2018 N.F.L. Mock Draft: Predicting where the top football prospects will end up when the first round of the real N.F.L. draft begins takes place on April 26 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
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Pick 1: Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, U.S.C.: After all the free agent moves the Browns have made this off season, it really comes down to which quarterback they want. They pick Darnold and finally the Browns have the luxury of having a starting quarterback and a quarterback in waiting.
Pick 2: New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: The Giants finally give this offense a playmaker in the backfield to take the pressure off the passing game. Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. would pair up to headline a very dangerous offense. He’s exactly what this offense needs to squeeze into Eli Manning’s ever closing Super Bowl window.
Pick 3: New York Jets (via Colts)
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: They added Teddy Bridgewater and brought back Josh McCown, and let’s not forget they have permanent prospects Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster already, but adding Rosen is the right move here. He’s going to be the face of New York if he can stay healthy and get this offense clicking.
Picks 4: Buffalo Bills (via Browns, via Texans*)
*TRADE: I think the Bills move up here and they give their 12/22 pick this year to climb the ladder and grab their quarterback.
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: Allen has an arm powerful enough to cut through even the nastiest ice storm in western New York. He’s got ideal size, elite arm talent and above average mobility. The Bills have to sure up his accuracy and his anticipation needs work as well, as he to often waits to the last second to make a decision and relies on his superior arm talent to bail him out. This is another E.J. Manuel-type swing for the Bills, but Coach Sean McDermott and the new Bills staff will look to develop its new quarterback into a player that can lead their team back into contention.
Pick 5: Denver Broncos
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State: The Broncos pass on a quarterback to add a QB’s worst nightmare instead. Adding Chubb gives the Broncos a pass rush threat they haven’t had since DeMarcus Ware was coming off the edge. Chubb and Von Miller take this defense to the next level and after adding Case Keenum, this team looks like its trending back up in a very competitive AFC West.
Pick 6: Indianapolis Colts (via Jets)
Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame: For me, if I’m Chris Ballard, the most important thing is protecting Andrew Luck. We all saw what the offense becomes when they don’t have him, so priority No. 1 should be preventing any further absences, especially considering the Colts as a roster have so many holes to fill. With Nelson, you get the best player available as well and give Luck a Jeff Saturday-type of body guard that this offense will love.
Pick 7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama: The Buccaneers secondary gets a upgrade with this “utility knife” safety. Fitzpatrick is a fast, aggressive, versatile, ball-hawking defensive back that can cover the slot, play center field, and is an extremely aggressive blitzer. He plays the nickel linebacker role like he was built in Madden. The Buccs need to increase their pass rush, but Fitzpatrick is a special player and will be a weapon on this defense to pair with Gerald Mccoy and Lavonte David.
Pick 8: Chicago Bears
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech: The Bears add a imposing, big, fast and rangy linebacker to pair with Leonard Floyd. It’s unclear what position he will end up playing, but inside or outside he will be dominant. He needs to work on his pursuit as he too often relies on his physical talent and takes himself out of plays. Ultimately, this is a linebacker like the NFL hasn’t seen in a long time and it’s up to Vic Fangio to turn him into one we will never forget.
Pick 9: San Francisco 49ers
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama: The 49ers look to build around their new franchise quarterback and they get the best receiver in the draft with Ridley. He’s smooth route-runner reminiscent of Amari Cooper (coming out of Alabama as well). He creates separation on every route and if he can add some weight to his frame he’s got the talent to be special.
Pick 10: Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia: When you watch Smith play, the three words that come to mind for me are FAST, INSTINCTUAL and ANGRY. For some reason, I can already see him in Raiders gear patrolling sideline to sideline, snuffing out running backs attempting to win a foot race to the corner. Khalil Mack’s new running mate gives the Raiders a real three-down MLB that draws close comparisons to Deion Jones of the Atlanta Falcons. Covering in space is where Smith really sets himself apart as he keys in on screens very quickly and is fluid enough in the hips where he can cover even the most elusive backs. That being said, at a clip of 6’1”, 236 lbs, he’s more than capable of handling a tight end in coverage as well.
Pick 11: Arizona Cardinals (via Dolphins*)
*TRADE: The Cardinals climb the ladder to get their new franchise quarterback in waiting.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: With the Cardinals losing Carson Palmer and Coach Bruce Arians it’s time to get a young quarterback in here and start thinking about the future. Mayfield is gonna be in a QB-room with 14 years of experience and behind Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon. Mayfield will look to press for the starting role with his competitive fire and tenacity come training camp.
Pick 12: Cleveland Browns (via Bills, via Bengals*)
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: The Browns add a extremely athletic cornerback and he looks every bit as good as Lattimore. He plays very physical football for his size and you will not see him take a play off, no matter the circumstances. He will immediately upgrade this secondary and steps into a No. 1 corner role.
Pick 13: Washington Redskins
Vita Vea, DT, Washington: Vea’s size and speed combo and is rare and dynamic. He draws comparisons to Danny Shelton, the recent acquisition of the New England Patriots. Vea often won at the point of attack with his quick get-off and violent hands threw the line. He will need to develop more as a pass rusher, but Vea gives the ‘Skins a force in the middle of the field to stop the run in the NFC East.
Pick 14: Green Bay Packers
Derwin James, S, Florida State: This Packers defense needs a serious jolt of talent. It needs defensive line help as well, but James is the best defender on the board here and Green Bay gets a potential future All-Pro safety.
Pick 15: Miami Dolphins (via Cardinals*)
Da’ron Payne, DT, Alabama: The Dolphins released Ndamukong Suh, so there’s a glaring need, but the Dolphins also like to play in the wide-9 formation, which means the defensive tackles play in the “b” gap between the guard and the tackle. Defensive tackles that can shoot the gap and cause disruptions in the backfield and force the play to the outside to the awaiting defensive ends are what these types of defenses are based off of. It’s a role ideally suited for Payne, who should slot in as a 3-technique right away with Pro Bowl potential.
Pick 16: Baltimore Ravens
Mike Mcglinchey, OT, Notre Dame: He will need to add mass to succeed in the NF,L but he’s fundamentally sound with outstanding instincts for the position. The Ravens will slide him to the right side and match him with Ronnie Staley. That should help Joe Flacco sleep a little easier.
Pick 17: Los Angeles Chargers
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama: He has the ability to play sideline-to-sideline and is an extremely effective blitzer while being fast enough to cover running backs and tight ends. He gives this Chargers defense another threat that the offense will have to scheme fo. This is shaping up to be one of the best units in football.
Pick 18: Seattle Seahawks
Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn: A big, physical corner capable of smothering wideouts in press. He played against top talent in the SEC and he’s a instant starter, but needs more time develop in a system to reach his full potential and the ideal system is Pete Carroll’s.
Pick 19: Dallas Cowboys
Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP: The “Great Wall of Dallas” adds another brick. Hernandez is the most decorated offensive lineman in UTEP history. The biggest knock on him is that he has shorter-than-desired arms, but he makes up for it with a lunch-pal-guy mentality and his ability to move well in space for his size. He will fit right in and the Dallas line just keeps getting stronger.
Pick 20: Detroit Lions
Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA: New Coach Matt Patricia gets an extremely talented defensive end that will need to be cultivated some to realize how good he is. Pairing him with Ziggy Ansah should do wonders for him as a player. Davenport had a great Senior Bowl but will still need to add some more weight to be successful in the league, as he too often relies on his speed and long levers to win.
Pick 21: Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills)
Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia: Wynn played center in college but will look to make the transition to guard in the NFL. He’s a very strong player but it’s his athleticism that sets him apart, as he plays with fluid feet and quick hips to fire out to the point of attack and is strong enough to anchor his frame in the dirt when attacked with power.
Pick 22: Cleveland Browns (via Chiefs)
Connor Williams, OT, Texas: With the departure of Joe Thomas, the Browns will look to Texas for their future at the blind side. They get a leader in locker room and a hard worker in the weight room. He’s not perfect and will need to develop to reach his potential.
Pick 23: Los Angeles Rams
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State: The Rams land a sideline-to-sideline level talent that excels in coverage and has real rush ability to succeed as a blitzer at the next level. He also has a history of stepping up in big games. He only has one year of starting experience, but the talent is undeniable. Wade Phillips will enjoy shaping him into Pro Bowler patrolling the middle of his defense.
Pick 24: Carolina Panthers
Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama: The Panthers get an imposing safety that’s physically gifted enough to hurt an offense in coverage, run support and blitzing. He’s a massive upgrade to a battered Panthers secondary which, hasn’t been imposing since Josh Norman left town.
Pick 25: Tennessee Titans
Rasheem Green, DE, USC: An athletic defensive end with fluid movements and a frame that needs to add weight to be successful, Green has loads of talent waiting to be harvested. Mike Vrabel and company could very well turn him into a impact starter in the league early.
Pick 26: Atlanta Falcons
Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: He’s a odd body type for the interior but that was said about Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins. But you know what all three of them have in common? They can just flat out play and that’s what this comes down to. Bryan may not fit in physically to any specific role on the d-line at 6’4”, 291 lbs, but he certainly has proven that he has the talent and ability to make plays.
Pick 27: New Orleans Saints
Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State: Meet Drew Brees’s new best friend. He’s not going to offer much in the running game, but he can absolutely shred linebackers with his athleticism and great hands. With receiving threats coming from all over the field, the Saints offense looks even more potent than last year’s.
Pick 28: Pittsburgh Steelers
Justin Reid, S, Stanford: The brother of Eric Reid is every bit as good as his sibling. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash and there isn’t much to knock on Reid’s game. He’s just a very sound player with extremely high potential.
Pick 29: Jacksonville Jaguars
Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: He has an absolutely massive frame with long arms that he uses to bull over weaker defenders. While he didn’t test well at the combine, he should be a complete road grader for the Jags and Fournette.
Pick 30: Minnesota Vikings
Donte Jackson, CB, LSU: He brings elite speed to the secondary and may be the fastest player in this draft class. Jackson has rare ability to break on the ball while in the air but will need better instincts to not swing and miss so much. Not to mention, he will have another great mentor in Terence Newman, the ageless wonder.
Pick 31: New England Patriots
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: With the departure of Malcolm Butler the Pats needed another DB. With Jackson they get a long, physical corner with elite ball-hawking skill. The biggest knock on him is he only has started 14 games, so his game hasn’t fully matured yet, but as history has shown there isn’t anyone better than the Patriots at developing guys just like this.
Pick 32: Philadelphia Eagles
DJ Moore, WR, Maryland: The Big Ten receiver of the year in 2017, Moore has a brilliant combo of size and speed that he best utilizes in the slot. For the Eagles, this is just another weapon to add to an offense that was already humming last year and the addition of Moore should only make it more deadly.