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We left our jobs at tech companies to sell farm fresh cocktail ingredients
Today's interview is with Belinda Kelly and Venise Cunningham of Simple Goodness Sisters, a brand that makes farm fresh cocktail ingredients
- Product: Farm Fresh Cocktail Ingredients
- Revenue/mo: $2,000
- Started: September 2018
- Location: ENUMCLAW
- Founders: 2
- Employees: 0
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?Hi! We are the Simple Goodness Sisters, real-life sisters Belinda Kelly (4 years younger, the bartender) and Venise Cunningham (the older sister and the farmer.) We are a lifestyle beverage brand focused on bringing the world a Happier Hour, from garden to glass.
The products we make are “farm to bar” mixers and accessories for drink making and entertaining, made with edible flowers and herbs we grow on our sustainable cocktail farm. The products are completely natural, without additives or chemicals for the best taste and product possible. Our mission is to help people celebrate their lives and build community around a round of drinks. We believe everyone should get an invite to Happier Hour, so we market our drink syrups for cocktails and alcohol free cocktails alike, and have customers buying them for dessert, breakfast, and ice cream toppings as well.
The first product we launched were our simple syrups. The syrups launched in three flavors in Fall 2018 (Rhubarb Vanilla Bean, Marionberry Mint, and Huckleberry Spruce Tip), followed by 3 additional flavors in Spring 2019 (Lemon Herb, Berry Sage, and Blueberry Lavender), and edible flower salts and sugars for rimming in Fall 2019. During that time we pushed our ability to grow, harvest, and package in a major way, growing at a rate of 4 times our original production, with quite a learning experience along the way. We both come from a technical background in corporate Seattle, so organic farming, food production, and entrepreneurship are all areas we’re learning by doing, and Google!
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?In 2015 Belinda left a job at Microsoft University Recruiting that required a lot of travel and wouldn’t work for her other new job title of “mom.” She took a work from home position on the same team at a much lower pay level (yes, that sucked) and decided to explore her interest in entrepreneurship. With 4 hours daily saved by not commuting, she had the time to work on an idea she’d had for a mobile bar business.
Having been responsible for hundreds of events over her 6 years at Microsoft, she saw a gap in the catering world of Seattle and thought a mobile bar company that raised the bar on drink quality, presentation, and service would be well received by tech companies and the greater events industry. While never a bartender, she had enough experience in the service industry and enough hutzpah to begin studying cocktails voraciously and apply for a business license. She decided to up the ante (and the effort!) further with a farm to bar, craft beverage program supported by her sister Venise’s farm and others in the rural community of Enumclaw, WA, their HQ.
At that time, Simple Goodness Farm was a garlic and goats (mostly) hobby farm for Venise and her growing family (the sisters had their first babies within two weeks of one another.) Venise worked in HR at the real estate startup Redfin and commuted downtown daily while also managing the herd and fields in her free time.
Simple Goodness Sisters was just the title of a family-focused blog they wrote together to chronicle their days of mothering, gardening, canning food, and early adventures in farming. Belinda convinced Venise to give her some rows in the garden for herbs and edible flowers and started renovating a 1957 travel trailer in January 2016. The mobile bar launched in May and at the very first event, which was open to the public and at which her team served over 1,000 guests, the response for one particular drink stood out. The Genevieve, a gin, lemon, and rhubarb vanilla bean cocktail was the clear favorite, and clients couldn’t stop asking about the Rhubarb Vanilla Bean syrup in it.
In the intervening two years between the first event in May 2016 and the launch of Simple Goodness Sisters in Fall 2018, clients asked constantly how to recreate the fresh, delicious drinks from the bar’s menu at home. The mixers and garnishes were all farm-fresh and mostly sourced from Venise’s farm. Belinda had created unique flavor combinations that made drink recipes sing and showcased the best flavors of the Pacific Northwest, but when she explained that the magic was in the small batch, homemade mixers made with ingredients freshly picked from Venise’s farm, people’s eyes widened, and then glazed over, and it became very clear they would not be making the effort to DIY.
The Genevieve, made with Rhubarb Vanilla bean syrup. Photo by Kerry Jeanne Photo
Venise, who’d transitioned from Redfin to a multi-titled hustling career of real estate and agricultural non-profit work, prompted her that one day they needed to bottle the mixers and meet the growing demand. At the same time, Belinda had begun to take more and more space in the garden with her ingredients until the Simple Goodness Farm was transformed completely into the first and only cocktail farm in the United States (as far as we know). The production far outpaced the demand from catering events and to waste anything she’d worked tirelessly to grow was demoralizing for Farmer Venise. The decision to produce the syrups on a bigger scale and bottle them for shelf stability to meet client demand was an easy one, while the path to learn how to do so took longer.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.Creating a shelf-stable food product legally and safely, and with the fresh ingredients and ethos, they saw for their new company was no small task. Belinda was bogged down with her first business, which had grown rapidly by the summer of 2017, and babies at home. Venise had a new baby on the way, two other jobs and a farm to manage. We were determined to see it through and started asking questions, while dedicating $2,000 each from our personal savings to making our first product.
By studying the website of the FDA (which regulates food safety for retail products) and the WSDA (the Washington State Department of Agriculture, which regulate’s farm’s wholesale value-added products) it was determined that the product would need to be produced in an approved facility, meet recipe demands for safety, and be tested by an approved testing facility.
Much research was done regarding how to make a syrup shelf-stable. Google got a good work out and many calls were placed to learn that to avoid using additives that would affect the flavor, the recipe needed to be able to rely on the acidity of the ingredients themselves to meet the required PH for an acidified food. Venise sourced endlessly for a food co-packer willing to take on a small initial run of the product. Many local facilities would not package anything under a 100-gallon minimum batch size, with big price tags to match the big yields. Next the recipes needed to be tested and approved, a process that took months.
In the meantime, packaging was sourced. The vision for a recyclable, high-quality packaging that could stand proudly among the fancy liquor bottles on shelves was a tall, pricey order in the small, initial run quantities sought. A logo and label design were done by our cousin Sage, after more research on what a label must legally include. Liquor bottles of high quality, made in the USA glass and caps and shrink wrap tops were bought.
With each new thing crossed off the to-do list, we became a little more confident, and then three more new challenges would pop up. The initial three syrup flavors were intended to be made in counts of 500 bottles each, but onsite at the processing facility we realized some major recipe calculation errors had been made, and our actual yields were adjusted accordingly. We were just happy to have a trailer full of product to take home and unload and try to sell.
The original syrup packaging and the founders at a live radio recording for Seattle Kitchen, hosted by star chefs Tom Douglas and Thierry Rautureau.
Describe the process of launching the business.We’d drummed up as much excitement as we could for our first launch on our blog’s social media (having since spent hours upon hours transitioning its focus) and sought out every partnership, free press opportunity, and mentoring we could get. We emailed every newspaper, blog, podcast, radio show, magazine, and friend of our grandma to tell them about what we’d made. We launched the syrups officially at Proof, a distilling festival in Seattle in August 2018 where we rented a booth and sold syrups to the audience, while also hosting a talk on “How to Drink Garden to Glass” and networking with industry members.
We launched our online retail store, which we’d built ourselves through Big Commerce, in September. We took photos on our iPhones with white cardboard backgrounds and wrote our own descriptions. By then we’d each built our own websites from Square and WordPress and using Big Commerce was easier with the WordPress platform. We still use the same website today, though we’ve added to the product line considerably!
We pushed sales via the website and social media exclusively at first, and by the holidays, 2018, begun to get interest from wholesalers to carry the line. We sold mixed boxes of bottles to a few local coffee shops and distilleries, but sales online were promising enough for us to begin planning for our next rounds of bottling. By February, we’d sold out of one flavor and the others were soon to go as well. Up to this point we’d paid for no advertising outside of our Proof launch table, not even a boosted post on Facebook.
A photo with our Proof launch team: our husbands, our friends/bartenders, and us (top middle)
We decided to use the money we’d made from the first syrups to finance more rounds, and set an arbitrary goal to grow production by 3 times. Since our product was somewhat seasonal we needed to pounce on production, spring was coming soon. We also wanted to explore making our product easier to produce year-round, since it was reliant on very seasonal ingredients. We decided to make more of each of the three initial flavors, as well as launch three new ones that would have a greater focus on the cold-hardy herbs sourced from our own farm. This would give us greater cost margins but also allow us to produce syrups nearly year-round, if we sourced local frozen berries. The last thing we wanted was to make a product that required us to guess how many bottles we’d need 9 months in advance and when we were buying only fresh fruit in season, that was the case. The flavor and quality of some flavors went down when using frozen fruits, but in others quality was consistent and those flavors were the ones we rolled out.
The mostly dormant herb farm in late Fall looks a lot different than in the full bloom of mid-Summer. Photo by Rylea Foehl photography
Our packaging changed at this time as well, as we attempted to reduce costs for a workable profit margin. Our ingredient cost for our syrup, since we use whole fruits and spices and herbs, which is basically unheard of, is high and that can’t change significantly, so packaging and production costs needed to. We got the advice from industry peers that packaging should be under $1, which meant we needed to reduce our costs by almost half. The packaging would need to be bought in large quantities this time around, and we moved from a super pretty, tactile linen label that we’d love to a far more practical, wipeable coated paper.
Our production also needed to move to a more local company with lower costs. Finding this company and establishing a relationship with them was key, but teaching them our process and recipe was not without challenges. We make our syrup completely counter to the way it is commonly done in the food and beverage industry, which is usually with powders or concentrates, high fructose syrup, and citric acid. We stayed on-site for each of the following production days to lower staff costs but also to dial it in together. Our recipe is tedious and messy, and our relationship and patience with one another as we each learn the best way to make it has been key.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?Today our challenge is to move forward with our online retail with as much vigor as we can, while also learning as we go the wholesale food business. We have the lofty goal of outsmarting the traditional food system to bring greater profits. Marketing will be extremely key to our success. Before we talk about marketing strategy though, we’ll need to explain why we decided to market directly to the consumer in the first place.
From the start, we’ve taken a unique view of distribution because we learned quickly how little the farmer + producer would keep off the profits in the traditional food system. A farmer makes next to nothing on sales of raw ingredients once land costs, water, labor, and materials are considered. A value-added product is one way a farmer can make a greater profit margin off of their land, by turning their raw product into something else exciting and useful, in our case, cocktails!
Traditionally a farmer sells ingredients at a wholesale price to a produce distributor. Then a food business buys the ingredients from the produce distributor and pays a co-packer to make the product. The food business then pays a distributor to distribute the product, then gives away even more profit margin to the final wholesaler. The farmer makes next to nothing in this system and the business owner also makes very little, only about the same chunk of money that the distributor and wholesaler make, once costs are accounted for. In addition, the business owner might pay higher costs by paying a food broker to help gain traction/accounts with distributors for a greater distribution footprint, ie, more stores in more places. We would like to succeed in using as few middlemen as possible, and we’ll use technology to do this.
To work as hard as we do to get such a small piece of the pie sounds really unappealing to us (indeed I am sure it does to everyone) and would necessitate having big-time investment money and huge, fast growth to draw any profits from the business. A small-time food business just does not make dollars and cents. A huge volume of sales and extensive distribution is the only way to profit... at least traditionally. Our aim is to use social media to share our story because we know our story sets us apart in our market and leads to sales. Then we aim to convert that “listener” to an engaged consumer. Direct to consumer sales via social media has been hugely successful in almost every category, though less often with food.
Our strategy is to maintain the majority of sales through our own website by using SEO, Facebook and Instagram ads, and a robust, lifestyle-focused social media strategy. We recognize that we do not only sell a food product, we sell the hope that so many share to get back to the land, grow their own food, and connect with one another.
We’re focused this season on paying for Google ads, Facebook and Instagram ads, and Instagram boosted posts to drive these online direct sales. We’ve begun to invest in website SEO with a marketing firm, Intellitonic, who will improve the backend of our site for better web rankings. Our site is well established, having been a blog for so many years previously, but when we converted it to our sales site we never did the full clean up of old posts and unrelated data that is still ranking us for keywords like “signs your goat is in labor” so that’s a big priority this year. We’ll be investing in a website “remodel” rather than a “rebranding.”
For Google and social media ads we have designed a few different ads, each slightly different than the next, with slightly different targets than one another, to see which keywords and which audiences perform best, for future ads. We’ve also been filming short videos that are focused on how you might enjoy our products “in the wild:’ outdoors around a fire pit, at a garden party, etc.
Paying for ads will be a considerable expense, but our bet is that over a year, this expense will still be far less than what we would have lost in margin. Maintaining authenticity throughout this shift is also extremely important to us because we know that while we could buy followers, you cannot buy engaged followers. We have a very high level of engagement with our social media followers and they truly buy into what we choose to share with them from our lives. We want to continue this relationship online while we grow. For this reason, we continue to send out a monthly newsletter, give hosting and recipe tips on our blog and on social, and share stories of the drinks we make after a fun day on the farm with the kids.
Wholesale is an entirely separate ballgame for us, and one we’re focusing on less for all of the reasons described above. We need to be distributed enough to help grow our brand (essentially we look at the wholesale market as a way to make sales while also “paying” for customer acquisition through our loss of margin, because the store helps us market,) but not so widely distributed that all of our time and attention is focused on trying to convince distributors to bring us on and cranking out huge volumes of product for very small profits.
Working with a handful of well-matched distributors for these accounts is an aim of ours because driving boxes all over kingdom come is not something we can do. We have believed from the start that if we just focus on telling our story and making a unique, quality product that businesses who share our ethos and customer base will come to us. And that has proven to be true, we are currently taking new accounts (we recently launched locally in New Seasons Markets and PCC, our first grocery chains) and are in talks with a couple of distributors.
Finally, PR is one of the most important parts of the business right now, because until people hear our story, our product is not fully understood. The fact that our syrups are naturally made with whole fruits and no additives is special, but the most unique part of our product is that the ingredients are mostly sourced directly from our farm, or other small family farms in our area. We can trace each ingredient except sugar back to a farmhouse, a family, a field, and that is huge for us and for our customers.
We were featured this past year on a FarmHer episode on national TV on the RFDTV channel, on our local evening news, and in the pantry section of Sunset magazinebecause of our commitment to tirelessly pursuing PR. We’ve also been on podcasts like Drink & Farm, The Forgotton Art, Mom Wants More, and the radio show Seattle Kitchen. We’ll continue to share this story in every avenue possible, including “How to Grow Cocktails” classes and workshops, “ask the expert” media opportunities, etc.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?We are technically profitable already, but to us that is a sign that we haven’t grown quickly enough. We’re able to sell syrups and use the profits to continue to make more, pay for advertising, etc, but our overhead costs are currently low to the point of unrealistic, and we draw no pay from the business for our labor or time.
We know customer acquisition cost as we push forward our Direct To Consumer online strategy will be high, and that much attention to our media presence will be needed to retain those customers and lead to more sales. Ad costs and return on ad spend are not numbers we have yet, but that we will be tracking closely.
In about one year we’ve reduced our cost of goods by 250%, increasing our gross margin, quadrupled our production, increased our social media followers by 140%, and project our profit to increase by about (because of the combination of 4 x higher sales and 2.5 x less cost) about 6 times.
We have plans to expand into our own production space for some of our smaller, easier to self package products and to allow us to do smaller specialty runs of limited additional seasonal flavors, which will draw back customers to our site by keeping the inventory fresh. We will continue to co-pack larger production runs of our flagship flavors. We’ve certified our kitchen and will be investing in equipment and labor for this project.
One thing we’d like to work through is to eradicate our food waste footprint, and our own kitchen will allow us to do so by repurposing the syrup “leftovers” which are, essentially, jam, shrub, cider or beer flavorings, and bitters. We can reduce costs and waste simultaneously while launching new products. We love the idea of “killing two birds with one stone” and creating two products out of one harvest. Because we grow much of our own ingredients, eliminating our food waste isn’t just about the food that gets thrown away, but also the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing the ingredients.
We aim to expand wholesale to gain traction in the market and new customers, but overall after 3 years our goal is for only 30% of our business to be wholesale, with the other 70% of sales being direct to consumer.
Building our email list and continuing to establish ourselves in the media as expert entertainers and female farmers of the world’s first cocktails farm will be key to our retail success.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?One of the biggest things we’ve learned is to pursue opportunities that come your way before you feel like you have the tools or knowledge to do so. We tend to jump in, research, and get started, without letting fear or a lack of confidence in an area derail us. We’re pursuing this business at the right time when a focus on natural foods, farm to table eating, and craft cocktails are all at a high and we can’t afford to let our doubts slow us down. We haven’t been technically qualified to start either of these businesses, but we have, with success. We also live by the credo done is better than perfect. You don’t need to launch with a perfect version- there’s always room for revision. Launch with version 1, and know that you will have the chance to iterate and put out a V3 someday.
Starting a business with a co-founder has challenges but having done a first business alone, I’d pick a partnership anyday. The potential for tension, and the need to have clear, thoughtful communication are challenges but the benefit of having another voice, opinion, skillset, and 24 hours in the day far outweighs those challenges. As sisters, we have the benefit of knowing one another better than almost any other person on earth, and we’ve practiced communicating for 30 years. This is mostly helpful, because we can cut through the usual politeness and get down to the root of the matter, and we have a foundation of love for one another that allows us to rebound very quickly from disputes but to keep everyone focused and happy sometimes we have to remind ourselves to add some of that formality and politeness back in!
Ultimately our product is about forging community and connection through drinks and we’ve run our business that way as well, seeking partnerships and community wherever possible. It’s possible to see these efforts as derailments or money suckers or distractions. However, when we’ve given away our time, knowledge and product it has nearly always come back to us in a meaningful and profitable way, helping to bolster our young business.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?We use Square to process payments at onsite events and for wholesale invoices. It was easy and inexpensive to start and we like the easy to use readers we can connect to our phones so we have stuck with it.
Big Commerce for our online retail. We chose it because it offered the most affordable basic plan and it’s easy to navigate. Our website is through WordPress. This is what we used to start our blog way back when and we haven’t yet strayed, though it is not the easiest platform to get to know for a beginner, it allows for a lot of customization and potential for you to add your own code, lots of widgets, etc.
We use Gmail for our communications and Google drive, sheets, etc for working on projects with great mutual access and visibility.
MailChimp for our monthly newsletter (still on the free version but that probably needs to change!) and to manage shipments we use ShipStation. And we text constantly!
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?I am addicted to the Cherry Bombe, a women in food podcast, and we recently attended the Seattle Jubilee for an in-person conference of inspiration, teaching, and networking.
I also listen to podcasts like StartUp (chronicles a start-up in year one), Second Life (all about women who pursue entrepreneurial dreams as a second pivot in their careers), Farmher (to learn from other women in agriculture), and Rooted in the Valley (about farming in America) for inspiration.
We also spend a lot of time reading on the Washington State Liquor Control Board website, WSDA and FDA websites! Getting comfortable with technical reading has been critical.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?Don’t wait to start, don’t be afraid to ask questions, be kind to yourself in the process, and know before you start whether the lifestyle required for your business is feasible for yourself and your family. Be realistic because if you have a family at home, entrepreneurship becomes something every member is involved in and must continue to believe in. Think about what sets you apart and tell that story.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?We’re looking to hire two interns currently: one person remotely or local, for focus on PR and social media reach out and other research work that takes up a lot of our time but is so valuable. The second would be seasonal for help with farming. They’d learn and work alongside us in the greenhouse, the field, and the market events we do to learn about how to grow, harvest, and sell product. To have driven, technically proficient, and enthusiastic individuals to join our team would be a HUGE help! The positions would be unpaid to start with potential for longer-term paid work, and we’re hugely excited about investing in these individuals as well, to really inspire the next generation of founders and entrepreneurs and agriculture/food warriors!
Where can we go to learn more?
For more interviews, check out starter_story - I post new stories there daily.
Interested in sharing your own story? Send me a PM
Charlie's 2018 Draft Positional Rankings and Top 200 Big Board
In the spreadsheet you'll find my big board and positional rankings. All the players in the spreadsheet have been graded and are players I'm 100% confident in my rankings. In addition to the 200+ names I've graded I've watched probably double amount in total, but don't feel comfortable to 100% defend to the lack of tape or motivation to write more scouting reports. Down below is a short write-up on what I consider the top 25 players in the draft. IF you have any questions on why a prospect is graded 'high' or 'low' or simply want to know my thoughts on the player - let me know in the comment section and I'll gladly expand.
Perfect blend of size, explosiveness and strength. Has every physical trait you look for in a prospect and does it all. Can run power, zone, nside, outside, line up as a receiver and pass block. Doesn't have a real weaknesses outside of being too focused on hitting the big play - that said he'll make a game changing play at least once a game.
#2. Derwin James - Florida State - Safety
Derwin James is the perfect player to counter the development of passing options in the NFL. Versatile, as he can line up inside the box as a linebacker, slot as a cornerback or either as a cover 2 or deep safety. Doesn't have a single big weakness in his game outside of some minor refinement. Does it all and is going to be a steal no matter where he is taken.
#3. Minkah Fitzpatrick - Alabama - Safety
I don't remember a single Alabama player Nick Saban has talked as highly of as Minkah. The only player who has only been allowed in coaches only meetings - and you can clearly tell he has the work ethic and football IQ to succeed at a high level. An underrated trait about Minkah is his ability to make his teammates better. Constantly you see him pre-snap tell his teammate what play is coming and is a real leader on the field. Shouldn't be locked into one position (just like Derwin). Is best used moving around and should play slot corner and safety at a high level.
#4. Josh Rosen - UCLA - Quarterback
Rosen's package of clean mechanics, fantastic ball placement and field vision are all elite and very rare. Rarely do you see such a polished player coming out of college, especially at the quarterback position. Can make all the throws and moves well in the pocket. Won't be able to make some of the plays on the move like Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold - but makes plays from the pocket neither of those can make and probably ever will make. Biggest concern for me is his injury history. Durability will be key for Rosen.
#5. Tremaine Edmunds - Virginia Tech - Linebacker
One of my earlier draft crushes heading into the 2017 season - and he backed it up with continued development. Already an elite run stopper, Tremaine's next step will be to get better at anticipating in zone coverage and recognizing plays quicker. I have no doubts the developments you've seen in his game makes him very easy to project steady improvement in his weaker parts of his game. Some call him raw, for me he is already very polished - just not elite ,yet, in pass defense.
#6. Quenton Nelson - Notre Dame - Guard
Very polished technician with fantastic hand usage, hand placement and footwork. Strong at the point of attack and elite both as a run and pass blocker. Very few weaknesses to his game, which are all athleticism based. Won't see him be elite at the 2nd level or pulling like some other more athletic guards in the NFL - but he is so good it doesn't really matter. Will instantly make the run game better for a team and will make life hard for many defensive tackles.
#7. Sam Darnold - USC - Quarterback
Size, arm talent, mobility and ball placement makes Darnold a guy for defenses to fear for at least a decade. His ability to maneuver in the pocket, hit receivers in stride and extend plays are rare. While his elongated mechanics are a slight problem - he does stuff so well it doesn't matter. Most likely the 1st overall pick and with good reason.
#8. Roquan Smith - Georgia - Linebacker
Roquan's play speed is very rare. Rarely do you see a linebacker fly around the field like Roquan does, as he is everywhere. Aggressive and has the range to stop any stretch/outside zone plays. Needs to improve in pass coverage, but has the fluidity, anticipation and overall athleticism to be an elite all-round linebacker.
#9. James Daniels - Iowa - Center
One of my guys in this years draft, James Daniels is the total package. Can play both guard and center, and doesn't have to play center like I have him listed. His mobility, technique and elite balance makes him an elite talent and someone who'll outplay his draft position. All his weaknesses are related to lack of strength, which is very fixable. Expect James Daniels to start early and play at a pro bowl level as a second year player.
#10. Bradley Chubb - NC State - EDGE
Bradley is in my opinion one of the more interesting players in this years draft. What you value in edge rushers will likely determine how highly Bradley Chubb. Personally I see Chubb as an elite run defender whose strength, hand usage and ability to get leverage early are traits that offensive tackles with struggle with - he doesn't have the versatility to win outside of hand usage and strength. I don't see the fluidity or elite quickness to win by pure athleticism which will (imo) make his ceiling as a pass rusher lower. While I still see him as a great prospect, I don't think he'll ever be on the level of the Joey Bosa's, Von Miller's or Khalil Mack - which is fine as they are all incredible players. You are getting someone who'll be productive from day one and has pro bowl potential. Those players go very high, especially at his position.
#11. Isaiah Oliver - Colorado - Cornerback
The third of what I consider four of my guys. Size, speed, fluidity, ball skills and technique are evident. Has the potential to be elite in press coverage and completely lock down a receiver as a boundary corner. Who cares if he isn't all that in zone coverage (yet) - you play to his strengths and Isaiah's strengths are in the mold of a future #1 cornerback and potential pro bowler.
#12. Justin Reid - Stanford - Safety
Third safety on the list and someone that has turned into a real draft crush. The fluidity, football IQ and ball skills makes Justin someone you don't want your division rival to get your hands on. Versatile, as he has experience lining up as a safety (both as a deep center fielder, c2 safety) and slot corner, both which he did at a high level. Will need to improve in man coverage as there are times he struggles out of breaks (very noticeable towards the end of 2017), but nothing that can't be fixed with experience and added coaching.
#13. Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma - Quarterback
Whoever gets Baker will get a player who no matter what, will give it his all out on the field. His way of playing football is so exciting that he'll create instant optimism and expectations. Accuracy, poise, ability to extend plays and arm talent are all there. Next step is developing his field vision as the offense at Oklahoma made it too reliant on pre-determined looks. May have some early struggles reading defenses, but hopefully his offensive coordinator will take advantage of Mayfield's ability to stay composed when plays break down, keep his eyes downfield and hit receivers in stride.
#14. Connor Williams - Texas - Guard/Offensive Tackle
Probably the player I'm least sure of where will go in the draft come Thursday, but like Cam Robinson I see Connor as an instant starter and someone who'll, regardless of if it's guard, left/right tackle, will be a consistent starter. Has quick feet, excellent footwork and the lateral agility to succeed as a tackle. A finisher who despite lack of strength plays mean. Day one starter.
#15. Vita Vea - Washington - Nose Tackle
Constant disruptive interior presence is so underappreciated and makes it easier for guys on the edge to get one on one matchups. Vita takes on double (heck even triple) teams with constantly high motor and violent hands. Due to his playing style he'll end up on the ground and gets unbalanced, but even then he creates so much room for his teammates that he is so hard to defend.
#16. Josh Jackson - Iowa - Cornerback
The way Josh Jackson plays the football is very rare in a cornerback. He attacks the ball like he is a receiver, which receivers aren't used to. Him leading the nation in interceptions and many pass break ups is a confirmation of that. He has the awareness, anticipation and ability to make plays that few others are able to in zone coverage. Will be valued very highly by certain teams and there is no doubt in my mind Josh Jackson has pro bowl potential.
#17. Rashaan Evans - Alabama - Linebacker
I feel people aren't quite looking at what Rashaan can do when watching him. Some want to limit him just to play linebacker, while others feel he is just an edge rusher. For me, he can do both - and at a high level. His aggressiveness, ability to locate the ball carrier and finish plays are traits that linebackers must have. The most aggressive and hard hitting linebacker in the class (for me) and has the short area quickness and disruptive to make offensive tackles pay. Can also work as a blitzer as his closing speed, ability to literally run over running backs force quarterbacks into poor decisions.
#18. Denzel Ward - Ohio State - Cornerback
Denzel has elite fluidity and is a great technician, but despite his okay length and impressive vertical - he doesn't play big enough for me to see him lock down physical corners outside. I do think he can turn into one of, if not the best slot corner in the game, but I don't see him dominate outside at the same level as the other cornerbacks higher on the list. I may be eating my words down the line as he could turn into an elite lockdown corner, but I have real concerns about his play strength and ability to box out receivers.
#19. Leighton Vander Esch - Boise State - Linebacker
LVE, who has turned into a draft darling for many, is someone who'll down can turn into one of the better linebackers in the league. Right now I have some big concerns about his ability to process. Too often do you see him hesitate and doesn't have the anticipation or aggressiveness of the three linebackers rated higher. His athleticism is for me his main appeal right now, but down the line LVE can turn into something special. How special though, is hard to project.
#20. Mike McGlinchey - Notre Dame - Offensive Tackle
If I had to name one guy as the most serviceable player at his position, McGlinchey's name would be early in that discussion. While his lack of hip flexibility will cause him to give up pressure and sacks - his ability to win at the point of attack, mirror edge rushers and sustain and hold blocks are all very translatable. Probably a right tackle, at least early on.
#21. Jaire Alexander - Louisville - Cornerback
Sticky man cover corner with elite fluidity and mirror skills. Lack of length, play strength and lack of physicality makes him my corner 4. Has that second gear and is a true man cover corner. Is very intriguing in a tandem with a more physical cornerback.
#22. Derrius Guice - LSU - Running Back
Guice runs angry, and his ability to cut and explode is fantastic. Pad level and play strength and the burst to make big plays. Good option if you don't want to invest a top 10 pick in Barkley.
#23. Braden Smith - Auburn - Guard/Offensive Tackle
Most athletic guard in the class, who should have the option to kick out at right tackle if needed. Strong mits and has the leg drive to move defenders. Needs to improve his initial punch as he can hesitate and often lose the initial battle. Has the potential to be an elite puller - moves very well and has the ability to lock onto targets at the second level. Very effective in the screen game.
#24. Calvin Ridley - Alabama - Wide Receiver
There are numerous of red flags about Calvin Ridley. Some will say age, some will say lack of explosion, production or lack of weight. I do acknowledge multiple of those which is why he isn't higher up for me - but I got to trust the tape as I'm confident in what he does on tape is very translatable. A receiver I have no problem projecting with consistent 1000 yard seasons. His initial quickness, footwork and overall fluidity in his route running makes Calvin my #1 receiver. His ability to separate and create a cushion is at a high level. The hardest thing when projecting Ridley at the next level is how high his ceiling is.
#25. Jessie Bates III - Wake Forest - Safety
The most natural deep center fielder in the class. Has the range and experience playing deep. Anticipates well and has the athleticism to close on the ball. Some are concerned about his tackling - while I do see reasons of concern, it's more down to consistency and not a lack of physicality. I'd be more scared if he didn't showcase aggression or want contact. His weaknesses in run support are for me very fixable and his positives outweighs those by a good margin.
- #26 D.J. Moore - Maryland - Wide Receiver
- #27 Mike Hughes - UCF - Cornerback
- #28 Marcus Davenport - UTSA - EDGE
- #29 Sony Michel - Georgia - Running Back
- #30 Isaiah Wynn - Georgia - Guard
- #31 Da'Ron Payne - Alabama - Nose Tackle
- #32 Ronald Jones II - USC - Running Back
- #33 Dante Pettis - Washington - Wide Receiver
- #34 Anthony Miller - Memphis - Wide Receiver
- #35 Fred Warner - BYU - Linebacker
- #36 Taven Bryan - Florida - 4-3 3T / 3-4 5T
- #37 Frank Ragnow - Arkansas - Guard/Cener
- #38 Harold Landry - Boston College - EDGE
- #39 Carlton Davis - Auburn - Cornerback
- #40 Courtland Sutton - SMU - Wide Receiver
- #41 Christian Kirk - Texas A&M - Wide Receiver
- #42 Billy Price - Ohio State - CenteGuard
- #43 Nyheim Hines - NC State - Running Back
- #44 Martinas Rankin - Mississippi State - CenteGuard/Tackle
- #45 Dallas Goedert - South Dakota State - Tight End
- #46 Will Hernandez - UTEP - Guard
- #47 Kolton Miller - UCLA - Offensive Tackle
- #48 Josh Allen - Wyoming - Quarterback
- #49 Maurice Hurst - Michigan - 4-3 3T
- #50 Lorenzo Carter - Georgia - EDGE
- #51 Ronnie Harrison - Alabama - Strong Safety/Dime LB
- #52 Michael Gallup - Colorado - Wide Receiver
- #53 Harrison Phillips - Stanford - 4-3 NT / 3-4 5T
- #54 Brian O'Neill - Pittsburgh - Offensive Tackle
- #55 Kerryon Johnson - Auburn - Running Back
- #56 Darius Leonard - SC State - Linebacker
- #57 Brandon Parker - NC A&T - Offensive Tackle
- #58 Lamar Jackson - Louisville - Quarterback
- #59 Nathan Shepherd - Fort Hays State - 4-3 3T
- #60 Mark Andrews - Oklahoma - Tight End
- #61 M.J. Stewart - North Carolina - Cornerback/SS
- #62 Tyrell Crosby - Oregon - Offensive Tackle
- #63 James Washington - Oklahoma State - Wide Receiver
- #64 Hayden Hurst - South Carolina - Tight End
- #65 Wyatt Teller - Virginia Tech - Guard
- #66 Rashaad Penny - San Diego State - Running Back
- #67 Ogbonnia Okoronkwo - Oklahoma - EDGE
- #68 Tre'Quan Smith - UCF - Wide Receiver
- #69 Mason Rudolph - Oklahoma State - Quarterback
- #70 Tarvarius Moore - Southern Miss - Safety
- #71 Holton Hill - Texas - Cornerback
- #72 Nick Chubb - Georgia - Running Back
- #73 Desmond Harrison - West Georgia - Offensive Tackle
- #74 DeShon Elliott - Texas - Safety
- #75 Nick Nelson - Wisconsin - Cornerback
- #76 P.J. Hall - Sam Houston State - 4-3 3T
- #77 Godwin Igwebuike - Northwestern - Safey
- #78 Patrick Morris - TCU - Center
- #79 Donte Jackson - LSU - Cornerback
- #80 Malik Jefferson - Texas - Linebacker
- #81 Quenton Meeks - Stanford - Cornerback/Safety
- #82 Austin Corbett - Nevada - CenteGuard
- #83 Kyle Lauletta - Richmond - Quarterback
- #84 B.J. Hill - NC State - Nose Tackle
- #85 Isaac Yiadom - Boston College - Cornerback
- #86 Dane Cruikshank - Arizona - Safety
- #87 DaeSean Hamilton - Penn State - Wide Receiver
- #88 Jack Cichy - Wisconsin - Linebacker
- #89 Duke Ejiofor - Wake Forest - EDGE
- #90 Genard Avery - Memphis - Linebacker
- #91 Mike Gesicki - Penn State - Tight End
- #92 Joseph Noteboom - TCU - Offensive Tackle
- #93 D.J. Chark - LSU - Wide Receiver
- #94 Oren Burks - Vanderbilt - Linebacker
- #95 Jordan Wilkins - Ole Miss - Running Back
- #96 Terrell Edmunds - Virginia Tech - LinebackeSS
- #97 Josh Sweat - Florida State - EDGE
- #98 Justin Watson - Penn - Wide Receiver
- #99 Daurice Fountain - Northern Iowa - Wide Receiver
- #100 Coleman Shelton - Washington - Center
- #101 Shaun Dion Hamilton - Alabama - Linebacker
- #102 Chukwuma Okorafor - Western Michigan - Offensive Tackle
- #103 Dorian O'Daniel - Clemson - Linebacker
- #104 Andrew Vollert - Weber State - Tight End
- #105 Marcus Allen - Penn State - Box Safety/LB
- #106 Jordan Whitehead - Pittsburgh - Safety
- #107 Rasheem Green - USC - 3-4 DE
- #108 Ian Thomas - Indiana - Tight End
- #109 Shaquem Griffin - UCF - Linebacker
- #110 Arden Key - LSU - EDGE
- #111 Breeland Speaks - Ole Miss - 4-3 3T/Base End
- #112 Anthony Averett - Alabama - Cornerback
- #113 Sam Hubbard - Ohio State - EDGE
- #114 Bilal Nichols - Delaware - Nose Tackle
- #115 Durham Smythe - Notre Dame - Tight End
- #116 Kylie Fitts - Utah - EDGE
- #117 Equanimeous St. Brown - Notre Dame - Wide Receiver
- #118 D.J. Reed - Kansas State - Cornerback
- #119 Hercules Mata'afa - Washington State - EDGE/4-3 3T
- #120 Rashaan Gaulden - Tennessee - Safety
- #121 Greg Senat - Wagner - Offensive Tackle
- #122 Folorunso Fatukasi - UConn - Nose Tackle
- #123 Jordan Lasley - UCLA - Wide Receiver
- #124 Logan Woodside - Toledo - Quarterback
- #125 Deon Cain - Clemson - Wide Receiver
- #126 Kevin Toliver II - LSU - Cornerback/Safety
- #127 Andrew Brown - Virginia - 4-3 3T
- #128 Duke Dawson - Florida - Cornerback
- #129 Darren Carrington - Utah - Wide Receiver
- #130 Uchenna Nwosu - USC - EDGE
- #131 Deontay Burnett - USC - Wide Receiver
- #132 Matthew Thomas - Florida State - Linebacker
- #133 Chad Thomas - Miami - 3-4 5T
- #134 Keke Coutee - Texas Tech - Wide Receiver
- #135 Kyzir White - WVU - Safety
- #136 Royce Freeman - Oregon - Running Back
- #137 Mason Cole - Michigan - Center
- #138 Armani Watts - Texas A&M - Safety
- #139 Tarvarus McFadden - Florida State - Cornerback
- #140 Troy Fumagalli - Wisconsin - Tight End
- #141 Justin Jones - NC State - 4-3 3T
- #142 Jerome Baker - Ohio State - Linebacker
- #143 Bo Scarbrough - Alabama - Running Back
- #144 Cedrick Wilson - Boise State - Wide Receiver
- #145 Jaylen Samuels - NC State - OW
- #146 Mike White - Western Kentucky - Quarterback
- #147 Scott Quessenberry - UCLA - Center
- #148 Christian Sam - Arizona State - Linebacker
- #149 Kalen Ballage - Arizona State - Running Back
- #150 Levi Wallace - Alabama - Cornerback
- #151 Kemoko Turay - Rutgers - EDGE
- #152 Geron Christian - Louisville - Guard/Tackle
- #153 J.C. Jackson - Maryland - Cornerback
- #154 Chase Edmonds - Fordham - Running Back
- #155 Josey Jewell - Iowa - Linebacker
- #156 Parry Nickerson - Tulane - Cornerback
- #157 Mark Walton - Miami - Running Back
- #158 Trey Quinn - SMU - Wide Receiver
- #159 Connor Hilland - William & Mary - Guard
- #160 Micah Kiser - Virginia - Linebacker
- #161 Jamarco Jones - Ohio State - Offensive Tackle
- #162 John Kelly - Tennessee - Running Back
- #163 Tyquan Lewis - Ohio State - EDGE
- #164 Foyesade Oluokun - Yale - Linebacker
- #165 Deadrin Senat - USF - Nose Tackle
- #166 Justin Jackson - Northwestern - Running Back
- #167 Dalton Schultz - Stanford - Tight End
- #168 Jalyn Holmes - Ohio State - EDGE
- #169 Kurt Benkert - Virginia - Quarterback
- #170 Chris Herndon - Miami - Tight End
- #171 Trenton Thompson - Georgia - Nose Tackle
- #172 Luke Falk - Washington State - Quarterback
- #173 Allen Lazard - Iowa State - Wide Receiver
- #174 Quin Blanding - Virginia - Safety
- #175 Da'Shawn Hand - Alabama - 3-4 5T
- #176 Kentavius Street - NC State - 4-3 3T
- #177 Alex Cappa - Humboldt State - Guard
- #178 Josh Adams - Notre Dame - Running Back
- #179 Auden Tate - Florida State - Wide Receiver
- #180 Brian Allen - Michigan State - Center
- #181 Greg Stroman - Virginia Tech - Cornerback
- #182 Jeff Holland - Auburn - EDGE
- #183 Boston Scott - LA Tech - Running Back
- #184 Olasunkanmi Adeniyi - Toledo - EDGE
- #185 Simmie Cobbs - Indiana - Wide Receiver
- #186 Andre Smith - North Carolina - Linebacker
- #187 Dorance Armstrong - Kansas - EDGE
- #188 Martez Carter - Grambling State - Running Back
- #189 Tejan Koroma - BYU - Center
- #190 Derrick Nnadi - Florida State - Nose Tackle
- #191 Marcell Ateman - Oklahoma State - Wide Receiver
- #192 Tim Settle - Virginia Tech - 4-3 3T
- #193 Taylor Hearn - Clemson - Guard
- #194 RJ McIntosh - Miami - 4-3 3T
- #195 William Brandon Silver - Troy - Quarterback
- #196 Chris Worley - Ohio State - Linebacker
- #197 Damon Webb - Ohio State - Safety
- #198 Akrum Wadley - Iowa - Running Back
- #199 Keishawn Bierria - Washington - Linebacker
- #200 Nick DeLuca - North Dakota State - Linebacker