The 2018 NFL Draft is barely a month old. Johnny Manziel has already taken his talents to the CFL and the rest of the NFL thinks they can win a Super Bowl.
It’s the dead period of the year for virtually every football league, yet it’s that stage where everyone has a shot.
While the New England Patriots are likely huddled together somewhere laughing at us all, the majority of the NFL needs to plan for the inevitable; that the 2019 NFL Draft may be just as crucial to their future success as the one that just happened.
The story is similar for the top college football stars, although to a different degree. Not everyone is Alabama and has a true shot at the national title.
While everyone wants it, most of the top college football prospects are just playing for pride and for their NFL futures.
Looking back on the 2018 NFL Draft, it’s pretty clear that the race for the top pick is fairly wide open.
Few reliable betting sites out there pegged Baker Mayfield as the top option for the Cleveland Browns, yet when it was all said and done, he was the first name off the draft board.
Needless to say, if you want to peg the top dog in the draft, starting your research early probably isn’t a bad idea. The race is a long one, but 2018 proved it’s not as predictable as some would think.
To get a head start on next year’s draft conversation, here’s a look at five elite college football prospects that could vie for the #1 overall pick.
Nick Bosa, DE — Ohio State
Most teams picking at the top spot are either taking a quarterback or someone in the trenches. You just don’t see skill position players taken this early, as they are regarded as high-risk picks.
That doesn’t mean you can completely rule them out, but I won’t be including any in this five-man list. After all, there hasn’t been a skill position player taken #1 overall since wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in 1996.
That was probably a mistake, and nobody has taken on a risk like that since.
Either way, it may not matter since Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa is probably the best overall player in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
Joey Bosa has already morphed into a star at the NFL level and due to his production with the Buckeyes (13.5 sacks over the last two years), scouts feel his younger brother could do the same.
In fact, many draft gurus grade Nick Bosa as the better of the two brothers, as he is the more explosive athlete and brings more versatility to the table.
Bosa could play on the line or on the edge as an outside linebacker, which increases his chances of being the top pick.
NFL teams lacking a consistent pass rush often end up picking early in the draft and teams like the Jets, Bills and Giants (bottom five pass rushes in 2017) could potentially be picking first overall next April.
Shea Patterson, QB — Michigan
If the team up top in 2019 doesn’t want or need Bosa, there’s a decent chance they’ll look for a new franchise quarterback.
I’m assuming you can rule out the Jets, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens and Browns after they all spent first round picks on a new passer, but there remain several teams that either need to start over at the position or may want to think about their long-term future.
Perhaps that demands a trade to the top spot in 2019, but whatever the case, if there is a quarterback-needy team on the clock to start next year’s draft, Patterson will be on their radar.
Depending on who you talk to, Shea Patterson may not even be the best quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft class, let alone worthy of the top pick.
I think he is, as he plays with moxie and appears to have the size, arm strength, accuracy and mobility scouts covet. He can be a little unorthodox at times, but he’s now in a better system in Michigan and has more talent around him.
With quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh leading him, Patterson could smooth out the rough edges and turn the Wolverines into a title contender. In the process, he might just boost his draft stock all the way to the #1 overall spot.
Ed Oliver, DT — Houston
Again, a lot of teams picking at the top spot need help in the trenches. In some fashion, they need to beef up their offensive lines, boost their pass rush or get help against the run.
Oliver can help them in two ways, as he can be a menace on the interior of a defensive line.
This is a very real threat for the top pick, seeing as Oliver has already displayed solid pass-rushing chops (10.5 career sacks) and can be a terror beyond the line of scrimmage.
Having already declared himself for next year’s draft, Oliver’s talent and versatility on the middle of a defensive line will not go overlooked.
He knows how good he is and it’s fair to say he’s one of the best players on the board already, if not the very best.
Justin Herbert, QB — Oregon
If Shea Patterson isn’t this year’s Baker Mayfield, then Herbert is probably this year’s Sam Darnold; the guy that probably should be the first passer off the board.
The Ducks alum may offer the best combination of size, arm strength, accuracy and overall athleticism of any other quarterback in this draft class.
Herbert hasn’t put up huge numbers in college, but he’s put quality decision-making on tape and is a legit dual threat option that plays like a gamer.
Truly, Herbert taunts draft scouts as an actually good Jake Locker.
Where Locker failed in accuracy and precision, Herbert already has a huge leg up, yet he shows no fear whether he’s bruising through tacklers on the run or letting a deep ball rip with his effortless release.
There has been a growing infatuation with the uber athletic passer who can drop bombs (Carson Wentz, Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, etc) ad Herbert fits the bill.
The only question will be if he can edge out Patterson and his other quarterback competition in what currently is a wide-open position going into the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jonah Williams, OT — Alabama
If you’re not looking for a future franchise passer or an impact defender with the first pick in the draft, then you probably need help somewhere on your offensive line.
Williams doesn’t get the blood flowing quite like Bosa, Oliver or these talented quarterbacks, but any team in sore need of a stud offensive tackle needs to take notice.
Alabama knows how to breed NFL talent and they’ve got a good one on the rise in Williams. Blessed with balance and high-level athleticism, Williams has the experience and mobility to line up on either side of the line.
Obviously, anyone taking him with the first overall pick has to have intentions of using him as a stud left tackle and early indications are he could deliver in that role.
Drew Lock, QB — Missouri
The other big college football prospect in the running for the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft is probably Tigers passer, Drew Lock.
I’d rank him third amongst the passer in this column, but he absolutely is in the mix for a position, as he’s been by far the most productive passer of this high-level trio.
Not only did Lock out-perform these other quarterbacks in 2017 (23 TD), but he put up a mind-boggling 44 passing scores in 2018. Doing that in the SEC is no joke, while Lock also offers fantastic size and a huge arm.
Consistency is key to Lock’s development, but if you’re looking for the guy with the most sheer upside, possibly of all prospects, he may be it.
Overall, the top of the 2019 NFL Draft is far from determined, but if you’re looking to bet on the draft – namely who goes first – this five-pack is a great starting point.
Of course, as tantalizing as these five prospects are, all college football and NFL fans alike need to consider health, production, declaration and draft range fluctuation.
That being said, it’s interesting to look ahead to next year’s draft and see that there is already a totem pole forming. Just who emerges as the ultimate #1 pick is what will be so intriguing about the whole process.