This is my first official 2018 NFL Mock draft. Feel free to comment, or absolutely berate me in the hallways, if you hate this draft. Based on what I’ve researched, and film I’ve watched on these players, this is my best guess at how the first round could unfold on April 26th.
1.) Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Don’t let any other mock draft, analyst or friend at the bar say otherwise, Sam Darnold is the most talented quarterback in this draft. I’m not guaranteeing that the Browns will take him, but I think it would be a huge mistake if they don’t. They have missed out on Watson, Goff, Wentz and others recently, when attempting to acquire the plethora of picks they’ve had the past few (and future) drafts. Now it’s time to pick the face of the franchise they have been so searching for. They still have a TON of cap room, even after last year’s spending spree, a ton of picks this year and next, and a ton of young, uber talented prospects. I see them righting the wrong of the 2017 trade deadline day, and signing newly announced UFA, AJ McCarron, to a 3 year prove-it deal. Both parties win because McCarron gets a chance to prove he’s a starter to the League (and if not, the Cleveland fan with the jersey with all the last names of QB’s Cleveland has started since before they moved to Baltimore can add another name) and Darnold gets the opportunity to back-up, adjust and improve to the All-Pro QB he could become.
2.) New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
For the usually successful franchise, the Giants have multiple holes to fill this offseason. After many picked them to win the NFC North in 2017, injuries, bad coaching, and abysmal offensive line play got them to 3 wins. So with the bad offensive line, many holes to fill and new GM Dave Gettlemen’s infatuation with his so-called “hog mollies” upfront, how could I have them picking a QB?
Look, the Giants have had a lot of success over the years, and one bad season is honestly a gift. They have an ageing QB in Eli Manning, and now have the opportunity to have the second overall pick in a draft, with no trades necessary to get there. Gettleman needs to take advantage of this rare position and pick the future of the franchise. Rosen is a great, great player. He could easily have the success Manning has had with the Giants if they build around him, motivate him, and allow him a year or two to develop behind Manning. I do not expect a trade even with the glaring roster holes. Last time they picked in the top 5 was 2004 for Philip Rivers. Lol. It’s time to start over at that position, and the best part is they don’t have to tank to do it.
3.) Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Colts need to help Andrew Luck. That’s my whole reason for this pick. The best available player overall, and a position of need is Edge Rusher, de facto, Bradley Chubb, which you will see many mocks have. However, Barkley is too tempting of a prospect for 1st-year head coach Frank Reich to pass up. He is the top offensive player in this draft, and is absolutely electric on the field. His elite speed, route running and physicality all combine to make an incredible RB prospect. Selecting Barkley would be the most exciting thing Indianapolis has done since the Luck draft/Manning trade. Don’t get me wrong, Luck is a great QB when healthy, but after a whole season missed, he needs the rushing help. Frank Gore is a legend, but his time as RB1 is up. Marlon Mack isn’t there yet and doubtfully will be. Healthy Luck + Barkley would be an offensive nightmare for every defense in the NFL. If anyone can set this offense right, its Coach Reich. Love that guy. I actually just put a Reich patch on my old Watkins jersey, good as new. Life hack.
4.) Cleveland Browns (HST): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Future multi-year pro bowler Minkah Fitzpatrick is going to light up the Browns secondary. Only issue is, we just really don’t know what position yet. It’s been said that when someone calls a player a “Swiss Army Knife” that they are good at everything, but not great at anything. Don’t let this fool you with Fitzpatrick. He is the real. I love him as a safety because of his scary tackling ability, however the guy is also a ball hawk, so why not throw him in as a shutdown corner if can handle it? Honestly, the combine will really show coaches what speed we are truly looking at. In a division with Antonio Brown, AJ Green, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Jeremy Maclin and I guess Mike Wallace, CB’s on a rebuilding-for-18+-Years-Browns team, needs to be elite. Wherever he is put on the field, I truly believe he can do the job successfully. A safety tandem of Jabrill Peppers and Minkah Fitzpatrick sounds like a lot of fun. Remember what fun was like Brown’s fans?
5.) Trade: Buffalo Bills (DEN): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Okay #BillsMafia I’m going out on a limb here. The truth is I’m just a lowly law student right now and have NOOOOO idea what the Bills front office is going to do here. From what I’ve heard, and what I want, this is my best prediction for the Bills 1st round pick. Obviously this is a Buffalo-based forum so let’s get real detailed.
The Bills have so many holes on their roster its honestly stunning they made the playoffs. Must be good coaching then right? Let’s hope. Anyways, to begin with, the Bills currently have the 21st and 22nd overall picks in this draft currently. That was the one parting gift Doug Whaley left Bills current GM Brandon Beane. And with two firsts, the Bills could really upgrade the roster with cost-saving first round talent When Beane arrived he said the Bills would be building through the draft so here is his chance to prove it.
The Bills could do many things with these two back-to-back picks. Defensive Tackle is a huge issue after Marcel Dareus was traded, and that could be made even worse if Kyle Williams doesn’t re-sign. Defensive End could use an upgrade. We really need a faster MLB, and if EJ Gaines takes the money and runs, well we all know Shareece Wright is not franchise corner status. On the offensive side we need an Eric Wood replacement at Center, a Wide Receiver with elite speed to pair with KB, and a solid RB2 behind Shady. Yeah that’s a lot. Oh and we have just a little over $30 million in cap space to do it. Good luck GMBB. BUT, with all that being said, the Bills need the franchise QB fans have dreamed of since Jim Kelly.
Tyrod Taylor is a fun QB1, that is unquestioned. His athletic ability and passion to win are a great watch. When he breaks double or triple sacks, and shoots it off to McCoy for a 15-yard play, it could not be more exciting. But, when Zay Jones is open downfield for a game winning touchdown and Taylor just can’t get the ball to him, and after three seasons of the same, it’s time to upgrade.
I wouldn’t write him off the roster just yet though. Trading or cutting him just to bring in another veteran to play, while the rookie QB is developing, is just dumb. Unless it’s Teddy Bridgewater, but that’s neither here nor there. There is no reason to waste time and money by bringing the same talent level player here while taking on dead cap from Taylor’s current deal. Honestly, the $18 Million cap hit is pretty reasonable for the talent he does have. So I say keep him on the roster for at least one more year, and the Bills can release him after June 1st, 2019 when his cap hit is much more reasonable to cut (about $5 Million over 2 seasons) and have the new rookie start in the 2019-2020 season. Easy right?
The most important thing for this trade is the fake scenario where the Broncos won the Kirk Cousins lottery. He could have made more money by signing with the NYJ or Cleveland, but remember, he has already been franchise tagged two years in a row now. He’s been paid, and paid well. I think he signs a fairly reasonable $25 Million per year average deal to help the Broncos stay competitive and win another Super Bowl. So, because of that, they see a golden opportunity to save some cap space and move back to get two first round talents on the team, both on rookie deals.
According to the Jimmy Johnson draft value chart, the 5th overall pick is worth 1700 points. The 21st and 22nd overall picks are worth a combined 1580. To convince the team to move back 16 picks it will take some convincing. So adding a player, (Cordy Glenn), and a 2019 3rd pick should do the trick.
Now onto the actual pick. 2017 Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield was born to play for the Buffalo Bills. The guy has a passion for the game that only the Bills fans could match in the NFL. I could not think of a more exciting pick for the team since the 80s. He has a ton of critics. Some say he is arrogant, others say he’s too much of a celebrity, people point out his height, and his arrest for public intoxication. Well I say bull, to all of it.
I am a huge fan of McDermott and love his idea that you have to build a franchise around high character players. Look, he may not be the humblest guy in the world, but in today’s NFL, public intoxication is not a major flaw, and let’s be honest, we’ve all been to college. His accuracy is stunning to watch. He plays hard on every down and has clear competitive toughness, with both a mental and physical ability that is unmatched on the field. But out of everything, it is his passion to win that should make this pick for the Bills.
Mayfield will have success in the NFL because he will do everything he possibly can for his team to win. That is exactly who the Bills, and Bills fans, desperately need. He is not Johnny Manziel, he is not even Russel Wilson. He’s Baker Mayfield, and he’s going to win the Buffalo Bills there first ever Super Bowl. When he’s carrying the Lombardi on a float down Chippewa, drop me a line and say “You called it Crow, nice one.”
6.) New York Jets: Bradley Chubb, Edge, NC State
The poor Jets miss out on Kirk Cousins, well in this mock they picked up Case Keenum in free agency which will be exciting to see if he had a one-hit wonder year, or he truly is one of the better QBs in the league. If there’s any team that can brutally showcase your honest talent, it’s the Jets. Consolation prize is the freak-athlete Bradley Chubb. The best overall player in this entire draft class. Watch out AFC east QBs, you will not be looking forward to these games.
7.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Okay before you read this, go look up Orlando Brown. The guy is absolutely MASSIVE. Current measurables are 6′ 8″, 360lbs. Seriously. Combine will be realllllll fun to watch for this man. He fits into the Bucs really well too. His size hurts his athletic ability, but that’s just gravity. The Bucs have a very athletic QB in Winston and what they need is a wall to give him time to throw, and give the receivers time to separate. A wall is exactly what Brown is.
Also, after the release of Doug Martin, they clearly need an RB1, but a Sony Michel second rounder would fit nicely later on.
8.) Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
First WR off the board and you’re very welcome Mitch Trubisky. Ridley is an excellent route runner with tremendous speed. He has the upside of his 2016 Amari Cooper and the downside of 2017 John Ross, too soon? His biggest knock is his lack of physical strength. He is able to go toe-to-toe and often successful against fast corners, but seems to be impeded by physical DBs. However, I feel in the right system and QB, he will be the WR1 that Mitch, new coach Matt Nagy, and the Chicago Bears desperately need.
9.) San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Coin toss at the combine will decide picks 9 and 10, but currently, the two picks don’t matter anyways. This is a dream situation for the 49ers because after locking up their franchise QB Jimmy G, they protect him with the best overall offensive lineman in this class.
10.) Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
Every analyst is making this pick, so I guess I should too. However, I really do see this pick happening. Smith is an amazing leader, and exactly what the Raiders need on the defensive side of the ball. Let Derek Carr/Jon Gruden lead the offensive, Smith has the talent, playmaking ability, and leadership qualities that could lead this defense for years to come.
11.) Miami Dolphins: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Miami could go OL here, but let’s have some fun, shall we? Guice finally had the year to showcase his unreal ability after Leonard Fournette was drafted. There were a few rough patches but he was also dealing with some minor nagging injuries. Personally, I see him as one of the most well-rounded running back prospects in a long time. Great speed, power, and cutting ability.
After the trade of Jay Ajayi, Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams filled in nicely, but nothing special. Time to add the 1st round RB Miami hasn’t drafted since Ronnie Brown in 2005, but really hasn’t had on the team since the trade for Ricky Williams.
12.) Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Cincinnati had a disappointing year in 2017 and the offensive line was a huge part of that. While some early picks in recent drafts were also OL, 2015 pick, Cedric Ogbuehi has been adequate at best, and they let 2012 pick, Kevin Zeitler escape to the Browns last year in free agency. They need an upgrade to protect the always fiery Andy Dalton, and also get the running game a boost as well. McGlinchy is a huge man with a ton of athletic ability. Some say a reach, I don’t.
13.) Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S, Florida St
Derwin James is real “pros-pro” prospect and I’ll tell you why. Everyone in CFB says he is a locker room gem. He is someone who really gets the team motivated, and pushes the team to the next level when they need it most. Sounds like a great guy for any team, especially the Redskins, whose ownership is well-known to be obtuse. The fun part is where his talent comes in to play. This guy is an absolute stud DB. He honestly has all-pro ability. After his freshmen year, he easily could have been the best overall defender in college football. A torn meniscus cut that dream short last season. His 2017 was very good, but his numbers were slightly down after the injury, that was clear. His talent and potential are what gets him drafted here and Washington’s all-of-a-sudden star studded defense gets a mid-round pick with huge upside.
14.) Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Green Bay needs corner help. Badly. It’s the weakest unit on the team, and thus, address it early. First CB off the board lasts until 14?? With such an important position I know it seems wild, but the position doesn’t really have any Marshon Lattimore’s this year. Josh Jackson has the potential to get there though so he goes first. His issue is game action. He only has 14 career starts. His positives are huge though, and well out-weigh any concerns. Specifically, his ball-hawking skills, are unmatched in this draft. Three interceptions versus Ohio State will tell you it all.
15.) Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Josh Allen is a very interesting prospect. You know that scene from Napoleon Dynamite where Uncle Rico throws the steak at Napoleon and says to Kip, “Want to make a bet I can throw a football over those mountains?” Josh Allen would win that bet. The guy has a cannon. His measurables are quite attractive too. He is not very polished though and there are a lot of concerns with accuracy and interceptions. He has upside through the roof, but he is nowhere near ready to start in the NFL. Arizona goes for Keenum, but ultimately settles for Bradford, and hopefully Mike McCoy can work some magic with Allen in a few years.
16.) Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Ozzie Newsome is heading into his last year as GM for this franchise, which dates back to 1991 when they were still the Browns. Ozzie loves big, mean defensive players, and has shown through the years to have a love affair with filling the trenches with first round picks. However, the defense was already lights out in 2017, and the OL played well too. They could use a pass catching TE, but here I went WR. Breshad Perriman has been a bust so it’s time again to try and make Joe Flacco look like the average QB he is. Sutton is a huge target and shows flashes of brilliance every game. He is a very physically gifted WR with a huge frame and catch radius. He does need to work on play speed, but has been able to make up for it with his aggressive playstyle. I actually really wanted to pick Lamar Jackson here, but Ozzie knows his defense is special and wants to walk away a winner. Can’t blame him. Last pick for an unusually long and successful NFL career.
17.) Los Angeles Chargers: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Payne opened some serious eyes during the CFB National Championship game. He played a monster physical game, got an INT and caught a touchdown pass. His tape over the season was strong too, but his championship performance put him well into mid-1st-round talks. Oh and a defensive line featuring Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram and Payne. Yikes. That line would need like a “Legion of Boom”, “Steel Curtain” type of nickname. How about the “Big Bad Bolts”… I’ll see myself out.
18.) Seattle Seahawks: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Seahawks are in a rough position right now, but have a bright spot in the right place with QB Russel Wilson. The “Legion is Boom” is aging, the running game hasn’t existed since Marshawn Lynch, and the offensive line is just plain bad, even with the mid-year Duane Brown pickup. So this pick could go many different ways. Well how about a shut-down, crazy athletic corner to pair with Richard Sherman, or replace him soon, and help re-establish Seattle’s elite secondary.
19.) Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vea is a big, big man. Aside from having one of the most fun saying names in this year’s class, the guy is a future star. His speed and pass rush ability are beyond impressive for the size he has. If Taco Charlton improves, that line including Charlton, Vea, and DeMarcus Lawrence could be nasty. I’ve seen TE picked here but don’t write off Jason Witten too quickly.
- Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, DE, USTA
Davenport is an interesting prospect because he has great talent, but isn’t super flashy. After picking up some looks at the Senior Bowl, I have Davenport earlier then some because of his consistent improvement in both playing ability and physical strength. He could be a great replacement if Ziggy Ansah leaves in free agency. Who else could get the most of a prospect then new Head Coach Matt Patricia. Fear the beard.
21.) Trade: Denver Broncos (Bills), Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
After trading out of the 5th overall spot to fill holes and save cap space, the Broncos load up an already top tier defense to move right into win-now mode after the Kirk Cousins signing. Jackson has tremendous speed and would fit very nicely in a veteran-rich Broncos defense. Some knock his route running recognition, but I see that improving as he moves into a higher level of play and with elite talent around him. LSDBU strikes again.
- Trade: Denver Broncos (Bills): Arden Key, Edge, LSU
Trading back and going double LSU was too fun for me to pass up. I know the Broncos have other needs, but Key is too great of a prospect to ignore. OL is a severe weak spot so I could see that too, but I say give Garret Bolles at least one more year to improve. Beef up the defense with these two Tigers’ stars in Jackson and Key, and let Kirk light up the other side of the ball. The Broncos will return to glory very quickly.
- Los Angeles Rams: Tremaine Edmunds, ILB, Virginia Tech
This would have been a CB for me up until a few days ago. Love the Marcus Peters acquisition for the Rams, and the got it for a half rack of ribs and a beer. His play style and passion are meant for the big city and the positive future the Rams have established. So the Rams pick Edmunds, who is an extremely exciting prospect. He has also yet to turn 20. This allows them to let Mark Barron hit free agency, save some cap, and get all-star talent at a cheaper price for many, many years.
- Carolina Panthers: Isiah Wynn, OT/OG, Georgia
Cam Newton takes too many hits. Partly because he is such an athletic QB and he moves around a lot, but also because the offensive line still needs improvement. Wynn may not be the biggest man in the trenches, but whatever he lacks, he has made up for with his athleticism and fluidity on the line, and that could pair nicely for Cam. If the size issue cannot be overcome, simple move to OG will suffice, where he for sure has the traits to star.
- Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston
I put Landry here without knowing everyone else is doing that, I swear. Anyways, what a great prospect for the Titans that fills a glaring need on the DL. The Titans need to start attacking opposing QBs and Landry fits the bill. Landry needs to improve in a few areas like finishing tackles and burst off the line, but with good coaching by new defensive-minded head coach, Mike Vrabel, Landry could flourish. I could see him being a real disruptive force for the Titans for a long time.
- Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
A great replacement for the 1-year signing of Dontari Poe. Hurst is a little on the smaller scale, however plays extremely fast. Hurst uses his superior agility and quickness to move around blockers. His athleticism is key in proving his ability to be first round talent in the pro game. If he plays with the effectiveness he’s had in Michigan, the Falcons will have accumulated a very nice set of young lineman with McKinnley and Hurst.
- New Orleans Saints: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
I don’t know what everyone’s problem is with former Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson. The guy is a baller and extremely talented. Every game I watched he put the team on his back, regardless of the level of play his team provided. He flashed superstar ability on a lousy team and that should keep him in the 1st round. He had elite speed, elite athleticism and very good accuracy. He needs polish yes, but the haters (Bill Polian) who say he is WR are just wrong. I’m sure he would make a Pro Bowl receiver, but why would you waste so much leadership and game changing talent when you could have him play the most important position on the team. He can learn from Drew Brees and become the elite QB he was in CFB.
- Pittsburgh Steelers: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Big Ben replacement! Rudolph has very good measurables coming in at 6’5”. He’s also a great pocket passer and reads the defensive coverage well. But that’s all Rudolph is, is a pocket passer. He is not very mobile so a team with elite WR’s like Pittsburgh, would make a great fit. There are other needs, but the only imminent one is finding a replacement for Ryan Shazier. A second round could do it so I think they pick Rudolph whose potential are too enticing to pass up. I think Rudolph has a lot of promise and while it could feel like a reach, QBs always go early. So Rudolph learns behind Roethlisberger and takes over in 2020.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
My favorite thing about Hayden Hurst is that he was actually born before me! Just kidding about it being my favorite, but he has been a man amongst boys out in the CFB playing field. The Jaguars current TE, Marcedes Lewis is a fan favorite in Duval, and has been since he was a 1st rounder in 2006. Time to do it again with Hayden Hurst. The top three TE’s in this draft are Hurst, Mark Andrews, and Dallas Goedert. In this mock I see Hurst being the most effective fit for Jacksonville as a combo with Lewis. It’s the combine that will be key for all these prospects and what round they end up in.
- Minnesota Vikings: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Minnesota’s defense is scary good and using a 1st round pick isn’t necessary on that side of the ball. It’s the offensive line that needs work, and Kolton Miller is the exact type of prospect, who will still be here at his number, and has the ability to revamp it. Offensive Tackles, especially quality ones with LT experience are just so important in the NFL. Miller is a massive man that could really become a successful player in the NFL. This could be considered a reach, but with the need and importance, the pick makes sense.
- New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The Patriots didn’t lose the Super Bowl because they didn’t play Malcom Butler, but I certainly think he could have helped. Rowe is a depth player, and I don’t see how Butler will re-sign after that mystery fiasco. So it’s time for the Super Bowl runner-ups to lock down the opposite side of Stephon Gilmore, with first round talent on an affordable rookie deal. Some say QB here and if Rudolph slides I could see that pick, but I’m a TB12 method believer, and I don’t think he’s going anywhere, sorry Bills fans.
- Philadelphia Eagles: Conor Williams, LT, Texas
This probably should be swapped with the Vikings pick, but I really wanted this so I could say future Jason Peters replacement, sorry. Williams has had a few great years at LT for the Longhorns and could be the franchise blindside protection Carson Wentz so desperately needs after tearing his ACL. Williams could fill in at other spots, if Peters returns from his injury unfazed. If so, who better of a guy to develop with, than Peters himself.