Just like that, the 2018 NFL Draft has come to a close. As a result, there are plenty of players to discuss, from the good ones to the bad ones. We won’t be talking about every player or every team, but we’ll be discussing some of the teams that won the draft. Despite these players never playing a down in the NFL, there’s a lot to like from where they got drafted and how they translate to the pros.
Here are some of my overall favorite picks from the Draft:
3rd Round (pick 84) – San Diego Chargers – Justin Jones, DT from North Carolina State
If you haven’t learned by now, this is my player. He’s a natural fit for a 3-technique and is a technician. He’s not an athletic freak, but he’s a stout player that can be part of the starting defensive line right away. Solid punch, moves well laterally, and instantly helps with stopping the run. Many will consider this a reach, but trust me, this is a solid pick for the Chargers.
4th Round (pick 101) – Carolina Panthers – Ian Thomas, TE from Indiana
Once again, this is one of my guys. There’s been speculation that Greg Olsen could retire and start a career in the broadcast booth. He recently signed a two-year contract extension, but after he’s gone, it’ll be the Ian Thomas show. He’s a raw route runner and only has one year of production, but he’s a great inline blocker and moves well in the open field. His hands need to become more consistent, but he’ll contribute in the run game and can be a red zone player from day one.
5th Round (pick 140) – Oakland Raiders – Maurice Hurst, DT from Michigan
It was no secret that Mo Hurst had a heart condition. That’s the reason he was so limited in the draft process. This heart condition made many teams so worried that they took him off their boards completely. Despite the Raiders making questionable picks throughout the entire process, this is a very good pick and has great value. Hurst can be a day one starter and is the most disruptive defensive tackle in this year’s class. He’s got to become more consistent with block recognition, but he’s a fierce competitor who can stop the run and rush the passer. It’s well worth the gamble for the Raiders, who had a questionable draft overall.
Who Had the Best Draft?
There are plenty of teams that had really good drafts. The Atlanta Falcons had a great draft, in my opinion. The Green Bay Packers were stealing players left and right. Don’t forget that the Jacksonville Jaguars, who already had a talented roster and who added even more of it, despite drafting Tanner Lee from Nebraska.
Even though there were plenty of teams with great picks and great value, the team that won the 2018 NFL Draft was the Cincinnati Bengals.
1st Round – Pick 21 – Billy Price, OC from Ohio State
Outside of Quenton Nelson and Isaiah Wynn, this was my highest-ranked interior lineman. Billy Price was the best center in the draft, and he’s far and away the most consistent. He brings versatility and 55 straight starts to Cincinnati. His hand placement is consistent, he operates well in space and can get to the second level with ease. From anchoring in pass protection to always moving forward in the run game, he’s exactly what you want out of an offensive lineman. Price is a leader and plays with a nasty side that will help improve the Bengals’ rushing attack.
2nd Round – Pick 54 – Jessie Bates, S from Wake Forest
Where he translates to this defense will be tough to decide right now. Shawn Williams and George Illoka are signed through 2019 and 2020, so he won’t play right away. However, he’s got great range and has the recovering speed you want out of a safety. He can come up and tackle, but his ability as a center fielder in a single-high set is what will make his transition easy at the next level.
3rd Round – Pick 77 – Sam Hubbard, EDGE from Ohio State
I never got behind the hype of Sam Hubbard, but this is a great value pick. He had been in the first round discussion, but he’s a solid day two pick. He provides you a great depth edge player who can play square and has a great motor. His hand usage can become inconsistent and he’s not the most gifted athlete, but he’s going to be a nice player on third downs and could be utilized in short yardage. Pairing him with Carlos Dunlap, Michael Johnson, Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson provides the Bengals with plenty of depth up front.
Didn't get to watch much of LB Jefferson this season.— Cover 1 (@Cover1) January 11, 2018
79 solo tackles, 30 assisted and 4 sacks isn't that bad of a season. pic.twitter.com/h3o0oBOkak
3rd Round – Pick 78 – Malik Jefferson, LB from Texas
The forgotten man, Malik Jefferson. That’s how I would describe the once-discussed first round pick. It’s no surprise to see Jefferson fall to the second day of the draft, but he went much later than expected. He’s a terrific athlete with great range and has the ability to drop into coverage. He’ll need to become more fluid in coverage and has to become a better tackler, but he fills a need for the Bengals at linebacker. He’ll keep the training wheels on for year one and then should become a solid pro down the line.
4th Round – Pick 112 – Mark Walton, RB from Miami (FL)
There’s so much to like about this pick. It allows the Bengals to rely on their two top backs, Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, but it will also allow them to sprinkle in an explosive playmaker in Mark Walton. He was nagged by an ankle injury, but his play speed is much better than where he tested. He’ll contribute on third downs for the Bengals, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him utilized in some type of red zone role. He won’t have the same role or expectations as Jeremy Hill, but he’ll certainly be more consistent.
5th Round – Pick 151 – Devontae Harris, CB from Illinois State
I’ll be honest, I’ve watched one game from Harris in 2016 (vs. Northwestern), but he looks like a solid depth pick. He had 22 reps in the bench press and ran a 4.43 40-yard dash. There’s no questions about his long speed, and overall, he did well for Illinois State. Over the last three seasons, he’s had 39 pass deflections and four interceptions. I thought there were times that he played high and looked stiff, but he’s got the tools for a depth corner, from his physicality and ability to find the football. He’ll play behind players like William Jackson and Dre Kirkpatrick, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see his name in the rotation after year one.
5th Round – Pick 158 – Andrew Brown, DT from Virginia
This is an absolute steal for the Bengals. Andrew Brown played out of position for the Cavaliers. There was no way that he should have played as a 5-technique, but he provides the Bengals with some versatility. I think he translates as a 3-technique and should play behind and alongside Andrew Billings and Geno Atkins. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Brown become a starter in the middle of this defensive line. He’s got a great burst and has a high motor, but he’ll need to become more consistent with his hands. He can translate speed to power (average), but at times he’ll rely too much on his power. Overall, this is a great pick for the Bengals at the 158th pick of the draft.
5th Round – Pick 170 – Darius Phillips, CB from Western Michigan
Special teams contributor right away and a depth cornerback. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Phillips play as a nickel at the next level, but he’s got the speed to play on the outside. He only ran a 4.54 40-yard dash time, but he’s an explosive player, especially when the ball is in his hands. The Bengals didn’t draft him to be a starting cornerback; they drafted him to be a return man and to cover slot receivers. This is a great value pick that has an impact on their special teams unit.
Really like Woodside's anticipation...He's going to need it. pic.twitter.com/MGO3vhWhY4— Cover 1 (@Cover1) December 15, 2017
7th Round – Pick 249 – Logan Woodside, QB from Toledo
Undersized quarterback that doesn’t have a strong arm. He’ll compete for a backup spot on the roster, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him on the practice squad. He’s got some athletic ability and fits an offense that gets the ball out of his hand quickly. His anticipation in the pocket is a plus, but he’ll be brought in to serve as a backup.
7th Round – Pick 252 – Rod Taylor, OG from Ole Miss
Taylor’s a versatile offensive lineman who has experience playing offensive tackle. More than likely, he’ll plug inside for the Bengals. Don’t expect him to start right away; he should serve as a depth player for this offensive line. He’s gifted laterally and did well in space, but his hand placement is inconsistent and he looks stiff in the hips with pass protection.
I'm always so impressed by Auden Tate. Beats this press and even if the safety comes over the top and the ball is thrown high...you know Tate would have gone up and got it. It's crazy he'll be 21-years-old for his entire rookie season. At 6'5, his ceiling is so damn high. pic.twitter.com/DbOTbMXgxP— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) February 23, 2018
7th Round – Pick 253 – Auden Tate, WR from Florida State
I won’t say this is an absolute steal because Tate tested so poorly at the Scouting Combine. That’s the big reason why he fell so far down the board. However, Tate has the size at 6’5 and 228 pounds. He high points the ball really well and has great body control. With only one year of consistent production, Tate is plenty raw, but there’s a lot of upside with him, especially in the 7th round. He’ll play his rookie year at the age of 21 and should improve as a route runner. Don’t expect him to be shifty in the open field, but expect him to be a red zone threat for Andy Dalton.
Summing It Up
There were a lot of teams that had really great drafts. For example, both the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers crushed the it. But don’t sleep on this draft from the Cincinnati Bengals. They added a ton of talent to their front seven and added some solid pieces to their offense. Billy Price will start right away, Mark Walton will have a role, and Auden Tate should see some targets in the red zone and in man coverages.
Where the Bengals drafted these players is what impresses me the most. Andrew Brown in the fifth round is a great value pick, and Auden Tate in the seventh round has some serious upside because of how young he is. He’ll play alongside A.J. Green and should develop into a nice 2nd or 3rd option in this offense. Overall, I was very pleased with how the Bengals approached this draft. Drafting good football players is what they need to do, and they did just that. They get an overall draft grade of an A in my book.