Every year there are players that vastly outperform their draft stock and leave NFL fans scratching their head, wondering “how did that guy slip through the cracks?” At the same time, there are always players touted as the ‘Next Big Thing’ that never develop to fulfill their potential, have off-the-field issues, or suffer injuries that derail their careers. These are the picks that get GMs and coaches fired and change the course of entire franchises, for better or worse.
The 2018 NFL Draft is no different. There will be quarterbacks and other top prospects that completely fail to live up to expectations. There will be players drafted outside the first round that become the next NFL superstars.
I’ve spent 100s of hours over the past eight months watching film, reading reports and listening to analysis of the top prospects in this year’s draft. I think I have a pretty good feel for the nitty-gritty aspects of player evaluation (film) and have learned over the years to trust my gut at the end of the day.
Obviously this is just my opinion — I’m sure some of these picks will look pretty silly over the next couple years. If you disagree with me, feel free to sound off in the comments. But without further adieu, prepare for some scalding hot takes...
Aaron’s Most Underrated 2018 Draft Prospects
5. Ronnie Harrison, Safety — Alabama
Compare Ronnie Harrison’s career stats with Derwin James’ and you’d have a hard time telling who’s who. They’re both the same size at 6’2 / 210lbs except Harrison has 7 career interceptions compared to James’ 3. Harrison was a consistent playmaker as a starter the past 2 years on college football’s most loaded defense. He’s a bonafide first-round talent that’s being talked about in the 2nd or 3rd round. Harrison’s upside is Kam Chancellor with his speed, size, run defense and vicious hitting ability.
4. Anthony Miller, WR — Memphis
Miller lacks the prototypical frame teams covet in a WR1, yet he has all the traits found year after year in successful receivers. He checks the measurables box with a 39” vertical jump and 4.46 40-yard dash. Miller is one of the most polished route-runners in the class and has hands of glue; critical in the NFL. He’s a former walk-on to Memphis and has a massive chip on his shoulder — to prove how much that motivates him to succeed, read his open letter to NFL GMs.
Last year, Miller had 95 receptions, 1,434 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns catches and eight 100-yard receiving games – numbers that helped him eclipse Isaac Bruce’s career stats at Memphis, who is a future Hall of Famer. Miller could easily be the next Stefon Diggs or Doug Baldwin.
If you think Anthony Miller is “just a Slot Receiver,” it shows a lack of film study done on him and the traits that he possesses. pic.twitter.com/gbGoQ4d8GQ— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) April 20, 2018
Anthony Miller has the best tape since Amari Cooper, and we’re ready to die on that hill— RosterWatch (@RosterWatch) April 22, 2018
3. John Kelly, RB — Tennessee
John Kelly has solid, but not eye-popping measurables and stats, but that’s not where he makes his money. As a 5’9”, 212 lb. back that runs a 4.5, his trademark is his absolutely punishing run style and unrelenting toughness. Kelly is also a very solid pass-catcher out of the backfield, which will boost his value to NFL clubs. It’s hard to explain with just words what makes him special, so check out the video clip below. My comp. for him is Ahmad Bradshaw, who played in the NFL for 9 seasons and won 2 Super Bowls with the Giants.
John Kelly looking like a man amongst boys for Tennessee. pic.twitter.com/2lE2XIiIZt— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) October 14, 2017
2. Armani Watts, S — Texas A&M
Watts is a criminally underrated safety projected to go in the 3rd through 5th round, but his statistics are absolute first round material. In 4 years at Texas A&M, Watts compiled 10 interceptions, 324 total tackles (24 TFLs), 17 passes defensed and 7 forced fumbles. For reference, that’s more career INTs and TFLs than Minkah Fitzpatrick, and yes, they both play in the SEC. Watts is a fluid athlete with good instincts and is a natural ball hawk. He just needs to land somewhere with a veteran DB room to unlock his full potential.
Armani Watts— Tim England (@tengland150) December 28, 2017
2017 AP All-American 3rd Team
2017 1st Team All-SEC
324 Total Tackles, 10 INT’s and 7 Forced Fumbles over 4 phenomenal years at Texas A&M#GigEm @GGPR_BANGER5
1. Lamar Jackson, QB — Louisville
Stay in the NFL Echo Chamber for a little while and I guarantee you’ll hear this: “Josh Allen definitely has the most upside of any QB in this class”. It’s been said so much, most people just assume it’s fact by now. If you stand back, though, and look at the tape and numbers, how can that possibly be? Lamar Jackson has the same ridiculous natural arm talent, unrefined mechanics, and played in a generally pro-style system, but there’s one stark difference between the two players: Jackson has generational athleticism at the position not seen since Michael Vick.
And while people write off Allen’s atrocious completion percentage and production at Wyoming, Jackson put up video game numbers with an average supporting cast in the ACC, a far superior conference. Over his 3-year career, Jackson has passed or rushed for over 13,000 yards and 119 touchdowns. His play style is still pass-first, unless it’s a designed run play, and he has an underrated ability to work through progressions and read coverages. Jackson also has no injury history to speak of, which is remarkable considering how many yards he’s rushed for.
Lamar Jackson definitely needs to go to a team with a commitment to developing him and the right staff to design the playbook around his strengths — but so do most quarterbacks in this class. If a team is able to unlock his sky-high potential, Jackson can be the ultimate playmaker in the NFL.
Lamar Jackson's full route tree from 2017 pic.twitter.com/jYxk8dCQvk— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 21, 2018
WE know Lamar Jackson (@Lj_era8) can make all the throws. #NFLDraft #L1C4 pic.twitter.com/LUp4Anr27n— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) April 19, 2018
Most Overrated Draft Prospects
3. Maurice Hurst, DT — Michigan
The first DL tape I watched this college football season was of Maurice Hurst vs. Florida, and I immediately thought “5th-6th round rotational guy”. This has nothing to do with his heart condition, although that makes spending a pick on him even less attractive. While Hurst has a high motor and quick get-off, most snaps he looks like he runs into a brick wall. For an undersized d-tackle he really struggles getting off blocks, and trust me, that’s not going to get any easier in the NFL. People comparing him to Aaron Donald need to receive a lifetime ban from armchair scouting.
If you’re interested in a funny, NSFW analysis of Vita vs. Hurst check the video below:
Part 2.— Albert Beer NFL (@TheFakeAlbert) March 8, 2018
Vita Vea vs Maurice Hurst
As the game moves into the later quarters one player continues to make no impact and gets dominated one on one.
Penn State Oline has made sure they don’t leave Vea alone the rest of the game. #Raiders need to go Vea pic.twitter.com/0KpSaL3IBv
2. Harold Landry, EDGE — Boston College
Harold Landry has 25 career sacks at Boston College, which is 2nd all-time in school history. Pretty impressive, right? Two-thirds of those sacks — 16.5 — came in Landry’s dominant 2016 season where he garnered All-American honors. He averaged 2.8 sacks per year in his other three collegiate seasons. Many will point to playing 2017 injured which hurt his production — which would make sense if he played through the injury, but Landry didn’t hurt his ankle until October 28th, which was well over halfway through the season, and he only had 5 sacks up to that point.
It’s possible that teams just figured out Landry was pretty much a one-trick pony: he’s got a great speed move that can terrorize tackles with slow feet to get a quick sack. If Landry faces a quality, athletic tackle, gets chipped, or doesn’t time the snap perfectly, it’s game over. You can also run right at him all game, which is what Clemson and other teams did. Landry is not an every-down defensive end, he’s a more of a situational pass rusher not worth a first round pick.
1. Josh Allen, QB — Wyoming
A lot of folks will probably agree with me here on the overrated bit, but I actually don’t hate Josh Allen as a prospect. I can totally see the tantalizing physical tools Allen brings to the table that makes him so-called “scouting narcotics”. I believe Josh Allen is worth a first-round pick based on potential alone, just not a top-10, top-5, or certainly #1 overall selection.
It takes a certain level of hubris to believe you can turn a guy with a 56% career completion percentage at WYOMING who threw for 44 career touchdowns — one more than Baker Mayfield threw in just 2017 — into the best quarterback in the draft, just because he has a ridiculous arm, is tall, and has big hands (shout out to DraftJoshAllen.com). The odds are simply not in your favor, and even if you do succeed, it’s going to take multiple years of development. In the meantime you can be competing Day 1 with guys like Darnold, Rosen, and Mayfield. I just don’t get it. Again, I think Josh Allen is a great kid who has legitimate NFL potential. But his draft stock should reflect that level of speculation.
You can point to never reaching the 60% completion percentage mark in college, failing the Bill Parcells test, or many other metrics as to why Josh Allen is projected to fail, but I think I’ll just let Hank Azaria-as-Jim Brockmire do the talking for me:
the great jim brockmire breaking down josh allen for le batard show pic.twitter.com/fY7Fa4ytdd— charles mcdonald (a guy at the airport) (@FourVerts) April 21, 2018
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