When we first constructed a top-50 list to start our draft profile series, it was the last week of February, right in the throes of the NFL scouting combine, and it was tough at that point to see the big picture for the 2018 NFL draft.
(Cue excuse-making soundtrack.)
The weather was cold, the combine workouts were way too hot, and the evaluations frankly were a bit too incomplete. Every year it happens: We miss on a few guys. We overrate a few more.
But by default we’re sticking with our top 50 picks we made at the time as best we can, and we're trying now to make up for it on the back end. Here’s the remainder of the top 100, starting with No. 51, to show you the players we think — shhhh — really should have been included in our series.
Our biggest whiffs, we believe, were Arkansas OL Frank Ragnow and LSU WR D.J. Chark. They’re top-50 talents all day, and there honestly could be eight or nine listed below who could have replaced some who made the list earlier. Ragnow should be a Day 1 starter at center or guard, and Chark could be a special playmaker if he tightens up his ball skills.
Some players I think I had rated too high in the top 50: No. 50 Oregon RB Royce Freeman, No. 48 LSU LB-DE Arden Key (whom we found out a LOT more on later) and 44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts come to mind. I doubt any of them get taken in the first two rounds, although it’s for vastly different reasons.
Among the players I had rated too low: No. 40 Maryland WR D.J. Moore, whom I now would say is a top-25 player, and No. 39 UTEP OG Will Hernandez, who should have been closer to 30 than 40 after reevaluation.
We rolled the dice on No. 27 Michigan DT Maurice Hurst and No. 47 Ohio State C Billy Price because of their incomplete medical situations. Price could go higher than expected now, with his pectoral not keeping him out long term, and Hurst (heart condition) could slide in the draft a bit amid concerns.
So here’s how we slot the remaining 50 picks — much as it hurts to admit we were wrong on a few in retrospect:
51. Arkansas C Frank Ragnow — He’s a top-30 player in this class and could be a first-round pick. The type of player who plays a decade and just mauls people.
52. LSU WR D.J. Chark — If "The Flash" improves his ball skills, watch out. The Senior Bowl standout was held back early on by Les Miles’ former staff, is a quality punt returner and is just now starting to hit his peak.
53. Nevada OL Austin Corbett — Could play all five positions. A really underrated talent in the athletic Joel Bitonio mold.
54. Georgia RB Nick Chubb — Bounceback from a career-threatening knee injury has been impressive; he’ll be a good two-down option right away
55. Georgia LB Lorenzo Carter — A player who requires a bit of projection, a la Jamie Collins a few years ago.
56. San Diego State RB Rashaad Penny — Pass protection appears to be his biggest shortcoming right now, but Penny has great open-field running ability
57. UCLA OT Kolton Miller — We still want to see the tape that shows he’s a clear first-round pick, but the athletic ability is undeniable. Our question: What's his upside?
58. Memphis WR Anthony Miller — Flying under the radar a bit, Miller is a quick, competitive and feisty pass catcher with massive mitts despite a shorter frame.
59. Wake Forest S Jessie Bates — An intriguing center fielder, although he does give me a tiny bit of a Anthony Smith (the old Steelers safety from the late 2000s) vibe at times. I’m just a little leery here for a player discussed as a top-40 or 50 pick.
60. Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson — We’re prepared to be surprised by his early-career production if he’s cast in the right role. He might not have a long career the way he runs, but Johnson should be valuable and fun to watch. I also love that he doesn’t fumble.
61. Oklahoma DE-LB Ogbonnia Okoronkwo — A scout we trust said we’re underrating him, and Okoronkwo does offer some really nice juice if he’s used right.
62. Fort Hays State (Kans.) DT Nathan Shepherd — Teams are fascinated by this small-school dominator who easily could end up a top-50 talent.
63. Oklahoma State WR James Washington — Chris Chamber-ish talent and body frame and surprising 50-50 ball talent, although he was a one-side spread receiver who had a few clunkers (Texas game, for instance).
64. Auburn CB Carlton Davis — Big, physical corner who has trouble playing the ball and is too hot and cold to put much higher.
65. Washington WR Dante Pettis — Crafty, athletic playmaker who might never be special but should be a solid No. 2 and a quality returner (think Nate Burleson) for the next several years.
66. Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown — Bad (well, awful) workouts aside, the tape is too darned solid to ignore.
67. USC DE Rasheem Green — Former five-star recruit whose tape is not all that wondrous, but we’d be kidding ourselves if we didn’t hold out hope he could be something intriguing in a few years.
68. Pittsburgh OT Brian O'Neill — Converted tight end whose high-end tape is exciting and whose floor frankly scares us a bit too much.
69. Florida CB Duke Dawson — Not the most special athlete ever, but he is a tough, physical cover man who could be very good if he lands in the right type of system
70. LSU CB Donte Jackson — Cocksure cover man with blinding speed but might need some maturing before he’s consistently reliable.
71. Auburn OG Braden Smith — Barrel-chested player who might be a better pro than a college player if he can consistently harness his power and play with better balance.
72. BYU LB Fred Warner — Has a chance to be a really nice player, but maybe not a special one, sort of in the vein of another former Cougar, Kyle Van Noy.
73. Richmond QB Kyle Lauletta — Everything you want in a developmental QB, minus the arm talent. He’s not special physically, but has the mind of the coach and good competitiveness. If you told me he could become Josh McCown, I wouldn’t be surprised.
74. North Carolina CB M.J. Stewart — Really grew on me with a solid Senior Bowl week. Has a little of a Logan Ryan-ish vibe to me — maybe a tad stronger and a tick less athletic?
75. Iowa LB Josey Jewell — The next A.J. Klein? Let’s put it this way: Jewell strikes me as the type of linebacker that teams attempt to upgrade on every year but have trouble doing so. He’ll stick somewhere and be solid.
76. Tennessee RB John Kelly — Easily one of the most fun backs to watch on tape in this class, Kelly might never be a workhorse back because of his size, but he will win over fans, coaches and teammates with his hard running and underrated playmaking ability.
77. North Carolina State OW Jaylen Samuels — “OW” stands for offensive weapon, and the team that drafts Samuels should take advantage of his unique skill set as a runner and receiver.
78. Penn State WR DaeSean Hamilton — The more you watch of him, the more he grows on you. Projects as a slot receiver, and his character has been highly praised.
79. Oklahoma TE Mark Andrews — Good size and just OK athletic traits, Andrews projects as a very solid complementary tight end. Joel Dreesen type?
80. Iowa State WR Allen Lazard — If used right, he could be a good red-zone weapon … almost a poor man’s Marques Colston.
81. North Carolina State DT B.J. Hill — Very light feet and could be a nice third defensive tackle if he gets a little stronger.
82. Florida State DT Derrick Nnadi — Height likely limits him, scheme-wise, and athletic shortcomings too big to overlook. But some team is going to get a very interesting interior rusher who just produces.
83. Colorado State WR Michael Gallup — A slightly more explosive version of Earl Bennett. Could be a solid, competitive contributor and carve out a nice career.
84. Mississippi State OL Martinas Rankin — Left tackle whose final season was cut short by injury, he likely will be pegged for an interior role but has some starter qualities.
85. Louisville OT Geron Christian — He’ll likely go higher than this ranking. Christian likely needs to spend a year in the weight room but has some really interesting potential down the road with more seasoning.
86. Texas P Michael Dickson — The best punter prospect in a few years, Dickson should be a top-100 pick with his uncanny ability to drop the ball inside the opponents’ 10-yard line. His bowl-game performance vs. Mizzou might have been the greatest punting showcase in the past decade of college football.
87. Notre Dame WR Equanimious St. Brown — We’re not as enamored as others are, but his size and big-play ability could make him a really nice No. 3 in the right setting.
88. Wake Forest DE Duke Ejiofor — Not that gifted athletically, and his 2016 was better than last year, but he has the goods to stick if he stays healthy
89. Florida State DE Josh Sweat — Some might laugh at how low he is here, but Sweat’s health concerns, inconsistent effort and lack of pass-rush refinement have us a bit leery.
90. Stanford DB Quenton Meeks — Coach’s son with good football makeup; a DB coach we trust liked Meeks’ work in the combine position drills but worried about his lack of foot speed
91. USC LB-DE Uchenna Nwosu — My friend Chad Reuter of NFL.com mentioned the name O’Brien Schofield as a comp, and that’s not too shabby in our minds.
92. Virginia Tech S Terrell Edmunds — Like his brother Tremaine, Terrell is big for his position, but his inconsistencies outweigh his strong athletic gifts too often
93. Indiana TE Ian Thomas — A two-way tight ends with some finishing ability and toughness, Thomas has overcome adversity to turn himself into a nice prospect who could sneak into Day 2
94. Texas LB Malik Jefferson — Nice athletic ability, improved last season and the coaches talked up his whiteboard knowledge, but Jefferson never quite matched his elite billing out of high school
95. Rutgers DE Kemoko Turay — Looked lost in coverage drills in the combine, so his ticket to the NFL will be as a designated pass rusher, and he has some fascinating traits
96. South Carolina State LB Darius Leonard — Small, run-around kamikaze whom we frankly wanted to like more than we actually did the more tape we watched
97. Texas CB Holton Hill — The tape suggests a player with a lot of talent, but his trustworthiness isn’t super high entering the NFL.
98. Florida WR Antonio Callaway — Do you trust him? I don’t. Borderline first-round ability. Seventh-round character concerns.
99. UCF WR Tre’Quan Smith — Has the size and explosiveness you’re looking for, but he’s not quite as dominant as you’d expect with his tools. A solid developmental project.
100. LSU WR Russell Gage — Underused in Baton Rouge, Gage will stick in the NFL for a decade as a Troy Brown-like performer: receiver, runner, special teamer and emergency corner.
Just missed the cut:
Washington State DE-LB Hercules Mata’afa
Ole Miss DE Breeland Speaks
Clemson WR Deon Cain
Ohio State OT Jamarco Jones
Missouri S Anthony Sherrils
North Carolina State OT Will Richardson
Texas S DeShon Elliott
Alabama DE Da’Shawn Hand
Stanford TE Dalton Schultz
Ohio State DE Tyquan Lewis
Indiana LB Tegray Scales
Southern Miss S Tarvarius Moore
Miami (Fla.) RB Mark Walton
Tennessee CB Rashaan Gaulden
Vanderbilt LB Oren Burks
South Florida DT Deadrin Senat
West Georgia OT Desmond Harrison