So with just under a month until the 2018 NFL Draft, we’re mixing it up a bit and keeping things fresh with a joint mock draft. Adam Stites is handling the odd selections and Dan Kadar is on the evens.
Here’s a new look at how the first round could shake out in April:
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
Adam Stites: Sitting behind Tyrod Taylor is an ideal situation for Darnold, because the 20-year-old quarterback has plenty of growing still to do. But he has all the tools you look for in a franchise quarterback, and was exceptional in chaos at USC. He’s been pegged as a potential No. 1 pick for well over a year and lands in a situation where he has time to develop before getting tossed in the fire.
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Dan Kadar: It’s a worthwhile discussion to have about whether or not the Giants should pass on a quarterback for Penn State running back Saquon Barkley or North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb. That’s especially true after New York traded Jason Pierre-Paul to Tampa Bay last week. But if the Giants really wanted a non-quarterback with this pick, they should have figured out how to make a deal with the New York Jets. Staying at No. 2 could be an indication they want to get a quarterback, and Rosen is the best one in the draft.
3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
AS: With the Southern California quarterbacks off the board, the presumptive decision for Jets is between the 6’5 Wyoming passer and 6’1 Heisman Trophy winner, Baker Mayfield. With Josh McCown back for another year and Teddy Bridgewater added to the fold, New York doesn’t need to pick a passer who can contribute in 2018 and can possibly even afford to sit that quarterback in 2019 too. That means swinging for the fences with the player who has a higher ceiling makes sense.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
DK: With the quarterback trio at the top, the No. 4 pick is sort of like the first round starting all over again. Although the Browns signed Carlos Hyde in free agency, his contract is basically a one-year deal with an easy out for the Browns after next season. That could tempt the Browns to taking Barkley, arguably the best player in the draft. New offensive coordinator Todd Haley could see him as the new, younger version of Le’Veon Bell.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
AS: Three of the top four quarterbacks are off the board, so if the Broncos want to add talent at the position they better do it now before the avalanche leaves nothing left. Case Keenum might be the solution, but his contract suggests he’s more of a Band-Aid who’s getting an audition to prove he’s something more. Adding Mayfield gives a more long-term answer who can take over when he’s ready.
6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
DK: The choice here was between Chubb and Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson. But as the Colts move to a Tampa-2 defense this offseason, they need good fits. Chubb is a natural as a 4-3 end with his combination of size, quickness and up-tempo playing style. A shift in defenses always takes time, but a player like Chubb can accelerate the transition.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
AS: With Chubb off the board, Minkah Fitzpatrick was the pick that made the most sense for the Buccaneers. That was only solidified by a trade to add Jason Pierre-Paul and the signing of Vinny Curry. The Tampa Bay secondary was dead-last in passing yards allowed in 2017. Getting pass rushers was step one, and adding Fitzpatrick is a good step two.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
DK: The choice of Nelson is purely a best-player-available proposition. It’s also a slight indictment on Kyle Long’s inability to stay healthy. Nelson is a force on the offensive line. He enters the NFL with almost no flaws. He’s a strong, technically sound blocker who at the least is a Pro Bowl guard straight away. Whether or not he’ll get tried at tackle is to be seen. His college line coach Harry Hiestand is now with Chicago and would certainly vouch for Nelson regardless of the position he plays.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
AS: Ideally, Barkley, Chubb, Fitzpatrick, or Nelson would slide to No. 9. But with those prospects off the board, the 49ers can go a number of different directions. San Francisco was near the bottom of the NFL in sacks in 2017 and Elvis Dumervil was the only player on the team with more than three. Dumervil wasn’t re-signed by the 49ers and Jeremiah Attaochu was the only pass rusher added in free agency.
The 49ers have added a lot of talent to the front seven in recent drafts, but there’s still work to be done and Davenport has the potential to be a special talent.
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
DK: This draw would leave the Raiders choosing between multiple players on defense, including Smith, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, and Washington’s Vita Vea. After signing Justin Ellis at defensive tackle, Vea is a little bit less of a need. Between Smith and Edmunds, the Georgia product is more pro-ready. For a team that’s looking to return to the playoffs, that might have some appeal.
11. Miami Dolphins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
AS: Linebacker was an issue for the Dolphins in 2017, but the team has second-round pick Raekwon McMillan ready to step in after missing his rookie year with an ACL tear. But there’s still a hole at the position after the release of Lawrence Timmons. In Edmunds, Miami can pair a 20-year-old linebacker with 22-year-old McMillan and potentially be set at the position for many years to come.
12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
DK: This is another choice that was made purely as a best-player-available option. With E.J. Gaines exploring his options in free agency, the Bills are in need for a cornerback. Ward is a simple pick at No. 12 if Buffalo doesn’t move up for a quarterback. He’s the draft’s top corner by a wide margin and one of the 10 best prospects this year.
13. Washington: Derwin James, S, Florida State
AS: There are plenty of spots on defense where Washington could use an upgrade and James is a player versatile enough to fit in multiple spots. He can play free safety, strong safety, or drop into the box as a dime linebacker. With Su’a Cravens unlikely to ever play in Washington again, James is a perfect replacement.
14. Green Bay Packers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
DK: With Davenport gone, this pick was almost Boston College pass rusher Harold Landry. Instead, the choice is Vander Esch because of his ability to play multiple linebacker spots. He’s probably the most comfortable on the inside, but at 6’4 and 256 pounds, he has the build of a player who can handle edge work.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
AS: Making an aggressive move to get a quarterback is something that would make perfect sense for the Cardinals. But if four go in the top five, Arizona might have to stick with Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon until next offseason. Drafting Ridley — the top receiver of 2018 — will give the Cardinals a replacement for John Brown and new talent at a position that will soon be without Larry Fitzgerald.
16. Baltimore Ravens: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
DK: Baltimore has made moves at wide receiver, bringing in Michael Crabtree and John Brown in free agency. But don’t forget the Ravens wanted to sign Ryan Grant before he failed a physical and ended up with the Colts.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
AS: The duo of Pro Bowl pass rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram made the Chargers’ defensive front dangerous and the Los Angeles’ defense tough to score against. But it wasn’t difficult to run on and gave up a league-worst 4.9 yards per carry. Vea is a 6’4, 347-pound tackle who could instantly improve that aspect of the Chargers’ defense.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
DK: George Fant and Germain Ifedi may be battling for the right tackle job in Seattle, but a new challenger could emerge in McGlinchey. He has experience at both tackle spots, and would really give Seattle an infusion of talent on the line.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
AS: The Cowboys were relatively quiet in free agency, but addressed receiver by signing Allen Hurns. Adding more talented options for Dak Prescott may still be a priority, but the top one now is bulking up the middle of the defensive line. By adding Payne, Dallas could quickly establish itself as a team with one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL.
20. Detroit Lions: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
DK: The Lions added Sylvester Williams to go along with A’Shawn Robinson on the defensive line. But both of those players are known more for stuffing the run and occupying gaps than creating pressure. Detroit still needs a player who can get off blocks and get after the quarterback. That is Bryan’s specialty.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
AS: Even if Vontaze Burfict wins the appeal of his latest suspension, the Bengals’ patience with the linebacker has to be running thin. And even if the team sticks with Burfict, it could use more help at linebacker anyway.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
DK: If the Bills can’t move up in the draft, they’ll be hoping that Jackson slips this far. If he does, Buffalo will get a steal and a potential franchise quarterback. Jackson has some work to do, mainly his pocket movement, but he can sit behind AJ McCarron for a season to learn.
23. Los Angeles Rams: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
AS: The secondary doesn’t look like a priority now that Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Sam Shields are all Rams. Los Angeles can instead prioritize its pass rush which lost Robert Quinn and has otherwise relied on Aaron Donald to wreak havoc from the inside.
24. Carolina Panthers: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
DK: Unless the Panthers want to go after a safety a little early there would be nothing wrong with adding talent to the offensive line. Williams can play on the inside or outside in the NFL, and give Carolina player who will keep Cam Newton upright.
25. Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
AS: Retaining Josh Kline and Quinton Spain kept the Titans’ offensive line from needing a reconstruction. It also likely means outside and inside linebacker are the spots that need the biggest upgrade in Tennessee, but so many of those players are already off the board. Getting Wynn may be a bit of luxury pick — similar to the Saints taking Ryan Ramczyk a year ago — but it’s never a bad idea to get a talented offensive lineman when you can.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
DK: The Falcons needed some help on the defensive line this offseason, and that was evident before Adrian Clayborn and Dontari Poe left in free agency. Now it’s nearly an absolute necessity. If the Falcons — or any team in the back of the first round — is comfortable with Hurst’s heart situation, he’s an easy choice. If they’re not, Harrison Phillips of Stanford is a fit as well.
27. New Orleans Saints: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
AS: The Saints have a Pro Bowl talent in Michael Thomas and a pass-catching threat in Alvin Kamara, but not much else for Drew Brees to work with. The return of Jimmy Graham didn’t come to fruition, but Sutton is a big-bodied, possession receiver who would fit in perfectly.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
DK: A linebacker may be out of the question for the Steelers after the signing of Jon Bostic. If so, it’s challenging to find an overly obvious need on arguably the NFL’s most talented roster. You really have to wonder on draft night if the Steelers will try and be aggressive to move up and get one of the top safeties. If they stick at No. 28, Harrison can set up in the secondary as a read and react safety who closes on the ball in a hurry. Keep an eye on the Le’Veon Bell situation, though. If Pittsburgh thinks the situation there is beyond the point of no return, a running back like Derrius Guice could be in play.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
AS: It certainly seems like the Jaguars are gearing up for an aggressive move in the draft to add quarterback competition, so I was tempted to make Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph the selection. But adding a player like Kirk would make a bigger impact immediately for a team that looks very much like a contender. Jacksonville has made efforts to re-tool Blake Bortles’ receiving threats, but Kirk gives a yards-after-catch factor that Donte Moncrief, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, and Niles Paul don’t. It’s also bonus that Kirk can immediately contribute as a returner.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
DK: The Vikings would love to see the Jaguars just ahead of them pass on Hernandez. He’s a mauling guard who will would fit nicely on either side of center Pat Elflein. Hernandez specializes in opening holes in the middle in the run game. Second-year running back Dalvin Cook will love him.
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
AS: After losing Nate Solder in free agency, the left tackle void currently set up to be a battle between LaAdrian Waddle and 2017 third-round pick Antonio Garcia. That’s less than ideal for protecting Tom Brady’s blind side. Miller isn’t a finished product, by any means, but he’s 6’9 and as athletic as any offensive tackle in the draft. He’s not that dissimilar to the prospect Solder was when he was taken by the Patriots in the first round in 2011.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
DK: Texas linebacker Malik Jefferson was considered for this pick, but it’s a little early for him. People are down on Brown, but the mountainous blocker can sit for a year behind Jason Peters to get stronger and hone his footwork. What you can’t add with other blockers is pure size, and Brown has it. He often wins his blocking assignments thanks to sheer size and the extra time it takes edge rushers to get around him is enough for the quarterback to get the ball off.