We’re right in the middle of the off-season, boys and girls, and with most of the big free agents off the board, it’s time to start looking towards the draft. The combine is done, pro days are underway, and soon teams will start requesting visits from elite prospects. For the record, I hate mock drafts. They’re never accurate, and are almost completely useless outside of determining when most experts believe a player will be selected… However, I think they’re also a lot of fun. Here’s who I think the first ten players off the board will be.
No trades, obviously, because that starts a never-ending cycle that completely throws off the rest of the draft, though I will mention when I believe a pick will be traded. Enjoy!
2018 NFL Mock Draft (Top Ten)
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, Quarterback, USC
Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has made a point of saying that Tyrod Taylor is going to be the starting quarterback this season, and that there will be no competition. I don’t believe that at all. I don’t think that Tyrod Taylor is a franchise quarterback, and I bet that they’re just saying they’re not looking at a quarterback with the first overall pick to lure out potential trade partners.
So where do they go instead? They take the man many believe is QB1 in this draft, USC’s Sam Darnold. People have started mocking Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield to this spot because they believe the raw quarterbacks can develop, but why do that when you can get a finished product who won’t be stuck carrying a terrible team right away. They could’ve gone Barkley here, but with Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson already on the roster, he’d be a bit redundant. However…
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, Running Back, Penn State
I could absolutely see the New York Giants trading this pick away. .There are a few teams, namely the New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, and Denver Broncos, that desperately want a quarterback, and they could try to strike a deal with the Giants for one, or even the man I believe they would take, Saquon Barkley.
Barkley was a stud for Penn State last year, racking up nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 21 touchdowns. He was going to be the first back off the board no matter what, and then the combine happened. Barkley displayed freak athleticism, running a 4.40 40 time, a 41 inch vertical, and recording 29 reps on the bench press. The Giants need to fix their offensive line, but imagine Eli Manning’s delight when he takes the field with Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, Defensive End, N.C. State
The Colts are in a funny position, because frankly, they’re just not a talented team. If Andrew Luck ever comes back, then at least one of their positions will be settled. The whole Josh McDaniels fiasco epitomized their off-season, but drafting a defensive monster like Bradley Chubb could really help the team. Chub has the right size and attitude to come in and not only contribute, but start day one. He was consistent in college, registering ten sacks in both his junior and senior year, and could give the Colts someone to be excited about.
4. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, Safety, Alabama
This is one of those picks that I think the Browns will trade away. They get their quarterback with the first pick, and now they can trade back and continue to compile future Browns. Josh Rosen is still on the board (in my mock) and it’s hard to imagine someone like the Bills or Jets don’t trade up here. However…
With Barkley off the board, the Cleveland Browns can turn around and add a huge piece to their defense. Minkah Fitzpatrick is not only the best safety, but the best defensive back in this draft. He lined up just about everywhere in Alabama’s secondary, has prototypical defensive back size and is a very good athlete. If the Browns don’t trade, this is a move they must make.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, Quarterback, UCLA
If the Denver Broncos don’t take Rosen here, I bet they trade out. My money would be on the Buffalo Bills, who have been creeping towards the top of the draft, have the ammunition to trade up, and are not comfortable starting AJ McCarron for the next ten years. John Elway claims that he wanted Case Keenum before free agency even started, and as much of a lie as that is, they did give him a two-year, 36 million dollar contract for him to sit on the bench.
However, if they do decide to draft with this pick, Rosen is the obvious pick. He’s arguably the best quarterback in this draft, and Elway, the supposed quarterback whisperer, needs someone to at least manage that offense while his defense is still dominant.
6. New York Jets: Josh Allen, Quarterback, Wyoming
Depending on who you ask, either Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield is QB3 in this draft. Neither guy is as polished or pro-ready as Darnold and Rosen, but both have upside. However, I fear that an underwhelming combine might’ve hurt Mayfield’s draft stock. He’s undersized as is, but then he’s not remarkably athletic either. He’s going to need the right coach, with the right help, in the right scheme to work out.
Allen is also raw, but unlike Mayfield, he’s a fantastic athlete. He’s huge, fast, and has every physical gift you could ask for in a quarterback. However, he’s extremely raw. His completion percentage in college was atrocious, even if you take away all of the drops, and he’s not ready to be a starter in the NFL.
However, that’s why the Jets are a perfect fit. They just re-signed quarterback Josh McCown, and brought it former first round pick, Teddy Bridgewater. That means that Allen could sit on the bench and get some playing time in without having to be the starter day one, and if the Jets can develop him, they’ll have a franchise quarterback waiting.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, Cornerback, Ohio State
No team in the NFL gave up more passing yards than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year, and after being out-bid on this free agency class’ big name corners, they need to address the position, they brought Miko Grimes’ husband back, but they need a real playmaker in that secondary. Denzel Ward is a little small, but he’s the best corner in this draft class and a phenomenal athlete. Every team in the highly competitive NFC South has a franchise quarterback, so the Bucs will need someone who can create some havoc in that secondary.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, Guard, Notre Dame
Quenton Nelson is probably the safest pick in the draft, and a player I’m a big fan of. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a nasty streak, and he’s a great interview. He was asked about his strengths, and he was able to articulate how providing a clean pocket can facilitate a healthy passing game and referenced how it seems like the NFL is moving away from outside linebackers and towards interior rushers like defensive player of the year Aaron Donald or the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. Not to mention, Chicago’s offensive line coach? Was Harry Hiestand, the offensive line coach with Nelson in Notre Dame. It seems like a match made in heaven.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Tremaine Edmunds, Linebacker, Virginia Tech
With Reuben Foster in some serious legal trouble, John Lynch and the San Francisco 49ers might be looking to draft another linebacker, and the athletic freak from Virginia Tech would be hard to pass up. Tremaine Edmunds is huge and a phenomenal athlete. The 49ers are going to look to make a serious push in the NFC West this year, and a bright young playmaker like Edmunds could play a huge role.
10. Oakland Raiders: Vita Vea, Defensive Tackle, Washington
The vast majority of mock drafts have the Oakland Raiders taking Roquan Smith from Georgia here, but in my opinion, they should really consider taking Washington’s Vita Vea. It’s absolutely insane that someone Vea’s size can run a 5.1 40 yard dash while still recording a combine-high 41 reps on the bench. He could come in and help Oakland’s defense as an individual day one, but his real strength comes from how he could help others.
Vita Vea is a massive force in the middle, and he could chew up some blocks and take pressure off of All-Pro pass rusher, Khalil Mack. It looks like Oakland is going to run a 4-3 this year, and imagine a defensive line featuring Bruce Irvin, Justin Ellis, Vita Vea, and Khalil Mack. That would be a difficult unit for even the best offensive lines to shut down. Not only that, but a dominant defensive line would take pressure off of the weak secondary.