It has been an absolutely crazy year and to be honest, I’m glad it is almost over. These prospects have been broken down to nothing and their characters dragged through the mud. People are even going back to their high school stats, which is just ridiculous and over the top. At the end of the day, we must remember that these are 20 to 24 year old kids that don’t deserve to be poked and prodded like sacks of meat. I definitely have my favorites and think others will bust in the NFL, but I will root for every one of these prospects to have a successful career.
Alright here it is. The final version of my mock for the First Round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
Far too often have the Browns bypassed a QB for another player. After acquiring Tyrod Taylor in free agency, Cleveland is not in need of immediate starter like Josh Rosen. Darnold has some things to work on with his footwork mechanically, but is elite in every other trait.
Off the field, he is seen as a great leader with no questions about his character or love for the game. On the field, Darnold shows adequate arm strength and excellent anticipation to throw receivers open. He also seems unaffected by any situation and has the same demeanor regardless of what is going on around him. The goal will be for Taylor to start all of 2018, but later in the season when Cleveland has no playoff hopes, it will be hard to keep Darnold off the field.
2. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
It seems as though that New York’s new GM Dave Gettleman still believes that Eli Manning still has 2 years of solid production left. Barkley could potentially be the final piece of the puzzle for the Giants.
3. New York Jets
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
In this scenario, the Jets get their QB of the future after giving up a massive haul to the Colts to trade up for the third overall pick. Mayfield would step in and compete with Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown from day one.
4. Cleveland Browns
Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
With the QB of the future selected earlier, Cleveland has a few options. I still think they will look for a partner to trade with, but based on the value of these prospects I find it unlikely a trade gets done. Drafting Chubb would fall in line with drafting the best player at the most important position available. After adding Chubb, the Browns would have three potential pro bowlers along the defensive line and all three can play either on the edge or in the interior.
5. Buffalo Bills (Trade with Denver Broncos)
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Bills interest in Allen has been the worst kept secret since January. The GM has come out and said they don’t want to offer the No. 22 pick and I don’t think they will need to. In this scenario, they trade up with the Denver Broncos and get their QB.
6. Indianapolis Colts
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Colts not only add a plethora of picks after the trade, but they still get the one of the best defenders in the draft. Smith will be an instant impact to a defense that desperately needs play-makers.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Buccaneers have been in desperate need of defensive backfield help for a couple of years. James is a dynamic play-maker who also has arguably the most potential of any prospect in the entire draft.
8. Chicago Bears
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
After the run on quarterbacks in the top five, this is a dream scenario for Chicago. The Bears should continue to build around young quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and Nelson is reunited with his college offensive line coach.
9. Arizona Cardinals (Trade with San Francisco 49ers)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
It has been no surprise that the Cardinals have been looking for a quarterback. Rosen is the most NFL ready quarterback in this class. The Cardinals give up a lot, but it’s worth it to team Rosen up with Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson in the backfield.
10. Oakland Raiders
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
With Jon Gruden taking over as the head coach for the Raiders, there is no telling what this selection will be. The Raiders have a glaring need at offensive tackle and McGlinchey is the best in this class. This would be the smart pick, not necessarily what Gruden will decide to do.
11. Miami Dolphins
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
After losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency, the Dolphins have a major void in the middle of the defensive line. Vea is a massive (6’4″ 347 pounds) and athletic human who could step in and fill that void from day one.
12. Denver Broncos (Trade with Buffalo Bills)
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
After trading back and acquiring a huge haul from the Bills, the Broncos can look to fill some positions of need. Ward not only fills a major position of need, but he is also arguably the best player still available.
13. Washington Redskins
Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech
Another prospect with an extremely high ceiling, Edmunds is just 19 years old with off the charts athleticism and the versatility to play off the ball or off the edge as a pass rusher.
14. Green Bay Packers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
In somewhat of a unsuspecting slide, the Packers land an absolute gem in Fitzpatrick. The Alabama corner will fit right in with the mentality of the old school Packers.
15. New England Patriots (Trade with San Francisco 49ers)
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
I think this is where things can potentially get even more crazy. After getting Jimmy Garoppolo for only a 2nd round pick from Patriots, the 49ers owe them a little. Buzz has been generating that New England loves Jackson. Pairing the best coach with the most dynamic play-maker is a match made in heaven for New England, and would be hell for the rest of the NFL.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Ravens have have been missing a bonafide workhorse back since Ray Rice. Guice is an excellent runner who is capable of breaking tackles, and taking it the distance on any play.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
I don’t think Phillip Rivers is quite ready to call it quits just yet, and the Chargers should try and make a run with an explosive offense before it’s too late. Payne helps improve a run defense that was one of the worst in the league last year.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Another team in dire need of offensive line help is Seattle. Wynn played Offensive Tackle at Georgia, but lacks the arm length coveted by teams to play tackle. Wynn will most likely play Guard, and be an instant starter for the Seahawks.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State
After cutting Dez Bryant this off-season, a wide receiver would fit in perfectly in this spot. However, from what I hear, the Cowboys are head over heels for Vander Esch. There are rumors and concerns about his back and spine, but Dallas has shown they are unafraid of scary medical reports. By adding Vander Esch, the Cowboys find the eventual replacement for beloved linebacker Sean Lee.
20. Detroit Lions
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Not only were the Lions one of the worst pass rushing teams in the NFL last year, they also so far have been unable to sign their top pass rusher to a long term deal. Davenport is a developmental pass rusher with freakish athletic traits.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Without a doubt the biggest needs for the Bengals are on the offensive line, more specifically the interior. They recently just acquired left tackle Cody Glenn in the trade that got them this selection, and I think they want to give Eric Fisher another year at right tackle. Ragnow was arguably the best center before his injury in 2017, he can play all three interior line positions and would be a plug and play starter.
22. Buffalo Bills
James Daniels, C, Iowa
After selecting their quarterback of the future at #5, the Bills now need to protect him. Daniels is an athletic center who can also play guard if needed.
23. San Francisco 49ers (Trade with New England Patriots)
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
After the off the field issues with Reuben Foster, it is clear to see the 49ers cannot rely on him. Evans is another hard hitting Alabama linebacker with excellent range.
24. Carolina Panthers
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
The two biggest needs for the Panthers are interior offensive line and cornerback. At this spot there are no interior linemen worth a selection, so Carolina goes with the cornerback. Alexander plays with a huge chip on his shoulder and will fit right in in Carolina.
25. Tennessee Titans
Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College
The Titans will need to add some serious help along the edge to rush the passer. Last year Landry was a borderline top-10 pick, but injures this past season have caused him to slip. After a great showing at the combine, Landry’s name is starting to pick up steam again.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
After losing Dontari Poe to free agency, a huge hole just opened up in the middle of the field. Bryan is an athletic freak and matches the type of players the Falcons tend to go after. Now the Falcons hope his production will finally match his athleticism.
27. New Orleans Saints
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
With Willie Snead gone to Baltimore, the Saints are going to look for a slot receiver to replace him. D.J. Moore is probably the best one in the draft.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa
With Joe Haden entering the back half of his career and Mike Holton the other starting corner, this position group is in desperate need of talent. Although not their biggest need, I think this is the position and player left on the board that gives them the most value. Jackson led the NCAA last year in both interceptions and pass break ups.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
After letting Allen Robinson walk in free agency, the Jaguars all of a sudden have a glaring need at wide receiver. Sutton is a big bodied physical receiver that needs to refine his route running skills as he tries to develop into a #1 receiver.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Billy Price, OC/OG, Ohio State
Last year the Vikings began their offensive line overhaul by selecting Buckeye Center Pat Elflein. This year they finalize that rebuild by securing Price, who played alongside Elflein for 3 years. These two already have incredible chemistry and could shore up that unit for the next 10+ years.
31. San Francisco 49ers (Trade with New England Patriots)
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Joe Staley isn’t getting any younger, and John Lynch will look to protect his franchise quarterback once Staley does call it quits. Miller is more of a project, but his athleticism and length point to great success in the NFL.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Without any pressing needs, the Eagles could benefit greatly by adding another corner to spark competition in a defensive backfield that over-performed in 2017.