No preamble necessary for my latest mock draft. Let’s get right into things, which are going to get crazy as teams move around the board in order to snatch their quarterback of the future in the 2018 NFL Draft.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC. A recent NFL Network poll revealed that 17 of 24 GMs asked the question consider Darnold the top quarterback in this class. Sure, the Browns might be one of the two teams that picked Josh Allen. But for now, with public opinion seemingly split on who the Browns will actually take, it feels safer to play the odds — especially since I’ve had Darnold in this spot throughout the process.
2. Denver Broncos (via mock trade from NYG)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA. With Darnold off the board, the Giants elect to trade down. But it’s not the Bills moving up to No. 2; it’s the Broncos, who decide they don’t want three teams taking a passer before they do. John Elway moves up and gets his QB of the future.
3. New York Jets (from IND)
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma. The Jets stick at No. 3 and get Mayfield, who has the best overall tape of any quarterback in the class but gets dinged for being short and daring to have a personality that isn’t incredibly boring. Something tells me the New York tabloids will love this guy.
4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU)
5. New York Giants (via mock trade from DEN)
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame. The Giants move down three spots, picking up the No. 40 and 106 picks in the process. They also get the player they probably would have taken at No. 2 in the first place, solidifying the weakest area of their team with a dominant offensive lineman.
6. Indianapolis Colts (from NYJ)
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State. The Chubb pipe dream ended when the Browns snatched him up at No. 4 but the Colts will happily settle for giving Andrew Luck (if healthy … please be healthy) an elite partner in the backfield for the first time in his career. Worst-case scenario, Barkley serves as the foundation of a Luck-less offense.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Derwin James, S, Florida State. The Buccaneers had a dreadful pass defense last season, and James can be a nice salve for the back end. He makes plays all over the field and he tested out as a high-level athlete at the combine. If Nelson is off the board, as he is here, James would be the best selection for Tampa.
8. Buffalo Bills (via mock trade from CHI)
9. San Francisco 49ers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama. Our editor R.J. White said it best when assigning the Niners this same pick in his : “The 49ers still need help in the secondary after adding Richard Sherman, who is coming off a major injury himself. Enter Fitzpatrick, who could slide in at slot corner with Sherman and Ahkello Witherspoon on the boundaries, or at free safety if San Francisco decides it wants to move Jimmie Ward to corner. Either way, the Alabama product is a talent you want on your defense.”
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia. Jon Gruden has professed a desire to bring football back to 1998. Drafting a linebacker this high would certainly help accomplish that goal, but Smith is the kind of player that might actually be worth it.
11. Miami Dolphins
12. Chicago Bears (from CIN, via mock trade from BUF)
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech. The Bears get picks No. 12 and 22 from the Bills in exchange for No. 8 and 39, and they get the player their defense needs anyway. Edmunds can play all over, and fits right in with the young core of players Chicago has on defense.
13. Washington Redskins
Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama. Washington would probably prefer Vea, who is a slightly better run defender, but Payne will do in a pinch.
14. Green Bay Packers
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State. Ward helps the Packers remake their defensive backfield. He can step right in and play on the boundary right away with his athleticism and physicality; and he should be a long-term answer, unlike some of the recent defensive back draft picks Green Bay has made.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville. Arizona resists the urge to move up the board and still gets an intriguing quarterback prospect. It will take a creative offensive mind to unlock Jackson’s full potential, but if somebody taps into it, he could have a higher upside than any other QB in the draft.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama. The Ravens did sign Michael Crabtree and John Brown this offseason, but their receiver room could use an injection of talent that will last beyond the next couple years and is reliable enough to stay on the field. Ridley didn’t test well at the combine but he has excellent movement skills and great hands. In the right scheme, he should be able to get open very easily.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. The Chargers already have a ton of talent and athleticism on defense, and Vander Esch would fit right in. Imagining him on the same defense as Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa, and one of the best secondaries in the AFC almost seems unfair.
18. Seattle Seahawks
19. Dallas Cowboys
D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Yes, the Cowboys have a crowded wide receiver room after signing Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson. Yes, they still have Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley and Ryan Switzer. But they don’t have an athletic playmaker like Moore, who should be able to help them beyond whenever the tenures of Bryant, Williams, and Beasley end, which could be sooner than we think. He can create those wide throwing windows Dak Prescott needs to recapture his rookie year success.
20. Detroit Lions
Marcus Davenport, DL, UTSA. The Lions need someone to help Ezekiel Ansah rush the passer. Davenport has a twitchy motor and is the kind of high-upside player they can mold into a long-term partner for Ansah on the defensive front.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from BUF)
James Daniels, G/C, Iowa. The Bengals took a step toward addressing their offensive line woes by acquiring left tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills and moving down to this pick. They can get help on the interior of the line by nabbing Daniels here.
22. Chicago Bears (from KC via mock trade from BUF)
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia. The Bears make out really well in their deal with the Bills, picking up a versatile defender and some help on the interior of their offensive line. Mitchell Trubisky will appreciate having Wynn on the line in front of him.
23. New England Patriots (from LAR)
24. Carolina Panthers
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU. The Panthers have some intriguing offensive pieces but they still need a reliable speed threat on the outside. Torrey Smith might be able to help some, but he’s not a long-term piece and whatever upside he once had is no longer as intriguing. Sutton has a great frame and top-notch athleticism, and would make for a nice fit alongside Devin Funchess, Christian McCaffrey, and Curtis Samuel in the Panthers’ passing game.
25. Tennessee Titans
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College. The Titans have made some nice upgrades on defense this offseason, including adding a cornerback in Malcolm Butler. Adding a pass-rusher will further upgrade their pass defense. Landry had elite production and athletic traits at BC, even while struggling with injuries last season.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida. The Falcons love nothing more than taking plus athletes on defense in the first round. Bryan fits that mold nicely, and would also be a fantastically helpful player for the current iteration of their defense.
27. Cleveland Browns (via mock trade from NO)
Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan. The Saints move out of the first round here, picking up extra selections from the Browns, who come away as big winners of the first round. A defensive line with Garrett, Chubb, and Hurst on it would immediately be unfair.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama. Pittsburgh is going to miss Ryan Shazier this season, and possibly beyond. Evans can help them in both the short and long-term, whether Shazier ever returns to the field or not.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M. After losing Allen Robinson and Hurns this offseason, the Jags need to get Marqise Lee some help. Kirk landing in the first round is somewhat of a surprise but he has the talent to be the best receiver in the class if everything works out for him.
30. Minnesota Vikings
31. New England Patriots
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville. The Pats lost Malcolm Butler this offseason and even though pass rusher might be a bigger “need,” they’ve never really operated with the idea that they need a dominant edge guy. Instead, they shore up the back end of the defense by taking a corner that fits all their criteria.