[dt_divider style=”thick” /]The season is officially over! However, with that comes the worst/longest 5 weeks for a football fan. Now, all there is until the 2018 league year starts on March 14th is complete speculation of what each team will do in the next couple months in Free Agency and the NFL Draft. So to join in with that speculation I would like to put out my 1st mock draft of the year. A few things to remember in this mock. This occurs before free agency so team needs will 100% change, there will be no trades and all of this is based off what I would do if I was drafting for each team, so if you do or don’t like the pick for your team, let me hear it. So with the first pick in the 2018 NFL draft…..
1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
After trading out of spots where they could have taken Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson in the last two drafts, they finally get their guy. There are some areas in which Darnold will need to improve, such as ball security, mechanics and decision making. Nevertheless, he has the qualities that will have decision makers falling in love with him. Just to name a few, he is a leader, he is a superb athlete, he can make any throw, and he is great on the run. He may not be the most polished out of the bunch but he has what it takes to be special and would undoubtedly be the best quarterback they have had this millennium.
2. New York Giants: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Nobody knows what new general manager Dave Gettleman is thinking. There are some that believe he will try to build this roster to get one last run with Eli Manning at the helm and there are others that think he should take a quarterback while he has a pick this high, which is what I believe should happen. Rosen’s football IQ and picture perfect mechanics are just part of the reason why he is the most pro-ready amongst these quarterbacks. Many will assume he will sit behind Eli and be groomed but he could compete for the job right away. If he does happen to win, he could thrive instantly with targets such as Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and of course Odell Beckham Jr.
3. Indianapolis Colts: EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
I’m going to cheat just a little bit here. I personally would love to see Andrew Luck paired with a running back of Saquon Barkley’s caliber, however, from what I have heard from people while in Mobile: this will be the pick. General Manager Chris Ballard did a great job in last year’s draft building the secondary in the first two rounds with free safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Quincy Wilson, respectively. Next year hopefully they can both see more time on the field, the former due to health, the latter just getting more opportunities. Getting a presence like Chubb to rush after the quarterback, who fits in either a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme, would be a great touch.
4. Cleveland Browns* (via Houston Texans): HB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Barkley is the definition of a do it all running back who would never need to come off the field, and probably wouldn’t if it were in the 1980s. At about 225-230 pounds he will time in the high 4.3s to low 4.4s. Just to be clear that should not be happening, he is a freak athlete. At that size I would like to see him be a little more physical and run up the middle more rather than bounce it out, but that could be a result of the Penn State offensive line. Adding a playmaker like this into the backfield would take so much pressure off of Sam Darnold.
5. Denver Broncos: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
They got their wish being able to coach both Mayfield and Josh Allen in Mobile at the Senior Bowl and now they get their choice of the two. They both had very good weeks, but I would have to go with the one who showed more on film. Baker Mayfield is a sight tosee. What sticks out to me is his gamer mentality, you can see how much he loves the game and the joy it brings him. His stats were obviously amazing but when thinking about a few qualities that you don’t see in the box score such as anticipation, poise and leadership he stands out. Drafting Mayfield would easily make the fans forget about the putridness that was Paxton Lynch.
6. New York Jets: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
This pick was made thinking that the Jets will sign Kirk Cousins, so quarterback was not in play here. Because that is the case, this pick became even tougher. It was down to Nelson, Denzel Ward, and Josh Jackson. Minkah Fitzpatrick was not an option because I really do not think he would play CB at the next level. This is a best player available pick yet again for the Jets. He can come in right away and have a Zack Martin type presence. The organization has neglected the offensive line early in the draft for so long and it shows. Who knows, maybe Nelson shows that he can play center, which is the biggest need on their line.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
This would be the perfect scenario for the Bucs. Minkah Fitzpatrick has been compared to Jamal Adams by many, but not necessarily because of their play styles. He is an alpha male who will instantly become one of the leaders of that defense. On the field he can just about do it all, whether it’s playing single high, nickel, in the box and could even occasionally man up outside. He is the type of player a team wants in their locker room and would instantly be a fan favorite in Tampa Bay.
8. Chicago Bears: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Bears had one of the worst set of pass catchers for a 1st round rookie quarterback that I have ever seen. John Fox seemed to do him no favors in the process either. The first step was the hiring of new Head Coach Matt Nagy which will pay huge dividends for Mitchell Trubisky. Adding in a playmaker like Calvin Ridley is the next. There were no legit threats on the outside that warranted a second thought by defenses. Ridley is the best route runner and has the best hands in this class. I know many would’ve liked to have seen more production out of him but when considering that he had half quarterback, half running back Jalen Hurts throwing the ball to him it wasn’t the greatest situation. He will instantly top 5’6 running back Tarik Cohen for the best receiver on the team.
9. San Francisco 49ers (*Coin Flip for 9th/10th): LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Niners get good value here, taking my fifth rated player. Smith became a household name in the College Football Playoffs for his performance against Oklahoma. He showed the world what he was capable of that night. He is a bit undersized but he would be perfect for their weak-side linebacker position. Lining him up next to Reuben Foster and behind a defensive line full of first round picks would be a very fun defense to watch. He is a sideline-to-sideline backer who can make plays in coverage or against the run.
10. Oakland Raiders: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
This team needs literally anything on defense so I gave them the best available player. Ward is a bit undersized but he makes up for it with his glue-like man coverage and blazing speed. Marshon Lattimore ran a 4.36 and has said that Ward is even faster… He may be a better fit playing nickel but could definitely play on the outside if needed. He would join last year’s 1st round pick and former OSU teammate Gareon Conley to become one of the better, young cornerback tandems in the league.
11. Miami Dolphins: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Josh Allen was in consideration here, however I think they try one last time with Ryan Tannehill. Jackson is the ultimate ballhawk reeling in EIGHT interceptions this past season. He has the size that every team looks for out of a cornerback nowadays. His athleticism shows in his tape and would instantly be an upgrade for the secondary that could use the help. Xavien Howard had a strong end of the season picking off Tom Brady twice. With this pick they can give Suh and Wake more time to get pressure.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: OL Connor Williams, Texas
Another pick where Josh Allen was in consideration, but I also think Dalton will get one last try with Lewis at the helm, and they’ll probably both leave the city together next offseason. Until then they need to get him protection. I think Williams is the best offensive tackle in the draft and can fill the hole that Andrew Whitworth left. However if they feel like he is more suited for guard, which some have said, that would still be a good pick. They lost two starters on the line last offseason so they should bring in a young stud who can step in right away and not need development like Fisher and Ogbuehi.
13. Washington: DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Yes, Washington picked Jonathan Allen last year. He was injured during the season and missed a good amount of time. He also went into the draft with injury concerns, so this not only fills a need but gives them depth just in case they lose all of their lineman to injuries again. Payne has always been more potential than production but he came on in the College Football Playoffs too, showing how he can collapse the pocket and get into the backfield consistently. Disruption is something they will need after trading away their stud nickel corner and potentially losing Breshaud Breeland as well.
14. Green Bay Packers: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
This is one of my favorite picks in this mock. Edmunds will be 19 years old when he is drafted in April. He is listed at 6-5, 250 and can move. He still hasn’t fully developed into what he can become. He’s a bit raw but he will have good coaching from new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. Pettine comes from Rex Ryan’s tree and say what you will about Ryan, but he has a fantastic defensive mind. In their 3-4 scheme Edmunds will be asked to do a lot, whether it be playing in coverage, blitzing in the A gap, running down HBs to the outside or even playing as an outside linebacker rushing off the edge. This has a chance to be the steal of the draft.
Tremaine Edmunds‘ ability to read and diagnose is on display this game. Here’s just one of a few. pic.twitter.com/vkqmrtLqcN
— Clayton Smarslok (@ClaySmars) January 30, 2018
15. Arizona Cardinals: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Now to be clear, I think that Allen will ultimately be picked in the top 6 and even potentially at number one, but this is what I would do. In this scenario, Arizona finally gets their young quarterback after seeing old guys like Carson Palmer and Kurt Warner take the field for the majority of the last decade. They will need to bring a veteran in that can start week 1 for them, because Allen should not be thrown in right away. He played in the best system out of these top quarterbacks to get prepared for this next stage but there is a lot he needs to learn. Mike McCoy is a well respected offensive coordinator who has been around the likes of Peyton Manning. Allen will hopefully combine his amazing traits with production sooner than later.
16. Baltimore Ravens: HB Derrius Guice, LSU
After the way Alex Collins ran the ball and Buck Allen’s production in the passing game this last season, running back may not be their biggest need on offense, but just look at the Super Bowl Champions and how they were able to get there. Collins is their LeGarrette Blount, Allen is their Corey Clement, and now Guice can be their Jay Ajayi. I have heard the reference “angry ballerina” when talking about Derrius Guice, which is a compliment by the way. There were rumors last week that he could run in the low 4.4s at the combine later this month which would only increase his stock. I know they could use a wide receiver here but the highest ranked one isn’t worth the pick.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: S Derwin James, Florida State
This defense continues to become one of the fiercest in the league. Two stud pass rushers, young solid linebackers, an all-pro cornerback, Jason Verrett who’s a very good player when healthy and 5th round rookie Desmond King. James is a versatile safety that can do whatever you need a safety to do. He struggled a bit coming off the injury in the beginning of the season but after shaking off the rust he showed flashes of why he was a hot name during the summer.
18. Seattle Seahawks: OL Billy Price, Ohio State
This has been a need for them for what seems like forever. The main priority is to keep Russell Wilson standing because he is the most valuable player for any team. Without him, this team could have easily had a top 8 pick or so. So here they take Billy Price who has played both guard and center for Ohio State. Wherever they prefer to play him he can be a plug-and-play type player. He is obviously used to blocking for a mobile quarterback in J.T. Barrett so right there is one less thing he will need to get acclimated to. Price’s athleticism and strength would be a great addition for their passing and running game.
19. Dallas Cowboys: DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Their defensive line isn’t all that bad, with half of it consisting of breakout star defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and solid defensive tackle David Irving. Now lining up Hurst in between the two could be game changing for this defense. He’s very athletic with quickness and an explosive first step. He can cause trouble from the 3, 4 or 5 technique. The biggest impact he will make is against the run, constantly making plays in the backfield. He can demand double teams which will only allow the linebackers to make more plays.
20. Detroit Lions: DT Vita Vea, Washington
When going through this I was looking where to put Vea, but then I saw one mock putting him here and it just makes too much sense. Patricia coming in from New England knows what he is looking for. Vea will be the Wilfork for this defense. He is huge, listed at 6-5 340 but he moves so well for somebody at that size. He will be able to clog up holes for the running back and even at his size he won’t necessarily need to come off the field on third downs, showing the ability to split double teams and get after the quarterback.
21. Buffalo Bills: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
I would have liked to continue the run of defensive tackles but there aren’t any worth the pick. McDerrmott came from Carolina where he had a surplus of linebackers. He doesn’t have any of that caliber so he takes the best available one here in Evans who can instantly be McDerrmott’s guy at MIKE who can run sideline to sideline, blitz up the middle, is an absolute thumper and can even rush off the edge occasionally.
22. Buffalo Bills* (vis Kansas City Chiefs): C James Daniels, Iowa
I wish this was for a better reason but with the unfortunate and sudden end to Eric Wood’s career, center becomes an instant need for the Bills. Luckily for them there are three very good centers who could be available for any of these picks. All three are actually ranked back-to-back-to-back on my board and even though I had Price go earlier, Daniels is my top one. Some believe he is a fit exclusively in a zone blocking scheme but I don’t think that’s the case. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll hasn’t said too much about the offense he plans to run but has mentioned he wants to keep it multidimensional.
23. Los Angeles Rams: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
I fully expect the Rams to lose Trumaine Johnson this offseason, which would immediately open up a need at cornerback. Oliver has similar measurements to Jackson at 6’1 190. He can be physical at the line and has the speed to keep up on a go route. I would like to see him turn for the ball more often because when he does he shows great hand-eye coordination to get his hands on the ball to break it up. He’ll be a perfect replacement for Johnson once he ultimately leaves.
24. Carolina Panthers: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
There was a little difficulty with this pick and it could have gone a couple different ways. This time I ended up with a weapon that the Panthers so desperately need. I know they need that Ted Ginn type receiver again but Samuel can potentially become that and if not, then they could try to bring in Mike Wallace or Taylor Gabriel via free agency. They still need a guy opposite Funchess who can go up and make plays and that is exactly what Sutton does. It will be important to see how he runs at the combine, which could be the difference between making it into Day 1 or not.
25. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
With the hiring of new Head Coach Matt Vrabel, expect this team to make some changes on defense. No matter where Vrabel has been, be it as a player or coach, his defense had someone who could get after the quarterback off the edge. They take the best available player that can do that for him. Landry has the first step quickness and bend to get beyond the tackle’s arms to consistently disrupt the quarterback on any given play. This would be a great start to Vrabel’s tenure.
26. Atlanta Falcons: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
This roster doesn’t have many holes, and I did consider giving them a WR or another defensive piece. Instead I’ll give them Wynn, who played left tackle for Georgia but will have to kick to the inside at the next level due to his size. He had one of the best weeks at any position in Mobile and I only expect him to continue to rise. He, like the lineman picked before him, can make an impact from day 1 and has a chance to be a Pro Bowl type guard for Atlanta pretty soon.
27. New Orleans Saints: EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
The Saints are coming off one of the best, if not the best, instant impact drafts ever. They have a young squad surrounding future Hall of Famer Drew Brees and should be competitive for a long time even after he’s gone. With that being said, they need to continue to build their defense, which could use some help getting to the quarterback. Okafor was a nice piece for them until he got hurt and their production opposite Cam Jordan fell off. Davenport has some developing to do in the passing game but his traits are off the charts and could really turn into a game changer after a couple years.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
The Steelers still have one of the best offenses in the league, so unless they lose LeVeon Bell I don’t feel the need to give them anything on offense here. On defense they struggled mightily against a Blake Bortles offense… twice. So here I give them someone who constantly pops up on film when watching other players from Alabama. I feel like he’s always in on every play no matter where he lines up. He’ll be a great presence to have on the field and honestly just seems like a Steeler to me.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
Pretty much the complete opposite from the Steelers. Their defense is stacked and any holes they need to fill could easily be done in the later rounds. I would love to give them a new quarterback, but it seems like they’re content with Bortles leading the charge for at least one more year. In that case let’s give him more protection. Hernandez really shined down in Mobile. His pure strength is his best strength, if you will. He’s a big boy at 340 pounds but don’t let that fool you in thinking he can’t move. Sure, he’s no Price or Nelson but it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. This offensive line took a big leap this past season, so adding a mauler like Hernandez to the mix would help them take that extra step.
30. Minnesota Vikings: CB Mike Hughes, UCF
This is a bit of a reach for me but only due to the fact that there are off the field concerns. Talent-wise I think this is right where Hughes belongs. Going into a situation with a well respected coach in Mike Zimmer and a great, young nucleus on that defense is an ideal situation for Hughes. This is a great environment and a great fit. Terrance Newman won’t be around forever and while Trae Waynes has improved he still is limited. Get Hughes in there who could compete right away and at worst gets on the field in nickel and dime packages.
31. New England Patriots: CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
I’m so thankful that I am not writing about the Eagles pick here, but seeing this pick would make me a little disappointed. We saw in the Super Bowl how the Patriots defense struggled to slow down the Eagles offense, giving up 41 points. The biggest news was how Malcolm Butler didn’t even see a snap, so expect him to be gone come free agency. They get his replacement here in Carlton Davis. Davis is a big bodied corner who loves to be physical at the line of scrimmage. One of my favorite things about him is the fact that he seems to love to tackle which is always a plus from a cornerback.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
After all these years the Eagles and all of their fans can finally enjoy a Super Bowl victory. Now back to business, they have one of the better offensive lines in the league, so why not build off that? They can pull what the Saints did last year when they took Ryan Ramczyk 32nd. There would originally be no spot for McGlinchey to play right away but Peters could easily be gone after one more year. When that inevitably happens, they could slide Lane Johnson over to left tackle and in goes McGlinchey at right tackle.