The NFL Draft combine is over and free agency was last week, so that means the draft season is in full momentum and won’t be slowing down until we’re all dead from mock draft overexposure. This mock draft won’t help you survive, but it is the best and most accurate mock you will read until the next time I feel like writing another.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
In this “Year of the QB”, the Browns have first dibs. They’re probably going to do something stupid and draft Josh Allen, but they would be wise to go with Darnold because he’s proven he can throw a football at least semi-accurately. Darnold is just 20 years old and the Browns should be able to develop him behind new addition Tyrod Taylor.
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
After signing Nate Solder to start at LT, the Giants will find someone he can protect and choose a quarterback to eventually replace Eli Manning. I personally think Rosen is the best QB in this draft, so I’m going with that and dream of him throwing to Odell Beckham.
3. New York Jets: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
In case you missed it, the Jets traded the 6th, 37th and 49th picks (plus a future 2nd rounded) for the 3rd pick. They moved all of their draft capital to select their future QB. If they choose the wrong QB, they have moved the franchise back 3 to 4 years. This being the Jets, of course they would pick Allen and screw up everything.
4. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
After choosing their favorite QB, the Browns also have first dibs on non-QB players. There’s no evidence that Barkley isn’t bionic, so this should be an easy pick. Their offense in 2018, by the way, should be exciting with Taylor at QB, Barkley at RB, and Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry and Corey Coleman at WR.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Broncos just signed Case Keenum, but they should still pick a QB here, mostly because Keenum isn’t very good. Mayfield would be a good fit in the Broncos’ offensive scheme and Denver fans deserve some fun QB play after suffering through Trevor Siemian.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The Colts likely would have picked Chubb at No. 3, so if he’s avaiable here, that would be perfect for them, especially since they got three additional second round picks from the Jets.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Nelson may be the safest prospect in the draft, depending on how you feel about Barkley. He’s an athletic mauler with superb technique (so I’ve read) and should be a perpetual All-Pro.
8. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
Chicago may not be looking for a defensive back, but Minkah is simply too good to pass on, literally. He’s the best DB in the draft and should be a fantastic player for years.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Ideally, the 49ers would target an edge rusher, but this draft class is fairly weak in that spot. As such, they go with Roquan Smith, the best linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly, to give them the presence inside they have missed since NaVorro Bowman’s injury woes and eventual departure.
10. Oakland Raiders: Tremaine Edwards, LB, Virginia Tech
If Smith is the 1A prospect at linebackers, Edwards is a 1B. He’s a superb defender and he showed off elite athleticism at the combine. Like Smith across the bay, Edwards should immensely help Oakland’s defense on his way to being a 7-time Pro Bowler.
11. Miami Dolphins: Vita Vea, NT, Washington
The ‘Phins just cut Ndamukong Suh (take that, Nubs) and are looking for a cheaper option to man the interior. Vita Vea looks like he could swallow an entire offensive line. He’s also surprisingly athletic for his size.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Derwin James, S, Florida State
It turns out that it’s fairly easy to avoid watching, reading about, or thinking about the Cincinnati Bengals. Idk who they have, but most teams want Derwin James in their secondary, probably the Bengals too.
13. Washington: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
After Minkah Fitzpatrick, it seems Ward is the consensus second best cornerback in the draft. Washington needs help out there, so it would make sense for them to jump on the under-sized but super-athletic Buckeye.
14. Green Bay Packers: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Packers were probably scouting defensive linemen heavily, but they move their focus to defensive backs after signing Muhammad Wilkerson. The Packers could go with Hughes, Joshua Jackson or Isaiah Oliver.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Lousiville
Lamar Jackson needs to go somewhere he can succeed. He needs time to develop, so it would be great for him to be in Arizona, where Sam Bradford, David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald will ease him into what will hopefully be a bountiful career.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Try not to laugh, but the Ravens starting receivers last year were Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman. Let’s, uh, let’s just say they need help there. The Ravens just signed Michael Crabtree and John Brown, then they add to that even more here. Ridley is a terrific all-around receiver and should be too good to pass up here.
17. L.A. Chargers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Unfortunately, Roquon Smith and Tremaine Edwards were selected earlier, so the Chargers have to address their hole at linebacker with Rashaan Evans. He’s no Roquan, but he’s a fine third option as he’s well-rounded enough to play every down for the next 10 years.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
The Seahawks cut bait on Michael Bennett so it would make sense for them to draft his younger, cheaper clone. If the Seahawks don’t pick Bennett, don’t be surprised if they pick the most Seahawksy corner in the draft, Isaiah Oliver.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Cowboys absolutely need to address their weakness on the outside, so even though this isn’t the best receiving class, they’re kind of forced to reach for one here. Sutton makes sense because of his size and ability to catch in traffic, skills that the Cowboys may need replace if they (smartly) transition away from Dez Bryant.
20. Detroit Lions: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Lions thought they would be able to replace Ndamukung Suh with Haloti Ngata. Da’Ron Payne can’t replicate Suh’s peak production, but the Lions see him as a good option to at least reinforce their front lines.
21. Buffalo Bills: Taven Bryant, DT, Florida
Similar to the Lions, the Bills lost a key interior player in Marcell Dareus and were unable to replace him with a cheaper option. Taven Bryant is a raw prospect, but he’s freakishly athletic and has that nastiness Buffalo requires.
22. Buffalo Bills: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The Buffalo stays a Buffalo. The Bills need all the talent they can get at cornerback and Oliver has plenty of talent. When Oliver improves his footwork, he has all the tools to become an elite level corner.
23. L.A. Rams: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Rams seem to be keen on filling all their holes via free agency and trades. Last mock, I had them taking Isaiah Oliver, but then they traded for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. They haven’t addressed their offensive line yet, so even if McGlinchey will begin his career at guard or on the bench, he’s a good eventual replacement for 36-year-old Andrew Whitworth.
24. Carolina Panthers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Orlando Brown had an infamously dreadful showing in Indianapolis as he not only had a laughably slow 40-time, but also struggled with bench press and literally everything else. However, the tap still shows that Brown can be a solid tackle or guard, so the Panthers, in need of help on the line, overlook his physical limitations.
25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College
The Titans desperately need help on the edge — Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are aging quickly — so they target the ultra-productive Harold Landry.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Assuming Hurst is cleared after being diagnosed with a heart condition, the Falcons should draft him after losing Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe in free agency.
27. New Orleans Saints: Conor Williams, OT, Texas
Whoever the Saints select here, he’s gonna be an instant impact starter. Just last year, the Saints picked up four above average starters in the first three roundss. The year before they found two in five selections, plus the undrafted former Buffalo Ken Crawley. 2018 should be no different.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
After Ryan Shazier’s horrifying injury, the Steelers are in desperate need to find a presence in the middle of the field. Ideally, they would want a playmaking inside linebacker, but a run at that position earlier in the draft leaves the Steelers with few good options. Instead, they go with Harrison, who is a linebacker in all but designation.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
Gesicki is probably something of a second or third prospect as a player, but he tested as an athletic freak. At 6’5, 250-lbs., Gesicki was first among tight ends in every athletic test except bench press ... where he was second best by one rep. If there’s going to be a tight end who can physically dominate the NFL like Rob Gronkowski, it’s going to be this fella from Penn State.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Minnesota doesn’t have any pressing holes to fill, so they go with a luxury pick and upgrade with a nasty, physical guard in Hernandez.
31. New England Patriots: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
There’s something about Leighton Vander Esch that just makes him feel like a Patriot. I don’t know exactly what it is, but he seems to inherently embody the Patriot Way.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Like the Rams, the Eagles have been addressing all their issues with trades and free agency. Because of that, they can afford to take a risk on a boom-or-bust prospect, so they go with the lightning fast Jaire Alexander. If he develops quickly, the Eagles may have another key piece of what could be a dynasty.