The Southeastern Conference is the premiere spot for NFL talent. This fact is evident by their 12-year streak of most draftees by a conference. They secured that streak with ten players drafted this year. Let’s check out who went where.
8) Roquan Smith – LB (Georgia)
The Chicago Bears used their 8th pick in the draft on Smith, and they won’t be disappointed. Undoubtedly the best linebacker in the 2018 draft. He has the necessary speed to keep up in pass coverage as well as the strength to dominate in the run game. He was an elite SEC linebacker that helped Georgia make it all the way to the National Championship game. The reigning Dick Butkus award winner should fit in perfectly in Chicago. His leadership abilities will be apparent early on as he will be the face of the defense.
11) Minkah Fitzpatrick – DB (Alabama)
It is remarkable to think that of all the players Nick Saban has coached his favorite, bar none, is Minkah Fitzpatrick. They are said to be carbon copies of each other in how they handle their business. Minkah is an extremely versatile defender who fits the mold for NFL defensive backs. He can play multiple positions in the back end due to his blend of strength and speed. The Miami Dolphins snagged him with the 11th overall pick. He will instantly make a difference in the secondary and should compete for Defensive ROY.
13) Da’ron Payne – DL (Alabama)
The Washington Redskins took Payne with the #13 pick. He is a beast in the interior. He is unique because he has the frame to play inside, but as evidenced by his play in the College Playoffs he has the athleticism to play anywhere, even wide receiver. He caught a ball out of the backfield and toe-tapped into the end zone like he was Larry Fitzgerald. His play at defensive tackle reminds me a lot of Ndamukong Suh, without all the stomping of course.
21) Frank Ragnow – C (Arkansas)
His stock rose swiftly before the draft, and it helped him land with the Detroit Lions at the #21 overall pick. He is a powerful and athletic blocker. He can more than handle his own at the center spot. The biggest question mark on him was a season-ending ankle injury he suffered last year. Ragnow appears to be fully healed and ready to go for the Lions next season. The Patricia era in Detroit starts off with a very vanilla pick but a good one all the same.
22) Rashaan Evans – LB (Alabama)
The Mike Vrabel era in Tennessee begins with an elite Alabama linebacker, Rashaan Evans. He should be an immediate starter with the departure of Avery Williamson leaving the Titans short a linebacker. He is a stud at the inside linebacker spot. He can rush the passer, stuff the run, and defend the pass. He will be a key player on a defense that has the potential to be among the best in the league.
23) Isaiah Wynn – OT (Georgia)
The Patriots lost longtime tackle Nate Solder to free agency. They decided to plug that hole by drafting Isaiah Wynn out of Georgia. He played guard and tackle in college, but most scouts agree he’s more suited at tackle. He will join an offensive line that features some elite players in David Andrews and Shaq Mason. Andrews is a fellow UGA alum. Protecting the aging Tom Brady is obviously a big concern for Belichick and company, which makes this a smart pick.
25) Hayden Hurst – TE (South Carolina)
The former minor league baseball player decided to give football a shot and now its turned into a 1st round pick. The Ravens love tight end play and could use a player of Hurst’s ability. He is a great athlete that can split out wide and run routes as well as any receiver. He doesn’t shy away from blocking either which makes him a great fit in Baltimore.
26) Calvin Ridley – WR (Alabama)
The best receiver in his class, it was no surprise that Ridley heard his name called early. He is an NFL ready prospect that should start day one. His route running is what makes him so elite. He is very similar to fellow Alabama alum, Amari Cooper, in this regard. Atlanta is getting a guy who will be a reception machine alongside fellow Crimson Tide star Julio Jones for the foreseeable future.
29) Taven Bryan – DL (Florida)
Sacksonville decided to stick to their guns and draft a havoc-wreaking defensive tackle out of Florida, Taven Bryan. He is a gifted athlete that has drawn comparisons to JJ Watt, so there’s that. But he has lacked consistency and can at times appear lost. Fortunately, he is walking into a fantastic opportunity in Jacksonville as they have one of the best defensive lines in all of football. If he can handle the learning curve, Bryan should blossom into a pro bowl caliber lineman.
31) Sony Michel – RB (Georgia)
One of the bigger surprises of the 1st round was the New England Patriots’ second pick. Most scouts had Sony Michel going 2nd to 3rd round, but Belichick is an unpredictable drafter that doesn’t see the need to conform to conventional wisdom. Michel is a dynamic athlete out of the backfield. He can run between the tackles, hit the corner, and catch. He was prolific in college along with Nick Chubb; the two set numerous records. With Dion Lewis leaving for Tennessee in free agency the Patriots needed a receiving threat from the running back spot. They found their man in Sony Michel.
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