Ahh, the best time of the year, playoff football. There’s nothing better than that “do or die”, “win or go home” reality that only NFL players and coaches face. The tension and drama that will ensue over the next few weeks simply cannot be rivaled and we should be in for a truly wild and unpredictable ride (especially so in the NFC).
As the brackets have been revealed and we can begin to make our predictions (Patriots over the Vikings would be my guess), one thing we should also think about is the weight rookies have carried with the very teams that have earned playoff berths. The running backs, in particular, have been astounding. With Alvin Kamara, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, and Kareem Hunt all participating in round one play, I just can’t wait to see how these kids play under the nation’s brightest lights.
As for receivers, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, and Corey Davis will all have opportunities to make plays fans will either talk about fondly or agonize over for years. Hopefully, that’s not too much pressure for these young men, and I’m confident they’ll show up and contribute as usual.
I couldn’t help but talk about the upcoming playoffs, now it’s time to get into a standard mock. Let’s go!
1) Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
He proved it once again in the Fiesta Bowl against Washington. Saquon Barkley is plainly a ridiculous talent. Not just a ridiculous college talent – he’s ridiculous even by NFL draft standards. No more needs to be said about Barkley – if you have the 1.01, you take the Nittany Lion regardless of league type or team needs.
2) Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
I had Guice going at number two in my last PPR mock which I’m sure ruffled some feathers, but in standard leagues, I’m really not even considering anybody else here. Guice struggled to ever really get going in his Junior campaign but the former Fournette backup still shown himself to be a legitimate first-round talent and future franchise back. Don’t overthink this one because of a poor statistical season. Guice is the real deal.
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3) Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
I’ve said in previous articles that Ridley versus Courtland Sutton really came down to Ridley being the better PPR fit and Sutton the better standard option. But as we grow closer and closer to draft day, Ridley is settling himself nicely as the clear WR1 in my eyes. The Saban product will have to find his footing quickly, but I don’t anticipate that being an issue for someone as athletic and defined as a route-runner.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) October 3, 2017
4) Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Maybe seen as a bit of a steal with the fourth pick, Sutton definitely has some traits to get excited about. The comparisons to Dez Bryant aren’t all that far off. I’d like to see Sutton improve a bit in terms of route running and hands, but his strengths of athleticism and frame are beyond tantalizing. Someone who should see himself get drafted in the mid to late first round, I’d love to see what Sutton could add to a playoff or Super Bowl contending team.
5) Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
They call him RoJo for good reason, he runs so fast you don’t even have time to pronounce a three syllable name. The Trojan product is blessed with stunning straight-line speed and acceleration, and he should be one of the best athletes in the NFL from year one. A guy you simply need to get the ball to, Jones could become an instant star.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) November 29, 2017
6) Deon Cain, WR, Clemson
With the pretty shockingly low hype surrounding him, Deon Cain continues to perform. I’m telling you, this kid deserves every bit of attention we spend on Sutton or Ridley. With an acute ability to make himself seem 6’4 even though he stands at 6’1, Cain is very adept at using his body to the fullest advantage. A good route runner with sound hands; I’m not very concerned about the Tiger.
7) Damien Harris, RB, Alabama
Gaining more and more steam as we inch nearer and nearer to rookie drafts, Damien Harris is a name to know if you don’t already. He’s a blur in terms of speed, and with great strength, he has all the tools he needs to become a name we remember for decades down the road. I want to see Harris improve in overall technique as a runner, but that concern is minimal when looking at his strengths.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) October 24, 2017
8) Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
A name devy guys have been hearing about for years, it looks as if Kirk will land nicely as a mid-first round prospect in rookie drafts. The Aggie will always have his athleticism as his calling card, and his route-running skills should translate fairly well. I just hope the rest of his game will round into form over the next few years.
9) Simmie Cobbs, WR, Indiana
Cobbs was the player I felt the most eery about as I went through this first round. I’ve seen good and bad performances out of the Redshirt Junior, but at the end of the day, his NFL level talent has always shown through. Someone who could become a double-digit touchdown receiver given his frame, vertical, and hand strength, expect Cobbs to be mostly a red zone threat early in his career.
10) Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
I had Love going in the early second round of my PPR mock, so this being a standard format I felt like late first was the right spot for him. Given his 5’10, 200 Lb frame, it might be safe to assume he’s a receiving back. But look at the stats, and it’s just really not the case. He’s going to have to clear some hurdles if he wants to be a consistent contributor to an NFL offense, but I think Love can do it.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) November 29, 2017
11) Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
As for NFL draft rankings, I actually favor the Trojan over the Bruin just slightly. But taking into account the fact types of players Rosen and Sam Darnold are respectively, Rosen will get the slight nod in dynasty mocks for now. With a combination of mechanics and footwork that would make him look like a future 4,000-yard passer, it will be hard to pass on him if you’re getting a QB.
12) Sam Darnold, QB, USC
What’s one area that Darnold outranks Rosen in my eyes? Athleticism. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen a really interesting evolution with the quarterback position and I think Darnold nearly perfectly fits the modern mold. Also containing a more than an adequate mix of mechanics and footwork, I’m more than excited about Darnold’s NFL future.
1) Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
Many fans have fallen in love with Miller and the way he plays the game, and if you’ve ever watched him, you probably are in love as well. Similar in play style to Antonio Brown, Miller has a really nice combination of quickness, route running, and ability to win with the ball up for grabs. Miller, no matter what, will be a fun player to have and root for.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) December 6, 2017
2) Rashaad Penny, RB, SDSU
A really strong round-two player in standard formats, Penny is I’d trade up to get. One of my personal “draft crushes”, Penny plays the running back position with amazing patience and agility that makes him a constant thorn in defense’s sides. His long line speed is definitely concerning for me, but I still love Penny nonetheless.
3) Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Readers have been clamoring and demanding I slide Nick Chubb up, but the bottom line is I need to see him prove he’s a bonafide NFL-level athlete before I call him a first-round prospect for your rookie drafts. With elite vision and strength, even if the Bulldog isn’t a great athlete, he should be able to carve out a significant role.
4) Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State
Another one of my draft crushes, Michael Gallup doesn’t have a glaring weakness in his game. Everything from frame to route running, speed to hands, after the catch ability to run blocking, Gallup is simply solid. He may not have those “elite traits” that make first-round prospects, but he’s a player I’m targeting nevertheless.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) December 23, 2017
5) James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Another fan favorite of DLF readers, James Washington may end up getting drafted a little higher than the mid-second round. For good reason. Fans have drooled over the way Washington has dominated college football year in and year out. As I have said before, the scheme change he’ll have to go through, and his height when considering his play style, are both fairly big concerns for me. But if you feel comfortable with the Cowboy in both of those aspects, don’t be afraid to go and get him a bit earlier.
6) Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
Pettis has always been a big playmaker, and I don’t expect that to change once he hits the NFL. With great quickness, speed, and open field ability, I won’t be surprised if he becomes an overnight star due to a breakout game with multiple jaw-dropping highlights. I’m not quite sold on Pettis as a complete NFL receiver, but the tools are there for him to produce.
7) Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
As for NFL draft and PPR rankings, Michel is slightly over Chubb in my eyes, but in standard formats, Michel loses a bit of his value. Someone I don’t necessarily see pushing for double-digit touchdowns, he’ll be a player who proves his worth in both running and receiving yards. His acceleration, vision, and speed are all traits that have me optimistic about his future, and Michel could easily end up being a steal.
8) Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
The first player listed on this mock who did not appear in my PPR mock, Josh Adams gets the nod over someone like Mark Walton because of his pure potential as a runner. While being capable of making plays in the passing game, everything about Adams game points him to being a first and second down back. His patience and power are both very promising, and he also has that all important speed to create those game-changing runs.
9) Auden Tate, WR, Florida State
Others are a tad higher than I am on Tate, but I certainly appreciate the physical tools and upside he shows. A blast to watch, Tate’s 6’5 frame and elite vertical ability show up every Saturday. Someone who should “Moss” his fair share of defenders over his career, take Tate if you’re looking to swing for the fences at the WR position.
10) Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
Placing tight ends is always tricky, and teams will often pick at this position because of need, but I’d advise valuing Goedert, Mark Andrews, and Mike Gesicki as late second/early third round prospects. A tremendous athlete who may need time to transition from the FCS to the NFL, take Goedert if you’re willing to wait before you see a return on your investment.
11) Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Perhaps more pro-ready than Goedert, Andrews could be more of an instant-impact player at a position in which we rarely see it. Polished in his routes with easily suitable athleticism and size, Andrews could be a long-term, solid fantasy starter.
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) November 24, 2017
12) DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
A couple of players were tough to leave out, but leaving Moore out would have felt like a crime. Not all that different from a certain former Terrapin starring for the Vikings, he’s someone to keep a steady eye on as the draft process continues to roll forward. A crafty route runner with a keen ability to make plays, Moore is my kind of receiver.
Names to Consider
Well, that wraps up this edition of “Bradley Ylitalo’s Scouting Notebook”, please leave a comment or question below. Feel free to shoot me a question on Twitter (@NFL_Drafthub), I’m always happy to interact with football fans. See you next time!