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Expert Takes On the 2018 Draft Class

Which position group at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is the deepest? What is the identity of the class? Which players will be snagged off the board first during the Draft in April?

NFL experts from across the country, all gathered in Indianapolis this week, had opinions on these questions and more when they spoke with Vikings.com's Mike Wobschall.

While there's some disagreement over who will be the No. 1 picks, there seems to be a consensus that this year's quarterback class is a talented one. NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said there are signal callers on more than one tier who could be valuable additions for teams.

"People always want to know what the deepest position is in the draft, and I don't recall ever using quarterback as the example. [But] I think this year it is," Jeremiah said.

He first highlighted "the big five": Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Josh Allen (Wyoming), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville) before identifying some maybe lesser-recognized names.

"Outside of that five, I still think there's three or four more other guys that are producing," Jeremiah said. "Luke Falk (Washington State), you look at Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State), you've got Mike White (Western Kentucky), and you've got [Kyle] Lauletta from Richmond. So that's a big group of quarterbacks in one of the deepest classes we've seen."

NFL Films' Greg Cosell said the thing that makes it difficult to project draft order among the quarterbacks is that each passer's style differs slightly from the next.

Cosell said the 2018 draft class will be "based on philosophy" of the quarterback position.

"The big issue we're seeing more and more now with each passing season and the way the game is playing out, particularly the college game, is that balance between second-reaction, improvisational play, versus pocket efficiency. And that's a philosophy," Cosell said. "What is your worldview about that? Different coaches will have a different view of that. Someone might look at Josh Rosen and think, 'That's Matt Ryan or Jared Goff, and that's what an NFL quarterback looks like.'

"Someone is going to look at Sam Darnold and think, 'This kid's 6-4, 225, yes he can play from the pocket, some stuff needs to be cleaned up, but boy – he can make plays outside of structure, and that's what you need in today's NFL,' " Cosell continued. "So you're getting into a philosophy thing. Reasonable people will disagree about this."

Cosell isn't the only one to hold this opinion.

When asked about the "identity" of the 2018 draft class, ESPN's Field Yates also opined that much will be determined by how the quarterback prospects "shake out" on draft night.

"I will just tell you that you could have 20 different NFL Insiders, or you could have 20 different NFL head coaches on this segment and they're asked this question, and you might have four votes apiece for each of the top five quarterbacks," Yates told Wobschall.

And while Yates acknowledged that there's a good percentage a quarterback will be first off the board, he doesn't necessarily believe that a quarterback is the draft's "best player."

"It's rare when the best player in the class has got a pretty decent chance of not going No. 1 overall, which would be Saquon Barkley (Penn State), I think, by most people's estimations," Yates said. "Some of it's philosophical, some of it's, 'Do you take a running back that high?' "

Added Yates: "I think, though, that players like Bradley Chubb and Saquon Barkley will have a chance to differentiate themselves as maybe the best players in this year's class."

Charles Davis, of NFL Network and NFL on FOX, responded specifically to Wobschall's question about offensive and defensive linemen.

After a 2017 draft in which the offensive linemen were evaluated as a weaker position group, Davis said it's a stronger class this year.

"You've got plenty of players that we can flat-out discuss," Davis said. "You want to talk about a tackle like Mike McGlinchey at Notre Dame, you want to talk about a Connor Williams at Texas, who is a tackle, but some people might like his bulk and want to move him inside to guard if you're a power running team."

Davis also pointed to Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, who impressed in the bench press with 35 reps Thursday.

"He may be the meanest, nastiest guy that we have in the draft and may be the top player that we've got," Davis said.

Davis then transitioned to the defensive side of the ball, first highlighting defensive tackle Vita Vea from the University of Washington.

"I actually had a scout tell me last night, 'He might be the best player in this draft.' That's high praise for a big defensive tackle, but when you watch him work, you kind of get the sense and understand why," Davis said. "A Bradley Chubb, the edge rusher from North Carolina State [will be sought-after]. Where does a Marcus Davenport (UTSA) fit in? Is he an outside linebacker? Is he a pass rusher? He reminds me a lot of Ziggy Ansah in the way that they go about things."

Davis emphasized that this year's draft class holds depth on both sides of the ball.

"I mean, how about this?" Davis added. "North Carolina State was not a threat for the national championship last year. We've got their four starting defensive linemen here at the combine. How did people move the ball against these guys? I saw B.J. Hill, defensive tackle – whew, he can play."

And don't forget about the secondary, often identified as Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's "favorite" position group.

As highly as Jeremiah spoke of the quarterbacks, he also said he's finding "a really solid group" among the cornerbacks eligible for this year's draft. Jeremiah said to keep an eye on Isaiah Oliver, out of Colorado.

"He's a decathlete, so you think about what kind of special athlete you are. And then as a track guy, sometimes you question toughness and instincts, well, that's not an issue with him," Jeremiah said. "A little bit tight for a big corner, which is normal, but I think that could be why he might be available there at the bottom of the first round."

Jeremiah suggested that Louisville corner Jaire Alexander could be a good addition, and said he "loves what he brings to the table" even though he may be "a little undersized."

According to Jeremiah, there's a long list of corners to keep tabs on.

"LSU has two corners – Donte Jackson, who's really, really explosive, more of a nickel, inside player. And then his teammate, [Terrence] Tolliver, is going to be an outside corner who's very similar to a guy like P.J. Williams when he was coming out of Florida State," Jeremiah said.

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