At the beginning of the 2017 season, I once again fired up my Future Broncos segment to offer up some of my preliminary 2018 NFL Draft musings on prospects. A lot has changed since September. Some guys I valued highly have fallen, others have risen astronomically. Over the past few months, several prospects I didn’t even think about during the year came out of nowhere and are on pace to be high selections over the next three days. With the draft just hours away, I thought it was time to share my Top 100 prospect list. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you all enjoy this year’s draft and let’s all cross our fingers and hope the Denver Broncos have an excellent draft.
Tier 1 Players
Blue-chip prospects with high first round grades that I believe will make a significant and immediate impact upon entering the league. These are players who have All-Pro potential with the ability to become perennial Pro-Bowlers.
1. Quenton Nelson, OG - Notre Dame
Physically dominating interior lineman who checks the boxes in almost every category of evaluation on and off the field. Immediate starter that should receive accolades for his play early on and often throughout his career. All-Pro potential and all the makings to be one of the league’s best.
2. Bradley Chubb, DE - North Carolina State
The draft’s most established and well-rounded pass rusher and its best defender. Chubb has enormous upside and offers positional flexibility, but is best suited with his hands in the dirt end in a 4-3 front.
3. Roquan Smith, LB - Georgia
Highly-instinctive linebacker with sideline-to-sideline athleticism, tremendous closing speed and leadership qualities. Best of all, Smith is proficient against both the run and the pass. He’s a bonafide day one starter who will become a fixture at linebacker in any scheme and has a chance to become an elite player in the league.
4. Tremaine Edmunds, LB - Virginia Tech
Scouting Edmunds is akin to opening Pandora’s Box — you have no idea what is about to be unleashed. There’s a lot to like about his overall game, but when you realize he is only 19 years old the reality sets in that his potential is astronomical. Whatever franchise grabs him has a chance to forge one of the game’s most dynamic playmaker on defense through proper tutelage and coaching.
5. Sam Darnold, QB - Southern California
Erratic turnovers and throwing motion are two major concerns, but in my eyes Darnold has the most play-making potential out of any quarterback in this draft. I love his gunslinger mentality and ability to extend plays and make big things happen outside the pocket.
6. Saquon Barkley, RB - Penn State
Everyone has seen his highlight reels by now. Without question, Barkley is a generational talent and premier skill position playmaker in this year’s class. He is three-down back with tremendous athleticism. He boasts the claim to biggest home run threat in the class and offers star potential for any franchise that drafts him.
The “Why the Broncos should …” series on options at No. 5 continues with running back.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) April 18, 2018
If Saquon Barkley is available, history shows that a top-5 RB can provide an immediate jolt — but is it enough to make a team a contender?https://t.co/EiJU4Zo1jQ pic.twitter.com/yf3dWL7ALO
7. Josh Rosen, QB - UCLA
Josh Rosen is the draft’s most established pocket passer and most ready to take on the rigors of the National Football League from day one. His arm strength is good enough to make all the throws, but injury and alleged character concerns (which I believe are overblown) may cause him to slide a bit.
8. Derwin James, DB - Florida State
Rangy defensive back with the ability to close in a hurry. Superb ball skills, schematic versatility and alpha personality make him a formidable defender and a tone setter for any defensive backfield in the league.
9. Denzel Ward, CB - Ohio State
Ward will join a long list of Buckeye defensive backs who have recently been selected in the first round. While he may not have elite size, he has impeccable speed and the ball-hawking prowess to succeed out on the boundary or inside as a slot corner.
Denzel Ward did not allow a single reception in 7 different games last season pic.twitter.com/lu0Wplzbir— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 20, 2018
Tier 2 Players
First-round prospects who should become immediate starters in the league and have a shot at being difference makers. This is the last tier for first-round graded players.
10. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB - Alabama
Some view Fitzpatrick as a blue-chip prospect, but to me he is more of a jack-of-all trades, Swiss Army knife player in the defensive backfield. I believe his best fit is as a safety in the NFL and can be a chess piece to work against tight ends, slot receivers and running backs.
11. Vita Vea, DT - Washington
A behemoth on the defensive interior, Vea has the ideal size and strength to be a stalwart defender in any defensive front.
12. Baker Mayfield, QB - Oklahoma
Undersized quarterback with tremendous leadership ability and football intelligence. The draft’s most accurate passer possess the emotional fuel to light up a locker room and elevate the level of play of those around him. He may not be my highest rated quarterback, but he is the one quarterback I wouldn’t bet against succeeding in the pros.
Taking on some unfounded narratives around Mayfield and discussing his fit with Denver. https://t.co/acRdD0dk6B— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) April 9, 2018
13. Will Hernandez, OG - UTEP
Nelson is the cream of the crop in this year’s stacked interior line class, but Hernandez isn’t too far off and is the complete package. Battle-tested four-year starter who dominated in his conference and is proficient as a run blocker and pass protector.
14. Jaire Alexander, CB - Louisville
Alexander’s a tough evaluation because he missed a lot of time this past year due to injury, but his coverage skills, understanding of route concepts and ability to stick with defenders are on par with the best in this year’s class. He should make an immediate impact as a starter and significantly upgrade and secondary.
15. Ronald Jones, RB - USC
Critics will point to his poor forty-yard dash time to discount him, but next to Barkley, I believe he’s the biggest threat at running back in this year’s draft. Jones has exceptional play speed and is a threat to take it to the house when he touches the ball. Offers three-down ability and his cutback and vision and exemplary.
16. Mike McGlinchey, OT - Notre Dame
McGlinchey is very good tackle prospect, but never lived up to his preseason billing as a potential Top 10 selection. He struggled tremendously against Miami and Albama this year, but unquestionably is the most pro-ready and fundamentally sound technician at the position in this year’s draft.
17. Mike Hughes, CB - Central Florida
Hughes has the ability to make an impact in either a press or zone scheme from day one. He gets a big plus mark in the special teams category for being one of the the draft’s most prolific return men. He didn’t run as well as I thought he would at the 2018 NFL Combine, but still has great athleticism and should be a high-end starter for years to come.
18. Marcus Davenport, EDGE - UTSA
Davenport dominated his conference, but he has a lot of work to go in respect to technique and undoubtedly will face a learning curve upon entering the league. That being said, his length and athletic ability are off the charts and certainly can make an impact as a pass rusher as a rookie.
19. Leighton Vander Esch, LB - Boise State
One-year wonder who dominated the Mountain West Conference in 2017 at linebacker for the Broncos -- Vander Esch has supreme size, athletic ability and instincts to be a plug-and-play starter in the league.
20. Dallas Goedert, TE - South Dakota State
The premier FCS prospect in this year’s draft, Goedert is NFL-ready and will make an impact early on as a rookie. It won’t be long until he is a household name keeping defenders coordinators up at night. I can’t tell you how sad I’d be if he went to a team like the New England Patriots.
Dallas Goedert, one of the top TEs in this draft, has been compared to Travis Kelce. He said they used to watch KC Chiefs film and incorporate Kelce's plays in their offense for him.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) January 23, 2018
21. James Daniels, C - Iowa
At the young age of 20, Daniels has enormous growth potential, but has the ability to come in start for a franchise Day 1, which is why he will be a first-round selection. He will be a dream come true for teams who predominantly use a zone blocking scheme.
21. Lamar Jackson, QB - Louisville
Dynamic prospect who is a dual-threat as a passer and runner, but needs a lot of refinement and a creative coaching staff to revamp their scheme around what he does best. He improved every year in college, but still struggles to make key plays through the air on third down, especially if it’s third and long.
22. Derrius Guice, RB - LSU
Bull-dozing running back who has a nose for the end zone and doesn’t shy away from contact. Doesn’t offer much as a receiver out of the backfield, but can be the number one guy who wears down defenses and scores a lot of touchdowns for a team looking to dominate on the ground.
23. Harold Landry, EDGE - Boston College
An ankle injury limited his production in 2017, but Landry was one of the best pass rushers in all of college football as a junior when he racked up 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for loss and seven forced fumbles. He can play in a 3-4 or 4-3 front and will develop into one of the league’s better players if he stays healthy and adds some moves to his arsenal.
24. Frank Ragnow, C - Arkansas
Four years of experience and three of them as a starter at multiple positions make Ragnow a Day 1 prospect. He’s a physical lineman who plays with a nasty demeanor, but lacks elite athletic traits. Should be successful immediately and have a long career.
25. D.J. Moore, WR - Maryland
The Big Ten receiver of the year and one of the most explosive receivers in the draft, Moore has the ability to be a game-changer as a rookie and upgrade any aerial assault.
26. Da’Ron Payne, DL - Alabama
Massive force on the Crimson Tide’s defensive line who can project inside or out at the next level. If you’re looking for a prospect who can dominate the line of scrimmage and be a force against the run, Payne should be high on your wish list.
27. Josh Jackson, CB - Iowa
He lacks experience, won’t be a fit for every scheme and is far from a finished product, but Jackson had an incredible season with the Hawkeyes. His impeccable ball skills and the ability to create turnovers a la Marcus Peters will make him a high selection in the draft.
Joshua Jackson's 2017 season was the best we've seen from a cornerback in four years of grading college football pic.twitter.com/trmPs8FBbo— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 14, 2018
28. Isaiah Wynn, OL - Georgia
Wynn was a stalwart at tackle for the Bulldogs, but lacking desired size, scouts believe his best fit at the next level is as a guard. He helped pave the way for Sony Michel and Nick Chubb and did a great job protecting future first-round quarterback Jake Fromm. If the Broncos were to miss out on Nelson and Hernandez, I’d be ecstatic if they got Wynn.
29. Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama
In a wide receiver class that lacks an alpha talent, Ridley stands out over many because of his ability to line up at multiple positions and having a well-developed route tree. He probably will never be a true number once receiver, but he has a chance to be one of the league’s best secondary options.
30. Taven Bryan, DL - Florida
Bryant’s one of the best and perhaps most versatile trench defenders in this year’s draft and is explosive off the snap. He lacks a lot of starting experience, but should grow into a really good professional player in a few years.
Tier 3 Players
Prospects that carry second round grades.
31. Carlton Davis, CB - Auburn
32. Billy Price, C - Ohio State
33. Isaiah Oliver, CB - Colorado
34. Courtland Sutton, WR - SMU
35. Josh Allen, QB - Wyoming
36. Austin Corbett, OG - Nevada
37. Kerryon Johnson, RB - Auburn
38. Maurice Hurst, DT - Michigan
39. Josh Sweat, DE - Florida State
40. Tim Settle, DT - Virginia Tech
Tim Settle's career QB pressure numbers pic.twitter.com/PFFfk29ZZv— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 5, 2018
41. Ronnie Harrison, S - Alabama
42. Rasheem Green, DE - USC
43. Lorenzo Carter, OLB - Georgia
44. Rashaan Evans, OLB - Albama
45. Uchenna Nwosu, OLB - USC
46. Connor Williams, OT - Texas
47. Sony Michel, RB - Georgia
48. Jessie Bates III, S - Wake Forest
49. DJ Chark, WR - LSU
50. Michael Gesicki, TE - Penn State
"When you throw up a jump ball, this guy's got a better chance than anyone on the field to come down with it"— John McGonigal (@jmcgonigal9) April 25, 2018
Because of that and more, Mike Gesicki could hear his name called tomorrow night at the #NFLDraft https://t.co/GyBb5xhkcp
51. Hayden Hurst, TE - South Carolina
52. Harrison Phillips, DT - Stanford
53. James Washington, WR - Oklahoma State
54. Jamarco Jones, OT - Ohio State
55. Derrick Nnadi, DT - Florida State
56. Michael Gallup, WR - Colorado State
57. Justin Reid, S - Stanford
58. Dante Pettis, WR - Washington
59. M.J. Stewart, CB - North Carolina
M.J. Stewart finished the 2017 season as the highest graded player in Chapel Hill. pic.twitter.com/tzuZVNfZ9P— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 8, 2018
60. Nick Chubb, RB - Georgia
61. Tyrell Crosby, OT - Oregon
62. Christian Kirk, WR - Texas A&M
63. Kolton Miller, OT - UCLA
64. Anthony Miller, WR - Memphis
Tier 4 Players
Prospects that carry third round grades.
65. Sam Hubbard, DE - Ohio State
66. Duke Dawson, CB - Florida
67. Da’Shawn Hand, DE - Alabama
68. Martinas Rankin, OL - Mississippi State
69. Mark Andrews, TE - Oklahoma
70. Braden Smith, OL - Auburn
71. Fred Warner, LB - BYU
72. Malik Jefferson, LB - Texas
73. Oren Burks, LB/S - Vanderbilt
74. Royce Freeman, RB - Oregon
75. DaeSean Hamilton, WR - Penn State
Former #PennState WR DaeSean Hamilton is improving his stock with his play at the #SeniorBowl, as referenced in PFF’s Day 2 notes (https://t.co/aYfdRjLQz9).— Austin Gayle (@AustinGayle_PFF) January 25, 2018
Earning an 85.2 OVR grade in 2017, Hamilton is a big play waiting to happen with great experience in the slot. pic.twitter.com/lCRG7f5zW5
76. Dorance Armstrong, EDGE - Kansas
77. Orlando Brown, OT - Oklahoma
78. Tre’Quan Smith, WR - UCF
79. Rashaad Penny, RB - San Diego State
80. Nyheim Hines, RB - North Carolina State
81. Geron Christian, OT - Louisville
82. Rashaan Gaulden, CB - Tennessee
83. Brian O’Neill, OT - Pittsburgh
84. Nathan Shepherd, DT - Fort Hays State
85. Josey Jewell, LB - Iowa
Josey Jewell led all draft-eligible B1G LBs with his 61 total stops this past season pic.twitter.com/9Iu6cWWcWt— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 22, 2018
86. B.J. Hill, DT - North Carolina State
87. Kemoko Turay, EDGE - Rutgers
88. Breeland Speaks, DT - Mississippi
89. JC Jackson, CB - Maryland
90. Luke Falk, QB - Washington State
91. Quenton Meeks, CB - Stanford
92. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB - Oklahoma
93. Darius Leonard, LB - South Carolina State
94. Jeff Holland, EDGE - Auburn
95. Tavarus McFadden, CB - Florida State
96. Mason Rudolph, QB - Oklahoma State
97. Isaac Yiadom, CB - Boston College
98. Duke Ejiofor, EDGE - Wake Forest
99. Terrell Edmunds, S - Virginia Tech
100. Dane Cruikshank, DB - Arizona