NFL Mock Draft 2018: First-round projections

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: 

FIRST ROUND

1. Cleveland (0-12) — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA, Jr.

Personally, I believe the Browns should develop DeShone Kizer and follow the analytical path by trading this pick for a bounty. I currently count nine teams who have a quarterback in their top three needs. If they stay put, there’s probably better than a 50-50 chance they choose a signal caller. Some believe Rosen has a divisive personality, but there’s no questioning his polished pro-ready skill-set. Top needs: QB, Edge, CB

2. N.Y. Giants (2-10) — Sam Darnold, QB, USC, So.

The Giants will have a new front office and head coach after this season, which usually means a new handpicked quarterback. It’s doubtful Eli Manning returns next season after his controversial benching last week. Darnold has looked closer to his old self recently as a young Trojans roster matures around him. Still, I believe it’s 50-50 he returns to USC for his junior season. Top needs: OT, QB, LB

3. San Francisco (2-10) — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn St., Jr.

With their quarterback questions likely answered — How good has Jimmy Garoppolo looked in a small sample size versus Seattle and Chicago? — the 49ers can simply take best player available here. Also, a trade wouldn’t be out-of-hand considering how many quarterback-needy teams could inhabit the top 12. Regardless, Barkley is a generational talent at running back and the best pure player in this draft. Top needs: WR, Edge, CB

4. Denver (3-9) — Connor Williams, OT, Texas, Jr.

I feel like John Elway will answer his quarterback issues during free agency or with a trade. He can’t afford to continue to waste his defense’s prime seasons with a wet-behind-the-ears quarterback. Williams missed seven games with a knee injury, but returned to his normal dominating form late in the season. He has already declared he will skip his senior season. Top needs: QB, OT, FS

5. Indianapolis (3-9) — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State, Sr.

Beyond a variety of moves off the edge, Chubb has proven capable of impacting games through his run defense and also on special teams (blocking kicks). Top needs: OT, OG, Edge

6. Chicago (3-9) — 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

7. Tampa Bay (4-8) — 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

8. Cleveland from Houston (4-8) — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama, Jr.

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: QB, Edge, CB

9. Cincinnati (5-7) — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame, Sr.

Joe Mixon has proven himself a dynamic running back at the next level, but he can’t do it by himself. The Bengals’ porous run-blocking will need to be upgraded. You may think this too high for a guard, but I’d take Nelson over half the NFL’s guards right now. Top needs: OG, OT, SS

10. Arizona (5-7) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming, Jr.

Allen fits Bruce Arians’ idea of a prototypical quarterback — assuming Arians returns next season — big with an elite 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. The pre-draft process is going to make all the difference in where Allen lands. Top needs: QB, OT, C

11. N.Y. Jets (5-7) — Arden Key, DE, LSU, Jr.

The Jets are definitely a team I can envision trading up from a spot like this for either UCLA’s Rosen, USC’s Darnold or even Alabama’s Fitzpatrick. Otherwise, the pass rush is lacking a dynamic element off the edge. Key has freakish ability, but he also carries significant baggage — Randy Gregory and Tim Williams-level baggage. Top needs: QB, Edge, OT

12. Miami (5-7) — 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, FS

13. Washington (5-7) — James Washington, WR, Oklahoma St., Sr.

Washington is the scariest deep threat in the nation — he has 1,423 yards on only 69 receptions. His ability to stretch the field is second-to-none in this draft class. Top needs: ILB, WR, C

14. L.A. Chargers (6-6) — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame, Sr.

I’m sure the Chargers might consider a quarterback here if someone like Allen falls, but would gladly select one of the best offensive lineman in college football. 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, ILB, QB

15. Dallas (6-6) — 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: DT, WR, TE

16. Oakland (6-6) — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan, Sr.

An inside pass rush presence would make Khalil Mack even more effective off of the edge. Hurst has been close to un-blockable at the collegiate level. Top needs: DT, Edge, CB

17. Buffalo (6-6) — 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, DT, OL

18. Detroit (6-6) — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU, Jr.

Ameer Abdullah has done less with more carries than most this season. Guice runs with the rare combination of strength and agility, especially for a 220-pound back. Top needs: Edge, RB, DT

19. Green Bay (6-6) — 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: Edge, OL, TE

20. Atlanta (7-5) — 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 finishes the season strong. Top needs: OG, DL, S

21. Baltimore (7-5) — 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 hard-pressed to find a better route runner in college football. A rare combination. Top needs: WR, OG, Edge

22. Carolina (8-4) — Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson, So.

The Panthers need some youth off the edge. Ferrell led one of the best defenses in college football in QB pressures and is just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential. Top needs: Edge, FS, CB

23. Seattle (8-4) — Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego St., Jr.

Russell Wilson can’t continue to do all the heavy lifting on offense. Though Penny was mostly ignored by the national media, he was clearly one of the best players in college football. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards (2,698) and rushing yards (2,027). He’s scored 24 touchdowns four different ways — 19 rushing, two receiving, two returning kicks and one via punt return. If he can crack a 4.5 forty-yard dash, it should catapult him into the first round discussion. Top needs: Edge, RB, OL

24. Jacksonville (8-4) — Billy Price, OG, Ohio St., Sr.

Blake Bortles has proven to be an adequate “game manager,” but I’m sure the Jaguars expected much more when they selected him third overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. However, his eventual replacement will likely be found in free agency. Price is capable of playing anywhere on the interior. Top needs: QB, OG, TE

25. Buffalo from Kansas City (6-6) — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama, Jr.

Payne is the anchor in the middle you can build your defense around. He’d be a fine replacement for Marcell Dareus. Top needs: Edge, DT, OL

26. New Orleans (9-3) — 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: OG, WR, Edge

27. Tennessee (8-4) — Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama, Jr.

Harrison’s addition would go a long way in stabilizing an up-and-coming secondary. Top needs: Edge, SS, OG

28. L.A. Rams (9-3) — 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: CB, Edge, OG

29. Philadelphia (10-2) — 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. The Bednarik and Butkus award finalist is blessed with all three. Top needs: ILB, OT, DB

30. New England (10-2) — Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa, Jr.

There’s a solid chance Malcolm Butler leaves as an unrestricted free agent. Jackson isn’t quite the size-speed prospect Alabama’s Fitzpatrick is, but his ball skills are second-to-none and his technique is flawless. Top needs: CB, Edge, QB

31. Pittsburgh (10-2) — 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. Minnesota (10-2) — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville, Jr.

The dynamic Heisman winner could prove too difficult for a team like the Vikings to pass on at this point. Top needs: OG, QB, DL

Copyright © 2017, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
39°