With the 2018 NFL Draft little over 24 hours away, the tension is palpable. With more uncertainty surrounding this draft class than any in recent memory, here is the final rendition of the Sports Stack mock for 2018.
Sports Stack 2018 NFL Mock Draft 2.0
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB – USC
The Browns pick has been the same since John Dorsey took a look at the 2018 prospects. Whilst many in the media think the Browns have flirted with the idea of taking Josh Allen or even Baker Mayfield first overall, given the time to sit and learn Darnold is the closest thing to a safe bet at quarterback in this class.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB – Penn State
The best player on the board goes to a team without any semblance of a rushing attack. Saquon Barkley will walk into this frankly loaded Giants offense and gift another weapon to Eli Manning. Will the 37 year-old be able to make the most of it and push the Giants toward the promised land? Dave Gettleman certainly hopes so.
3. New York Jets: Josh Rosen, QB – UCLA
This really could be Baker Mayfield. The Jets cancelled all their visits with elite prospects who don’t play quarterback, which means they are only in the market for a signal-caller. Whilst there are only a few names to choose from, the Jets have remained remarkably coy over who the pick is. That being said, Rosen will be able to thrive in New York and is the most accurate passer in the draft.
4. Buffalo Bills (PROJECTED TRADE WITH CLEVELAND): Josh Allen, QB – Wyoming
First trade of the night as the Browns trade out of the number four spot. The only reason the Browns will trade out of fourth overall is due to the bounty the Bills can package together to move up. Josh Allen is easily the most raw of the top level quarterback prospects in this class, but if (and it’s a big if) the Bills can sort out his footwork and improve his accuracy then there won’t be a throw on the field Allen can’t make.
5. Miami Dolphins (PROJECTED TRADE WITH DENVER): Baker Mayfield, QB – Oaklahoma
Miami could get away with trading to sixth overall if the board falls right, but with only one elite quarterback left and John Elway potentially looking for his long term answer the Dolphins have to make this move. Baker Mayfield is a flat out playmaker who will quickly provide competition for the uninspiring Ryan Tannehill.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, EDGE – NC State
Indianapolis are the biggest beneficiary of the madness at the top of the draft. Chubb has been seriously overlooked due to the hype following this years collection of quarterbacks, but he is a dominant pass rusher who would be worthy of a top-ten pick in almost any draft. The Colts can figure out how to keep Andrew Luck upright later, Chubb with the number six pick is almost too good to be true.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S – Florida State
Whilst Derwin James isn’t the top ranked safety on most people’s boards, he makes the most sense for a pitiful Tampa Bay secondary. Whilst James can only plug one of the two clear holes at safety, his desire and leadership will hopefully add that spark to the Buccaneers secondary which it is desperately lacking.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G – Notre Dame
This pick makes so much sense it hurts. Quenton Nelson won’t mind sliding out of the top five if it means he gets to be reunited with his college offensive line coach Harry Heistand from Notre Dame, on one of the more up and coming teams in the entire league. The Bears have added some major pieces already this off-season, if the rest of the draft goes well for them they really might not be far away.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Trumaine Edmunds, LB – Virginia Tech
Given the recent trouble that Rueben Foster has found himself in, linebacker is the most obvious need for the 49ers in the first round. Whilst Roquan Smith would be able to fill in the hole left by the uncertainty around Foster, Edmunds’ natural ability and crazy high ceiling make him the more attractive choice. Whilst his skill set is raw, at only 19 years-old he is Matt Miller’s fourth overall player in this class – for San Francisco to get him at nine is great value.
10. Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB – Alabama
Minkah Fitzpatrick is soon to be the NFL’s equivalent of a Swiss-Army knife, which is fortunate for the Raiders because they still have needs right across the secondary. The Alabama product can play in the slot, at either safety positions and is even a competent outside corner. Expect Jon Gruden to line him up against whoever the opposition’s biggest threat is and watch them get taken out of the game.
11. Denver Broncos (PROJECTED TRADE WITH MIAMI): Denzel Ward, CB – Ohio State
The Broncos traded Aquib Talib to the LA Rams this off-season without replenishing their secondary. If the Broncos see Bradley Roby’s long term future opposite Chris Harris Jr rather than in the slot, then Denzel Ward will quickly take the talent level of the secondary back to where it needs to be. Given the amount of pressure Denver usually put the quarterback under, expect Ward to make plenty of plays right off the bat.
12. Cleveland Browns (PROJECTED TRADE WITH BUFFALO): Roquan Smith, LB – Georgia
Cleveland just drafted their future quarterback and now they find the captain of this Browns defense for the next decade. Roquan Smith is a phenomenal tackler with great instincts and diagnostic skills, if the Browns want to find players who can quickly change the culture around within the franchise, there would be few more capable of taking charge of this defense than the former Georgia Bulldog.
13. Washington Redskins: Vita Vea, DL – Washington
Vita Vea is one of the best interior defensive line prospects in recent years, his combination of size and speed will make him almost impossible to deal with in the NFL. Washington only allowed 88 yards rushing per game when Jonathon Allen was on the field last year, but were dead last in his absence. By adding another high motor defensive lineman to the mix, provided the team can stay healthy the Redskins are more prepared to take on the number of elite running backs now in the NFC East.
14. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, EDGE – Boston College
The Green Bay Packers need talent in a number of areas, but Harold Landry is the pick here. Landry is an explosive pass rusher who can cause havoc as a 4-3 DE or a 3-4 OLB, with elite arm length and explosiveness the Packers can lean on him to generate pressure from early – which will be a good thing when facing the most expensive quarterback in history twice a year.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville
Following the assessment Bruce Arians gave of Lamar Jackson, there isn’t an analyst in the league who would bet against this pick. Despite being the most flawed of the round one quarterback options, Jackson will still likely hear his name called in the top 20 on Thursday night. If the Cardinals aren’t sold by either Sam Bradford or Mike Glennon – which they shouldn’t be, then adding some extra competition makes perfects sense for Arizona.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT – Notre Dame
Bookend Notre Dame tackles in Baltimore? Flacco won’t complain. Following the recent acquisition of Willie Snead IV (their offer is unlikely to be matched by the Saints) it would come as a surprise if the Ravens used a high draft pick to pad out their receiver corps as well, although given how bad their receivers were in 2017 nobody should rule it out. After his stock has risen meteorically in recent weeks he now finds himself almost certainly being the first tackle off the board this year. Considering McGlinchey has played at right tackle opposite Ronnie Stanley before, it should feel like home away from home for the rookie.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, LB – Alabama
Whilst solid defense won’t bring any LA football fans over from the Rams hype-train, it might bring playoff football back to the Chargers. The Chargers have no real holes in the team other than at linebacker and safety, with no value at the safety position with this pick Rashaan Evans makes a ton of sense. Hayes Pullard and Nick Dzunbar aren’t going to win anyone many football games. With Leighton Vander-Esch a medical concern for a lot of teams, the Chargers opt for a safe pick.
18. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR – Alabama
There’ll be no more throwing up the ‘X’ in Arlington anymore (unless Dez Bryant goes to a divisional rival, then there just might) and the Cowboys needed help at receiver before Bryant left. Whilst Hurns has come in to somewhat fill the void, with a lack of linebackers with top 20 talent, Calvin Ridley can establish himself as the new WR1 for Dak Prescott.
19. Seattle Seahawks: Josh Jackson, CB – Iowa
One ageing rangy corner out, a young rangy corner comes in. Josh Jackson will slot right into the secondary where the Richard Sherman sized hole is and come under some immediate pressure from what is the ‘quarterback’ division in the NFL. Jackson has the perfect combination of size, speed and length to succeed as an NFL corner, and Pete Carroll is not going to pass up that opportunity.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB – LSU
Matt Patricia has one hell of an offense in Detroit following this pick. A running back trio of Legarrette Blount, Derrius Guice and Ameer Abdullah will not allow defenses to sit back and wait for Stafford to throw the ball, making him much more of a factor in tight games. Derrius Guice is a player who is getting nowhere near enough attention purely because of the offensive talent ahead of him in this class, but If he and the Lions are able to find a balanced attack on offense then perhaps Blount could be in for the 3-peat.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT – Texas
Once thought of as a consensus top-ten pick, Connor Williams’ stock has fallen in recent weeks. Still a bonafide first round talent, Cincinnati will be able to play the former Texas Longhorn at either left guard or right tackle. If the Bengals are able to find some rhythm on offense this year, it will be largely down to the improvements made at offensive line throughout the off-season.
22. Cleveland Browns (PROJECTED TRADE WITH BUFFALO): Marcus Davenport, EDGE – UTSA
The Browns add Marcus Davenport to the pass-rushers already in the building in Cleveland. Given that they have Myles Garrett and Emanuel Ogbah in the rotation Davenport won’t be expected to contribute double digit sack numbers right away. This will ultimately be a good thing for a very raw edge-rusher, and provides Cleveland with another talented starter on defense despite trading out of the fourth spot.
23. New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB – Colorado
Isaiah Oliver finds himself in the perfect situation here. An instant contender with a hole at secondary which enables him to be a day one starter. With Malcolm Butler gone you have to assume that the Patriots will address the need in their secondary with one of the two first-rounders they have this year. With Oliver being a player most teams between now on 31 would be high on, it makes sense to grab him whilst they can.
24. Carolina Panthers: Christian Kirk, WR – Texas A&M
The Panthers number one receiver last year was a rookie running back. Whilst this is not an indictment of Christian McCaffrey, it does highlight the glaring need Carolina have at receiver. With a lot of good cornerback prospects likely to find themselves available in round two, the Panthers can find an instant starter on offense and another weapon for Cam Newton to get the ball to.
25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, EDGE – Ohio State
Due to the health concerns over Leighton Vander-Esch, the Titans may find themselves looking away from the linebacker spot in the first round. With both Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan well into their 30s and in the last year of their respective deals, getting younger on the edge is the logical option for the Titans.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DL – Florida
The Falcons have been linked with Isaiah Wynn for so long that it is almost a foregone conclusion. With that being said, their defensive line has been devastated following the departure of Dontari Poe. Tavern Bryan sees himself slide into the top of the first following the health concerns of Maurice Hurst. Bryan is a top level talent in his own right and will provide help against the run and applying pressure through the middle.
27. New Orleans Saints: Mike Gesicki, TE – Penn State
The Saints don’t have many needs to address in the 2018 Draft, they are able to put all their eggs into Drew Brees’ basket and so go out and get the most dangerous receiving tight end in the entire class. Whilst Gesicki is one dimensional thanks to his lack of natural blocking ablilty, you physically can’t stop him in the red zone. Many Saints fans were clamouring for their team to go out and re-sign Jimmy Graham in the off-season, this pick is the next best thing.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB – Texas
The Steelers are inevitably going to play the 2018 season without Ryan Shazier, and therefore need to spend their first round pick in a way that pushes them as close as possible to the Super Bowl- Malik Jefferson is the quickest way there. Whilst Sony Michel would make for an intriguing pick, the Steelers defense noticeably missed it’s best player last year, filling that void should help Big Ben make another run at the ultimate goal.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Hernandez, G – UTEP
The Jacksonville Jaguars don’t have many needs this year – still not used to saying that, and so find the best fit for their current roster at 29. Will Hernandez is the human embodiment of Tom Coughlin’s football philopsphy: hard-nosed, tough and extremely difficult to impose yourself against. An instant upgrade on AJ Cann, Hernandez quickly makes this unit one of the best in the entire league.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, G – Georgia
The Vikings are in a similar situation to the team who picked before them and with the most expensive player in history to keep upright Minnesota take the highest remaining offensive lineman on the board. With experience at both tackle and guard for Georgia, Isaiah Wynn is truly an elite pass-blocker. There’s no point going all in on a quarterback if you can’t keep him healthy. Right, Indianapolis?
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT – UCLA
The Patriots lost Nate Solder to the Giants this off-season and will be looking to find some extra protection for Tom Brady – who will by 41 (yes, 41) when the season starts. Kolton Miller has gone unnoticed in what is a very average tackle class, but will be able to start in week one on either side of the offensive line.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaire Alexander, CB – Louisville
Jaire Alexander sneaks into the bottom of the first and steps into an insanely talented Eagles team. Alexander is one of many very good corners in this class and Philadelphia are able to use the final pick in round one to take the best player left on the board. Alexander is capable of playing as a slot corner or lining up on the outside, his aggressive nature will fit seamlessly into that Philly secondary.