Over the last six weeks, I put in a boatload of work to bring out my rankings and analyses on the top draft prospects at each position, followed by a top 100 big board. So now I’m happy to present my first and only mock draft. In recent years I always stayed with the original draft order, but since the first round usually is crazy and you see all kinds of trades, I decided to include them in this year’s edition.
To make this clear – this is a projection for what I think will happen on day one of the draft, not what should happen. I already disagree with the number one overall pick.
1. Cleveland Browns – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Browns have been in search for a quarterback pretty much since the franchise returned to Cleveland in 1999. GM John Dorsey is going to run this draft and we have seen in the past, what he is looking for. He could care less about the 56 percent completion percentage, but rather he is looking for the prototype with the big arm. Allen should be allowed to develop a year behind Tyrod Taylor, but he has been rising in this pre-draft process like nobody else and the hype will materialize on April 26th.
2. New York Giants – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The G-Men believe that Eli still has a couple of good years ahead of him and go with the best player available, to support him. Barkley will take pressure of the quarterback and put the receivers around him in one-on-one coverage situations. I know it’s tempting to go with one of those highly regarded signal-callers, because you don’t see yourself picking this high in the near future, but with some help on the O-line and the Penn State RB, the Giants could turn this around quickly.
3. New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB,
The Jets might be the second-most quarterback-needy team in the league. I know they have Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on one-year contracts, but I don’t think they see either a 39-year old or a guy, who threw three passes since the 2015 playoffs, as a long-term solution. They didn’t give up multiple second-round picks to move up three spots and select anybody but a signal-caller. Mayfield’s personality matches perfectly with the big apple and if he stays clean off the field, the Jets have their guy for the next decade.
4. Cleveland Browns – Bradley Chubb, Edge,
With their second pick in the first round, the Browns go for the best player available on their draft board. That selection could end up being used on multiple prospects, but I think Cleveland has all the pieces on their offensive line and with Damarious Randall coming over from Green Bay, he is expected to play free safety for them. That takes Nelson and Fitzpatrick out of the equation and Chubb becomes the pick. He is a powerful edge rusher, who will form a dominant duo with Myles Garrett going forward.
5. Buffalo Bills – Sam Darnold, QB, USC (trade with Broncos)
The Bills are the third team desperate for a franchise quarterback. I like A.J. McCarron and I believe he could take this team back to the playoffs potentially, but the noise around them is too loud for me not to have them make a move for a QB. In this scenario, Buffalo calls the Broncos, as they see Darnold slide a little bit. The SC kid is my number one prospect at the position, because of his ability to anticipate and improvise. Getting him at this point for their two first-round picks seems to be worth it.
6. Indianapolis Colts – Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
I could easily see the Colts trade down once again, but if Nelson is still available when they are on the board, I would advise them to go for the top interior offensive lineman coming into the draft in recent memory. With Andrew Luck hopefully coming back finally after being a mystery for the last two years, you need to make protecting him a priority. I truly believe Nelson is a generational-type talent and I have him right behind Saquon Barkley, as my number two overall prospect.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Bucs would love Quenton Nelson or Saquon Barkley at this spot, but I don’t have either one of them available here. That shifts the focus back on the defensive side of the ball. Tampa added Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul to help out their pass rush and they have one of the top linebacking corps in the league, but their secondary could certainly use an upgrade. Fitzpatrick is as versatile a prospect on the back-end as there is in this draft. He can immediately step at either one of the safety spots, but also drop down in the slot or even move to outside corner on passing downs.
8. Chicago Bears – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio
Eddie Jackson was a steal at free safety a year ago in the draft and he forms one of the most underrated safety tandems together with Adrian Amos. The Bears put the transition tag on Kyle Fuller and the addition of Prince Amukamara was a solid one last offseason. However, if Denzel Ward is still on the board at this point, I can’t see them passing on the premiere corner in the draft. There’s a good chance Chicago goes with one of the top two linebackers, but if they complete this secondary, Leonard Floyd and those guys up front have a chance to get home consistently.
9. San Francisco 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
With the whole Reuben Foster situation, the Niners almost have to address the linebacker position. Edmunds is an athletic freak with unique measurements, who will only turn 20 a week after he’s drafted. While he still gets his eyes trapped in the backfield and takes some mis-steps when reading plays, his potential is off the charts. San Francisco invested heavily in their defensive line in the previous three years, so now they need someone on the second level, who can clean things up for them.
10. Oakland Raiders – Derwin James, S, Florida State
I know the Raiders have Karl Joseph playing strong safety for them, but if James is still available at this point, they will find a way to use him in their scheme early on. While he might play in the slot and as a dime linebacker his rookie campaign, I would think Oakland lets go of Reggie Nelson next offseason and put Joseph back in the high safety spot, to allow James to move down. The Raiders ranked 26th in passing yards allowed and I don’t see a corner worth this pick, so instead they bring the ability to punish receivers with James and Joseph.
11. Miami Dolphins – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Dolphins could go several ways with this selection, but if Rosen falls right into their lap, I think they will move on from Ryan Tannehill. The UCLA signal-caller is a natural passer and an extremely smart player. I believe his personality and want to know everything about an offense will match very well with head coach Adam Gase. While I have Rosen as my number two quarterback available, I think his injury history and the durability concerns, connected to it, will cause him to slide.
12. Denver Broncos – Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA (trade with Bills)
With the decision to trade out of the top five and pass on these quarterbacks, I think the Broncos will go back to winning with defense. Davenport is an extremely talented edge rusher, with the explosiveness and violence to take offensive linemen for a ride. He is still a pretty raw prospect and needs to use his hands in the proper fashion, but I think Von Miller will tutor him, much like DeMarcus Ware did when teaming up with Miller. If Davenport can develop quickly, those two guys will once again form a terrifying edge-rushing duo.
13. Washington Redskins – Vita Vea, DT, Washington
After getting one of the biggest steals of last year’s draft in Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, the ‘Skins continue building their defensive line. Vea is an unbelievably powerful, athletic 350-pound man, who will take over the nose position for Washington. With the way he demands double-teams in the run game, he will allow his linebackers to run around free, and with how he can push the pocket as well as chasing quarterbacks, he can stay on the field on third downs.
14. Green Bay Packers – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Packers simply need more talent on defense. I don’t know if Jason Spriggs is ready to take over at right tackle, but I don’t see them valuing anybody at the position enough to select him this high. Rather they go with a playmaker on the defensive side of the ball. Roquan Smith can chase ball-carriers all over the field. I think his best fit would as a WILL in a 4-3 scheme, but with the defensive line the Packers have put together, I think they would allow the Georgia LB to run around free and make a tremendous impact.
15. Arizona Cardinals – Calvin Ridley, WR,
I think the Cardinals definitely are in the market for a quarterback and they could easily move up the board to select one of them, but I just don’t believe they have the assets to get into the top five. Rather, I think they are looking at the wide receiver position here. The top prospect is still on the board and they don’t have a lot on the roster. Larry Fitzgerald still clearly is their number one guy, but he will be 35 once the season rolls around, and they gave up their number two and three receivers. Ridley is dynamic route runner, who will learn a lot from Larry Legend.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
This is kind of my surprise pick of the first round. I originally had the Cardinals’ and Ravens’ picks flip-flopped, but with the receiver situations changing in those two locations, I thought this would be the way to go. Joe Flacco is one of the highest-paid players in the NFL, despite having put up a passer rating above 90 in just one season since winning the Super Bowl and he had an average of 5.7 yards per pass last season. With the addition of Robert Griffin III and the offensive coaching staff having experience with dual-threat QBs, I think they will pull the trigger on the electric Jackson, whose ability to operate within the pocket is criminally underrated.
17. L.A. Chargers – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Chargers were one of the hottest teams in football after their 0-4 start last season. A lot of people think they will be looking for a replacement for the 36-year old Philip Rivers, but this squad is ready to go right now. They need an immediate impact performer. Payne is just that, as he can almost single-handedly transform the 31st-ranked run defense and create pressure up the middle against the pass. That would also allow Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram to get home off the edges even more often.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
This team needs help up front bad. Russell Wilson was scrambling for his life last year and he was the only player on the Seattle roster, who ran for at least 250 yards – he had almost 600. The Seahawks traded for Duane Brown in the middle of the 2017 season and I like the three guys, who could potentially form the interior, but I don’t see anybody ready to take over the right tackle spot. McGlinchey can step into that role day one and excel at it for the next decade. He is a long, smart and technically sound player.
19. Dallas Cowboys – Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
I could definitely see the Cowboys going for a pass-catcher at this spot, with Dez Bryant being released and them talking about making the offense more Dak-friendly. However, I don’t believe there’s one worth the 19th overall pick, assuming they don’t trade back. Landry’s ability to bend around the arc is unmatched by anybody in this draft and Dallas has a chance to put him on the opposite side of Demarcus Lawrence with David Irving on the inside, to form one of the most tenacious pass rushs in the league.
20. Carolina Panthers – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville (trade with Lions)
Wide receiver or tight-end could certainly be targets for Carolina, but I think their offense will be transformed with an offseason to make Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel integral parts of their approach. In this scenario the second-best corner in the draft is still available at 20 and I think the Panthers will package their first-round pick with a third-rounder for move up here. Alexander is an incredibly instinctive and aggressive playmaker from that position. This defense has a chance to be special once again.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Bengals are another team in desperate need for offensive line help. They might have had the two worst starting tackles and definitely the worst duo of tackles last season. The first step was done, when they traded for Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn and now they need to finish with the job with Williams. The Texas standout was the premiere player at the position in college football in 2016 and I expect him to regain that form at back to 100 percent. Even if they need someone at another position up front, evaluators like him at the interior spots as well.
22. Denver Broncos – Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia (trade with Bills)
The Broncos had one of the worst offensive lines two years ago and they aren’t where they want to be right now either. Wynn can probably play any of the five spots on the front, but due to his lack of length, I like him best at guard. With Garrett Bolles and Ronald Leary acquired a year ago, plus Jared Veldheer being added this offseason, the Georgia O-lineman could complete the puzzle. So Denver uses their number five overall pick to trade for two firsts and strengthen their offensive and defensive lines respectively.
23. New England Patriots – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Much has been made about the Patriots potentially trading all the way up for a Tom Brady successor, but I think Bill Belichick values his draft picks too much to do so. Instead, this is what he is looking for – smart, tough football players. That’s exactly what Evans brings to the table. The Alabama linebacker can stack and shed better than any of the other top prospect at the position and he brings a lot of value against the pass as well. Evans has quality experience as a part of different blitzing packages as well as putting his hand in the dirt and rushing off the edge.
24. Detroit Lions – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU (trade with Panthers)
Let’s stop this mess! Thanksgiving Day 2013 was the last time the Lions had a running back reach the century mark in a game. Ameer Abdullah simply hasn’t been able to stay healthy and produce, plus Detroit doesn’t really have anybody else, who can carry the load for them. Guice is one of the angriest runners I’ve ever seen coming out of college football. His physical style of running will give the team an element, they haven’t had in years (even though LeGarrette Blount came over this offseason), and the LSU back will take pressure of Matthew Stafford to throw the ball 40 times each week.
25. Tennessee Titans – Sam Hubbard, Edge, Ohio State
I don’t see a lot of true needs on the Titans offense. The O-line didn’t play up to their potential last season, but they have all the pieces to dominate. Derrick Henry is finally becoming the cowbell runner and Corey Davis looks to be ready to take over as the number one receiver, with a couple of nice complementary pieces around him. On defense, the secondary has a ton of talent and while linebacker might be an option after the departure of Avery Williamson, I think another edge rusher will be the choice here. Hubbard is an outstanding technician with a load of power.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Taven Bryan, DL,
What are the Falcons looking for out of their players? They want “urgent” athletes – explosive players with non-stop motors. Bryan is exactly that. His get-off for an interior defensive lineman is just ridiculous. This Atlanta defense is one of the fastest units in the entire NFL. Their players are just flying around and adding another disruptive force up front will only make them more aggressive. It was their offense that put up historical numbers in 2016, but with Bryan in the mix, the Falcons defense could be their dominant unit next season.
27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
The Saints had the top rushing attack last season behind a strong O-line and with the combination of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara carrying the rock. Michael Thomas has developed into a true number one receiver and Ted Ginn Jr. can take the top off opposing defenses. Now the only piece missing is a dynamic threat from the tight-end position. Goedert is a huge target with excellent hands and the speed to stress safeties down the seams. He still has a lot of room to grow and will only get better as a run-blocker.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
With the future of Ryan Shazier still up in the air, the Steelers need someone to take over the middle of their defense. That unit certainly showed serious improvement last season, but you saw them struggle towards the end of the season without their leader in the lineup. Vander Esch isn’t nearly ready to replace Shazier day one, but he is a similar type of athletic freak from that spot and he got better throughout his lone season starting for Boise.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
While I liked the Jaguars to improve heavily last season, I don’t think anybody believed that they would be one possession away from going all the way to the Super Bowl. Their defense was already the most talented in the entire league and with so many young players among it, they could be even better this upcoming season. It’s the offense, that struggled mightily in some contests. Without a quality QB on the board and the extension they gave to Blake Bortles, the focus will be to surround him with weapons. Moore is a smooth route-runner, who does most of his damage after the catch.
30. Minnesota Vikings – Will Hernandez, OG,
You don’t give Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed 84-million dollar contract over the next three years, if you don’t believe you can win right now. Minnesota’s defense is already one of the elite units in the league and the Vikes’ skill-position players, with Dalvin Cook back from injury, are poised for a big year, but they could still use someone up front. Hernandez’ power is out of this world and his lateral agility is outstanding at that size. His position coaches just need to work on knee-bend and hand-usage to maximize his potential.
31. New England Patriots – Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
For some reason a lot of experts and draft pages have Oliver as the number five corner available. I actually believe he is clear-cut top 20 overall prospects and I have him ahead of guys like Mike Hughes and Josh Jackson. The Patriots let Malcolm Butler walk this offseason and need someone to take over that number two corner spot on the opposite side of Stephon Gilmore. Oliver is extremely long and competitive, with the ability to potentially take away some of the premiere receivers early on in his career.
32. Philadelphia Eagles – Sony Michel, RB,
The Super Bowl champs are on the clock! For some reason I believe the Eagles could be a prime candidate to trade down here, with some team looking to come back up into the first round for a guy like Mason Rudolph. However, in this scenario I have them adding another running back, with the departure of LeGarrette Blount. I see a lot of Alvin Kamara-type qualities in Michel, in terms of his contact balance and the ability to burn pursuit angles. The Georgia RB could potentially make a similar impact in his rookie campaign.
Almost heard their names called:
Ronald Jones, RB, USC
James Daniels, C, Iowa
Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU