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Early Look: 2018 NFL Offensive Draft Class

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2017 NFL Draft is behind us, so obviously the next step is to look ahead to the 2018 prospects.

The 2017 NFL Draft class prospects are settling in with their respective teams and the 2017-18 college season is quickly approaching, which means that everyone is going to be wondering who the upcoming new faces are. 

Over the next 14 days, we will evaluate those who are considered the best prospects at their position, and this week we focus on offense. As always, some players will come out of nowhere and become a household name, shooting up draft boards, but right now we’re focusing on those already catching the eyes of NFL scouts. 

Quarterback: Sam Darnold-USC

Every year, no matter how weak the prospects are, the quarterbacks dominate the discussion during draft time. This year will be no different, but the 2018 class of gunslingers has the potential to be the best we’ve seen in a few years. The year’s top prospect is always a debate, but I’m going to give the edge to Sam Darnold out of Southern California. 

Darnold is heading into his redshirt sophomore season and is looking to build off a very impressive 2016 showing. The Trojans started off 1-3 with Max Browne under center before coach Clay Helton decided to start Darnold against Utah. USC lost that game but that would be the final loss for Darnold and the Trojans on their way to a 10-3 season, topping it off with a Rose Bowl win over Penn State.  

Finishing the year 9-1 as a starter wasn’t the only accomplishment that put Darnold on the map. He completed 67% of his passes for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only nine interceptions. Not only were his stats impressive, but Darnold was able to show off skills that will translate well to the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus, Darnold ranked sixth in the county with a 101 passer rating when under pressure. A young QB that is cool under pressure is a rare find, and he’s only going to get better. 

Other 2018 QBs: Josh Rosen (UCLA), Josh Allen (Wyoming) Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)

Running Back: Saquon Barkley-Penn State

2017 provided one of the best running back classes we’ve seen in a long time, and 2018 looks to be just as promising. The debate all year for top runner will be between Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and LSU’s Derrius Guice. As of right now, Barkley holds a slight edge mostly due to his pass catching ability. 

Returning FBS running backs. Nobody better at making defenders miss.

— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) May 15, 2017

Barkley really took off last season, but has been putting up stellar number ever since his freshman season. In 2016, he finished 14th in the country with 1,496 rushing yards, and tied for seventh with 18 rushing touchdowns while also gaining 402 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. Barkley’s versatility will push him over the top when comparing him to other running backs across the country. 

Guice is a very close second and performed well last season when Leonard Fournette was dealing with an injury. He finished the season with 183 carries, 1,387 yards, and 15 touchdowns. If he can become more of a threat in the passing game, he’ll compete with Barkley for the title best college running back. 

Other RBs: Derrius Guice (LSU), Nick Chubb (Georgia), Bo Scarbrough (Alabama)

Wide Receiver: Courtland Sutton-SMU

The 2017 NFL Draft saw three receivers go in the top 10, with Western Michigan’s Corey Davis being the top prize, taken fifth by the Tennessee Titans. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report claims the best prospect wasn’t even in the draft and would have been taken even before Davis. That distinction belongs to Courtland Sutton out of SMU

Like Davis, Sutton isn’t even a Power Five player and still proving his worth. Sutton’s presence is felt from the moment you lay eyes on him. He’s 6‘4” and 215 pounds and uses his build as good as anyone. He got early playing time as a true freshman in 2014, but started generating a buzz in 2015 after a 862 yard, nine touchdown campaign. Sutton topped those numbers in 2016, finishing with 76 receptions, 1,246 yards (19th nationally), and 10 touchdowns. If Sutton’s numbers increase yet again in an SMU offense designed for receivers, then there might not be much competition behind him. 

Sutton will have to answer questions about his speed much like Clemson’s Mike Williams had to last season. We will have to wait until the Combine before truly seeing how fast he his, but his abilities elsewhere will be put on display. 

Other WRs: Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Deon Cain (Clemson) 

Offensive Lineman: Mike McGlinchey (Notre Dame) and Connor Williams (Texas)

USA Today

Rarely is there any love for offensive linemen, but they are some of the most important players on a football team. Drafting an elite talent along the front line can set a team up for years to come. We didn’t see the first offensive lineman come off the board until the Denver Broncos’ pick No. 20 this season. According to PFF, two top offensive tackles will be taken in the top 10. Those two are Mike McGlinchey out of Notre Dame and Connor Williams out of Texas. 

These two guys are so close in size and skill that there was no way I could decide which tackle is the best in the nation. McGlinchey weighs in at a monster 6‘8” 312 pounds, but moves well for his size. He started 13 games at right tackle in 2015 but moved over to left tackle in 2016. McGlinchey is a great run-blocker and a solid pass-protector and might start his NFL at right tackle but as all the makings of a long-term NFL left tackle. 

Williams is ranked slightly behind McGlinchey on a number of boards, but is still an elite tackle. He has similar size, coming in a 6‘6” and 288 pounds and has started 23 games over the course of his career. He gave up only 20 hurries on 789 attempts and graded out at 87.6 overall, finishing third nationally according to PFF. Williams can improve as a run blocker, but still has a solid all-around game. 

Other OL: Quenton Nelson (Guard-Notre Dame), Mason Cole (Center-Michigan)

Tight End: Adam Breneman-UMass 

There aren’t any tight ends coming out of college this year that are going to wow NFL teams and be highly coveted. Those at the top of the rankings are solid, but their skills aren’t showcased on film like OJ Howard’s last season. There will be discussion on who the top tight end is throughout the season, but Massachusetts’ Adam Breneman takes top honors as of now. 

Before playing at UMass, Breneman played at Penn State his freshman year. He was seldom used, only accounting for 15 receptions, 186 yards, and three touchdowns. He didn’t play at all in 2015 while sitting out as a transfer. With the Minutemen though, his numbers improved dramatically. He finished 2016 with 70 receptions, 808 yards, and eight touchdowns. He’s the most fluid receiving tight end in the draft but will need to improve his run blocking if he wants to impress scouts at the next level. 

Check out my Junior season highlights!!

S/o @HighlightVidz & @Steiny31 for hooking me up! 🔥

— Adam Breneman (@AdamBreneman81) December 28, 2016

Other TEs: Mike Gesicki (Penn State), Mark Andrews (Oklahoma), Troy Fumagalli (Wisconsin)

Edited by Joe Sparacio.

What school had the most 2017 NFL Draftees?
Created 6/4/17
  1. Alabama
  2. Ohio State
  3. Florida State
  4. Michigan

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