NFL Mock draft season is upon us and in full swing! The past couple of months I have spent lightly scouting the prospects and taking notes. Over the next two months, I will be diving deeper into scouting and going more in depth with my observations. For now, I will use my notes so far to put out my first mock draft of 2018.
I don’t use scouting websites other then ourlads.com, a very valuable source of information. It is used from the casual fan attempting to be a draft expert to NFL Teams who do use their website and buy their magazines. Give them a check out!
Getting down to business, there are several teams looking to get quarterbacks in this years draft. The free agent market should be open too, with several good options to choose from. However, teams still need quarterbacks. They will be doing all that they can to land the future of their franchise. In this draft, we have an unusually high number of quarterbacks capable of being the face of a franchise. Since quarterbacks are so highly regarded, don’t expect anything less then four or possibly five taken in the first round alone.
This is going to push better players farther down the draft board as the teams fight over landing the next biggest quarterback. This is going to load the mid-first round with a lot of talent, so if your favorite team is picking there, you have plenty of reasons to be excited.
Also note that with this mock draft, this is what I project teams doing, not what I want to see them do. So without further adieu, here is the Mock Draft 1.0.
1. Cleveland Browns – QB Sam Darnold, USC
Sam Darnold was the hottest prospect name coming into the 2017 College Football season. He was a redshirt-freshman in 2016 who took the college sports world by storm with a strong arm and accuracy that put USC back into the playoff hunt late in the season. Unfortunately, two losses were one too many that season, so Darnold’s undefeated efforts fell in vain. USC made a Rose Bowl appearance that featured Darnold leading a huge comeback over Penn State and going home with a Rose Bowl title.
This season, Darnold struggled to keep the ball in his hands, as turnovers plagued the USC offense as they struggled early to find their identity. Darnold still looked impressive on more then one occasion, showcasing his ability to escape pressure and keep his eyes downfield, and still having that accuracy. Instead, the issues became his efforts to do too much and make too much happen, by trying to force the ball into places. The season ended terribly against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl that exposed Darnolds lack of experience against NFL style defenses, which Ohio State Defensive Coordinator Jim Schwartz runs.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson has a history of landing USC quarterbacks, going back to his days in Oakland as their head coach in 2011. He brought in aging veteran Carson Palmer and saw moderate success. In 2015, the Browns took USC quarterback Cody Kessler late in the third round, a pick that shocked everyone, because Jackson really liked Kessler. Expect Jackson to covet this man too, and the Browns will take Darnold to be the face of the franchise.
2. New York Giants – QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Back to back Los Angeles heroes go here, the Giants take Rosen who reminds many people of a Jay Cutler on steroids. He has a rocket arm and a maturity that keeps people interested in him.
Rosen has also struggled with turnovers and trying to make too much happen, an was eaten alive when facing against NFL caliber pass rushers. This is mostly blamed on his offensive line, which was porous his entire career. However, his mobility is limited compared to the other quarterbacks entering this draft. He has a good arm and can make the “wow” throws, and should sit behind Eli Manning for this season at least.
If not Rosen, here are four other potential picks for the Giants.
Projected Trade – New York Jets trade 1st and 3rd round picks to Indianapolis for Colts 3rd round pick.
3. New York Jets (from IND) – QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Josh Allen really is a phenomenal prospect. He grabbed everyone’s attention in January of 2017 when Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had him going third overall in his early mock draft. There really isn’t much there not to love. His arm strength is the best in this class, possibly best in the NFL. He had a great week at the Senior Bowl. He is mobile, and reminds you of a raw and unpolished Aaron Rodgers.
The main concern people have with Allen is his accuracy, as he struggled to complete 50% of his passes against top tier collegiate teams. He struggled with injuries through his career, and missed a lot of time due to them. I think its a bad move for the Jets, but they are desperate to get a quarterback who could be ready, and there’s too much reward if Allen ends up being elite.
4. Cleveland Browns (from HOU) – RB Saquan Barkley, Penn State
The Browns are looking to get an offense put together that is capable of scoring points. Now with Darnold on the roster, the Browns are going to go for a complimentary piece, which they really like in Barkley.
If you saw Barkley play in college, he is an incredible athlete capable of doing great things in space. He was in the Heisman running for most of the year before he had a slump that didn’t go away. Barkley can catch out of the backfield, line up in the slot as a receiver. He’s a versatile weapon for any offense. However, he struggles to run between the tackles, and he is going to end up playing a limited role in the long term of his career.
5. Denver Broncos – OT Connor Williams, Texas
Whether John Elway lands Kirk cousins or Sam Bradford in free agency, Denver is going to look to protect their quarterback. The offensive line in Denver last season, especially the left side of the line, was awful and allowed too many sacks and pressures on whoever was playing quarterback. Elway’s priority with this pick is to protect his quarterback.
Connor Williams spent most of 2017 injured, but had a very impressive 2016 season that landed him in consideration as a potential top 3 pick. The quarterbacks in this class will prevent him from achieving that honor, but Williams is still a player of that caliber who can impact an offense instantly.
6. Indianapolis Colts – LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The best linebacker in college football in 2017 sounds like the piece that the Colts need desperately on their team. Smith is a beast on the field with a ferocious hit power and ability to read and diagnose plays. A high IQ player with great vision, Smith can be the next London Fletcher.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – CB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is a true defensive back. He can play every position in the secondary, and be a star at any of those positions. The Buccaneers would truly rejoice if Fitzpatrick were to fall to seven and into their hands, and they would looks to play two shutdown cornerbacks on either side of the formation.
8. Chicago Bears – WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
The Bears have hired an offensive mind to lead the team for a reason. They have a young quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky who the team gave up a fortune to land, and he has no help. Who better to give him then the best route runner of the 2018 class? Ridley runs routes that are so crisp and so precise that he truly has an advantage over opposing defensive backs in the NFL that no one else does.
9. San Francisco 49ers – RB Derrius Guice, LSU
The 49ers just gave quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the richest contract in NFL history, and now they need to make sure he has the pieces to succeed. Carlos Hyde didn’t work out like the team had hoped. With Barkley off of the board, why not take the next best thing? Guice was explosive his entire career at school, gaining over seven yards per carry.
10. Oakland Raiders – OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
Oakland is looking to the long term future of Derrick Carr. He’s a Pro Bowl caliber quarterback with a Super Bowl upside. Now, he needs to be protected. Brown protected Baker Mayfield blind side all through his college career, and did well considering the up tempo offense that Oklahoma runs. Brown can be a long term starter in the NFL and with the talent he has displayed at handling top end pass rushers, Brown is worth it for Oakland to take for the future of the offense.
11. Miami Dolphins – LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
12. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
13. Washington Redskins – S Derwin James, Florida State
14. Green Bay Packers – WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
15. Arizona Cardinals – QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Check out my piece on the man himself, Baker Mayfield, here.
Cincinnati knows that whomever ends up playing quarterback needs a stronger offensive line, so Mike McGlinchey is added to bolster the corps.
The Redskins are feeling much better about their front seven, but are now adding to the back end with a violent hitter and a layer who can lead the secondary like James.
How can Green Bay resist the temptation of another weapon for Aaron Rodgers after all of the injuries his receiving corps has seen over the last couple of seasons? Kirk is a true offensive weapon and Mike McCarthy would love to have him to add to the arsenal.
Arizona adds their face of the franchise, a pick that will end up being coveted across the NFL. Baker Mayfield is going to be a star.
16. Baltimore Ravens – WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
17. Los Angeles Chargers – C Billy Price, Ohio State
18. Seattle Seahawks – CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
19. Dallas Cowboys – DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
20. Detroit Lions – DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Baltimore is still looking for a deep threat to replace Torrey Smith, and Breshad Perriman back in 2015 wasn’t the answer. So Baltimore takes a shot with a man who caught a ton of long touchdown balls at Oklahoma State.
Billy Price can play C or G, and that is what the Chargers need. Phillip Rivers isn’t long for this world, but get him the protection he deserves.
Seattle has a way with taking cornerbacks and making them shutdown cornerbacks. Davis will be the next Seahawk corner to take off with a long term NFL career.
Payne can be the rock in the Dallas front three that they have been missing for quite some time. He’s a versatile guy and can play all three positions in the 3-4 front.
Detroit can’t believe this guy is still on the board. Chubb with Ezekiel Ansah makes Detroit a top 5 defensive front instantly.
21. Buffalo Bills – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
22. Buffalo Bills (From KC) – LB Harold Landry, Boston College
23. Los Angeles Rams – CB Tavarus McFadden, Florida State
24. Carolina Panthers – DE Arden Key, LSU
25. Tennessee Titans – LB Rashaun Evans, Alabama
26. Atlanta Falcons – S Rodney Harrison, Alabama
27. New Orleans Saints – TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, Alabama
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – G Quentin Nelson, Notre Dame
30. Minnesota Vikings – OT Geron Christian , Louisville
31. New England Patriots – DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
32. Philadelphia Eagles – LB Tremaine Edwards, Virginia Tech