After months of preparation, prospect breakdowns, rumors and reports – and for myself: Long, painful drives with Chris Thornton, what we have all been waiting for is finally coming to fruition: The NFL Draft is at our doorstep.
(For the record, I’m typing this as I sit in the passengers seat of Chris’s car, as we kick off another long, painful road trip to the draft, in Dallas.)
I love Draft Szn. Despite the car rides taking years off of my life – no really, I’ve dedicated nearly 75 hours (including this Dallas trip) to driving in the past 6 months to cover this draft process – I can’t explain how much fun I’ve had.
From meeting a personal idol of mine in UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin, to sitting in rainy, 30° weather to scout Mike Gesicki in State College, Pennsylvania, to recording numerous interviews at the East-West Shrine Game, my coverage of the 2018 NFL Draft is something I’ll never forget. This experience has been awesome.
But enough about me. The 2018 Draft Szn is coming to a close, with the first round set to kick off tomorrow night at 8 P.M. 256 NFL hopefuls are going to have their dreams come true in the next couple of days: Hearing their name called at the draft podium.
Or, in some cases, by a parrot. But nevertheless.
With that being said, it’s time for me to unveil my final mock draft. Like many other draft analysts, most of my predictions will likely be wrong. It happens. The draft is a crapshoot, and no one really has any clue as to what’s going to go down.
However, in an attempt to be at least somewhat accurate, I’m going to base my mock draft on consensus needs, what I believe each team will do – not necessarily what I’d do as each team’s GM, and try to base some selections off of consensus rumors and some buzz I’ve personally heard from people I respect covering various teams and the draft itself.
This mock will cover the full first round – including trades – as well as all seven of the Jacksonville Jaguars picks.
Let’s get to mocking!
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Another draft, another quarterback for the Cleveland Browns. However, for the sake of the franchise, let’s hope this quarterback breaks the trend of busts for the signal caller position in the Dawg Pound.
Darnold is my fourth ranked QB in this draft, behind Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson, respectively. I’m not a huge risk taker, personally, and I think that’s evident in how I rank prospects, specifically quarterbacks. The three guys I have ahead of Darnold simply have a higher NFL floor, to me.
However, the intrigue of Darnold’s skillset is totally understandable. Folks love to praise the upside QB Josh Allen offers with his arm strength, size, and mobility. But if there’s a guy in this class that I’d look at and say “He’s worth taking a chance on for his potential to grow into an elite quarterback, despite having clear weaknesses”, I’d take Darnold over Allen. Any day of the week.
Darnold’s accuracy is far from perfect, mainly due to some mechanical issues in his throwing motion, but he’s accurate far more than he isn’t, and the placement and zip he puts on his good passes are certainly salivating. Plus, he too is mobile, and has an uncanny ability to extend plays with his arm and legs combined.
He’a going to need fine tuning. Sitting behind a bridge quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, much like Patrick Mahomes behind Alex Smith in Kansas City last year, is an ideal situation for Darnold.
Browns’ GM John Dorsey would be swinging for the fences with this selection, but this very well could be Hank Aaron stepping up to the plate. However, being this is Cleveland we’re talking about, it could also be Mario Mendoza.
Note: This by far is the longest explanation for any pick in this mock draft. Stick with me here, this explanation just seemed necessary.
2. New York Giants: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
The Giants will likely yield numerous calls from teams interested in obtaining their pick to select a quarterback. As a GM, I’d take every call and create as much leverage I can to obtain as many high picks as possible.
However, the Giants have perhaps the best running back prospect in years at their disposal with the second overall pick. It seems as if the Giants haven’t been able to run the ball since the Brandon Jacobs/Ahmad Bradshaw glory days, so selecting an exciting feature running back in Barkley would make sense. The former Nittany Lion ran the ball 671 times for 3843 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and 43 touchdowns in three years at Penn State.
3. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets traded up from the sixth overall pick to the third in a top-heavy draft at the quarterback position. And, considering their recent lack of starpower at QB, it’s fairly obvious that they’ll go that route here.
Baker Mayfield is one of the several polarizing QB prospects in this class. He’s incredibly accurate to almost all levels of the field, and possesses the leadership qualities anyone would want in their QB. His natural scheme fit to me is West Coast, where he can make quick reads and sling it, and the Jets run a lot of West Coast concepts. Considering the scheme match and the Jets’ lack of leadership at the position going back years, this seems like an ideal selection for the QB-needy team.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
Cleveland selecting the best pass rusher in the draft two years in a row? That’s any and every defensive coordinator’s dream, and the Browns are in an ideal situation to make that happen.
Lining Chubb up across from Myles Garrett, with Emmanuel Ogbah’s ability to rotate across the line and the potential for Larry Ogunjobi to emerge as a disruptive three-technique tackle gives Cleveland a terrifying, young pass rush that can be dominant for years to come. Chubb finished his Wolfpack career with 25 sacks and 54.5 tackles for loss.
5. Buffalo Bills (TRADE w/Denver): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Denver receives the 12th and the 22nd overall picks.
The first of my two (I’m sure there will be more, but trades are the hardest aspect of the draft to predict) projected trades in this draft is one that most have expected in some capacity for months: The Bills move up to select a quarterback.
I mentioned Allen’s upside earlier in the mock, but I believe there are way too many downsides to his game to select him this high. But the NFL is fascinated by Allen’s superior arm strength, and teams believe they can fix his accuracy issues.
The Bills take a chance on Allen here: A incredibly bold move for a young front office with no track record of developing quarterbacks, specifically of Allen’s caliber. He will be one of the NFL’s focal points for years to come.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
A homerun pick for the Colts here, as they land one of the most sure-fire prospects in the class. Nelson is a superior blocker as both a pass protector and in the run game, who will immediately upgrade the Colts’ miserable offensive line and perhaps protect injured QB Andrew Luck – if he ever even puts on his pads again.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, DB, Florida State
The Buccaneers are in need of playmakers on defense, and that they can get in Derwin James. The former Seminole played all over the Florida State secondary, where he recorded three interceptions, 15 defended passes, 5.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
James can continue to play all over the field at the next level, but the 6-2, 215 lb defensive back probably best fits as a rangy, ball-hawking safety. He certainly has the athleticism for it, as he ran a 4.47 40 yard dash, and recorded a 40′ vertical jump and a 132 inch broad jump at the NFL Combine.
8. Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Back-to-back versatile defensive backs?
Yup, and they’re both going to be stars. I do believe Fitzpatrick best serves as a boundary cornerback, unlike James at safety, but he was a chess piece defender at Alabama as well, totaling nine interceptions, 24 defended passes, five sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles.
The Bears retained Kyle Fuller this offseason to start at one corner spot, but Prince Amukamara’s spot could certainly be upgraded. Fitzpatrick could rotate between the nickel and outside cornerback spot for his rookie season and eventually take over the boundary cornerback position.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The 49ers need to continue to add talent to all levels of their defense, and the potential loss of Reuben Foster (domestic violence allegations) doesn’t help.
Smith is a more natural fit at outside linebacker, but has the athletic ability and intelligence as a defender to play all three linebacker positions in the 49ers 4-3 defense. Use him to replace Foster if these allegations stand true, or if by some slim chance Foster is innocent, pair Smith with Foster to create one of the deadliest linebacker tandems in the league.
The 6-1, 236 lb linebacker tallied 252 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, 20.5 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles in his three years at the University of Georgia.
10. Oakland Raiders: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Oakland needs to continue adding talent to their defense after going cornerback in round one last year in selecting Gareon Conley. Edmunds is seemingly a once in a lifetime type of prospect, providing an elite combination of size (6-5, 253), speed and explosion (4.54 40 yard dash/117 inch broad jump), and age/room to grow at 19 (!!!) years old. He played in 13 games as a true freshman at 17 years old.
Edmunds recorded 213 total tackles, 10 sacks, 33 tackles for loss, an interception, five defended passes, and three forced fumbles during his time as a Hokie.
11. Miami Dolphins: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
There have been whispers of Miami’s interest in this quarterback class going back for a bit, and I believe there’s some fire creating this smoke. Ryan Tannehill is fresh off of an ACL tear and has never truly taken the “next step” as Miami’s franchise QB. He’s certainly an efficient starter, but I think this entire Dolphins’ offseason has focused on totally rebuilding the roster.
Rosen is my QB1, and I think he’s the most pro ready, scheme-universal quarterback in this class. Miami would be presenting Tannehill with a true quarterback competition right after his ACL recovery, and I believe Rosen would win it.
12. Denver Broncos (from BUF): Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Is EDGE rusher truly a huge need for Denver with Von Miller and Shane Ray in house? Not necessarily, but this Broncos defense is nowhere near as threatening as it was during their Super Bowl run in 2015, and Ray spent half of last season on IR, and in the games he played in, he seemed to regress a lot from his eight sack second season campaign.
Landry could immediately compete and/or rotate with Ray and take some stress off of Von Miller as thr primary pass rusher, and help the Broncos rebuild what used to be a terrifying pass rush. Landry finished his career at BC with 25 sacks and 48 tackles for loss.
13. New England Patriots (TRADE w/ Washington): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Washington receives the 23rd and 31st overall picks.
You know Bill Belichick has something up his sleeve after trading Brandin Cooks away for the 23rd pick, considering the Patriots already own the 31st pick, right?
We know Bill was a big fan of holding onto Jimmy Garoppolo as Tom Brady’s future replacement, but after an apparent disagreement between Belichick and owner Robert Kraft about Brady’s future, Jimmy G was sent to the 49ers for a second round pick.
It’s clear that Belichick wants a quarterback to groom into Brady’s heir. On top of that, the Patriots have met with Jackson multiple times, including in Foxborough, throughout the draft process.
Arizona (picking at #15) has a major need at QB, so the Patriots needed to make a jump in the draft order to knab their future franchise QB.
14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Packers may have drafted cornerback Kevin King in the first round last year, but considering Tramon Williams is the current starter on the opposite side is 35 and the only move the team made at cornerback in free agency was retaining Davon House, they can afford to double dip at the position in the first round.
Ward, 5-11, 183 lbs, has a smaller frame but blazing speed (4.32 40 yard dash), tremendous explosion (39 inch vertical/136 inch broad), and quick, clean footwork to match routes. He recorded two interceptions and 24 defended passes at Ohio State.
The Packers can play Ward inside at nickel corner early in his career and eventually move him to the full time boundary starter opposite of King. Pairinmg these young cornerbacks with HaHa Clinton-Dix and Josh Jones gives the Packers a very promising, young secondary.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Wynn, OL, Georgia
The Cardinals just missed out on grabbing a franchise quarterback, with five QBs going in the top 13.
That likely means Sam Bradford is that starting QB Week 1. Considering his injury history, especially as of late, he needs as much protection as he can get.
Wynn may be a bit undersized to play tackle at 6-3, 313 lbs, but he has experience and tape that shows the potential for him to play the position at the NFL level. That, or he could be moved inside to guard. Either way, Arizona needs to address their offensive line, and Wynn is one of the best offensive linemen in this class.
16. Baltimore Ravens: DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
It seems as if Baltimore hasn’t had a wide receiver pan out from the early rounds of the draft in years. They’ve relied on journeymen receivers and have lacked starpower.
Moore offers the potential to stop that trend. The Maryland product is quick (4.42 40 yard dash/6.95 3 cone), with good hands and burst to win his routes. He posted 146 career receptions for 2027 yards and 17 touchdowns with the Terrapins.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Chargers have built themselves a very good interior offensive line with Dan Feeney, Mike Pouncey, and soon enough, Forrest Lamp (a promising guard who missed his rookie season due to a torn ACL in training camp.
But the tackle position is still a question mark, on both sides, and I expect Los Angeles to upgrade at least one side early on during the draft.
McGlinchey is arguably the best tackle prospect in the class (Notre Dame can boast they produced the best tackle and guard in this class, by the way). He’d be an immediate upgrade over Joe Barksdale, and potentially challenge Russell Okung at the LT spot.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
One of the more recent big storylines of this draft has been the health of Maurice Hurst. He was flagged at the NFL Combine for a possible heart issue, but has since been medically cleared.
Hurst might be the best defensive tackle in this class, but teams seem to be afraid that his heart condition isn’t behind him and could effect him in the future, despite medical clearance. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report tweeted yesterday that there’s buzz he could fall to the third day of the NFL Draft.
I call bologna. Hurst has never had any other medical red flags, specifically to his heart. Considering he was cleared within just a couple weeks, I don’t see too many teams allowing him to fall.
Seattle could be a surprise team to take Hurst early, as they appear to be in a rebuild mode. They traded defensive lineman Michael Bennett to the Eagles and didn’t bring back DT Sheldon Richardson, and are now looking for a disruptive, quick pass rushing tackle, and Hurst fits that bill. He finished his Michigan career with 13.5 sacks and 32 tackles for loss.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
As if the Cowboys didn’t already lack pass-game playmakers in their 2017 offense, Dallas recently released long time receiver Dez Bryant. While he had certainly regressed over time, the team doesn’t seem to have any big-play type of receivers on board.
Ridley is one of the more polished receivers in this class, and could step in and make an impact immediately. Teams might be reluctant to take him too early, considering he will be 24 at one point during his rookie season, but the talent is there for him to become a playmaker in this league. He recorded 224 catches for 2781 yards and 19 TDs in three years at Alabama.
20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Who was the last Lions running back to rush for 1000 yards in a season? Other than Reggis Bush recording 1006 yards in 2013, the Lions haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher since Kevin Jones in 2004. That’s incredible.
So, yeah, the Lions are in need of a clear cut running back #1, and Guice has the potential to be the most talented back in Detroit since, seriously, Barry Sanders. Despite being a backup and sharing carries until just this past season, Guice had 471 carries for 3074 yards and 29 touchdowns.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price, C, Ohio State
The Bengals are in need of offensive line help, after losing Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler within the past two offseasons. Price is a powerful center with experience at right guard as well, and would provide an immediate upgrade along the Bengals’ interior.
22. Denver Broncos (from BUF): Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
After addressing their pass rush with the 12th overall pick, the Broncos go offensive line with their second acquired pick from the Bills with a dominant run blocker in Hernandez.
The 6-3, 327 lb mauler is a bully against interior defenders, who has zero issues taking on power. He will become any running back he blocks for’s best friend, in this case being Devontae Booker or perhaps a mid-round runnimg back for the Broncos.
23. Washington (from NE): Vita Vea, DT, University of Washington
I’ve often seen Vea get mocked to Washington at the 13th pick, but I’m not so sure a 1-technique is worth the 13th overall pick, and on top of that, I’m not sure how many suitors Vea would have between the 13th and 22nd pick anyway, so this trades as a win-win for Washington.
Vea totaled 9.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in three seasons at Washington.
24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Panthers have been in need of a dynamic receiver since the days of Steve Smith, and Sutton has the potential to offer just that to Cam Newton. He’s a raw receiver with a limited route tree, but he has the uncanny ability to come down with incredibly acrobatic catches and make plays with his feet after the catch. He needs polishing, but if he can learn more fundamentals at the position, he can be a go-to weapon to help get Cam Newton back to his MVP-caliber level of play.
25. Tennessee Titans: Josh Sweat, EDGE, Florida State
Tennessee still has a ways to go as a defense, and finding a way to pressure the quarterback is something they need to figure out quickly. Josh Sweat may not be the most poised pass rusher in the class, mainly due to his lack of positional comfort at Florida State, but his athleticism is off the charts.
Sweat ran a 4.53 40 yard dash, a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, a broad jump of 124 inches, and a 4.28 20 yard shuttle, all while standing at 6-5, 251 lbs. He recorded 14.5 sacks and 29 tackles for loss at Florida State.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Despite being raw in terms of technique as a pass rusher, Taven Bryan is as explosive of a 3-technique as they come. He never posted flashy numbers at UF, with a single season personal record of only four sacks this past season, but the athleticism and raw power is there that teams look for in a 3-technique, and with defensive genius Dan Quinn at the helm, I have no doubt he could bring Bryan along and turn him into a force at the NFL level.
27. New Orleans: Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
The Saints are relatively set at receiver with Michael Thomas and newly-signed Cam Meredith set to play outside, but tight end is a need as Coby Fleener hasn’t lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he signed with the Saints.
Hurst, the 24 year old former minor league pitcher, is a very good all-around tight end who can contribute as a blocker in the run game and has sticky hands as a receiver, with some sneaky athleticism as a cherry on top. He can develop into the tight end Saints fans wanted Fleener to be, and quickly.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Pittsburgh is in the market for linebacker help with the real possibility that Ryan Shazier may never play again after suffering a major back injury last season. Evans might not be the cleanest linebacker prospect out there, as he needs to be better in recognition and making his run fits, but he’s an incredbly athletic linebacker who thrives at shooting the gap as a pass rusher. He tallied 15 sacks and 23.5 tackles for loss at Alabama.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Tyrell Crosby, OL, Oregon
The Jaguars take a guy they’ve expressed interest in for a while in the 6-5, 309 lb Crosby, who despite playing tackle his whole career as a Duck, fits very well as a right guard in Jacksonville, where he can be a true mauler in the run game.
After Jermey Parnell eventually retires or is released, Crosby can slide to right tackle as Parnell’s heir at the position.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Frank Ragnow, OL, Arkansas
He may have missed the majority of his 2017 season due to injury, but that hasn’t stopped Ragnow from shooting up draft boards recently. The former Razorback has experience at both right guard and center, and according to ProFootballFocus.com, he never allowed a sack in his college career. He’d be a slam dunk pick for a team ready to contend, yet one that still needs a piece or two added to the offensive line.
31. Washington (from NE): Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Washington double dips on defense in the first round thanks to their trade with the Patriots, and this time lands a playmaking cornerback in Oliver, who recorded three interceptions and 25 defended passes in three years (one as a starter) at Colorado.
He isn’t the most technically sound cornerback in this class, but he possesses an ideal frame at 6-0, 201 lbs, has solid ball skills, and is a solid athlete who ran a 4.5 40 yard dash.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
After losing Trey Burton in free agency and cutting Brent Celek, the Eagles don’t have much behind tight end Zach Ertz on their depth chart, and for a team that likes to utilize multiple athletic tight ends, that could be an issue.
Enter Mike Gesicki. He won’t ever be a great, or maybe even good, blocker, but the first thing I see when I watch his film and look at his combine measurements is Jimmy Graham.
Gesicki will need to learn more about enhancing his technique at the next level and there aren’t many tight ends out there who could do a better job of that than Ertz. Plus, Gesicki would provide a lot of mismatches for opposing defenders. I think this would be an awesome pick for the reigning Super Bowl Champs.
The rest of the Jaguars picks
61. Ian Thomas, TE, Indiana
Thomas is normally left out of the discussion when folks talk up the cream of the crop in this tight end class, but he has the potential to be effective as both a receiver and a blocker. He was under utilized during his time as a Hoosier, where he only had 28 receptions for 404 yards and five touchdowns in his two year career. The Jaguars met with Thomas at the NFL Combine and had him in Jacksonville for a visit recently, per source.
93. Shaquem Griffin, LB, UCF
I’m a UCF fan, so call me biased, but I would be over the moon if the Jaguars selected Shaquem Griffin. Sure, he’s a feel good, motivational story, but the talent is there for him to find success at the NFL level, and I think he’d be a perfect fit for the Jaguars base SAM linebacker, as well as provide depth to the other linebacker positions and defensive back. He’d be the chess piece to the Jaguars defense.
The Jaguars met with Griffin at the Senior Bowl, per Chris Thornton, and the NFL Combine.
129. Levi Wallace, CB, Alabama
Despite signing DJ Hayden to a three year deal to be the team’s nickel cornerback, I think the team can do better. Levi Wallace has impressive ball skills and special teams experience, and as a mid round pick, I think he can be a contributor on defense at the nickel position, as well as on special teams.
203. Logan Woodside, QB, Toledo
The Jaguars traded a conditional 2019 7th round pick to Cleveland for QB Cody Kessler just last month, but that doesn’t guarantee the backup job as Kessler’s just yet. Woodside is an accurate thrower, despite having little arm strength, but fits the West Coast passing concepts the Jaguars utilize. He could compete for the backup QB position in training camp with Kessler.
230. Johnny Townsend, P, Florida
Brad Nortman can be released and save the Jaguars about $3 million in cap space this offseason. On top of that, Nortman clearly regressed last season, and the Jaguars have held several mettings with Townsend this offseason, per source. Seems like an obvious pick if Townsend is available later on.
247. Cam Phillips, WR, Virginia Tech
The Jaguars don’t have much to hang their hat on at the receiver position, and Phillips is a solid route running possession receiver who can compete for a potential fifth receiver spot on the game day roster or a practice squad spot.
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