2018 NFL Mock Draft
Last Updated: April 25, 2018 (10:36 p.m. CDT)
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 favorite to be selected #1 overall by the Browns, and Darnold remains the favorite on internet prop bet listings. Plans can change, but I don't see Cleveland budging from this spot, though GM John Dorsey has worked very hard to avoid tipping off the team's plans.
2. New York Giants - 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.
3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts) - Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma (6'1" 220)
The Jets have veteran QB Josh McCown returning for 2018 and the team has signed former Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. But it's believed they traded up to take a quarterback, with Mayfield hoping to hold off Josh Rosen for the spot if you believe the late rumors.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans) - Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, NC State (6'3" 275)
Cleveland has been shopping this pick around per multiple reports. But if they don't receive a satisfactory offer, adding the near-consensus top defensive edge rusher for a second consecutive year would be an enticing way to go.
5. Denver Broncos - Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming (6'4" 235) *
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, though I strongly question whether Allen will actually still be on the board at this point after the inevitable trade(s) likely to happen before the fifth selection.
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.
Nelson is one of the top offensive guard prospects to come along in some time, and it's entirely possible he won't be on the board at this point. But if he slides, he would be a most-welcomed addition to the Colts offensive line.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St. (5'10" 190) *
Tampa Bay, much like Indianapolis one pick above, could prove to be a good trading partner for a team needing a quarterback. But with demand for QBs likely to fuel trades above this position, it means some high-level non-QBs will inevitably drop.
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. It's also possible that the Bucs could go with Derwin James or Minkah Fitzpatrick here, but never underestimate the value of pure high-end speed in the evaluation process, particularly among defensive backs.
8. Chicago Bears - 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.
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 - 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.
11. Miami Dolphins - Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA (6'3" 220) *
It has been suggested that Miami could be a stopper for Rosen if he slides. The Dolphins might have to trade up to get him with division rival Buffalo looming just below, which would make for some interesting draft night maneuvering.
12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals) - 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.
Buffalo is expected to make every effort to trade up on draft night, but absent that they might be able to stick at this spot and still manage to land Jackson.
13. Washington Redskins - 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, Fitzpatrick could be asked to play cornerback in the NFL.
Much like the Dolphins with Rosen, the Redskins are rumored to be a stopper for Fitzpatrick if he falls out of the top 12.
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 - 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. Vea would represent a considerable upgrade for Arizona's defensive front.
16. Baltimore Ravens - Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas (6'5" 310)
This draft has more interior offensive line talent than your typical class offers, and Ragnow would fit a need for the Ravens. In past years when there has been late buzz on interior offensive linemen, it typically is on point. This might be higher than you would expect for Ragnow, but he has the stats you would want for using a mid-first round selection on a center.
17. Los Angeles Chargers - Derwin James, SS, Florida St. (6'3" 215) *
It's entirely possible that James will be off the board to Tampa Bay at pick #7, but it's also possible James still around at #17; this represents the low end of the line for James as a potential draft-day slide. James is a tremendous player, but as a large strong safety he won't be the kind of fit with some teams that other top defensive back prospects appear to be.
If this happens for the Chargers, it could prove to be the biggest steal of round one.
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 - D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland (6'0" 210) *
This isn't the strongest wide receiver groups to come along, but the position is clearly a need for the Cowboys. And, particularly if there is a run on defensive backs before Dallas goes on the clock, the opportunity to choose their favorite from the entire group of wideouts could prove to be a tempting one for the Cowboys.
SMU WR Courtland Sutton might get a better crowd pop at the draft with the hometown connection, but the Cowboys could really use a polished wide receiver with the capacity to produce right away. And it's safe to say that Moore, the 2017 Big Ten Receiver of the Year, has the skill-set to help out immediately in Dallas.
20. Detroit Lions - 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 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.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills) - 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.
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. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams) - Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame (6'7" 310)
McGlinchey was a likely 2017 first-round pick who opted to return to South Bend for his senior season at Notre Dame. It's unusual for the Patriots to have two first-round selections, particularly with the team opting to trade down so often. But they traded up for a reason, and McGlinchey would be a sold addition to New England's offensive line.
24. Carolina Panthers - Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida (5'10" 190) *
A key cog in Central Florida's undefeated 2017 season (and I hope UCF keeps sounding that horn until the FBS mini-playoff is finally expanded), Hughes' route to the NFL has not been easy. Described as explosive and tough, Hughes is a skilled press cover cornerback. He is below prototype in size, but Hughes also has kick return skills, and more importantly he has the capacity to produce right away for whichever team drafts him.
25. Tennessee Titans - 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 revealed he still has the form that helped him to be so successful two seasons ago. In addition, Landry looks to be a much better fit for a 3-4 defense compared with a 4-3, which in theory would make him a good fit with the Titans.
26. Atlanta Falcons - Taven Bryan, DT, Florida (6'5" 290) *
Interior offensive line would seem to be an area of interest for the Falcons, particularly in a draft so strong at OG/C, but the opportunity to add Bryan to beef up its defensive line might prove to be too tempting to pass up. What sets Bryan apart from other defensive tackle prospects is his remarkable athleticism and ability to provide interior defensive line pressure. With a strong motor and a perceived high ceiling, Bryan could develop into a dominant pro.
27. New Orleans Saints - Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina (6'5" 250)
Tight end is a major need for the Saints, and it might be a nice surprise for the team if there aren't any tight ends selection in the first 26 spots. Hurst turns 25 in August, and the former baseball standout turned into a star at tight end for the Gamecocks over the past two seasons. Hurst being paired with Drew Brees could create some serious matchup problems for opposing defenses.
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 - Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama (6'1" 190) *
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. The Jaguars could really use a top-flight wideout, and Ridley could prove to be quite helpful to that end.
30. Minnesota Vikings - Will Hernandez, OG, Texas-El Paso (6'2" 325)
Hernandez built on a consistently strong career at UTEP with a solid showing both in Mobile on the week of the Senior Bowl and in Indianapolis at the Combine. Hernandez is an outstanding pass blocker with remarkable upper-body strength, but he is also well-rounded enough to be productive in opening holes for the running game as well.
31. New England Patriots - Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado (6'0" 200) *
Oliver broke out as a star cornerback in 2017 for Colorado, and his 13 pass break-ups to go with a pair of interceptions were noteworthy. Oliver has above-average size for the position, particularly with his long arms (33.5 inches), and his press coverage skill level is high.
32. Philadelphia Eagles - Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA (6'9" 310) *
There are some who believe Miller will be long gone by this spot, but in the event that he slides Miller could end up being a nice surprise for the Eagles at the end of round one. The fact that Miller might benefit from initially playing in a reserve role would seem to make him a good fit for the Eagles, and his perceived high upside provides intriguing potential for the long-term.
* indicates player who had NCAA eligibility for 2018