Tomorrow night is the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. It is a night that will no doubt be filled with unpredictability. I am going to provide you with a two-part mock draft based on team needs. It is also a mock of who teams should take, not necessarily who they will take for one reason or another.
1. Cleveland Brown: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The Browns need a franchise quarterback but after months and months of analysis a favorite has not emerged in their mind. So why not just take the best player in the whole draft and take a QB at 4? The Cowboys and Jaguars have transformed into dominating power running teams because of the young running backs they drafted in the first round, Ezekiel Elliot and Leonard Fournette. Coming out of college Barkley is better, and more complete than both of those backs. Don’t overthink this Cleveland.
2. New York Giants: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Eli Manning is on the tail end of his career, and the Giants would be smart to draft an heir. Rosen is the most NFL-ready of any of the QB’s in this draft. He played in a pro-style offense at UCLA and is the best “passer” in the draft, meaning he is the most accurate, has the best footwork, and can make all of the throws. Draft him and let him sit similar to Aaron Rodgers. Otherwise, Davis Webb is your QB of the future. Let that sink in.
3. New York Jets: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Teams do not trade up into the top 3 in order to draft any position but a QB. Mayfield has had some issues on and off the field, but none pertain to his talent and performance as a football player. He put together the most efficient passing season in college football history and is another guy who can make every throw required of him. He has always played with a chip on his shoulder and being passed over for another QB in this draft will only make that chip larger. The Jets will finally have their franchise QB.
4. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Now this pick comes down to Darnold or Wyoming QB Josh Allen. Darnold is the safer of the two and for franchise that has swung and missed so many times, safe sounds great. Darnold threw a ton of interceptions while at USC, but he is athletic in the pocket which enables him to extend plays, and he will be surrounded by weapon after weapon to make his life easier. Lets not forget; he will have Saquon Barkely in the backfield in this mock, thats a pretty athletic and dependable safety valve. This is all presuming he beats out Tyrod Taylor for the starting job. If he doesn’t, he will get an extra year to develop. A generational talent at RB and a potential franchise QB. Not a bad first round for the Browns.
5. Denver Broncos: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Quenton Nelson is the best player in the draft behind Barkley. He is one of the best guard prospects in recent memory. The Broncos can not afford to get cute and pass on Nelson. They have not had much success running the ball in recent season and just invested considerable money into new QB Case Keenum. With one draft pick they can improve their running game and ensure protection for Keenum. Win, win.
6. Indianapolis Colts: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
The Colts wanted to take Chubb at #3, so trading down to #6 was a no-brainer. They also were able to get two 2nd round picks out of it. Talk about good business. Chubb is not the physical freak that edge rushers in previous drafts were. However, he was still dominant in college and is arguably the best defensive player in the draft.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: S/CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The Bucs are under pressure to make it to the playoffs this year. To do so, they will need to address a pass defense that ranked dead last in the league last season. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the best fit here. He can play both cornerback and safety, so its like they are taking two players for the price of one. He was also the best player on the best defense in college football last year.
8. Chicago Bears: DE Marcus Davenport, Texas-San Antonio
Marcus Davenport has shot up draft boards since the combine and solidified himself as the 2nd best defensive end behind Chubb. That being said, the Bears do not have any pass rushers other than Leonard Floyd. Further, they play in a division with Kirk Cousins, Matt Stafford, and Aaron Rodgers; so putting pressure on those guys is paramount. Davenport has to be the pick.
9. San Francisco 49ers: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The offensive side of the ball is in good shape, and assuming Reuben Foster is cut, the Niners will need to take an inside linebacker. This is a toss-up between Smith and Virginia Tech LB Trumaine Edmunds. In this mock, the Niners are going with Smith. He is a sure tackler and adept at patrolling the middle of the field in coverage.
10. Oakland Raiders: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Raiders do not have anyone to play right tackle next season, and left tackle Donald Penn is 35. They need an offensive tackle, and McGlinchey is the best one in the draft. When Penn retires, McGlinchey will be protecting Derek Carr’s blindside for years to come.
11. Miami Dolphins: DT Vita Vea, Washington
The Dolphins have too much invested in Ryan Tannehill to select a QB. They cut Ndamukong Suh this offseason, leaving a gaping hole on the defensive line. For being enormous (6’4″ and 345 lbs), Vea is very athletic and will make a living in opposing backfields by knifing through slower offensive guards. Another no-brainer pick.
12. Buffalo Bills: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Buffalo can not enter the season with the Nathan Peterman, the owner of a 5 INT game in his NFL debut, as their starting QB. They will happily take whichever of the top 4 QBs falls, or they may even trade up. No QB has the arm talent of Josh Allen. They guy was throwing 70-yards with ease at the combine. He also has the most question marks on the field. He was highly inaccurate at Wyoming, did not put up eye-popping numbers, and did not win that many games as a starter. Their is too much potential for the Bills to pass on Allen if he slips to them.
13. Washington Redskins: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Washington allowed 134.1 rushing yards per game last season. That was the most per game in the NFL. Da’Ron Payne is a run-stuffing nose tackle that would immediately help them improve in that area. With Vea already being off the board, Payne should be the pick.
14. Green Bay Packers: S Derwin James, Florida State
Some may want the Packers to take a wideout here with the departure of Jordy Nelson. But with a QB as good as Rodgers, who can make mediocre receivers good, they need to address other positional needs. The Pack will go with Derwin James to replace the departed Morgan Burnett. James will add some playmaking to a secondary that is in desperate need of it.
15. Arizona Cardinals: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Lamar Jackson being drafted in the first round is gaining steam. He has the arm strength to make all the throws and elite speed to extend plays. His biggest issue is inaccuracy, similar to Josh Allen. If he is able to sit behind Bradford for a year and develop, he could be a franchise-changer for the Cardinals.
16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Dez Bryant recently turned down a multiyear offer from the Ravens. So a receiver is in play here, and Calvin Ridley is the selection. He is a downfield threat and a good route-runner, i.e. a perfect fit for the rocket-armed Joe Flacco.
To be continued tomorrow pre-draft…
Photo Credit: NFL