NFL Draft 2018 wild cards: Josh Allen, Quenton Nelson, Saquon Barkley and other market makers
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
The 2018 NFL Draft is high on intrigue inside the projected top 10 picks with quarterbacks Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield all contenders to go off the board early in the first round.
Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson could also command high picks, maybe even in the top five, but doing so would defy recent NFL draft trends. Guards and running backs just don’t often go off the board that early, but Barkley and Nelson are special talents at their respective positions.
There will be no shortage of first-round “variables” that can change the shape of the draft. Here’s a look at 10 players whose landing spots are in flux and whose picks could set off a chain reaction.
University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen (17) prepares for the passing drills during NFL Pro Day March 23, 2018 in Laramie, Wyo. (AP Photo/Margaret Bowles)
Allen no doubt looks the part. He is listed at 6-5 and 233 pounds and has a huge arm that is said to be tempting teams picking high in the first round, notably the Cleveland Browns at Nos. 1 and 4. A debate is brewing between draft analysts about the Browns’ plans and the quarterback they favor most, whether that’s Allen or USC’s Sam Darnold. Where Darnold is a safer, more polished prospect, Allen has the mega ceiling that might just tempt Cleveland to call his name No. 1 overall. The big catch, of course, is a career of inaccuracy that might or might not be fixable at the next level. UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield are also in the top-10 conversation, but if Allen goes No. 1 overall, the whole flow of the first round could change.
Barkley is universally recognized as the top running back in this class and a once-in-a-generation talent who should go off the board inside the top five picks. The big question is, which team disregards position valuations and pulls the trigger on a running back? Barkley could be the first non-quarterback off the board and has logical landing spots at Nos. 1 and 4 to Cleveland, No. 2 to the New York Giants, No. 5 to the Denver Broncos and No. 7 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In a couple of those cases, Barkley has a chance to be a “narrative-buster” with assumptions that quarterbacks will be the top three choices in the draft.