Alas, the way too early 2018 NFL Mock Draft. Let’s be honest, if you’re any of the below teams, you’re already looking forward to next year’s draft crop, especially if you need a QB. 2018 has a legitimate chance to be the first draft since 1999 to lead off with three quarterbacks, especially if Vegas is right.
(Draft order is the inverse order of odds to win the Super Bowl.)
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold – QB, USC
Darnold was allegedly the most talked about player at the 2017 combine and he wasn’t even there. If he continues to play even remotely close to his 2016 form, the Browns might be negotiating his contract halfway through the season. After starting the season on the bench, Darnold burst onto the scene, completing 67 percent of his passes for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns, nine interceptions, and one of the more memorable Rose Bowl performances we’ve ever seen from a quarterback. At 6’4, 225 lbs, he has all the tools and intangibles to be THE guy of this draft class and the ideal player Cleveland has been waiting for, ultimately, to fuck up.
2. San Francisco 49ers
Josh Allen – QB, Wyoming
QB guru George Whitfield, who groomed Cam Newton for the NFL, says Allen has “Cam’s frame, but he can stop, start and has the antenna of a Manziel.” Josh Allen sounds like the perfect QB on paper, less Johnny Manziel’s antenna for cocaine. He’s been pinned as the “QB prospect of the future” and “the quarterback the NFL has been waiting for.” He’s a project, but he has all the tools teams dream of in a franchise signal caller. If he improves his accuracy, he’ll be a guaranteed top 5 pick. Hell, any current college QB can go top 5 if Mitch Trubisky can. Allen considered coming out this year, and would’ve gone very early, but heading back to be the potential #1 overall pick was smart. Allen could be just another stud 49ers quarterback in a great lineage.
3. New York Jets
Josh Rosen – QB, UCLA
The stars are aligning for the Jets to finally get their quarterback. The team is set to have their worst season in years just as seemingly one of the best QB classes is about to come out. But the Jets will probably go on a tear and win the Super Bowl, again missing out on another franchise signal caller. Idiots! Rosen would be a blessing for the Jets. A highly touted recruit out of high school with the bite to back up his bark, Rosen completed 59 percent of his passes in 2016 for 1,915 yards with ten touchdowns and five interceptions in his six games before being sidelined by shoulder surgery. He has a strong arm and can manage the pocket, but needs to improve on his accuracy. At 6’4, 210 lbs, he has the size to last in the NFL. But he’ll need to have a big junior season to live up to the expectations set by his phenomenal freshman year, thus avoiding the Christian Hackenberg comparisons. If Rosen thinks College Station is tough, wait until he meets the New York media…
4. Los Angeles Rams
Arden Key – DE, LSU
Key will be 2018’s pass-rush darling. Although the Rams already have sack machine Robert Quinn, he has one foot in the retirement home. The Rams could use all the star power they can get, a problem that rarely affects any Los Angeles organization. Key is a fast, lanky pass rusher who can bend the corner at 6’6, 231 pounds. He might be a little lean, but adding a few pounds of muscle is nothing HGH and testosterone treatment can’t handle. Arden was one of the best college football players in 2016, recording 56 tackles with 14.5 for a loss, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles and three passes broken up: crazy numbers for a single season. But he isn’t just a one hit wonder. Arden was also very productive as a freshman, totaling 41 tackles with 6.5 for a loss, five sacks and one pass broken up. The Rams would be thrilled to have him, even if Los Angeles fans are still learning how football works, let alone how he’ll help.
5. Chicago Bears
Minkah Fitzpatrick – CB, Alabama
Most experts this year had Chicago going with either Jamal Adams, Marshon Lattimore, or Malik Hooker to help cure their secondary woes. Instead, Chicago believes they’ve found their future franchise signal caller in Trubisky (they didn’t). Once they realize “Mitchell” is going to be an inevitable disaster, they won’t make this mistake again. Fitzpatrick is 6’1, 203 lbs with excellent size and natural cover skills, and a ton of upside. In 2016, Fitzpatrick recorded 66 tackles with seven passes broken up and six interceptions. His preference and natural position may be safety after splitting time this year between the two, but the versatility is mouthwatering to Chicago.
6. Buffalo Bills
Derwin James – S, Florida St.
James will bring playmaking ability to a Bills defense that so desperately needs it. The Ed Reed comparisons have already begun. Ya know, like how every year the best safety in the class gets compared to Ed Reed… James had been playing well for Florida State before sustaining a knee injury. Before the 2016 season, people had James pinned as the best defensive player in college football. As a freshman in 2015, he had a strong debut with 91 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles. At 6’3, 211 lbs, he is a dream for any team desperate for a playmaking defender.
7. New Orleans Saints
Christian Wilkins – DL, Clemson
The Saints will be bad this year, but they have enough talent to keep them out of the QB sweepstakes. Nick Fairley and Sheldon Rankins are aging and the Saints will need to keep rebuilding their defense as long as Matt Ryan, Cam Newton, and Jameis Winston have a pulse. The addition of Marshon Lattimore this year will help the secondary tremendously, but Christian Wilkins would be a rock solid choice, literally. At 6’4, 310 lbs, he has the size to play inside and the athleticism to rush from the end. Essentially, he’s a much better Jonathan Allen, and a much better anything the Saints currently have.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mike McGlinchey – T, Notre Dame
McGlinchey was very impressive at left tackle for 2016, especially for someone who had never played the position. He’s got excellent feet for someone his size (6’7, 310 lbs) and can get movement at the point of attack for the run. He’s got superb upper body strength to push defenders out of their gaps and open holes for the running game. His performance last year is evidence that McGlinchey is a future NFL starter and a first round pick. Tom Coughlin made a nice value pick with Cam Robinson in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, but the Luke Joeckel second-overall pick has haunted Jacksonville for a while now. Branden Albert won’t stay healthy, so targeting more help for the offensive line to go with Robinson at RT and Leonard Fournette in the backfield, giving Bortles everything he needs, is the right move.
9. Los Angeles Chargers
Harold Landry – DE, Boston College
Had he turned pro, Landry would have been a first round pick. Instead, he headed back for another year and could benefit in a lesser class of pass rushers. He’d be a good fit as an LEO (weakside edge rusher) if Melvin Ingram is lost and would pair beautifully with emerging stud Joey Bosa. At 6’3, 250 lbs, Landry scored 51 tackles, 16.5 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss, seven forced fumbles, and four passes batted. Landry would immediately help get the ball back into Philip’s hands.
10. Washington Redskins
Saquon Barkley – RB, Penn St.
The Washington Redskins backfield was a disaster in 2016. Matt Jones is under the impression you can run without the ball, while Fat Rob, although showing some flashes of brilliance, is a fullback. Running backs are officially…back (see what I did there), and with Elliott and Fournette being sold at a premium, Barkley looks to be in the same position. He’s not getting the Adrian Peterson comparisons Fournette got, but many are comparing him to LaDainian Tomlinson, which is a stretch. Barkley was superb in 2016, averaging 5.5 yards per carry for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also made 28 catches for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a receiver. He’s a pure dual threat for a team that fields most of its threats from its front office.