, but I simply don’t have faith he puts it all together.
Christian Kirk, WR Texas A&M
As I studied the mock drafts, one of the biggest surprises was how high Kirk, Texas A&M’s playmaker, was being projected. Kirk showed up in 15 of the 19 mocks and was placed in the top 10 in five of those, with a high spot of third overall. Kirk has been the best of a crowded receiver depth chart for the Aggies and with many of his teammates the past two season now gone, including Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones and Speedy Noil, he should have even more opportunity. If he does end up being drafted among the top half of the first round, I think he could be in a similar spot to John Ross, who was drafted highly, yet fell to the back half of dynasty rookie drafts.
Courtland Sutton, WR SMU
My favorite to be the top wide receiver in rookie drafts next season is Sutton, who spurned the NFL and returned to school. Sutton is sure to draw comparisons to Corey Davis, another non-Power Five school wideout who went back to school and then went on to be a top five draft pick. Although he was left out of a handful of mock drafts, Sutton is part of my top tier along with Barkley and Guice.
This next group of players were featured in around half of the mock drafts. While that may not sound impressive, it is important to realize how difficult it is to project this group of players so far ahead of time. These four players could easily be selected in the first round in 2018.
Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State
James Washington, WR Oklahoma State
Rudolph was yet another player who could’ve been a part of the recent draft class, but chose to return to school, along with his teammate James Washington. Both players could be first rounders in 2018 and Washington is expected to also crack the top twelve of rookie drafts. The pair will form one of the top QB/WR duos in college football next season.
Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville
Many questions continue to plague the Heisman winner, specifically about whether he can play the quarterback position in the NFL. Due to his speed and team-leading rushing numbers, Jackson has been compared to Michael Vick, but lacks the big arm of the former Falcons star. If Jackson can even come close to repeating his 2016 performance, he’ll likely be a first-round pick as a quarterback.
Bo Scarbrough, RB Alabama
There’s no denying Scarbrough is a beast, but he has many strikes against him, too. The Alabama back faces a lot of competition for touches this season and has also dealt with some off-field issues and multiple injuries during his college career. Add to that the fact he’s one of the oldest prospects in the class and Scarbrough will likely be a player I avoid in 2018 dynasty drafts.
Nick Chubb, RB Georgia
It’s still a bit of a shock that Chubb chose to return to school rather than declare for the 2017 NFL Draft. Chubb looked to be the next superstar back during his freshman and sophomore seasons before suffering a serious knee injury that had some doubting if he’d ever play again. Chubb, of course, was able to return to the field, but hasn’t looked the same. If he can return to that early collegiate career form, he’ll push for a spot in the top tier, but if that doesn’t happen, Chubb could actually fall to the second round, which once seemed unthinkable.
Several players were mentioned in just a few mock drafts. We all have our favorite sleeper picks and an easy way to plant that flag is to mention them amongst the top college players in the game. Also, mock drafters must consider the idea that some little-known quarterback could sneak into the first round, which happens nearly every season.
Among the players in this category were:
Mike Gesicki, TE Penn State
Luke Falk, QB Washington State
Deon Cain, WR Clemson
Royce Freeman, RB Oregon
Mark Andrews, TE Oklahoma
Mike Weber, RB Ohio State
Jake Browning, QB Washington
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Notre Dame
Parris Campbell, WR Ohio State
Jarrett Stidham, QB Auburn
Antonio Callaway, WR Florida
Anthony Miller, WR Memphis
Troy Fumagalli, TE Wisconsin
By next April, there is a good chance at least one or maybe even two of the quarterbacks listed here will crack the first round, but it is simply too difficult to predict at this time which of them that might be. In a deep 2QB devy league, each of these players should be considered. Likewise, any of the other players mentioned could also sneak into the top 32, though my personal favorites are St. Brown from Notre Dame and Cain, potentially the next in line of high-level Clemson wideouts. Both of these receivers have a good chance to crack the first round of dynasty rookie drafts next season.
In the next edition of this series, I’ll focus on each position, take a look at each NFL team and which positions they are projected to select.
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