The QB-heavy, top-heavy, unpredictable, intriguing, and guaranteed to be influential 2018 NFL Draft is actually within a reasonable amount of time from happening, live from Dallas and the house that the worst GM in the history of the modern NFL built. Jerry Jones’s ACTUAL skills are in marketing and PR though, so it does actually seem appropriate for the Super Bowl of the offseason to finally touch down in the Big D.
Here’s my best guess as to what will unfold when the festivities kick off next Thursday night:
1. Browns – Sam Darnold, QB, USC
It’s clear that the Browns will take a quarterback here, and it appears to be down to Darnold and Josh Allen. Despite the rumors of Allen creeping in, it seems more likely that the Browns will make the right choice and select Darnold first overall (on the other hand, they ARE the Browns). Darnold’s way safer than Allen, but his upside is still elite thanks to his excellent accuracy and advanced decision-making skills. Plus, he’s only 20.
2. Giants – Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
Whether it’s a quarterback, Saquon Barkley, another player like Quenton Nelson, or potentially trading down, the Giants are still a mystery with the Draft right around the corner. Unless Cleveland goes with Allen and drops Darnold in their lap, the safe move is to go after Bradley Chubb, the top defensive prospect. Chubb’s an elite pass-rusher and a brick wall against the run, and New York’s need became more evident when they abruptly traded Jason Pierre-Paul earlier this offseason.
3. Jets – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Jets traded up from sixth overall and it’s no secret they’re planning to draft a quarterback. It feels like it’s up in the air between Rosen and Mayfield, but Rosen ultimately feels like the right choice. His floor is higher and his ceiling probably is too, thanks to his height. The Jets have two quarterbacks on one-year contracts, but Rosen’s the most polished QB in the class, so he may have a chance to start from day one if he can beat out Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater, à la Russell Wilson winning the job over Matt Flynn during his first training camp with the Seahawks.
4. Bills (via Browns/received #4 for #12 & #22) – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
With Chubb off the board, the Browns may be more inclined to trade down with quarterback-needy teams potentially interested in moving up. The Bills are in a position to trade up with their two first-round picks. They go with the quarterback who possesses the best arm in the class – and maybe of any class – but will also need a lot of time to potentially fine-tune his many glaring flaws, the most important of them being his lack of accuracy. In theory, the Bills would be able to allow Allen as long as he needs to develop with A.J. McCarron serving as a bridge quarterback.
5. Broncos – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
On paper, this move may not make a lot of sense. But the Broncos have reportedly been long enamored with Mayfield, and Case Keenum is only signed to a two-year deal and is not exactly guaranteed to succeed. Mayfield has the ability to become a great NFL quarterback, and under the guidance of John Elway, he should get the time and support he needs to make the transition. The Broncos have struck out recently with extremely tall QBs and wasted some prime years from their defense. Consider this pick a move in the opposite direction.
6. Colts – Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
Luckily for the Colts, they aren’t in need of a quarterback (hopefully). They certainly have a lot of needs and could go in a variety of directions. But protecting Andrew Luck has to be priority number one, and there is no better way of spreading that message than drafting the best offensive lineman in the class and letting him set the tone up front for the next decade.
— Gage McClanahan (@gmac6_) April 11, 2018
7. Buccaneers – Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
On paper, the Buccaneers are in good shape on offense with an above-average offensive line, young franchise quarterback, two solid options at tight end, and young elite talent at wide receiver. The one position they lack is running back. Pressure needs to be taken off of Jameis Winston, and Barkley would certainly help alleviate it. He is a three-down player who’s a consistent home run threat catching the ball out of the backfield. With Barkley filling the Gurley role, the Buccaneers could be poised to make a Rams-like offensive turnaround in 2018.
8. Bears – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
A lot of mock drafts have Tremaine Edmunds going to the Bears rather than Smith. But Smith is a better prospect at the position than Edmunds. Simply put, Smith can do it all and will be a three-down impact player from Day 1 and eventually blossom into a modern incarnation of the old Butkus/Urlacher MLB role.
9. 49ers – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Even prior to the issues surrounding Reuben Foster, linebacker was a need for San Francisco. Only 19 years of age, Edmunds flashes a lot of high-end play-making ability. And with the 49ers’ quarterback situation finally addressed, they can focus on making their defense as fearsome as it was just a few seasons back. Edmunds is a solid start.
10. Raiders – Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The Raiders clearly need help back there after finishing near the bottom in almost every defensive category. Whether it be defensive line or secondary, this needs to be a defensive pick. Fitzpatrick will act as a chess piece who can constantly be shifted among different backfield positions, but still manage to play at a very high level.
11. Dolphins – Vita Vea, DL, Washington
Ndamukong Suh left a big hole in the middle of the Dolphins defense. Vea is viewed by many to be the top interior defensive lineman in this class with his freakish athleticism and huge frame (6’5”, 340 lbs.). He may not be the prospect or player that Suh is, but the Dolphins find themselves with a lot of needs, and Vea can come in and soften the blow from losing him to the Rams.
12. Browns (via Bills/received #12 & #22 for #4) – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Despite the Browns trading back from fourth overall to 12, they are still able to select arguably the top cornerback prospect in the class (who is also a local kid, an added bonus). The Browns have a lot of picks to fill and a lot of holes on both sides of the ball. If they could grab Darnold and Ward with their first two picks and also add #22 overall, this draft will be remembered as a game-changer for years to come in Northwest Ohio.
13. Redskins – Derwin James, DB, Florida State
Washington could go running back here and either overdraft or trade down, but they have some secondary issues to address and they’re better off doing it in Round 1. The team traded away Su’a Cravens and will likely not re-sign Bashaud Breeland either. James was viewed at one point as a potential first overall selection. He had an up-and-down season in 2017 after returning from a serious knee injury, but there is no denying the talent he possesses. Teaming James up with Josh Norman could quickly make the Redskins’ secondary a strength.
— FA Hoje (@FAHoje) April 10, 2018
14. Chargers (via Packers/received #14 for #17 & #84) – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Shocker (pun intended)! The Chargers move up past the Cardinals and select their preferred quarterback of the future in Jackson. Philip Rivers is still playing at a high level but is 36 years old and has approximately 26 kids down in San Diego calling his name towards retirement. Jackson would be in a prime spot to sit back for a year or two and learn under one of the more under-appreciated quarterbacks of this era.
15. Cardinals – Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
After losing out on Jackson, there really isn’t another quarterback in this class who could realistically go this high. So the Cardinals go after the next best thing and address a major need at offensive tackle. After spending top dollar on Justin Pugh, it may be wise to continue investing in their offensive line. Sam Bradford has proven to be a risk when it comes to staying on the field, so he will need all the protection he can get.
16. Ravens – Connor Williams, OL, Texas
The Ravens are another team with options. Whether it be wide receiver, tight end, linebacker or offensive tackle, there will be talented players at need positions that will tempt Ozzie Newsome and his staff. Ultimately, they need serious help along their offensive line, and Williams fits the bill. Some question his ability to play offensive tackle at the next level, but he projects as an elite-level guard in a worst case scenario.
17. Packers (via Chargers/received #17 & #84 for #14) – Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
This would be a major victory for the Packers. Defensive end is one of their biggest needs and Landry is considered by some to be a superior prospect to Chubb, at least when it comes to his upside as a pure pass rusher off the edge. Green Bay would be overjoyed to still have the opportunity to select him after trading down out of #14. Landry’s last healthy year was 2016 and he put up a completely freakish 16.5 Sack/22 TFL/7 FF stat line in the ACC.
18. Seahawks – Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
Year after year we see the Seahawks reach for offensive line talent in the early rounds with little success. It is still a major need for them and will continue to be until they select the RIGHT talent. Wynn is a fast-riser with an ability to play all along the offensive line. And with how many needs Seattle has along their line, he’s a perfect fit.
— Kielpro88 (@kielpro88) April 17, 2018
19. Cowboys – D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
After releasing Dez Bryant (and honestly before that as well), the Cowboys had a big need at wide receiver. While this class doesn’t necessarily have the top-line WR talent, there are still players who have the chance to be very good at the next level. Moore is considered to be a top prospect, if not THE top prospect at wide-out. With Allen Hurns on the outside and Moore on the other side, it could be an improvement over what Dallas had in 2017. That would be a big win for Dak Prescott.
20. Lions – Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
The Lions have obvious needs along their front seven. While Landry is an obvious target of Detroit’s, Payne is a very nice choice as well. Arguably the best defensive lineman for Alabama, Payne fills a big need on the interior while also being able to play all three downs. An interior disruptor on passing downs is a big need for the Lions, and Payne is an obvious choice at this pick. Don’t be surprised if Matt Patricia changes his role like Belichick did with Vince Wilfork.
21. Bengals – James Daniels, OL, Iowa
After trading for Cordy Glenn, the Bengals continue to invest heavily in their offensive line. They have struck out on their last couple of picks at offensive line, but Daniels is arguably the best interior offensive lineman after Nelson. The Bengals could use that type of stability up front.
22. Browns (via Bills/received #12 & #22 for #4) – Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan
The Browns manage to grab their third high-ceiling player of the round, and once again at an important position that can be hard to fill past Round 1. There’s no doubt that Hurst is one of the best defensive prospects in this class, but some teams reportedly have reservations after a medical test at the combine revealed a possible issue with his heart. He has already been cleared to resume football activities and didn’t even have to go back for medical re-checks. The Browns can also afford to be a little bold after picking up the best QB and the best CB (i.e. the two most important positions) with their first two selections, especially for a player who could be devastating playing as the inside option next to Myles Garrett on the edge.
Alabama LB Rashaan Evans (@616evans4) Highlights
One of the most explosive defensive players in the draft. Evans shoots all over the field like a missile. Has a great chance to start early wherever he gets drafted.
— JustBombsProductions (@JBP_Official) April 20, 2018
23. Patriots – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
A lot of speculation about the Patriots possibly moving up has been creeping in since the trade of Brandin Cooks for the 23rd overall pick. But they stay put and make a predictable selection at a big area of need from a program they trust implicitly. This pick will remind many of Dont’a Hightower, which is who Evans will line up next to come the season.
24. Panthers – Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
A huge need for the Panthers, whose main pass rusher is 38-year old Julius Peppers. Seriously.
Hubbard comes into the league with 17 career sacks and 30 tackles for loss under his belt at Ohio State. He is still on the raw side, but has the chance to learn and develop under one of the best pass-rushers of this generation, with an eye on hopefully taking his place sooner rather than later.
25. Titans – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Speaking of raw talent, Davenport is oozing with it. Viewed by some as a possible top ten selection, Davenport slips a little bit here. His stock dropped a little bit after his underwhelming performance at the Senior Bowl. The Titans have invested a lot into their secondary over the past year or two and are now ready to shore up their front seven. Davenport may not be a day one impact player, but the Titans can’t risk missing out on a top talent, especially at a premium position like defensive end. It’s also hard to imagine anyone better positioned to coach him than Mike Vrabel.
26. Falcons – Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
To be honest, this Falcons team doesn’t have a lot of holes to fill. They have built a strong core on both sides of the ball. That being said, defensive line help would make sense after losing Dontari Poe and Adrian Clayborn in free agency. Bryan has been connected to Atlanta for some time and makes a lot of sense as a three-down interior presence who can kick to the edge if asked to do so.
27. Saints – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
In one season, the Saints turned their team from below .500 to a serious Super Bowl threat. After striking gold in last year’s draft with Marshon Lattimore, Ryan Ramczyk, Alvin Kamara, and Marcus Williams, New Orleans look to continue that trend. Drew Brees is 39: his window is inevitably closing. He was also arguably at his best when he had Jimmy Graham as a weapon. Goedert is probably the top tight end in the class. Between him, Michael Thomas, Kamara, Mark Ingram, and the recently acquired Cameron Meredith, this has the makings of a contender for the league’s best offense in 2018.
Boise State LB Leighton Vander Esch (@VanderEsch38) Highlights
LVE is one of the most dominant linebackers in this draft class. The 2017 MWC Defensive Player of the Year finished the season with 141 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 4 sacks & 2 INT.
— JustBombsProductions (@JBP_Official) March 28, 2018
28. Steelers – Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
This pairing makes a lot of sense on paper. Pittsburgh has a major need at linebacker with Ryan Shazier more worried about walking than sacking QBs these days. After striking gold with T.J. Watt last year, the Steelers could find the same sort of luck with Vander Esch. A quick riser on draft boards since the season’s conclusion, he has the makings of an effective every-down linebacker. On top of that, one of Vander Esch’s biggest strengths is pass coverage, which is hard to find in linebacker prospects, and which Pittsburgh seems to be in constant, desperate need of. If Vander Esch makes it to 28, this is the most logical choice for Pittsburgh.
29. Jaguars – Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Like the Falcons, the Jaguars suddenly find themselves with one of the deepest rosters in the entire league. They struggled with production from the wide receiver position at times, though. With Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns gone via free agency, Jacksonville could find themselves drafting a wideout for need. Luckily, Sutton is regarded as one of the best prospects at the position and dominated the competition in college. Taking him at #29 wouldn’t be a reach. He may need some time to adjust to the NFL level, but with the other teams focusing on Leonard Fournette, the Jags can afford to give it to him.
30. Vikings – Will Hernandez, OL, UTEP
After nabbing the big fish of free agency in Kirk Cousins, it’s time for the Vikings to re-invest their assets into the offensive line. With Dalvin Cook returning, Cousins has the chance to thrive in Minnesota the way he never did in Washington. Hernandez joins a deep, front-loaded group of offensive linemen and can be a difference maker from day one.
31. Patriots – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Even after selecting a linebacker at 23, the Patriots wisely continue adding to their defense. Jackson is considered by some to be the top cornerback in the class and has huge play-making ability (eight interceptions in 2017). Belichick has shown a favoritism toward Iowa players for years now due to his strong relationship with Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz. The Patriots could ease Jackson in if he needs it, but a player of his talent should be starting opposite Stephon Gilmore before too long.
32. Eagles – Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Arguably the deepest team in the NFL, the reigning Super Bowl champions find themselves sitting pretty. Their biggest draft need is running back, which means they’re in great shape sitting at #32. They have been connected to Guice for a lot of the draft season, so the match makes sense. He can be paired up with Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement to form a very dangerous running back trio, with Guice possibly leading the pack from Day 1. If not for Barkley, Guice would easily be the top prospect at running back, and he would turn a weakness into a big strength for a team that will only be satisfied with a repeat of last year’s triumph.