It is hard to believe that the 2018 NFL draft is already upon us. Seems like I just finished watching the Eagles and their dirt bag fans win their first Superbowl. At the publishing of this article there are still some questions to be answered. Are Brady and Gronk playing for the Patriots in 2018? Where will veteran Wide Receivers such as Brandon Marshall and Dez Bryant end up? What happens with the slew of F.A. Running Backs? Plus a few other loose ends that could play a big role on what teams decide to do, but here we go, my final mock.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold - QB - USC
Originally I had the Browns taking running back Saquon Barkley as I thought he was the best player in the draft. I still think that, but the Browns have to make a decisive decision here and get their guy.
There have been a lot of talks about Josh Allen and his big arm, but I think Dorsey and his team made their decision a long time ago. Darnold regressed slightly last year at USC, but he still is the best overall Quarterback. If he is able to fix the dip in his throwing motion. the Browns will have drafted a perennial Pro Bowl QB.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley - RB - PSU
For the first time since Reggie Bush in 2006, a Running Back is going to go number 2 overall. A pick that I have been trying to avoid all off-season. Not that I don't think he would be a good fit in New York. I just see a better fit at 2 for both player and franchise.
There are three to four teams who are going to be looking to trade up and grab a Quarterback at this spot. Which is what I want to do, but just can't. I think that the Giants higher ups see this as an all or nothing season. They still have a lot of holes to fill but adding Saquon and MAYBE Dez to OBJ and Evan Engram is something that will be impossible to pass.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen - QB - UCLA
Josh Rosen is the most complete and pro ready Quarterback in this draft. He has been overshadowed by Josh Allen and his big arm a bit, but that doesn't change how talented he is.
The Jets need the more sound and stable Quarterback in their organization. Not another project. They drafted Christian Hackenberg at 51 overall in 2016 and he has yet to see the field in the regular season. The Jets pass on the "sexy" pick and go with someone who has the talent to turn the Jets franchise around.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb - DE - NC State
For the second year in a row the Cleveland Browns will get the best Edge Rusher in the draft class. Pairing Chubb with 2017 overall number 1 pick Myles Garrett. Creating one of the scariest duo's in all of football
Cleveland is benefiting BIG from not only this years monster QB class, but also how many teams need a Quarterback. That paired with everyone's favorite martyr, Sashi Brown, setting them up with picks 1 and 4. This is the new age of the Browns. Filled in a division with aging QB's, the Browns are going to be contenders. Get used to it.
5. Buffalo Bills (via the Denver Broncos):
Josh Allen - QB - Wyoming
The Bills are going to be desperate. Picks 12, 22, and 53(2nd round) are all going to the Broncos for pick 5. All so the Bills can get their franchise guy. I love this fit for both play and organization.
Allen pushed his stock through the roof with his Pro Day. His big arm, large frame, and history of playing in the cold are all attractive to the Bills. I haven't been the biggest Allen supporter in the past due to his sub 60% completion percentage, but in Buffalo he will be given time to grow. I mean he can't be worse than Nate Peterman.......right?
6. Indianapolis Colts: Denzel Ward - CB - Ohio State
Denzel Ward is the consensus number 1 Cornerback in the 2018 draft. While others have improved their stock this off-season, Ward is still "the guy" to get. The Colts may have to reach a little regardless of what they do. They may as well do it at a premium position.
I think pairing him with former teammate and Colts first round pick last year, Malik Hooker, will do wonders. He is THE BEST slot corner in this draft class, why not take him? Big spot of need and the Edge Rushers and Linebackers at this spot are more of a reach. Only other option is to trade back, which wouldn't be terrible. Just don't expect Wards, Edmunds, and Smith's of the word to be there.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick - CB/S - Alabama
The Buccaneers have an atrocious secondary right now. Corner Vernon Hargreaves hasn't panned out and the best Cornerback is 34 year old Brent Grimes. They also have a pair of nearly 30 year old Safeties who are average at best.
Minkah's versatility is the main reason the Bucs will take him at 7. He can fill holes at Safety, along with playing a major role at the Cornerback position. He is the perfect piece for a secondary that needs to be completely rebuilt. That won't happen quickly. Adding Minkah gives the Bucs a better chance to win now and in the future.
8. Miami Dolphins (via the Chicago Bears): Baker Mayfield - QB - Oklahoma
If we know anything about Ryan Pace, it's that he likes being active on draft day. Normally moving up, but not this year. Bears trade pick 8 for picks 11, 73(3rd round), and 123(4th round). Dolphins essentially only lose a 3rd round pick since they have another 4th and the Bears fill the 3rd rounder they lost for Trubisky last year. All so the Dolphins can jump up 3 spots and get the guy they have been in love with from the start.
Why would the Dolphins do it? There are no teams looking for a QB in front of them. Well the Bears being active and teams like Arizona, Baltimore, and division rival Patriots all potentially moving up is the reason. Minimal cost to get "your guy" is the name of the game and this is ideal for both teams.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds - LB - Virginia Tech
San Francisco GM John Lynch will be salivating at the idea of adding Edmunds. A big, athletic Linebacker who will only be 19 years old when the 2018 season starts. A mold of clay that Lynch can build into the anchor of the defense.
My guess would be Reuben Foster doesn't play in 2018. That's speculation, but he needs a replacement if it's true. Roquan Smith is the better true Inside Linebacker, but Edmunds will be better at getting after the Quarterback Something San Francisco will also need help with as an Edge Rusher is a big need as well. Edmunds has the talent to be the steal of the 2018 Draft.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith - LB - Georgia
Smith had a fantastic year for the Georgia Bulldogs capped off by a fantastic National Championship game. His speed sideline to sideline is unreal and he has the ability to drop back into coverage. His position is the only reason he lasted this long.
The Raiders add Smith and their defense is immediately better. They need Cornerbacks as well, but none have the impact Smith would. Smith would make the D-Line and the DB's around him better with his abilities. If he is able to add some size without losing his speed, he may be on of the best true Linebackers in football before we know it.
11. Chicago Bears (via trade with Dolphins): Quenton Nelson - G - Notre Dame
This is obviously a best case scenario for the Bears that will get me crucified and labeled a homer, but it works. San Francisco is looking defense at 9 and Oakland needs a Right Tackle, but Nelson wouldn't fill that role. No one is moving up to draft a Guard.
I am still not the biggest fan of the Bears drafting a Guard this high, but Nelson's talents are undeniable. He is a physical freak with a choir boy attitude of the field and an absolute killer on the field. Please see Nelson vs LSU in the Citrus Bowl for an example. There is risk with this position in this spot, but a fellow Notre Dame alum who played Guard was drafted at 16 in 2014. His name is Zack Martin and he has only played every game since being drafted and made the Pro Bowl every year.
12. Denver Broncos (via trade with Bills): Derrius Guice - RB - LSU
A majority of "experts" out there believe that the Broncos have to go Quarterback this year. I don't think so. I know the Broncos have the worst GM in football, John Elway, but I think he plays it smart and gives 2016 1st round draft pick Paxton Lynch a real shot. He has only started 4 games in 2 seasons.
The Broncos cut stud, injury prone, Running Back C.J. Anderson on April 16th and Guice is the best Running Back available behind Barkley. I haven't been the biggest Guice supporter, but if the Broncos plan on giving Lynch a real shot they should give him a real running game. Devontae Booker has caught over 60 balls over 2 seasons with the Broncos. Pairing him with Guice as a 1-2 punch could be exactly what the Broncos need.
13. Washington Redskins: Joshua Jackson - CB - Iowa
I wouldn't be surprised if the Redskins decide to draft a Quarterback, but not this early. Their biggest need is Cornerback. They need to get a compliment to Josh Norman. The NFC East is filled with great Wide Receivers and Quarterbacks.
I told you earlier Denzel Ward was the clear cut number 1 Cornerback and that is true. In my opinion Josh Jackson is the clear number 2. He has the size and speed to keep up with the games best and the skillset to get turnovers ( 8 in 2017). Needs to get off the ball better at times, but pairing him with Norman is an idea the Redskins CAN'T pass on.
14. Green Bay Packers: Derwin James - S - Florida State
James is rumored to go in the top 10 and he very well could. I spoke earlier about why I think the Buccaneers should take Minkah over James. If they do James could fall a bit. Similar to Malik Hooker who fell to the Colts at 15 last year.
A 3 year starter at Florida State James was probably the best pure Safety in college football last year. He is very physical for the position and will make Quarterbacks lives very difficult alongside Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. His numbers don't "POP" when looking on paper, but if you watch his tape there is no doubt he is fantastic talent. If he was still there at 14 the Green Bay Packers would get a steal, despite the fact Cornerback is a bigger need.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson - QB - Louisville
I feel dirty putting Lamar Jackson in the first round of the NFL Draft. He video game athletic and arm strength that pushes the Josh Allen cannon. WIth that said I don't see him translating well to the NFL. He is going to benefit from Deshaun Watson's success in 2017.
Jackson won the Heisman in 2016 and was a nominee last year. Over 7,000 yards and 57 TD's over the last two seasons. It's hard to argue with those stats, but can it translate to the NFL. Size and completion percentage say no. I guess the Arizona Cardinals will find out. Giving him a chance to start a career with Larry FItzgerald for a year or two and Running Back David Johnson is a great start and opportunity to see what he is made of.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley - WR - Alabama
I think this pick is penciled in on pretty much every mock draft out there. It just makes too much sense. Even if the Ravens decide to try and bring in a Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall. They only have so many years left with Joe Flacco. They need to surround him with weapons to succeed.
If you want to geek out on some Wide Receiver tape go watch Calvin Ridley's route running. Do you remember the first time you saw the ocean or heard The Beatles? This will be a very similar experience. WIth all of the physicality in the division adding someone with Ridley's finesse and natural ability is a no brainer.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Vita Vea - DT - Washington
Another guy who very easily could be drafted 6 to 10 spots earlier on Thursday. If he were to fall to the Chargers they would have a good argument for being the best D-Line in the AFC. Ingram, Bosa, and Vita..... O MY!
VIta Vea is a monster in the middle. Watch his tape and you can watch him get off a double team with ease and stop a Running Back with 1 arm. The 1 arm tackling probably won't translate to the NFL, but his rush defense and the attention he will require in the middle will make a dramatic impact.
18. Seattle Seahawks: MIke McGlinchey - OT - Notre Dame
What is the definition of insanity again? I believe the kids now just say Seahawks as slang. The Seahawks have taken advantage of Russell Wilson and it's time they pay him back for his services. I don't care what lineman. Don't trade back. Pick a damn lineman.
The choices are McGlinchey, Orlando Brown, Connor Williams, or Isaiah Wynn. McGlinchey could be a bonafide Left Tackle in the league, but will get a chance to play Right Tackle and learn from veteran Duane Brown. McGlinchey has gone up against top talent throughout his career and is great value for the Seahawks at number 18. O ... wait... 1 more time. PICK A DAMN LINEMAN!
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton - WR - SMU
Courtland Sutton was extremely high on a lot of mocks going into the off-season. Hell, I had him going to the Bears at 8. Since then. Nothing. Not in a bad way. Not in a good way. Just nothing. Had a good combine but his stock has just sat.
All off-season I have thought only one Wide Receiver would be drafted this year. Then the Cowboys decided to cut Dez. Not just cut Dez, but cut him without even asking him to take less money. That leads me to believe they have someone in mind. Enter Courtland Sutton. A big bodied Wide Receiver who has great hands and the ability to physically beat NFL Cornerbacks.
20. Detroit Lions: Jaire Alexander - CB - Louisville
The Lions have the luxury of having one of the best Cornerbacks in the NFL, Darius Slay. The best thing they can do to secure that secondary is add an additional piece. The NFC North is a Quarterback hot bed at the moment. Rodgers, Cousins, and the hype of Mitchell Trubisky. Man even I felt dirty saying that. Regardless, putting Alexander opposite of Slay would say a lot about the teams direction.
If drafted by another team Alexander could very well be playing Slot Corner. If he ends up with the LIons he is going to be able to maximize his talents. After only playing in 6 games last year, the right fit is crucial to Alexander's success.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams - OT - Texas
The Bengals messed up last year when they let both Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler go in the off-season. They fixed that by bringing in Cordy Glenn, but that isn't enough. They need another piece to protect Dalton and maximize the potential of Joe Mixon.
Before the 2017 season Connor Williams was a sure fire top 10 pick. What a difference a year makes. Battling injury throughout 2017 Williams stock plummeted. A good combine seemed to help bring him back up a bit, but not where he was. The risk is worth the reward for the Bengals. He translates to a Guard in the league but has the potential to be their future RIght Tackle.
22. Denver Broncos (via trade with Bills): Will Hernandez - G - UTEP
The trade the Broncos pulled off with the BIlls netted them two players who will immediately play major roles. The O-Line was hot garbage last year and adding someone with the size and ability of Will Hernandez is a difference maker.
Hernandez shot up draft boards early in the off-season. It continued throughout as he dominated the combine and through up an absurd 37 on the bench. Technically Isaiah Wynn is better, but I don't think John Elway will be able to pass up on Hernandez.
23. New England Patriots: Harold Landry - DE - BC
This is everyone in the NFL's worst nightmare. The New England Patriots are loaded with picks. 5 of the first 95 to be exact. People wonder if they plan on trading up for a replacement of Tom Brady, but I think that is a bit much. They have a lot of holes to fill and these picks will go towards giving Tom Brady one last run at a Superbowl.
I had a hard time choosing between Landry and Marcus Davenport. Both men were impressive last year and incredibly impressive at the combine. It could be a coin flip, I just think that New England will go with the more proven player.
24. Carolina Panthers: Marcus Davenport - DE - UTSA
The Panthers need an Edge Rusher and they need one now. Mostly so whoever they bring in can learn from Julius Peppers. Davenport and Peppers are so similar in size and style I see no better fit. If the Patriots take Landry the Panthers have Davenport fall into their lap.
What can you say about Davenport that hasn't already been said? The size and speed combination is obnoxious. The real question is can he translate his game into the NFL where he is more than just a 3rd down pass rusher. All I know is I am 9 years his elder and I want to be Marcus Davenport when I grow up.
25. Tennessee Titans: Leighton Vander Esch - LB - Boise State
The Titans always make me nervous on draft day. I don't ever feel like I have a good read with what they will do. With that said, I think an athletic Linebacker or run stopping Defensive Tackle are the options.
No. That is not Thad from Blue Mountain State. No matter how much it looks like him. That is Riggins, Idaho's own LVE. Over 140 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles LVE was dominant in 2017. The biggest concern is sustaining that success, as he started as many games last year as he did the 2 previous years combined. LVE is the athletic, versatile type player that fits their system.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst - DT - Michigan
Dontari Poe left after the season and left a big ol' gap in the middle of that defensive line. I think that you will see the Falcons add a speedster Wide Receiver with the loss of Taylor Gabriel to Chicago in the off-season. They just won't make that move in the first round. Here they have Hurst or Alabama's Da'Ron Payne on their big board.
Hurst is another player who saw his stock plummet in the 2017 off-season after a heart condition became public. Something the team at Michigan knew about and never had an issue, but heart issues are no joke. At one point his career was " in jeopardy" but it was more of putting Hurst through a dog and pony show. Hurst deserves to be a first round pick and this is great value for the Falcons.
27. New Orleans Saints: Rashaan Evans - LB - Alabama
The Saints defense was one of the biggest surprises of 2017. After revamping overnight now is the time to maintain and improve. The best thing hey can do is add an experienced Linebacker who has played against top competition. Enter Alabama's Rashaan Evan's.
Rashaan Evans has been an anchor for the Crimson Tide over the last two seasons and particularly impressive last year in the National Championship run. It will be interesting to see how Evans game develops when he hits the NFL. He has been average in pass defense and his ability to grow will be the difference between him being an average and Pro Bowl Linebacker.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Arden Key - LB/DE - LSU
Arden Key may very well be the most polarizing figure of the 2018 NFL Draft. His heart was questioned throughout the year last season and his combine was nothing to be proud of. With all that said I think if any team can take a risk and get the most out of him, it's the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If Key could have just put together an average season he would be a lock as a first round picks. Now it's a reach for him to be drafted in the first round at all. I continue to wait for the ball to drop on what exactly happened with Key at LSU. It's one of the most intriguing stories that has yet to be told.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Wynn - G - Georgia
Isaiah Wynn is one of the most technical Lineman in the entire draft. Someone with his abilities not only secures the Guard position for Jacksonville, but also adds depth. Wynn has been one of my favorites sine January. I love this spot for him.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Ragnow - G - Arkansas
SImilar to Wynn in Jacksonville, the addition of Ragnow would help fill a hole and add depth to a team that will be a favorite in 2018. Ragnow has seen his stock rise considerably over the last few weeks.
31. New England Patriots: Mason Rudolph - QB - Oklahoma State
The rumors of them moving up sound far fetched to me, but them going QB with the second of the 1st round picks makes sense. Tall, accurate, and loves throwing the ball around. Tom Brady's predecessor is somewhere in this draft. I think it's going to be Mason Rudolph.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: D.J. Moore - WR - Maryland
Moore is a fantastic talent and a weapon that will do well opposite of Alshon Jeffrey and Zach Ertz. Another weapon for the returning Carson Wentz. Many may not know who Moore is, but when all the cards fall they will. Fast, Physical, and a decent route runner. A great pick for the defending Champions.