1. Quenton Nelson
“I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game by each play finishing them past the whistle.”
An offensive lineman will never be considered a sexy pick in the NFL draft but Nelson comes as close as anyone ever could to changing that concept. He’s straight nasty and brings terror to any defensive line who is targeting his quarterback or trying to slow down any of his ballcarriers. We are used to offensive tackles going at the top of the draft but guard is quickly becoming the position of focus and Nelson is the new poster boy for guard dominance. Defenses are not only focusing on rushing the edges anymore, they are now moving their fleetfooted bullrushers up the middle and offenses are countering by seeking out more athletic guards to counter the attack. Nelson proved with an outstanding combine performance that he is both athletic and strong and that he’s not afraid of being labeled a nasty player. He’s a bulldozer on first down who can help the run game get that extra yard or blow open a giant hole, he’s also a stalwart on third down who can set up a pocket and keep a quarterback on his feet long enough to make that big play. What really makes him special as an NFL prospect, though, is versatility. He can play all five positions on the line at a very high level. In a league that loves hybrid type players who can adjust to all facets of the extremely complicated modern day schemes, Nelson not only has the tools to be successful but he should continue to help redefine the way the game is played.
2. Saquon Barkley
“I would punch myself in the nuts many, many, many times to be able to draft him.”
Barkley has proven many times on the field of play that he has the speed, strength, leaping ability, and quick twitch to be a home run hitter almost anytime he touches the ball. He proved it again by having a stellar performance in every aspect of the combine. What he hasn’t proven is that he can be the straight forward runner that so many scouts and general managers lusted over in the old school NFL. Teams used to look for bruisers whos also had the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. However, we are seeing that the League is changing drastically to a style that is moving backs all around the line of scrimmage and expecting them to wear many different hats according to the situation that is facing their squad. Barkley is the embodiment of the modern day jack of all trades style of running back and should make some head coach and/or offensive coordinator extremely happy as long as they find ways to put him in a position to show off his skills as a playmaker in a consistently creative and productive fashion
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick
“Minkah does it as well as anybody I ever coached in terms of how he works every day, how he finishes plays, his conditioning level.”
A successful defense in the modern NFL needs to have stars and playmakers at the cornerback, safety, and linebacker positions. The dominant defenses are seeking out players who can succeed at all three positions depending on the situation. Fitzpatrick, who has been tauted as the best defensive player to come out of Alabama in a long time, has the talent and potential to not only fill that role for the right team, he has the ability to be the best at his new position. He has the ball skills to cover any of the receivers, tight ends, and running backs on the field, can bring the heat as a pass rusher, and isn’t a liability on running downs. Fitzpatrick is also the “quarterback of the defense” type of player that teams are looking for and even though his style is more of a quite, lead by example type of motivation, it get the job done because his teammates respect his knowledge and heart on and off the field.
4. Christian Kirk
“It’s not just straight liver; it has some protein, spinach, vegetables and fruit in there as well.
The league is no longer dominated solely by tall receivers with superhuman leaping ability. Now, coaches look for quick playmakers with great hands who can play the slot and bust up zone defenses with game changing speed. Kirk has the exolosiveness to tear open defenses with blazing routes down the seam or sideline, has the creativity to stay active long enough to make something special out of a broken play, and is also a very steady target in the red zone. Offenses are no longer predictable and stale and Kirk is primed to become the standard for the new electrifying playmaker. It’s frightening to think what could happen if this kid falls to the Patriots and Bill Belichick. He has the talent to fit the style of play that had made the “Hoodies” offenses so successful. He also has the heart, desire, and intelligence to attract the attention of a world class coach and to help rejuvenate an offense. Plus, I don’t see anyway to doubt the dedication of a man who is willing to drink liver shakes.
5. Bradley Chubb
“I feel like I’m the best player and I’m not going to say any one person is better than me. A lot of great players…I just feel like I’m up there at the top.”
Chubb is listed as a six-foot-four, two-hundred-seventy-six pound edge rusher, yet, he slips around even the best offensive tackles he faces like a nearly silent whisper. He’s the definition of poetry in motion, for his size he is extremely fast and agile, his bullrush is more of a piroutte as he slips and slides through the line. He’s intelligent enough to know exactly where the ballcarrier will be in the backfield and strong enough to throw him to the ground with just one outstretched arm. He’s also athletic enough to drop back in coverage under the right circumstances and has a variety of ways he can change a game. In a league that values putting pressure on the quarterback almost as much as it does in signal callers themselves, Chubb is in a class of his own in this draft. He’s the type of defensive lineman that will make offenses drop back on their heels immediately and will help bring out the talent and potential in the lineman beside him and the backs and backers behind him. Many experts have Chubb listed as one of the top prospects in this class and yet after watching film on him, it’s easy to still feel like he may somehow still be underrated or at least underestimated.
6. Lamar Jackson
“Short, and a little bit slight, and clearly, clearly not the thrower the other guys are. The accuracy isn’t there. So I would say don’t wait to make that change…”
Aa ridiculously athletic as he is, Jackson has gone out of his way to make it very clear that he is not going to be a receiver in the NFL. He’s a passer and you don’t have to watch game film for very long to see that this guy is a playmaker and he can drop dimes to receivers all over the field. He may not be your classic pocket passer but the current league is set up to move away from the three step drop and toward the scramble, it is just waiting for the right guy to usher in the new era. Imagine Michael Vick in today’s NFL. Try to picture what he could do with fleet footed, sure handed receivers running all over the field and distracting the attention of the defenses away from him. You won’t have to play make believe much longer because we will see it as soon as Jackson steps on the field. The fact that teams think he’s athletic enough to be a receiver should only raise his stock even more. His ability to hit a home run with his feet on almost any play will open up passing lines downfield for what can be a very devastating arm for unsuspecting defensive backs. It’s scary to think what this kid could do in a modern day version of a dink and dunk offense and how he could usher in a new wave of mobile passers who could change the way the game is played once and for all.