It’s never too early for a mock draft. Given the timing of the Chicago Bears bye week, I thought it would be the perfect time to roll out my first one for the 2018 NFL Draft. The NFL draft means something different to every NFL team. The Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers will be looking for players that can make an immediate impact on their weak rosters. While teams like the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles will search for players that fit in well with the successful systems already in place.
Either way, each team has a chance to improve their roster. Decisions that are made on draft night can impact organizations for years to come. This can be both a positive or negative thing depending on the outcome.
Disclaimer: My picks are based on a team’s needs and the players projected to go in the first round. The draft order is accurate of the current standings in the NFL.
Pick 1: Cleveland Browns 0-8
Saquon Barkley RB (Penn State)
Another draft, another high pick for the Browns. At this point, it’s almost like clockwork. Most would expect the Browns to take a quarterback, but I’m one of the few to think otherwise. I’m a big believer in teams taking the best player available. By the time draft night rolls around, I believe this player will be Saquon Barkley out of Penn State.
Sorry, but Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson are not the future in Cleveland. I also think the Browns will find a way to complete the A.J. McCarron trade in the offseason. They will have both DeShone Kizer and McCarron to work with, leaving the door open for the Barkley selection.
After seeing how well the Leonard Fournette selection has worked out for the Jacksonville Jaguars, it will be hard for the Browns to pass on Barkley. Barkley has more upside as a receiver and returner compared to Fournette and even Ezekiel Elliott. Like Myles Garrett, Barkley is a player that can have a major impact on the Browns roster immediately.
Pick 2: San Francisco 49ers 0-8
Mike McGlinchey OT (Notre Dame)
Before the trade for Jimmy Garoppolo, I had the San Francisco 49ers taking quarterback Sam Darnold of USC. Now, I could see them trading back, similar to what they did last year, or helping Garoppolo out by getting some protection for him.
Mike McGlinchey could have gone in the first round of last year’s draft but decided to play his senior season at Notre Dame. His draft stock has continued to rise, especially after the success of running back Josh Adams and the entire Irish offense. I would be shocked if McGlinchey doesn’t go in the top ten. The 49ers make a lot of sense here.
Pick 3: New York Giants 1-6
Sam Darnold QB (USC)
Another man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or something like that. Anyway, since the 49ers no longer need a QB, the Giants will finally draft Eli Manning‘s replacement. If the 2017 season was an indication of anything, it was that the offense needs a makeover. What better way to do that then by drafting a future franchise quarterback?
Now, there is still some who believe Darnold will stay in school, but right now, we’re assuming he’s coming out. I could see the Giants trading Eli Manning for the right price, leaving the door open for a new quarterback like Darnold. For a division filled with good, young quarterbacks, it’s time for the Giants to catch up.
Pick 4: Indianapolis Colts 2-6
Minkah Fitzpatrick S (Alabama)
By this time, the Indianapolis Colts will hope Andrew Luck is ready to return to the field. The addition of Jacoby Brissett eliminates their reasoning behind drafting a quarterback, even if Luck is still out. I expect the Colts to address the defensive side of the ball early and often in the draft.
The secondary has been awful in 2017 and I believe the Colts will look to improve the unit by selecting safety Minkah Fitzpatrick with the fourth overall pick. Fitzpatrick reminds a lot of Jamal Adams on tape. Adams has helped the Jets defense become respectable in 2017. Fitzpatrick could do the same for the Colts in 2018.
Pick 5: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2-5
Connor Williams OT (Texas)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have two major issues: offensive and defensive line. They would be wise to address one of the two in the draft, but the best move would be to get protection for their franchise quarterback Jameis Winston. Connor Williams was the top offensive tackle on the board before injuring his MCL. Even with the injury, Williams could return this season.
Regardless of what happens the remainder of the season, I still expect Williams to be one of the top offensive tackles in the draft. There is some risk involved, but if the Buccaneers ever want to be a serious contender in the NFC South, they will have to be able to their quarterback.
Pick 6: Oakland Raiders 3-5
Quenton Nelson G (Notre Dame)
Three out of the first seven picks in this year’s NFL draft may be offensive linemen if the season were to end today. Remember, these selections are based on the team’s biggest needs. The Oakland Raiders desperately need new talent on the offensive line. Luckily for them, Quenton Nelson should be available at seven.
Nelson is the highest graded guard by far. He is solid both in the run and pass game. When Derek Carr is out, the Raiders are a different football team. Their number one priority this offseason should be keeping him healthy. Fans may not get excited after a selection of an offensive lineman in the first round, but improving the team is the number one goal.
Pick 7: San Diego Chargers 3-5
Maurice Hurst DT (Michigan)
Having a 36-year-old QB is something the Chargers will need to address this offseason. However, I think they will wait until the later rounds to find Philip Rivers‘ replacement. They could use some help on their defensive line and that’s why I have them taking Maurice Hurst out of Michigan. His ability to be effective in both the run and pass game will make him a great fit in Anthony Lynn‘s system.
Pick 8: Chicago Bears 3-5
Harold Landry DE (Boston College)
With both Willie Young and Pernell McPhee getting older, the Chicago Bears must find their next outside linebacker. In a perfect world, the Bears would have taken Maurice Hurst, but the Chargers snagged him. The need at OLB is too much to ignore and Ryan Pace continues to improve an already impressive defense by selecting Harold Landry.
Landry can play both DE and OLB. His versatility reminds of Leonard Floyd. These two will make for a lethal combination for years to come in the NFC North.
Pick 9: Arizona Cardinals 3-4
Josh Allen QB (Wyoming)
Like the Chargers, the Arizona Cardinals need a young quarterback in the worse way. Carson Palmer‘s time in the NFL is just about done and Drew Stanton isn’t the answer. If the Cardinals were smart, they would give Bruce Arians a chance to develop a young quarterback. Josh Allen can be that guy.
The kid out of Wyoming is a gunslinger. He has a lot of talent but needs time to develop. Sitting behind Palmer for a year could do wonders for Allen. It’s a win-win the Cardinals pretend like their still contenders for another year with Palmer and they have their next QB waiting for his opportunity.
Pick 10: Cincinnati Bengals 3-4
Derwin James S (FSU)
The Cincinnati Bengals actually have one of the most interesting young rosters in all of the NFL. There is lack of young talent in their secondary and I expect them to use their top-15 draft pick on either a safety or a corner. In this scenario, safety Derwin James is the best player on the board.
James does come with some risk. He is coming off a knee injury, but once he gets back to his old self, he will be the five-star athlete he was in high school. His athleticism is what separates him from the other players in similar positions in this draft. The Bengals showed last year that they’re not afraid to take a risk.
Pick 11: Denver Broncos 3-4
Calvin Ridley WR Alabama
The Denver Broncos could use a lot of things in the 2018 draft. An offensive lineman, quarterback, wide receiver, or even defensive lineman. They will have a lot of interesting options with the number 12 overall pick. The Broncos will wait to take a quarterback and look to add to their aging wide receiving core.
Calvin Ridley is the best wide receiver in this year’s draft in my opinion. Ridley gets overlooked because his quarterback is more of a runner than a thrower. In the right system, Ridley could really be something special. John Elway can evaluate talent well, he will have his eyes on Ridley.
Pick 12: Cleveland Browns 0-8 (From Houston Texans)
Courtland Sutton WR (SMU)
For the second straight draft, the Browns will have two first-round picks. If they don’t trade this one to get A.J. McCarron, they will use it to give Kizer some weapons. The Broncos taking Ridley will give the Browns the opportunity to take Courtland Sutton out of SMU.
Sutton is regarded as the top wide receiver in this class by many and rightfully so. At 6’4″, 215 lbs, Sutton has a chance to be a star in the NFL. I would compare him to Larry Fitzgerald. Fast in space, while also having the ability to bring down a jump ball.
Pick 13: Detroit Lions 3-4
Christian Wilkins DL (Clemson)
The offense for the Detroit Lions seems to be in good hands with Mathew Stafford. The defense is good, but they lack a consistent pass rush and run defense. Adding Christian Wilkins from Clemson would be a safe move for the Lions. Wilkins is stellar in the run game, while also being very effective against the pass. He’s a big boy at 300 pounds but is quick and agile when battling offensive linemen in the trenches.
Pick 14: Washington Redskins 3-4
Derrius Guice RB (LSU)
With the 49ers out of the picture, the Washington Redskins should be able to retain Kirk Cousins. If that is, in fact, the case, the Redskins should use this pick to improve the offense. They seem to be OK at the wide receiver position and there’s nothing of value there at this point in the draft. Adding a legitimate number one running back could help open up the offense for Cousins and Jay Gruden.
Derrius Guice has proven that he can be one of the best running backs in this year’s draft class. He runs with the patience of Le’Veon Bell and speed of Jaamal Charles. That is rare to find in a running back, especially in college. The Redskins would be getting a special player in Guice.
Pick 15: New York Jets 4-5
Josh Rosen QB (UCLA)
The New York Jets are doing all they can to ensure they don’t get a top-five draft pick. That is unfortunate because they are a team who could really use one. I don’t think 38-year-old Josh McCown is the future, so expect the Jets to take a chance on a quarterback. Scouts believe Josh Rosen is the “most NFL ready” QB in the 2018 draft class. He could benefit from sitting behind a Josh McCown, but I could see him winning the job out of camp.
Rosen is known for his big arm, which is something he will need to play in New York in the months of November and December. My bet is big blue will have a new QB next season and Rosen makes a lot of sense.
Pick 16: Baltimore Ravens 4-4
Christian Kirk WR (Texas A&M)
Joe Flacco could really use some help. Mike Wallace is too inconsistent and there’s not much after Jeremy Maclin. It’s time for the Ravens to address the offense. They will do this by drafting Christian Kirk out of Texas A&M. Kirk reminds of Steve Smith. Small, but can catch the deep ball and is fast as hell.
Pick 17: Dallas Cowboys 4-3
Holton Hill CB (Texas)
The Dallas Cowboys have their offense figured out. They could use another tight end, but there isn’t one that jumps out at this point in the draft. They will address their weak secondary instead by taking Holton Hill out of Texas. At 6’3″, 201 pounds, Hill has the size and athletic ability to pick off any pass. For this reason, he is my favorite corner in this year’s draft.
Pick 18: Tennessee Titans 4-3
Bradley Chubb DE (North Carolina State)
It’s time for the Titans to focus on their defense. There is a special player available and the Titans would be foolish to pass on him. Bradley Chubb could fall this far in the draft if teams really work on addressing their needs. As the season goes on, I expect Chubb to go higher and higher on big boards. For now, the Titans have him.
Pick 19: Atlanta Falcons 4-3
Ronnie Harrison S (Alabama)
The defense continues to be the Achilles heel of this Atlanta Falcons team. They have a decent defensive line, but the secondary could use some improvement. The Falcons haven’t had a good safety in a long, long time. It’s time they get one in Ronnie Harrison.
Harrison is a mixture of Cam Chancellor and Eric Berry. He could win a starting spot out of camp. I trust safeties coming out of Alabama, not corners.
Pick 20: Green Bay Packers 4-3
Rashaan Evans LB (Alabama)
The Green Bay Packers will continue to improve their defense through the draft in 2018. They could use an inside linebacker and I expect them to take one. Might as well be another player from the best defense in college football.
Rashaan Evans can play both inside and outside linebacker, but the Packers will primarily use him in the middle. They’ve had success in drafting former Nick Saban players (Ha Ha Clinton-Dix).
Pick 21: Miami Dolphins 4-3
Orlando Brown OT (Oklahoma)
The Miami Dolphins need a running back after trading Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. I could see them taking one here, but their offensive line is one of the worst in the league, therefore, I have them taking one with this pick. Getting a guard would be ideal, but I think Orlando Brown has a lot of upsides. He just needs the right system and coach- that guy may be Adam Gase.
Pick 22: Jacksonville Jaguars 4-3
Mason Rudolph QB (OKST)
The defense is good, the running back is good, the quarterback? Not so much. It’s time for the Jaguars to find their franchise QB and that guy could be Mason Rudolph. Rudolph is accurate and doesn’t turn the ball over. For a team with a great, not good defense that is huge.
Pick 23: Buffalo Bills 5-3
Denzel Ward CB (Ohio State)
Head coach Sean McDermott is changing the culture in Buffalo. The defense has become the strength of this football team. I expect them to continue to improve this unit by addressing their secondary, who is suspect at times. Denzel Ward stands out in man coverage, which is something the Bills like to play. This is a good fit for both parties involved.
Pick 24: Carolina Panthers 5-3
Isaiah Oliver CB (Colorado)
Speaking of cornerbacks, the Carolina Panthers could use one. The defense is good but could be dominant with a solid corner. Isaiah Oliver is big and tough, he would be the perfect addition to the Panthers defense.
Pick 25: Seattle Seahawks 5-2
Tarvarus McFadden CB (FSU)
Three in a row! After the whole Jeremy Lane failing his physical situation, the Seahawks need to bring in another player to help out Richard Sherman. McFadden is a freak athlete, like Sherman, but needs some help understanding different concepts. Enter, Pete Carroll and the Legion of Boom.
Pick 26: Los Angeles Rams 5-2
Malik Jefferson LB (Texas)
The Los Angeles Rams are heading in the right direction. They could use more help on defense, specifically at the linebacker position. Malik Jefferson would be a good fit with the Rams given his ability to cover space on the field. He’s solid in coverage and an above average pass rusher. He can do a little bit of everything, which is always intriguing.
Pick 27: New Orleans Saints 5-2
Kendall Joseph LB (Clemson)
Many teams would be wise to improve their defenses in this draft. The Saints did just that last when they drafted cornerback, Marshon Lattimore. I believe they will take a QB at some point, but they need to continue to build the defense. Kendall Joseph has good instincts, especially against the run. It’s been a while since the Saints have had a difference maker at the linebacker position.
Pick 28: Minnesota Vikings 6-2
Chukwuma Okorafor OT (Western Michigan)
The Minnesota Vikings need some help on their offensive line and good thing for them there is a player available that is worth taking a shot on. Not too far from Minnesota, Chukwuma Okorafor has been a great player for the Western Michigan Broncos. Okorafor has gone overlooked, but he should be taken sometime late in the first round.
Pick 29: Pittsburgh Steelers 6-2
Arden Key DE (LSU)
Believe it or not, it may be time for the Steelers to start looking at Big Ben replacements. No way do they take a QB in the first round, but it’s something to key an eye going forward. With the three B’s, the offense is in good hands. Expect the Steelers to add to their defense. The best player available is Arden Key. He is getting overlooked because of an injured shoulder. If NFL teams see the shoulder injury isn’t a big deal, then Key could be a top ten pick. He has all the athleticism and talent to be a disruptive pass rusher in the NFL.
Pick 30: New England Patriots 6-2
Clelin Ferrell DE (Clemson)
Surprisingly, the best organization in the NFL could use a lot in the draft. Tom Brady is fine, so the Patriots should address the defense. I think they will bolster their pass rush, that has been inconsistent for the last year or so. Clelin Ferrell could really help the Patriots with his speed off the edge.
Pick 31: Buffalo Bills 5-3 (From Chiefs)
Dre’Mont Jones DT (Ohio State)
Yes, the Bills have two first-round picks in the 2018 draft. Could they trade one of them? Possibly, for now, though, I think they hold onto it. Again, the offense is in a good spot with the recent trade for Kelvin Benjamin, so I again expect them to address the defense. Sean McDermott’s defense requires athletic defensive linemen and Dre’Mont Jones is just that.
Pick 32: Philadelphia Eagles 7-1
Martinas Rankin OT (Mississippi State)
The last pick in the first round currently belongs to the Eagles. Who would have thought? The Eagles roster is a good one; that is obvious after seeing their record. However, no team is perfect and the Eagles are no different. Before the trade for Ajayi, I had the Eagles taking a running back. Now, I believe they will get protection for their young franchise QB. Martinas Rankin of Mississippi State is currently projected as an early second-round pick, but the Eagles take a chance on him here.