Josh Norris

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Norris: Top 50 Big Board

Saturday, March 24, 2018


Sorry for taking so long, friends. Rather than throw out rankings that would drastically change, I wanted to wait until after the NFL Combine (and then some) in order to gather more information, i.e. athletic profiles. I guess this is closer to NFL teams’ schedules, as they put a final board together which might vary quite differently than early talent grades from area scouts. Coaches and decision makers get involved, that’s why the final grade is the (only) one that matters.


Speaking of grades, I don’t do them. I’m not evaluating for a specific scheme. Instead, I’m ranking based on ideal fit and how a player would excel in that situation. Not a specific franchise fit, but more of an ideal role.


As for quarterbacks, I rank them differently. Ideally they would be on a totally separate board, but that is not possible. Instead I place them at the top of the board if I’m sold on their ability. If I’m sold on them becoming quality starters. Then, rather than mingle with every other position, I place the next tier following prospects I consider to be first round caliber players. I could envision these quarterbacks being quality starters, but potential fatal flaws exist in their game as well. And so on, and so on.


This class really lacks excitement. In previous years I’d tell myself “I have to put Grady Jarrett high on my rankings,” due to excitement over his evaluation. The same could be said for Eric Kendricks, Michael Thomas, Javon Hargrave and many others. I’m not sure I have that connection with specific prospects this year. And as you can see, only 20 currently fit a “first round” label.


1. QB Josh Rosen, UCLA


Where He Wins: Play after play a coach knows what he is getting from a footwork, mechanics and technique standpoint. Ideal pocket passer in terms of working inside of structure with timing to locate the correct read and deliver the ball. Willing to attack every level of the defense and deliver footballs just before being hit. Rosen can rifle passes into tight windows or put touch on throws when necessary. Will make subtle movements inside of structure to find space in the pocket. He sees the field better than any other quarterback in this class.


Forecast: I don’t know Rosen’s medicals (shoulder and head). I have never met Josh Rosen. But in life generally, I appreciate people who speak their mind and display self-awareness. There will be a team at the top of the draft who clicks with Rosen. Many successful young quarterbacks in the NFL possess above average mobility. I don’t think Rosen offers that.


2. iOL Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame


Where He Wins: I’ve never seen an offensive lineman make some of the plays Nelson has. Example: Nelson, with active eyes, picking up a late blitzing Georgia defender on the opposite side of the line and absolutely decapitating him at full speed. He creates space in the running game and halts momentum as a pass protector.


Forecast: Interior disruption is king, so preventing it is important. There is also something to be said for an easy evaluation, and Nelson is that.


3. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State


Where He Wins: Possibly the perfect satellite or space running back. He shines in the open field, combining unreal athleticism with ridiculous size. He creates yards on his own by evading tacklers both behind the line of scrimmage, at the second level or beyond. In fact, he created many hidden yards by converting supposed losses into gains by evading free defenders. A comfortable receiver on pick plays, swings, short routes and vertical shots.


NFL Comparison: David Johnson, Cardinals


Forecast: Barkley is a totally different runner than Ezekiel Elliott or Leonard Fournette. He does not maximize every yard blocked for him between the tackles. Right now that is not his game, but could it be? He has the size for it. But Barkley offers a different skillset in terms of shining in the passing game.


4. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia


Where He Wins: Sideline to sideline linebacker who is outstanding at getting ahead of blocks and picking lanes to attack and disrupt. Wants to meet ball carriers at or behind the line of scrimmage. He reacts immediately and even is predictive in his movements.


Forecast: An immediate difference maker off the ball. Plug and play starter. Just imagine if he goes to a team with solid defensive tackles that allow him to run free at the second level.


5. S Derwin James, FSU


Where He Wins: I would feel comfortable playing James at every level of the field. Split safety in deeper portions of coverage. Box safety or slot corner matching up against all different types of pass catchers. And James absolutely succeeds near the line of scrimmage and even as a blitzer. He plays with aggression and is an outstanding athlete.


Comparison: Eric Berry, Chiefs


Forecast: Per Albert Breer, teams are split on James. I think he has more range to his game than Jamal Adams, the No. 6 pick in last year’s class. More quarterbacks will be drafted in the top five this year, so a team will be getting a very good player near the No. 10 spot.


6. EDGE Bradley Chubb, NC State


Where He Wins: Knows his identity and strengths as a pass rusher. Chubb attacks his opposition snap after snap to the outside or straight to the edge. He can win with a long arm or rip on the edge or press and push tackles back on a bull rush. Chubb is also great at understanding when he has enough depth and disengages in order to make a play in the backfield, crossing the face of tackles. That type of pass rush arsenal keeps tackles guessing.


Forecast: Play after play, Chubb gets after it with effort. He isn’t a speed rusher, but that’s fine. He has enough tools and uses that variety to win a number of one on one matchups each game. Can play on the edge of any system.


7. DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan


Where He Wins: Burst off the snap to shoot gaps or attack edges of interior offensive linemen. Hurst is so quick that he takes advantage of any error on the inside. Late on a reach block? Hurst is in the backfield. Hesitate to fill for a pulling lineman? Hurst will make a play. Likely fits as a 3-technique in a one-gap defense, but has plenty of snaps at 1-technique in a NASCAR package. Plays low, which helps carry the momentum he created. Plays with timing and vision to separate and make plays on the ball.


Forecast: Interior disruption is king, and Hurst offers it most consistently in this class. Hurst was held out of the Combine with a heart concern, but we will soon know if he has been cleared.


8. EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College


Where He Wins: Pure speed and explosion off the edge. Even if he didn’t have moves or counters, tackles would fear Landry because of his ability to run the arc. That alone will create production. His flexibility to turn the corner and take a tight angle towards the quarterback might be the best in this class. The outside threat allows him to set up the inside move. Understands he needs to locate the quarterback when getting depth.


Forecast: Deal with injuries in 2017, but his 2015 and 2016 stuff is high-end tape. A natural pass rusher and that is what matters most. Don’t be too concerned about his run fits on the outside.


9. OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia


Where He Wins: Played left tackle in 2017 after previously playing left guard. Really is an ideal offensive lineman: Athletic, strong, footwork and an ability to recover and still win.


Forecast: I think Wynn can play tackle in the NFL, but it remains to be seen if the NFL vies him in the same light. Has only played on the left side during his career. Played with a torn labrum since November.


10. RB Derrius Guice, LSU


Where He Wins: No nonsense runner. Wants to maximize the blocking in front of him and will win on contact, either a few yards on final contact or break into free space. Not afraid of contact and faced a number of heavy boxes. Displayed big play ability during his first two years. Shows patience behind the line to wait for an opening on the front side or back side. Makes his cuts off a single step while maintaining momentum.


Comparison: On the Thomas Rawls - Marshawn Lynch spectrum


Forecast: Dealt with a deep thigh bruise this season but looked back to form down the stretch. Was not a major part of the passing game, but that is typical of LSU running backs.


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Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for Rotoworld and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Josh Norris



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