2018 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: March 23, 2018
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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2018 NFL Mock Draft
1. Cleveland Browns - Sam Darnold, QB, Southern Cal (6'3" 225) *
The prevailing thought at this point is that Darnold is the overwhelming favorite to be selected #1 overall by the Browns. Plans can change, but I don't see Cleveland budging from this spot.
2. New York Giants - Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, NC State (6'3" 275)
By trading DE Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay, the team took a short-term salary cap hit due to Pierre-Paul's signing bonus acceleration. But the hype on Chubb is strong, though I anticipate the Giants trading down from here with so much demand for high-end quarterbacks and new GM Dave Gettleman looking to reshape the team's roster.
3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts) - Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (6'4" 235) *
The Jets have veteran QB Josh McCown returning for 2018 and the team has signed former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. But I strongly suspect the Jets traded up from #6 to get a quarterback, and they could very well attempt to trade up one more spot with the Giants to ensure the Jets don't get leap-frogged by another QB-hungry team, such as Buffalo.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans) - Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St. (5'11" 225) *
Rule changes made for safety reasons over the past 15 or so years tilted the game heavily in favor of teams with two traits: strong passing offenses and strong passing defenses. NFL general managers have mostly figured this out, and there's a reason why less well-rounded pass rush specialists have been going ahead of big run-stuffing defensive linemen in one draft after another.
But the NFL is a copycat league, and it has become clear that even with passing attacks being so important, truly high-end running back prospects are still worthy of top consideration.
Todd Gurley (#10 overall in 2015) was the 2017 AP Offensive Player of the Year and has played a huge role in the Rams' turnaround. Ezekiel Elliott (#4 overall in 2016) led the NFL in rushing as a rookie in Dallas. Leonard Fournette (#4 overall in 2017) ran for more than 1,000 yards in the 2017 regular season, but it was his three rushing touchdowns in the playoffs in Pittsburgh that truly revealed his value.
It's easy to forget now, but the Jaguars led the Patriots in the fourth quarter of this past season's AFC Championship Game. Do you think that would have happened without Fournette being there? Highly unlikely.
So if you're Cleveland and you've landed your franchise quarterback at #1 in Sam Darnold, and you know the recent history of ultra high-end running backs in the NFL, and you believe Barkley has comparable talent, could you really pass up on Barkley if he's still available at this spot?
5. Denver Broncos - Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (6'1" 220)
The signing of former Vikings QB Case Keenum gave the Broncos a boost at quarterback, particularly for the short-term. But that won't necessarily preclude Denver from using this selection on a QB, particularly if the team likes Mayfield as much as many suspect.
This would also mean Denver passing up on UCLA QB Josh Rosen, which might be a complicating factor for John Elway and company.
6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets) - Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame (6'4" 330) *
It was a calculated risk by the Colts to move down three spots, and I could see them moving down again, perhaps with one of those QB-hungry teams that might find trading into the top five to be cost-prohibitive.
But if they stick at this spot, Nelson could be a great pickup for Indianapolis. Giving Andrew Luck time to throw is an obvious imperative for the Colts, and Nelson would provide considerable help to that end on the interior of the offensive line.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Derwin James, SS, Florida St. (6'3" 215) *
Tampa Bay, much like Indianapolis one pick above, could prove to be a good trading partner for a team needing a quarterback. Absent that, the Bucs should have an opportunity to upgrade its secondary. James has NFL-quality size and a knack for making plays all over the field with his sub 4.5 40-yard-dash speed.
Particularly if the Bucs are as interested in James as they appear to be at this point, he could end up being the first defensive back selected in the 2018 Draft.
8. Chicago Bears - Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St. (5'10" 190) *
Ward is a skilled ballhawk who has blazing speed, running a 4.32 40 at the NFL Combine. Along with his speed, Ward is a remarkable athlete with great instincts, and he should be able to contribute right away wherever he ends up going.
Even with the Bears matching the offer sheet that restricted free agent CB Kyle Fuller signed with the Packers, keeping him in Chicago, Ward would be a great addition in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and Kirk Cousins.
9. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, Texas-San Antonio (6'6" 265)
Davenport is an EDGE rusher with skyrocketing stock, including a performance at the Combine which compares favorably with Jadeveon Clowney. The 49ers showed some real promise down the stretch last season after acquiring Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo, and a talent like Davenport could help turn up the pressure from the defensive side.
10. Oakland Raiders - Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama (6'0" 190) *
Fitzpatrick is a versatile prospect who played a major role as part of Alabama's national championship defense in 2017. He played safety at Alabama, but depending on where he goes in the draft, he could be asked to play cornerback.
11. Miami Dolphins - Vita Vea, DT, Washington (6'4" 345) *
Vea's performance at the Combine was exceptional, with 41 reps of the 225-pound bench press and a remarkable 5.10 40-yard dash time. Miami parted ways with DT Ndamukong Suh this off-season, and Vea would be a great pickup at this spot for the Dolphins.
12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals) - Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (6'3" 220) *
If the Bills could ensure that they would get Rosen at #12, would they do it? I doubt we will find out, as the Bills seem likely to trade up from this spot. They managed to climb from #21 to #11 without giving up the #22 pick, giving them considerable latitude to make a move on draft night, if not sooner.
13. Washington Redskins - Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama (6'2" 310) *
At a glance, Payne looks like the type of player who might be overvalued by people like me going into the draft, a run-stuffer with limited production in the sack/tackle for loss department. But Payne is a unique player, described by nfl.com as "Built like a wall of granite with exceptional lean muscle mass." That is quite a description.
Payne is said to have considerably more talent as an interior pass rusher than he was allowed to show at Alabama, where he was asked to command double-teams and fill the middle from the 3-4 nose tackle position. Payne can help the Redskins immediately against the run, but ultimately it's the perception of his potential as an interior pass rusher that would help him to come off the board at this point.
14. Green Bay Packers - Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa (6'1" 185) *
There's a reason the Packers signed Bears restricted free agent CB Kyle Fuller to an offer sheet. But the Bears matched and Fuller will stay in Chicago, and the Packers will have to look elsewhere for help at cornerback.
Jackson has remarkable skill at ballhawking, as he demonstrated in his breakout 2017 season. A poor 40-yard-dash time (4.56) at the NFL Combine is a concern, but his instincts are on point and he should be one of the first few defensive backs off the board in this year's draft.
15. Arizona Cardinals - Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville (6'2" 200) *
Lamar Jackson is reportedly the second-rated QB on at least one NFL team's draft board. Something to keep in mind
Arizona lost QB Carson Palmer to retirement, but they countered that by signing free agent QB Sam Bradford to a two-year, $40 million deal. That gives the Cardinals the latitude to draft a quarterback now with an eye toward the future, a role that could be ideal for Jackson as he transitions toward running an NFL-style offense.
16. Baltimore Ravens - James Daniels, C/OG, Iowa (6'3" 295) *
The buzz on Daniels has been growing this off-season. A very intelligent player with the physical talent to match, Daniels might have worked his way into mid-first round consideration while going through the pre-draft gauntlet.
This article provides some interesting quotes about Daniels. His peers and coaches clearly think very highly of him, and Daniels has the versatility to fill multiple interior offensive line positions.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia (6'1" 235) *
A tackling machine with blistering speed, Smith is a talented athlete with exceptional speed for his size. He's adept at hunting down opponents with his quickness, but Smith also has great instincts, rarely finding himself out of position.
18. Seattle Seahawks - Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (5'11" 190) *
With the Seahawks facing the end of the Legion of Boom era, it now faces the challenge of finding new talent, particularly at defensive back as the team rebuilds its secondary.
Alexander made himself some money in Indianapolis when he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash. A sprained knee and a broken hand caused Alexander to miss some time last season, but there is no question that, when healthy, Alexander has the physical skill to warrant consideration as one of the top cornerback prospects in this draft.
19. Dallas Cowboys - Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama (6'1" 190) *
The Cowboys could use some help at wide receiver, and it's entirely possible that Dallas could stick at #19 and end up with their pick of the wideouts in this draft. Ridley has good speed and excellent separation ability, and while his output in college seemed inconsistent at times, that is in part because of the run-heavy offense that the Crimson Tide run.
20. Detroit Lions - Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (6'5" 290) *
While not as polished as other likely first-round picks, Bryan is loaded with talent and potential. Running a sub-5.0 40-yard-dash at the Combine helped Bryan's cause, though whichever team ends up with Bryan will need to utilize patience in how they work him into their plans for 2018 and beyond.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills) - Tremaine Edwards, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech (6'5" 255) *
One of the big winners coming out of the Combine was Edwards, who demonstrated great athleticism, including running a blistering 4.54 40-yard dash. He is not as polished as other top prospects, but there is the perception of tremendous upside/potential for Edwards in the NFL.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs) - Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama (6'2" 230)
This pick could easily end up being used as fodder for Buffalo to use to trade up for a quarterback. But, absent that, a dynamic talent like Evans would be a most-welcomed addition to a linebacker corps in the midst of a rebuilding.
23. Los Angeles Rams - Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College (6'2" 250)
Landry had an exceptional 2016 season for Boston College, recording 16.5 sacks for the Eagles. Injuries limited his production this past year, but he showed off his skills at the Combine and would seem to be a good fit for a team needing a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Particularly with the Rams having traded DE Robert Quinn to the Dolphins, there is a need on the roster for an elite 3-4 OLB EDGE rushing prospect.
24. Carolina Panthers - Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU (6'3" 220) *
Wide receiver is a major need for the Panthers, to be sure. Carolina shipped Kelvin Benjamin off to Buffalo last year, and that could put the team in position to target another tall receiver in the form of Sutton.
While Sutton lacks the high-end track speed that some other wide receiver prospects have, he has great size for the position and has demonstrated the toughness (both mental and physical) needed to compete in the NFL. And while this is a down year for top-flight WR prospects, Sutton is one of the best of the bunch in this year's wideout class.
25. Tennessee Titans - Isaiah Wynn, OG/C, Georgia (6'3" 315) *
Wynn is recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder, which he had surgically repaired following the Senior Bowl. But during his time in Athens, Wynn demonstrated his versatility, filling multiple offensive line spots as needed for the Bulldogs.
You could also sell me on the Titans going with a 3-4 OLB pass rusher here depending on who is still on the board at this spot. GM Jon Robinson has proven to be adept at wheeling and dealing mid-draft, and it actually would be a surprise if the Titans didn't trade up or down from this spot.
26. Atlanta Falcons - Connor Williams, OL, Texas (6'5" 320) *
Williams played tackle for the Longhorns, but he projects higher as an offensive guard, which would seem to make him a good fit for Atlanta's offensive line.
27. New Orleans Saints - Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn St. (6'5" 245)
There are inevitably going to be comparisons between Gesicki, a multi-sport standout at Penn State, and Jimmy Graham, a basketball player turned TE/WR hybrid superstar who had some incredible seasons with the Saints early in this decade. If Gesicki lands in New Orleans, those comparisons will only be amplified.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers - Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise St. (6'4" 255)
Vander Esch helped himself out with a strong showing at the Combine, building on a 2017 season where he was the Mountain West Conference Defensive Player of the Year. It has been quite the ascent for Vander Esch after his injury-plagued 2016 season, and he appears to have worked his way into first-round consideration.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars - Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M (5'11" 200) *
Kirk finished a solid run in College Station by breaking the Belk Bowl single-game receiving record with 13 receptions, and he has proven to be a consistent talent despite facing stout competition on a weekly basis. The Jaguars need help at wideout after losing the two Allens (Robinson and Hurns), and a gifted possession receiver like Kirk could be a great fit, particularly working out of the slot.
30. Minnesota Vikings - Billy Price, C/OG, Ohio St. (6'4" 315)
Price suffered a partially torn pec muscle while doing the 225 pound bench press at the NFL Combine. How much that affects where he goes in the draft remains to be seen, but he is probably the best pure center prospect in this year's group.
Alternately, the Vikings could opt to instead go for an offensive tackle (especially if as many of them slide as this mock projects) and kick OT Mike Remmers inside to play guard, similar to what he did last year when starting OG Nick Easton suffered a broken ankle.
31. New England Patriots - Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA (6'9" 310) *
Miller was one of the top surprises at the 2018 Combine, building on a strong 2017 season with an impressive showing in Indianapolis. That performance included posting a 10'1" long jump, which is a Combine record for offensive linemen.
There is improvement needed in Miller's game, particularly when it comes to run-blocking. But he is rock solid on pass protection, and as I have noted frequently, players with special ability to help a team's pass attack or pass defense are more valuable now than ever before in the NFL.
32. Philadelphia Eagles - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6'7" 310)
This feels like a huge steal for the Eagles, a top-flight offensive tackle prospect falling all the way to the end of the first round. McGlinchey was a likely 2017 first-round pick who opted to return to South Bend for his senior season at Notre Dame.
* indicates player who had/has NCAA eligibility for 2018