Piecing together NFL mock drafts is a little like raising children. At some point, you have to release your grip and let them out into the world to experience failure.
But in the meantime, it’s fun playing ersatz executive, wheeling and dealing, and taking gambles on prospects with absolutely zero money at stake.
With that in mind, this Mock 3.0 takes trades into account. They’re surely going to happen. There were 10 first-round trades before or during the 2017 draft, and already this year the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills have made deals to inch up, both on the hunt for quarterbacks.
There is a bountiful crop of quarterback prospects in this class, conceivably six first-rounders, and as many as a dozen teams with the position at or near the top of their wish list. That’s a recipe for pick swapping in the opening round, so there’s a good chance more teams will be reaching for the phone the way the Jets and Bills did.
Here’s one of the virtually infinite ways the first round could unfold, with a few proposed trades mixed in:
1. Cleveland — Sam Darnold, QB, USC: It was serendipity that it rained during Darnold’s pro day. The Browns got to see him handle wet weather in stride.
2. Buffalo (proposed trade with New York Giants) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming: The Bills have two picks in the first round, maybe enough ammunition to sneak ahead of the Jets to grab the draft’s strongest arm.
3. New York Jets — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA: Rosen is the most polished quarterback in this draft. Jets probably would be happy with any of these top three.
4. Arizona (proposed trade with Cleveland) — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma: The Cardinals haven’t taken a quarterback earlier than the fourth round since using the 10th pick on Matt Leinart in 2006. But now is not the time to stand on tradition.
5. Denver — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State: Barkley’s the best athlete in this draft, and would immediately upgrade the Denver offense. The Broncos need a QB, but if the top four are gone .…
7. Tampa Bay — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame: Taking a guard this early sounds imprudent, but Nelson is that highly regarded. The Buccaneers’ most pressing need is for a pass rusher.
8. Chicago — Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama: There doesn’t look to be a receiver worthy of a top-10 pick, at least not at this point. The Bears could use a shutdown corner.
9. San Francisco — Tremaine Edmunds, OLB, Virginia Tech: The 6-foot-5 Edmunds is freakishly athletic, versatile enough to play multiple positions in that defense, and is only 19.
10. Oakland — Vita Vea, DT, Washington: The Raiders need to fortify the middle of their defense. The secondary is hurting, too, but Raiders have used a top pick on a DB in three of five years and where has it gotten them?
11. Miami — Derwin James, S, Florida State: The Dolphins, who have sledgehammer safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, could use a burner like James who has the speed to blanket not just tight ends but receivers.
12. New York Giants (proposed trade with Buffalo) — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA: GM Dave Gettleman tends to build his teams from the lines out, and protection for Eli Manning makes sense here if the Giants bail out of the No. 2 pick.
14. Green Bay — Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College: The Packers need an edge rusher. They need help in the secondary, too, but they’ve used their top pick on a DB in three of the past four drafts and the results have been disappointing.
15. Cleveland (proposed trade with Arizona) — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State: If the Browns bail out of Minkah Fitzpatrick territory, they could still get a quality corner in Ward, who’s 5-11 and can run a scorching 4.3-second 40 at the pre-draft scouting combine.
16. Baltimore — Connor Williams, OT, Texas: The Ravens need to give Joe Flacco help, likely in the form of a playmaking receiver and/or tight end. They need to give him more help up front, though, too.
17. Chargers — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame: Matt Ryan’s cousin figures to be a reliable choice, wherever he lands. Chargers could also search for an heir apparent to expensive DT Corey Liuget, suspended for the first four games.
18. Seattle — Derrius Guice, RB, Louisiana State: Russell Wilson can’t carry the offense on his own. The Seahawks need to establish a running game, and Guice is a good-sized back with the speed of a smaller one.
20. Detroit — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama: In Detroit, Payne could be reunited with college teammate A’Shawn Robinson and position coach Bo Davis, with the Lions looking to put their spin on a Nick Saban front.
21. Cincinnati — Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville: Alexander, who was slowed by injuries last season, has seen his draft stock rising in recent weeks. The Bengals put him through a private workout after the combine.
22. Giants (proposed trade with Buffalo) — Taven Bryan, DT, Florida: In this mock, Gettleman addressed the offensive line with the team’s first pick and now fortifies the defensive line, where good Giants teams have thrived.
23. Rams — James Daniels, C/OG, Iowa: Seeing as the Rams have done so much on defense with free agency and trades, now it’s time to turn to the offensive line and eventual replacements for center John Sullivan and tackle Andrew Whitworth.
24. Carolina — Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio: Charles Johnson is gone and Julius Peppers is in the twilight of his career. Time for the Panthers to give their defensive front a youth infusion.
25. Tennessee — Leighton Vander Esch, OLB, Boise State: Vander Esch, the Mountain West defensive player of the year, is somewhat reminiscent of Mike Vrabel, the Titans’ first-year coach. Vander Esch would fill a position of need for Tennessee.
26. New England (proposed trade with Atlanta) — Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State: The Patriots need someone to play that Jimmy Garoppolo role behind Tom Brady, who turns 41 this year. Here, the Patriots leapfrog ahead of New Orleans and Pittsburgh, both in need of QB understudies, to get Rudolph.
27. New Orleans — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina: Coby Fleener has struggled with concussions, and the Saints need a long-term answer at tight end. Could the versatile Hurst wind up being their next Jimmy Graham?
28. Pittsburgh — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa: Jackson made the most of his 14 career starts at Iowa, and returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season. The Steelers need help in the secondary.
29. Jacksonville — Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State: With Marcedes Lewis in the fourth quarter of his illustrious career, the Jaguars need a tight end who can be a receiving threat for years to come. Don’t rule out Jacksonville going QB here, either.
30. Minnesota — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma: The Vikings were vastly improved on the offensive line last season, but they still need to beef up there so they have the flexibility to move linemen into their best spots.
31. Atlanta (proposed trade with New England) — Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia: Wynn wouldn’t have to move too far to join the Falcons, and he’d be filling a big area of need.
32. Philadelphia — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama: The Eagles re-signed Nigel Bradham, but fellow linebacker Jordan Hicks has had two serious injuries in three years. The Super Bowl champions need to stock up on talent at linebacker.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer