Building a Team Through the Draft: 2018 Edition

I saw an interesting discussion happening on twitter not very long ago. They were discussing the 2019 NFL Draft and were building a team out of rookies. Now you couldn’t just build a team from all first round prospects, that would be too easy. They had a system in place where you had to take a specific amount of players from each round. It got me really thinking about what the best way to fill out an entire twenty-three person team in this fashion would be.

While it is right in the middle of 2019 draft season, I saw a flaw with this discussion. Grades on players vary so much, one could seemingly cheat the system a little bit by saying they are lower on a player than someone else is and sneaking him in a lower round. So I decided to take a slightly different approach to it. With one year in the books, how would I build a team from the players drafted in the 2018 draft. We know what round they went in so there will be no arguments where a player should be rated.

For this article I am going to do a twenty-three man team. Eleven players on offense and defense and a return man. The Breakdowns of the rounds will go as follows: First Round: 2, Second Round: 3, Third Round: 4, Fourth Round: 5, Fifth Round: 4, Sixth Round: 3, Seventh Round/Undrafted: 2.

First Round: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Cleveland Browns: This seems like the most obvious choice out of everyone. The quarterback position is the most important one on any team and Baker has been the best quarterback drafted last year so far. Mayfield was deadly accurate all over the field. There isn’t a throw he can’t make. Mayfield is a leader and the team rallied behind him. He gave Browns fans something to believe in for the first time in a long time. Mayfield is a star for the Browns and the first player I would want to build my team around from the 2018 draft.

First Round: Derwin James, Safety, San Diego Chargers: Derwin James was the best rookie last season. Quenton Nelson was fantastic, Darius Leonard was a tackling machine, but for my money I’m taking James. James flew all over the field for the Chargers and he impacted the game in several ways. Coverage? Check, he can cover TE’s and play deep safety if you need him too. Play close to the line? Check, the Chargers played him at almost a safety position for parts of the year and he was fantastic. There were other players that absolutely have arguments to be taken here, but I think James was the best of them all.

Second Round: Jessie Bates, Safety, Cincinnati Bengals: With Derwin James ability to play down in the box, I wanted a safety that fit well beside him. Enter Jessie Bates. Bates was one of, if not the best player on the Bengals defense last season. While he isn’t the best run defender, he isn’t a liability there either. However, he is an absolute ball hawk. Anyone who has watched him play has seen his ability to turn a game around. This gives me the ability to do a lot of things with my defense that an offense will have to prepare for.

Second Round: James Daniels, Center, Chicago Bears: Daniels started the season off slow for the Bears, but down the stretch emerged into one of the top rookie offensive linemen. Daniels, while still being inconsistent in the run game, was dominant as in pass protection. The final two weeks of the season he gave up zero quarterback pressures on 80 pass snaps. Daniels isn’t as dominant in the run game, but he wasn’t bad either. He would go through stretches where he was an absolute road grader, then some where he struggled. The good thing is, Daniels won’t turn 22 until the season starts. Daniels has also shown that he is a quick learner. Oh by the way, Daniels did all of this while playing guard for the Bears. A position he hasn’t played since his freshman year in 2015. I expect him to be even better at center.

Second Round: Dante Jackson, Cornerback, Carolina Panthers: With how the NFL has evolved into a passing league, having a great secondary is important. Jackson has the ability to be a true number one cornerback. He has the speed to stick with anyone and has shown some good ball skills with four interceptions as a rookie. Jackson doesn’t have elite size, but with his speed he has shown cornerback one ability. Pairing Jackson with James, Bates and the next player I’m taking behind him, allows Jackson use his speed to jump more routes without worrying about not having help behind him.

Third Round: Justin Reid, Safety, Houston Texans: The fact that Reid fell to the third round was insane. He was a first round talent that had the skills that teams are looking for from safeties in 2018. Reid showed that after he got the starting job in week 6, that those having him as a first round talent were right. He went on to be one of the highest rated safeties in all of football by PFF. Reid showed the ability to play deep and be a ballhawk. He also showed he can play close to the line and play the run. He routinely made big plays. With him, Bates and James on my team, it gives me the versatility to do a lot of different things and confuse the offense as much as possible.

Third Round: Orlando Brown, Tackle, Baltimore Ravens: Orlando Brown had many detractors, including me, after a historically bad combine last year. Man were we all wrong. Brown played incredibly well as the right tackle for the Ravens this year. He was a better pass protector than many ever thought he would be. Combine that with his size and his ability to play with power in the run game was shown. Brown gives me a road grader at right tackle and someone that, despite my initial thoughts, I trust to man the right tackle position for my team.

Third Round: Fred Warner, Linebacker, San Francisco 49ers: Fred Warner was a guy that draft twitter seemed to like a lot more than the big analysts. Draft twitter wins this round. Warner was fantastic for the 49ers last season. Warner flew around the field for the 49ers, playing the run well despite him only weighing 236 pounds. He has the speed, instincts and know how to and get to the ball carrier quickly and take them down. On top of that Warner is very good in coverage for a LB. He can cover backs and TE and allow our safeties to roam the field more. Warner brings the type of speed I want at the linebacker position.

Third Round: B.J. Hill, Defensive Tackle, New York Giants: B.J. Hill played very well for the Giants this year. His 5.5 sacks was good for second on the Giants team for the year. Hill played defensive end in the Giants 3-4 defense, but would slide in at defensive tackle quite nicely. He has the ability to get up field and pressure the quarterback, but also played the run better than many expected him to during the season. Hill can step in and help get pressure up front and let the linebackers and safeties fly around the field with their speed.

Fourth Round: Ian Thomas, Tight End, Carolina Panthers: Ian Thomas wasn’t supposed to see much playing time with Greg Olson in Carolina. However, when Olson went down with a foot injury Thomas got the chance to show his talent. If you just look at Thomas stats they don’t look like anything special. However, over the last 5 weeks of the season he had 25 receptions for 246 yards and 2 touchdowns. That over 16 games is roughly 80 receptions for 800 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those are some impressive numbers. Thomas has shown he has the size and the talent to be a very good tight end in the NFL.

Fourth Round: Antonio Callaway, Wide Receiver, Cleveland Browns: If not for off the field issues, Callaway would have been a first round pick coming out of Florida. He is a big play wide receiver, who has the speed to take it to the house every play. Callaway played well for the Browns this year, bringing in 43 receptions for 586 yards and 5 touchdowns. He is a risky pick here because he does come with off the field baggage. However, Callaway has the talent to be a number 1 wide receiver in the NFL. That isn’t easy to find in the fourth round.

Fourth Round: Josh Sweat, Defensive End, Philadelphia Eagles: This pick is more of a potential pick than any of the other ones so far. Sweat only had one tackle and ended up on the IR for the Eagles this year. He wasn’t overly productive at Florida State either, but his height/weight/speed are ridiculous. Sweat ran a 4.53 40 at the combine to go with a 39.5 inch vertical jump. He also had 34 and 5/8 inch arms at the combine. Sweat has the athletic profile and natural talent to be able to turn into a very good pass rusher.

Fourth Round: Avonte Maddox, Cornerback, Philadelphia Eagles: Maddox was a player who really stepped up for the Eagles this year when they needed him. Injuries hit the Eagles secondary and Maddox came in and played all over. He has the ability to play outside corner and slot corner as well as some safety. While he isn’t a big cornerback, his speed and his ability to stick with receivers allowed him to hold opposing quarterbacks to a 59.9 passer rating when targeting him. That was good for fourth lowest in the NFL. Maddox played very well for the Eagles and I think he would be a great addition to this teams secondary.

Fourth Round: Da’Shawn Hand, Defensive End, Detroit Lions: Hand wasn’t supposed to be as good as he was for the Lions. He came onto a line that already had a lot of talent on it and played as well as anyone. Hand can play end in the base set and then slide inside on passing down if you need him too. He may never be a 12 sack guy on the edge, but he is going to be a strong run defender and a versatile piece along the defensive line.

Fifth Round: Tyrell Crosby, Tackle, Detroit Lions: Crosby was a stud for the Oregon Ducks as a senior, he was the top rated pass protected by college PFF. A lot of people think Crosby might have to move inside to guard in the pros, but I think he can stick at tackle. He has the size and the arm length to stick at tackle, despite not being super athletic. He is a strong, run blocking offensive lineman with a mean streak. Crosby may have to move inside, but I’m more than willing to give him a shot at tackle.

Fifth Round: Genard Avery, Linebacker, Cleveland Browns: Avery was another prospect that was a favorite for much of draft twitter. He was highly rated by many, but instead fell to the fifth round where the Browns took him. Avery is a big, athletic linebacker that can also get to the quarterback. With how much size I have up front on this team, I needed someone who can get to the quarterback from the linebacker position. Avery isn’t excellent in coverage yet, but having 3 safeties, he won’t need to be. Avery can add speed and the ability to blitz to this defense.

Fifth Round: Wyatt Teller, Guard, Buffalo Bills: Teller had an up and down season for the Bills. He started seven games for the Bills this season and showed some promise. Teller is an extremely strong player, who uses his hands well. He got worse from 2016 to 2017 at Virginia Tech, but has shown much more talent than he played with in 2017. Teller has shown the ability to be a good guard in this league. I believe he will fit in well on this line.

Fifth Round: Maurice Hurst, Defensive Tackle, Oakland Raiders: This was one of the easiest picks of this entire exercise for me. Hurst was a first round talent that fell to the fifth round of the draft because of a heart issues found at the combine. He has a lot of pass rush ability and is a handful inside. Hurst only had four sacks for the Raiders this season. However, when you look and see that four sack was essentially a fourth of their team sacks, you see what he had working against him. You get some pass rushers around him and watch Hurst be one of the top pass rushing defensive tackles in all of football.

Sixth Round: Bradley Bozeman, Guard, Baltimore Ravens: Bozeman is a big bodied guard who has good strength and good technique. He isn’t very athletic and won’t wow anyone with his ability to get up the field, but he just blocks people. Bozeman may never be an all-pro or even a pro-bowl player. However, he can be a solid guard inside or even possible slide in and play center. In the sixth round he is a solid value.

Sixth Round: Tremon Smith, Kick/Punt Return, Kansas City Chiefs: I needed a return man and there weren’t a ton of options among the rookies in this draft. Smith had a good year returning kicks for the Chiefs. He didn’t have any returns for a touchdown, but he did have a 97 yard kick return. Smith had the best talent in this draft among those who had returns.

Sixth Round: Equanimeous St. Brown, Wide Receiver, Green Bay Packers: I, along with many on draft twitter had St. Brown ranked much higher than a sixth round pick. He offers a great blend of size and speed, coming in at 6’5 and running a 4.48 40 yard dash. St. Brown showed off talent as a deep ball receiver at Notre Dame before coming the Packers and putting together a solid rookie year. St. Brown can be the size opposite Callaways quickness on the other side of the field.

Seventh Round/Undrafted: Robert Foster, Wide Receiver, Buffalo Bills: Foster showed up and performed better than anyone expected him to. He became the speed/deep threat that Josh Allen needed him to be. He didn’t get many snaps at Alabama. That was due to there always bigger named and higher rated receiver prospects in front of him. Not because Foster wasn’t talented. Foster can play on the slot for my team and work with Callaway and St. Brown, giving Mayfield plenty of weapons on the field.

Seventh Round/Undrafted: Phillip Lindsay, Running Back, Denver Broncos: The easiest pick of the draft along with Hurst, Lindsay was a no brainer as far as value goes. Barkley was the best running back in this draft. However, if you ask me whether I want Barkley or Lindsay and either Baker or Derwin, I’m taking option two. Lindsay had over 1,000 yards running for the Broncos while averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He also added in 35 receptions for 241 more yards. Lindsay would bring a strong run game behind Baker and keep teams from being able to just sell out to stop the pass.

So here is a quick recap of my team:
Offense:
QB: Baker Mayfield
RB: Phillip Lindsay
WR: Antonio Callaway
WR: Equanemious St. Brown
WR: Robert Foster
TE: Ian Thomas
OT: Tyrell Crosby
OT: Orlando Brown
OG: Wyatt Teller
OG: Bradley Bozeman
C: James Daniels

Defense:
DE: Josh Sweat
DE: Da’Shawn Hand
DT: B.J. Hill
DT: Maurice Hurst
LB: Fred Warner
LB: Genard Avery
CB: Dante Jackson
CB: Avonte Maddox
S: Derwin James
S: Jessie Bates
S: Justin Reid
KR/PR: Tremon Smith

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