1. S – Justin Reid – Houston Texans
Houston’s usually stout defense struggled last year without their stars JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. Their secondary, however, had few injuries and still were the 9th worst pass defense in the league. Young corner Kevin Johnson has not performed to his first-round status and the Texans have always had mediocre play at safety since their inception to the League. The Texans have made some huge improvements this off-season with two key free agent additions. Aaron Colvin fills a key corner piece and Tyrann Mathieu has brought an all-pro level of play to the secondary. However, it’s their 3rd-round pick that could provide the biggest help to the secondary. Justin Reid is a first-round talent with few worries on and off the field. Reid and Mathieu will provide a brilliant secondary pairing that could propel the Texans back to being one of the best defenses in the league.
2. WR- Equanimous ST Brown – Green Bay Packers
There may not have been a bigger leader who changed teams this offseason than Jordy Nelson. Nelson provided a safety blanket for Aaron Rodgers and he was a leader to the receiver core. It seems unlikely that any rookie will be able to step up and fill the leader role that Jordy was, however, there are a few people who could fill in for Jordy’s contribution to the Packers’ passing game. Brown is a big possession receiver who succeeded despite poor QB play last season. With Browns QB Deshone Kizer throwing him the ball in 2017, Brown had 58 receptions for 961 yards and was a dominant red zone threat. His 6’5” stature makes him a jump ball monster. He was a steal late in the 6th round despite being predicted as a 2nd or 3rd-round pick.
3. CB – Patrick Robinson – New Orleans Saints
It may seem like a surprise that after drafting the Defensive Rookie of the Year Marshawn Lattimoor at corner, the Saints were looking in the free agent market for a corner. However, Ken Crawley is much more of a number 3 corner. Robinson comes off an excellent year with the Eagles where he led the Eagles’ secondary to being one of the best in the league. The Saints have not usually given Drew Brees the defense to allow him to win, however, with the addition of Robinson and 1st-round pick Marcus Davenport, the Saints could be one of the best defenses in the league.
4. RB – Mark Walton – Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals ranked 31st in rush offense last year after Joe Mixon struggled in his rookie year. Mark Walton had an exceptional college career at Miami. He finished his time at the U with almost 2,000 yards despite only playing in 4 games his junior season. He also has run behind an O-line that has not had anyone drafted for the past 3 years. Behind a young improved Bengals O-line, Walton can easily improve his numbers from his time at Miami and become an excellent back for the Bengals.
5. LB – Anthony Hitchens – Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Johnson was a huge loss for the Chiefs. He contributed to the Chiefs with over 1,000 tackles in 182 games. So losing him will be a big loss to the Chiefs defense, who also lost star corner Marcus Peters. Anthony Hitchens has not yet reached his full potential with the Cowboys and with lots of young players on the Chiefs, I could see Hitchens really stepping up this year and becoming a leader for the Chiefs.
6. OT – Cameron Fleming – Dallas Cowboys
Ezekiel Elliot had such a productive rookie year mainly due to running behind the best offensive line in the league. The big 3 of Fredrick, Martin and Smith have a combined 13 Pro-Bowls between them. However, the offensive line is made up of 5 guys and the other 2 last season were an issue for Dallas. Jonathan Cooper and La’el Collins should not be starters in the NFL. So it was a high priority for the Cowboys to find 2 O-linemen to help. They picked up Connor Williams in the draft who looks likely to play LG. But, they were also able to steal Cameron Fleming from the Patriots. Fleming was the full-time starter at RT last year for the Patriots and played excellently in protecting Tom Brady. Dallas’ O-line can go back to being the best in the league with Fleming protecting Dak Prescott’s right side.
7. LB – Demario Davis – New Orleans Saints
You wouldn’t be the only one who’s never heard of Demario Davis. Being a star on the Jets and Browns for the past 6 years doesn’t bring much stardom. But, Davis has quietly been putting up solid numbers on terrible teams. He’s put up 583 tackles over 5 years and is a solid player. The Saints much improved defense still lacked some firepower in the linebackers core. With the addition of Davis, the Saints now have a stud defensive player on every level. Cam Jordan will continue to pester opposing QBs at the front end. Marshawn Lattimore can continue to shut down top WRs and Davis adds an exceptional run stopper and leader in the middle.
8. C – Ryan Jensen – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs have been considered a “soft” team last year with little movement from their lines. This offseason they went out and improved their offensive and defensive lines massively. Big rookie Vita Vea can move people with ease and him and Gerald McCoy will be a scary interior threat. Jensen was a sixth-round pick out of little knows CSU-Pueblo in 2013 and only in the last couple of years has become a consistent starter for the Ravens. However, Jensen is a scary presence for that O-line. He is most likely to play at guard with Ali Marpet, who is the long-time starter at center.
9. CB – Tarvarus McFadden – San Francisco 49ers
This pick is based on one sole variable, do we see McFadden the Sophomore or McFadden the Junior because those two are very different players. Back in 2016, McFadden was a phenomenal talent, totalling 8 interceptions and was voted the nations best cornerback. However, McFadden seemed to struggle massively in 2017 and because of an awful season, McFadden went undrafted in 2018 and since signed with the 49ers. McFadden has shown the instincts and ball skills to be an NFL corner and under the guidance of Richard Sherman, he should develop into someone who could contribute to the 49ers secondary as a 3rd or 4th corner.
10. DaeSean Hamilton – Denver Broncos
It’s quite easy to get lost in an offense containing the number 2 overall pick Saquon Barkley and 2nd-round pick Mike Gesicki, so Hamilton’s’ stats may not be a true representation of his skill set. Through his 4 years at Penn State, his freshman year remains his best. Hamilton racked up 899 yards in 13 games. His production decreased over his next few years with the emergence of Saquan Barkely. With new Broncos QB Case Keenum throwing him the ball, Hamilton looks to become a big contributor to the Broncos’ offense. By the end of this season, I would not be surprised if he contributed more than the Broncos 2nd-round pick Courtland Sutton.