Russell Brown | Top 160 Big Board

04/18/2018
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With just over a week left until the 2018 NFL Draft, we all begin to finalize our positional rankings. We also begin to put our big boards together and give ourselves a general idea of where a player might land. If you’re in a draft room, the big board provides you each player’s value and an understanding of when you should take that player.

I’m a firm believe that if you like a player, take that player. If you can move down and get that player, even better. Sometimes, you just have to force your hand and stay true to your board. For example, I had JuJu Smith-Schuster ranked as the third-best wide receiver last year, but I let the media and colleagues convince me that John Ross was the better wide receiver. Trust the tape and let the board play itself out.

After plenty of film study and going over the strengths and weaknesses of players, I’ve put together my official big board for the 2018 NFL Draft! I only graded 100 players, but altogether, I feel comfortable placing 160 players that I’ve watched. Honestly, I’ve watched more than 160 players, but I don’t feel confident in placing those players on the board without more study of their film. Without further adieu, I bring you my big board for the 2018 NFL Draft!

So here are how the grades will work for this specific big board. As you can see, any player with the grade of 100-84 is a first round talent. From there, I think you can figure it out. These grades were based on each player’s individual position. Each position has a variety of traits. Some positions might have 10-12 traits graded, while others only have 8-10.

Some of those traits include vision, burst, anchoring, ball placement, etc. It clearly depends on the player’s position. However, each trait is graded 0-10. Ten is the highest score a player can be given for a specific trait, and that ideally means they’re “the elite of the elite” when it comes to that specific trait. Take Quenton Nelson, for example. He’s the elite of the elite.

At the end, each score for each trait is added up and then divided by the total score provided for each position. The running back position is out of a total score of 100 points, the offensive line is out of a total score of 100 points, and the quarterbacks are out of a total score of 90 points. Before I make things more confusing, let’s jump into the board and I’ll explain from there, shall we?

The First Rounders:

Many of these players are differentiated by the smallest margins. Quenton Nelson is the safest pick in this draft and ended up with the highest overall grade. Behind him, you’ll notice Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Roquan Smith, and Josh Rosen. Respectively, all five of these players are the top-ranked players at their positions. If it weren’t for the push on the quarterbacks, Roquan Smith could easily hear his name called within the top 5 picks of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Surprisingly enough, Connor Williams ended up with my top offensive tackle grade. I thought injuries would hurt his grade, but with all the information I’ve gathered, he seems to be right on target to be ready for next season. He’s an aggressive player who will contribute in the running game right away. Some teams view him as a guard, but if you can fix the angle on his kick-step, you can get a left tackle for the next decade.

Most of your jaws are on the floor with Billy Price in the top 20 overall spots. I don’t blame you, but when you watch the tape, he’s one of the most fluid interior offensive linemen in this class. There aren’t a ton of flaws with his tape, and if not for the injury at the combine, he would be a first round pick. Teams will move him down their boards because of the torn pectoral muscle, but I’m holding true to my board. He’s the best center in this class, and if a team with multiple first round picks (New England, Cleveland, Buffalo) ended up drafting him, it wouldn’t surprise me.

I know the headline for this group is labeled “first rounders”. If we’re going off of the grading scale, Justin Reid is technically a second-round pick. However, I feel that he’s a first round talent and will legitimately be taken within the top-20 selections of the first round. Watch out for his name on the opening night of the draft, despite where his grade ended up. Realistically speaking, most evaluators end up with about 20-25 players getting first round grades. Let’s jump into the second round grades:

The Second Rounders:

This group shouldn’t surprise many of you. It’s pretty much stayed the same throughout much of the process. The two biggest climbers were Lorenzo Carter and Josh Sweat. Before the Scouting Combine, they were both sitting outside the top 60, but they’ve officially solidified themselves as top-40 picks. Clearly, I like them much more than Arden Key, who I will discuss later.

As for Auden Tate, he didn’t test well at the Combine. I know that. It was abysmal, but he’s going to be a red-zone magnet and will specialize at high-pointing the football. His best days of football are ahead of him, and whichever team that drafts him will be happy with the results.

Some team will draft Josh Allen within the top 5 picks of the draft and then realize that they’re getting the 37th-overall player in the draft. I mean, what do you want from me? He’s got plus athletic ability and has a cannon for an arm. Often he’s been compared to Matthew Stafford, who played against the SEC before the spread offense became every team’s niche and not defenses from the Mountain West Conference. That’s no disrespect to that conference, but a 56.2 completion percentage doesn’t bode well for you, regardless of the “bad teammates” excuse. There are times that Allen can’t hit the side of a barn from 10 yards away but he can drop it into a bucket from 75 yards out. His sporadic nature is concerning, and there’s a reason why he has a second round grade. Only time will tell how accurate his evaluation is, but for now, teams are paying the premium for the position and not what Josh Allen is as a quarterback.

Within this wide receiver group, there’s plenty of talent on the second day of the draft. Just on this list alone, there are four wide receivers listed. D.J. Moore from Maryland should hear his name in the first round, and it wouldn’t surprise me if another one of the names below goes in the first round. However, on film, I didn’t see first round talent with these wide receivers. I saw far too many inconsistencies, from where they are as route runners to where they tested athletically (lack of explosiveness, long speed and hip fluidity). I fully expect a run on wide receivers on the second day of the draft.

The Rest of the Second Round/Parts of Round Three:

This is either where I lose you or when business really picks up. Justin Jones and Ian Thomas are back-to-back on this list. For me, the value on these two players is extremely high. Jones is a sound technician and could be the most pro-ready 3-tech (3T) in this class. Mo Hurst should be playing as a 1-tech (1T), Taven Bryan is undisciplined as hell, Vita Vea will probably play as a nose-tackle, and Andrew Brown is still listed as an EDGE rusher for some people. That brings me to Da’Ron Payne, who I’d personally play as a 1-tech (1T), and Justin Jones. Again, I’ll admit that I’m higher on Jones than anybody else. That’s fine. He can plug and play from day one and be part of the rotation. If that doesn’t garner your attention, what will? As for Ian Thomas, he’s got the highest upside of any tight end in this weak tight end class. He’s a solid run blocker and has the frame to carry himself in the middle of the field. He’ll need to sharpen his routes and ensure teams that he’s got the hands to consistently catch the ball. I’ll take my chances, regardless of what the consensus says.

Let me guess, the wide receivers are next to discuss? DaeSean Hamilton is the best route runner in this class with hip fluidity and a double move he possesses off the jam. I’ll take my chances on him from the outside or in the slot. Personally, I’m late to the Christian Kirk party. Early on, I thought he struggled as a route runner, but the more I watched, the more I liked. He certainly reminds me of Golden Tate, who went 60th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Kirk’s grade landed him at 64th overall.

Lastly, Courtland Sutton has to have you wondering, what is wrong with you? He tested really well for a player of his size at the Combine, but on tape, I didn’t see it. He has really nice body control and strong hands, but he’s not a polished route runner and can’t create separation. There were times that it looked like he lacked effort if a pass wasn’t catchable. He’s still got a second round grade, and I still think he can make an impact as a number two receiver.

Some quick notes from this section: Kolton Miller is a second round talent, but he’ll go in the first round. His athletic ability is through the roof and pulls the Nate Solder comparison. He could be Solder’s replacement in New England with the 23rd overall pick. Ito Smith is a valuable pass catcher out of the backfield and is shifty between the tackles. He lacks an elite burst, but he’s a consistent player who gains positive yardage with the ball in his hands and does a solid job with blitz pick-up.

The Late Third’s and Start of Day Three:

This is a really good group where you could easily see 5-7 players start from day one. Wyatt Teller is a sneaky good guard with day one starter upside. He’s an aggressive player who looks like a train in the open field. He took a step back in 2017 compared to his 2016 campaign, but he’s a solid run blocker with a great punch and the drive to finish blocks. He plays with tight hips and can play high, but he’s got starting right guard written all over him.

Arden Key has finally arrived on the board. What weight is he going to be playing at? While he’s got elite length for the position, he doesn’t have the high motor that elite edge rushers possess. He struggles with holding the edge, and his pursuit is barely par. He flashes some nice hand usage and 2016 was a far better year, but I just feel as if those days are far behind us. At this point in the draft, he’ll be a value pick and could provide you some upside if he can put it all together.

Issac Yiadom is a cornerback that doesn’t get discussed enough out of this cornerback class. He’s physical and has the closing speed that you want out of a cornerback. He lacks the hip fluidity out of a day one starter, but he’ll provide nice depth and some zone coverage ability.

The Rest of the Pack:

These are the 60 players whom I didn’t give a grade. I felt that it wasn’t fair to our audience for me to hand out grades to players that I didn’t watch enough film on. Two or three games isn’t enough to form a sound a conclusion on a player, at least not to give an overall grade. Plus, I’d like to be as accurate as possible with 100 players rather than just get to as many players without having a well-rounded idea of what they bring to the table.

But there plenty of players out of this specific group that I really like. Mike McCray is going to be the ideal fit for a 3-4 defense as an inside linebacker. He blitzes and scrapes over the top well. He’s not the most fluid player in coverage, but he manages himself. Don’t be surprised if the Baltimore Ravens select him; you know the Harbaugh connection. He’ll work his way from being a special teams player to a package player for their defense. I think he’s got some nice upside for where he’ll get selected.

Cole Madison and Mason Cole are two players that will move from the offensive tackle position and play as interior offensive linemen. Mason Cole has the ability to start right away because of his experience, lateral quickness, and ability to excel in the run game. Cole Madison will need to become stronger and not lean forward so much in his stance. However, he’s got a nice punch and his hand placement is consistent. I’d expect him to hear his name around the 5th round, and he should be slotted to compete as a right guard.

There are plenty of players to discuss, and I can go into further detail, but the best way to do it is on Twitter. I hope everyone enjoyed this board, and I hope you can utilize it when creating your own mock drafts! To discuss this board further, find me on Twitter @RussNFLDraft!

National Scout for Cover 1. Host of Cover 1 | The NFL Draft Podcast. NFL Draft Enthusiast. X's and O's. Heard on ESPN Radio, FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio.

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