Closing the Circle on the 2018 NFL Draft

As the collective NFL Draft community closes the books on the 2018 NFL Draft final mock drafts and big boards are released in hopes that NFL teams will mimic their predictions. While mocks change and opinions develop, the draft process always begins somewhere. For this draft season, the first big board of the year was released on June 21, 2017 with the top 50 players ranked ahead of the 2017-18 NCAA football season. 

Out of those 50 players, four decided to return to school for another season. Those players were: #2 Christian Wilkins, #23 Cameron Smith, #30 Mitch Hyatt and #46 Dante Booker. Those four will likely be high on the initial 2019 big board. Other players on the board ranged from correct predictions to absolutely disastrous calls on the part of yours truly. 

On that big board, the top-five consisted of (from five to one) Minkah Fitzpatrick, Sam Darnold, Saquon Barkley and Derwin James. With the exception of Wilkins, this group are all still relatively close to their rankings. The biggest difference being Darnold, who dropped 17 spots to #21 overall on my final big board. James fell from #1 to #7, more out of other players moving than any fault of his own. Barkley fell from #3 to #4 while Fitzpatrick moved up from #5 to #3.

Other players who stayed close to their initial rankings were Cortland Sutton – falling one spot from #11 to #12, Harold Landry – moving up from #15 to #9 and Vita Vea – moving up one spot from #26 to #25. Those calls may have been good, but most are not here to see the good calls – rather here for the misses. 

Starting in the top-10, two big misses on defensive linemen – #9 Arden Key and #10 Da’Shawn Hand. Key was a player that many were high on before and throughout the season thanks to his explosive play ability, but off-field issues and effort questions saw him fall to a possible late day two to early day three pick. As for Hand, he was an Alabama defensive lineman that many thought could make a lot of plays and possibly even move to the edge. Injuries and the compounding weight gain have him as in interior lineman who did not prove a lot – falling out of the top-100 for many. 

Those misses look bad, but do not compare to the misses at #18, #36, #39 and #43. These numbers represent (brace yourself) Travarus McFadden, Marquis Haynes, Jamar Summers and Lowell Lotulelei. The obvious question is, what was I thinking? On McFadden, his ability to track the ball was enticing, and he was in a defensive backfield with Derwin James, which would help him not get beat over the top. His tight hips and lack of elite speed doomed him, however. On Haynes, I simply fell in love with a speed rusher and ignored the signs of lack of size and pass rush moves. Summers was a cornerback with good size and toughness, but his inability to turn and run with opponents and his trouble tracking the ball greatly hurt his stock. Finally, on Lotulelei, it appeared that he simply lost his ability to hold down the middle of the line, showing decreased play strength and appearing to show a loss in desire.

Not all misses are bad misses, however. The top two players on my latest big board, Bradley Chubb and Quenton Nelson, found themselves at #28 and #35, respectively, at the start of the season. Their great play moved them up, and I do not feel overly bad being too low on them.

Long story short, the NFL Draft is an inexact science. Player seasons greatly dictate where they fall in they eyes of evaluators and NFL teams. Each year, evaluators have big hits and big misses, but learning from those calls and being able to look back without shame make the draft process fun. With the NFL Draft starting tonight, there is not a much better way to bring the process full circle.