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Kaboom! Magazine.com 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks, Safeties, & Late Round Gems

Kaboom! Magazine.com 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Cornerbacks, Safeties, & Late Round Gems

Every NFL football team’s Super Bowl dreams and ambitions start at the exact same place….THE DRAFT. Every year, thousands of the top college athletes make themselves available for 32 NFL teams to draft and become professional football players. This year’s draft class features some of the most talented and most controversial athletes in the leagues history. Kaboom! Magazine.com prepares you for the 2018 NFL Draft with our annual draft preview. We will showcase the best players at each position entering this year draft, as well as a lot of late round gems that can help your favorite team hoist the Lombardi trophy for many years to come. Today, we will be focusing on this year’s top cornerbacks and safeties predicting which new athlete we feel will have the best career in this draft class.

NCAA Football: Western Kentucky at Alabama

Cornerbacks & Safeties:
In a league where points are flying on the board at a record pace, this year’s cover corners have to make the impossible seem possible by keeping guys like OBJ out of the endzone. Are they up to the task?

1. Minkah Fitzpatrick (Alabama):
He totaled 60 tackles, one interception, eight passes broken up and a forced fumble in 2017. Fitzpatrick played well, covering receivers downfield, staying around the ball, and helping out his cornerbacks. With his versatility, he can play nickel corner over slot receivers, cover tight ends in man, and be the deep free safety center fielder who protects the deep part of the field. He also can function as a strong safety and be the eighth man in the box, although if he plays a lot of that role in the NFL, he should gain some weight.

2. Denzel Ward (Ohio State):
Some teams love Ward and have him as the top cornerback as well as being one of the best defensive prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft. Ward totaled 37 tackles with 15 passes broken up and two interceptions in 2017. For the NFL, Ward has good speed, athleticism, ball skills, and quick feet to run the route to prevent separation. He looks like a future starter and could have No. 1-corner potential. While he is shorter than ideal, Ward is very good at blanketing receivers and keeping them from getting open. Overall, Ward is the top cornerback for the 2018 NFL Draft and is likely to go in the top half of the first round.

3. Derwin James (Florida State):
In 2017, James totaled 84 tackles with 11 passes batted and two interceptions. He was able to display good instincts and rare combination of size, speed, physicality and versatility. Many teams have James as the top safety for the 2018 NFL Draft and many expect him to be the first safety selected. For the NFL, James fits as a strong safety who is a tough eighth defender in the box. Some team sources feel that James is not a good fit as a deep center fielder. They think he has some coverage limitations as a free safety, but should be able to play man against tight ends. They don’t think he is a fit to play nickel corner and cover slot receivers. One area scout thought James could end up adding weight and grow into being a Will linebacker, similar to Mark Barron.

4. Jaire Alexander (Louisville):
Alexander has continued to rise, and he could be the second cornerback to go off the board. Alexander had maybe the best combine performance of any prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. After his thoroughly impressive workout, he is projected to be a first-round pick. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Alexander was one of the most impressive cornerbacks. He ran a fast 40 but was even better in the field work, showing excellent footwork, loose hips, and the agility to glide effortlessly around the field. He had the look of a first-rounder. However, his combine medical exam will be of critical importance to determining how high Alexander is selected.

5. Mike Hughes (UCF)
Hughes started out his collegiate career at North Carolina before transferring to Central Florida. Hughes impressed some evaluators with his coverage skills, and he was a big part of the Knights putting together an undefeated 2017 season, including the conference championship and a bowl victory. Hughes totaled four interceptions, 11 passes broken up, a forced fumble and 49 tackles in 2017. He also was a dangerous kick returner, with two scores, and punt returner, including a punt-return touchdown. Hughes is a natural cover corner with speed, quick feet, and agility. He is very fluid and does a good job of running the route with receivers to prevent them from gaining separation. He keeps receivers from coming open and is quick to recover if they get a step. Hughes has nice hips to turn to run downfield with speed receivers. He also is a willing tackler.

Sleeper Pick: Donte Jackson (LSU):
Jackson ran one of the fastest 40 times at the combine and illustrated his ability to run with the NFL’s deep-threat receivers. With his elite speed and agility, Jackson is able to run the route to prevent separation and make up ground with his superb recovery speed. Jackson recorded 49 tackles with 10 passes broken up and an interception in 2017. As a sophomore, he totaled 39 tackles with eight breakups and two interceptions. Jackson notched an interception, 26 tackles and two breakups in his freshman year.

2018 Draft Class Career Predictions:
Best Career: Denzel Ward
Most Pro Bowl Selections: Denzel Ward & Minkah Fitzpatrick
Most Super Bowls: Denzel Ward
Hall of Famers: None
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Late Round Gems:
This is the part of the draft every year that seperates good teams from great teams. Checkout these players that will still be on the board in the later rounds that can help led your team to a surprising super bowl championship.

1. J.T. Barrett (Ohio State):
In 2017, the senior completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,053 yards with 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also ran for 10 touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ spread offense. He was also the player in Buckeyes’ history to be named a three year team captain.

2. Josh Adams (Notre Dame):
Adams ran really well in 2017, with the Fighting Irish fielding one of the best ground attacks in the nation. Behind a tremendous offensive line, Adams was a tough runner, using his size to be a downhill power back while still possessing enough quickness to break off long runs. Adams averaged 6.9 yards per carry for 1,430 yards with nine touchdowns on the year. He had 13 receptions for 101 yards as well.

3. Brandon Parker (North Carolina A&T):
Parker is a prospect who impressed area scouts during the fall. They thought he possessed developmental potential to be a starter in the NFL. They like his size and length to protect on the edge. Sources said that Parker had received some fourth-round grades, and that was before he had a good showing at the Senior Bowl.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida

4. Shaquem Griffin (UCF):
Griffin was one of the stars of the NFL Scouting Combine, turning in an amazingly fast 40-yard dash time. He is also an interesting story. Griffin thrived under Scott Frost, and made a real impact in both of Frost’s seasons with the Knights. As a senior, Griffin had a lot of clutch plays for his undefeated Central Florida squad. Griffin notched 74 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and an interception in 2017. In 2016, he totaled 92 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, seven passes broken up and an interception after being a backup in previous years.

5. Parry Nickerson (Tulane):
In 2017, Nickerson totaled 55 tackles with eight breakups and six interceptions. He showed nice ball skills in other season, including nine breakups with four picks as a junior and six interceptions with six breakups in 2014.

6. Kalen Ballage (Arizona State):
There is a lot to like about Ballage for the NFL. To go along with size, Ballage is surprisingly fast. He has a real burst with first-step quickness to hit the hole before it closes. Even though Ballage is a big back, he is more elusive in the open field than a power runner who runs through tackles.

7. Jaleel Scott (New Mexico State):
Every year, there are a few under-the-radar prospects who stand out well enough to earn an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Scott was one of those prospects, and he had a decent week of practice in Mobile, Alabama. The senior made 52 catches for 786 yards with eight touchdowns in 2017.

8. Toby Weathersby (LSU):
Weathersby played well for LSU. He helped the Tigers break in some new linemen during 2017. Weathersby is a better run blocker than pass protector. Moving to right tackle or inside to guard could be the best plan for him in the NFL.

9. Dimitri Flowers (Oklahoma):
Flowers recorded 14 carries for 22 yards with four touchdowns as a runner in 2017. He had 26 receptions for 464 yards and five touchdowns, too. Flowers put together a solid week at the Senior Bowl.

10. Danny Johnson (Southern):
In 2017, Johnson recorded 55 tackles with 12 passes broken up and three interceptions – two of them returned for touchdowns. As a wide receiver, he had three receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown. They say Johnson runs the 40 in the 4.35-4.45-second range, which is an extremely fast time. Johsnon isn’t just a fast sprinter as he led the FCS in interceptions last year with seven despite missing three games.

Agree with our predictions? Let your opinion be heard right now by leaving us a comment on Kaboom! Magazine.com