With the draft around two months away, it’s time to start mocking where these players will land in the first round. This class is an interesting one that we will no doubt learn more about as we get closer to the actual night. But for now, here is my first mock of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Enjoy and share your thoughts with me @PBPNick.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC
It’s yet another new regime taking charge of the Cleveland Browns as new GM John Dorsey will take his chance to fix the absolute mess on the shores of Lake Erie. With a gaping hole at the quarterback position — for the last 20 plus seasons — Dorsey has said the Browns will look for a QB in the top five. So here the Browns go with USC star Sam Darnold at #1.
Darnold seems to have the makeup to lead a franchise and the talent to boot, and while there are some things to improve on, Darnold seems to be the best choice.
2. New York Giants: Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame
Speaking of teams with new management, the Giants are now run by former Panthers GM Dave Gettleman.
Gettleman inherits a difficult situation with a Giants team coming off a nightmare of a season and has had a lot on his plate. After cutting some real problem players, and eventually hiring Pat Shurmur as head coach, the Giants seem set on making things work in the short-term. While a quarterback or Saquan Barkley would be a wise choice, Big Blue seems to want to stick with Eli, so it’s time to protect him.
Enter Notre Dame Guard Quenton Nelson, perhaps the best prospect in the whole class to solidify the line.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, NC State
In simple terms, the Colts have had an absolutely wild offseason. After a coaching search that saw them hire Josh McDaniels, then have McDaniels walk away in the 11th hour, and eventually settle on Eagles OC Frank Reich. GM Chris Ballard has quite simply said this team is looking for impact players and the Colts will have the chance to pick one here.
They could trade back from this spot, or stay and take Saquan Barkley to pair with Andrew Luck, or defensive star Bradley Chubb. With the hiring of Matt Eberflus as defensive coordinator and the transition to a 4-3 defense, the Colts could use a stud at end. So they go Chubb here at three overall and get a difference maker on defense.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquan Barkley, Running back, Penn State
So the Browns are back on the clock here at four looking for more high-end talent to help build this team. They could certainly look for help on defense with a player like Minkah Fitzpatrick or Denzel Ward, and they couldn’t possibly go quarterback again right? Right? The Browns decide to go with the versatile and highly talented Saquan Barkley out of Penn State
Barkley would go a long way toward helping Sam Darnold in his rookie year and give this team a big time weapon.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA
John Elway’s never-ending quest for a QB needs to get results at some point soon. The team in the Mile High City hasn’t been able to replace Peyton Manning, as an assortment of signal callers haven’t been able to do the job.
So, with some good fortune, the other top-end California kid Josh Rosen is their pick. The big gun slinger coming out of UCLA has some character concerns and questions of his consistency. But Rosen presents Denver with another chance to get a young quarterback to change their fortunes and Rosen has the skill set to do that.
6. New York Jets: Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State
This free agent class is highlighted by quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will not return to the Redskins this year. Cousins is looking for a big payday, and with a large number of teams pursuing his services, the Jets have the ability to offer him just about whatever he wants.
At this point, if Cousins wants controlling stake in the Yankees, the Jets would give it to him.
So in this scenario the Jets land Cousins and pick Denzel Ward to add to their talented young secondary. Ward has strong cover skills and would fit exactly what the Jets are looking for, and he would fit in well with Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama
To say last year was a disappointment in Tampa would be an understatement. The Bucs came in with sky-high expectations and fell incredibly short of them.
Their secondary was one of several weak points last year and so it’s time for the Bucs to address it. So, at #7 overall, Tampa Bay selects Minkah Fitzpatrick. While many have Fitzpatrick at the corner spot, I like him more at safety given his range and cover skills. Minkah just flat-out makes plays and would go a long way toward helping the Bucs defense improve.
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, Wide Receiver, Alabama
One of the most frequently mocked picks amongst draft scouts is this one right here. The Bears are in much the same position that the Eagles were a year ago. Just like Carson Wentz, Mitchell Trubisky is in an offense devoid of weapons, so it’s time for the monsters of the Midway to get a few monsters on offense. With an offensive minded coach in Matt Nagy at the helm, a big time weapon like Ridley would go a long way toward improving this team.
While the stats aren’t there for Ridley, he is one of the best route runners in a long time and constantly works hard to get himself open.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, Outside Linebacker, Virginia Tech
Rewind 12 months and all the talk was that the 49ers had hired an inexperienced GM and were entering a lengthy rebuild without a candidate to be the team’s signal caller. Boy, how things change; the Niners acquired Jimmy G and rolled down the stretch finishing the year 6-10. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan enjoyed a pretty strong first year by the bay.
Now, looking for players to round off a potential playoff roster, San Francisco will look to pad their defense with this pick. Enter Tremaine Edmunds, the rangy 19-year-old Hokie linebacker. Edmunds jumped off the tape at VT, making play after play, and he would fit well with the Niners.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, Inside Linebacker, Georgia
The Raiders are crying out for a flashy defensive playmaker who can do it all. They get their man here at #10 overall with Georgia Linebacker Roquan Smith.
Smith is one of the most impressive players on tape of this draft class. He flies around the field with his athleticism and shows off a wide range of skills. Smith was a defensive leader on a team that was the national runner-up, losing in the championship game to Alabama. Jon Gruden and this organization will look to return to the playoffs next year and a player like Smith would go a long way toward them doing that.
11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma
It just seems impossible to get the quarterback situation sorted out in South Beach. The ‘Phins have tried just about everything and still seem to have no answers. Adam Gase’s first season at the helm in Miami went well as the Dolphins made the playoffs before being demolished by the Steelers. Last year was a mess after Tannehill went down and Jay Cutler struggled to lead the team on offense.
While Gase seemed to be turning around Tannehill as a player, the injuries combined with the struggles would dictate that it’s time for Miami to pick a new signal caller. So, Baker Mayfield is the pick here, as Miami will trust Gase to bring the young gunslinger along, who needs just a little bit of seasoning to refine his flashy game.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, Offensive tackle, Notre Dame
The Bengals had yet another disappointing season last year, finishing 7-9. Among the many problems they have, their offensive line continued to struggle throughout the season. They’re in desperate need of a lot of things; a coaching change, a new quarterback, a complete overhaul of their front office. But since none of that is happening anytime soon, the best thing they can do is work out what they have and see if they get back over 500.
They gave up far too many sacks last year, so big Notre Dame Left Tackle Mike McGlinchey is the pick here to help improve a struggling unit. McGlinchey is the best player at the position in the class and, if he performs at that same level, the Bengals offense would see an uptick in production.
13. Washington Redskins: Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP
The Redskins have once again had another crazy offseason and the league calendar hasn’t even turned over yet.
Washington is going away from Kirk Cousins after acquiring Alex Smith from Kansas City. They, much like the Bengals before them, struggled to protect their quarterback. So at pick 13 the ‘Skins take the opportunity to select one of the most exciting prospects in the class, UTEP Guard Will Hernandez.
Quite simply, Hernandez is a man amongst boys and displays some great skill on tape. His power and strength would go a long way toward improving Washington’s run game while also protecting Smith.
14. Green Bay Packers: Marcus Davenport, Defensive Tackle, UTSA
Much like Calvin Ridley to Chicago, this is another one of the most frequently mocked picks. The Packers finally decided to make a change to their front office and have moved on from the Ted Thompson era. For this team to get back on track, the Packers need to get nastier on defense and find a difference maker to pair with Mike Daniels.
They check both boxes off here with Marcus Davenport. He makes some real flashy plays on tape and posses the traits to be a high-end pass rusher in the league.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, Offensive End, Texas
The Cardinals are in a transition period as they go from the Bruce Arians regime to a fresh start under new coach Steve Wilks. This team battled well to get to eight wins last year despite a ton of injuries to key players, including multiple quarterbacks. It would seem they will add a starter in free agency or trade, so the Cards will need to get some help up front in the trenches.
Connor Williams was one of the most talented lineman in the country a year ago and his injuries, along with some struggles lowered his once high stock. However, the tape still shows a solid tackle ready to impact a team in need. The ‘Cards are just that team.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Christian Kirk, Wide Receiver, Texas A&M
The Ravens quite literally snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. They were one play away from the playoffs in week 17 before they gave up a last-second touchdown to the Bengals. Throughout the season they struggled to score, which was the result of a number of issues, between Flacco struggling at quarterback and an offense that lacked consistent weapons. So, with their first round pick the Ravens take one of the more explosive players in this class, Aggies WR Christian Kirk.
Kirk can contribute in a lot of areas at the next level, on both offense and special teams. While size is a slight concern, the Ravens would be wise to add Kirk to their stable of receivers.
17. LA Chargers: Derwin James, Safety, Florida State
The Chargers were once again doomed by a poor start early in the season. However, they finished as one of the hottest teams in the league and narrowly missed out on a playoff spot in the AFC. While they don’t ever really play any true home games, first year head coach Anthony Lynn seems to have this team on track.
They could use help on defense and particularly in their secondary. Des King emerged as one of the better young secondary players in the league last year so they pick ‘Noles safety Derwin James to pair with him. One of the best athletes in the class, and a player who will only continue to develop into a better and better defender.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Joshua Jackson, Cornerback, Iowa
The Seahawks are coming off missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and it seems like they’re ready to make some changes to a team that struggled down the stretch. The once terrifying Legion of Boom is now a shell of itself and one of the reasons for that, besides the faces of it aging and dealing with injuries, is that they have struggled to fill the corner spot opposite Richard Sherman.
Iowa corner Josh Jackson would do well to fill this role. Jackson has high-end cover skills and the ability to rack up turnovers, shown during his career as a Hawk Eye. So from one Hawk to another, put Jackson in the Legion of Boom next year.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington
The Cowboys fell well short of their expectations last season as they missed the playoffs a year after going 13-3. Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension obviously didn’t help the situation, but their defensive struggles were just as much to blame. As good as DeMarcus Lawrence was last year, they didn’t have enough consistent pass rush help to go with him. Their defense also lacks an edge that their rivals the Eagles thrive off of.
So, at #19 the ‘Boys select Washington Tackle Vita Vea. Vea is an athletic freak who plays a nasty game. As Sean Martin would say, “Vea uses humans to tackle other humans.” With his size and quick moves off the ball, Vea would make a big impact on the Cowboys defense.
20. Detroit Lions: Ronald Jones, Running Back, USC
The Lions’ struggle to find an answer at running back has been well documented. Their last 100-yard rusher was Reggie Bush. The Ameer Abdullah experiment seems to have reached its conclusion, and with an elite quarterback in Matt Stafford, it’s time to get him help. At #20 overall, the Lions go with pet cat number 1 Ronald Jones out of USC.
Jones can quite simply do it all. He’s one of the most explosive players in the whole class; he’s even garnered pro comparisons to Jamaal Charles. His skill set checks all the boxes for Detroit, a team that has been on the rise and is now looking to win the NFC North for the first time in a long time.
21. Buffalo Bills: Bill Price, Center, Ohio State
The Bills hold picks 21 and 22 after their trade with Kansas City last year. They finally made their return to the playoffs after a lengthy absence, however they fell to the Jags in an UGLY 10-3 loss wild card weekend. Eric Wood announced his retirement due to growing health concerns earlier this offseason, so they fill their hole at center with the top center in the class, Ohio State’s Billy Price.
Price has enjoyed a great career as a Buckeye, and his blocking ability will fit in well with the Bills, a team that loves to run the ball.
22. Buffalo Bills: Rashaan Evans, Inside Linebacker, Alabama
With their second pick here, the Bills add more talent to an already loaded defense. Evans stood out on his tape as an extremely rangy and intelligent defender, which is easier said than done given how many different guys can make plays out there for ‘Bama. Evans can come in and anchor this stacked unit with a high level of play and leadership.
Important to note here is that the Bills have been rumored to be exploring a trade to move up in the draft and pick a quarterback, assuming they don’t add a quarterback in free agency.
23. LA Rams: Isiah Wynn, Guard, Georgia
The Rams enter this offseason off of their best season in years. Unfortunately for them, however, they struggled in the wild card round, falling to the Falcons and heading home early. They are truly a stacked a team with big time players at several positions. Los Angeles could stand to beef up their offensive line and so with this pick they select Georgia Tackle, and soon to be Guard, Isiah Wynn.
While Wynn played well at the tackle spot at Georgia, he fits a lot better inside as a guard. Wynn’s power and ability to get up field fits perfectly with the Rams’ power run game, which should only benefit super star RB Todd Gurley.
24. Carolina Panthers: DJ Moore, Wide Receiver, Maryland
Last draft, the Panthers took Christian McCaffrey to help bolster their offense, along with Curtis Samuel in the second round. They didn’t really see the return there on either pick, and despite Cam Newton having a resurgent year, it feels like the offense needs another weapon to help Cam out.
So, DJ Moore comes in from the University of Maryland, and he brings an explosive skill set to the table. His speed and athleticism would help Carolina deliver a more potent attack, which they’ll need in a division that features the Falcons and Saints.
25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, Outside Linebacker, BC
The Titans are coming off of a weird season to the say the least. They had big expectations for this season after a strong campaign two years ago. They started off strong but struggled down the stretch, eventually finishing 9-7. They followed a stunning upset of the Chiefs with a beat down at the hands of the Pats.
Their offseason began with them firing Mike Mularkey and replacing him with Texans DC Mike Vrabel, and with a new defensive minded head coach they take Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Landry is a lot like Connor Williams, as his tape from 2017 is no where close to his tape from 2016. Landry has elite traits, and while consistency is a question, his tools should be enough to make an impact for the Titans.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Da’Ron Payne, Defensive Tackle, Alabama
The Falcons couldn’t quite recapture what made them so special the previous season during their run to the Super Bowl.
Their struggles slowed them down in the regular season as they qualified for the playoffs as the 6th seed before being eliminated by the eventual champion Eagles. During their run to an NFC title, they played a real edge on defense and that was missing last year. So, in an effort to recapture that, they select Da’Ron Payne, the nasty defensive tackle out of Alabama who starred this year up front.
Payne’s toughness in the trenches allows him to dominate physically and give centers and guards a handful.
27. New Orleans Saints: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Wyoming
Now, many have Josh Allen going at or near the top of the draft, and while it is likely that’s where he’s selected, I like his value a lot more later in the round or even in the second. But this would be a dream fit for the Wyoming gun slinger.
His raw tools and traits need work but they are clearly worth developing at the next level. With Drew Brees likely entering his last few seasons, Allen would make an excellent successor.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Harrison Phillips, Defensive Tackle, Stanford
The Steelers fell well short of their expectations in the playoffs when they crashed out to the Jaguars in the divisional round at home.
It’s been a turbulent last few seasons in the Steel City and the Steelers need to improve their team while also finding a reliable individual who can become a leader. So, they go with one of the most impressive prospects both on and off the field, Stanford Defensive Lineman Harrison Phillips. Phillips is a load inside and his ability to play the run would pair nicely with Stephon Tuitt to give the Steelers a more physical presence.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, Tight End, South Dakota State
After years of it being “the Jags’ year,” it finally was their year as they won the AFC South and reached the AFC Title game. They fell just short as New England pulled the game out late in the fourth and have now extended quarterback Blake Bortles. This is really a roster that has just about everything they need to compete again next year, so they go best player available here at the tight end spot with Dallas Goedert.
The former South Dakota State Jack Rabbit flew under the radar going into the draft process — to put it bluntly, this kid is a flat-out beast. Goedert can do it all, and would be an awesome addition to an offense that could use an extra weapon to help Bortles.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Orlando Brown, Offensive Tackle, Oklahoma
The Vikings are a lot like the Jags. They have been building this team for some time and they finally took the step forward with a run to the NFC championship game. It was announced earlier this week that they will not bring back Case Keenum or Teddy Bridgewater, which in all likelihood means they are going after Kirk Cousins.
Regardless of who is running the offense next year, the Vikings should continue to shore up the offensive line. Former Sooners Tackle Orlando Brown would be a wise pick here to add depth and an eventual starter at the tackle spot going forward. Brown has the game in his blood with his Dad’s success as a Ram, and the Vikings need to do a better job protecting the passer. Brown would help check that box next year.
31. New England Patriots: Derrius Guice, Running Back, LSU
Now stay with me on this one. Obviously, the Patriots are not known for taking big time offensive weapons in round one. They could also stand to supplement their defense which was torched almost all year long as their secondary continued to struggle. But there simply isn’t a defensive player that fills a need worth taking right here at this pick.
With recent news that they won’t return Dion Lewis, a star caliber back like Derrius Guice would go a long way toward helping the Pats make another run. Guice’s overall game is very impressive and he would be able to check all the boxes for Bill Belichick in this offense.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Lorenzo Carter, Outside Linebacker, Georgia
The Eagles’ fairy tale run ended with them winning the Super Bowl with a very complete team, complete enough to overcome a number of injuries throughout the season. The Eagles will look to add depth in this draft to their already strong team with a little help at the linebacker position. So, with the 32nd pick the birds select Georgia Linebacker Lorenzo Carter.
Carter is an interesting prospect as his tape tends to be a mixed bag. His pass rushing skills are hard to deny as he uses his terrific speed and finesse moves to beat tackles. While he is a little under-sized, some continued development would do Carter good. The good news is that the Eagles don’t need him to step in right away, so he will get the chance to improve outside of the spotlight.