By Jared Stanger
It’s NEVER “way too early” for looking at the next year’s draft class. So here are some of the players to watch in the 2018 college football season and 2019 draft.
I was really looking forward to watching Florida’s Jordan Scarlett in 2017, but after getting caught up in the credit card fraud case that put multiple Gators into suspension; Scarlett didn’t play a down in 2017. But he’s recently been reinstated to the team, and should be their workhorse back for 2018.
He’ll be playing the season under the scarlet letter of that off-field redflag, but on the field Scarlett is one of the most well-rounded backs in the country. Playing at 5’11″/213lbs in 2016, Jordan ran for 889 yards on 179 carries. A 4.30s forty runner in high school, Scarlett carries great balance and center of gravity to go with that break-away speed.
I love his slashing style of running. It’s a bit faster, less volatile version of the zig-zagging crocodile style that Marshawn Lynch had.
Here is another great version of that serpentine running style.
Also a lot of broken tackles on his tape.
There was no underclass player that I was more disappointed that he stayed in school this last cycle than Alabama’s Damien Harris. Another really well-balanced player. 5’11″/221lbs with roughly 4.48 speed and one of the best running back minds I’ve seen in 5-6 years of scouting. Harris comes across as a really clean prospect, with low wear on only 135 carries, 1000 yards, and 7.41ypc in 2017.
Damien is at his best in a one-cut, zone scheme where his patience frequently gives you runs like this:
Harris can also create a little bit on his own with his subtle jump-cuts.
Three more really good, albeit a little more undersized, RB to watch in 2018: Bryce Love, Myles Gaskin, and Devin Singletary. Each posted over 1300 yards and 19 TD’s in 2017.
I read somewhere on twitter after the draft a comment about teams being disinterested in big WR because they weren’t drafted high this year. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but small WR weren’t drafted high this year either. We saw two WR drafted in the 1st round…the lowest total since 2013. But we still saw two 6’3″ WR with 90th percentile athleticism picked in the top 64 picks.
Most of the cornerbacks that were drafted in the 1st round this year were under 6’0″, but we’re not making the argument that the league doesn’t like big CB’s anymore. No, it was just a better year for more of a quicker, slot type of CB.
And I will go on record right now that in the 2019 draft we will see at least four WR drafted that are over 6’2″ tall in the first two rounds.
I’m starting with a guy that is a bit off the radar in Auburn Jr Darius Slayton. Top five in the country last year in YPC, Slayton isn’t the biggest of the big WR at 6’2″/190lbs, but he has this sixth sense at the receiver position that you don’t often find.
Look at the way Slayton makes this catch:
Instead of running through the ball, Darius senses the CB over the top, keeps his body short of the ball, already anticipating forcing a missed tackle. Plus, it’s a good example of his ability to catch the ball away from his body.
This is 6’3″/200lb Emmanuel Hall. He was 2nd in the country in YPC, and his reel includes many receptions with Hall wide open deep on go routes. His frame, his smooth stride, and wearing that #84 jersey bring to mind Randy Moss.
Both Slayton and Hall will be playing 2018 with very highly regarded QB’s, so they could be in line for big seasons.
Ole Miss’ AJ Brown was 11th in the country in receiving TD’s and could potentially see more work with Van Jefferson transferring. Brown only listed 6’1″ but he’s 225lbs.
Anthony Johnson was a top-10 receiver last year. 6’2″/207lbs.
The early look seems to show that 2019 won’t be a great year for TE. Alize Mack at Notre Dame is a stud athlete, but with some redflags.
This is Noah Fant at Iowa. 6’5″/232lbs and a solid mover.
Stanford’s Junior TE Kaden Smith caught my eye during last year’s Pac12 Championship. He posted one more catch than departed TE Dalton Schultz (23 to 22) for the season, but out-gained him 414 yards to 212, and 5 TD to 3. A pretty impressive 18.0ypc is elite for a TE.
The 2018 class was widely panned for its lack of Offensive Tackle talent. Early signs say that 2019 could be VERY good there.
Jake Browning’s highschool teammate, Jonah Williams is coming along nicely as a blindside protector for Bama. Playing at 6’5’/301lbs last year, he’ll need to get a bit bigger and stronger.
In the category of “if Kolton Miller can be a 1st rounder, so can…” I’ve got a few in mind. Virginia Tech’s Yosuah Nijman is one of the better athletes coming next year. 6’7″/320lbs.
Auburn’s Prince Teno Wanagho (6’7″/301lbs) is far more of a project, but the build is really solid.
The UW bookend Tackles of Trey Adams and Kaleb McGary are going to both be worth watching. Adams is already receiving high projection, though I’d urge more caution there coming off his knee injury. And then McGary is currently underrated, but a pretty awesome athlete in his own right. Here are both on a strong run play:
A wildcard is West Virginia’s Yodny Cajuste (6’5″/308lbs). He might be a right tackle. Needs to stay healthy, though. Injuries in multiple seasons.
And I haven’t even covered Mitch Hyatt, Larry Allen III, and Michael Deiter. Lots of Tackles in 2019.
With continued uncertainty at the Seattle Safety spots, and Seattle punting on Safety in the 2018 draft, a blue chip Safety may be an early target for Seattle in 2019. I really like Florida’s Chauncey Gardner. A solidly built 6’0″/207lbs, Gardner covers a lot of ground and hits big.
My eye is immediately drawn to LSU redshirt sophomore Andraez “Greedy” Williams. At 6’2″/182lbs he’s got that Seahawk length. With 6 INT and 11 PBU he’s already had great production.
And then the tape shows an innate ability to locate the football in the air. Greedy, if he declares, would be the type of player that doesn’t get out of the top 15 picks, but Seattle would need to pull the trigger if he came near them.
Notre Dame’s Julian Love is 5’11″/193lbs and registered 3 INT and 20 PBU in 2017. Tape is solid.
Joe Giles-Harris will be a Junior and he had a monster sophomore campaign with 125 tackles, 16.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 6 hurries, 4 PBU, 1 INT.
Khalil Hodge (6’1″/235lbs) finished 2017 second in tackles nationally.
USC’s Porter Gustin has some passrush to him and may play a LEO spot for the teams that use personnel that way, but I’ll list him at LB for now. He’s a nice athlete that just needs to work on flexibility.
This combined position group might have the best shot at being really special. With the entire Clemson DL returning to school last year they have a chance to see three drafted in the 1st between Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, Christian Watkins, Austin Bryant. Additionally, there will be Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary, Nick Bosa, Dre’mont Jones, Raekwon Davis, and inevitably a wildcard small-schooler like Jaylon Ferguson or Carl Granderson.
I get my Clemson guys confused, but I think Christian Wilkins is the 300lb’er that does jump splits.
Nick Bosa will face the lifelong comp to his brother. I kinda like Nick better to the same point in their careers.
Jaylon Ferguson has been consistently productive in Conference USA, but will need to play well enough to get a Senior Bowl invite, and then play well there, too.
Cece Jefferson is coming off a recent shoulder surgery, but should be ready by August. Slightly undersized, but could see an uptick under a new Defensive Coordinator. The upside is Dwight Freeney.
I didn’t cut any video of Ed Oliver yet. Like, he’s an absolute freak and his upside is high enough to go #1.1. But I have this weird feeling he’s gonna be regularly nicked up with soft tissue problems.
That’s the early look at the 2019 NFL Draft. Looking light on DB’s, but very strong in the trenches. The DL will get the early headlines, but this OT class could be special.