So here’s my final draft before the actual draft and one of the most fun weekends of the year. Let’s all hope no matter who we pick we get some awesome starters who contribute year one and many years to come! WHO DEY!
Round 1, Pick 11: Devin Bush Jr, Michigan, LB
RAS (Relative Athletic Score): 9.33; 2018 PFF grade: 85.0
We get to 11 here and hit a toss-up between Jonah Williams, Devin Bush and TJ Hockenson. I don’t think the staff is ready to reinvest in a first-round tackle (/guard) and, as much as I love Hock, we need cover linebackers desperately.
I’m #TeamWhite out of the Devin’s but Devin Bush, despite size concerns, certainly displays enough in athleticism and coverage to be drafted here, especially with the chasm in talent to the next few linebackers. Bush posted an elite RAS, including a top-five, all-time 40 for an LB and this phenomenal athleticism shows in all aspects of his game. Bush offers elite instincts and quickness whether offering coverage, closing sideline to sideline or flying into the LOS (line of scrimmage) for run plays or as extra blitzer (six sacks, eight QB hits).
His PFF grade against the run dropped off this last year as his lack of length means he can get stuck on blockers fighting downhill between the tackles. He also shows some over aggression in pursuit, leaving lanes and missing tackles as a result. Bush is a fiery player, who plays with a chip on his shoulder and, if he can control that (see Michigan State pregame incident), could be a franchise stud on the defense. Bush can run, hit cover and blitz and, if drafted, immediately improves this linebacker unit as a plug and play starter at WLB.
Round 2, Pick 42: Justin Layne, Michigan State, CB
RAS 8.94; 2018 PFF grade: 87.1
Speaking of the Michigan State incident, let’s hope Bush can put that behind him and bond with a Spartan as a teammate as we go for a former receiver (number one in Ohio out of high school) who has huge upsides and potential to be the best CB in this class.
A 6’2″ shutdown boundary corner, Layne showed solid ability to wrap up and tackle and uses his length and former life as a WR to contest every catch at the point (tied most pass breakups in Big10). He shows impressive footwork, great stop-start and smooth change of direction to mirror and match from off man coverage. Hip fluidity and stop-start quickness are evident with each snap he takes and that explosive athleticism showed at the combine (second best broad jump of all DB’s).
He still has some work to fully round his game, needs to trust his coverage as he can tend to get unnecessarily grabby when behind in pursuit. Layne is sufficient in run coverage but can be slow to get off blocks and show awareness to the play. Layne would come into the perfect situation with the Bengals, he could sit behind WJII and Dre and further develop. If successful, this also allows the Bengals to potentially trade Dre (31 in Oct 2020) and save $9m vs the cap in 2020 or $10m in 2021. Layne is a fantastic mix of consistent coverage and ball skills, and his NFL comparison according to NFL.com? WJIII.
Round 3, Pick 72: Max Scharping, Northern Illinois, OT
RAS:8.80 (no 40 run); 2018 PFF grade: 80.5
This big man had a great year in run and pass blocking, finishing top 10 in both categories for PFF. He only conceded one penalty in 2018 and, as a four-year starter had pass protection grades above 87.0 every season of his career. The stats show up on tape as you see a fundamentally-sound player who has shown comfort on both ends of the line. Feet and hands are coordinated and his pass set is fluid without unnecessary or unbalanced steps. He uses stiff heavy hands to redirect blitzers and can also power open run lanes and climb to the second level and keep linebackers locked.
Where he can struggle is mirroring elite speed off the edge, as his hips stay stiff and he bends and his footwork falls behind. When anchoring, defenders with length can rock him back and cause issues. Scharping is a four-year starter, starting every game across three positions and has great football intelligence that limits the effects of his limited athleticism, which can be seen in how infrequently he allows QB sacks (only one in 2018 – by AJ Epenesa, a likely 2020 first-round pick). He has bad habits that will be worked on, but I struggle to see how Bobby Hart would outcompete him for the RT spot.
Round 4, Pick 110: Josh Oliver, San Jose State, TE
RAS 8.17; 2018 PFF grade: 77.1
A primary target for a bad offense (three QBs, finished 1-11) Oliver ranked first of all eligible TEs for Deep Pass (20+) Yards and Slot reception yards and second in total receptions for all FBS TE’s. He uses his huge hands (10 3/4”) well to be a consistent catcher and ran a 4.63 (third of all TE’s) 40 yard at the combine, athleticism that shows on film as he continues to get open in a limited offense, whilst also showcasing a tremendous catch radius.
Oliver is a physical mismatch but needs to be more sudden in/out of breaks and further develop his ability on contested catches to be a top NFL TE receiver. He’s energetic as a blocker but technically not sound whether trying to slow edge rushers in pass protection or lock up linebackers on run plays.
Oliver is a phenomenal looking athlete, who really cleaned up and focused on his game his senior season and became a more refined route runner. A confident pass catcher and mismatch weapon with a high ceiling for the NFL but needs to develop as a blocker and find good improvements in a strength program to be a TE1.
Round 5, Pick 149: Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska, WR
RAS 8.56; 2018 PFF grade: 76.3
Possibly my favourite route runner in the draft (sorry, Deebo) and those fluid, precise routes allowed him to be a constantly open target for his QB (133.1 QB Rating when targeted on deep passes (20+yards) and 142.2 from slot routes). Morgan has a quietly productive 1000 yard season and showed consistent hands (3 drops) and ability to create YAC.
He isn’t an explosive player, and certainly won’t burn past corners as a deep threat but the separation his sharp cuts and full route tree ability create means he still finds plenty of targets. In terms of run blocking, he shows effort and extends well, without really showing any explosive violence and pop on first contact.
Routes Morgan can struggle on are in cutting, where he seems to be more aware of the bodies across the field and slower in his route. He also does have an off the field profile red flag for a marijuana arrest in 2017 (charges dropped after a rehab course) but his appearance as a vocal 2018 captain and leader should hopefully mean the end of that chapter. Morgan is a consistent player and will likely remain that in the NFL, although due to his inability to take off the top of a defense, he most likely hits a ceiling as WR2 or in the slot. Year 1, the ability to add on special teams (previous as a kick returner) will certainly add to his case to make the 53.
Round 6, Pick 183: Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska, RB
RAS 9.05(unofficial-Pro day); 2018 PFF grade: 82.4
Back to back Cornhuskers for the Bengals as we pick up an underrated RB who blew up as he became a starter in his senior season and ran for 1000 yards and had 12 TDs, while averaging over seven yards per carry (one of only 11 in FBS football to do so) with no fumbles.
Holding a good mix of size, strength and athleticism, he is a physical runner who showed good vision allowing blocks to form and related stop/start ability and some nifty lateral movement for a bigger back.He has only carried the ball 20+ times seven times in his career, which should mean there is plenty left in the tank but equally, he didn’t show up much on the stat sheets in his biggest games, which could raise concerns. But, overall, Ozigbo is worth a flyer in the sixth and could become a real asset in the RB group with his hard-nosed, physical effort to make yards.
Round 6, Pick 198: Alex Bars, Notre Dame, OG
RAS N/A (injured for combine); 2018 PFF grade: 76.0
Injuries really derailed this guy from being the next stud lineman out of Notre Dame. A 2015 season-ending ankle injury was followed by a season-ending knee injury this year where he tore his ACL and MCL.
When healthy Bars is a tremendous prospect with a solid frame and clear lower body strength which shows in his PFF grading (Top 10 in Pass block, run block and snaps against outside pressure) and statistics (allowed one sack, zero hits and one hurry in 2018 seasons, only one penalty). He sets anchor well and is rarely moved as he fires heavy hands into the defenders chest effectively. Sometimes exposed by interior rushers and a lack of foot quickness where he will end up overextended and off balance. But the only really question here is the injury, he and his agent (picked up by CAA, who represent Quentin Nelson) seem confident he is ahead of the recovery curve and, if that’s really true and NFL teams get on board, this guy could go as high as the third round.
Round 6, Pick 210: Cortez Broughton, Cincinnati, DT
RAS 8.22 (unofficial – pro day); 2018 PFF grade: 83.7
Niche fact: played in the 2009 Little League World Series
This guy is a sleeper who is creeping up boards. A local Cincy student, PFF graded him Top 10 vs run, top 20 in pass rush productivity at his position and it validates a breakout senior year, where he swallowed 17.5 TFLs and 6.5 sacks. Slightly undersized, Broughton does well to use an explosive first step and active hands to penetrate gaps and disrupt both pass and run plays well.
He is pretty stiff as a prospect and hip tightness/ upright positioning can allow guards to get leverage and push him around if he tries to hold space against the run. But he offers enough penetrating with his lethal first step and competitive edge and motor that will lead to production/offensive disruption, and most likely a subpackage/rotation role on the D line.
Round 6, Pick 211: Matt Gay, Utah, K
RAS… He’s.. a kicker. 2018 PFF grade: again… kicker.
KICKER TIME!!! Bullock has been ok inside 50 but you really need a kicker to offer more than that if you want to win close games more frequently. Gay is an interesting prospect, he walked on to Utah’s team in 2017 and immediately won the Lou Groza award (best college kicker). During his two-year career at Utah, he made 56 out of 65 and set the school record for most 50+ yard field goals (eight). When you have this many late round picks, you need to find the best ways of making an impact on your roster, getting a kicker with leg is one of them.
Round 6, Pick 213: Bryce Love, Stanford, RB
RAS N/A (injured for combine); 2018 PFF grade: 74.0
I’m sure Bryce wishes he could turn back the clocks and declare to be the likely first-round pick he would have been last NFL draft… In a tough season for Stanford, he carried load for 734 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and six TDs, which was nothing on his jaw-dropping 2017 season when exploded out of McCaffrey’s shadow (second in Heisman, Doak Walker award for top RB, 2116 yards, 8.1YPC and 19 TDs) and then there’s the injury. During his last regular season game, Love tore his ACL and has had to undergo intense surgery and recent reports say, four months on, there’s still a lot of work to do.
But let’s imagine this guy can get back to a fragment of what he was…
A player who bursts through the hole with elite top speed and stunning stop-start quickness. Love excels at making defenders miss in tight spaces (40% miss rate on first contact) and home-run ability (set the FBS record with 13 runs of 50-plus yards in 2017). Love doesn’t have the size to ever be a stud in pass pro but he shows willing and great technique to slow edge rushers.
I respect Love’s desire to return and complete his degree (plans to be a paediatrician post-sports career) and I wish his recovery the best and even if he can return to 80% ability with his anticipation and vision, he can likely crack an NFL backfield. As mentioned above, it’s worth a dice roll with a sixth rounder.
Round 7, Pick 223- Ulysees Gilbert III, Akron, LB
RAS: 8.22 (unofficial, pro day); 2018 PFF Grade: Unavailable
Our final pick was a tough flip between Safety and LB… so we’ve gone for a linebacker/safety tweener from local Akron university. A durable athlete who played in every game (51 games) since arriving at Akron and shows up flying around on tape. That speed and truly elite burst shows up on the stopwatch (9.96 RAS 10 yard split on 40, 9.73 40, 9.76 vertical, 9.56 broad) and in pursuit on tape. Coverage abilities are mixed, looked comfortable with RB out of the backfield but less so in middle zones. His lack of size and length cause issues disengaging blockers and a lot of unfinished tackles, which will cause even more concerns at the next level. Needs work in multiple areas but his athleticism and toughness could find him a home on special teams.