NFL: Evaluating the 2018 NFC Draft Class

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After two years in the league, there is sufficient evidence to evaluate the NFL players drafted in 2018. One season is often not enough, and sometimes two does not suffice either. Yet, for many players, they are already making names for themselves or running out of chances. This evaluation will focus on the players drafted by each NFC team.

NFC East

New York Giants: 7/10

The Giants started the draft strong and should be pleased with what the majority of their picks have done since entering the league. Their first selection, Running Back Saquon Barkley was Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2018, although he had an injury-affected 2019. Offensive Guard Will Hernandez has also been a strong starter. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter has improved over the two seasons, especially as a pass rusher and in pass coverage. 3rd round Defensive Lineman B.J. Hill had a good 2018, but saw less time on the field in 2019 and appears destined for a backup role.

Their other two picks were less illustrious. Quarterback Kyle Lauletta made brief appearances in 2 games in 2018 and was waived in 2019. DL R.J. McIntosh has had little time on the field after injuries in 2018 and has been a rotational backup at best. While the majority of the picks have been good, the Giants will still hope for more going forward.

Washington Redskins: 5/10

Washington found value throughout the draft, although it hasn’t translated to success on the field. DL Da’Ron Payne had a strong rookie season but had a less successful 2019 season. RB Derrius Guice missed all of 2018 with injury, and with further injuries in 2019 played in only a handful of games. OL Geron Christian has been a backup, while LB Shaun Dion Hamilton had some success in a bigger role in 2019 despite starting fewer games than in 2018.

The majority of the other picks have featured on Special Teams or been limited in their time on the field. Cornerback and Special Team player Greg Stroman had an impressive 2018 for a 7th rounder but was waived and placed on injured reserve in 2019. Safety Troy Apke has become a regular on Special Teams and Wide Receiver Trey Quinn has too, while also increasing his offensive role in 2019. DL Tim Settle has also played Special Teams and as a backup on defense, but with limited impact. While the amount of players who have contributed in some way is good, there is no standout player that has been exceptional for both seasons.

Dallas Cowboys: 5/10

The Cowboys should be most pleased with how their 2018 Draft class has shaped. LB Leighton Vander Esch was a 2nd team All-Pro in 2018 and was playing at a high level in 2019 until an injury forced him out. OL Connor Williams has started 21 games over his two seasons, and although he was benched in 2018, he improved as the starter in 2019, allowing only 1 sack. WR Michael Gallup established himself as the teams’ WR2 in 2019, recording over 1000 yards as part of one of the league’s best offenses.

On the other hand, the remaining selections have achieved far less. QB Mike White was waived without appearing in a game, while LB Chris Covington made few appearances in 2018 before also being waived. WR Cedric Wilson Jr briefly had time on Special Teams before being waived, while RB Bo Scarbrough was also cut without playing for Dallas, although he did have a few productive games for the Detroit Lions. TE Dalton Schultz has had a limited role, and Defensive End Dorance Armstrong has been a backup with little impact. Although the Cowboys got three high-quality starters, they had too many misses across their six other picks.

Philadelphia Eagles: 6/10

After trades to acquire players including QB Carson Wentz, the Eagles had just 5 picks in the 2018 Draft. TE Dallas Goedert, taken in round 2, played well in 2018 and became a central part of the Offense in 2019. 4th round CB Avonte Maddox had a strong rookie season, allowing a QBR rating of 52 when targeted, but regressed in 2019 while having a larger role. DE Josh Sweat had a minor role in 2018, but in 2019 managed 4 sacks from 15 QB pressures as a rotational pass rusher.

Philadelphia’s remaining two players, both OL, have both barely seen the field. OL Matt Pryor missed 2018, but played Special Teams and in a few games as a backup in 2019, prior to getting a start in the playoffs. OT Jordan Mailata has been injured for both seasons and is yet to take the field. Goedert and Sweat are currently seen as good selections, with Maddox needing some improvement to be included, but the two OL needs to get on the field.

NFC North

Chicago Bears: 7/10

Chicago will be hoping some of their key 2018 Draft picks improve going forward, having shown high potential already. LB Roquan Smith, taken 8th overall, has been the team’s leading tackler in both of his seasons. OG James Daniels has started in 26 games over two years, allowing just 1 sack in 2019. WR Anthony Miller had a more prominent role in 2019 and will look to take another step forward still as a WR2. DL Bilal Nichols played just over 50% of snaps on defense in 2019 but has little production to show for it.

WR Javon Wims began to see more targets in 2019, having multiple games of 50+ yards but is the team’s WR5 at best, unable to climb the depth chart. LB Kylie Fitts was waived in 2019 after playing no games in 2018, and LB Joel Iyiegbunwie has been relegated to Special Teams, making 9 tackles in 2018 with no snaps on defense in 2019. Smith and Daniels have been great selections, but the Bears are still looking for more from Miller, Nichols and potentially Wims. Although not a bad draft, it has had a lack of overall production. 

Green Bay Packers: 4/10

The lack of starter talent that the Packers have from their 11 2018 draft picks may be heavily criticized in years to come. CB Jaire Alexander has been an effective starter throughout his two seasons, including allowing just over 50% of targeted passes in 2019. But beyond that, few players have made their mark. 2nd round CB Josh Jackson went from starter in 2018 to backup in 2019, predominantly featuring on Special Teams. WR Equanimeous St. Brown began to show positive signs in 2018 but missed 2019 with an injury. Meanwhile, fellow WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling was poised to take the WR2 role but struggled to develop chemistry with QB Aaron Rodgers in 2019.

The other success the Packers have had are also Special Team players – Long Snapper Hunter Bradley, and punter JK Scott, who made the 2019 2nd All-Pro team. Despite needing receiving help, neither WR J’Mon Moore or TE James Looney was able to land a spot on offense. LB Oren Burks has sparingly been used as a backup, while LB Kendall Donnerson was waived without seeing the field. Their other pick, 5th round OG Cole Madison, has been a backup and missed time in 2019 due to injury. With most players not seeing the field or becoming backups, there is little redemption for this cohort beyond Alexander and Scott.

Detroit Lions: 7/10

Detroit would feel its 2018 draft class is a case of production not matching potential. First-round OG Frank Ragnow has been a strong, consistent starter over his two seasons. RB Kerry Johnson had a bright 2018 but has missed substantial time through injury, as has fullback Nick Bawden. DL Da’Shawn Hand had a dominant 2018 but was also forced off the field with injuries in 2019.

The other two picks made by Detroit are less illustrious. Safety Tracey Walker started most games in 2019, but allowed a 65% completion when targeted, and missed over 11% of tackles. OT Tyrell Crosby has served mainly as a backup, but in his handful of starts has been serviceable. There are plenty of good signs about this group so far, but it needs to perform in 2020 and beyond. 

Minnesota Vikings: 4/10

Minnesota had a very average 2018 Draft. While OT Brian O’Neill has been excellent as a starter, allowing 0 sacks in 2019, their other OL selection, Colby Gossett, was waived after making a few appearances in 2018. First-round CB Mike Hughes missed most of 2018 with injury but made good progress into 2019 as a CB3/CB4. Likewise, TE Tyler Conklin took steps in the right direction in 2019 but remains buried on the depth chart.

DE Jalyn Holmes has become a backup who has had limited time on the field, and fellow DE Ade Aruna has been injured across both seasons. LB Devante Downs was waived after minimal playing time. Yet perhaps the biggest regret the Vikings will have is selecting Kicker Daniel Carlson in the 5th round, only to cut him after a missed kick, and for him to then play well in Oakland. Although there were a few good pieces selected, including O’Neill, there hasn’t been much else to cheer about.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers: 7/10

The 49ers had few misses in 2018, identifying multiple key pieces for a team that is now headed to a Super Bowl. OT Mike McGlinchey has played at a high level, starting in 28 games over two seasons. LB Fred Warner has also become one of the best at his position, and WR Richie James has featured at times on offense but has become one of the best kick returners in the league.

Fellow WR Dante Pettis had a sound 2018 but missed 2019 with an injury. Over three safeties chosen, Tarvarius Moore, DJ Reed, and Marcell Harris, all have been used on Special Teams, while Harris has had more time on defense, but hasn’t excelled. DEs Kentavious Street and Jullian Taylor have both had little time on the field, and figure to struggle to crack the rotation. While the 49ers would feel good about finding multiple successes, there were a few disappointments for them.

Arizona Cardinals: 2/10

There is a good chance that none of the Cardinals 6 selections from the 2018 Draft are on their roster within two years. First-round QB Josh Rosen has already been traded away, and it remains unclear if he will ever become a starter in the league. Center Mason Cole had time as a starter in 2018 but became a backup in 2019. Fellow OL Korey Cunningham has also been traded after being no more than a backup, and CB Chris Campbell was waived without playing a game.

The remaining players have had mixed success. RB Chase Edmunds had a few good games, including one notable multi-TD game in 2019, but he is still fighting for the starter’s role. WR Christian Kirk has played well on Special Teams as a returner but is not becoming the starter the Cardinals would like. With the hopes resting with Kirk and Edmunds, Arizona is essentially writing off the 2018 Draft.

Seattle Seahawks: 6/10

The Seahawks’ 2018 Draft has been peppered with injury, restricting the potential value from emerging. First-round RB Rashaad Penny, whom Seattle traded up for, has struggled to consistently be productive, while also missing several games through injury. TE Will Dissly was developing chemistry with QB Russell Wilson but has also sustained injuries in both seasons. Likewise, OL Jamarco Jones has been a capable backup when available. QB Alex McGough was waived without playing a game, and backup LB was traded away, seeing minimal playing time over two seasons.

However, the Seahawks’ Draft class has some bright spots. Punter Michael Dickson has been one of the best in the league at the position in both seasons. LB Shaquem Griffin has made impactful plays as a backup and is valuable to Seattle’s defensive rotation. DE Rasheem Green has been mediocre but has shown enough to be given a chance to continue serving as a rotational pass rusher. CB Tre Flowers played well in 2018 but struggled in coverage at times throughout 2019. With better health and consistency from those who have shown potential, Seattle will feel as though they had a good draft.

Los Angeles Rams: 3/10

The Rams had no first-round draft picks but still made 11 selections, although they have gotten little value out of any of them. OG Joseph Noteboom and center Brian Allen were backups in 2018, became starters in 2019 but each missed multiple games with injuries. LB Micah Kiser was set to take on a larger role in 2019 but was also injured before the season started. DL Sebastian Joseph-Day has been a capable backup and rotational player but is not starter quality.

Their other picks have had even less success. LBs Travin Howard and Ogbonnia Okoronkwo have been used on Special Teams, with limited roles on defense. DEs John Franklin-Myers and Trevor Young are both no longer with the team after playing minimal time. OG Jamil Demby is only suited to a backup role, and RB John Kelly has had few opportunities amongst time on and off the practice squad.  LB Justin Lawler also saw little time as a backup, before missing the 2019 season with an injury. While Noteboom and Brian Allen could become foundational pieces for the OL, out of only 11 total picks there needs to be some more success.

NFC South

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7/10

The Buccaneers had a mostly positive draft, and with further development, have multiple starters from the 2018 Draft class. 1st round DL Vita Vea is developing into one of the better run defenders and interior linemen in the league. RB Ronald Jones II had an improved 2019 in comparison to his 2018 season but was unable to demonstrate his ability to be the workhorse of the offense. The secondary was upgraded with safety Jordan Whitehead and CB Carlton Davis, although both still need further improvement. OG Alex Cappa had a successful season as a starter, allowing few sacks.

However, not all picks were as promising. CB MJ Stewart was given chances to earn a starting role but is only a backup at this point. LB Jack Cichy has also only been a backup to date, while also missing time with injuries in both seasons. WR Justin Watson has had little time on the field but was always facing an uphill battle to become a starter. With mostly positive showings from their selections so far and the opportunity for further progress, the Bucs will be optimistic about their 2018 Draft class.

New Orleans Saints: 3/10

The Saints most likely won’t look back on the 2018 Draft as a good one for them. After trading up for DE Marcus Davenport, although he has played well, they will be hoping for more from him to match the value of his pick. WR Tre’ Quan Smith has had good games, becoming the team’s WR3 and pushing to be the WR2, although he missed some games in 2019 while injured. Center Will Clapp has been a backup for his two seasons, with the Saints drafting a starting center in 2019.

The other picks made the Saints are no longer with the team. Safeties Natrell Jamerson and Kamrin Moore barely saw the field before being waived. OT Rick Leonard also did not get game time before being cut. RB Boston Scott was waived as well, and has since played for Philadelphia as a backup and had a few good games. Unless Davenport becomes more of a dominant force, this entire draft class is a letdown for New Orleans.

Carolina Panthers: 6/10

Carolina’s 2018 Draft was mostly positive, picking up a few pieces. First-round WR DJ Moore has established himself as a capable WR1 and will look to be more dominant in 2020 and beyond. TE Ian Thomas is developing his role on Offense as TE Greg Olsen’s understudy, increasingly taking meaningful snaps. CB Donte Jackson had an impressive rookie season, starting all 16 games and having four Interceptions, with similar play in 2019 across 13 games. LB Jermaine Carter has played in all 32 games over the two years, mostly on Special Teams, but with a couple of good games on defense in 2019.

On the other hand, the other LBs drafted, Andre Smith and Marquis Haynes, have seen little action aside from Special Teams, with Haynes occasionally playing as a situational pass rusher. Safety Rashaan Gaulden saw little playing time before being waived. DT Kendrick Norton was waived and is unlikely to have an NFL career after enduring a car crash. Although a few picks look to be promising, the Panthers didn’t make the most of their 8 picks.

Atlanta Falcons: 6/10

The Falcons had only 6 picks in the 2018 Draft, but they have been good on the whole. WR Calvin Ridley rapidly filled the team’s WR2 void, playing at a consistently high level over two seasons. WR Russell Gage developed into a reliable option for the team in the second half of 2019, finishing with just under 500 yards, and half of his receptions going for first downs. RB Ito Smith has been a backup over his two years but has never had a game with over 60 rushing yards, both in 2018.

The defense picks made have been less productive. CB Isaiah Oliver started all 16 games in 2019 but needs to allow fewer completions and yards to be a long-term starter. DT Deadrin Senat played a mediocre backup role in 2018, with minimal play in 2019. LB Foyesade Oluokon has played on Special Teams, but struggled on defense, especially in pass coverage, seeing little time in 2019. While there are a few good picks, Atlanta may be holding out hope that their defensive players can start to contribute more successfully.

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