2018 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Vita Vea ready to flourish with stunning strength

I've featured Maurice Hurst and Taven Bryan in top 20 updates in the past, and it's time Washington's Vita Vea gets his due. 

The 6-foot-5, 340-pound monster might be the strongest prospect in the entire draft class, and he's not solely a player who wins with power on bull rushes. He harnesses every ounce of strength for use on counter moves against the run and pass. For teams in need of a run-defense upgrade -- which is seemingly more than half the NFL -- who'd love some size and interior pass-rush, Vea should be a top target. 

Hurst is the smaller, penetrating type. Vea is the defensive tackle who'll anchor against a double team, throw an offensive lineman to the side and make an impact tackle near the line of scrimmage. 

It's time to update the top 20 NFL Draft prospects after conference title weekend in college football. If you want to see our full prospect rankings, you can find them here. 

1. Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Chubb is the pre-eminent edge-rusher in the 2018 class who checks all the boxes. Size. Production. Pass-rushing moves. Edge-setting strength. Athleticism. He is good. 

2. Derwin James, S, Florida State

James was unsurprisingly all over the field in Florida State's easy victory over Louisiana-Monroe, a rescheduled game from early in the season. His wide-ranging skill set should -- and likely will -- make him one of if not the first defensive back off the board in April.

3. Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame 

Nelson will step into the NFL and instantly improve a team's run game, regardless of who's carrying the football. As a pass-protector, the Notre Dame star uses his strong base and balance to win much more often than not. And he's incredibly aware of blitzers. 

4. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

Brown has taken an important step this season -- he's now able to get to small speed-rushers on the edge and, even if initially beat, and push them past the pocket with a lot more regularity than he did in 2016.

5. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith is everywhere, and seemingly always makes his presence known with a thunderous hit. His coverage ability is underrated too. He'll face an ultra-challenging test against the Baker Mayfield-Mark Andrews duo in the college football playoff on New Year's Day.

6. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama

Fitzpatrick may not be the most refined cornerback to enter the NFL over the past five years, but he's among the most athletically gifted. He's as reliable as they come against the run too, which is an oftentimes overlooked aspect of playing cornerback in the NFL. 

7. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Barkley will square off -- in essence -- against the Vea-led Wahington defense in an intriguing Fiesta Bowl on December 30. Running between the tackles won't be easy. Barkley has the most special talent combination among all running backs in this class.

8. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Jackson was magnificently better after his Heisman-winning campaign, and his staggering improvement has gone unnoticed by many due to Louisville's disappointing season coupled with the rise of Baker Mayfield. He's my No. 1 quarterback in this class, and I don't envision that changing. 

9. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Hurst is the type of defensive tackle who earns the mega extensions in today's NFL. Low center of gravity, and explosive off the snap with keen awareness. I remember when Aaron Donald went into the pre-draft process as a consensus second- or third-rounder. He ultimately went No. 13 overall, and he's been the most dominant interior defensive linemen in football ever since.

10. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton is a No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He's big, physical, controls contested-catch situations, and is relatively dynamic after the catch.

11. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

Guice isn't Barkley, but it's close. He runs with insane suddenness and end-of-run power. His vision is outstanding too. I'm pumped for LSU's bowl game against Notre Dame on January 1. Will be a good test for Guice and the Tigers offensive line.

12. Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

Rudolph will see the fast Virginia Tech defense in the Camping World Bowl on December 28. If his shoulder injury was lingering down the stretch in the regular season, it should be close to 100 percent with all the time off. 

13. Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, OLB, Oklahoma

Okoronkwo was stymied on more pass-rush attempts by TCU left tackle Joseph Noteboom -- who'll be a draft riser -- than I expected. However, the electric edge-bender made his presence felt as per usual with a handful of hurries on Kenny Hill

14. James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

All Washington has done at Oklahoma State is produce at a high level. Sure, the scheme has helped. But the most brilliant offensive mind couldn't simply scheme an average of 64 receptions, 1,296 yards, and nearly 11 touchdowns over a three-year span. Washington is the wideout who'll immediately inject a big-play element to the attack of whichever team drafts him. 

15. Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

Miller is a large, physically gifted offensive tackle who's been one of the bright spots on UCLA's line for the past few season. He's matured into a quality pass-protector who wins with length and footwork, which NFL teams will love.

16. Bryce Love, RB, Stanford

Love definitely proved his grit to those who didn't think he was one tough SOB before the Pac-12 title game. His patience, stop-and-start ability and long speed will make him a blast as a feature back in the NFL. 

17. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen maaaay be done playing college football. I wouldn't mind seeing him one more time though ... against Kansas State's pass defense that's allowed 310.3 yards per game this season. Here's the book on Rosen: calm, rhythm pocket passer who checks all the boxes with his arm. Under pressure though, he's shaky, and bad decisions pop up more often than you'd like. 

18. Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson is a stifling man-to-man cornerback with plus ball skills. That's it. He should be a Round 1 lock.

19. Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Vea is already ridiculously strong and polished using his hands ... imagine him after a year in an NFL strength and conditioning program. [Insert Ric Flair "Woooooooooo" here]

20. Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Darnold sneaks back into the top 20 with his big-play outing against Stanford. Yes, the Trojans leaned on the run game to beat the Cardinal, but when they needed a downfield spark, Darnold created it. He plays like a talented redshirt senior. 

Honorable Mention

WR Anthony Miller, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, DL Taven Bryan , CB Denzel Ward, LB T.J. Edwards, OT Connor Williams, DE Arden Key, RB Ronald Jones, TE Mark Andrews, CB Isaiah Oliver, WR Marcell Ateman, DE Marcus Davenport

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