What is the single, most important time of the year for an NFL team? Some people will say that it is playoff time. Others might mention free agency or even training camp. But the reality is not exactly like that. The most important time of the year for an NFL team is draft day. Everything else that happens to an NFL franchise is nothing but a branch that sprouts from the roots the franchise solidifies while they are picking new rookies for the team. Professional football players might have a longer career than college players, but the idea of the game is pretty much the same. You need to keep talent coming into your team as your older guys start to retire or even worse, start going to other teams.
While a few big markets are not entirely dependent on draft day decisions, they are still affected by it. Think about it this way, even if you are not going to use the players you draft on your roster, they can be used in order to acquire assets from other teams. Yes, everything in the NFL revolves around what happens during the draft day. But the bottom line is that you need to know two things can happen when you select a college player to your team. You can either get a steal, or you can pick a bust. And believe us, and the Cleveland Browns, when we say that you do not want to be known as the team that only picks busts in the draft year after year. So, without any further delay, let’s make some predictions and talk about eight NFL prospects who will be busts and seven who will be steals.
15 Bust: Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma, QB
Yeah, yeah, everyone knows what we are going to say here, but it needs to be said. One of the things that differentiates the regular players from the greats in the NFL is their mentality. And if there is one thing Baker Mayfield has proven during his college days, it's that he does not have the mentality to become the leader of an NFL franchise. Does anyone need a reminder about what happened to Johnny Manziel?
The list of similarities between these two guys is nothing short of astounding. Two mobile quarterbacks who became college sensations for their play and notorious for their antics, Johnny and Baker are pretty much the same guy. What makes it even worse is that Mayfield has more experience than Johnny and still acts like a teenager. This guy has bust written all over him.
14 Can't Miss: Josh Rosen - UCLA, QB
Josh Rosen to the New York Giants might just be a match made in heaven. If everything goes according to the blueprint mock drafts are painting everywhere, the Cleveland Browns will pick Sam Darnold (or possibly Josh Allen) with the number one selection. With that, the New York Giants will have the opportunity to select Josh Rosen to take the place of Eli Manning in 2018.
As much as people like to hate on Eli, the guy did give Giants fans a lot to cheer about despite his many flaws. However, Manning is not one of those guys who will age gracefully like his brother did. No, if the Giants try to keep playing him, it will be at least as ugly as it was this season. Luckily, Rosen has the arm to take up that mantle and perform better than Eli has in a long time.
13 Bust: Sam Darnold - USC, QB
The only pick that seems to be on lock in this entire draft is Sam Darnold going number one to the Cleveland Browns. There have been murmurs that the Browns would not pass on Wyoming QB Josh Allen, who the Browns reportedly view as the second coming of Carson Went, but this could all be a smokescreen. Like we said in the introduction, if there is one team notorious for picking poorly and ending up with busts after a draft, it is the Cleveland Browns. Does anyone here remember the last time the Browns drafted a sophomore quarterback with the hopes that he would become their franchise player?
Oh yeah, we have barely started this article and we already dropped Johnny Manziel’s name twice. That's how bad of a pick he was when the Browns selected him in 2014. To his merit, Sam seems to have a little more upside than Johnny did. He is bigger and stronger with a lot of room to grow. Unfortunately, he probably will become just another cursed soul on that Cleveland ship. If he slips down boards and goes somewhere else, a la Denver, he'll have a much better shot.
12 Can't Miss: Minkah Fitzpatrick - Alabama, DB
If there is a jack of all trades in this NFL draft, it is Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick. The guy played everywhere in Alabama’s defense, and he managed to be useful in every position Nick Saban decided to throw him at. At 6’1” and 202 pounds, Fitzpatrick has the perfect mix of skill and athleticism needed to overhaul some of the weakest defensive units in the NFL.
A lot of teams in the NFL need a joker on their defense, especially teams that have been poor all year defending against the pass. A few names that come to mind are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants, both of whom have high draft picks. Don’t be surprised if either of them takes Fitzpatrick, who may be the most NFL ready player in the entire draft.
11 Bust: Da’Ron Payne - Alabama, DT
This guy is one of the hardest reads of the draft. There are mock drafts that don’t even picture Da’Ron Payne as a first-round pick, but after his performance against Georgia in the National Championship Game, it is hard to see him not going in the first round.
But the problem here is that Payne is one of those prospects that no one really knows how he will be affected by the pro game. Want it or not, his entire college career he played with the security of having one of the best secondaries in the nation behind him. Payne probably won’t have that in the NFL, and he will be playing against better quarterbacks. We will wait for to combine to pass final judgment on Payne, but he seems like a good candidate for bust.
10 Can't Miss: Bradley Chubb - North Carolina State, DE
When people call football players monsters, guys like Bradley Chubb are what comes to our minds. This kid is a beast, literally. He will pursue a quarterback like no other defensive end in the college game did. After getting four years of experience and putting on some muscle at North Carolina State, Chubb might be the most NFL-ready prospect in this entire draft.
He is everything a defensive coordinator in the NFL is looking for when a rookie comes to their team. He is strong, he is relentless, and he is not afraid to put the moves on guys who are bigger than him. A lot of teams need help with the pass rush (Indianapolis, we are looking at you), and this guy could be the answer.
9 Bust: Josh Allen - Wyoming, QB
If there was a guy to whom we would give a most valuable player trophy in college, behind Baker Mayfield, and if the only criteria for that selection were how dependent his team was on that guy, the choice would easily be Josh Allen. Even in college, football has become a quarterback-centric game, and despite playing for Wyoming, Allen became such a vital part of that team that he got national recognition, and they were not able to win any games without him. That includes a loss to San Jose State, who finished the season with a 2-11 record.
Nevertheless, we have a hard time believing his game would translate well to the NFL. Sure, he didn’t have the best receivers playing in Wyoming, but Allen finished the season with a mediocre 56.3 percent completion ratio. And if the rumors are true and Josh Allen does end up getting taken first overall by Cleveland, anything short of being a savior will deem him a bust.
8 Can't Miss: Quenton Nelson -Notre Dame, G
At 6’5” and 330 pounds, Quenton Nelson is a consensus for the best offensive lineman in this draft class. In a lot of ways, we agree with the consensus because this kid has the ideal size for someone looking to play the position in the NFL. While playing against other college kids, Nelson was nearly unmatched. If you go back and analyze the game tape for Notre Dame for the entire year of 2017, you will have a hard time finding footage of a defensive lineman getting by Nelson and getting to the quarterback in time.
He is NFL-ready, and he will immediately improve any offense he steps into. Given the fact that there are a lot of teams in desperate need of better pass and rush protection, we would not be surprised to see Nelson being picked rather early.
7 Bust: Lamar Jackson - Louisville, QB
Maybe the best choice for Lamar Jackson would have been to have declared for the draft last year when he was the Heisman Trophy winner. Don’t get us wrong, his junior season at Louisville was strong enough for him to still go high in the 2018 Draft, but it might have robbed him of a year of practice he could’ve had in the NFL. We say that because the rumors going about the league is that scouts are saying that the teams want to work Jackson out as both a quarterback and a wide receiver before the draft.
Now that tells us a lot about what the people who really understand what they are doing think of this guy’s ability to make it as a quarterback in the NFL. He can still surprise a lot of people, but those rumors are not a good sign unless he becomes the next Julian Edelman.
6 Can't Miss: Saquon Barkley - Penn State, RB
If Alabama has the most complete defensive player who declared for the draft, Penn State certainly has his offensive counterpart. Saquon Barkley is one of those running backs made for the modern football game. Unlike a lot of people who play his position, this kid is actually talented at catching the ball. He might not be an Alvin Kamara yet, but he sure could develop to become that kind of player. Pair him up with an athletic quarterback who can draw attention from a defense, and Barkley could be deadly from the get-go. He's been deemed the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, which means he'll have the ability to carry an offense.
At 5’11” and 230 pounds, he is powerful but still elusive enough that you could confuse him with a leaner running back. This kid has been fun to watch since his freshman year at Penn State, and we cannot imagine that changing once he reaches the NFL.
5 Bust: Denzel Ward - Ohio State, DB
One of the things you look for in a defensive back is leadership. They might be far from the line of scrimmage on your average play, but at the end of the day, these are the guys who have the best view of what an offense might be planning. When it comes to leadership, Denzel Ward has already proven his worth as he led the young Ohio State secondary to become one of the best in the country. Ward unavoidably became a key player in getting the Buckeyes their 12-2 record by the end of the year.
However, while he might have the leadership ability and the technique to become a good corner in the NFL, Ward will have a hard time dealing with receivers on the next level because of his size. He is only 5’10” and weighs 191 pounds.
4 Can't Miss: Maurice Hurst - Michigan, DT
We said it before, and we will say it again: the NFL has a lot of talent, but they are still in dire need of pass rushers and defensive tackles who can shed through offensive linemen and stop the run in its tracks. Someone who fits that bill is Michigan’s Maurice Hurst. The senior defensive lineman was by far the best the Wolverines had to offer to college football this year. It doesn’t matter who they played; the opposing quarterback was always sure to see this guy breathing on his neck at least once during a game.
At 6’2” and 282 pounds, Maurice already has the body of an NFL defensive tackle, and he also has the numbers that qualify him to fight for a starting spot in most teams. He finished 2017 with 13.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in just 12 games.
3 Bust: Calvin Ridley, Alabama WR
Here is yet another Alabama player on our list. Calvin Ridley is a good wide receiver. At 6’1” and 190 pounds, he is light and quick enough to blow by many corners and safeties in the NFL. The problem with this guy is that he is actually old. When you see a wide receiver coming into the NFL, you expect him to be in his early 20s, but when the NFL season starts, Ridley will be well on his way to becoming 24. And don’t forget that sometimes wide receivers reach their peak in their mid-20s. That being said, he could be a good option for a team that needs help now, but we wouldn’t bet on this guy improving a lot after joining an NFL team. His numbers for Alabama show that very fact, as he had more receptions and touchdowns during his freshman season than his junior year.
2 Must: Luke Falk - Washington State, QB
Here is our pick for steal of the draft. Don’t worry, you probably won’t see Luke Falk going into the board before the third round, but that is exactly the reason we think this guy could be the steal of 2018. In an age where everyone is looking for an athletic quarterback with a lot of arm strength and room to develop, we think there is still a chance someone who escapes that norm could become the next great thing in football. No, we are not saying our bet is that Luke Falk will become the next Tom Brady or anything. What we are saying is that this kid is one of the most accurate quarterback prospects out there, and he could very well become a force to be reckoned with if paired up with a good tight end and a slot receiver.
1 Bust: Connor Williams, Texas OT
The thing about guards and all other offensive linemen is that due to the fact of them being massive human beings, their bodies take a severe toll while playing football. Seriously, do not think the life of an offensive lineman is easy. While the other guys are getting hit every once in a while, these fellows are getting hit every play. And even though they might be some of the biggest guys on their team, they are getting hit by the biggest and strongest guys on the other team. For that reason, this is one position in which severe injuries always make us think twice before talking about a guy’s future.
Connor Williams missed most of his junior season with a sprained MCL and PCL. The jury is out on how he will recover from those injuries, but for a 6’6” 315-pound man, that alone qualifies him as a potential bust.