With the NFL draft less than 24 hours away, it seemed only right to drop my latest mock. For this mock, I am presenting a clean first round without trades. Of course, we all know that’s never going to happen, with teams like Cleveland and Buffalo having more than enough ammunition to climb back into the first round, trade up, or trade down, and other teams, such as Houston and Kansas City being without picks on day one. The rumor mill has been flying the last few days, but let’s see if we can make sense of it all.
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold, USC
It was reported that someone close to Browns GM John Dorsey all but assured the Browns would be selecting Allen with the first pick, but as of this week, Schefter’s source suggested Mayfield is in the mix for the Browns here. Maybe I should go back and watch Draft Day again and assume it’s, “Allen no matter what,” but my gut is telling me Sam Darnold is the top quarterback in the draft. Darnold played for two years in a pro-style offense at USC. He has the personality and demeanor to thrive in an often hostile market and can make all the throws. He doesn’t have the top end arm strength of Allen, nor the accuracy of Rosen, but he may have the highest ceiling of any quarterback in the draft.
2. New York Giants – QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
No player helped themselves more than Josh Allen during their pre-draft workouts. He has the size, arm strength, athleticism, and personality that GMs and coaches fawn over. He’s coming from the FCS and an offense that lacked prostyle complexity. If the Giants stay put at two, he could be a guy that could sit behind Eli Manning for a year or two and develop until he’s ready to take over.
3. New York Jets (from Indianapolis Colts) – QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Josh Rosen is widely regarded as the purest passer in the draft. His touch and accuracy are what made him an early favorite to be the first quarterback drafted. His personality concerns and the workouts of Mayfield, Darnold, and Allen have depreciated his value, but his talent and the high demand at the quarterback position will undoubtedly carry him into the top five.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans) – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
If Cleveland decides to stay at four and draft a player instead of trading down with a team like the Bills hungry to draft a quarterback like Baker Mayfield they have the opportunity to get the best athlete in the draft. Cleveland has revolutionized their offense by bringing in Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde and will likely add their future franchise quarterback. Add a piece like Saquon Barkley to that puzzle, and the team will have weapons at every position on the field and give new Browns GM John Dorsey a strong foundation to build a competitive football team.
5. Denver Broncos – DE/LB Bradley Chubb, NC State
After signing QB Case Keenum their demand at the quarterback position is tempered for now. If the quarterback they want is available at five, then they may pull the trigger, but with the possibility and reports of the Bills trying to leverage their two first round picks to move up to Cleveland’s fourth overall pick, that hope is fading quickly. Instead, the Broncos select the most talented defensive player in the draft to learn from future Hall of Famer LB Von Miller.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from New York Jets) – LB Tremaine Edmunds Virginia Tech
Indianapolis hasn’t had a quality pass rush since Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were coming off the edge. Tremaine Edmunds is a versatile linebacker with enough athleticism to rush the passer or drop back into a soft zone coverage. He is still raw in some aspects of his game, but he has the potential to be exactly what Indianapolis needs to help out their struggling defense in a division filled with young quarterbacks that teams need to pressure.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Tampa continues to struggle with their defensive backfield. They need help at the safety position and someone that can match up against versatile tight ends. Fitzpatrick is one of the few guys in this draft that meets that profile, and he is largely grouped among the top two or three defensive backs in the class. I could see Derwin James from Florida State here as well, but Fitzpatrick is coming from a talented Nick Saban defense that implements pro concepts.
8. Chicago Bears – G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
If the Bears are sold on QB Mitchell Trubisky as their franchise quarterback, they will need to invest in protecting the young signal caller from a repeat of the abuse he took last season. Nelson is the best interior lineman in the draft and will provide a strong framework to continue to build the rest of the Bears line around.
9. San Francisco 49ers CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
Even after adding CB Richard Sherman, San Francisco still needs to add talent to their secondary. I could also see LB Roquan Smith going to San Francisco following the legal troubles of LB Reuben Foster, but the NFL is increasingly becoming a pass-oriented league and Denzel Ward is widely regarded as the top coverage cornerback in the draft. The first round is stacked with defensive backs, and San Francisco could trade down and still secure a starting caliber corner or linebacker if they want to add to their value and recoup the second round pick they sent to New England for QB Jimmy Garoppolo.
10. Oakland Raiders – DB Derwin James, Florida State
Oakland has been looking for solid safety play since Charles Woodson’s retirement to play opposite Karl Joseph. Derwin James may be the most talented true safety at the top of the draft, and Oakland is in the perfect position to draft him.
11. Miami Dolphins – LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
Miami has struggled to get consistent play from their front seven. The addition of DE Robert Quinn helps them with their pass rush, but the team still lacks an elite linebacker that can play sideline to sideline. Smith might be the only backer in the draft that fits the bill and is certainly the most talented of the first-round graded linebackers.
12. Buffalo Bills from Cincinnati Bengals QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
A desperate team might try to trade up earlier in the draft if Mayfield gets past Denver, and that desperate team might be the Bills, but in a perfect world, the Bills can get their guy at 12. After trading QB Tyrod Taylor to the Browns the team is in the mix for drafting their franchise quarterback, even after signing AJ Mccarron. Mayfield’s size may work against him, but QBs Russell Wilson and Drew Brees who have combated the size stereotype may give teams the confidence to select Mayfield early in the first round.
13. Washington Redskins – WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Redskins are in need of a talented wide receiver and Ridley is the consensus number one available. As a freshman, Ridley hauled in 89 passes for over 1000 yards and seven touchdowns. Over the next two years, his production decreased, but he continued to be a reliable target, with 72 receptions as a sophomore and 55 as a junior. His numbers may have been impacted by the run-heavy offense at Alabama and I expect Ridley to produce at the NFL level.
14. Green Bay Packers – LB Harold Landry, Boston College
Even though he regressed during his senior year, Landry was the lone bright spot at Boston College this season. He’s a prototypical 3-4 outside linebacker that can get to the quarterback in a hurry and would be a perfect compliment to a linebacking corps that has Nick Perry and Clay Matthews already coming off the edge. Landry would add a new dynamic to the Packers pass rush, and would be a value selection in the middle of the first round.
15. Arizona Cardinals – CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Jackson led the FBS in interceptions at Iowa and his superior ball skills could make him the first corner off the board. Arizona needs another corner to pair with CB Patrick Peterson and the two of them may have the best backfield.
16. Baltimore Ravens – WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
The Ravens added WRs John Brown and Michael Crabtree in the offseason to replenish their light wide receiver corps that struggled last season. Washington is a true deep threat that can complement the possession receivers of Brown and Crabtree and provide Flacco with a receiver that can take the top off a defense.
17. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Notre Dame produced the two best offensive linemen in the draft between McGlinchey and Nelson. McGlinchey is a tall framed tackle with quick feet who will be able to stand up against some of the more elite pass rushers in the NFL. His struggles will come against bull-rushing lineman that leverage strength and use his height against him to get low and drive to the quarterback. Much like Giants OT Nate Solder when he came out, McGlinchey needs to add to his frame to become an elite tackle in the NFL.
18. Seattle Seahawks – CB Mike Hughes, UCF
With the departure of CB Richard Sherman Seattle has a void at the cornerback position. Hughes plays physically and likes to press at the line of scrimmage despite his size and his aggression would fit in well with Seattle’s defense. He has shown good ball skills, but has lacked instinct in coverage and will need to be coached up before he can utilize his elite athleticism. I expect him to be a starting corner in the NFL and will contribute in the return game on special teams.
19. Dallas Cowboys – WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M.
The departure of WR Dez Bryant leaves a hole at the wide receiver position. Kirk is a smooth route runner with good hands that can be a reliable target for QB Dak Prescott. Kirk consistently produced during his three years at A&M, catching 234 passes for nearly 3000 yards and 26 touchdowns. He may be a reach at 19, but the Cowboys have a need and Kirk can make an immediate impact as a returner on special teams.
20. Detroit Lions – DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst is a three-technique that can keep his pads low and drive with quickness off the snap to beat interior lineman don’t get off the ball quickly. He lacks elite strength and can be handled by more aggressive and physical lineman, but has good hands and can separate and get at the quarterback. He will fit well in a 4-3, but won’t likely translate as a 3-4 end. Detroit needs a defensive tackle with his skill set, and I think there’s an opportunity for him to be on the board when the Lions are on the clock.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo Bills) – OL Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
Cincinnati needs help in the trenches and Frank Ragnow is a technically sound lineman who started for three years with the Razorbacks. He only put up 26 reps at the combine, but he plays with physicality on tape and as a team captain has leadership qualities that you look for out of a center.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs) – OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
Wynn played Tackle and Guard at Georgia, but his height and body type project him to be an interior lineman, which may be a better match for his skill set. Buffalo lost C Eric Wood and OG Richie Incognito in the offseason, and need to replenish the interior of their offensive line. Wynn is an athletic and strong lineman with good footwork that should be an immediate starter. He could play tackle, but if he can fill out his frame, and develop his strength, he should move to guard or even in the NFL.
23. New England Patriots (from LA Rams) – LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
The Patriots relied on a linebacking corps of Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts during the 2017 season as star LB Dont’a Hightower once again found himself on the injured reserve list. Leighton Vander Esch is a talented linebacker that can drop into coverage and play inside against the run. At Boise State, he tallied 141 tackles and projects as a prototypical 4-3 linebacker.
24. Carolina Panthers – OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
With the departure of Kelvin Benjamin I could see the Panthers targeting a big receiver such as the Notre Dame product Equanimeous St. Brown or SMU’s Courtland Sutton, but between their aging defensive line and porous offensive line, Carolina needs to strengthen their trenches. Despite his struggles at the combine, Brown is a versatile and talented lineman that can start on day one for the Panthers.
25. Tennessee Titans – DL Vita Vea, Washington
Vea is the best true nose in the draft that can effectively two-gap and plugs against the run. He would be a perfect fit in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme if he falls this far and would provide DE Jurrell Casey with much-needed help at the point of attack.
26. Atlanta Falcons – DL Marcus Davenport, UTSA
Davenport is a raw pass rusher that has the potential to be one of the steals of the draft. He dominated Conference USA competition and performed well at the Senior Bowl. Aside from his handwork needing to be coached up and refined, his tall 6-6 frame limits his ability to get low and drive, but he has the versatility to play at end or as a 3-4 linebacker.
27.New Orleans Saints – QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Lamar Jackson is a talented quarterback who performed well against college football’s toughest competition, but his makeup concerns some teams. Mobile quarterbacks open themselves up to more opportunities for contact and staying healthy is paramount in the NFL. His feet will provide intrigue for coaches and general managers that want a true playmaker at the quarterback position, but he will need to become a pass-first quarterback to succeed in the NFL. Fortunately, Jackson has the arm talent to make that transition at the next level, and if he finds himself in the right opportunity where he isn’t forced to be the starter on day one where he can learn behind a veteran like Drew Brees, he will have a real chance to be a starting caliber quarterback in the NFL for a long time to come.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Star LB Ryan Shazier is on the road to recovery, but the odds are greatly stacked against him that he manages to get back on the field during the 2018 season in a meaningful way. Shazier was the Steelers best linebacker in coverage and one of the teams leading tacklers whose production cannot be replaced easily. Evans has the ability to play inside, drop into coverage, or move outside to rush the passer, and that versatility will likely make him an ideal target for a Pittsburgh team that needs help in their front seven.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
Sutton might be the second most talented Wideout in the draft. He has a good frame and attacks the ball at its highest point. The Jaguars lost WRs Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson to free agency and are needing to add another talented receiver to their corps. If Sutton slides to the bottom of the first round they could get a reliable big target that Bortles can rely on for a long time to come.
30. Minnesota Vikings – OL Billy Price, Ohio State
Price can only be described as a physical freak. He’s quick and strong with the ability to blow defenders off the ball without getting outside himself. Chances are that he will be available at the bottom of the first round due to an injury he sustained at the combine, but he should be ready for training camp, and Minnesota will need to upgrade their line to protect their $84 million dollar investment in Franchise Quarterback Kirk Cousins. The big knock on Price is that he is not as polished as some of the other interior lineman and has personality concerns that have depreciated his stock and flagged him for some teams.
31. New England Patriots – DL Harrison Phillips, Stanford
The Patriots defense was ranked 29th in yards allowed per game, but 5th in total points allowed. It’s hard to imagine another year where the defense gives up the similar yardage not resulting in more total points. Strengthening the defense has to be a priority. Alan Branch barely saw the field during the Patriots playoff run, indicating that the team may be ready to move on from the veteran defensive tackle. Phillips fits the profile of a Bill Belichick player. He’s an Academic All-American that performed well off and on the field for the Stanford Cardinals, leading the team in tackles as an interior lineman. He performed well in the pass rush, tallying 7.5 sacks and forcing two fumbles. He earned honors as a first-team all-conference player and AP third-team All-American. He would be a perfect compliment to Nose Tackle Malcolm Brown as a three-technique in the Patriots system. Alternatively, USC’s RB Ronald Jones may be a good selection for New England at the bottom of the first round to replace departing RB Dion Lewis.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Alexander recently visited with the Eagles and reports are that the team is high on him as a target for the bottom of the first round. The Super Bowl Champion Eagles are in need of a well-rounded corner that can play physical and cover in the slot, and Alexander has the makeup that they are looking for.
Top 5 Players Available:
- DT Da’ron Payne, Alabama
- CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
- C James Daniels, Iowa
- LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
- OL Connor Williams, Texas