2018 NFL Draft

Early Entry Players For NFL Draft

The NFL announced that 106 players have been granted special eligibility for the 2018 draft. Special eligibility, generally, refers to players who have met the NFL’s three-year eligibility rule and renounced their college football eligibility.

The group of 106 early eligibility players marks a new high for the league, up from 95 in 2017, 96 in 2016, 74 in 2015, and 98 in 2014. Ten years ago (2009), there were only 46 players forgoing their remaining college eligibility. It’s a trend that figures to continue, so long the NCAA continues its policy of not compensating its athletes.

As previously reported, this year’s early entry crop will include top quarterbacks Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen plus Penn State running back Saquon Barkley, Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, and LSU linebacker Arden Key.

Click “Read More” to see the entire list of players who have been granted early access to the NFL:

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2018 NFL Draft Order

With the 2017 NFL regular season now in the books, the majority of the 2018 draft order is in place. The final four slots will be determined by the results of the remainder of the postseason, but picks No. 1 through No. 28 are locked in. Here is the full list:

1. Cleveland Browns (0-16)

2. New York Giants (3-13)

3. Indianapolis Colts (4-12)

4. Cleveland Browns (via the 4-12 Houston Texans)

5. Denver Broncos (5-11)

6. New York Jets (5-11)

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

8. Chicago Bears (5-11)

T-9. Oakland Raiders (6-10)

T-9. San Francisco 49ers (6-10) (Note: The Raiders and 49ers have identical records and the same strength of schedule. The tie will be broken by a coin flip with the winner getting pick No. 9 and the other club receiving the No. 10 pick.)

11. Miami Dolphins (6-10)

12. Cincinnati Bengals (7-9)

13. Washington Redskins (7-9)

14. Green Bay Packers (7-9)

15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)

16. Baltimore Ravens (9-7)

17. Los Angeles Chargers (9-7)

18. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

19. Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

20. Detroit Lions (9-7)

21. Buffalo Bills (9-7)

22. Buffalo Bills (via the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs)

23. Los Angeles Rams (11-5)

24. Carolina Panthers (11-5)

25. Tennessee Titans (9-7)

26. Atlanta Falcons (10-6)

27. New Orleans Saints (11-5)

28. Pittsburgh Steelers (13-3)

Clemson DL Christian Wilkins Staying In School

With so many NFL draft declarations over the past few weeks, one of college football’s premier defensive lineman has gone against the grain and has decided to stay for his senior season. Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins has opted to try for another College Football Playoff Championship, the team announced on Twitter.

Christian Wilkins (Vertical)

While the news is at least somewhat surprising considering that Wilkins was thought of by many as a sure bet to be selected in the first round, the motivation of getting beaten by Alabama has clearly fueled most of the team’s draft eligible players decisions to try and avenge that loss in 2018.

Wilkins was ranked as the number one defensive line prospect by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report before this decision became official. He also is coming off an outstanding junior season that saw the dominant defender rack up five sacks and help lead one of the defensive units in the country.

Wilkins’ decision to return to school pushes the likes of Michigan’s Maurice Hurst and Washington’s Vita Vea as the best interior defenders in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Georgia LB Roquan Smith To Enter Draft

One of college football’s top players this season, Roquan Smith will try his hand in the NFL. The Georgia linebacker announced Monday he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2018 draft.

Projected as a first-round pick, Smith increased his value with standout performances in the Bulldogs’ two College Football Playoff games. The Butkus Award recipient finished with 24 tackles (3.5 for loss) and a sack in Georgia’s games against Oklahoma and Alabama.

Smith broke out in his third season, registering 137 stops (14 behind the line of scrimmage) and 6.5 sacks as a junior overall.

The All-American also earned SEC defensive player of the year acclaim. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report slots Smith as the No. 9 pick in his latest mock draft, representing the first linebacker off the board.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alabama DT Da’Ron Payne Enters Draft

Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t the only Alabama underclassman going pro. Defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne and safety Ronnie Harrison announced this week that they will also skip their senior seasons in order to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.Da'Ron Payne (vertical)

[RELATED: Minkah Fitzpatrick Enters Draft]

Payne is leaving on the highest note possible after being named the defensive MVP of the Sugar Bowl and the National Championship game. His raw physical skills should vault him into the first round in April.

He’s the best. He’s the best I’ve seen,”Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran said recently (via Matt Zenitz of AL.com). “I’ve never seen a guy hit 385 on the power clean every single year. His first year he hit 365 on the power clean and it was like wow, freshman, that’s incredible.

Harrison recently received a second-round grade from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee. That’s no surprise after he racked up three interceptions and was named first-team AP All-SEC in 2017. Harrison also led Alabama with 74 tackles on the season.

Running back Bo Scarbrough is also entering the draft, but where he goes is anyone’s guess. Scarbrough split carries with Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris this past season, leaving him with a smaller share of the workload than anticipated. With solid workouts and some big games in his past (like 2016’s 180-yard showing against Washington), Scarbrough is hoping to put himself in the late-round conversation.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick Enters Draft

No surprise here, but Alabama standout Minkah Fitzpatrick is going pro. Fitzpatrick announced on Thursday that he will forgo his final season in order to enter the 2018 draft. "<strong

Between winning the Bednarik Award and a National Championship, Fitzpatrick couldn’t have had a better platform season. He’s lauded for his football IQ and instincts just as much as his athleticism and he also offers the versatility to play anywhere in the secondary. Many project that he will be a free safety at the next level, but he could also see time at cornerback or strong safety depending on the team’s needs.

It is expected that Fitzpatrick will be a top 10, if not top 5, selection. The Browns could target Fitzpatrick at No. 4, giving GM John Dorsey an elite safety like he had in Kansas City with Eric Berry.

In his final season on campus, Fitzpatrick recorded 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven passes defensed, and one interception. He had two pick sixes in both the 2014 and 2015 season, giving him the all-time school record.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Redskins, Cousins, Raiders

Redskins coach Jay Gruden wants to see Kirk Cousins get a long-term contract and not just another one-year patchwork solution.

I think something has to be done,” Gruden told Dan Steinberg of The Washington Post. “I personally don’t want to go through another one-year deal, and just [keep going] one year, one year. I think you want to have a quarterback in here that’s going to be here. And hopefully that is Kirk, and if not, we have to move on and do what we have to do as an organization. For the most part, the great quarterbacks are in the same system year in and year out, and are developing in that system. [Teams are] not holding our breath every March and April, waiting for the guy. But if that’s the case, that’s the case. But we like Kirk and his development. He’s played well at times, without a doubt, proven that he’s a good starting NFL quarterback.”

Cousins did not quite match his 2016 numbers this past season and that could help the two sides reach a midway point in extension talks. Failing that, the Redskins can franchise tag him again for a whopping $34.5MM or use the $28.8MM transition tag, giving them the option to match any offer (though they would not receive any compensation if they do not match).

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • It remains to be seen whether the Raiders will face punishment for skirting the Rooney Rule, but the league has spoken on at least one aspect of Jon Gruden‘s hiring. When asked whether the NFL permits a team to reach an agreement in principle with a new coach before firing its current coach, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart told Mike Florio of PFT, “There is no league rule or policy on this.” During Gruden’s introductory presser, owner Mark Davis said that he had a handshake deal with Gruden before firing Jack Del Rio. The Fritz Pollard Alliance seems fairly convinced that this was a violation of the Rooney Rule since the team interviewed minority candidates after reaching a deal with Gruden. However, the league may conclude that the Raiders complied with the rule since they did technically interview Tee Martin and Bobby Johnson before putting pen to paper with Chucky.
  • Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield may go without an on-field agent, as Liz Mullen of Sports Business Daily writes. It would be a daring play for Mayfield, who is facing many questions about his ability to adapt to the NFL.
  • The Bears have tapped Chris Tabor to be their new special-teams coordinator, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. This marks Tabor’s second stint with Chicago, with his first coming in 2008-2010. For the last seven seasons, he’s been in Cleveland, where he’s lasted through two different owners, five GMs, and four head coaches.

LSU RB Derrius Guice Enters 2018 NFL Draft

LSU running back Derrius Guice announced on Twitter today that he will forgo his senior season and enter the 2018 NFL draft.Derrius Guice (vertical)

Guice’s decision was largely viewed as foregone, as he’s consistently ranked as one of the best running backs available in next year’s draft. Both Matt Miller of Bleacher Report and Luke Easterling of USA Today rank Guice as the second-best running back in the 2018 class, while Miller also says Guice is the best power back of any runner available. Meanwhile, Todd McShay of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) sent Guice to the Seahawks in his most recent mock draft.

Guice, 20, earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2016 and second-team honors this past season. In each of the last two years, Guice has managed at least 180 carries, topped 1,200 rushing yards, and scored at least 11 rushing touchdowns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Alabama WR Calvin Ridley Enters NFL Draft

Calvin Ridley is going pro. The Alabama wide receiver announced on social media that he is entering the NFL Draft. "<strong

It is expected that Ridley will be the first wide receiver off the board in this year’s draft, though SMU’s Courtland Sutton and Oklahoma State’s James Washington could give him a run for his money. The Bears, who pick at No. 8 overall, are in need of a receiver and could have interest.

Ridley’s numbers have declined since his breakout freshman campaign, but that can be largely attributed to Alabama’s focus on the running game. This past season, Ridley had 63 catches for 967 yards and five touchdowns, but his 15.3 yards per reception average was a collegiate career best.

Riding the momentum of a National Championship, Ridley could become the latest Alabama receiving threat to go high in the draft, following the footsteps of Julio Jones and O.J. Howard.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Louisville QB Lamar Jackson Enters Draft

Another top quarterback has declared for the draft. Louisville signal caller Lamar Jackson announced on Friday morning that he is going pro: Lamar Jackson (vertical)

For the past three years, the (University of Louisville), as well as the city of Louisville, has embraced me as one of their own. My time in Louisville has produced some of the best memories of my life. I have had the pleasure of being in the presence of some of the best professors, coaches, advisers, training staff, athletes and fans, in the nation. With their help I have been able to grow not only as a quarterback, but as a teammate, student, and most of all, as a man. After much discussion with my family and coaches, I have made the decision to take the next step in my career and enter the 2018 NFL draft. I would like to thank the University of Louisville, coach (Bobby) Petrino and the coaching staff, my teammates and the fans. It has been nothing short of an honor to be a member of Cards Nation and to play for this university. No matter what the future holds, one thing remains true: Go Cards!”

The inclusion of Jackson gives this year’s draft another big name at quarterback. He joins UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph as possibilities to be drafted in the first round.

Jackson’s resume is about as impressive as it gets. As a sophomore in 2016, Jackson became the first player in Louisville history to win the first Heisman Trophy. This year, he finished third in Heisman voting and wound up as the first underclassman to reach 9,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards.

Still, Jackson is a polarizing prospect. He is not cut out of the typical quarterback mold and there are concerns about whether he will be able to stay under center at the next level. Any team selecting Jackson will need to have a clear plan in place for developing him, but the rewards could be astronomical.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.