The outlook for the 2018 NFL draft has been in flux recently. That’s due in large part to the San Francisco 49ers. First they went out and traded for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, and then they did the previously impossible and won a game.
That puts the Cleveland Browns in line for the first overall pick and opens up the possibility for several other teams to take a quarterback in the top 10.
This mock draft features five quarterbacks in the top 15 picks. One of them is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, a lightning rod of a prospect. For the purposes of this edition, let’s assume, though, that quarterbacks Ryan Finley of North Carolina State, Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State, and Drew Lock of Missouri all go back to school.
The picks were determined by the latest draft order.
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Although DeShone Kizer had the best game of his career on Sunday, he just hasn’t done enough to show he should be Cleveland’s quarterback of the future. Rosen can be a little haphazard in his play while under pressure, but his tools are No. 1 worthy. He’s got a strong arm and a rapid fire release.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Now that they don’t need a quarterback, expect the 49ers to be fielding calls from teams that do. The 49ers could conceivably have Garoppolo and more picks than they gave up for him if they trade off No. 2.
Guard may be San Francisco’s biggest need — and Quenton Nelson of Notre Dame is real good — but an interior blocker probably won’t get taken that high. You may not think head coach Kyle Shanahan would pick a running back this high, but Barkley is arguably the best prospect in the draft.
3. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, Southern California
Darnold is a confounding prospect. He can complete some unreal passes all over the field with precision and good arm strength. And he seems to always perform well in clutch situations. But he’s been prone to turnovers during his career. He may not enter the draft, but if he does he’ll go high. The Giants may be poised for a rebuild with question marks about their head coach and Eli Manning’s age.
4. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Without Andrew Luck the Colts are mired in a disastrous season that should conclude with them moving on from head coach Chuck Pagano. The Colts could look at the offensive line yet again, but it may be hard to overlook a pass rusher like Chubb. He has a better speed/power combination than any of the other pass rushers in this draft.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Bengals tried to fix their offensive line by taking Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds in 2015. It’s just not working. Williams has been out since September with a torn meniscus, but he held a first-round grade coming into the season.
6. Denver Broncos: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
This is a tough pick because you could really argue for a quarterback for the Broncos. After getting picked in the first round, Paxton Lynch has played in just three games thus far. If they want to give him a real shot in 2018, they could aim to bolster the offensive line with McGlinchey. Although Menelik Watson was brought in via free agency, he’s never been able to stay healthy.
7. Los Angeles Chargers: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Mayfield is by far the draft’s most polarizing prospect. Some absolutely love him and think he’s the top quarterback. Others fear he won’t be able to hold up getting knocked around in the NFL. With the Chargers, he could be the replacement for Philip Rivers, whether it’s in 2018 or 2019.
8. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
There’s not much Fitzpatrick can’t do. Alabama has used him all over the place, from outside corner to free safety to even dime linebacker. Fitzpatrick is at his best in coverage. That would mean the Browns could finally stop wasting Jabrill Peppers as a deep, single-high safety.
9. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Bears need wide receivers, especially considering their top receiver this season has just 259 yards receiving. The debate for the draft’s top receiver is completely up in the air. Ridley is a little bigger than players like Christian Kirk and James Washington and faster than someone like Courtland Sutton. For now, he gets the nod and would give the Bears a No. 1 receiver for Mitchell Trubisky.
10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Arden Key, DE, LSU
The Buccaneers are one of the worst teams in the NFL at getting after the quarterback. If Tampa wants to add an edge player, Key would be a good selection. He’s somewhat of a pass rush specialist, but he has a lot of speed and length to get around the edge.
Why the first ever draft pick said no to the NFL
11. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Imagine the Heisman Trophy-winning dynamo starting at quarterback for New York. Jackson has worked a lot to improve as a pocket passer. While he’s still a work in progress in that regard to some degree, he’s an outstanding talent.
12. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
Breshad Perriman hasn’t been the player the Ravens expected him to be, so they could go back to searching for a first-round wide receiver in Sutton. He’s a physical receiver whose draft placement could be predicated by how well he performs in the offseason process.
13. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Allen’s up-and-down play can’t be ignored, but I still think the NFL decision makers will like him more than fans. He certainly fits the mold of a Bruce Arians quarterback with a big arm and good size. I don’t consider Allen a first-round player, but the overdrafting of the position can’t be questioned.
14. Oakland Raiders: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Doesn’t the mammoth Brown just seem built to play on the Raiders offensive line?Brown has gotten better every year at Oklahoma and has especially seen his draft stock rise this season.
15. Washington: Maurice Hurst, DL, Michigan
Washington smartly drafted Jonathan Allen for the defensive line in the first round this year, but the team still needs help up front. Hurst is a player who could play all along the line and give the team a lineman who can create pressure.
16. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
By the time evaluations are done, Nelson might get graded out as one of the five best players in the 2018 draft. Miami would be getting a steal at a position of need here.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This is a difficult pick. But you have to wonder if the Cowboys think long and hard about Sean Lee because he just can’t stay healthy. Smith is a really good athlete who could slot into a coverage linebacker role. That’s not to say he can’t come up and thump though, as he leads a talented Georgia defense with 82 tackles.
18. Detroit Lions: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Other than A’Shawn Robinson, the Lions have trouble in the middle of their defensive line. Wilkins was the pick over Washington’s Vita Vea simply because he’s more of an all-around player who can handle blockers but also get into the backfield.
19. Green Bay Packers: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
There’s a ton of different directions the Packers could go in the first round. One of them could be finding an edge-rusher if Clay Matthews becomes a cap casualty after the season. If so, Landry is a speedy edge-rusher who should have the type of athleticism to play in space.
20. Atlanta Falcons: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Falcons need more talent in the middle of their defensive line, and Payne is one of the draft’s best run defenders. He’s a player who could slot immediately into the starting lineup.
21. Buffalo Bills: Harrison Phillips, DT, Stanford
Phillips is putting together an impressive season for a defensive tackle with 73 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. The Bills’ run defense has suffered since the Marcell Dareus trade, and a player like Phillips would help fix that problem.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma
Marcedes Lewis is in the twilight of his career, and Andrews is the draft’s best tight end. He’s very much in the Jason Witten mold. It will get interesting for Jacksonville if one of the above quarterbacks is still around.
23. Tennessee Titans: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
My preference would have been to give the Titans a defensive tackle or a pass rusher, but there just weren’t any left in this scenario. Instead they could go after a corner who could play the nickel. Ward has had a breakout season for Ohio State and has helped his draft stock considerably.
24. Seattle Seahawks: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The draft is all about value matching need. While Chris Carson has had a few moments for Seattle this season, it would be hard to pass up on Guice if he’s available.
25. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Bills are another team that could be after a first-round quarterback, but in this mock draft there just isn’t one available. Instead, the Bills could shore up their offensive line with Hernandez, a player who will become more of a household name during the lead up to the draft.
26. Carolina Panthers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
Harrison is putting together a nice season at Alabama, with his ability to come up and be physical against the run and drop into coverage.
27. Los Angeles Rams: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
Colorado had two defensive backs taken in the top 100 of this year’s draft, and Oliver may be better than both Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon. Oliver has length and speed, and he should fit nicely in the NFL playing on the outside.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
This pick is strange, I’ll admit. But at this point, James is too good to pass up. He’s not quite the cover safety the Steelers need, but Florida State also hasn’t used him much in that regard.
29. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State
Price is capable of playing any of the interior offensive line spots, and he’s been good at guard and center at Ohio State.
30. New Orleans Saints: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Cameron Jordan keeps plugging away as an effective defensive lineman for the Saints, and Alex Okafor is having a solid season. But Ferrell has a lot of value in the back half of the first round. He’s a good all-around end who could make the jump to the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season.
31. New England Patriots: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
Jefferson has excelled at Texas when he relies on his athleticism and coverage ability. In that regard, he could fit a similar role Jamie Collins did in the past for the Patriots.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
The other bookend pass rusher at Clemson could find his way into the first round for many of the same reasons Ferrell could. Like Ferrell, Bryant has 6.5 sacks this season and is a good power rusher.