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2018 NFL Mock Draft: Year of the Quarterback

This is a mock draft for this year’s NFL Draft to be held on April 26-28. The first day is only the first round and features 32 of the best players in college football (we think) reaching their dream. This draft will try to predict each pick for each team. It will not try to predict any draft-day trades because that is nearly impossible.

1. Cleveland Browns

Sam Darnold, QB, USC

Instead of taking the best player available, the Browns are gonna Browns and reach for a quarterback. In my opinion, there are no quarterbacks in this class worthy of a round 1 pick save one (who we will get to later) but too many teams have traded up at this point for the Browns to wait on a quarterback. Some rumors have hinted that new general manager (GM) John Dorsey is in love with Josh Allen, but that seems like smoke and mirrors. Browns gonna Browns.

2. New York Giants

Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

A monster on defense and the best pass rusher in this class, Chubb has had 21 sacks in the past two years, though he did not record any against Clemson. Tiger fans might remember Chubb from 2017 as the guy who kept stealing Kelly Bryant’s towel when they played in Raleigh last season. All in all, he has speed and power, with the bend to get around offensive tackles. He’s a plug-and-play starter from day one who can replace the recently departed Jason Pierre-Paul. 

3. New York Jets (from Colts)

Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Despite having re-signed Josh McCown and added Teddy Bridgewater in free agency, the Jets will be picking a quarterback. The question is; which one? They traded their first round pick this year plus two 2018 second round picks and a 2019 second round pick for the number three slot. No one gives up that much unless they are drafting a quarterback or they are profoundly stupid. Mayfield is the best quarterback in this class and had a track record of success (except against Clemson). He was a three-year starter at Oklahoma and leads every QB in this class in every passing stat 

4. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)

Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

With their second pick in the first round, gained from the Houston Texans’ pick for Deshaun Watson last year, they are going to pick the guy they should have gotten from the start: running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley was an absolute freak at the Combine, outperforming Cleveland future Hall-of-Famer offensive tackle Joe Thomas at the bench press, and outrunning Future Hall-of-Fame return man Devin Hester at the 40-yard dash. He also did that while weighing 233 pounds, the most for a running back at that speed since 2000. Based on true talent, he is the best player in this draft regardless of position.

5. Denver Broncos

Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

Ever since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos have had a rotating door of barely-passable quarterbacks. Former seventh-round pick Trevor Siemian tried taking over, but he was average at best. The Broncos also drafted Paxton Lynch a few years ago from Memphis, but he hasn’t panned out. It would be a waste for Denver to finally get a quarterback only after their elite defense is gone, so they will try to act now. Personally, I think Allen is incredibly overrated and is just a guy with a great arm, but nothing else.

6. Indianapolis Colts (from Jets)

Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

The Colts have attempted for a while now to revamp their shambling secondary, but it has been slow going. They need a true number one corner and for this class, that’s Ward. They drafted Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson last year, but they dealt with injuries. Bringing in Ward would make AFC South quarterbacks’ lives miserable and provide some cushion for Andrew Luck when he gets back.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

This is a guy that can play any position in the secondary at a high level, coming from Nick Saban’s “School for Gifted Athletes”. If Saban were 30 years younger, he’d be Fitzpatrick. Kind of a no-brainer if he’s still here especially with the soon-to-be retirement of corner Brent Grimes.

8. Chicago Bears

Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Few game highlights are as enjoyable to watch as Nelson’s. Most offensive linemen have the occasional pancake and decent protection, but Nelson does it all. “Mauler” is the term that has been thrown around a lot lately regarding Nelson. One only has to watch a few plays to see why. The Bears have some issues at guard and could give quarterback Mitch Trubisky more time in the pocket by adding such a high talent player. 

9. San Francisco 49ers

Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech

With quarterback no longer a need after signing Jimmy Garoppolo to a massive extension, they decide to address the defense and add a young, versatile linebacker. He is listed as an outside guy, but he can play both inside and outside, rushing  the passer from both spots. At just 19 years of age, he can be molded into what defensive coordinator Robert Saleh wants him to be.

10. Oakland Raiders

Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia

He is a little small for a linebacker, but what the 6’1” prospect has is the “off-the-ball instincts’ necessary to captain a defense. Luke Kuechly was taken ninth overall in 2012 and if Smith turns out to be anything close to Kuechly, it will be well worth it.

11. Miami Dolphins

Derwin James, S, Florida State

Quite a few pundits think the Dolphins will be taking a quarterback, but they are getting back Ryan Tannehill, who head coach Adam Gase assures will be the starter. He’s still fairly young and has shown great improvement over the past few years up until his injury. Instead, I see them taking centerfield safety from Florida State, Derwin James. James had an injury-shortened sophomore season, but he came back strong the next year and forwent his remaining years of eligibility. Miami is getting a steal.

12. Buffalo Bills (from Bengals)

Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

It seems obvious that the Bills will be drafting a quarterback. It might not be the one chosen in this particular mock, but it will be one of them. They traded reliable starter Tyrod Taylor leaving them with notably interception-prone rookie Nathan Peterman. Head coach Sean McDermott wants a quarterback he can mold in a system that will fit said quarterback. Rosen had a lot of scouts drooling over him, but the thought is that he will slide a little more than the others on draft day.

13. Washington Redskins

Vita Vea, DL, Washington

The Redskins could have the best defensive line in the NFC putting Vea next to Jonathan Allen and Ziggy Hood. Vea embodies the “unstoppable force” moniker as a big-bodied run-stopper, but he also possesses a strong  rush for penetrating the offensive line. Space eaters don’t get drafted this high and that’s because Vea isn’t one; he’s more.

14. Green Bay Packers

Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

This guy single handedly ruined Ohio State’s chances at going to the College Football Playoff. His two interceptions both turned into points and gave Iowa a big edge in the eventual 55-24 undoing of the Buckeyes. The Packers just traded Damarious Randall to the Browns and are still in need of secondary help with Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Mitch Trubisky all still in the division. Aaron Rodgers can’t keep shouldering the load on his own.  

15. Arizona Cardinals

Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

The question for the Redbirds is whether they will take a quarterback to learn for a year behind Bradford or whether they get Larry Fitzgerald’s heir. They go with wide receiver although the pick looks like a reach, if he becomes the next Fitzgerald, it’s worth it. A red-zone threat that benefited from former Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ scheme could be an improvement on a fairly dull corps.  

16. Baltimore Ravens

Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina

Sadly, the Ravens need receiving help bad, but the Cardinals just took their guy. Instead they turn to another type of pass catcher, the tight end. Hurst was a productive tight end who should have been a baseball player, but he got the yips. Instead, he went back to school and is aiming to be an NFL-caliber player. Hopefully the Ravens don’t psyche themselves out of this pick.

17. Los Angeles Chargers

Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

A defensive line with Payne, Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram is too nasty for the AFC to deal with. All three can rush the passer. All three can stop the run. All three can make a mean panini.   made the last one up.

18. Seattle Seahawks

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

There is no reason a player of his caliber at his position should have made it as far back as 18 overall. The Seahawks would probably party in the draft room if this happened and submit their pick within the first ten seconds. They really need to be able to protect Russell Wilson because that’s pretty much all they have left at this point.

19. Dallas Cowboys

Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

I highly doubt this happens, but anything is possible. America’s Favorite Team just lost franchise icon Dez Bryant and could use the sure hands of Ridley to weather the storm. A precise route runner is second tier to a red-zone threat like Courtland Sutton, but not any less important. Playing wide receiver at Alabama is a rough assignment due to their run-heavy nature, but Ridley still racked up 2781 yards over 44 games, including the postseason.

20. Detroit Lions

Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

There has been a lot of questions as to whether Wynn or WIll Hernandez is the best guard behind Quenton Nelson. For me, it’s a toss up, thus, the Lions take Wynn as he comes from a higher pedigree program.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills)

Billy Price, C, Ohio State

Again, this is kind of a toss up between Price and fellow Big-Ten center James Daniels. Price has had more experience, but Daniels is bigger and had better grades at the Combine. When it comes to the offensive line, though, technique is the most important trait. The Bengals need a ton of offensive line help and they can jump start the process by drafting Price.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs)

Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

The Bills got the number 12 pick by trading a young, controllable left tackle. With this pick they get him right back. Miller is a freak standing at 6’9”, weighing 310 pounds and running a sub-5.00 40-yard dash. The 40 doesn’t mean too much for an offensive lineman, but it does speak to his athletic ability to be able to run like that. His ceiling is becoming a guy like Nate Solder who just became the highest paid offensive tackle this offseason, so I guess you could say he has the potential to be pretty good.

23. New England Patriots (from Rams)

Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

There has been a lot of smoke about Bill Belichick picking Lamar Jackson at this spot. While the Patriots do need another heir to the Brady throne, Jackson isn’t the type of guy that Belichick likes. He wants a three-year starter with high accuracy and a pocket-passer mentality. That’s Rudolph in a nutshell. I don’t buy that Jackson even is on their radar. Plenty of teams use these tactics to mask who they truly covet. This is just a smokescreen.

24. Carolina Panthers

Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

The last time the Panthers took a defensive player in the first round from Boston College it was Luke Kuechly. The fact that Landry has fallen this far as a proven pass rusher is the miracle Carolina is hoping for. He had 21 sacks in two years, but didn’t quite have the same effect Bradley Chubb did on the ACC. Nonetheless, he is an absolute steal at this point. 

25. Tennessee Titans

Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

A prospect this raw always seems to shoot up draft boards at the Combine, but he needs more time to marinate behind some great pass rushers before being let loose. Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are some of the best in the biz and could teach Davenport a lot. Pass rushing isn’t all muscle and speed. It requires a little something extra and that is what he needs to learn. 

26. Atlanta Falcons

Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

He is a bit on the short side, but he isn’t going to be drafted by Atlanta as an outside corner, no, he will be drafted as a dependable nickelback. Yes, better than the band Nickelback. No his team didn’t win the National Championship, but he did win the hearts of scouts everywhere. Blazing speed and a quick hip motion make him one of the best.

27. New Orleans Saints

Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Drew Brees is doing his best to stay in the league for as long as possible, but his time is nearing an end. Jackson is a very different type of quarterback from Brees in almost every way. Brees is accurate, Jackson is not. Brees stays in the pocket, Jackson leaves as soon as possible. Brees is a future hall-of-famer, Jackson is not … yet. 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers

Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

The Steelers will need to have a top offensive line to keep Ben Roethlisberger from retiring early, so they step up and take a guard with less polish and more rawness, but a first-round talent for sure. This guy is about as raw as a rare steak, actually.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Deon Cain, WR, Clemson

If not for some questionable calls during the AFC Championship game it could have been Blake Bortles playing against Nick Foles and the Eagles. Needless to say, they don’t have a ton of holes to fill, but they could use some more wide receivers after both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns departed in free agency. Cain is a prototypical red-zone threat, but he is faster than most give him credit for. He can stretch the field as a burner and then go up and get the ball on a 50-50. Only the best wide receivers can do that consistently.

30. Minnesota Vikings

Leighton Vander Esch, ILB, Boise State

This is the part of the draft where it gets harder to find immediate impact starters. Instead, you have to project for the future. In this case, the Vikings decided to get a nice insurance policy for Eric Kendricks on the inside. The Vikings defense is already about as nasty as they come, but adding a guy who can step in if one of the other linebackers goes down makes them all the more dangerous.

31. New England Patriots

Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

“Rojo” would be a great replacement for the recently departed Dion Lewis. In fact, he could be even better than Lewis because he could shoulder more of the running load than Lewis ever did. Tom Brady hasn’t yet decided if he is returning, but if he does (he probably will) they will need to have a strong rushing game to keep the pressure off of their fossil of a quarterback. 

32. Philadelphia Eagles

James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

Philly made a terrible choice to trade WR Torrey Smith for CB Daryl Worley, who then was arrested for domestic violence. The Eagles released him shortly thereafter, but now they are down a wide receiver. Coincidentally, Washington is the favorite target of Mason Rudolph, the quarterback the Patriots drafted at number 23. He is a tall, fast receiver who can create space between him and any defender near him.

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