The 2018 NFL Draft is still six months away, and we have five regular seasons weeks plus postseason play left in the college football season. Suffice to say, there is room for plenty to change between now and next April. That being said, big boards are shaking up plenty as each week passes.
MMQB columnist Albert Breer has been working with NFL personnel folks to come up with a weekly big board for the 2018 draft. We don’t get details on who is involved, but they are his NFL connections. He released his latest big board on Tuesday, and the first quarterback does not show up until No. 4. Here’s the top five players on his scout big board.
1. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
2. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
3. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
4. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
5. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The remainder of the top five features two safeties, a cornerback, an edge rusher, and a defensive tackle.
The 49ers will likely have one of the top two or three picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, so they will have their pick of a lot of quality players. The 49ers likely have some names that are already intriguing their personnel folks, but will change for their roster needs between now and late April.
The most notable potential change is at quarterback. C.J. Beathard is getting an opportunity to start, and has nine more weeks to prove he can be more than a backup. However, the real question comes next February and March. Washington has to decide whether or not to use the franchise or transition tag on Cousins. If they use the former, he’ll likely remain in Washington for at least another year. If they use the latter, or nothing at all, suddenly the free agency market has its biggest prize.
Kyle Shanahan and Kirk Cousins have enough history that it would be no surprise if they had a reunion. If that happens, QB is off the board for the 49ers, or at least off the board until well into day three. That opens up the team’s first pick to a lot of possibilities. If they think Saquon Barkley could be a stud, maybe he becomes Carlos Hyde’s replacement. If they think Bradley Chubb cold be a cornerstone edge rusher, maybe he’s the pick. Cornerback and interior offensive line are two areas of need as well.
Maybe they go those directions, but signing Cousins opens the door for the team to trade down as well. There are some big name prospects this year, and if they hold up and the 49ers are picking second or third, a trade down could net a serious haul of picks.
Of course, if the 49ers do not land Cousins (or some other option) and Beathard doesn’t emerge as a clear option, the question then revolves around what to make of this year’s quarterback class. The 49ers will have high picks in the first three rounds, and then an extra pick in the second and third from the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears, respectively. If they want to wait on a QB, they would be in a position to potentially move into the back of the first round, or just wait on whomever slips out of the first round. There will certainly be plenty of options at their disposal.