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The 10 most intriguing players of the 2018 NFL draft

By Matthew Coller

Minnesota Vikings fans will be spending much of the NFL Draft’s opening night waiting and watching which players come off the board. But that won’t be the only drama for Vikings fans to keep an eye on. There are numerous players whose fate will be fascinating to watch. Here are the 10 most intriguing players of the Draft’s opening round…

1) Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Since Jackson’s college career came to a close, the Heisman Trophy award winner has been picked apart by national analysts and anonymous scouts. ESPN’s Bill Polian suggested he should transition to wide receiver, he was ripped by analysts for not running the 40 at the NFL Combine and was dinged by some for not hiring an agent.

Jackson is far from a perfect passer, but he certainly isn’t a run-first quarterback. He ranked in the top 15 in Adjusted Completion Percentage under pressure and against the blitz and had the eighth highest average depth of throw. All while averaging nearly nine yards per rush during his college career.

It will take the right team to build their offense around Jackson. Will someone take him at the very top or will he slide to the middle or late portion of the first round?

2) Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The NFL has only seen a few quarterbacks in its history with Josh Allen’s arm, but some of them turned into the biggest busts of all time. Allen completed less than 60 percent of his passes in back-to-back years and averaged just 6.7 yards per attempt last season. Even adjusted for drops, Allen ranked 48th in the class in completion percentage, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s 23 spots lower than Jackson.

But Allen checks off all the boxes and then some when it comes to his athleticism and physical ability. Will he be this year’s QB who drops? Will he go No. 1 overall? And how will his team handle all the work that has to come next?

3) Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Imagine being criticized for being too smart. That’s Josh Rosen. He’s been questioned for his openness on political issues and his battles with coaches, but there is no more polished passer in the draft. If he was being scrutinized only on his football skill, Rosen would likely to No. 1 overall. But it appears the NFL has made things much more complicated than that.

4) Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Like Rosen, Mayfield has been dinged for his personality. He was arrested while in college at Oklahoma once and memorably committed an unfortunate gesture toward the Kansas Jayhawks. While those things are enough to draw Johnny Manziel comparisons, Mayfield’s numbers in college blow away the rest of the class. He is No. 1 in both deep and overall Adjusted Completion Percentage and top five under pressure. The Sooners’ QB is also an intense competitor who appears to be earmarked for the New York Jets.

5) Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Following a heart issue, Hurst was sent home from the NFL Combine. He was cleared and participated in his pro day, but the medical concern might be enough to cause him to drop in the draft. Hurst is also undersized, but was incredibly dominant for the Wolverines. He produced the third best Pass Rush Productivity rate of anyone in college football. Will Hurst be a top pick? Will he fall out of the first round and end up as the steal of the draft?

6) Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

On name alone, Vander Esch belongs on this list. The Boise State standout had outstanding numbers last year with 123 tackles and three INTs, then he dominated the Combine by running a 4.65 and jumping nearly 40 inches in the vertical. However, he was a one-year wonder with a high of 22 tackles before last year. His athleticism makes Vander Esch an intriguing prospect, but will teams be willing to spend a high pick on an inexperienced linebacker?

7) Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Crimson Tide’s No. 1 receiver is fast and runs exceptional routes, but his age (23) is a concern for some analysts as is his lack of overall athleticism. He’s been projected to go anywhere from the mid-first to the middle of the second round. Will teams trust the tape and not worry about outside factors or will other receivers like DJ Moore and Courtland Sutton go ahead of him?

8) Kolton Miller, T, UCLA

It isn’t hyperbole to say that Miller is one of the best athletes to ever come out of the draft. He has a near perfect score via the website Relative Athletic Scores, which weighs players’ athletic profiles to success in certain drills to create a 0-10 score. He’s a 9.99. But his tape is underwhelming at times. Will a team pick him on size (6-foot-9), speed and quickness or will he fall as other more technical tackles rise to the top?

9) Minka Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Fitzpatrick could become the extreme rare corner who played the nickel spot in college who gets drafted in the top 10. He only spent 13 total snaps on the outside, according to PFF. But the value of nickel corners is rising in the NFL as teams use DBs more to stop passing attacks.

10) Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Like Fitzpatrick, Nelson plays a position that doesn’t have the highest draft value, but he’s an absolute freak. PFF ranked him No. 1 in run blocking success and by far the highest overall grade. Will the Fighting Irish star get passed over for boom-or-bust players at other spots? Or could he be one of the first players selected?

The post The 10 most intriguing players of the 2018 NFL draft appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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