Trey Marshall (S, Florida State) – 79

There is definitely a place for Trey Marshall in the NFL, but teams will have to be careful to play to his strengths and mask his deficiencies.  He has, to an extent, been a victim of his own versatility at FSU, lining up almost everywhere in the secondary.  That has, however, enabled scouts to see him in all sorts of situations.  To my mind, his skill-set is that of a box safety, or strong safety, in the NFL.  He doesn’t have the cover skills to match up against NFL WRs; in coverage, he is scrappy, grabby, slow to turn his hips and has marginal ball skills.  You don’t really want him exposed too much against WRs in space.  He is, however, fast and physical enough to cover TEs and RBs effectively.  In run support, Marshall is really very good; he flies to the ball like a missile and hits very aggressively; in this part of the game, he reminds me of Keanu Neal, of the Atlanta Falcons.  I like a safety who looks like he bears a personal grudge towards the ball carrier and Marshall certainly falls into this category.  I will be interested to see if he can bed down in one position in the 2017 season and improve his skills in the cover game.  If so, he could rise quickly up draft boards.  Nevertheless, I’ve already seen enough from Marshall to justify giving him a Day 2 grade.

Nate Velichko (G, San Jose State) – 47

Velichko is an experienced and versatile lineman, who has started at both tackle and guard at San Jose State, on both sides of the line.  He is by no means an elite prospect but I do think that his skill-set, allied to this versatility, might make him a viable practice squad candidate for an NFL team in 2018.  His main strength is his alertness; he recognises his responsibilities and can often be seen shunting off his primary responsibility to one of his teammates in order to pick up a secondary threat.  He has quite a powerful punch and is reasonably athletic, with the ability to move quickly towards the second level.  When he keeps his feet chopping, he is a creditable run blocker and I enjoyed the amount of pancake blocks for which he was responsible – always, for me, a positive sign!  He is, however, a marginal prospect at best at the next level, due to the flaws in pass protection, where he tends to over-extend and lose his balance, forcing him to lunge and lose control of contact situations.  This is, I suspect, partly due to two things: 1) he plays too high – at 6-7, he struggles to gain leverage – and 2) he is a bit slow off the snap and, as a result, lacks the explosion you would really want to see.  A good offensive line coach will smooth out some of these difficulties and, although Velichko is a long-shot to make it in the NFL, I see enough on tape to suggest that a camp invite is feasible.

Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) – 94

This is quite a year for RBs. Plenty of NFL experts will doubtless be examining the relative merits of Barclay and Derrius Guice over the next few months and they are indubitably both 1st round prospects. Personally, however, I prefer Guice because, at the moment, I think that he’s a more complete RB. Barclay is a really powerful, dynamic runner, with elite speed, power and vision. I love how he finishes his runs; there will be DBs all over the country who will be offering up little prayers that Barclay simply trots out of bounds at the end of a run and, beyond question, he shows the sort of explosion that you want in a starting RB. I do, however, have some minor quibbles about Barclay. He may well have had a father or grandfather who was a big Marcus Allen fan but, for me, he leaves his feet and goes airborne far too often. He has a wonderful jump-cut but, more often than not, it is to his right; if I were an NFL defensive co-ordinator, I would ensure that he has to run to his left. Finally, I have slight reservations regarding his pass protection.   In the second quarter of the Wisconsin game, he was a bit of a liability against NFL calibre defenders coming off the edge. It is fair to say, in mitigation, that he was dealing with an injury throughout that game but, nevertheless, it set a few alarm bells ringing. Overall, though, I have no doubt that Barclay is a 1st round talent and I look forward to charting his progress with interest in the 2017 season.

Minkah Fitzpatrick (CB, Alabama) – 90

Minkah Fitzpatrick is a player I would like to see on my team. There are very few spots in the secondary where he has not lined up and he has played at least well – and, in many cases, superbly – in all of them. This gives him rare scheme versatility. His ball skills and athleticism are excellent; when he gets an interception, he is a genuine threat to take it all the way. I really like his aggression as a DB. It will, at times, lead him to bite on double moves and find himself getting turned around but, more often than not, it enables him to break up passes and snare interceptions. As befits a player who has lined up for much of his career at safety, he is a physical specimen and a very sure tackler. He will certainly take his lumps as a rookie – his desire to hit and make plays will make him vulnerable to the wilier NFL WRs – but I think he will have a really good NFL career. I would like to see him really hone his craft at CB as a senior because, if he can be a little more controlled, I can see him going in the top 10-15 picks. At the moment, I have a late first round grade on Fitzpatrick but I would not be surprised to see his name called earlier in the 2018 draft.

Billy Price (G/C, Ohio State) – 87

The words that come to mind when you scout Billy Price are ‘alert’, ‘intelligent’ and ‘savvy’.  He has started 41 consecutive games at guard for Ohio State and the fact that he is almost certainly moving to center for his senior season will probably only enhance his stock.  Price has extremely quick feet, which enable him to shift fluidly into position against both 1-tech NTs and 3-tech DTs.  You can also see this athleticism when he pulls; he looks very nimble for an interior lineman when he comes round the corner.  He is an intelligent player, whose veteran experience enables him to cope comfortably with stunts and twists.  You very rarely see him being pushed back in the running game, although I would like to see him being a bit more aggressive when he gets to the second level.   He could be a very serviceable starting guard but I’m not sure if he has the raw strength to excel there; as a center, however, his combination of athleticism and intelligence could enable him to be a top five player in that position.  My instinct is that Price will end up playing center in the NFL and, if that’s the case, I can see him being a player who contends for Pro Bowl honours.

Quin Blanding (S, Virginia) – 80

Blanding has prototypical size and range for an NFL free safety.  Virginia plays him most often in the deep, centre-field role, although he is also comfortable in Cover 2.  He is very adept in zone coverage, where he identifies threats smoothly and rapidly.  Virginia does not ask him to do much by the way of man coverage but, when he does, he looks comfortable matched up with TEs and WRs alike.  His ball skills are just OK, I feel; for a player with his range, in his position, you would like to see more interceptions and there are times when he will misjudge the ball completely.  In run support, he is very reliable.  No one is going to mistake him for Landon Collins or Keanu Neal as a tackler but he doesn’t miss many either – he wraps up consistently and is technically sound.  I don’t see Blanding as a difference maker in the NFL but, if he were your starting free safety, he certainly wouldn’t be a liability.  As such, I have a mid Day-2 grade on him at this stage of the process.

Kendall Blanton (TE, Missouri) – 64

Blanton has shown considerable versatility at Missouri – he has lined up as a conventional TE, a slot receiver, an H-Back and a FB.  He has an imposing frame (6-6, 265lb) and is a fluid, powerful athlete.  So far in his career, he has been part of a 3 or 4 man platoon of TEs, which has limited his opportunities to shine; he did, however, show enough in the 2016 season to suggest that he could be a major sleeper in what is a markedly less impressive 2018 TE draft class than the 2017 equivalent.  Blanton has very good hands and will make the contested catch; his TD catch in the South Carolina game is a good example.  He uses his frame well and will bully smaller DBs.  His route running, however, can be a bit sloppy and he needs to become more precise in his breaks.  At the moment, he is more polished as a pass blocker than in the running game.  In pass protection, he anchors well and shows a strong punch, whereas he lacks a bit of explosiveness as a run blocker; I’d like to see a bit more aggression in the running game.  With Sean Culkin, last year’s starting TE for Mizzou, in camp with the LA Chargers, Blanton should get more opportunities this season and I have a funny feeling that this current 5th/6th round borderline grade might improve dramatically over the course of the 2017 season.