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NFL Mock Draft 2018: First-round projections

Next year’s quarterback class, whether it meets the hype or not, will define this draft class.

At a quick glance, I counted at least 10 teams who would be wise to consider taking a signal caller at some point during the 2018 NFL Draft.

This means a team at the top of the draft looking to trade down because it already has a quarterback could be in for quite the windfall.

Currently, I’d consider over half the top 10 in that category.

The NFL Draft has become a nice appetizer before our main course in September. A mock version of said draft is meant to educate, and even entertain. At very least, it helps you pass the time.

What follows is an early attempt at figuring out the best players available in this season's draft class, and which teams they'd match up well with considering the current draft order according to NFL.com.

Here's an updated version of my 2018 NFL Mock Draft: 


1. San Francisco (0-9) — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St., Jr.

With their quarterback questions likely answered, the Niners can simply take best player available here — although I’d bet on a trade. Barkley is a generational talent at running back and the best pure player in this draft. Top needs: WR, OL, CB

2. Cleveland (0-8) — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama, Jr.

Part of the problem with the Browns is they never follow through with a plan. They always overreact. So I know watching Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson develop into superstars right out of the gate has to hurt, but it shouldn’t influence this pick. Hopefully, they paid attention to Jared Goff as well. Goff was awful his rookie season. It took more time to develop, a new head coach and upgraded weapons before he finally looked like an NFL quarterback. Personally, I believe they should develop DeShone Kizer and follow the analytical path by trading this pick. There are simply too many other teams who need a quarterback. If they stay put, Fitzpatrick is capable of playing both safety and cornerback at a high level, causing some scouts to praise him as a bigger version of Tyrann Mathieu. Top needs: WR, ILB, CB

3. N.Y. Giants (1-7) — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, Sr.

The Giants address their biggest need. McGlinchey is versatile — he has started double-digit games at both right and left tackle — and athletic in a massive package (6-foot-8, 315 pounds). Top needs: OT, LB, RB

4. Tampa Bay (2-6) — Derwin James, SS, Florida St., So.

Much like the Seminoles themselves, James has had a disappointing season, but few defensive backs can match James’ dynamic combination of speed, size, instincts and hitting ability. I imagine he will ace the combine in Indianapolis. Top needs: S, RT, RB

5. Indianapolis (3-6) — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame, Sr.

You may think this too high for a guard, but Nelson is the reason Heisman hopeful Josh Adams explodes up the gut of competing defensive lines, free as a bird all the way to the end zone at least once per game it seems. I’d take him over half the NFL’s guards right now. Top needs: SS, NT, OG

6. Cincinnati (3-5) — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State, Sr.

The Bengals’ defensive line is getting long in the tooth. Beyond a variety of moves off the edge, he’s proven capable of impacting games through his run defense and also on special teams (blocking kicks). Top needs: OG, FS, DE

7. Cleveland from Houston (3-5)Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU, So.

Sutton is a matchup nightmare in the red zone — he has had at least nine touchdowns for three straight seasons — and has proven physical after the catch. He’s also a willing blocker. If he can develop as a route runner, watch out. Top needs: WR, ILB, CB

8. L.A. Chargers (3-5) — Sam Darnold, QB, USC, So.

Is there a better way to continue the “fight” for Los Angeles? The drum beat for Darnold to return to college next season is becoming louder. The talent is still clear. What’s also clear is Darnold is pressing to compensate for a medicore-at-best offensive line, leading to a rash of turnovers. Top needs: OL, FS, ILB

9. Denver (3-5) — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Jr.

John Elway should understand confidence that borderlines on arrogance better than most. The Bruins have had their struggles, but that hasn’t kept the strong-armed Rosen from shining. He’s thrown for 2,713 yards and has a 20-to-8 TD-INT ratio across eight games. Top needs: QB, FS, ILB

10. Chicago (3-5) — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio St., Jr.

The Buckeyes have produced four first-rounders at cornerback the past four years. Ward is likely to make it five-for-five. Top needs: WR, ILB, CB

11. Baltimore (4-5) — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama, Jr.

The Ravens offense is a mess, and we all know General Manager Ozzie Newsome is mighty fond of Crimson Tide players. Ridley features explosive speed and you’ll be hardpressed to find a better route runner in college football. A rare combination. Top needs: OLB, WR, OL

12. N.Y. Jets (4-5) — Ryan Finley, QB, NC State, Jr.

Finley is advanced in his pocket presence and ability to survey the field. He’s dangerously accurate and has solid arm talent, as well. Top needs: QB, CB, OL

13. Oakland (4-5) — Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia, Jr.

Smith is built more like a strong safety — he’s 6-1, 225 pounds — than a linebacker, one might say. The modern NFL prefers its linebackers speedy and is willing to sacrifice size if the prospect features athleticism, physicality and football intelligence. Smith is blessed with all three. Top needs: CB, LB, RB

14. Arizona (4-4) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, Jr.

Allen fits Bruce Arians’ idea of a prototypical quarterback — assuming Arians returns next season — big with a strong arm. Plenty of people have jumped off the Allen bandwagon. Allen’s arm strength and athletic ability is still off the charts and you can chalk his poor production this season up to a less-talented supporting cast. Top needs: QB, WR, CB

15. Miami (4-4) — Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida St., Jr.

McFadden has prototypical size, elite speed and the ball skills to develop into a shutdown corner in the NFL. He’d pair nicely with Cordrea Tankersley. Top needs: OG, CB, S

16. Atlanta (4-4) — Arden Key, DE, LSU, Jr.

Key has freakish ability, but he also carries significant baggage — Randy Gregory and Tim Williams-level baggage. Top needs: OL, DE, SS

17. Green Bay (4-4) — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma, Jr.

As Aaron Rodgers ages, it’s not safe for him to continue to improvise outside the pocket. Brown is a massive force — he’s 6-8, 345 pounds — who has proven capable of subduing talented opponents on a weekly basis. Top needs: OL, TE, DE

18. Detroit (4-4) — Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College, Sr.

Landry plays defensive end for the Eagles, but is athletic enough to stand up and play outside linebacker in the NFL. Like Chubb, he’s capable of being an elite pass rusher and dynamic run defender. Top needs: Edge, OLB, RB

19. Washington (4-4) — James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St., Sr.

Washington is the scariest deep threat in the nation — he has 1,133 yards on only 52 receptions. His ball skills are second-to-none in this draft class. Top needs: SS, ILB, WR

20. Seattle (5-3) — Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame, Jr.

Listed at 6-2, 225-pounds, it’s rare to find so much break-away speed in such a powerful package. Top needs: OL, OLB, DB

21. Dallas (5-3) — Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson, Jr.

Wilkins is a tremendous run-stopper who is also capable of disrupting opposing quarterbacks. He’d fit perfectly in Rod Marinelli’s defense. Top needs: OLB, TE, DT

22. Buffalo (5-3) — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama, Jr.

Payne is an elite run stuffer who is capable of replacing Marcell Dareus. Top needs: FS, OL, OLB

23. Jacksonville (5-3) — Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama, Jr.

Fresh off a dominating performance against LSU — six tackles, an interception and a half a sack — Harrison is well on his way to earning this selection. His addition would give the Jaguars a secondary that rivals Denver’s “No Fly Zone.” Top needs: QB, SS, OG

24. Carolina (6-3) — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Jr.

The Panthers need a replacement for Jonathan Stewart — a power back to compliment Christian McCaffrey. Guice runs with the rare combination of strength and agility, especially for a 220-pound back. Top needs: WR, OG, S

25. Tennessee (5-3) — Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan, Sr.

Okorafor is a technician who features good size, athleticism and long arms. He’s equally adept in pass protection and run-blocking. Top needs: OG, ILB, SS

26. L.A. Rams (6-2) — Connor Williams, OT, Texas, Jr.

A knee injury suffered in September will likely lower Williams’ stock a little. He’s an eventual replacement for the 35-year-old Andrew Whitworth. Top needs: CB, DE, LB

27. Buffalo from Kansas City (6-3)Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi St., Sr.

Rankin was likely a second round selection had he left school last season. He’s definitely improved while helping his stock. He could make a push into the middle of the first round if he keeps up his solid play. Top needs: FS, OL, OLB

28. Minnesota (6-2) — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, Jr.

The right-handed Michael Vick could prove too difficult for a team like the Vikings to pass on at this point. Top needs: SS, OL, DT

29. New England (6-2) — Levi Wallace, CB, Alabama, Sr.

There’s a solid chance Malcolm Butler leaves as an unrestricted free agent. In the first seven games of the season, Wallace allowed only nine receptions for 35 yards while picking off three passes, earning a minuscule opposing passer rating of 0.7 (best among FBS draft-eligible cornerbacks), according to Pro Football Focus. Top needs: OLB, OL, CB

30. New Orleans (6-2) — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma, Sr.

The Saints will eventually need a replacement for future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. Mayfield shares many of the same traits that makes Brees so successful and Sean Payton’s system would be the ideal landing spot for the Heisman hopeful. Top needs: LB, CB, WR

31. Pittsburgh (6-2) — Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma, Sr.

His speed and explosiveness make him almost un-blockable off the edge, but his size — he’s 6-1, 245 pounds — could make him a hybrid inside-outside linebacker at the next level. Top needs: ILB, OT, FS

32. Philadelphia (8-1) — Jordan Whitehead, SS, Pittsburgh, Jr.

The Eagles are a good secondary from being a perrenial Super Bowl contender. Whitehead is a physical safety who has good instincts in coverage and is capable of running sideline-to-sideline effortlessly. Top needs: CB, S, ILB

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