Focusing on non-QB’s in the NFL Draft

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We’re less than 100 days away from the NFL’s Hall of Fame game (Aug. 1) and officially being able to dissect this upcoming quarterback draft class.

Unfairly forming opinions based on how well draftees manage their first training camp experience while commanding a preseason huddle comprised of guys who mostly have no prayer of making the final roster? Seems reasonable.

We’ll likely see Ohio State’s Dwyane Haskins, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham emerge as the five guys most likely claim starting a starting spot in their first season. But it may take every one of them at least a few weeks of holding the clipboard and learning the ropes before they’re truly ready to contribute.

Others in this class will make a more immediate impact, instantly becoming key starters at the skill positions, up front or on defense. A few of them will become household names due to the splash they’ll have helping cash tickets or making the difference on fantasy teams.

The following is my top 20, a group comprised entirely of non-QBs who are most likely to make their presence known immediately as rookies. Listed in alphabetical order:

Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky: This versatile edge rusher was slept on as a recruit and ultimately became the top defensive player in college football.

Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia: He didn’t allow a touchdown in each of the past few seasons in emerging as a consensus top-three corner.

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State: Joey’s little brother had injuries hamper him but managed to rack up 17.5 sacks and additional pressures over 30 career games.

Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, WR, Oklahoma: The nickname gives him a leg up but his blinding speed will make him a big-play threat who may be lethal sooner than later given the right fit.

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: He’ll likely start at one of the inside spots for whoever drafts him and will rack up the tackles. The second-best linebacker in the class should be off the board by the end of the first-round’s first half.

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington St.: The top pass blocker in the draft got loads of practice protecting Gardner Minshew and helping the Pac-12’s most prolific offense thrive.

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa: He’s drawn comparisons to former Hawkeyes star George Kittle, who has become a top-three tight end in San Francisco. Only his college teammate is regarded as a better prospect. Both should be reliable end zone threats.

Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan: He’s divided scouts because he underachieved in Ann Arbor despite being the top recruit in his entire class. If maturity kicks in and he’s more engaged as a pro than he was in college, he may be special.

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona St.: Alabama’s Riley Ridley, Ohio State’s Parris Campbell and Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler have their fans, but the powerful Harry has the physical gifts to separate himself as the ultimate red-zone threat at wideout.

TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa: In a year where Rob Gronkowski retired, it would be fitting to see this guy carve out his place as next in line since a look at his highlight reel makes him the betting favorite to emerge as the next great one.

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama: There’s no Saquon Barkley or Alvin Kamara in this draft, but the Tide standout is the closest thing available as a complete back.

DK Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss: His measurables make him the most intriguing receiver in the draft, but he’s got to prove his production can approach his potential.

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn St.: There are other excellent prospects like Iowa State’s David Montgomery and Memphis’ Darrell Henderson, but Barkley’s former backup has a fabulous motor and can do it all.

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston: He couldn’t stay healthy last season but was once considered a lock to go No.1. Teams love his versatility up front.

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi St.: Medical concerns (heart) make him a potential steal since he’s unlikely to go in the top 10 now despite him being one of the top available pass rushers.

Devin White, LB, LSU: The speed he brings to the table at his size and his excellent feel for the game makes him a can’t-miss prospect who could wind up being a Pro Bowler immediately if he stays healthy.

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson: The top run defender in this draft is the best of an elite group that fueled the reigning national champs. Fellow Tigers DT Dexter Lawrence and DEs Clellin Ferrell and Austin Bryant will likely all go among the top 50 picks, but Wilkins should be the best of the bunch.

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU: The guy most likely to become a shutdown corner in this class will need to improve his tackling to become truly elite, but great cover guys with his speed are tough to come by.

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama: Whether it’s at guard or tackle, the Crimson Tide’s top offensive lineman will be starting for whatever team pulls the trigger on him as a Top-10 selection.

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama: Although he’s last on this list alphabetically, the 300-pounder might be the top overall prospect. He’s a sure thing up front with a high IQ who has already won a championship and earned a massive amount of respect from talent evaluators. He’s a top-five lock.

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About the Author

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national sportswriter for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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