The lives of hundreds of young men are about to change as the 2018 NFL draft is less than a day away. Compared to past years, there is a lot of uncertainty at the top of the draft board. That means the first hour or two of Thursday’s first round could be quite memorable. Before I get onto my mock, I wanted to discuss the difference between this one and past years. The initial player mentioned is who I believe the team will select, while the “What I would do” section highlights who I’d be looking at if I was making the selection.
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB USC: At this point, it seems the Browns pick has come down to either Darnold or Josh Allen. GM John Dorsey can really keep a secret, as by now we usually have a good indication on which way a team will go. While both Darnold and Allen come with huge upside, Darnold’s higher floor makes him a safer bet for a team and fanbase that has been clamoring for a franchise quarterback.
What I would do- The Browns have passed on too many quarterbacks to not select one here. In my opinion, the top quarterback in this class is Josh Rosen which would make him my pick.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State: The Giants don’t pick this high often, so it would make sense for them to go after the heir apparent to Eli Manning. Despite that, reports have come out suggesting the front office doesn’t feel the same way (although Darnold being available could change things). Barkley seems to be the apple of Dave Gettleman’s eye and his GM track record shows he isn’t afraid to select backs early. Quenton Nelson is also a player to watch here as the Giants offensive line is still a weakness.
What I would do- To me, this pick would either be spent on whoever I feel is the best available QB, or traded. The Giants could be competitive next year, so with Eli Manning being 37 it allows them a chance to jumpstart any potential rebuild. Trading down would depend on the offers coming through, but with multiple needs could be enticing. If the Browns select Darnold, my pick would be Rosen or vice versa.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma: The Jets (hopefully) didn’t trade all those picks to move up three slots and then not draft a quarterback. While Josh Rosen has gained momentum of late, Mayfield’s college production and persona could play very well among fans and is hard to overlook. While unlikely, I’d also guess the Jets would strongly consider Darnold if he made it here.
What I would do- As much as I’d like to see a Josh Allen/Christian Hackenberg competition this training camp, Mayfield makes too much sense to pass up here.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, EDGE North Carolina State: There are no shortage of directions the Browns can go here having now selected their franchise quarterback. Denzel Ward and Minkah Fitzpatrick could be considered, but the potential to add a prospect of Chubb’s caliber and line him up across from Myles Garrett could be too much to pass up.
What I would do- Forced to stay put, Chubb would be my pick here. If this was how the board played out however, I would strongly consider trading the pick with the Bills. In a scenario where they land two first round picks, the Browns would have the luxury of being able to address their secondary and add another edge rusher if they wanted.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB Wyoming: The Broncos just signed Case Keenum this offseason, but there’s a chance he’s viewed as more of a bridge option over the next year or two. While Quenton Nelson would make a ton of sense here, I’m not sure John Elway would be able to resist Allen’s physical tools. A plus about having Keenum is that in this scenario Allen will have time to learn and won’t be thrown into the fire immediately.
What I would do- With some win-now places in piece, I would take Nelson if I was sticking with the fifth pick. For the right offer, trading down (ideally with the Bills who are apparently high on Allen) could be awfully tough to pass up as it would allow the Broncos to land a few players who could contribute immediately.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G Notre Dame: The Colts GM Chris Ballard has said there are eight or nine non-quarterbacks the team would be content taking. Considering two quarterback hungry teams are picking 11th and 12th, I doubt that’s a coincidence. While players such as Denzel Ward and Derwin James could be considered here, we’ve been talking about the Colts needing to upgrade their line for years. With Nelson (who some feel is the top prospect in the entire draft) still available, it would be tough to pass up.
What I would do- The Colts are in a no lose situation if this is how the board unfolds. They can either take one of the drafts best non-quarterbacks, or trade down a few spots and address a defense that has its share of holes. I would take Nelson here, but there’s a chance the Broncos stay put and take him. If he’s off the board, I would take Derwin James as pairing him with Malik Hooker could be a dangerous combo.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S Florida State: Playing in a division against three premier quarterbacks, an improved secondary will be vital if the Buccaneers want to take the next step. While a cornerback such as Denzel Ward will be enticing, I think it will be tough to pass on James as he’d give them the luxury of a defensive chess piece that few teams have. The Buccaneers will likely address the running back position early in this draft, so Saquon Barkley would obviously be considered if he made it here.
What I would do- Arguably the best prospect available and playing an area of need, James makes too much sense if he makes it here. In the event James isn’t on the board, I would select Denzel Ward.
8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB Ohio State: If Quenton Nelson did land here, the Bears would likely be ecstatic. However, they still sit in a good spot even with him off the board. Having drafted Mitchell Trubisky last year, there is no need for quarterback and now the Dolphins, Bills, and Cardinals with pick 15 could be interested in a trade. Since it might be early for one of the remaining edge rushers, Ward makes sense if the Bears stay put. No team can have enough good cornerbacks, and between Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford and now Kirk Cousins, those divisional games will be decided through the air.
What I would do- In an ideal world, I’d trade with the Cardinals by giving up this and another pick while receiving number 15 (which I would use on Harold Landry) and their 2019 first. Given that the Bears aren’t extremely stable at tackle, I would take Mike McGlinchey to give Trubisky some protection.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB Georgia: This current scenario works out very well for the 49ers as three players they would potentially target (Smith, Tremaine Edmunds and Minkah Fitzpatrick) are all available. While the secondary is something that will be addressed, the 49ers now have a cloud of uncertainty hanging over them with Reuben Foster’s legal issues. At this point, Smith is arguably the best prospect available and should contribute immediately.
What I would do- Some would argue Edmunds over Smith citing that Edmunds has higher upside. My take is that if what we’ve seen of Smith is his floor, he’ll be a darn good pro which makes him my selection here.
10. Oakland Raiders: Mike McGlinchey, T Notre Dame: Usually early on in the draft process it’s all but certain there will be one or two tackles going in the top ten. McGlinchey has been viewed by many as the top tackle, but is only starting to gain top ten buzz. How it will work is to be determined, but Jon Gruden has been building through the trenches this offseason. With plenty of uncertainty at right tackle, and Donald Penn getting older, McGlinchey makes sense here. The Raiders have holes in the secondary, so Ward, Fitzpatrick and Josh Jackson could be considered.
What I would do- If available, I would take Roquan Smith in a heartbeat here. However with him off the board, that changes things. Despite really liking Tremaine Edmunds as a prospect, the current options at right tackle and money committed to Derek Carr would make McGlinchey my pick if he made it here. Edmunds would be my pick if those two were off the board.
11. Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB UCLA: The Dolphins could have to trade up to land Rosen, but in this scenario he falls to them. They have more pressing issues than quarterback, but Ryan Tannehill is coming off a torn ACL and isn’t Adam Gase’s guy. Assuming they don’t trade up or Rosen doesn’t make it here, I would assume the Dolphins take either Smith or Edmunds if available.
What I would do- I mentioned the idea of the Dolphins trading up, but if they stay put the decision for me would come down to Tremaine Edmunds or Maurice Hurst. If Hurst checks out medically, he would be my pick as he has the potential to be a disruptive interior presence against the pass and run at the next level.
12. Buffalo Bills: Tremaine Edmunds, LB Virginia Tech: The Bills very well could try and trade up as they have the two first rounders to potentially make it work. In this scenario however, it would depend how high they are on Lamar Jackson as he would still be available. Edmunds makes for a nice consolation prize as he could be a focal point of their defense for years to come.
What I would do- Obviously if I was the Bills I’d try and trade up for a quarterback (although Josh Allen wouldn’t be my top target as it could be for them). If I failed in that endeavor, Edmunds would be a nice consolation prize.
13. Washington Redskins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S Alabama: A common player I’ve seen linked to the Redskins is Vita Vea, but with packages like nickel and dime being called more often, I’m not sure how much emphasis there is on nose tackles. The Redskins can use some secondary help however, and they have two appealing choices here. Josh Jackson could fill in well lining up across Josh Norman, but Fitzpatrick’s versatility could be appealing.
What I would do- At this time in the NFL, you can never have enough cornerbacks. After trading Kendall Fuller in the deal for Alex Smith, that’s a position to address. I’m more confident in Jackson’s ability to stick at corner so he would be my selection here.
14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB Iowa: The early run on quarterbacks bodes well for the Packers, who can now choose to address their secondary or add an edge rusher if they were in the market for one. Right now the Packers don’t have much in the way of proven options at cornerback in a division where teams will be passing early and often. While players like Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport might be considered, Jackson makes plenty of sense with this selection.
What I would do- While Jackson is a very talented cornerback prospect, the Packers do have a need at linebacker in their scheme. Harold Landry is a player who some teams may view as a potential outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense and showed plenty of pass rushing promise. He would be my selection here.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB Louisville: While the Cardinals signed Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon this offseason, the long-term solution is not on the roster. Trading up is an option, but in this scenario the multi-dimensional Jackson lands in their laps. While there are other pressing needs like cornerback or offensive tackle, it’s hard to pass up on a quarterback with Jackson’s upside.
What I would do- The Cardinals are sort of in no man’s land in the NFC West. The Rams and 49ers are going all out to improve and the Seahawks still project to be competitive. That said, they’ll need to find a quarterback eventually. If they don’t trade up for one, then Jackson should be the pick. On top of that, landing in a spot where he will be without immediate pressure could bode well.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Harold Landry, EDGE Boston College: Considering Ozzie Newsome’s love for players from his alma mater and the Ravens receiver woes, Calvin Ridley would make a ton of sense here. Instead, I’m guessing the Ravens (who are also a candidate for Lamar Jackson) decide to address the defensive side of the ball. Aside from Terrell Suggs, the Ravens don’t have much in terms of proven playmakers off the edge. Landry would certainly bring that. Others that could be considered here are Marcus Davenport and if we want to go with an Alabama prospect, Rashaan Evans.
What I would do- If Lamar Jackson was available, he would be my pick. But if this was how Thursday night unfolded, Landry has shown too much as a pass rusher to not take here.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Vita Vea, NT Washington: Without any glaring holes, the Chargers are a team in a good spot to trade up if they were searching for Philip Rivers’ heir apparent. However, without a great option at tackle here, I have them going Vea who could help out on the interior. Da’Ron Payne could draw interest as an interior presence as well, and linebacker is another position the team may look to address.
What I would do- While I mentioned nose tackles might not have the same value they once did, allowing nearly five yards per rushing attempt is far from ideal. If available, I would take Maurice Hurst here as he has shown he can defend the run and would add interior pass rushing to pair with Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edge. Vea would be my backup plan if Hurst wasn’t available.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Wynn G Georgia: For years now we have been talking about the Seahawks offensive line struggles, without it being addressed. Wynn would give the Seahawks the push they’ve been looking for on the interior. If the right player is there, cornerback is a position that could be addressed as well.
What I would do- Considering the Seahawks don’t have another pick until the fourth round, I would try my hardest to trade the pick. Ideally, they’d be able to get a later first and then a day two pick to go with it. Wynn would make sense keep the pick.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Leighton Vander Esch, LB Boise State: With no receivers off the board, it will certainly be tempting for Jerry Jones to draft one here. By his standards, he has shown more restraint from making rash decisions so maybe times are changing in Dallas. Vander Esch is a player who has received plenty of buzz lately and the Cowboys have a need at linebacker and are linked to him. This could all be a smokescreen to have a team trade up, but Vander Esch (who is still relatively inexperienced) might be seen as a long term heir apparent to Sean Lee.
What I would do- While receiver is a need for the Cowboys, I would wait to address that in day two. Maurice Hurst would be my pick if available as the Cowboys have a need on the defensive interior. However, Vander Esch is a player who could help immediately, and potentially serve as a future focal point of the defense so if Hurst is off the board I’d take him here.
20. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DI Michigan: The Lions under GM Bob Quinn, have had positional points of emphasis in the offseason. Considering their inability to get pressure on quarterbacks, the defensive line would make sense this draft. While some teams might be scared by the heart condition flagged at the combine, Hurst can bring exactly what the Lions need. His ability to stop the run and pressure the quarterback from the interior would be a huge shot in the arm for the Lions defense. Others to keep in mind here would be Harold Landry, Taven Bryan and Marcus Davenport (whose defensive line coach at UTSA now works with the Lions) if available.
What I would do- From a pure talent standpoint, Hurst is likely the best prospect available if this is how the board unfolds. Him being a potential building block on the line which is a position of need is just a plus. If he isn’t available, I would select Taven Bryan who improved each year in college and could play multiple roles on the defensive line.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Frank Ragnow, C Arkansas: Here we have another example of where one of the top players available would also fit a need. Ragnow has generated plenty of buzz lately, and the Bengals currently have a big hole at center. With interior lineman starting to be paid more, it will make more sense to take them earlier in the draft so Ragnow could be off the board by now. If a quarterback fell, the Bengals should at least entertain the thought of drafting them as well.
What I would do- If Ragnow is here, the pick makes too much sense to pass up on him. In the event he’s not available, I would select Iowa center James Daniels.
22. Buffalo Bills: Calvin Ridley, WR Alabama: The Bills would obviously hope to trade up and get a quarterback, but regardless of who that is they’ll need weapons. Ridley isn’t the consensus top wideout in this class, but he is a first round caliber talent. Other receivers such as D.J. Moore, and Courtland Sutton could be considered here. If not, the Bills might also consider a lineman like Isaiah Wynn if they were in play.
What I would do- Receiver is obviously a need for the Bills, but I’m not sure how drastic a difference there is between someone like Ridley here or some talents who will be available in the second. Mason Rudolph gets consideration here, but I would take UTEP guard Will Hernandez with this pick.
23. New England Patriots: Rashaan Evans, LB Alabama: Knowing the Patriots, trading down is always in play but they do have a few needs. One of those areas is linebacker where they are in need of some more athleticism in the middle of their defense. Evans has all the physical tools but still has room to develop. If there’s any team who has built up the goodwill with a player like that, it would be the Patriots.
What I would do- With two lower first round picks I’m not sure if the ammo is there, but if Josh Rosen started falling I’d try trading up for him. Assuming that’s not a possibility, I’d look into seeing if anything could be done for Lamar Jackson. If forced to stay put, I would select Jaire Alexander.
24. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, WR Maryland: The Panthers have a few different ways they could go here, and many would be to the benefit of Cam Newton. Moore would give Newton another weapon on the outside that he desperately needs, while offensive line could also be a possibility. If a player like Frank Ragnow is available, he could be extremely tempting for the Panthers given that he can play both guard and center. In this scenario, Ragnow is off the board meaning Moore is the pick. An edge rusher such as Marcus Davenport might be in the mix as well.
What I would do- Since Cam Newton has come into the league, it seems the lack of protection he has is a topic of discussion. I would try and jump the Bengals (the Seahawks at 18 would work) to try and land Ragnow. If unable to trade up for Ragnow, I’d take Marcus Davenport and let him learn from a future Hall of Famer in Julius Peppers.
25. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport, EDGE UTSA: While Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan are still effective, they’ll be entering their tenth and ninth NFL seasons respectively. Davenport fits well with that time table. A raw prospect, Davenport can be used as a situational pass rusher at first, while gradually seeing his role expand. This is a pick that can pay off in the short term with a chance of a huge return in the future for the Titans. Other edge rushers such as Sam Hubbard (and his ties to Mike Vrabel) could be considered, while a linebacker such as Rashaan Evans could make sense as well.
What I would do- Davenport would be my pick here if he was available, but Will Hernandez (assuming he’s still on the board) makes it a very tough decision. Rashaan Evans would be my pick if both of those players are off the board.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DI Florida: Bryan is a player who continuously progressed through his college career and could be gone well before this point. Despite that, he fits a nice value and fills a need for the Falcons who need an interior defensive line presence after Dontari Poe’s departure.
What I would do- Bryan would be my pick here as the fit/value seems too much to pass up. If he was off the board, I would take another interior defensive lineman in Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne.
27. New Orleans Saints: James Daniels, C Iowa: In terms of what they could add, the Saints are in pretty good shape. That’s what makes this a very appealing year if they wanted to add a young quarterback such as Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph to learn under Drew Brees. With Max Unger on the back nine of his career, Daniels is a prospect receiving some buzz of late that mesh well with what’s a younger Saints offensive line. If any of the linebackers such as Leighton Vander Esch I’d assume they’ll be considered as well.
What I would do- Daniels makes sense for the Saints here, but my first priority would be trying to trade up for Lamar Jackson depending on the price. With Brees at the end of his career, they have to win now so I’d give him another target. Calvin Ridley would be my pick here if he was still available, but the upside of South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert is enticing.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Reid, S Stanford: The Steelers could use an edge rusher, so someone like Sam Hubbard might be in play here. However, Steelers GM Kevin Colbert had an intriguing quote about the safety position which is one of need. Reid has the traits Colbert mentioned, so the Steelers could see those attributes and feel they’re too much to pass on. Other scenarios for them that could be in play would be Jaire Alexander if available as while they don’t have a pressing need at corner, you can never have enough. Mason Rudolph could also be considered with this selection as the team still looks for Ben Roethlisberger’s heir apparent.
What I would do- Considering the lack of production they’ve had from the edge over the years, I would go with Sam Hubbard here. If someone tried trading up for Rudolph or Alexander (assuming both are available), I would not be opposed to taking calls.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Hernandez, G UTEP: Whether it’s out of ego or stubbornness, we as humans can double down on bad decisions. Offensively, the Jaguars are essentially forced to double down on their decision to spend top five picks on Blake Bortles and Leonard Fournette. Paying huge money for Andrew Norwell makes sense when you want Fournette to be the offensive centerpiece, but there will be eight in the box until Bortles gives defenses a reason to change. In a move that would clear paths for Fournette and protect Bortles, I think the Jaguars will be very interested in the mauling Hernandez.
What I would do- The worst thing about the Jaguars handling of the quarterback position last year wasn’t Bortles winning the job, it’s that they never even bothered to bring in viable competition. That would change as I add Mason Rudolph to the fold.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Jaire Alexander, CB Louisville: The Vikings have a dominant defense, but outside of Xavier Rhodes, they could have benefitted from more production out of their corners. Alexander would be an ideal option here, as the skills he showed in college could lead to him being picked much higher. Considering that the offensive line could be the Vikings Achilles heel, it would make sense to address it with this pick if Alexander isn’t available. UCLA tackle Kolton Miller has been mentioned in the first round discussion due to his size and athleticism, but more questions surround him than other tackle prospects. Connor Williams from Texas is another tackle that could be in play with this pick.
What I would do- I’m assuming Alexander doesn’t make it here, but if he does to me the pick is a no-brainer. If not, I would take Connor Williams to help a shaky offensive line.
31. New England Patriots: Mason Rudolph, QB Oklahoma State: I’m not convinced the Patriots take Rudolph, but I do think he ends up in the first round. The Patriots had Rudolph in for a visit, so there could be some interest. If they do keep the pick and go in a different direction, a cornerback would be a really interesting selection here.
What I would do- As mentioned earlier, my main goal would be to try and trade up for Josh Rosen if he started falling. Assuming that’s unlikely, I would take Rashaan Evans if he was available here (as I’d taken a corner in Alexander earlier) or see if someone wanted to trade for Rudolph.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Billy Price, G/C Ohio State: If Rudolph is still available, this could be a nice spot for the Eagles to trade if a team wants to have his fifth year option. Staying put, Price would make sense considering he has experience playing all three interior offensive line positions and the Eagles could improve at guard. The Eagles could also consider adding another perimeter weapon such as Courtland Sutton if he was available.
What I would do- Assuming Rudolph is gone and I can’t trade out, offensive line would be my pick here. Considering Jason Peters is 36 and coming off a torn ACL, I would take Connor Williams if he was available. Williams could become Peters’ eventual replacement, and by taking him here the Eagles would insure the fifth year option at a coveted position.