Clayton Smarslok Final 2018 NFL Mock Draft

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]We made it! After what feels like years we are officially in the final stretch, the final days until the 2018 NFL Draft. No better way to get prepared for it than to give my 100% correct predictions to you all. Okay, maybe not 100%… But I’m giving it my best shot.

There are a couple caveats for this mock draft. I will be doing this based off what I think will ultimately happen and not necessarily what I would do. Last time I didn’t do any trades but after free agency and getting more of a grip of who’s trying to do what, I thought I would include trades this time around. Other than that all you have to do is let me know how you feel about your teams pick!

To get a more in-depth evaluation on each player go take a look at our Inside the Pylon Draft Guide, available now!

1. Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC

I know there has been A LOT of Josh Allen buzz the past couple weeks but I just don’t buy it. Here they take the best quarterback in my mind and the guy we’ve all been expecting to go #1 throughout the whole draft process. Darnold has been highly criticized for the amount of turnovers this past season but so did Deshaun Watson last year, and look how that turned out. While he isn’t the same prospect as Watson, I believe he still has traits that you want out of a #1 pick. With some big acquisitions such as Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde, and the comeback of Josh Gordon, they are doing what they can to set up this young QB for success. Things may finally be looking bright in Cleveland.

2. New York Giants: HB Saquon Barkley, Penn State

We’re all in the dark when it comes to what the Giants will do come draft day. There are a number of ways I can see this going. They could take Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, a QB, or even trade out, nobody knows. There is one thing we do know and that is that they love Saquon Barkley. He is a do-it-all HB who will be able to take pressure off Eli and the offensive line right away in both the run and pass game. He should make possessions last longer which will help the defense in the long run. His vision could be better and with the Giants’ poor offensive line he may rely on the bad habit of bouncing to the outside more than he should. However, if they truly want to give Eli every chance until he’s officially done, this is the pick.

3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Ever since the Jets made the trade on St. Paddy’s Day to move up to this selection, it seems like each QB (outside of Darnold) has been the “favorite” at one time or another. Most recently that favorite has been Baker Mayfield. While I’m still not positive who they’ll take, this one seems to make a lot of sense. He is a great fit in Jeremy Bates’ offense. I think the regime will love his passion for the game, leadership skills and the fact that he’ll fit right into the locker room. He has a stronger arm than you’d think for his size, he is the most accurate passer in the class and has the IQ needed to succeed. While this all seems great, he isn’t perfect; but at the end of the day Jets fans, including myself, will be ecstatic with this selection.

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4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State

The Browns are in prime position to make a trade back and continue to bring in some more picks for their rebuild. However, at some point they need to start using all of the extra picks they have already accumulated. They do that by adding Bradley Chubb to a defensive line that already includes last year’s #1 pick in Myles Garrett. He is a polished edge defender that can step in day one and isn’t just a project. He moves well at his size and is able to get past athletic tackles. He has violent hands that really benefits him getting position on most plays. He really drove up his stock coming back for his senior year so he is still working on his craft. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams should have a lot of fun with this young, athletic defensive line at his disposal.

5. Buffalo Bills (via Denver): QB Josh Allen, Wyoming

For a long time we all expected the Broncos to be in on a QB come draft day but then they signed Case Keenum early in free agency and now there have recently been reports that they could look to trade out. I could see this going either way, as the best player in the draft is still available but they still have a decent amount of needs, so I see them making the trade back with the Bills. The Bills simply have too much ammo to not make a move up, so they take what they believe will be their franchise QB. He fits the mold of a prototypical QB in terms of size and athleticism but there are still things he needs to work on (footwork, touch, ability to read more complex defenses, etc.). As many things there are to work on, many if not all of them are coachable. So Buffalo falls in love with what he can do and hope to get rewarded in the end. No matter where he goes I hope he gets a chance to sit and develop – and quarterback A.J. McCarron could provide that in Buffalo.

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6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame

The Colts made a great trade back to get three extra 2nd round picks from the Jets, including two this year. Even after making this trade there are reports that they could trade back once again. After the trade with New York, general manager Chris Ballard said he wanted to make sure they got a premium player. Now they have said there are 8 non-QB prospects that are “premium prospects”. They will get offers to move back but I find it hard to believe that they would pass on an elite talent like Nelson. He is unlike any offensive lineman I have ever seen with the combination of strength, athleticism, technique and smarts. I don’t see any reason as to why he can’t be an All-Pro within his first couple of seasons.

7. Miami Dolphins (via Tampa Bay Buccaneers): QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

This is a trade I haven’t seen in any mock draft but I think it makes a lot of sense if the board falls this way, plus it’s fun. The Bucs would miss out on the top 3 non-QBs (Barkley, Chubb and Nelson) so they fall back 4 spots, get some extra picks, and still most likely get a player they like. For the Dolphins this trade makes a ton of sense as well, as they have shown heavy interest in quarterbacks this offseason and they ensure that the Cardinals don’t jump in front of them for the last one of the top 4. Rosen has what you want out of a top QB. He throws with touch and anticipation, has the arm talent, accuracy and football IQ to be the top QB in the class. He falls this far because he does have somewhat legitimate durability concerns and some questions off-field. I don’t think it should hurt him all that much and that’s why if a fall does happen, the Dolphins would be getting a steal.

8. Chicago Bears: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State

I bet the Bears were hoping Nelson would fall here but unfortunately for them it didn’t happen. However, they still end up with Ward and I personally love him and think he will be an absolute stud at the next level. He is the best corner in man coverage, seemingly always on the hip of the WR. He has elite athleticism, footwork and blazing speed which will allow him to play anywhere whether it’s inside or outside. Other than his size and occasionally not turning his head around for the ball, there isn’t much not to like about him. Also, look at the QBs in the division. They’ll need cover corners if they want to compete.

9. San Francisco 49ers: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia

Boy oh boy… This team has had some of the most talented LBs in the league since they drafted Patrick Willis in 2007. But the organization has not had much luck with them. Willis retired early, Navarro Bowman blew his knee out, Chris Borland retired WAY too early and now Reuben Foster may see jail time. They needed a WLB before the Foster news and now they may need to replace him so just go ahead and take Roquan Smith. He’s a great athlete who will move sideline-to-sideline and make an impact day 1. He may be a bit smaller than you’d like so sometimes he can struggle with shedding blockers but with the Niners spending all those 1st rounders on the DL, he may not see as many as one would expect. Take the best player on the board, don’t overthink it.

10. Oakland Raiders: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Going into the season many, including myself, thought this team was on the cusp of taking the next step and become Super Bowl contenders. Not only did that not happen but they took many, many steps back. Jon Gruden is now the man in charge and with that it’s kind of hard to know what direction they’re headed. You’d have to think defense because of how consistently bad they have been. Tremaine Edmunds could be a thought here but I think they’ll try to improve the secondary. Minkah is a nice chess piece to have being able to move him all over the field. He can play nickel, man up on a TE or HB, play deep, and play in the box. Anywhere you need him he should be able to fill in nicely.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via Miami): S Derwin James, Florida State

After the trade with the Dolphins the Buccaneers still get a player I think they would consider and maybe even select at 7. So the fact that Derwin James is still here for them is a big win. James was coming off a big injury entering the 2017 and it showed. Later on in the season he looked to be back to form and should be a top 10 prospect on most boards. The hard hitting safety may be utilized best playing in the box but don’t be surprised if he plays nickel pretty often or deep at times. He’s an alpha male on and off the field as well as an athletic freak who may have the highest ceiling out of all of these defenders.

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12. Denver Broncos (from Cincinnati via Buffalo): DT Vita Vea, Washington

After trading down and missing out on some top prospects they still get the benefit of adding two more first round picks and in this scenario get a great prospect in Vea. He has grown man strength and will consistently be able to eat up multiple defenders but will struggle beating double teams. He moves extremely well for his size and also possesses some ability to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher so he won’t necessarily be forced off the field on third downs. Many people have compared him to Haloti Ngata, so if you think you will get that type of presence it’s hard to pass with the 12th pick.

13. Washington Redskins: CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville

They finally have a QB they’re finally comfortable with paying in Alex Smith so they don’t need to even think about QB in the first round this year. Instead they take the replacement for the guy they traded for Alex Smith. Alexander could be the best corner in the class when it’s all said and done. He could go a little lower on draft day due to injury history but if healthy he’s a top prospect. If you want to see the best tape on him turn on his 2016 season when he was healthy. Injuries aside, his tenacity and grit on the field are incredible and putting him together with Josh Norman would be so much fun to watch. He mirrors the opposing receiver with quick feet and good recognition of route concepts. This could be a bit of a stretch but I really like the fit as he can play inside or out right away.

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14. Green Bay Packers: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech

I think there is no way they don’t go defense here. They have many options to choose from but they get the most bang for their buck with the youngest player in the draft, Tremaine Edmunds. He is only 19 years old but you wouldn’t guess it by looking at him. At 6’5 250 he’s a freak of nature that can play multiple positions. If Mike Pettine wants to play him off the ball he can, if he wants to play him as an edge rusher he shouldn’t have much of a problem. I believe with his size and natural athleticism there are many different ways to utilize him. In a couple years, look out for this kid. Clay Matthews is getting up there in age so Edmunds gets to be his running mate until inevitably replacing him as the guy on the Packers’ D.

15. Arizona Cardinals: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville

The Cardinals go from one injury prone QB to the next, signing Sam Bradford to replace Carson Palmer. That signing shouldn’t stop them from taking Jackson if they believe he’s the guy. Lamar Jackson is widely known for putting up video game numbers during his time at Louisville despite not having much talent around him. He will have his doubters because he’s considered a runner but he has improved significantly as a passer within the pocket. He reminds me of Vick with his flick of the wrist on passes but not quite the same arm strength. If he can just refine a couple things he could end up being one of the better QBs despite being the fifth one off the board.

16. Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama

This team has tried to revamp the receiving core this offseason bringing in Michael Crabtree, John Brown and now Willie Snead. They also nearly signed Ryan Grant and have shown interest in Dez Bryant. Even with all of these signings they need serious help for the declining Joe Flacco. Ozzie Newsome brings in yet another Alabama alum to Baltimore, only this time for the offense. Ridley is the best receiver in the draft, showing great hands and the best route running of any of the 2018 receivers. I know his combine numbers weren’t great but I’ll look at his agility when it actually matters and not in while in shorts. Give Flacco his much needed help as he goes into his final couple of years.

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17. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

The Chargers still need to look for the successor for Phillip Rivers once he’s done but there is not another QB worth looking at, so they go and take someone to help him get back to the playoffs. They already have a legit secondary, a fantastic duo of edge rushers, a young, athletic group at linebacker, but they still lack interior defensive line help. Take the best one on the board who has big time potential. Payne really showed up when it mattered most for Alabama, always disrupting the opposing interior lineman. He’ll be able to hold blocks to allow Bosa or Ingram to get free.

18. Seattle Seahawks: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

In what seems to be some sort of a rebuild in Seattle, two things still remain; one of the best QBs in Russell Wilson and no offensive line to protect him. They should take the top lineman available who is being looked at as a potential top 15 pick. The Seahawks have neglected offensive line for too long. They tried a couple drafts ago but that has failed so go with the type of player you know can step in and be a solid player right away. McGlinchey may never be an All-Pro but you’ll never have to worry about him getting the job done.

19. Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU

As mentioned before, the Cowboys have released fan favorite Dez Bryant. They signed Allen Hurns but they still need to upgrade this mediocre group of receivers. This is a little too early for Sutton in my mind but he is the best fit for what they need and someone I’ve heard connected to them. He’s another big bodied receiver who plays to his size but even more impressive is his agility. You see it on tape, but then you get to see his numbers at the combine and you know it’s for real. The big knock from me is how often he uses his body to catch the ball. Even with that bad habit he still finds his way into the first round.

20. Detroit Lions: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College

This was a very simple decision to make. Landry is one of the top players available and fits a position of need. Ziggy Ansah was brought back in the franchise tag but who knows if they get him locked up in the future. As for Landry, he came off a tremendous junior season and struggled more than you’d like in 2017 after playing most of the season injured. Landry has the length, has great pass rushing technique and is just a great overall player. My favorite thing about him is watching how low he gets to the ground when rushing the arch to get beyond the tackle’s arms. He’ll fit in great in Patricia’s defense who can be what Chandler Jones was for him in New England.  

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21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo): OL Isaiah Wynn, Georgia

Another late first spent on an offensive lineman for this team, only difference is that Wynn can be plugged in day 1 with no problems. Too often they’ve taken the lineman who may have potential but aren’t ready technically. Wynn is technically sound at both tackle and guard, but it his lack of length that could be the reason he is moved to guard. But with this move, his potential is even greater, therefore they bring in the help. They brought in Cordy Glenn via trade so one offensive line spot is taken but the other spots should be up for grabs.

22. Denver Broncos (from Kansas City via Buffalo): HB Derrius Guice, LSU

With their second pick this round the Broncos shore up their running game by getting the replacement for CJ Anderson. Guice is an angry, physical runner with good vision who runs with purpose. He moves well in short areas as well. Every time I write about him I will always bring up the “angry ballerina” nickname, it fits him too perfectly. Off the field however it seems that some believe he has maturity issues which could cause him to slide a little. I’m not going to knock him because I don’t know him and can only base my opinion on what I’ve heard in interviews which has been great quite frankly. They get a steal here who will be their bell cow for the next 5+ years.

23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): OL Connor Williams, Texas

The Patriots get this pick after trading Brandin Cooks to the Rams, so they now have two first round picks. With this pick they grab Williams. Some view him as a tackle and others view him as a guard. I see him getting a shot at left tackle to replace long time left tackle Nate Solder who left in free agency. Even with Solder, the line needed help so I think this is the perfect pick for this team. Williams is a strong, physical blocker who plays with good technique and plays well in space. He struggled a little in 2017 compared to his previous two seasons but those other seasons were phenomenal. The Patriots are obviously banking on him to get back to what made him a top 10 prospect going into last year.

24. Carolina Panthers: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa

The Panthers actually have more needs than I originally thought. They can look at WR, OL, EDGE but I ultimately believe they take one of the top players on the board. Jackson is the definition of a ballhawk, reeling in 8 INTs this past season. The one thing that people were worried about was his deep speed and after running a 4.56 it’s still somewhat of a concern. He’ll be a great fit if he’s in a bail technique. When in zone he knows how to read the quarterback and the WRs route to make a play on the ball. Because Carolina plays zone quite often, I feel like not only would this be great value but a good fit as well.

25. Tennessee Titans: EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA

Titans bring in Mike Vrabel in from Houston as the new head coach this off-season so you know he’s gonna want a piece for his defense. I think he’ll go with someone that could be an absolute stud if coached up the right way and Vrabel can definitely do that. Davenport’s traits are unreal and thankfully on display the last day of practice and game during Senior Bowl week. He just seemed to overpower everyone last season and is a good athlete overall at his size. If he develops some more quality pass rushing moves, look out.

26. Atlanta Falcons: DT Taven Bryan, Florida

This is personally a reach for me, but from what I’m hearing it seems that Bryan will end up going in the first round and this is one team that could definitely use some help on the interior of their defensive line. As a Florida fan I enjoyed his big plays but there were too many plays where he just didn’t show up. He’s got maybe the quickest get off in the draft, has the size and strength to be reliable against the run but his football IQ isn’t what you would hope for. Dan Quinn will need to dig deep with him on the ins and outs of playing DT in the NFL. He’s a phenomenal athlete who tested very well at the combine but he will need to be coached up in order to be considered a quality selection here.

27. New Orleans Saints: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama

After nailing last years draft the Saints come into this one with only a couple true needs. Even though they signed Demario Davis to a 3 year deal they could still use some LB help next to him which results in Evans. I know one thing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen likes to do is blitz the LBs through the A gap. Having two players in Davis and Evans who excel in that would be a great fit together. Evans does a good job directing his way through traffic finding his way to the ball carrier and has the speed to run them down. I see this as a great fit on this defense.

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28. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Leighton Vander-Esch, Boise State

This defense took an absolute beating in the divisional round to Blake Bortles so I think it’s safe to say they could use some defensive help. After Shazier went down, the LB corps struggled mightily. I believe they take the best one on their board even though I am honestly not as high on him as most. He’s a solid tackler and athlete that moves well in space. He was used as a blitzed quite a bit at Boise which didn’t work out for him too much. I see him getting swallowed by blockers when blitzing so I think his best bet is to stay in space. While this is a reach for me, he is still the best available who definitely won’t reach their 2nd round pick.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR DJ Moore, Maryland

The turn around this team had this past year was absolutely great to see. The defense is one of the fiercest we’ve seen in the last few years and doesn’t have many needs. As for the offense, they could use a little help. They brought in Fournette last draft so they’re set at RB, they lost Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns this offseason, they signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins at TE, the offensive line improved but could use one more piece inside. After looking at all of this, I say give your below-average QB all the weapons possible. DJ Moore is one of my favorite players in the draft. He’s not the big bodied outside WR or the speedy guy that’ll consistently take the top off the defense, but his ability to make plays in space is awesome to watch.

30. Minnesota Vikings: C/G James Daniels, Iowa

They just signed QB Kirk Cousins to the first ever fully guaranteed contract in NFL history. They already have a top defense in the league, so now they make sure their investment is protected at all costs. They bring in the best C in the draft but in this case Daniels may end up moving to guard, a position he is familiar with, because last year’s third round pick Pat Elflein is handling the center position. Daniels ran more of a zone based run scheme at Iowa and I have read that some believe he would only fit in that kind of scheme. I happen to believe he could fit in either kind of scheme with his strength and athleticism.

31. New England Patriots: QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

First things first, I do not believe Rudolph is worth a first round pick, even at the very end of the first. I do not know if the Patriots value him this highly either but I do believe they will take one early, whether it is with one of these two picks or with the pick they got from the 49ers. I chose this rather than wait because I think they will want that fifth year option just in case Tom Brady does decide to play for another 5 seasons. I look at Rudolph more as a third round prospect but if there is one place he will succeed it will be under the tutelage of Belichick and Brady.

32. Philadelphia Eagles: HB Ronald Jones, USC

I honestly do not think the Eagles make a selection here. They are without a pick for all of day 2 which means they will have to wait until the end of the fourth round for their next pick. However, it’s tough to project a trade here with no more QBs available so I will have them remain here. If they do end up staying here, I see them taking the best running back on their board between Ronald Jones and Sony Michel. I have them ranked relatively close but because I have seen them have more interest in Jones so I decided to go with him. Ajayi is on the last year of his contract and obviously his knees aren’t in the greatest of shape so I would guess they are thinking about their future at the position. Ronald Jones has the breakaway speed that Ajayi and Clement lack, he should be able to fit right in.

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Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaySmars. Check out his other work here, such as his dream New York Jets offseason plan or his post Super Bowl 2018 Mock Draft.

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