The NFL Draft is quickly coming up on us. NFL teams have some big decisions to make. A lot of teams will be drafting based on team need (Browns and Jets) rather than the best available player, but doing so could cause them to miss out on some generational talents. For example, the Cleveland Browns will almost certainly take a quarterback first overall, but it could cause them to miss out on the best overall player in the draft (Saquon Barkley).
Although some teams may miss those generational talents because their team has other needs, it doesn’t mean the player they’re getting will be a bad choice. There’s a reason they’re projected to go in the first round. It’s because they have talent, but often times players don’t get drafted in order of how talented they are. Again, some teams will get a good player, but at the cost of missing out on a better one.
What I’ve done to showcase this is create a big board. This big board consists of players I’ve frequently seen going in the first round of mock drafts. Instead of listing the players in order of who I think are the best overall prospects, I’ve broken them down into three tiers, Franchise Players, Pro Bowlers, and Starters. The reason I don’t go any lower than starters, is because teams shouldn’t be drafting a player in the first round if they don’t expect them to start for the team at some point early in their career. Although the players are listed by number, they don’t necessarily reflect my opinion on the exact order of who’s the best. Players are ranked in order of potential impact they can have with their future teams.
Keep in mind that any one of these players could surprise us. A player I have ranked as a starter could become a franchise player. Players can also disappoint. Someone ranked as a Pro Bowler could become a bench player who never gets on the field. It happens every year. Even players who are “sure things” at draft time don’t live up to that, so these tiered rankings are based on my perception of these players before they’re officially in the NFL.
A franchise player is someone who has the potential to be the best player in the league at their position at some point in their career. They’re the true difference makers at the position and have outstanding performances every single game. These are the players your team can’t live without. The players every team is afraid of. Some of these players even have the potential to be considered one of the greatest at their position when it’s all said and done.
This draft doesn’t have a whole lot of guys with this kind of potential, but there are a few I see who could have this kind of impact. The head of this group is Saquon Barkley. He’s been described as a generational talent. If he’s in the conversation for the first overall pick, he fits right in here. Bradley Chubb has what it takes to be the NFL’s next great pass rusher. The guy’s a monster! Smith, Edmunds, and James are on the lower end of this group, but they’ve shown me enough to make the cut because I believe their impact can be great enough.
- Saquon Barkley, RB – Penn State
- Quenton Nelson, G – Notre Dame
- Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB – Alabama
- Bradley Chubb, DE – N.C. State
- Roquan Smith, LB – Georgia
- Tremaine Edmunds, LB – Virginia Tech
- Derwin James, S – Florida State
Pro Bowl players are very good players. Running backs who rush for 1,000 yards consistently, quarterbacks who can lead a team to a Super Bowl, etc. Just because they’re not labeled as potential franchise players, it doesn’t mean they’re bad players at all. They may not be the very best at their position, but they’re considered to be at the top. It’s a huge blow to your team when these guys are out of the game. When you think about who plays in the Pro Bowl, they’re all really good players, but there are too many players who make the Pro Bowl for them all to be considered a franchise player.
I included all the quarterbacks in first round consideration in this group because I don’t think any of them will be the best at their position. They all have potential to be really good players. They may even be a franchise quarterback, a guy who can have his team in position to contend every year. As you go down the list, you’ll see players like Da’ron Payne, Derrius Guice, and Calvin Ridley. All players who have the potential to make big impacts for their future teams.
- Sam Darnold, QB – USC
- Josh Rosen, QB – UCLA
- Baker Mayfield, QB – Oklahoma
- Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville
- Josh Allen, QB – Wyoming
- Denzel Ward, CB – Ohio State
- Vita Vea, DT – Washington
- Marcus Davenport, DE – UTSA
- Da’ron Payne, DT – Alabama
- Isaiah Wynn, G – Georgia
- Harold Landry, LB – Boston College
- Ronald Jones II, RB – USC
- Derrius Guice, RB – LSU
- Josh Jackson, CB – Iowa
- Kolton Miller, OT – UCLA
- Calvin Ridley, WR – Alabama
- Rashaan Evans, LB – Alabama
- Mike McGlinchey, OT – Notre Dame
- Courtland Sutton, WR – SMU
- Will Hernandez, G – UTEP
- Billy Price, C – Ohio State
- Maurice Hurst, DT – Michigan
Starters are solid. They’re not bad players in any way. These guys are going to be the best player at their position on a lot of teams, but around the league there are a lot of other guys at the position who are better. They might not get a lot of attention because of that reason. Starters are relied upon to provide solid play every game. It could be difficult to replace them if something happens. They’re a starter for a reason, and it’s because they’re talented.
Some of these players listed here are in first round consideration because of great combine performances, D.J. Chark, Taven Bryan, and Jaire Alexander to name a few. These guys are going to make an impact on their teams. A guy like Chark can make an impact using his speed and big body, while a guy like Taven Bryan can make an impact using his pure athleticism.
- Connor Williams, OT – Texas
- Orlando Brown, OT – Oklahoma
- James Washington, WR – Oklahoma State
- D.J. Chark, WR – LSU
- D.J. Moore, WR – Maryland
- Taven Byran, DT – Florida
- Leighton Vander Esch, LB – Boise State
- Ronnie Harrison, S – Alabama
- Sony Michel, RB – Georgia
- Isaiah Oliver, CB – Colorado
- Malik Jefferson, LB – Texas
- Jaire Alexander, CB – Louisville
- Mike Hughes, CB – UCF
When their careers are all said and done, who do you think will be the best player from this draft class? Comment who you think it will be and why!