You don't have to wait until April to find out who will be drafted with the first 20 picks in the draft. Coaches are being fired, play-off football is upon, and rumors of who will be a free agent are swirling. No better time to give you my first mock draft of 2018.
1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley - RB - PSU
Many will be clamoring for one of the top QB's to go here, but Barkley is a franchise changing back who can do it all. Cleveland has the luxury of having the 4th overall pick as well. The Giants will snag one of the QB's, but Indy has their franchise QB already. The Browns have the opportunity to get the best player in the draft and a top 2 QB. They can't pass that up.
Saquon Barkley has the strength, pure speed, and explosiveness through the hole to have a Hall of Fame career. I just don't see how a franchise who has won once in their last 32 tries can pass on the only sure thing in this draft.
2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold - QB - USC
I don't want to hear about how you think Darnold will stay in school. Why would he? Best case scenario he goes back, puts up big numbers, wins the Heisman, and declares for the 2019 draft where he will be hoping to get drafted in the top 5. Same situation he is in now. If he goes back he risks having another sub par year and having people question if he is the guy or not. Even more so than this year.
Though his numbers were down, this guy has all the talent you want in your starting QB. He has admitted that confidence has been an issue, but putting him in New York behind Eli for a year or two is a no brainer. This kid has all the talent and intangibles needed to be a star QB in the league for years to come
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb - DE - N.C. State
Pass rushers aren't as deep in the 2018 draft as they seemed to be in 2017. The clear cut best option if you are looking for someone to get after the QB is the 6'4" 275lb Chubb. Chubb is no Myles Garrett, but that doesn't mean he can't help turn a defense around.
A turnaround is what the Colts need on the defensive side of the ball. A team that ranked 31st in the league in sacks with just 25 and gave up the 7th most YPG on the ground at 120.4. Chubb will make an immediate impact on both categories. The new head coach will love having a player like this set the tone and attitude for his defense.
4. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen - QB - UCLA
Moody, irritable, and the only "NFL Ready" Quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. Rosen shows incredible poise in the pocket and has the arm to make the big play when the game is on the line. He very well could be the first QB drafted.
Like I said earlier, how would you not be thrilled about the start of your draft if it went this way for the Browns? You get a sure fire superstar at number 1 and your franchise QB at number 4. Outside of trading one of their picks, for what would have to be a MASSIVE haul, I don't see how things could get better for new Browns GM Jon Dorsey. This is what the fan base wants and deserves.
5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson - G - Notre Dame
Taking a Guard with the 5th overall pick is questionable at best. Many will think this is a reach, but Nelson is the most dominant lineman in this class. McGlinchey and Brown will get a lot of talk from since they are tackles but Nelson is the safest pick.
Physically dominant off the snap, the ability to turn average running backs into superstars, and the strength to immediately compete with the best in the NFL. The Broncos took their tackle last year with Bolles. They need to figure out what they are doing with Paxton Lynch before they spend a high pick on a QB. A strong offensive line gives whoever is behind center a chance to succeed. With all that being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see Elway go QB here because......well because he is John Elway.
6. New York Jets: Josh Allen - QB - Wyoming
I don't think I want any pick to work out more than this one. I thought the Jets did a great job addressing the defensive side of the ball in the 2017 draft. Getting their future defensive captain Jamal Adams. This year they get their future captain on the offensive side of the ball.
Allen had a ton of hype coming off a successful 2016 campaign. unfortunately for him, and the Wyoming faithful, that success was short lived. 60% of Wyoming left for the draft and Allen was forced to try and carry a below average team all year. He showed the talent is there. A big arm and a frame similar to Ben Roethliberger, it's hard not to get excited about the kid. He is going to be a bit of a project but with the proper coaching he could be a Pro Bowl caliber player.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key - DE - LSU
Only one team was worse than the Indianapolis Colts when it came to sacking the QB. That team was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A pitiful 22 sacks on the year brings them to the off-season with obvious needs.
The never ending debate is if teams should draft for need or go with the best available. In this scenario Arden Key is the answer either way. Though his heart has been questioned, Key is an immediate impact guy. Putting him outside of Gerald McCoy is something that will overload most offensive lines in the league. Unless addressed in Free Agency, this is a no brainer.
8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton - WR - SMU
The debate for the new Bears head coach this off-season will be do they go with the smaller, more explosive Calvin Ridley or the lesser known, Big Bodied, physical man beast that is Courtland Sutton? A decision that will face scrutiny regardless.
The Bears end up going Sutton here in a "Do Over" of sorts for GM Ryan Pace. His first pick ever as GM was Kevin White, who is single handedly responsible for insurance premiums being so high. Sutton has many similarities to White when he came out West Virginia. Including his size, big play ability, and sure handedness. Pace won't be able to pass up the opportunity to pair Sutton with Mitchell and Bears fans will hold their breathe.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley - WR - Alabama
It turns out the Jimmy G is really good at football. In just five weeks he turned the franchise around. Winning all five games and setting the 49ers up to be a much watch team come 2018.
Taking Calvin Ridley here gives Jimmy a true number one wide receiver and makes this offense pretty scary. Adding a player of Ridley's caliber with dynamic players such as Marquis Goodwin and Carlos Hyde puts a lot of speed on the offensive side of the ball. You could see a turnaround in San Fran similar to what we saw the Rams do this year, pending John Lynch stays on the same path as last year's off-season.
10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward - CB - Ohio State
Oakland was in the bottom 12 in both passing TD's allowed and passing yards allowed per game. They have holes on the formerly amazing offensive line and could also look at Georgia's Roquan Smith here, but the most bang for their buck here is with Ward.
Last year was like Christmas if you needed secondary help. This years class isn't nearly as deep, but Denzel Ward is a star. What he lacks in overall size he makes up for in physicality and natural instincts on where the ball is going. Ward in the number one corner in this draft by a long shot and potentially the only one we will see go in the first round.
11. Miami Dolphins: Baker Mayfield - QB - Oklahoma
A flag stabbin, junk grabbin, Heisman trophy winner heads to beautiful Miami. What could go wrong? No way the Dolphins keep Tannehill around with his roughly 20 mil a year his contract calls for. Now is the time to bring in the future.
Mayfield is the prettiest passer and can get sloppy with the ball at times, but he showed all year he can throw the ball around. If the likes of Jarvis Landry and Devante Parker are still around, Mayfield could have an immediate impact. Unlike my number two overall pick, there is no lack in confidence here. He will get the most out of his teammates and the 14 people in the stadium. The Dolphins could throw him to the wolves and accidentally come out with a Pro Bowl QB.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey - OT - Notre Dame
This would be a miracle if you are the Cincinnati Bengals. We spoke at length last off-season about how the loss of Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler would come back to haunt them and it did.
An underwhelming season that just may have run long time coach, Marvin Lewis, out of town showed that the line has to take precedent. McGlinchey can come in and immediately protect Andy Dalton. While he struggled at times against the likes of Miami and Georgia, he showed throughout the year why he is the best tackle in this draft. This pick ensures Andy Dalton gets to see the later years of his career. Which is the best thing for the Bengals right now.
13. Washington Redskins: Lamar Jackson - QB - Louisville
The Redskins inability to close a long term deal with Kirk Cousins and drag out this process will be their downfall this off-season. They are going to be forced to draft a QB. Lucky for them a former Heisman trophy winner is waiting for them.
I have never been the biggest fan of Jackson. His run first mentality and low completion percentage have scared me when looking at him as an NFL QB. With that said there is A LOT to like about Jackson. A monster arm and an ability to dance throughout the pocket adds a threat unlike anyone else in the draft. With the success of Deshaun Watson early this year, Jackson is going to get an opportunity. The Redskins just better hope it works out.
14. Green Bay Packers: Orlando Brown - OT - Oklahoma
Brown was a part of a lot of big games at Oklahoma and this year he was a big reason Baker Mayfield had the time to win the Heisman trophy. He has NFL size and has man handled some of the best in the country this season. His stock will continue to rise the closer we get to the draft.
The Packers need to protect Rodgers. They are making some front office and coaching changes after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. That is great and all but you only have so much time left with a truly special QB. Adding Brown helps ensure that Rodgers stays on the field and the Packers start another playoff streak.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Minkah Fitzpatrick - CB/S - Alabama
Minkah Fitzpatrick reminds me a lot of last years Jabrill Peppers, as in people don't know where he is going to end up playing. Minkah has the size of a lineback, speed of a corner, and vision of a safety. All those options scare teams away sometimes, but it is obvious that Fitzpatrick is one of the top overall talents in this draft.
At one point in this mock I had the Cardinals trading up for a QB, but decided against it. Solidifying the defense with this pick, adding a WR later, and trying to win the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes is where the new head coaches focus should go. With the return of David Johnson, this team has one (maybe two) years left before having to completely rebuild.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Nick Chubb - RB - Georgia
The Ravens revamped their defense through the draft in 2017. I expect them to do the same on the other side of the ball in 2018. Look for the Ravens to be going all skill positions. Running Back, Wide Receiver, Tight End, and even Quarterback will be addressed this year.
Getting someone with the talent of Nick Chubb at 16th overall is a steal. This is a back that has come back from a knee injury two years ago and looks better than we thought possible. Guice and Michel are both options here as well but the pure strength of Chubb will go a long way. This is the game managing, three down back the Ravens have been looking for.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Roquan Smith - LB - Georgia
The Butkus award winner has seen his stock sky rocket this season and his Rose Bowl performance solidified him as a first round pick. His ability to drop back into coverage, along with shed blockers to stop the run makes him the best true linebacker in the draft.
If the Chargers are able to add someone like Smith they are going to put teams in some very tough spots. With Ingram and Bosa on the line, an addition like this could see the Chargers being a top 3 defense in 2018.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Conor Williams - OT - Texas
Going into the college football season many thought that Williams was going to be the number one tackle in the draft. Injuries paired with overall bad play have people questioning if he will be taken at all in the first round.
The talent is still there and if he can show he is healthy enough to play, he benefits from the Seahawk's dire needs. Seattle may be in a complete rebuild this off-season but Russell Wilson isn't going anywhere so they need to stop trying to get him killed. They bring in Williams and hope he can get healthy and become the tackle people were saying he was at the start of the 2017 season.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Wilkins - DT - Clemson
Dallas needs to take the best defensive player available at this spot from the line or the secondary. Wilkins is that player. He is a rarity in terms of your average DT because he has the ability to get after the quarterback. Unlike most big bodied tackles who are there to just fill the gaps on running plays.
Dallas secondary was young this season and I will look for them to grow in 2018. An addition of an athletic, tackling Defensive Tackle will help all parties involved. If they don't go DT I would guess they would go with CB Josh Jackson from Iowa.
20. Detroit Lions: Clelin Ferrell - DE - Clemson
The final pick of this mock was too easy. Ferrell is a tough match up for any O-Line and adds the size and speed desired to any defense. At 6'5" 265lb he looks like a bear, but runs like a Lion. Pun intended.
The Lions would be lucky to have a player like Ferrall fall into their laps at number 20. The start of a new regime in the Motor City needs a face. The new head coach will do well to add a fan favorite to the defensive side of the ball. Ferrell has the talent to immediately wreak havoc for the Lions.