We’re almost to the finish line for the 2018 NFL draft. I’m finishing up my evaluations this week and will have next week my list of the top 300 overall prospects and position-by-position rankings. And then the following Thursday night is Round 1.
First, I’m answering your questions. I picked the 15 best questions I saw via Twitter and answered them below. To get even more of your questions answered, tune in Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN for a SportsCenter Special: You’ve Got Mel & Todd. It’s an entire hour devoted to me and Todd McShay fielding even more of your draft-related questions. You can submit those via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #AskMelandTodd.
One note before I get going: Several of the questions below were edited for clarity. Let’s get started with — who else? — the Cleveland Browns.
How can Browns GM John Dorsey sell Josh Allen to the fan base? (via @bueterful)
Allen has the highest ceiling of any quarterback in this class, and he has all the talent in the world to be a superstar quarterback. It’s just going to take some time. This is Dorsey’s first draft as Cleveland general manager, and he just took over an 0-16 team. He deserves time to find his guy, and Allen could be that guy after a redshirt year in which he sits behind Tyrod Taylor and makes the adjustment to the NFL.
Who’s the pass-rusher with the highest upside? (via @troyadami)
If we leave out NC State’s Bradley Chubb, who I’ve said is the draft’s best edge rusher, I have to go with Marcus Davenport. The 6-foot-6, 264-pound Texas-San Antonio product has size and athleticism that can’t be taught. His 4.58 40-yard dash at the combine was the fastest of any defensive linemen. He could play as a defensive end in a 4-3 or as an outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Davenport just needs a team to be patient with him and develop his pass-rushing moves. I’ve said for a while that Green Bay, which has veterans he could learn from, is a great fit.
Who is the safest prospect in the draft? (via @draftoutlook18)
I get this question often, and I usually go with the guys I know are going to see the field early and often. Running backs have the easiest path as a rookies — they don’t need a ton of developmental time. What you see coming out of college is what they’re going to be in training camp. That’s why the safest guy in this class is Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, my top-ranked prospect. Barkley is a true three-down back who has an elite grade from me. He’s going to be a star.
What are the chances Barkley falls to the Bucs at No. 7? (via @davidest93)
Zero chance. Sorry, David. He’s going in the top five and might be off the board to the Giants at No. 2.
Who are the three best first-round fits for Lamar Jackson? (via @flachituk)
The teams most likely to take the Louisville quarterback, in my opinion:
Buffalo Bills: They have two first-rounds picks (12 and 22) and might try to use those picks to move up to grab one of the other top quarterbacks. If they don’t trade the picks, Jackson makes sense at either spot. Would they risk passing on Jackson at 12 and hoping he makes it to 22? Another team could try to trade up, too.
New England Patriots: With two first-round picks (23 and 31), the Patriots are the wild card here. How much do they like Jackson, and how much do they think they need a quarterback of the future behind 41-year-old Tom Brady? New England does have a few more needs than it usually does, so the Patriots don’t have to grab a quarterback on Day 1.
Calvin Ridley for a tight end at No. 27? (via @Saintspat)
They definitely could. This team has been looking for a big-time tight end since it traded away Jimmy Graham in 2015. And the Saints might think tight end is the bigger need because they have some quality wideouts. If I was the general manager there, I’d pick the Alabama receiver Ridley. He’s so talented and his tape is so strong that I’m not worried about his combine workout numbers.
In the end, though, I think Ridley will be off the board at pick 27, so Sean Payton & Co. won’t have to make that decision. The decision could instead be South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert or South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, who are neck and neck as the top tight ends in this class.
This is the rare case in which versatility has hurt a prospect. There are some teams that don’t know what to do with the Alabama defender Fitzpatrick, who isn’t a true safety or true cornerback. At 6-0, 204 pounds, he’s a tweener. He played both positions for the Crimson Tide. On my board, Fitzpatrick is ranked higher. I think he could be a ball-hawking free safety or a No. 1 cornerback who helps in the slot.
But we are definitely trending toward the Florida State safety James, a bigger defensive back who lit up the combine, being picked higher than Fitzpatrick. That leads right into the next question …
Which prospect could surprisingly slide out of the top 10? (via @ThatOsCruz)
Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick could be the third defensive back off the board, behind Florida State safety Derwin James and Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. That might put him outside the top 10. Now, if I was running a team that had a top-10 pick, I’d take Fitzpatrick. If he falls out of the top 10, some team — how about Washington at pick 13? — is going to get a steal.
Prospect Profile: Derrius Guice
Mel Kiper Jr. says Derrius Guice’s ability to compile yards after contact make him a solid RB prospect.
The team that makes the most sense in Round 1 is the Detroit Lions at pick 20. They have to get an every-down back in this draft. If the LSU running back Guice makes it to Round 2, the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, assuming they both pass on Saquon Barkley at the top of the first round, should be in play. Guice is my second-ranked back and a really solid player who will make an impact as a rookie.
Jackson is going in the first round. I have no doubt there. As far as the highest spot for him, I think it’s No. 12 to the Buffalo Bills.
There is also some recent buzz about Rudolph sneaking into the first round. There are a few teams that like him more than Jackson. So for the highest spot he could go, I’ll say No. 28. That puts him one spot before the Jacksonville Jaguars, as a team could trade up before the Jags pick and grab him. Rudolph is more of a second-round prospect for me, though.
Depends what you mean by “drop.” Georgia’s Roquan Smith is trending toward becoming the first linebacker to be drafted, but Edmunds is going to be the second. He’s probably not going in the top 10, but I expect him off the board in the top 15. The Virginia Tech linebacker could play inside or outside. He has an extremely high ceiling and is one of the most athletic prospects in the entire class.
Chubb, Hines among RBs who offer value outside of 1st round
Mel Kiper Jr. says running backs Nick Chubb, Nyheim Hines and Mark Walton could all be valuable picks after the first round of the NFL draft.
Who are the best punt/kick returners in the draft? (via @reg3835)
I’ll give you two names. Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk is a dynamic return man who had seven total return touchdowns in his career, six on punts and one on a kickoff. He’s also a stellar wide receiver who probably will be picked early in Round 2.
NC State’s Nyheim Hines, meanwhile, is one of the fastest prospects in this class. The 5-8 running back ran a blazing 4.38 40 at the combine. He had a punt return touchdown in 2017, his only season returning punts, and also had two kick return TDs in his career. The best comp I have for Hines? Darren Sproles, who has had a great career as a complementary back and return man. Hines is probably a third- or fourth-round pick.
I really like Falk. The Washington State quarterback is smart and accurate, and he impressed teams at the Senior Bowl with how professional he took the week, both on and off the field. Arm strength is the question with Falk. His arm has to get stronger. He’s also not a great athlete and will have to be a guy who sits in the pocket behind a good offensive line. That’s why he’s not mentioned in the top group of quarterbacks. Falk could be drafted late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
Who’s the most underrated wide receiver in this class? (via @Ryanmac818)
Easy answer for me. It’s Memphis’ Anthony Miller, one of my favorite prospects in this draft. He’s not the biggest guy (5-11), and he’s not the fastest, but he’s tough. And Miller produces — he had had 96 catches and 18 touchdowns in 2017. Some team is going to get a good receiver on Day 2.
After Dallas Goedert, who is the highest-ranked prospect from an FCS school? (via @NDSUTitan)
Love this question, and here’s a name for everyone to remember: Nathan Shepherd. He’s a defensive tackle from Fort Hays State who is from Canada and played at two other schools before finding his way to Kansas. Shepherd is a really good player. He had 12.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks last season. At 6-4, 315 pounds, he’s powerful and quick. He’s probably going to be drafted in the third round.
The last guy to be drafted out of Fort Hays State? Frankie Neal, a wide receiver who was picked by the Packers in the third round in 1987. He had 36 catches as a rookie, his lone season in the NFL.